Sunday, November 28, 2010

I got a comic published in Sunstone Magazine!!

Sunstone's big comics issue just arrived in the mail -- including the above comic by yours truly!!

As you may recall, the deadline was too short for me to have time to draw something just for Sunstone, so I took the lazy-artist's route, and sent in some illustrations from my novel ExMormon with captions supplied by readers. As you can see, the winning caption was provided by Sabayon. (Note to Sabayon: I wrote in my bio sketch that you provided the caption, but the editors cut that part off, so all I can really offer you is the joy of knowing in your heart that you've been published in the Sunstone comics issue -- sorry!)

Here are the other panels I submitted, which didn't make the cut:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another good question about exmos?

Why are so many young people leaving the church these days? At first it seems like a simple question, but if you think about it, it's not. the question started on the LDS blogs, but they didn't have the stomach to see it through to the end, so, naturally, we've picked up the slack at Main Street Plaza. :D

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why are exmormons so sexy?


I cannot help but ponder this question. Also, who is that sexy guy standing next to Chino? Is he exmo too?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scene at the Bahnhof

Part of the reason I'm so hard on the US is because I actually follow US politics. I read the stuff about the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona or Tea Party's latest antics, and it makes me want to tear my hair out -- it leaves me with the impression that the US must be the most militantly, wilfully ignorant country on the planet.

Then I remember that it's easy to wander around Switzerland with the (mis)impression that everything is candy-canes and lollipops -- as long as you don't speak German well enough to understand what people are saying...

Sometimes bad stuff is hard to miss, though -- for example, the cutesy-cartoon-racist political posters that are often plastered all over town. (I posted about them once before here.) Lately we've been treated to a new version of the "white sheep kicking the black sheep our of Switzerland" poster:

I was waiting at the train station with my son the other day, and the only free bench on the train platform had the white-sheep-black-sheep poster behind it. But my son wanted to sit down, so we did (with me muttering to myself about having to sit by this racist poster).

The interesting thing, though, was that apparently folks hadn't let this message pass without comment. There were three messages written on it in ball-point pen:

Naturally, since I have the wrong skin color, I'm a bad person. And naturally I chose my skin color! (originally: Naturlich habe ich nicht die richtige Hautfarbe, also ich bin eine schlechte Person. Und naturlich habe ich meine Hautfarbe ausgewählt!)

Thanks a lot, SVP! They're so intelligent! (originally: Danke schön zu dem SVP! Sie sind so intelligent!)

I suffer every day because of my skin color... I didn't need a poster like this one to remind me. :( (originally: Je souffre tous les jours à cause de ma coleur de peau... Je n'avais pas besoin d'une telle affiche pour me la rappeler... :()

I don't really have anything to add -- I just found it to be an interesting urban dialog.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mommy and Daughter

This reminds me of my first post at The Hathor Legacy Do boys like stories about girls?

In truth, more often than not, my boys invent male characters in their imaginative play. But today Leo decided that the above Lego Heroes are mother and daughter. (Hint: Mom's on the left and daughter is on the right.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Faith vs. Bias

My earlier post on faith was apparently confusing (judging from the comments). No wonder -- it was a bit of a double-negative: I wrote something negative about what faith isn't. To compensate, I'd like to say something positive about what faith is. (People of faith: please feel free to correct/clarify in the comments -- I don't claim to be an expert on this subject).

I'll start with a definition from my own tradition (Alma 32:21):

faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.

So what is the justification for believing something that's not "seen"? (Here, I assume that things which are "seen" means things which are measurable via the standard senses and/or scientific instruments.)

Here are some possible justifications for believing a given proposition:

  1. Spiritual/Miraculous Witness: "I have experienced spiritual or miraculous manifestations that defy natural explanation."

  2. Hope or Leap-of-Faith: "I'm totally sure that X is true, however I think X deserves the benefit of the doubt, so I believe X."

  3. Unintentional Bias: "I want X to be true, and my bias prevents me from approaching the question with any kind of even-handedness or objectivity."

  4. Wilful Dishonesty: "I want X to be true, and I feel justified in believing whatever I want because I'm sure that everyone else is biased or dishonest too."

Now, the whole point of my earlier post (and its predecessor) was that options #3 and #4 are not "faith". If you are a person of faith, and you think that either #3 or #4 is a reasonable description of how "faith" works, then you should do a little introspection and perhaps hold yourself up to a higher standard of honesty. And when you accuse atheists of having "faith" of varieties #3 and #4 above, you are not paying your own faith a compliment.

Now how does atheism [lack of belief in God(s)] fit into the above four categories?

