16 October 2007

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

The Definitive 2007-2008 Catalog of Western United States Potties

So, I've figured it out. Remi is feverishly working on the definitive 2007-2008 Catalog of Western United States potties. I believe that we entered every bathroom at the ferry station, the aquarium, the marketplace, the restaurant, and basically everywhere else we visited today. Kristi and I really are happy to have the boy toilet-trained; now I just wish that his bladder was a little larger than a thimble.

Okay, enough potty humor.

We actually had a lovely trip to Seattle today by ferry. Although we forgot our camera (again), I think that the experience will remain memorable for a long time. The trip from Port Orchard to Seattle takes two ferries; one to Brewerton and then another to Seattle. Had I the camera, I would have taken a picture of the incredibly massive wake that the Brewerton-Seattle ferry leaves behind it. It was awesome. When we got off the ferry for the first time, I would have taken a picture of the largest hammer drill in the universe (of Josh) which was pushing a formidable-looking I-beam into the ocean.

We first stopped at a few gift shops, and then we went to the Seattle Aquarium, where we undoubtedly would have taken numerous pictures of the boy's petting starfish, sea slugs, anemonae, and urchins, touching shark skin and shark teeth and staring in awe jellyfish, otters, seals, sharks, etc., etc., etc.. However, we didn't bring the camera, and so we didn't take pictures of any of that.

We went to the marketplace where there were these enormous bouquets of flowers for only $10! Of course, this would be more valuable, had I a picture to show you the size and beauty of the bouquets. We didn't bring our camera, though.

Finally, we went to dinner at Ivar's where we had some really good seafood. I had the cod. Our waitress, Lee, was a gem. Afterwards, we took some of Remi's left-over fries and fed them to eager-looking seagulls. That would have been great to have on camera, too. Grrrr...

Hopefully, if I write "we forgot our camera" enough times, I will eventually remember to bring the flippin' (Utah word) camera along with us!
0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

A 12-Hour Trip Stuffed Into 28

It's funny how kids can make a trip take longer. Actually, I have learned to multiply my travel time by 1.5 if I have my children in the car with me. For some reason, they need to stop to eat, go potty or just run around the car for 20 minutes straight, all at regular intervals of about 45 minutes. Interestingly, especially on long trips, they never feel the need to sleep.

Anyway, our trip to Seattle, Washington this week for a family vacation, while uniquely scenic outside the car, was no different inside the car. Zac figured out how to open water bottles, but not how gravity affects the situation when the water bottle is tipped over. Twice. Remi discovered that by drinking heavily from the water bottles, he could increase legitimate stop-offs by 30%.

However, Kristi and I did accomplish some goals that we set at the beginning of the trip. First, Remi never used a binki while in the car. Second, we only re-watched one movie. It was a VeggieTales movie, so I was okay with it.

So, why are we in beautiful Washington? We are visiting my cousin Mary and her husband Ned. We've come during the rainy season, which may mean that we will see a lot of the inside of our car or her house, but we will probably tough it out in the end if the boys are sporting. I am excited to go up to Victoria and also to see the sea anemones on the beach. Remi is excited to get some new rain boots.

Kristi is reminding me that my goal is one paragraph a night. Apparently, five is not one...so, I must go.

11 October 2007

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

The Jazz Pre-Season Begins!

The funny thing is that, being very nerdy, I naturally don't find a lot of point in a number of sports. I value athleticism, but not the warrior-like, adrenaline-induced behavior that certain sports seems to cultivate (i.e. football, hockey). On the other hand, I value skill and precision, but not watching it at a slow pace (i.e. baseball). Mostly, though, I think that I don't like being categorized with the stereotypical dad who does nothing but swig beer (or soda, in my case) all day, plopped on the couch watching his teams play.

A lot of this gets thrown out the window with basketball, though. While my wife has balanced me out quite a bit, since she usually goes to the Jazz games with me, I still classify myself as a fairly noisy fan in the crowds. I carefully follow the stats, analyze, and discuss ad nauseum with co-workers. I have trouble getting up to help my son with something (or leaving the house if it is on fire) if I'm watching a Jazz game. I exhibit signs of depression when they lose and the opposite when they win.

It's only with the Jazz, too. I can be perfectly calm and only exhibit the faintest resistance to stepping away from the game for a moment to help Kristi with stuff, etc.. Even the playoffs, if it is not the Jazz playing, do not induce that magnetic fanaticism that exists, latent inside me. don't follow high school or collegiate basketball more than the occasional headline, and, as soon as the Jazz season is over, I barely watch any of the playoffs, even the Finals.

Of course, I love playing basketball. However, it is easy to point out that I barely get an inkling of competitiveness in any other sport on the face of the Earth. (Except maybe chess, if that's a sport...) (Well, there's bowling, too, but this is more competitiveness with myself than anything.) When it comes to playing basketball, though, I am a completely different person.

