Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

Living Traditions Festival Recap

May 18, 2008

Like usual, the festival was wonderful. The highlight was the Saturday night headliner, an Irish jib band called Buille. They were loads of fun.

I haven’t been to a lot of jig concerts. Is it common for a mosh pit to form at an Irish folk performance? That was hilarious!


Intolerance in Zion

November 6, 2007

When I hired on at the Salt Lake City Public Library, I was hired for the morning schedule. But my department has been short handed lately, and I have been more than willing to help out covering some evenings. It is a different feel at the library at night, a little different crowd which haunts the shelves in the evenings. Its been kind of refreshing becoming familiar with a different batch of regulars.

Last night, as I was wandering the floor and picking up books left on the tables and chairs, I was approached by an unfamiliar face. He politely introduced himself, and with concern pointed over to another patron.

“That man over there,” he insisted, “is making a racket. I can’t concentrate.” I recognized the culprit as one of our eccentric regulars, a plain looking man in perhaps his late fifties. I’d always thought he looked vaguely familiar, but never bothered to determine from where. He frequents the library in the evenings, perpetually mumbling to himself as he pulls seemingly random books from the stacks. Occasionally he gets agitated and becomes a little loud. When that happens, we discreetly calm him down, and he never presents a problem. Last night his ramblings had been within a volume acceptable by our library’s standards.

When I expressed this to the concerned patron, he became indignant. “You aren’t going to do anything about him?” He demanded incredulously. He wasn’t interested in moving to another of the couple hundred seats around the library. He just wanted the offender removed. When I confirmed that I indeed would not take action, he demanded my name so that he could report me. “This is outrageous! I’m leaving and never coming back here again. This is why the taxpayers, whose taxes pay your salary, get upset; the library is becoming a refuge for crazies and the homeless.”

I told him I was sorry he felt that way, and that he was more than welcome to share his concerns with administration.

As I went about my responsibilities, I couldn’t stop thinking about the exchange. The more I thought, the more exasperated I became. This isn’t the first time I’d seen the library criticized for tolerating the “crazies and homeless.” Those crazies and homeless are people too, citizens and fellow brothers and sisters. They may have problems more visible than the “average” person, but that doesn’t mean their problems justify ostracism. They too deserve to be accepted as human beings. Conservatives like to talk about being self-reliant; how are these people supposed to become self-reliant and lift themselves up if they are banned from the very places where they can learn? The arrogance, the gall of this person to insist that simply because this person wasn’t “normal” that he had no right to community resources, such as a library!

When I returned to the reference desk, I related the experience to my coworker. Once again, I got an incredulous response.

“He wanted us to throw Kim out?”

This “disruptive” patron was none other than Kim Peek—the Rain Man.

I wonder What might this man have done had he been told that this was no homeless schmuck, but a brilliant (if challenged) man who has travelled the world? That he might be labeled by some as a “crazie,” but that he was still a functional member of society who posed no threat to anyone—on the contrary, who was seen by not a few as an inspirational figure? Would he still want him tossed, or might he show Kim a little compassion and empathy? Too bad we will probably never find out, that this man will not have his prejudices challenged.

How sad that so many in society are so willing to judge and exclude others. If they act strangely, they must be homeless or crazy. If they are poor, they must be lazy or immoral. If they have an addiction or suffer emotional illness, they are obviously weak-willed and corrupted. We don’t want that around our families or communities. Banish them, so they don’t inconvenience us with their existence.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what the Savior would do. I remember him gladly accepting, even seeking out, the outsiders, the poor and disenfranchised. He did not seek to further disenfranchise others. Perhaps if we sought to empathize with and serve these purported “crazies and homeless, as He did, we could work the same sort of miracles among them as did He. At the very least, we could ease a lot of suffering and pain.

I’m glad to be working for an institution that consciously chooses to pursue a policy of liberal acceptance and inclusiveness. It just makes me love my job that much more.

