Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gay Marriage

When we initially named this blog, one of the things I liked about "meaty chunks" was that it hit the whimsical family blog button while also allowing me to feel clever by hinting that we would write pieces about thoughtful matters every once in a while.  It has turned out that there have been fewer meaty matters and more family photos (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course), but I figured I'd pen some thoughts on gay marriage today as it is constantly in the news.

Gay marriage is the social issue of our time.  I've spent a fair amount of time discussing the issue and I've changed my position over the years from opposition to support.   I have gay friends who are married to their gay lovers.  I have gay friends who are married to their opposite sex spouse.  I have gay friends who can't or don't want to get married.  I have Mormon friends who oppose gay marriage for essentially discriminatory reasons.  I have Mormon friends who support gay marriage.  And I have Mormon friends who oppose gay marriage for what I believe are legitimate non-hateful reasons one may or may not agree with.  With all these friends, it's a tall order to put down my own thoughts without risking offense to someone.  On the other hand, maybe I can help people figure out how to feel more at peace with a very contentious topic if I share my own journey from angst to contentment.

Many Mormons feel it is important to oppose gay marriage on a moral basis alone.  I do not think that secular recognition of gay marriage changes the Mormon view of chastity and associated morality, but it does change the very real living circumstances of those involved.  By legalizing gay marriage, relationships in a functional family led by two gay parents can be recognized in a manner that allows for better healthcare, better education, and better safety.  This is good for children and it is good for society in that sense at least. It is just plain prima facia good for those who have expanded rights and ability to care for those they love most dearly. That's why I support gay marriage.  It's pragmatic and it's the Christian thing to do, I believe.

I support gay marriage and I don't feel this is at odds with the leadership of the Mormon church.  We can, as a church community, believe that gay sex violates the law of chastity while still allowing others to secure the secular benefits of legal marriage recognition.  I don't see this as inconsistent.  Mormons have been restricted in practicing certain aspects of our religion over the years specifically because others in society found them to be morally deplorable. I feel the Golden Rule applies here--we can continue to teach and believe that the law of chastity requires opposite sex couples for procreative reasons while still allowing others to live by their own consciences.

There are lots of different directions a discussion on gay marriage might go. My friends from the AMA might press me on the importance of science informing our public policy--that's what I've always believed is the right way to frame our social policies and that was why I spent years on the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health.  My Mormon friends might press me about the recent messages from LDS General Conference in which several leaders alluded to or directly discussed gay marriage, and not in a supportive way.  I can anticipate many things people might say on this topic because I've given it a lot of thought over the years.  For me the bottom line is that gays and Mormons need to cut each other more slack.

I would like my gay friends to appreciate that those who oppose gay marriage do not necessarily do so out of some character flaw such as hate or ignorance.  I would like my Mormon friends to recognize that gay people can be exemplary moral people who have a different understanding of our life on Earth, and their view is not born out of lasciviousness and moral inadequacy.

Is that so much to ask?  Yes, I'm sure it is, for some.  But I will still think and write and chat about it.  I'm sure my views will continue to change over the years as they already have thanks to the influence of so many good people from all sorts of different backgrounds.  My friend Josh Weed wrote a post about gay marriage not long ago, only to retract it and then post an explanation today that I found to be very moving. I think it has great insight into the topic from a Mormon viewpoint.  Not long ago Diana and I attended a gay wedding in Atlanta that was undeniably the most fun I've ever had at a wedding.  It was a beautiful celebration of a beautiful couple who believe differently than me, but who are entitled to as much happiness within their own lives as they can manage.  I ask again that anyone who reads this try a little harder to be more understanding of those with whom they differ.  Listen and love.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Breaking the silence

It's been a long time.  So long, in fact, that it seems inadequate to just drop a quick post.  Months of silence seems to only adequately be addressed with lengthy and carefully crafted explanations, right?  Well, no.  Here are some random photos of our recent vacation.  That's all you get.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I realize I'm not the first mother in the world to marvel at how the passage of time can turn this:

into this:

 A sentient, capable, independent being who can do anything you can do, only messier.

Who thinks babies who lie around all day like this:

are wasting their time.

Because they could be doing this:

Or this

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

See how he's stealing the pizza from someone else's plate?  That's my boy!

As a full-fledged toddler, Miles' daily agenda includes playing in the toilet, eating the dog's food, emptying cupboards, and smashing electronics.  He also makes time for building (and demolishing) block towers, pulling Grace's (and the dog's) hair, and raiding (and hiding) Sam's legos.

