Sunday, January 30, 2011

I'm Catchin' It

I've always liked little children.  They say funny things, they do funny things, they revel in their own cuteness.  (Much like myself.)

I have a harder time with babies.  I can't relate to them the way I do children.  I can't have amusing conversations with them because they don't speak.  Their cuteness is much more subtle. (They don't say cute things, they may just have a cute smile or cute giggle.)  I generally don't understand anything that's subtle.

So, my time spent working with the Sunbeams was great.  That is about the age where I start to get them.  This past week, we were sitting in Sunday School and someone came in from the nursery and asked us if we could come help out.  Apparently some of the normal people could not make it.

I went into the nursery, knowing full well that these children are at the level where I can't comprehend them.  I walked in and saw that all the adults were assisting the children in their construction of various items with Play-Doh.  I sat down next to one little girl and asked her what she was constructing.  She excitedly told me something that she was very passionate about.  The only problem?  I'm pretty sure she was speaking reformed Egyptian.  (I'm not 100% sure of that, I just know it wasn't english.)  So I just agreed with everything she was saying and I told her it was awesome.

Later, she actually said something in English.  It was time to play with toys, so she grabbed a ball and began "Catchin' it."

In case you don't understand what "catchin' it" is, I have outlined the steps to this game below:
1. Proclaim, "I'm Catchin' it!" as loudly as you can.  (But do it cutely)
2. Run as fast as you have strength towards the ball.
3. Run with full force through the ball so that it bounces away from you
4. Stop and fall to the ground
5. Repeat steps 1-4 until by some miracle you gain control of the ball
6. Throw the ball as far as you can, and proceed to step 1.

For your convenience I have provided this flowchart

I had a lot of fun in the nursery.  I decided that even though the children there speak reformed Egyptian, they're not too frightening.  Now the only ones I'm afraid of are newborns.  (I'm pretty sure they break if you drop them.  Plus, they have a hole in the top of their skull.  Who does that?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Verifiable Truth

The other day Robyn told me I was the "best husband in the world".  Of course, I didn't doubt that it was true.  But I was just curious about the data she had gathered before making such a statement.  Had she gathered a large sample?  Did she know the margin of error for that statement?  Did she take into account the standard deviation for her polling set?  So I asked her, "Wouldn't you have to marry every man in the world before you could be sure of that?"

She answered that she didn't have to marry them all because she could just observe them.  I figured that was probably true but I was still concerned that she might have obtained too small of a sample to extrapolate who the very best could be.  I asked her, "Then wouldn't you at least have to observe every husband in the world to really know who is the best?"

She pondered briefly and then told me, "You're the best husband that I've ever observed."  I thought for a moment.  Her statement was completely verifiable with the data she had available to her.  We had reached complete truth.  But it wasn't nearly as satisfying.

Perhaps it is okay to exaggerate beyond your ability to verify the data.  Could that be true?

Monday, January 17, 2011

SabreTooth Will Never Be Elder's Quorum President

As many of you know, we were recently released as Sunbeam Teachers in our ward.  This means that I currently don't have any sort of job at church.  The break is nice.  I like to be able to just sit back and learn about Christ.  But with it comes some uncertainty.  You see, having a calling means I know what my calling is.  If I don't have one they could call me to anything scary at any moment.  This brings me some anxiety.  (I know that the Lord will only call me to do jobs I can handle, and that I will learn and grow from it.  That doesn't mean that new things aren't scary)

So that's where SabreTooth comes in.  You see, I was pondering ways that I could help the Bishop know he shouldn't give me a scary calling.  My first strategy was that Robyn could start spreading rumors that I am a potty mouth.  Then I recently had my mouth washed out with soap.  Though the rumor was never true, it just feels like it would lose some impact now.

Then I met SabreTooth.  Or at least I met a guy that looks exactly like him.  My first thought was, "Does that guy know he looks just like SabreTooth?"  Then my second thought was, "That guy will totally not be Elder's Quorum President.  He's a genius."  (If you don't know who SabreTooth is, he is a villain in the X-Men series of movies and comic books.)
So that's all I have to do.  Grow a beard like SabreTooth and some freakishly long fingernails.  I could totally do that.  There's only one problem.  My wife doesn't want to be married to SabreTooth.  I mean, I understand her concern.  Wolverine is easily more awesome.
But, I'd have to get retractable claws surgically added to my hands.  While it would be awesome, that's a much more difficult project.  The other option I've pondered is to become a creepy snake guy.
That is sure to get results.  But, I'm guessing Robyn doesn't want to be married to a creepy snake guy either.

I don't think any of that is going to work.  I suppose I'll just have to remain Jeff and accept whatever responsibilities that are given to me.  I'm sure I'll be happier doing the Lord's work in whatever capacity He asks of me, even if I don't have retractable claws.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Soap: The Breakfast of Champions

I'll tell you this:  When I woke up this morning I wasn't planning to eat soap for breakfast.  You don't really plan on things like that.  To understand how it happened let me take you deep into the past, into the wee hours of this morning.

