Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Utopian Idea!

Ever since I was a kid, I've contemplated how human society could function differently, for the better. I've come up with a lot of naive ideas over the years (I'll bet Mathmom remembers what we came up with back in High School) -- which is fine because figuring out why a given solution wouldn't work helps you to hone in on a good solution. I assume many of the rest of you have spent time on the same problem, especially if you like science fiction. I've never liked being limited to the capitalist/communist dichotomy, as though no new possibilities or ideas have flowered over the past half-century -- despite how dramatically things have changed in that amount of time.

I'd like to ask you to pause a few moments (step away from the computer, if necessary) and think about ideas you've had about how society might be different. When you're done, please come back and read my new idea.


OK, here's mine:

All adults get one half-day of education per week for their entire lives.

Here's how it works: Each person takes one course per semester (six months), and the course can be anything at all that could potentially be offered by a university or a community college or even a vocational school. This would include subjects like art, music, and sports (even extreme sports) in addition to standard academic courses. The only restriction would be that you can't take more than three semesters in a row in the same broad subject area (eg. once you take three semesters of sports or three semesters of science, then the next semester you have to study something else). Anyone who employs anyone else would be aware that every employee requires one half-day of release time per week (in the same way that they are now aware that employees must be documented and have social security tax paid on them, etc.).

This came to me while contemplating the current U.S. health insurance reform debates. I think that a good government needs to be "of the people, by the people, for the people" (because rulers and oligarchs tend to see their needs/interests as outweighing others' needs, even when they sincerely believe they're being fair), and a functioning democracy or republic depends on an educated populace.

Education is one of the farthest things from a "zero sum game" there is. If one person gets a lot of it, that takes nothing from the big pot of education that's left for others. If anything, it increases the big pot, because if your friend learns something, she might find it interesting enough to tell you about it, and then you might learn something to and/or feel motivated to learn more on your own.

I'm discouraged to see the trend in the U.S. of viewing education as "every man for himself" and as long as your own kids get some, then screw everybody else. You (and your kids) have to live in the same society with everybody else's kids. (As an aside, I often wonder how much good could be done if all those people who home-school would instead send their kids to public school and then invest that same amount of time that they now spend home-schooling on improving the public school instead.)

In addition to the benefit from the education itself, my plan would have further advantages:

1. Linking the campuses would be a boon to developing viable public transportation. One of the problems with setting up a public transportation grid is that you need to have common destinations (as opposed to having all of the start and end points diffused over a large area). With this system, you just go to whichever campus is nearest to your home or work, and from there take a train to whichever campus offers your class. (Naturally the class itself would be less than half a day, to allow time for transportation.)

2. People would constantly be meeting people outside of their socio-economic-racial-cultural group (and making friends, since they'd be meeting people with common interests), which would diminish racism and classism, helping society to function more harmoniously.

3. The society would be more responsive to changing labor needs. If a given line of work starts becoming obsolete and some other skill is desperately needed, then the change in demand could be swiftly met by a change in the labor supply.

Naturally the biggest drawback to this plan is that the United States of America cannot afford to do this. And that's not to even begin with the political reality (that apparently a big portion of the American public would rather continue to be royally ripped off by the world's most expensive healthcare-payment-bureaucracy -- as long as that bureaucracy will reassure them that nobody will get something for nothing). Unlike health insurance reform, universal socialized adult education would cost a lot more money than it saves. And I'm sure I don't have to review for you what state the U.S. economy and treasury are in.

I'm just saying, if it were possible, what a wonderful world this would be!

Now, you've probably noticed that my plan says nothing about economics or about how to deal with the energy crisis. I have more about energy coming up (from a book I'm currently reading), and as for economics, well, as I said here, I should have taken more courses in economic theory. (Maybe I could, if only my utopian fantasy were a reality!) In other words, I'm open to suggestions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Obscure Requests via Google!

Along the same lines as the puzzling queries from June, my latest queriers have been looking for some rather strange and obscure information. Some of these odd requests are actually relevant to stuff I've written about! Others, not so much.

But -- in my endless quest to provide a valuable, blogtastic public service -- I will answer them here for you!! As usual (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) all are real, unedited search queries that people typed in to land on my blog.

Q: what are the chances of me living in a parallel universe
A: Parallel to what? Parallel to the "real" universe? Or to something else?

I suppose that if parallel universes exist, then the universe you're in may be parallel to one of them, hence your universe would be parallel to it. (I'm not speaking for my own universe though.) Also, don't rule out living in a perpendicular universe!

Q: whale mating porn video
A: See, this is kind of an obscure one, and yet I've written about it twice, here and here. Since those two posts, I've actually seen another David Attenborough film that featured an extended group-whale-sex scene with multiple male whales simultaneously attempting to mate with a female. I'm sorry I don't remember the name of the film. Also -- for future reference -- when the mating scene involves only non-human animals, it's not called a "porn video," it's called a "nature documentary."

