Gingerbread Houses

Jan 1 by curtis at 8:24 pm

We have an annual tradition of making gingerbread houses at Grandma’s house and this year was no exception. Sadly, due to an seemingly insane desire to reduce the amount of food storage I carry around in the form of fat cells, I did not partake in this year’s festivities. Skyler and Preston, however, produced a pair of masterpieces any architect would envy.

First Day of School

Nov 18 by curtis at 8:03 am

Preston started kindergarten this year and Skyler entered the second grade. We have been really excited for Preston because he’s in a Chinese immersion program and is learning to speak Chinese from a native speaker. He already knows a number of phrases and characters, while Anne has picked up quite a bit from volunteering in the classroom.

Skyler has become a great reader and enjoys reading Goosebumps books.

Brash

Nov 17 by curtis at 4:02 pm

Last spring after some discussion, Anne gave our old labrador-mix mutt back to her mom and we adopted a German Shepherd puppy. We named him Brashen (after the character in the Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb) and we call him Brash. Anne has been doing Schutzund training with him and quite enjoys spending her Saturdays out doing tracking, obedience, and bite work.

We also took some longish, and probably not very entertaining, videos of us teaching him how to track by placing little bits of hot dog in our footprints.

Halloween

Nov 17 by curtis at 3:14 pm

Anne took an off-hand comment of mine as a challenge this year and created costumes for our boys from scratch.

Mr. Mimic’s Birthday

Aug 2 by curtis at 11:33 am

I recommend not listening to the sound. It was already bad and the audio quality makes it worse.

He wanted a birthday pie, so Anne bravely made him one. (It tasted great, but she was very upset about how it turned out, so don’t talk to her about it.)

Cloning and Mormonism

Jul 8 by Daboo at 11:04 am

just read The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir and it is hilarious and a little sad. I was really worried it would bash Mormons too much but it was too honest for that. No hate here, no prejudice, just honest reality. I liked it a lot. As someone who has actually thought about my faith and grappled with its major questions and problems, but have still chosen to be Mormon, I can really relate to her. But at one point of the book a guy the author dated asks her about cloning. It really throws her and she doesn’t have a good answer, except that it’s not possible to clone a real thinking person. I can see why she thought this but she is wrong. I wrote a response to her: what I would like to tell her in person.

First off, cloning doesn’t go against any of your Mormon religious principles. In Genesis it says that God created the world, but the Hebrew word is actually better translated as “organized” the world. Thus God took matter that already existed and sculpted it together into the world as it is. God is not a magician – He did not say “Abracadabra” and POOF! the world appeared. He is a scientist. He is a genius. He organized the world and everything in it using scientific principles. As we delve deeper into physics, astronomy, biology, and other sciences, we merely discover what He always knew. The human body is merely an extension of this. The name of our first father, Adam, literally means “earth.” Out of the same components that God used to make the world, He organized our bodies. And when we die, we will “return to dust” — our bodies will break down into those components once again.

We have, in the pursuit of science, discovered how an egg and sperm interact to begin building a new body. We have developed this knowledge to the point where we can “clone,” or faithfully reproduce an organism. Basically, we are learning how to organize a body with available materials. As in all things, we are children groping after the perfect knowledge of our Father, and as time goes by we collectively learn more and more as generations pass. However, this does not mean that we are anywhere near God’s level of knowledge and genius. We are like a toddler with a plastic hammer, emulating a parent who can with his own hands build a mansion. This is both naive and wonderful of us, and an indictment of our vast and fabulous eternal potential. Does it make us able to author life? No.

Cloning already exists. Any set of identical twins are genetically the same, just as a clone is genetically identical to its “parent.” We have learned, in our childish (but wonderfully inspired) endeavors, to reproduce an organism near-perfectly. However, we can not, and never will, grant the breath of life to that organism. We can build the body out of clay, but we can not usher souls into it. This is a divine power which is too powerful to be given into the hands of inexperienced and naive children. Only God can breathe life into clay. With a set of identical twins, they may look alike, but each body contains a very different soul. Ask any parent who has raised a child–that child’s personality and spirit came pre-formed. A preschooler will naturally be shy or gregarious, studious or active, and nothing that the parent tries will change this. I recognize in my four-year old son many traits that I possess myself, and yet he is undoubtedly his own, separate, and firmly formed person. He was born that way. The spirit that God ushered into that little skinny, blonde body is completely unique.

If cloning does progress to humankind, and if a fully formed human is cloned, it doesn’t break any rules of religion. We are merely fumbling around with God’s building blocks. We create the body out of clay. Will God fill it with a soul? I don’t know. I can tell you this: if He does not, that body will not live and breathe and walk around and talk. If He does, then one of God’s spirit children has been assigned to that body, just as we all are assigned to a body, and it will live and breathe and laugh and love just like the rest of us. There is nothing we can do to influence this process. If God chooses to put a soul into a cloned body, He will have a great reason to do so. Just because the creation of that body was influenced by His clumsy children doesn’t mean that it’s not a suitable vessel for one of His precious children.

Cloning may seem like a scary concept, but in truth it is just one of the ways that humans, working together, have tried to elevate our state closer to that of God. Whether or not those who desire to clone a human reach their ultimate goal, God is completely in charge of what follows.

It’s a Double Rainbow

Jul 7 by curtis at 8:23 am

For those of you who may have missed this, I present: Crazy Double Rainbow Guy

The Mysteries of the Inter Nets

Apr 13 by Daboo at 7:09 pm

This is a conversation I overheard this morning at breakfast. E is 9 years old. S just turned 7.