This child has a taste for mischief.  He's not malicious, he just wants to have a good time and get a big reaction.  At home, one of his favorite ways to do that is to climb high and fast, preferably with a sharp and/or heavy object.   Sewing shears on the computer desk are a favorite, but he'll settle for knives on the kitchen counter, or a glass vase on the stairs.  He's also fond of straight pins, seam rippers, and the iron.  (Basically anything from my craft table will do.)

But his troublemaking is not confined to the home-front.  Take the time two weeks ago, when he ran away after church.  As always, he attended class with me.  As always, I let him wander the rows soliciting candy from adults and stealing toys from children.  (I intercede when he threatens to damage AV equipment or pound on the piano, but otherwise I just keep an eye on him while he wanders.)   You know where this is going, don't you?  Sometime after the final "amen," while I was gathering my things and chatting with a friend, he slipped out the door without me noticing.  While chatting, I began looking around the room for him -- behind the piano, under the chairs.  When I didn't find him, I said a quick goodbye, and checked the hallway.  I didn't see him, and neither had my friend who'd been standing in the hall, so I went back into the classroom to check again.  After another quick search under chairs, behind the blackboard, and around the ankles of church members, I circled the building.  By this time all of the other classes had let out, so the halls were filling quickly.  I expected to see him dodging through the crowd, or hear someone call out, "He's over here."  But I didn't.  And that's when the panic set in.

What was I afraid of?  I can't say exactly.  I could have been worried that he'd open the exterior door and wander out to the busy street.  Or that he'd be snatched by our ward's convicted sex offender (not an official calling, but lots of wards have them). Or he could have wandered into a dark closet or cupboard and gotten  himself stuck.  Mostly I just kept thinking, "I can't believe I lost him.  What kind of mother loses her kid at church?"

I started circling in indecision --literal circles-- heading in one direction and then immediately changing my mind and heading the other way, afraid I'd miss him if I chose wrong.  After turning around twice, I realized I needed help.

It's one thing to think you've lost your kid, but it's another to say the words out-loud.  "I can't find Miles," I told a friend.   My voice caught, and the tears started, and what might have been a calm and orderly search became a bit frenzied.  Kind friends who saw my panic joined in, and before I reached the next turn in the hall I heard the question spreading: "Have you seen Miles?"

In the end, all I had to do was take the next turn in the hall.  Just around the corner, I found him in the arms of his friend (and mine), Margaret.  Apparently, he'd gone to visit her on the other side of the building.  He was happy to see me, but no more than usual.   What's five minutes to an adventurous toddler?  Five lifetimes to a worried mother, that's what.

In the van, with all three children safely strapped in, I started to process it all.  For a moment I actually thought, "As fearless as he is, it's a marvel I haven't lost him before.  Maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all."  Only then did  I remember this wasn't the first time.

The real first time was a couple months ago at a hotel in Erie, PA.  We met some friends there to enjoy the indoor waterpark.  After breakfast, the adults were packing things up before heading down for a day of fun.  The children were playing in the living room/kitchenette area in the  middle of our shared suite.   There was a knock at the door, and a stranger asked if we were missing a child.  "I don't think so," I answered, and did a quick visual sweep of the room.  And then I saw behind the stranger, another stranger holding Miles' hand as he toddled down the hall toward us.  He was ready for the day, wearing his swim trunks and a smile.    I hadn't even noticed he was gone.

We never did figure out how he escaped.  There were four adults and six other children (all older than Miles) in the 3-room suite, but no one admitted to opening the door, and no one saw him leave.   I spent the rest of the day wondering "What if?"  What if the strangers hadn't known which door to knock on?  What if he'd fallen down the stairs, or got stuck in the elevator?  What if he'd been found by carnival scouts looking to book a new baby act for their traveling show?

I had to force myself to stop thinking about the frightening possibilities, and just be grateful it all turned out OK.  I have a feeling that's a lesson I'll have to learn again and again with this kid.    If he were any less adorable, I might resent him for it.  But Miles can charm the exasperation right out of me.  His smiles are constant, and his hugs are abundant.  (He's a little stingy with kisses (except for the dog), but I can't say I mind too much, because they're usually open-mouthed (especially for the dog).)  He's friendly and fun, and he spreads cheer everywhere he goes.  On grocery outings, he spontaneously hugs sweet grandmas who stop to say hello.  At church, he picks a new (adult) friend every week to snuggle.  

Things will be different at church now that Miles  has his own class to go to.  He turned 18 months on Monday, and that means he gets to go to nursery.  I snuck him in a day early last week, and just as I expected, he ran straight for the toys without a glance over his shoulder; I went to my own class alone.  I'll admit I missed him, and not just because it meant I had to pay attention.  For all his mischief, I just really like the kid.  So when I went to pick him up after church I was just a little bit glad to see his lip quiver when he caught sight of me.   And even happier to hear that mid-way through class, he'd gone to the door and called "Ma!  Ma!"    I wasn't even there to see it, and it still melts my heart!

