Monthly Archives: August 2013

Olive Trees

Well, according to Texas A&M University, olive trees are not well-suited for the roller-coaster climate of North Texas. While the temperature range here isn’t a major issue for mature olive trees, the range over a rapid period of time, such as going from the upper 80s to below freezing within a day or two during January-March, is what kills the olive trees, which is a pity.

So why did I come to know this about olive trees? I wanted to grow them. Why? because I wanted to understand better the allusions to olive trees in my scriptures, and I started reading about them. Olive trees are magnificent things and, if cared for, can last for centuries – even millennia. The cultivation of olive trees, in particular, is a beautiful process that lends itself to symbolism both deep and profound.

Even though I can’t grow them where I live, I can still read up on them. There’s a fantastic book I found online that I’ve started and I plan to finish it. The Allegory of the Olive Tree by Ricks and Welch explores the symbolism of the olive tree in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and it points out how the parable of the olive tree found in Jacob 5 (longer than, but similar to Paul’s olive tree parable in Romans 11) is such a deep metaphor for people that make covenants with God.

Which then makes me look even closer at the purported divine origin of the Book of Mormon. For, if it is difficult to grow olive trees for North Texans, it’s impossible for folks up in New York and Vermont, where Joseph Smith lived, and particularly so after the explosion of a volcano in Sumatra that plunged the globe into a short period of bitterly cold climatological variations. How would a young farmboy from New England, with no access to Theophrastus’ “Enquiry Into Plants”, know anything at all about olive tree cultivation? And yet, the account given in Jacob, which goes beyond Paul’s account in terms of detail, jives amazingly well with the advice given by Theophrastus from the classical era in regards to proper cultivation of olive trees to maximize both the quality and quantity of fruit.

Not that Theophrastus alone was an authority on olive cultivation: it’s just that a boy that learned to read from a family Bible didn’t have a rack of books at home that dealt with agricultural practices for the Mediterranean climate. And yet, the counter-intuitive and involved practice of olive tree maintenance is evident in Jacob 5. The author of that passage was not someone unfamiliar with the olive tree. The author of that passage had intimate knowledge of the olive tree and how it should be grown.

To me, it is self-evident. To others, it can be the same as I see it, or a coincidence of varying degrees of likelihood. So be it. To those interested in olive tree imagery in Jewish and Christian religious traditions, the above link contains many non-Book of Mormon related essays to be well worth reading over. There are a number of other Jewish and Christian essays regarding olive trees on the Internet that I’ve also looked over that gave me some great insights: let me, therefore, vouch for and share this resource with other people with a fondness or fascination with the amazing olive tree.

Realistic Monopoly

When I taught Economics, some people would ask if I used Monopoly to teach about monopolies. I did not. Now, though, I think I could… but I’d need some rule changes. Here they are:

1. PLAYERS. We now need 100 players. The first player is now the top 1% player. He is the banker and handles all the properties. He also gets half of all the money in the game, rounded up. The top 1% player gets the top hat. The other tokens are for the well-paid employees of the top 1%. They never pay rent on properties owned by the first player, get as close to normal an amount of money as is possible with what’s left, at the first player’s discretion, and any properties they purchase will go to the first player.

The rest of the players need to go outside and find a distinctive-looking rock. Like snowflakes, no two rocks are entirely alike, but in aggregation kind of all blend together. They keep track of their (often negative) balance on their own sheet of paper, one of their few possessions in the game.

2. PROPERTIES. Before the game starts, the first player gets to inherit property equal to half the value of all properties on the board. He may then build houses and hotels as he sees fit on any monopolies prior to the start of the game.

3. FIRST PLAYER MOVEMENT. When the first player rolls the dice, he may use them as he sees fit. He may move forward, backward, a combination of the two, or just get in his private helicopter and put his token wherever he wants to put it.

4. OTHER TOKEN PLAYER MOVEMENT. The other players with legitimate tokens move them normally, unless the first player wants them to be somewhere else, in which case he places them somewhere else.

5. MOVEMENT OF THE ROCKS. These guys move as per game rules. The exception is if they land on a railroad and decide they want to become hobos. In that case, they roll dice. If they roll doubles, they move to another railroad. If not, they are arrested for trespassing and wind up in jail.

