All posts by blain

A Mechanism for Finding Better Solutions and Implementing Them

This is a reconstruction of several comments of mine as part of a discussion with some valued and respected friends who disagree with me about political things.  In the process of it, I have found a vision, and I’m liking it.  I’d like some further thoughts about it from thoughtful people of different positions.  It began with a link to an article I posted which was written by a black Republican woman, and the discussion of that led to a request for sources who could answer questions about the relative causes of factors of poverty in the black community, particularly as concerns social welfare programs and imprisonment on drug charges. Continue reading A Mechanism for Finding Better Solutions and Implementing Them

Billy Joel and Jack Nicholson — Honesty is not for wimps.

If you search for tenderness
it isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
— Billy Joel

You can’t handle the truth!
— Col. Nathan R. Jessep

I spent some time today thinking about and discussing honesty.  Here are some left over thoughts from that conversation:

Honesty is hard, no matter how you slice it.  It is hard to tell the best truth of your understanding at all times, and, sometimes, it isn’t even the right thing to do.  It has limits, and negotiating those limits is a challenge.  Continue reading Billy Joel and Jack Nicholson — Honesty is not for wimps.

Brown chicken, brown cow.

A FB friend posted that she wanted her friends to respond in the comments telling how they met her, but to lie.  This is what I sent back:

I never thought I would be writing this comment. I can’t believe it really happened to me.

Our eyes met across a crowded mini-mart, and, instantly, there were sparks. I pushed three middle-school wanna-gangers with Butterfingers and caffeinated chocolate out of my way, because I had to meet you. Had to know you. Had to wrap my life around you and bend you to my will.

“Hey,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant, but my voice cracking half-way through gave away how excited I really was. “Hey, yourself,” you said, coyly. “Is that an extra-large Cocktail Pep stick in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” I wondered if you’d been watching me try to shoplift the meat snack, or how you knew that the real answer was “Both.”

. . .

As we pulled the remains of our clothing from the odd recesses of the dumpster, got dressed as we could, and prepared to walk back out into a world that suddenly felt both comfortably new and disturbingly familiar, I tried to find my capacity for speech. “That good! You pretty! Do that again many times!” Sadly, I found just enough to sound like a complete idiot.

You looked at me with that sad, sad look in your eyes. “It would never work. I could never give my life over to someone who shoplifts meat snacks and talks like a Neanderthal with a speech impediment.” I tried to argue, but it just came out as babbling incoherence. “No,” you said, “Don’t make this harder than it has to be. We had three magical minutes there, and that’s all that this can ever be. Perhaps, someday, we can meet again on Facebook and be vaguely pleasant acquaintances.”

Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

Most of a comment made in a thread over at By Common Consent.  The dear friend might recognize herself in this description.  Some of this won’t make sense without reading over at least some of the thread, and some won’t make sense to people not familiar with Mormonism.  Sorry.

Costs and benefits. Sacrifice. Quid pro quo — something for something. Very basic economic concepts. We get what we want by doing something we don’t want to do, and wouldn’t do if it didn’t bring us what we want.

I remember a talk given by a dear friend of mine who described a time in her life where her family raised rabbits to supplement their food budget, because cash was so very tight, and rabbits happen to be a cost-effective way of producing dietary protein. She spoke of the day that she involved her young sons in killing the rabbits they were eating, so they would understand directly the sacrifice being made for their benefit. So they could see the price being paid for their lives. Continue reading Economic Choices: Choosing one thing over another, and paying the price for it.

The 3/5 Compromise

I’ve just run into one too many mentions of the Three Fifths Compromise that shows that people know about it, but don’t understand what it was, why it was there, and what it accomplished.  So I’m going to rant about it a little bit.

In the U. S. Constitution as ratified, included this in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

“[A]ll other Persons” refers to slaves, while “those bound to Service for a Term of Years” refers to indentured servants. Continue reading The 3/5 Compromise

There is going to be a Christmas letter.

A Christmas letter will exist.  It will be posted here.  And it will be password protected.  This lets me make the letter widely available, while making personal details about the lives of my close family members subject to mining by anybody who might stumble onto it.  I will be adding the password as a comment when I post a link to the letter to Facebook, so FB-friends will have access.  If anybody else is going to be interested in it, leave a comment here with a valid email address that reaches you, and I’ll send it to you (unless I don’t know who you are, or you are very evil, or something like that).

Watch for the Christmas letter between now and the end of January, with highest probabilities between now and Three Kings Day (Day 12 of Christmas).

Leave Santa Be

My comment in a thread about a Primary (think Sunday School) teacher who decided to “out” Santa to the students in her class.