Back from Boston

October 20, 2007

Hello again, blog world! My wife and I returned several days ago from a week long trip to Boston (and have spent the subsequent days catching up on life). What a fantastic time we had! At the risk of exposing myself as a rube, it was a dizzying opportunity for me. This was, in all honesty, my first real expedition outside Utah—or at least, outside the Mormon Culture Zone. Oh, I’d gone on my mission to the exotic local of Anaheim California. And when I was considering grad school, my wife and I took a few days to visit Eugene Oregon (which we loved). But my family wasn’t much for vacations or traveling, and I’ve never had much in the way of excess funds since leaving the nest, so I’d never in my life really gone anywhere new. The East Coast, New England, home of all sorts of academic/intellectual/cultural fermentation and important history; that was a place I’d long wanted to see. We finally decided that we could spend some of our meager resources (since my wife is writing a paper on Boston’s urban development for a class in her architecture grad program, we figured we could justify it as research).

It didn’t disappoint one bit. The Freedom Trail, The Minuteman National Park, Quincy (home to the two Presidents of whom I’m perhaps most fond), the various monuments of Plymouth and the Plimouth Plantation, Salem—The history geek in me was in nirvana. We had a blast exploring the varied architecture, both historic and modern (from Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church to the bizarre MIT Stata Center and the brilliantly “green” Genzyme Center). The density of the city was energetic and dynamic. Most from Utah might find the winding and narrow (compared to Utah’s obscenely gargantuan streets) roads cramped and chaotic, but we felt they created a social energy and dynamicism we don’t see in Utah. And people were actually on those streets and sidewalks! Rather than relying on automotive transport anytime they need to go more than one-hundred yards, Boston is filled with people walking! We in Utah can learn a lot from the area of how effective public transportation and feet can be.

We barely had time to scratch the surface of Boston on our trip, let alone the surrounding communities and the rest of New England (I sure wish we’d been able to see some of New England’s historic lighthouses, and we were apparently just a tad early to see the colors turn in all their autumnal splendor). I could probably have spent a couple of hours at each location on the Freedom Trail alone! While I’ve read a great deal on revolutionary history and New England’s part in that history, nothing can quite compare with actually being there at the locations. For a geek like me, its positively breathtaking.

We’re determined to go back—either on another vacation, or to live. I’d always been intrigued by the idea of living in urban New England; now I’m sure it would be a good fit. We stayed for a few days with a grade-school friend of mine who has been living there not too far short of a decade. It isn’t perfect of course, but he couldn’t think of a single thing he disliked about living there that isn’t an issue anywhere you live. I’m pretty certain I’d feel the same way. Wonder what sort of library and architecture might be available out there in about a year?

My Library(Thing)

October 1, 2007

Ever since I first decided to put together my blog, I’ve mulled over the idea of creating a page on which I would list the books which I’ve found particularly enlightening, inspiring, and influential on my perspective; an annotated bibliography, if you will, of my ideology.

I’ve since realized I don’t need to completely create that book list page. There are plenty of resources on the web to help me. So I’ve started a LibraryThing page. I’ve only entered a handful of books for now. Over time, I’ll continue to add new books as I read them and old books that have influenced me or that I feel are particularly historically relevant (as time permits, anyway). I’ve added a link for it on my sidebar.

Back at the Wheel

April 5, 2007

Sorry I went awol. Life gets crazy. I’ve started a few posts, but never had the time to really sit down and polish up my thoughts, or be involved in the blogosphere at all. But I’m back at the wheel, and I’m gonna see how quickly I can get this baby back up to speed.

(Thanks, Amanda, for your your last comment. I’m sorry that I’ve been derelict, but it feels nice to be missed!)

Back From My Holiday Sabbatical

January 5, 2007

I hope everyone had happy holidays. Ours were overall very nice, very restful and recharging. I very consciously took some time away from my blog and politics in general for the last several weeks. I am intensely fascinated by politics and passionate about political and social causes. But I decided I needed to take some time this holiday to recharge and refocus. What better time to take stock and reorient around the Savior than the time we choose to celebrate his birth? I kept listening to the news, but that’s about it. I haven’t listened to partisan radio from either side, read any political blogs, or written on my own. I know I missed a number of events about which it would have been very interesting to immerse myself and post about, but it was worth it. I focused instead on my wife, my family, and my relationship with the Lord. Now I feel very rejuvenated after this sabbatical. Now I’m ready to pick up where I left off, commenting on current events and defending the liberal cause. Stay tuned!