Q: why grammar rules??
A: They give the pedantic something to do.

Q: lds stories of overcoming challenges in are lives
A: Challenges like... homonym impairment? (I know, that's too easy and kinda conflicts with my previous answer, but I'm going to go with it.)

Q: abigail van buren teen nudity
A: Now that's obscurity for you! I don't recall having reviewed Erotic Stories from the Lives of the First Ladies.

At least that's what I was thinking until it hit me that Martin Van Buren's wife was actually named "Hannah" and "Abigail Van Buren" is the advice columnist "Dear Abby." It's very possible that Dear Abby has written about teen nudity -- I wouldn't know since I haven't read her column since I was a teen myself. But don't write to her, write to me! Via Google!

Q: essay on picnic in swimming pool
A: It is not a good idea to have a picnic in a swimming pool because it gets the food all wet and chlorine-y, not to mention yuckifying the pool water. The End.

Q: does south pole exists
A: Well, there's not really a candy-striped pole (like they have near Santa's at the North Pole), but there is indeed a point where the Earth's rotational axis intersects the surface of Antarctica.

Q: don't want to go on mission lds
A: I'm totally with you on this one. As much as I hated the sexism of the LDS church as a teen, this was one point where I really appreciated the sexism. Even at my most faithful, I couldn't understand why any woman would choose to go on a mission since they're not obligated to do it. To me, it was like God said He'd appreciate it if you'd show your faithfulness by poking your eye out with a fork, but He wouldn't be disappointed if you choose not to do it. I was like, "OK, I won't then." But that's just me.

Q: are you allowed on a lds mission if you have had sex
A: It depends. If you're going on one of those "retired couple" missions, you're actually allowed to have sex while on your mission! It seems a shame, really, since the young ones are more likely to appreciate the privilege.

However, I assume you're talking about those young, clean-cut guys in their Mr. Mac suits -- can they really all be virgins??? You can get in trouble just thinking about it!

Since they changed the rules a few years ago ("raising the bar"), I think that having had sex (even after repentance) may disqualify a young person from serving a mission, but it probably depends on the local leaders and on how convincingly penitent the prospective missionary is. Also I hear that some lie about this in order to be allowed to go. Mystifying but true!

Q: mormon erotic stories
A: Please see the Gratuitious Love Scene, or -- if you prefer gay missionary stories -- see Missions, Mothers, & Marriage.

Q: my wife is naked
A: Then what the hell are you doing wasting your time on the Internet?

*** Actually this is kind of leading towards the non-obscure, most popular search query topic! ***

Q: i dont mind my sis nude in beach
A: That's very noble of you.

Q: how to get your girlfriend topless on beach
Q: wife wants to tan topless
Q: wife won't go topless
Q: wife topless beach
Q: let wife go nude on beach ?
Q: i encourage my wife to sunbathe topless
A: This seems to be an extremely common conundrum! Some men want their wives/girlfriends to sunbathe nude or topless, others can't decide whether they want that or not. It's just too bad that I don't seem to attract nearly as many queries from women about whether/why they'd like to sunbathe topless -- we could have a summit on the subject! I suspect women don't spend nearly as much time thinking about it, though...

I know, I know, I'm just assuming that the above are queries from men, when some of them might be from lesbians. I still think that it's a safe bet that most of them are from men. The only nude beach query I've gotten lately that I'd bet is from a woman is this one:

Q: is portsmouth nude beach full of old men
A: I have no idea. Why not check it out and report back? :D

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunstone exmo party and other fun in SLC!!

I hadn't been to Utah in seven years -- my last visit was long before I took up discussing Mormonism on the Internet -- so I was curious to have a look at this so-called "Main Street Plaza" I'd heard so much about.

(The group blog Main Street Plaza is actually named after the pedestrian passage separating Temple Square from the Church Office Building -- once a public road, it is now owned by the CoJCoL-dS, which prohibits gay people from kissing there.)

I had some fun touring the LDS sites with my brother. There's some interesting stuff in the Church History Museum, including the original golden Moroni statue and this Masonic-seeing-eye beehive quilt:

The Salt Lake Temple is a lot smaller than it looks in pictures (where they like to get close and point the camera up at it), and it doesn't help that they've surrounded it with other large and tall buildings.

Other surprises? Well, I saw a couple of Smarts, which I didn't expect:

I also saw an "erotic bakery" -- which I'd thought was just a joke that was made up for "The Simpsons". I would have gone to get a closer look and a picture, but it was on the other side of the road, and I'd gotten tired of crossing these crazy downtown streets that are eight lanes wide on every single block. (All of the main sites are within a few blocks of one another, but that doesn't mean they're anywhere near each other...)