Atheists are all over the map, so they can potentially fall into any of them:

  1. Spiritual/Miraculous Witness: This is the one atheists are most likely to reject, yet there do exist people who believe in the supernatural without believing in God(s).

  2. Hope or Leap-of-Faith: There are perhaps a few atheists here, but I think most atheists fall into a related category which I'll call category 5. Weighing Naturalistic Evidence: "I'm not 100% certain that X is correct, however, I have examined the evidence, and of all the possibilities, I think X is the most likely." (That's pretty much how science works in general.)

  3. Unintentional Bias: Atheists are only human, so some of them almost certainly fall into this category. (I'm not claiming 100% certainty here though! ;^) )

  4. Wilful Dishonesty: As with #3, there are probably some here too.

Note that's it's also possible to consider a question even-handedly and still make an honest mistake. That can account for some of the disagreement in the world.

Also, IMHO, category 4 (I want X to be true, and I feel justified in believing whatever I want because I'm sure that everyone else is biased or dishonest too) is the one that is truly repugnant. All the others are either right or potentially honest mistakes.

I think that it's probably impossible for humans to overcome (or even recognize) all of their biases 100%. However, there is a very big difference between honestly trying to compensate for your biases and deliberately not trying.

It's like what I said about racism: It is probably impossible for humans to completely avoid mentally grouping people into stereotyped "other" categories. But that's not an excuse to throw in the towel. Addressing your own biases and prejudices is a lifelong effort. But it's a necessary and worthwhile effort -- that is, if you're curious about the universe, the world, and the people in it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Turnip-Lantern Parade!!

It all began many years ago, when I tried to explain the "story of Halloween" (or lack thereof):

Sure, today it seems pretty odd to carve a face into a pumpkin, of all things. But today any object humanly imaginable -- of any size, shape, color, shininess, sparklitude, and luminosity -- can be manufactured for pennies in China. So you'd have to be pretty crazy to just spontaneously decide to waste your time carving vegetables.

But think back to what it was like for people at the time when the jack-o'-lantern tradition arose. Just because they were peasants with no access to the magic of cheap Chinese manufactured goods didn't mean that they didn't want festive decorations for their holidays.

And think what they had to work with: dirt, vegetables, maybe some rusty tools if they were lucky, and candles. Under the circumstances, carving vegetables into lanterns seems like a perfectly obvious thing to do, hardly requiring any kind of excuse or explanation.

Note that I mentioned carving "vegetables" and not just pumpkins. That's because I've always liked reading about the history/evolution of holiday traditions (see here), and I'd read at some point that instead of using pumpkins, a lot of people in centuries past would carve their holiday lanterns from turnips!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this tradition still exists! In fact, my family and I were even invited to participate in a "Raebeliechtli-Umzug"!! (Online translation tells that me means "Turnip-moving," but I think would be more accurately rendered as "turnip-lantern parade".) (Also note: my Austrian friends claimed the lanterns were rutabagas, but sadly my ignorance of the subtleties of root vegetable species prevents me from telling a rutabaga apart from a turnip.)

Here's what the Raebeliechtli were supposed to look like (shown on the wagon that led the parade):
Raebeliechtli Swiss turnip lanterns

And here's what mine looked like:
Now I know what you're thinking: It doesn't take a vegetable expert to tell you that's not a turnip. But I couldn't find any turnips! Note I also carved a face into it, which you're also not really supposed to do, but old habits die hard. Anyway, now that I know what they're supposed to look like, we'll do it better next year.

One of these two Raebeliechtli is not quite right

As for the story of the Turnip-Lantern Parade? Even Wikipedia doesn't seem to know. My Austrian friends said that the tradition exists in Austria as well, and may have something to do with the harvest. (Maybe kids were motivated to come up with creative alternate uses for turnips to avoid having to eat them...?) Who knows?

But now it's a tradition. And as long as I'm living with kids here in Raebeliechtli-land, I'm going to follow it!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


You remember my usual reaction when people of faith start accusing atheism of being a "faith"-based belief or a "religion"?

Well, Jesus and Mo have now made the same point in comic form:

(Hat tip too many tribbles.)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Career women vs. SAHMs round II: There Can Be Only One True Choice!

See Round I

Throughout my life, I've been happy and pleased with how much our culture has improved from a feminist perspective. [When I say "our culture" here, I'm sticking to my own experience, hence I'm talking about the US and Europe.]