I was sleeping peacefully, a joyful look of bliss on my face.  Robyn woke me up to tell me she was leaving for school and give me a goodbye kiss.   I'm not really sure what she said to me.  As is generally the case in the mornings, I was only aware that she was saying too many words for me to understand.

She left and I drifted back into the safety of sleep.  The next thing I knew the alarm went off, abruptly jerking me into our rough, cold world.  (I generally try to get up before the alarm goes off, Robyn's kisses are much more gentle than the cruel alarm.)

In my semi coherent state I stumbled into the kitchen to make my normal breakfast of scrambled eggs.  Robyn had cooked some hamburger last night so I put a little dish soap in the frying pan and grabbed a sponge and washed the pan.  After washing it, I rinsed it.  Apparently when you're not entirely coherent you're also not entirely efficient either, it's possible my rinsing was less effective.

I cracked my eggs and let them cook.  After I finished cooking them I sat down to eat.  I took a few bites and realized that something was very wrong.  The eggs just didn't taste good.  I thought to myself, "Perhaps they just need more salt" (Salt is awesome, it makes everything taste better.)  I salted them and still there was something very wrong.

At this point I was still eating, even though it was gross.  You see, sometimes you just have to go through hard times to figure it out.  After a few more minutes my brain finally achieved full consciousness and in that very moment it came up with the answer.  "These eggs taste like soap."  I looked over to the sink where the bottle of dish soap was still sitting.  I had cooked my eggs in a pan that had not been totally rinsed from the soap.  I realized with horror what I had been eating.  Then I took one more bite just to be sure. (I sacrifice myself for science.)

When you were a kid did you ever get your mouth washed out with soap?  Well, any bad things I might have said are definitely washed away now.  Also, judging by how the day has gone so far, I think all my insides are cleaned out pretty good too.  Maybe this is what is meant by "clean hands and a pure heart."

On second thought: No, that's not what it means.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Prime Directive

You're all familiar with the StarFleet Prime Directive in Star Trek that says you can't interfere with other developing civilizations.  (Don't even try to pretend you don't know about it.  I know you're all as geeky as me.)

Well,  in the marriage between Robyn and I there is also a prime directive.   (It's not really a directive, more of a very important request.  But calling it the prime request is just lame.)

As you know, when I am sleeping there are some very important protocols that must be followed such as:

My pillows need to be piled to a very specific height.  I have dozens of pillows so that as pillows get older and their thickness changes I can swap in different pillows to achieve perfection.  (The softness of the pillows also requires some special calculations as well.)

The temperature needs to be deliciously cool. Sleeping requires snuggling with a blanket.  It should never be warm enough that snuggling is not comfortable.

Under no circumstances should my legs touch each other. This goes without explanation.  Why would anyone want their legs to touch?

But the Prime Directive, the most important rule of sleep, is quite simple: NO TOUCHING! We can cuddle before we go to sleep.  Discuss our day, hold each other in an extremely cute manner.  But once sleep time has come, the no touching policy is strictly enforced.  (Again, I use the term enforced loosely, as it means strongly requested, in this case.)

Well, last night something terrible happened.  The Prime Directive was violated.  In the beginning of our marriage the Prime Directive was torn asunder on a nightly basis.  But that has largely been solved by the purchase of a King Sized bed.

Last night, not even the King Sized bed could save us.  I had just lain down for a long winter's nap, and was slowly drifting off into dream land when Robyn reached over and started feeling my face.  Her hand was moving all over my face, feeling my eye sockets, my nose, my mouth.  It, of course, jerked me out of the blissful dream world I had entered.  Despite being jarred back into this world I asked what I felt was a very logical question, "Why are you feeling my face?"

As if in response to my question, her hand latched onto my nose.  She made no sounds, seemingly the nose grab was answer enough.  It was as if she was saying, "Don't worry about it, I found what I was looking for." She may have found what she needed, but what I needed was not to have her clutching my nose.  The prime directive was violated, and the very existence of my nose was in jeopardy.  Again, I asked a very logical question, "What are you doing?"  Although the question was very logical, it's possible my voice contained a bit more energy than the first time.

Apparently the raised voice jolted her from her nose wielding dream.  She let go and rolled over.  I thought the battle was over.  I thought the prime directive was safe.  Apparently I was wrong.

I began drifting back to sleep, the sandman was ferrying me across a river into dreamland.  Again, I was jolted from that world.  Robyn grabbed my hand and pulled it to her.  She scooted herself closer and hugged my hand a little bit.  I gently pulled my hand away but then both her arms reached out and just plopped on top of me.  I actually tried to sleep that way for a little while.  It didn't take me long to realize that this flagrant violation of the prime directive was going to keep me awake all night.  Then I realized the problem.  I was clearly out of my portion of the bed.  I had left my one third and wandered into her two thirds.  I apologized for violating her territory and curled into a cute little ball on my edge of the bed.

The prime directive had been made safe.  I was finally able to complete my journey into the dream world, where I'm a Viking.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm Pretty Sure I'm Not an Adult

So Robyn and I were released as Sunbeam teachers.  (We used to teach the 3 and 4 year olds in our church but they've rotated someone else in to take a turn in that position.)  I was really excited to actually get a chance to be edified by attending Sunday School and just sitting back and listening.