Then I went to a fabulous party with some of the coolest folks in town:

I'd like to call it an Outer Blogness party, but some of these exmos' blogs aren't on the list yet. (Please leave a comment if you have the URL of any former/cultural Mormon blog that isn't on the "Outer Blogness" list yet.)

This picture illustrates why I sadly missed some of the Sunstone Symposium on Wednesday morning (including the Zelophehad's daughters panel and Margaret Toscano's presentation about God's genitals). I was really embarrassed, thinking, "Great, here I am giving a panel on overcoming stereotypes, and I miss the beginning of the conference because of a party-related headache..."

But that's not a stereotype or misconception -- it's totally accurate! When the exmo atheists come into town, partying is the first order of business. ;^)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just got back from the Sunstone Symposium!

I had some amazing adventures that I'll be telling you about soon!!! Here's a first taste:

My session (Blogging and Stereotypes panel) was live(ish) blogged here. (I'm listed under my real name: Carol.)

I met tons of fantastic people, many of whom I'd already (virtually) met: most of Zelophehad’s Daughters, some cool bloggers from The Exponent (though, sadly, Jana couldn't make it), Kevin Barney, many of the feminist Mormon housewives, BiV, Green Mormon Architect, Mr. FOB, Foxy J, Holly, Christopher Smith, Robert Raleigh (can I link to your blog?), Craig, Angry Young Woman, C, Markii, Ardis, plus some folks from other big blogs (such as Kaimi, linked above, and my brother).

p.s. to the folks at the Wednesday night Outer Blogness party: can I post the pics?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Setting off for Sunstone tomorrow!

If you'd like to get together in person while I'm in SLC, please email me chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com. I'll be at the Sunstone bloggers' social (Friday, August 14, 10 PM at the Sheraton SLC, 150 W 500 S), plus I hope you'll catch my panel (which I'll be doing with BiV, Jana, fMh Lisa, and mfranti):

Bridging Stereotypes Through Blogging

Picture a Mormon woman. Many specific traits come to mind, some profound, some superficial. Even if many of the stereotypical traits fit, they don't fit everyone, and sometimes they fit in unexpected ways. Blogging helps to break down stereotypes because superficial barriers like age, race, economic class, and geographic location are stripped away, and people meet others who wouldn't normally be in the same real-life social community. By exchanging ideas and stories, whole categories of people -- that one person might ordinarily have mentally filed as "other" -- come to life. Because blogging isn't just broadcasting but is two-way communication, the blogger challenges other people's prejudices about her at the same time as she expands her own horizons by learning about others. Mormon women bloggers have seized their ambassador role with gusto, showing the diversity of the Mormon community while finding common ground with people in other communities.

I'll also be announcing Laura Moulton's session, School of Saints:

School of Saints is a novel-in-progress by Laura Moulton, who attended BYU from 1988-1993. It spans a period that includes events ranging from an on-campus protest of the first Gulf War to the fireside in which Howard W. Hunter was accosted by a man claiming to have a bomb. It also includes the introduction of BYU’s controversial “Statement on Academic Freedom,” as well as the dismissal of professors and excommunication of the September Six. Moulton will read an excerpt from the book and discuss the joys and challenges of writing a coming-of-age story set at the Lord’s University.

This is going to be a fun session as well! It turns out that Laura and I were at BYU at the same time -- I was there from Fall of '89 to Spring of '92 (I was highly motivated to study hard and finish quickly...). I don't think I knew Laura personally, but we probably had some mutual friends since I knew people who participated in the Gulf War protest. And, as you know, I wrote a fictional version of the BYU experience as well, but I'm guessing we're covering some very different ground in our respective stories, so I'm looking forward to meeting Laura and comparing experiences!

I hope to see you there! :D

Sunday, August 09, 2009

I had totally forgotten about that!

So the high school reunion was lots of fun, and had a few unexpected twists.

For one thing, I ran into some people who I was friends with in elementary school and early Jr High (but kind of lost track of in HS). Remember way back when I posted some choice excerpts from my journal that I wrote when I was 11 years old? Well, I met the Susan and Nikki S who were featured in that story.

Susan remembered some other stuff we did that was worse than any of those stories: We were dissecting pigs (or maybe frogs?) in science class, and she and I and one other girl saved some of the organs and put them on the piano keyboard in music class. LOL, I'd totally forgotten about that! She concluded that "When people say kids today are worse than we were back then, I don't believe them!" So true! :D

Another surprise was that people kept telling me that I seem taller. What? I've always been this tall! "Yeah, for at least eighteen years!" quipped one of my classmates. And now that I think about it, it's true -- I was small for my age through Jr. High and early HS -- I grew late. I'd forgotten about that too.