I notice in myself a sincere hope that Remi and Zac come to love and appreciate playing basketball and watching the Jazz like I do. I hope that they play basketball in high school and practice for hours outsides because they love it so much. Of course, I'll be happy with whatever they find as their interests; however, I recognize that I will be just as happy if they like baseball as if they like basket weaving. What I would really like is for them to love basketball.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling post, but I simply find it interesting that it's "basketball" and not "sports". And "Jazz basketball" no less.

08 October 2007

0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

A Thoelogical Offering

I am currently reading a fascinating book called, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. It is a long book, and I have finally broken the 600-page mark.

Anyway, the book starts out by referring to the Musical Offering that Bach composed based on a theme from Frederick II of Prussia. I have entitled this post, and the succeeding work implied by it, A Theological Offering for two reasons.

First, I refer myself to the following condition of English and its ability to make logical statements of truth or falsehood. Consider the statement "This statement is false." Is it true or false? From a logical sense, it is a paradox because, if it is true, then it is false, if it is false, then it speaks the truth. Somehow, our minds don't break though, because they operate on a higher plane that just language.

I showed this to a co-worker of mine, Chris, and he said that he felt that this wasn't a problem because you could just create a rule (thinking in the logical world again) that one could no use self-reference in logic. Ah ha! So, I proposed the sentence to him "This statement has five words." Is it true or false? Indeed, we recognize it as true; however, without self-reference it is a truth that our logical system can neither prove nor disprove.

I came to better understand two principles of formal systems that day. First, due to the richness of a number of our formal systems, there exist statements that are neither true nor false, but are instead, paradoxes. Second, regardless of how we refine it, there will always be truths that, while the system can express it, it cannot prove or disprove it.

Enter the Scientific Method. I am a very scientific, analytical person, and yet I realize that the Scientific Method is a system, just like any other, that is beholden to these two principles. This method has taken us to great and wonderful vistas as large as 10 billion light years and as small as quarks and leptons. We understand so much about life and how to preserve and improve it. While the potential of the Scientific Method, and science in general, seems limitless to me, I recognize that there exist unreachable truths for the Scientific Method, just like any other formal system. Again, an unreachable truth meaning something that is true that cannot be proven nor dis-proven.

What about the statement of truth that "Faith is the power of God to work miracles" or even simpler "God exists"? What about "If you seek a relationship with God and follow His commandments, you will return to live with Him again after death"? I have been told in the past that Intelligent Design is not scientific because it cannot be verified through the Scientific Method. For now, I agree with this. I also understand that there are truths in our world that cannot be reached by the Scientific Method simply due to what I have stated above. Are spiritual truths a set of principles that cannot be proven by the Scientific Method but are nevertheless true? I believe so.

Much like Hofstadter in his book, G.E.B., I wish to make a Theological Offering of spiritual truths that I have verified for myself using the Spiritual Method, which I will explain now.

Over the past dozen or so years, I have been a Seminary teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a youth leader, and a missionary. I have come to love the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, particularly the books of "spiritual theorems" that He has authored through His servants, the prophets, namely, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. That list is nowhere near inclusive, but it includes the major works that have changed my life. Aside from coming to love the spiritual theorems put forward in these books, I have come to love teaching them to others and helping them see how their lives can be improved 100-fold by following them in their lives.

Thus, I would like to make my own offering to all readers. (The word "offering" makes whatever I say after this sound "definitive" or, at least, "elitist," but it is not my intent. I mean it in the humble sense that Bach did.) Over the next many years, I am going to write up a highly-collaborative, shared commentary on the standard works listed above, and hopefully expand it to many other spiritual works of prophets both living and dead. I'm going to start with the Book of Mormon since I believe it to be the most important, and then I'll go from there.

I'm going to use Diigo to do it. I'm doing this so that other people may participate, if they wish, making it highly-collaborative. Diigo is a social bookmarking system that allows for annotations to be placed on the page that you are bookmarking. These annotations, for my purposes, will be people's commentary. You will be able to, and soon as I verify copyright laws, find the notes at scriptures.lds.org.

If you wish to contribute, I've created a Diigo group called "Theological Offering" where you can add your commentary to various scriptures. I'm adding people to the group by invitation. Please feel free to provide a few of your proposed annotations to me, and I would be happy to add you to the group.

My underlying goal is for people to be able to collaborate and share their scriptural insights, life experiences, etc. in a way that makes reading the scriptures a much richer experience. Indeed, reading 1 Nephi 3:7 is inspiring, but to read a dozen testimonies of how people have found the principle in this scripture to be true would, I think, be fantastic.