Maybe it's a bad idea to admit all of this.  I might end up bailing him out of jail some day after a teenage prank gone wrong.  And I don't want him thinking that all it takes to win me over is a lip quiver and a hug.  But, let's face it, he probably knows that already.   At 18 months, he's got me all figured out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For devices, less is often more

Who do you want as a sidekick, a burly carni strongman or a ninja that never sleeps?

Before you get too interested, this is another post about gadgets. Specifically, I'm thinking iPad vs. Cr-48 vs. conventional Windows laptop. There. You've been warned.

I've always been a gadget guy and I've wanted to get the latest gizmo long before I can really ever afford it. Eight years ago when I was getting married I convinced my mom to buy an expensive digital camera for the occasion, mainly because I wanted to play with one and I couldn't afford one myself. The thing I learned back then that is still true today is that specs do not accurately describe the quality of what you're getting. A 5 megapixel camera could have a horrible noisy picture compared to a higher quality 1 megapixel camera that had good processing--it just had bigger files with more pixels to *possibly* capture the details if they were there to begin with. But people didn't bother with looking at image quality so much back then, they just wanted the camera with the highest number of megapixels plastered on the side. It was a fallacious "appeal to authority" the likes of which could have been a case example for my logic 101 class in college--the numbers were the authority to declare this camera superior in the face of all other subjective assessments, however misleading they higher numbers might be.

All that is to lead into the idea that computers, cell phones, and other gadgets suffer the same fate. When people evaluate computers, it's often all about the specs--how much memory, storage and processor speed are you getting? So then when they buy a cell phone or Apple device, they fall into the same line of thinking, asking whether it multitasks or runs flash or has some additional feature that the other device does not, making this the mark of superiority. And, to be fair, having certain indispensible features can make or break a device, so that's appropriate some of the time. But usually what I see is that people don't really pay attention to how they actually use these devices-- they like the idea of a carni strongman who can lift anything rather than a ninja who can lift your particular carry on bag and also manage to continue lifting it for 50 miles while the strongman lasted only half a mile!

In case that was a bit vague, let me clarify. I need a portable device that has a long battery and does what I want it to do when I want it to do it. Sure, I like a computer that I can use to edit videos and play super high frame rate games on, etc. But I'd rather have a portable device that can't do those things if cramming those features into my portable device means that it will have to sacrifice battery life. Not enough battery means I can't do anything at all after a little while, which is far less acceptable to me than having a long period of reliably doing my low-resource boring day-to-day things.

When you read the tech news about Android devices, iOS devices, and old-school cell phones, people fall into the megapixel trap of citing specs or feature lists as the objective gold standard for device quality. It doesn't work that way, in my opinion. I have an iPod Touch and I love the thing, and it's because it is so responsive and it lasts a long time between charges. I don't want Flash and multi-tasking if it comes at the price of those core benefits (and it often does). Not that I have a lot of experience with Android, but my buddy's Android phone was snappy as could be after he first got it, but was slow and sluggish after a year of use--I presume exactly because of the multi-tasking bloat that is draining the battery and slowing things down that is typical of older devices after lots of installations.

Now, for the Cr-48. Here's a device that exemplifies exactly what I'm talking about. It's a full computer allowing keyboard typing (I can't even conceive of writing this post on an ipad!) but without the bloat under the hood that keeps the device from responding quickly and lasting the day without a wall outlet. In the comments where I've seen Chrome OS discussed, a lot of people ask over and over, "What can this thing do that I can't do on a regular laptop? Why should I settle for something that has so many limitations when netbooks are so cheap these days and have so much more capability!?" Translation: why would I want a ninja when I could have a carni? And the answer is the same as before: because the ninja will let you do what you need to do more reliably and more quickly than a flashy strongman who can do "more" but fails in the day to day.

Some might say a Kindle or Nook fits the same bill. And it probably does, I've just never used them so I can't comment. But if you have a specific need: reading with low eye strain, reliable long lasting battery, etc... then I can see why you'd go there instead of an iPad or other device with more features at a cost.

For most of what I do on a regular daily basis, battery life and responsiveness are key. That means I have to sacrifice some of the bloat--the ability to do super processor intensive things like Flash games may not be ideal, for example. But if it means I don't run out of battery right when I need it, it's worth it. For devices, less is often more, and so far the Cr-48 is hitting the sweet spot in the middle.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cloud 9

I love my Cr-48 (the Google netbook I got to test out that has no conventional hard drive or local file storage). In case you aren't up on your hipster internet lingo, cloud computing means the storage or processing or whatever is distributed between servers and not done on your local machine. You store files on the web, not on the machine sitting in front of you.