Then there was a surprise that shouldn't be a surprise at all to those of you who read the Bloggernacle: everybody kept asking me what my brother John is up to. It's clear that he's a pretty memorable guy. ;^)

And the photo I submitted? Of nerds putting on puppet shows for kids at the park? It stood out like a sore thumb against all of the shots of people cheering at the hockey games. (Of course there were also some shots of some friends who had their own band, so my picture wasn't the only non-athlete-or-rah-rah in the bunch.) And I got to reconnect with some good friends from back then, so I'm glad I went. :D

Saturday, August 08, 2009

I'm off to my 20-year high school reunion!

The weird thing is that -- looking at everyone's photos on the reunion website -- I find that I don't remember most of these folks at all, not even their names. It was a fairly big class (550), and it was heavily tracked, so I hardly knew most of them even at the time.

No matter. I happen to be in town on the right night, so I might as well go and see the handful of people I do know, and swap memories.

When the class prom queen emailed everyone to ask for old photos from back then, I sent in this one:

It's three of the class nerds doing a summer job the Park & Rec Department as puppeteers. I'm the one on the left.

The funny part was when I was sending in the photo. I didn't recognize the name of the woman we were instructed to mail photos to, but -- even so -- I'm nearly 100% certain that she was one of the more popular girls who would have been above speaking to me back then. (It's a good bet -- I think a good 98% of the girls in the school were above me on the popularity ladder.) So I wondered how to close the email.

If this were a normal conference, thought I, I'd say "see you there." But the last time I saw these folks, such a thing would have been presumptuous...

Then I thought, to hell with it, we're all grown-ups now.

Naturally, she replied with an equivalent greeting. So I'll see her there tonight (though I'm still not quite sure who she is).

Actually, it almost seemed presumptuous to have sent in a photo me and my nerdy friends at all, but, hey, we were there too. Somewhere in the background. ;^)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Finished the illustrations for Bordeaux Mission!!

I meant to finish these before my vacation, but better late than never!

You can see the rest of the illustrations for this story here!

You can see that I've scheduled this segment to begin on September 22. I'm hoping that I'll succeed in getting my new edition ready by then: the complete book -- with all the illustrations and an ISBN -- that you can either buy as an e-book or order (reasonably priced) physical copies. We'll see if I can get it done in time! :D

Saturday, August 01, 2009

It's like living in a parallel universe, where the same laws of physics do not apply...

"So how's this year's culture shock?" you ask.

Recall from last year that the gigantism of everything here in the U.S. is no longer a shocker. And the fact that everyone is always speaking English, again, takes a little getting used to. (In particular, it took a few days to get over the urge to say "Greutzi" every time I approach a store clerk.) But the biggest surprise was that -- once I got back behind the wheel -- it was as though I'd never left.

Sort of.

One of the things you get used to when living downtown is not having big box stores. No Wall-Mart, no Super Target. When I first moved to downtown Bordeaux (France), all the time I'd be wondering "Where do I get X if there's no Target (or equivalent)?"

Over time, I discovered that if I really need X, I can find it. And I also discovered that a lot of the time I didn't need X very badly. Over time, you can actually train yourself to get used to not being able to purchase any conceivable object 24/7, 364 1/2 days a year.

Once I moved to Z├╝rich, it was the same only double. The Swiss are all about quality over quantity, so it's even harder to find all that cheap crap from China (of any size, shape, color, shininess, sparklitude, and luminosity you can imagine!) than it is in France. Then -- since I live in a small apartment where it costs 2 francs (~= $2) to throw away one kitchen-sized bag of garbage -- the last thing I need is more junk!

That's why it surprised me how simple it was to just fall back into the mindset of "Oh, I'll just hop in the car and go pick some up at Target..." It is so alien to my normal life that it's like I'm living in some alternate universe where the normal laws of physics don't apply. Yet, it's a universe that I lived in for thirty years, so I know my way around...

I guess my real moment of culture shock came when buying some toys for my kids, and I was shocked by the enormity of the cardboard-and-plastic display case packaging the toys came in. And I was confusedly asking my parents "Do we just throw this away?"

And even though I can fit in here, this lifestyle still makes me nervous.


Mostly because of this:
(which I found here), and this:
(which I found here.)

And it's not just the cost of this lifestyle in (very, very finite) energy reserves. There's also the fact that if all this stuff came from China (and it's not clear what China is getting in return), one starts to suspect that the imbalance will at some point get equalized. Likely in a manner that won't be comfortable and convenient. Not to be a downer or anything...

But I guess that's another thing about coming back here: it makes me wax philosophical about human progress -- and how we need to make some, ASAP!