6. JAIL. The jail is now privatized and is owned by the first player, who also exercises substantial influence over the judicial system. Neither the first player or any of his agents ever goes to jail, unless the first player decides to send one of them to jail. Players must now pay $50 to get out of jail, with the money going to the first player. Players may not languish in jail for more than one turn before paying to get out, as there is a federal court order against overcrowding.

If the players revolt and demand that the first player goes to jail, he may designate a hotel on either Boardwalk or Park Place as a jail for white-collar criminals and place his token there for a while.

7. DEBT. When the players with rocks run out of money, they go into debt by borrowing money from the first player. They can then use that money to pay the first player what they owe him.

8. WINNING. The first player automatically wins the game before it even starts.

There you go, kids! Have fun!

There Will Be Peace in the Valley

Well, I’m tired and so weary, but I must travel on
‘Til the Lord comes and calls me away, oh, yes
Where the morning’s so bright and the Lamb is the light
And the night is as bright as the day, oh, yes

There will be peace in the valley for me some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh, Lord, I pray
There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh, yes

Well, the bear will be gentle and the wolves will be tame
And the lion shall lay down by the lamb, oh, yes
And the beasts from the wild shall be led by a little child
And I’ll be changed, changed from this creature that I am, oh, yes

There will be peace in the valley for me some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh, Lord, I pray
And there’ll be no sadness and no sorrow, no trouble I see
Only will be peace in the valley for me, oh, yes
Yes, there will be peace, sweet peace in the valley for me, oh, yes

Song by Thomas A. Dorsey

Find the version you like best and enjoy it. My favorites are Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, but don’t overlook Loretta Lynn’s version and, of course, Mr. Thomas A. Dorsey’s rendition of his own work. If you like gospel music, but you don’t know where to start, start with Thomas Dorsey and go forth from there.

An Open Letter to the NSA

Dear massive government intelligence agency,

How are you? I am fine. I hear on the news that you seem to be busy. The report says that we have noticed a lot of chatter amongst the terrorists. There is as much, said the report, as was before 11 September 2001. That must be a lot.

My question is, if we noticed that much traffic in 2001, why weren’t we ready to do something on 11 September 2001?

I know that people who want to record all Internet and voice traffic want to have a good reason to do so, because otherwise it looks like a set of tools to preserve the power of the status quo in the face of the oppressed classes. Being able to say, “See? We have a big terror threat!” certainly looks like a good reason. I have to question if it’s an engineered solution, though, given that we are recently asking many questions regarding both its necessity and efficacy.

You know very well where I stand on this issue. I try to speak clearly whenever I’m near the lamp by my bedside. I know I’m not so good with voice activation software, but I am making an effort in this case. But if you’re going to record everything I say and do, I need to do what I can to not generate a false positive by trying to obscure what it is I’m doing.

Of course, lots of people disagree with me and they have increased their use of encryption and personal privacy measures in the last few weeks and, say… wait a minute… is it possible that the recent spike in people using tools to evade constant recording has triggered a false positive? That might be something worth checking out. I know a lot of Americans don’t want another 9/11, but there seem to be four other numbers they don’t want: 1984.

I don’t want either, but it looks like we’re stuck with one in the name of preventing the other. As I said quite clearly to the toaster the other day, I’m concerned more with survival than resistance. You know full well from what I said near the medicine cabinet that I see opposing the US government’s surveillance regime would be as wise and as successful as opposing the Soviet Union’s surveillance regime. And you know from posts here and many of my unpublished writings that only you, I, and my PC know about that I’ve researched well the KGB and what it did to those that went against it. That’s not for me, I assure you.

But at the risk of sounding sympathetic to the (potential) political dissidents using encryption now more than ever before, it’s quite possible that they are doing the same things they’ve always done, but now with encryption. They may just be using encryption out of fear and respect for your powers than they are to try and do anything subversive. If the fallout from Snowden’s revelations is the cause of the “spike in chatter,” it would be worth checking out so there’s no correlated, unjustified spike in Pakistani wedding reception fatalities.

As I’ve repeated time and again in front of my bedroom mirror, all Pakistani wedding reception fatalities should be justified. It makes you guys look bad when that happens. And, as I alluded to earlier, you’ve already got a big black eye from failing to do anything useful with the spike in chatter from 2001. It would be a darn shame – and quite embarrassing – for you guys to have made a bad call this time around because of freedom-loving Americans foolishly forgetting that loving freedom means hating security state apparatus.