E: When I am a teenager I’m going to have a Faceboog.
S: A face bug?
E: Yeah. You can talk to you friends on a Face Bug.
S: You mean like . . .
E (impatiently): Like you can use a Face Bug to talk to your friends in internets!
S: Uh . . . You mean like a taste bug?
E: Yeah. Taste bugs live on your tongue –
S: -But-
E: -and they tell you how food tastes.
S: Do they come out of your tongue ever?
E: DUH! Yes, when they come out of your tongue they –
S: -they’re on your face?
E: – they go onto your face and then they’re Face Bugs. And then they go in internets and –
S: they crawl into inter nets?
E: Hello, yes, I’m telling you! They crawl into internets and then they talk to your friends.
S: Oh! That’s . . . weird. I mean cool.
E: Yeah. (tosses her hair) And when I’m a teenager I’m going to have one. Because they’re cool.
S: (looks mystified and impressed) me too!

Mundanity Made Magnificent

Mar 29 by curtis at 11:17 am

I have been unable to find the time to post anything about the Mortensen clan but felt like I couldn’t go another month without posting something. This is from the point of view of one of my player characters from my D&D group at work.

It is odd how the most mundane occurrence can be made extraordinary. Especially when undertaken with the colorful collection of characters comprising my current company. (Oh what a lovely alliteration!) My master assured me this would be a routine journey to acquire some ritual scrolls made available for purchase by a scholar in Winterhaven. Yet here I am, delving into the dank dungeon affectionately designated as Shadowfell Keep. (Another!) All of the activities that we have undertaken seem routine adventures on the surface. Nothing a standard guild couldn’t handle.

Take for instance the rat-infested ruins of the Keep’s southeast corner. My first instinct was to unleash mystical energies in a blast strong enough to clear a safe path through. Standard procedure for adventuring types. But not for this group, no. The first thought for the rest of the group was, “Can we tame one of these giant rodents?” So, of course, several attempt to make friendly acquaintance with the local rodentia. And to my surprise, one actually seems to take a liking to Oskar, our, uh, dwarven ranger. I was mystified by his reaction to success. Instead of having his new ally aid us in ridding this place of evil, he guts the foul thing open. Oh, there was just blood everywhere and all he can say is, “I hate rats. Disgusting.”

So we clear our path through and discover a chamber off by itself, and thinking we might find some interesting treasure, we explore. Unfortunately, what we find inside is a massive, jiggling ochre jelly. My first thought? Horrifying. My second thought? Let’s leave before it decides to jiggle over to eat us. Joben’s first thought? Hit it with his sword. That goes predictably wrong and of course as we sensibly began to flee, the murderous gelatin has decided we’re worth the effort of a chase. So around the dungeon we go, only instead of, oh I don’t know, going somewhere it can’t follow us, our fearless troop heads right into a dead end filed with Kruthiks – the worst sort of giant insect to encounter whilst fleeing a large jelly.

We miraculously survive both the jelly and the insectoids, then head back towards the less decaying parts of the Keep. Near the entrance we discover a foul-smelling half-orc who wants to join our merry band. Do we ask for some sort of credentials or a display of brawn or brains to determine his worthiness? No. We have a dance-off.

The Blight of Suburbia

Feb 11 by Daboo at 7:46 pm

This morning it is snowing, already four inches or so on the ground, and my two school-age children have been outside romping through the drifts in the front yard for 15 minutes, waiting for their walking buddies to show up. (This means that my previously pristine, smooth front lawn is now a riot of paths and bumps, and the trees have deliberately had all their snow shaken down upon young heads. What will the neighbors think? Gasp!)

I sent them to school by themselves when it became clear that the walking buddies weren’t going to show, and not thirty seconds later the very thing I had feared occurred – a neighbor mom in an enormous SUV saw them, pulled over, and offered them a ride.

I am outraged.

First of all, it’s five blocks to school. Six if you go the long way. It’s not hard for elementary school age kids to walk five blocks – in fact, they burn more than that amount of energy just zipping around getting ready in the morning (colliding, panicking, playing, hysterically laughing, and in the case of Preston RIGHT NOW, cuddling three light sabres and tucking them into bed.)

Secondly, KIDS LIKE SNOW. I know this comes as a surprise to those of us who don’t remember childhood. But I can guarantee that my kids, upon looking out the window this morning, did NOT think to themselves, “dammit, now I will be forced to frolic my way to school while pelting my siblings and friends with snowballs and sliding on the sidewalk in my snow boots.” They LIKE walking those five blocks in a magically transformed, white-purple world (which has miraculously become wholly edible overnight.)

And thirdly, and most outrageously, does that SUV mom actually think my kids are SAFER in an SUV which will go join a queue of a hundred other cars and SUVs, sliding on the slush with kids dodging before and behind as they unload? My kids are much, much safer walking to school than driving. Period. But most especially, they are safer in crappy weather like this. What to a driver is a harrowing death journey is to a child an enchanted wonderland. And yes, I am aware that my children probably won’t be injured because of that sheltered, heated, crowded SUV, but that doesn’t change the fact that they would have been better off outside of it.

When did Suburbia become like this? When my grandmother raised her children, she sought out a suburban neighborhood. The kids roamed in packs, playing night games and raiding fruit trees. Now, my children play outside alone unless a neighbor invites them in to watch TV or play video games. And in this lovely, soft snowfall, all the children in my neighborhood can only watch through tinted windows as they join the endless queue to drop them off immediately in front of the school doors. Heaven forbid they have to walk down the school sidewalk. They might have to do something inconvenient, like enjoy themselves.