Disclaimer first: this post is really boring and it won't hurt my feelings if you just come back when Boss is pontificating about menstruating pinatas or something more interesting. But in case you like the techno-geeky stuff, this post is for you.

Here are the main problems people seem to have with "the cloud":
  1. I won't have *control* over my own information!
  2. It won't be safe on their servers; I've seen in the news how they're hacked all the time!
  3. What if I'm not online? I can't do anything.

Let me respond to these:
  1. You have more control over files online where you can get to them from any computer than you do when they are only on your local machine--the one you always forget to make backups for and the one where Windows requires you to genuflect and kiss its ring before accessing a folder it doesn't trust you with.
  2. Servers controlled by companies like Google and Amazon are safer than most people's local machines. Granted, there are Internet-based companies that play fast and loose with personal information and the news is filled with a rotating stream of them being hacked. The places I store my data online are high quality (with the exception of a few banks that have sent me new credit cards because of online security breaches and that have nothing whatsoever to do with me deliberately storing my information in the cloud). If you take an objective look at the security level of your wifi network at your house, or your family members' surfing habits clicking on any shiny ad that could be malicious, I'd take my chances with the cloud any day!
  3. And not being online? It's no worse than being online and not having access to your files because you're not sitting right in front of the particular machine that stores them. I've tried to share files and folders and external hard drives over my local network. It's frustrating and unnecessary! Windows constantly tells me that I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing and then thwarts me when I try to do it anyway. It's like the argument about gun control laws only keeping guns away from honest people and not criminals--Windows security keeps me from using my own files the way I want but seems to have plenty of ways for the bad guys to get in. On balance, having your files in the cloud makes them much more accessible, not less accessible because you might not always be online.
I thought after getting the Cr-48 I might have to make quite a few changes to how I use my computer to adapt to a computer that is only on the web. But, it turns out, I've already been making the change to the cloud gradually over the last decade, I just didn't realize it in quite those terms until today. For example, here are some of the things I used to do on my local machine that now I do online nearly exclusively:
  1. Office software (i.e. word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations). I started using Google docs a while back for nearly everything and I find it works for 90% of what I need. Occasionally I need a few fancier features than what they have, and for that I have my trusty desktop and the cloud won't hack it. But, for the vast majority of what I do both at work and at home, the cloud is it. For those who like the pretty (albeit over-wrought and infuriating, imho) look of MS Office, there is a web based version of that software if you'd rather use it than Google docs. I'd say you're crazy and try to convince you otherwise, but I'll tone it down for 5 seconds. [Incidentally, I've been impressed with this web-based presentation software.]
  2. E-mail. I can hardly believe I ever did non-web-based e-mail, but I suppose it's true. I used to use a client installed on the local machine that downloaded my messages off the server on to the local machine where I could never read them again from any other web-connected computer. Craziness! Hotmail paved the way (then was assimilated by the Microsoft Borg) and Gmail raised the bar. It's all web all the time, now. Oddly, this is one place where cloud storage trumps local too. My work e-mail limits me to less than 80 megs of storage. Compare that to the 8 gigs in Gmail. Weird.
  3. Documents and records. I can keep scanned documents in the cloud like my kids' birth certificates (bring those up at the airport and save the printouts), my diplomas, etc. I've been looking for my tax return from last year and I can't find it on any of my hard drives or computers around here. I wish I had put it in the cloud for easy access from anywhere, but I just dropped $15 last night trying to download a new copy of last years' return from taxact and it turns out they don't even have the pdf I need! For storage that synchronizes across all your computers and is accessible from the web too, I like Dropbox. I still use google docs to store most things, though, because you can upload videos, pdfs, and other kinds of files besides just office documents.
  4. Tax preparation. Speaking of storing tax records, how about doing the taxes in the first place? I used to buy Turbotax, but for the last several years I've used Freefile online and you get the exact same benefits without purchasing the software. This year for the first time ever, my online preparation was free as well as both the federal and state filing with H&R Block (as long as you access their site through the freefile page and live in a state that has free filing). I can't convince my parents to save their money by doing it this way, but I do think the cloud is the best.
  5. Money management. I used Microsoft Money software for years, and then realized that the jerks had actually built an expiration date (in effect) into the software that required me to buy more of their crappy software later to continue to use my data. Seriously! I couldn't access my own meticulously gathered financial records without paying Microsoft a perpetual upgrade fee? Now I use my bank sites with which keeps track of the big picture and budgeting better than MS Money ever did. So neener Microsoft!
  6. Books. I don't read on the computer all that often, but when I do, it's in the cloud (pdf's saved in my Dropbox account, textbooks with login-enabled e-versions, Amazon kindle fiction, Google Books, etc). That way your place is always saved and updated whether you were reading on your ipod or your laptop or switching back and forth or whatever.
  7. Music. Although I've got a huge music collection and I like to listen to it on my computer and ipod every once in a while, I use them much much less than I listen to Pandora or, which are fresher and give me access to lots of music I don't have to pay for, and which are available from any computer with Internet. Better. Definitely better.
  8. As for movies and TV, we're a big-time Netflix family. We dropped the cable TV bill more than a year ago and haven't missed it much at all. We have Netflix streaming setup through the xbox and our kids love it, we have control of what is coming in, knowledge of what actually got watched, and access to more movies and TV shows that we like than we had when we had TV. We also split some time with hulu and youtube on the computer, but Netflix rules at our house.
  9. Games. I'm admittedly more of a social gamer these days. I'm much more likely to use the arcade feature of the xbox than the full version discs. So, it works out pretty well that if I need a Plants vs. Zombies or Bejeweled fix sometime, they're available online for the computer, not necessitating a local install. Call of Duty? Not so much. But, for us, that's okay because I've got the xbox for that and I don't use the computer for that kind of gaming anyway. Who has the time?
  10. Photos and videos. Here's where I still have some adapting yet to do. I am convinced that storing my stuff in the cloud is a better way to go than locally where they get deleted or corrupted or lost or diluted to oblivion, but I haven't quite made the change yet. We do share a fair number of photos via facebook and flickr and picasa web albums, but this is a very small percentage of our total stash. There are online video editors (which I haven't used much) and photo editors like picnik (which I have used and I've been impressed with). Cloud still wins... although the space needed may argue for a compromise. I buy a new external hard drive every year, it seems, and if I spent that money for getting a lot more online storage in the cloud instead, It'd probably be a zero sum game. We'll see how this one plays out!
Anyway, this may be the most boring post ever, and Boss warned me. But I wanted to at least make a case for cloud based computing. It's new and seems odd to many, but I do think it's a better way to go for many many reasons. Making the transition for us has happened without even realizing it, for the most part. Shortly after we were married we decided not to buy any more books or CDs or DVDs, opting instead for using the library and rentals (with reasonable exceptions, of course). That was sort of a conceptual leap into the cloud, if not literal cloud storage, I suppose. And so it's probably been easier for us over the years to make the computing switch to the cloud. So, here we are a nerdy case example of living with our heads in the clouds, and the Cr-48 is now taking it to the next level.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Nerdiness Extravaganza