****Now for the disclaimer:****

I must emphasize that these are my own opinions (and the opinions of any contributors), taken from the sum-total of my testimony and my life experiences. Please do not consider any of the comments as the official position of the Church. I am in no position whatsoever in the Church to be able to make any "official" claims. What this turns into basically is a plea that you a) don't interpret something that it said in these comments as something that is doctrine for everyone to follow unless the Church has taught the same thing elsewhere (like during General Conference, in the Ensign, or in the scriptures) and b) don't take the writer's opinion over anything taught by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The apostles are the Lord's ordained leaders in this dispensation and they have the stewardship for establishing doctrine and principles, not me.


****End disclaimer****
0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

General Conference Post-Game Show

This past weekend, the Church held its 177th Semi-Annual General Conference. This has become a major event in my life where I have the opportunity to listen to wise men and women on the subjects of family, spirituality, etc.. Their wisdom and devotion help me to learn lessons and grow closer to God much better than I could if I were just on my own.

Anyway, I'm out of time right now, but I'll devote an evening in the near future to beef up this post. The final word right now is that conference was wonderful, and I encourage any person seeking a relationship with God to participate, regardless of his or her religious persuasion.
0 Comments
Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

A Call from Antonio, Part II

With Rosa's story in mind, I'd like to tell you about the day Antonio Santos was baptized.

It was March 3, 2002 in Castelo Branco, Portugal, which was my last Sunday serving in that city. My new appointment in the mission would be "Traveling Assistant," which means that I would have no area, but that I would stay with a different set of elders every week to train, etc.. I had three months left of my mission, so I knew that this new appointment would be my last. My personal proselyting mission, as I knew it, was ending in just a couple of days.

We were all so happy for Antonio because of his wonderful conversion story, which I'll not take the time to relate here. March 3 was the culmination of a dedicated conversion process on his part, including giving up smoking, etc., and devoting time to Church each Sunday.

The baptism was to immediately follow Fast and Testimony Meeting since some of our members traveled far to get to the meeting house, and it was better to ask them to just get there once a week instead of multiple times. The branch president (similar to a bishop), President Cruz stood, bore his testimony to start the meeting, and then invited those who wished to stand and bear their testimony of the restored gospel.

I was surprised at the first man to stand up; it was Brother Magalhaes. He was a man that my companion at the time, Elder Davis, and I had met out on the street about 6 months ago. He had confessed that he was a member, but that the city that he had moved to was so far away that it was going to be difficult to attend Church. We empathized and challenged him to attend anyway, showing him (since he was in town at the time) where the chapel was. Today, he had come, and he was the first to get up upon invitation from President Cruz. He bore his testimony of Church attendance and how he missed coming and how he was so happy to be at Church today. He also mentioned how he was grateful to see so many people that he admired in the chapel.

He pointed out one particular person in the congregation. He said that he had admired him from the day he was a boy when he saw him serving in the military. He said that he hoped to emulate the good qualities that he saw in this man. He pointed to a older fellow named Luis; he was about 70 years old. This was special because Luis was an investigator at the time, and he had just changed his work schedule so that he could attend Church meetings for the first time today. What a powerful coincidence! Brother Magalhaes and Luis chose to attend church on the same day, Luis for his first time, and Brother M was inspired to bear his testimony and praise Luis particularly for his good character! Brother M was not aware that Luis was investigating at the time. One could see that Luis was deeply touched, both by the sentiment and by the coincidence.

After this, the second counselor in the branch presidency stood and bore his testimony of the power of the words of the prophets to change lives. This was momentous because he had recently reactivated himself, giving up drinking and other bad habits in order to again become worthy of his position in the Church. I will never forget the words that he said, "And I owe much of my strength to make my way back to Elder Cummings." I was surprised, but incredibly touched. No one was aware at this point that I was to be transferred away this Wednesday (except Antonio was vaguely aware that I could leave at any week in the near future).

After several more testimonies, Antonio was baptized. It was a singular event after such a wonder and uplifting series of testimonies. He was now a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and his life would be changed forever.

The reason that I tell this story is two-fold: First, Antonio is a very special person to me. We became very close friends over the three-months that we new each other in Castelo Branco. Still today, we will talk over the phone every few months to catch up on one another's lives. Just seeing Antonio baptized was enough for me to know, like the Elder I mentioned in "A Call from Antonio, Part I", that my mission "actually meant something." Second, though the Lord could have stopped there, He inpsired Brother Magalhaes to testify on the same say that his boyhood hero attended church for the first time, and for the Second Counselor to bear witness of his "re-conversion". By the end of the baptism, the overwhelming feeling in my heart was that the Lord was pleased with my efforts in that city, and that I could close the book of my personal proselyting mission, knowing that He was pleased.

It looks like this story is going to need a Part III. :) It's much harder with kids to find the time to dedicate to really tell some good stories. :)