Campaign Shenanigans in Davis County

November 28, 2006

Yet again the days and weeks have flown, and I’ve neglected my poor blog. Since I last posted, the election has of course been decided, and Rob Miller sadly lost his race for a seat at the County Commission. The Republican Party has a deathgrip on politics in Davis County, so he expected this going in. In spite of this, Rob fought hard and sacrificed a great deal to make his case and to build foundation for the future success of the Democratic Party in Davis County. To use a hackneyed Mormon expression, he understood that his real purpose was to plant seeds so that we might hopefully see better fruit in Davis County in the future.

When I agreed to help Rob with his campaign, I figured this would be a fairly mundane experience. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed meeting all sorts of movers and shakers in the Democratic Party and learning about the political process on a local level. But as this was a fairly low-level office to which Rob aspired, I assumed it would be rather uneventful. I was therefore rather surprised by the experience I had at the Bountiful “Meet the Candidates” event sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Rob asked my wife and me to attend the small gathering in order to give him feedback on his presentation. After each of the four candidates for the Commission had introduced themselves and had begun responding to a question presented by the moderator, a person from the row before us handed me a hefty file folder which was being passed around the audience of perhaps twenty people. It was filled with legal and financial documents ascribed to Rob Miller: a few traffic violations, documents regarding his deceased father’s estate, the mortgage on his house, etc. There was nothing really damning, but I was still dumbfounded that such personal information was being passed around. I caught the eye of Richard Watson, the chairman of the Davis County Democratic Party, who viewed the files in stunned silence and confirmed our decision to hold the material for Rob. We were so perplexed by the whole affair that we neglected to pay any attention to Rob’s statements through the rest of the half-hour!

My wife and I waited at our seats after the speeches for Rob to mingle with the public before opening up this can of worms with him. While we waited, my wife pointed out a couple of people who seemed to be pacing anxiously, as if looking for something. Her suspicions were confirmed when one of the people, a heavy-set, balding man in his fifties confronted Richard about the files. As the man quickly became belligerent, Richard drew in Rob, and then motioned for me to join in. The man continued to insist we give him his folder. Rob deserved to know just what was being shared about him, and so I handed the folder to him. Hardly was the folder in Rob’s grasp before the other literally snatched it from him. With a few harsh words in parting, the man hastily exited.

Richard, Rob, and I were soon joined by Steve Olsen, the Democratic candidate challenging Rob Bishop (and based on the conversations I had with him, a terrific person). We were all rather bemused. Plainly somebody was trying to smear Rob’s character. You hear rumors about this sort of skullduggery in big national races. But in a race for Davis County Commission? In an uncompetitive race? In Mormon country? It seemed so preposterous to all of us.

My wife and I were actually rather tickled to have been present and involved in a political fiasco. We knew it would make for a fun story.

Rob is by his own admission not perfect. He copped to being caught speeding more than once. He admits he wasn’t a choir boy in his youth. But there was nothing in that folder which cast doubts on his ethical qualifications to serve as a county commissioner. It is doubtful that all of the documents even referred to him. “Robert Miller” is not exactly an unique handle, and it seems the culprit padded the folder with some other Robert Miller’s files.

There is nothing inherently wrong with putting a political candidate’s legal and financial history up to public scrutiny. Their fidelity in those matters can have direct implications on their service. But if there was any cause for concern in Rob’s history, why not air that concern through the press? Why not take responsibility for those concerns? Why be so craven as to sneak that information to the public? Was the perpetrator too much a coward to give Rob a chance to see and respond to those concerns? Why did this man not have the courage to give his name and take responsibility for his actions in sharing Rob’s personal information and that of his family?

I am deeply chagrined that such things actually occur. Politics should be about the exchange of ideas and challenging ideas, not such petty plotting. While I can’t deny that it added some excitement to our evening, I hope I see few Rovian-style ploys in the future.