The kids of my generation (Gen X) were brought up with expectations that were dramatically different than the expectations that our parents had been raised on. If a girl decided she wanted to grow up to be a scientist or an astronaut, she could expect to be encouraged, not shot down with "Honey, don't you think you'd rather be a nurse or a mommy?" Boys, too, were finally brought up with the expectation that a father is responsible for his share of the childcare and housework. In the fifties, if a man was pushing a baby carriage, it was the set up to a joke -- it was almost the equivalent of dressing him in a flowery dress. Today, you constantly see men taking care of babies and children, taking them to school, etc. It's expected.

In my feminist world, the women of the twenties and earlier showed that a woman could do a man's job, but they typically had to choose career or family because back then -- to have a brilliant career and a family -- you needed to have a wife back home. The natural next step (for a feminist born in 1971 like me) was to try to build a world where a woman could reasonably expect to have both a successful career and a successful family. With the right support network, it's possible. And -- as an added bonus -- the father gets the opportunity to play a more hands-on role in raising his kids, rather than just being expected to bring home the bacon and then go smoke his pipe in his den while the mom rears the kids.

As much as things have changed for the better, traditional roles have obviously not been thrown out completely with yesterday's trash. Traditional expectations about men and women are alive and well, even among liberals and feminists. Here's my impression (and feel free to disagree with me in the comments):

I think that -- even in our enlightened day and age -- men are judged more for their career/worldly success and women are judged more for their marriage and family.

Here's a taste of what I mean: If there's a couple who are both doing great in their careers -- and they have a baby and toddler at home -- nobody is going to say to the man "Don't you feel guilty or selfish spending so much time on your career while your baby is raised by strangers in day care? Don't you think maybe you should take a year or two off from work, or switch down to part-time?" Whereas you can bet your bonnet that the wife will be getting that critique from some of her peers, friends, family, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, if both parents are unemployed (or underemployed), and they can't afford decent food, clothing, and shelter for their kids, the man is the one who will be judged as a failure for it. As for women who choose to remain single, your career has to be pretty spectacular before people will stop pitying you as the poor, old maid who was too unattractive to land a man.

Now, many men do take time off and/or reduce their hours when their babies are small, and many women are largely or primarily responsible for paying for their their kids' food, clothing, and shelter. But it's like those things are often viewed as a charming plus, and not viewed as being your real responsibility.

This whole elaborate prologue has been to explain why I hate it when people pretend that career women and stay-at-home-moms are mortal enemies, locked in some eternal, petty cat-fight.

If you're a straight woman with career dreams and ambitions, you might magically get lucky and find a husband who will take primary responsibility for child-rearing and who will put his own career on the back-burner in order to support your career more fully. But don't count on it. A successful man, OTOH, can absolutely count on finding a wife who pick up whatever slack is needed to allow him to "have it all" -- the happy well-cared for family and the brilliant career. (The men on the bottom end of the success spectrum can count on having neither one.)

If you're a straight woman who wants a family, then, in our current society, you're almost always faced with a balancing act. You might want to devote yourself full-time to your career and also devote yourself full-time to your kids, but you can't do both. Whatever balance you come up with, you're almost certainly going to feel some regret about the things you chose not to do. You'll occasionally feel like "I wish I didn't have this proposal due tomorrow morning -- I should be reading my daughter a bedtime story right now," or "If I weren't stuck at home covered in baby vomit 24/7, I'm sure I could have earned that promotion!" (Naturally the balancing act is that much worse if you're not in the privileged set, and you need to work to put food in your baby's mouth, when meanwhile people are judging you as a negligent mother for working when you should be taking care of her.)

Regret often leads to defensiveness. You hear a woman at a party talking about her exciting new project at work (respectively, talking about all of the amazing educational activities she did with her kids last week), and you start to think she's talking directly to you, judging you and your choices as inferior. Occasionally, this defensiveness can lead to a vicious circle where some women start to believe that their own choices are the only valid choices for mothers period, and career women are all selfish bitches (respectively SAHMs are all brainless layabouts).

I don't like to take it there. If you feel good about your own choices, then you have no reason to feel defensive about other women's choices. (And if you really regret your choices, lashing out at other women is certainly not going to improve the situation...)

I have so many friends who are moms, and they're all over the map when it comes to working outside the home. Some work full-time, some are full-time SAHMs, and some -- like me! -- have reasonably successful jobs outside the home, but choose to work part-time in order to devote some time to homemaking. All of these ladies are intelligent, responsible, fun, etc. I'd rather say, "Look, we all have a difficult balancing act to perform, and how we manage it depends on our opportunities, skills, and temperament. The right choices for me and my family will almost certainly be different from the right choices for you and your family, and that's OK."

I'm glad when there's a variety of possible choices. Even if not every choice is equally empowering or "feminist," it's feminist to respect grown womens' ability to make good choices for themselves and for their families.