Ah, the trouble with reality is that it’s not as real as you want it to be when you look at it really close.  I am troubled by the smug snobbery against things magical/mystical and those who believe in them.  There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in any of our philosophies, no matter how enlightened or inspired or evidence-based those philosophies might be.  Some healthy skepticism is healthy, but an inflated faith in the validity of your current understanding is every bit as damaging and fantasy-based as any superstition that ever was. Continue reading Leave Santa Be

80-85% Ally, or 100% Bigoted Homophobe

Ronald Reagan said “My eighty percent friend is not my twenty percent enemy.”  I was thinking about that while bumping into yet another rant about Orson Scott Card being a “huge homophobe,” and decided to see how it might play out.  So I came up with 10 statements (one divided into two) that I could make about gay people (GLBT if you prefer, although I’m not certain all will apply as well to the BT folks as they will to the GL) which I think most GLBT advocates would agree with, and that would be useful in determining percentage of friendship a la Reagan.  Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Gay people should not be subject to violence due to their orientation.
  2. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in employment due to their orientation.
  3. Gay people should not be subject to discrimination in parenting due to their orientation.
  4. Gay people should be able to engage in civil unions which bring them the same legal protections for their partners that heterosexual people have for their spouses.
  5. Homosexual orientation is not a matter of choice.
  6. Homosexual orientation is not primarily about sex.
  7. Gay people should be welcome in regular LDS meetings, regardless of their membership status.
  8. Gay people should be able to function as leaders in Boy Scouts of America on the same basis as straight people (ie, subject to criminal background checks).
  9. Gay people should be allowed to marry their same-sex partners
    1. civilly
    2. in the temple
  10. Gay marriage/civil unions should be recognized by the LDS Church for the purposes of the Law of Chastity as equivalent to heterosexual civil marriages.

Now, I recognize that not all of these statements would be weighted equally by the hypothetical GLBT advocates mentioned above, but I don’t think those differences in weighting are so huge as to totally invalidate their usefulness.

Speaking just for me, I can agree with almost all of those statements.  I can’t go with #10, and I could probably go with #9.1 at some point, but don’t see #9.2 happening ever.  That would put me at a 80-85% score.  From more extensive reading of OSC than the average person (ie, I have read more than Ender’s Game and his columns opposing Same Sex Marriage), I think he would reject #9 and #10, and I have 50% confidence he would agree with #4 and #7, and reasonably confident he’d accept the remainder.  This would put him at 60-80%.  That might be high — he might be at 50% or even 40%.

And what does this mean?  Am I an 80% ally, or a 20% homophobe?  Or am I just 100% homophobe because I don’t whole-heartedly agree with SSM and reject the Church’s standard for sexual behavior?  There are Mormons who will be uncomfortable with my support for #8, and with me even suggesting #10 as a possibility, although agreeing with 100% of these statements would not make me ineligible to hold a Temple Recommend.

I do believe in the principle that we need to accept those who agree with us most, or even some of the time as at least partial friends as opposed to constant and total enemies.  I’ve never found anybody I agree with 100% of the time — not even myself.

Another commercial site sells my email address.

One helpful tool in managing your spam exposure is to develop email addresses to give to sites that have you register so that you can tell if they have sold your address to spammers.  There are ways this can be done with gmail that are interesting, for instance.  Periodically, I will discover sites this way that have sold my address.  Once that’s happened I add that to: address to a filter I use in Thunderbird that automatically deletes messages sent to addresses that only receive spam. It cuts way back on the spam I have to deal with, with no possibility of false-positives — I never want to talk to anybody who has sold my email address to spammers.

Thus far, sites that have done this include:


And our new winner is


I bought a set of these for the girls a while back, the first time I’ve bought a “as seen on tv” through the website advertised in the commercial, and I hated the experience.  Based on that, I have resolved to never do so again — I’ll buy them at Walmart or Walgreens and just accept that I don’t get the whiz-bang deals they mention in the commercials.  But now I know that not only are the sleazy in trying to lure you in with one offer, and then trying to get you to upgrade to something that costs more — they also sell your email address to spammers for some extra bucks.

My letter to the General Conference audio team

I just sent this through the feedback system at

The category I needed was “gratitude for work well done.”  Specifically for the team involved with preparing the mp3 files from General Conference.  If you can forward this along to them for me, I will have gratitude toward you as well.

I have been making use of these mp3 files for about as long as they have been available.  I have seen the process you’ve used improve from one requiring days for the files to be made available, to the present time where they are available within hours.

There was a time when I would download the full session file to get the music and the reports which were not available, and when I would download the podcast version from KSL to get the music in higher bitrates than the 64k which was adequate for the spoken word.  Today, as I’ve looked thoughtfully at what’s available in the zip files for each session, I see no need to do either again.  Not only are all the reports and the music available in that file, with the music at a higher bitrate than the podcast version, but the file-names provide an easy way to play the whole session in order, or to separate out the music from the talks with some simple command-line work.

And there was a time when I was unable to listen to the proceedings of the Priesthood session, due to work.  Now, I am able to include those talks in my listening pattern.

These things don’t just happen without considerable effort, I am well aware, so I wanted to thank all responsible for their efforts, and to let you know that somebody out here noticed them.

I’m not certain what I think of the new interface.

Thank you,