Notes from the Campaign

October 28, 2006

It’s interesting to watch a political campaign from close range, as I’ve been able to do with Rob Miller’s campaign for Davis County Commission. Actually, I can’t honestly say I’ve been watching “close up.” I haven’t been able to be as involved as I would like, because of some personal issues, competing demands, and some communication mix-ups on my part. I feel bad about it, and hopefully over these next two weeks I can do more (I was just released from the Elders Quorum Presidency and made Gospel Doctrine teacher, which will reduce some of the other demands). I don’t think it would be honest to say I’ve been a “campaign manager” or coordinator. But I’ve helped where I can, spending a couple of hours a night several nights over the past week or so calling people, doing a little writing and design, giving feedback, etc. Hopefully its helped out.

In any case, I’ve been able to observe some things which I’ve never seen as a casual observer or outsider. When I think of political campaigns, I usually think of the prominent office races which are followed so closely in the news; president, senate, House of Representatives, Governor, state General Attorney, etc. They have their campaign staffs, TV and radio commercials, billboards, photo ops, soundbites, et al—most importantly, abundant war chests.

The local offices which can make such a difference in our day-to-day lives are very different from this glamorous picture. Rob is really determined to make a solid case to his prospective constituents. He is very personable, and articulate, and has a great deal of leadership experience. Unfortunately, as a Democratic candidate, he is waging a steeply uphill battle in staunchly conservative Davis County. Not only does he face the deeply ingrained distrust of Democrats in the county, but he is working with a local Democratic Party which lacks the organizational strength, funding, and sheer numbers of their Republican counterparts. He has been willing to most of his efforts himself. His opponent seems to have dozens of signs for each of Rob’s—let alone the billboards! Despite this, he has doggedly gone out to make waves, whether it be meeting with city and county leaders, attending any county functions to hand out flyers, or staying up all hours at night to get signs out.

That makes it all the more frustrating when I hear Rob lament the vandalism and theft of his signs. He has been dutiful in getting permission whenever he puts his signs on private property (I know—I’ve been helping get that permission).

I’m not suggesting this is a Republican tactic. While in this instance, Rob’s signs are the ones apparently being deliberately targeted, I’m certain this happens to hundreds of candidates of both parties across the nation. And I’m not talking about the petty and indiscriminant vandalism of ignorant youths. This sort of thing seems to be the malicious efforts of partisans—probably not coordinated or sanctioned by the leadership of either party at any level, but still motivated by partisan or ideological loyalty nonetheless.

I’m extremely disheartened to learn of political vandalism of any candidate. It is extremely disrespectful not only to the individual candidates and the time and money they spend, but to the freedom of expression which is such an integral part of our nation’s values. The efforts of partisan vandals are an insult to the political process in which we have the privilege to participate.

Listening to Chomsky

October 9, 2006

“Hi, Honey!” I boomed out as I walked through the door last Tuesday after my Elders Quorum Presidency meeting.

Shhh!” My wife admonished from the couch where she sat, wrapped in a blanket, a textbook on her lap. But she wasn’t reading. She was listening to the radio.

A few moments later, I heard a rather calm, quiet voice, and I realized why she was listening so intently. Noam Chomsky, noted linguist and social critic was being interviewed by Tom Ashbrook of NPR’s On Point program.

I can’t tell you how exciting that is to me. Not that I like to be “shhh”-ed, particularly before I get a hug. But I find it very thrilling that my wife is not generally interested in the latest sitcom or celebrity news. She’s as interested as I in keeping up with current events and voices on the topics of our day. She likes to her and evaluate voices in the news like Chomsky (whom we’ve both come to respect a great deal) for herself. We’ve developed our liberalism in tandem, but still independent of one another. We are eager to talk to one another about the news and share ideas and opinions.

When I hear about friends whose spouse’s just don’t care about politics or social issues, or who have viewpoints opposing one another, it makes me appreciate our situation that much more.

My wife is incredibly cool!

You Can Hear Me Now!

September 25, 2006

Qwest finally got to us last night. The phones are on-line again. Hallelujah! I can now get back to business. All of you who have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to call, go ahead and give us a ring.