This is Coach writing this post, not Boss. Just want to clarify for those few followers of this blog who enjoy reading the clever musing of my sweet wife--I'm not her. I am far less clever and less able to sew a purse. However, in the technological nerdiness category, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that in this household, I reign supreme.

Case in point: I just got a brand spankin' new Google netbook in the mail today. It's one of their tester thingys that they've sent out to fanboys like me to try out their new web-based operating system and give them feedback. From what I understand, this thing doesn't have a hard drive for local storage, it doesn't have an optical drive, and you don't install any programs. The idea is that you do *everything* via an always-on web connection. Anyone who would consider using such a device as their main computer is, by definition, uber nerdy. And here I am.

I couldn't actually wait to write this post *on* the computer because it's charging right now and I'm too excited to wait. But, I will definitely be blogging about my experience with it because I'm now feeling a little evangelical on the topic. I love Google and despite that I own no stock and haven't made any money off them (well... until now, I suppose... receiving a free laptop computer does tend to bias one), I've loved them for years. What's not to love about a company that can do all the incredible things they've done for free?

I don't know that my opinion counts for much, but I'll share some thoughts for what they're worth as I use this little gem. I wish someone whose blog I read had warned me to NEVER buy an HP Touchsmart laptop. Well, dear reader, consider YOURself warned anyway. We'll see whether Google manages to measure up to my portable device expectations or whether I'll move on and get that iPad I've been planning on for the last several months.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Love Notes

One of the things I love about being a parent is finding little messages from my kids. Like this one, from Sam. It's nice to know I'm in the top three.

Perhaps you also noticed the message from Miles in the same photo, top right.. It's a little harder to make out exactly, but it says something like "I may look cute, but do not trust me with electronics. I have remarkable powers of destruction."

Don't worry. The iPod's under warranty. The baby, however, is not.
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