I hope this helps. All I ask for a reward is that you’ll not do a false flag operation to justify all this in the likely event that I’m right and this spike in chatter is actually due to the increased use of domestic encryption. You know very well that false flag operations always get exposed, and while such exposes provide a huge boost to the tinfoil industry, they hardly do any wonders for your credibility.

So why say all this in public when you and I know full well that the ornament on the pull-chain for my dining room ceiling fan is practically a hot line to [REDACTED]? You should know by now that I do like an audience. More than that, I *do* have an audience, no matter how small, and I’d like to suggest a solution that you and they might all get along with. Why curse the darkness when I can light a candle, right?

Here’s the idea: democracy via observation.

You’ve got us all under constant surveillance, right? Why not make it work for the nation? You know exactly how many people smoke dope, right? Why not report on that, so we know where to legalize it in order to keep the people happy. Google is trying to do what you’re doing: what if you were to share your database with *them* in order to really pinpoint the right kind of ads every person would have a high rate of desiring to respond to and block all the rest? I would *want* to turn off my ad-blocker software in that case. You guys know what everyone thinks of the president and Congress, right? You could use that information to find us some decent candidates that we’d actually want to vote for in the next election. People are already using their constant tracking in cell phones to report where roads and bridges need major repairs – why not join with that popular upswelling of democracy via observation and get us the kind of government we really want?

Who’s to say that George Orwell’s vision of dystopia is the last word in surveillance? If we had democracy via observation, everyone would *want* to reveal all to the lamps beside their beds and would drop encryption like a hot potato. That way, the only people still using encryption would be either terrorists or paranoids. Or paranoid terrorists. The paranoids will be the ones that have the biggest and best weapons, so ignore them. The rest are terrorists, so round them up and problem solved!

So, to recap… you guys in the NSA could stand to have some good PR. People are afraid of you being one of several dark forces putting the USA under an Orwellian shadow. This could lead to lots of false positives in the War on Terror. I’m suggesting a democracy via observation campaign so that people will want to be under constant surveillance. Quite a few paranoids think that the NSA and associated intelligence agencies are running the US government. If they’re right, why not get us a better government?

I think you guys in the NSA are all aces, and that you can do what you have to do to pull this off. I’m sure the biometric sensors in my chair are picking up an increased body warmth that goes with the surge of patriotism I’m experiencing, so you know I’m not lying. I believe in you guys: you can use constant surveillance to give us the best democracy the world has ever seen.

Otherwise, what would be the point in having it in a place like the USA?

Anyway, I need to [REDACTED]. You guys stay [REDACTED] and say hi to [REDACTED] for me. Tell [REDACTED] that the auto-redacting software is working perfectly. Watch this: [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] mozarella [REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] eyeliner [REDACTED]. Oops! Looks like a few things slipped through there. I’ll be happy to beta-test the next [REDACTED] of the auto-redacting software.



My Son, the Missionary

My son, Calvin, has been called to serve in the Chile Santiago South Mission. I am so excited and proud for him.

The place where he’ll be going has a climate like Northern Arizona. Santiago is a city of almost 6 million people, and Calvin’s mission will be in the Southern sector of the city plus a few outlying communities. It’s a very small geographic area.

A lot of his work will be in reactivation, it looks like. The Church had massive growth in the 80s and 90s, but anywhere from 10-20% of members there are actually active. Some members there created a system to correlate government records with Church records that had old or mistaken information to contact less-active members. The missionaries go out, find out if the people there would like to return, and go from there. Some want to come back, and they bring their families with them. Others do not, and can request removal from our records if they so desire.

There’s and estimated 250,000-400,000 members in Chile that are less-active, not dead, and potentially willing to be more involved in our faith. That’s a big number to go and find and to preach to. As Jesus taught, some seeds have fallen on rocky soil and did not grow. Some seeds fell on weak soil and sprouted, but withered in the heat. Some seeds fell on good soil, but weeds choked them out. While the seeds that landed on good soil and stayed strong have borne good fruit, it’ll be Calvin’s job to do what he can about helping those other seeds.

I’m a proud father because my son is going to commit his life to serving others for the next two years.