We got to Sunday School and we realized it's been so long since we've attended that we didn't even know what the curriculum was this year. (They rotate each year between Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.)  As Robyn and I sat down she commented, "I wonder what we're learning about this year."  I looked at her with excitement because I knew the answer, "We're learning about Jesus!"  That's when I knew that I had permanently reverted back to being a Sunbeam. (Not that I ever really left.)

As time went on, it just got worse.  We had a great lesson in Elder's Quorum about the oath and covenant of the priesthood, but I just kept looking at my watch and thinking, "Isn't it singing time?" or "maybe we should play a game."  I do really enjoy being in the audience.  I do love to discuss the gospel, but there are a few things I'll miss about the sunbeams.  Here are a few of them.

The wonder they experience when learning the gospel
We were giving a Christmas lesson right before Christmas.  I asked them whose birthday we were celebrating.  The unanimous answer was "Santa".  But then one girl thought a little bit longer and said, "Jesus".  The others looked at her as if she were crazy and then she said, "Well, that's what my daddy told me."  We reassured her that her daddy was correct, and all the other kids were amazed.  I think the fact that Jesus had a birthday helped make Him a little more real to them.

The funny ways they interpret things
Robyn was sick on the Sunday before Christmas so I prepared the lesson all on my own.  I came up with a brilliant game to play.  I brought a star and had all the kids pretend they were wise men.  One kid got to carry the star and the others followed him or her around the room.  I told the wise men that they needed to pretend they were on camels.  One kid tried to take that as literally as possible.  He figured if he was riding a camel he would pretty much be doing the splits.  So he spread his legs as wide as possible, but in that position he really had trouble keeping up with the star.  It's not a very big room so they just march in circles.  It wasn't very long before the kid holding the star had caught up with the wide straddling camel rider and was now behind him.  The star became very angry, "I'm the star!  You have to follow me!  You can't be in front of me!"  This is where I worry about my future parenting skills.  I just think the whole thing is humorous.  Luckily, my friend Cameron was assisting me that day and he helped bring back order.

Their willingness to share their lives
They say there are two people in the ward who know everything:  The Bishop and the sunbeam teachers.   I think that just might be true.  They have a lot of interesting things to share.  I won't share the most incriminating ones but they're often pretty funny.  One of my favorites was when they all wanted to share what their parent's nicknames are: "My dad calls my mom babe!"  "Well, my mom calls my dad honey!"  "My mom calls my dad cupcake!"  "But you eat a cupcake!"  They all thought it was hilarious.

All in all, it's been a fun ride.  As I sat in Elder's Quorum I saw the new teacher with our class walking by with all of them as they folded their arms and walked in a line.  One of the dads saw her and commented, "She's got quite a handful there."  Then he reached up and patted me on the shoulder and said how his son liked our class.  It made me happy.  It made me miss them.  I'm going to enjoy getting to learn with the other adults.  But it will be my little secret that I'm not really an adult.  I don't really belong among them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm a Trillionaire

The picture above is me brandishing my shiny new 100 trillion dollar bill.  I know it looks like monopoly money but it is actual legal currency. (or at least it was until April 12, 2009)  The Zimbabwe Dollar was the official currency in the country of Zimbabwe but after it become completely worthless they abandoned it.  Trading in Zimbabwe consists primarily of the US dollar now.

You may be asking yourself, why did Jeff decide he needed to acquire a now defunct currency?  There are two primary reasons:
1. It's awesome.  Did I mention I'm a trillionaire?
2. This week a crowd of newly elected congressmen will be taking office.  I wanted to use my 100 trillion dollar bill to make a point about the role our government plays in our every day lives.

You see, over the past two years a new political movement has formed.  It is largely a grassroots movement, but there have been a number of people who have tried to appear as heads of the tea party patriots.  I don't consider myself a member of the tea party, because there are enough versions of the tea party out there that I'm not really sure what they stand for all of the time.  I will just say that I'm a conservative, and I ally myself with anyone who espouses conservative beliefs.

But I do want to talk a little bit about the tea party.   Many of them have been criticizing our current administration for the exorbitant amount of spending that has gone on.  President Obama has responded by saying, "They should thank me, many of them are now paying less in taxes."  First of all, that statement is deceptive.  He has lowered taxes in some areas but raised them in others.  But the issue really isn't about taxes.

Let me try to make an analogy.  Let's say that my wife and I agree that she can spend $100 a month on shoes.  (Keep in mind this is a fictional analogy.)  Every month, $100 gets removed from our account and she goes and buys shoes.  But then one month she decides she needs $150 worth of shoes.  She knows that I won't want to spend the extra on shoes, so she opens up a credit card.  She only takes $70 from our bank account and she puts $80 on the credit card.  Then she says, "He should be thanking me.  I saved us 30 dollars."

In the analogy, my wife is the government, taxpayers are me, shoes could be all sorts of social programs or any other government spending and China is the credit card.  Is she really saving us money by increasing our expenses and financing a large chunk of it?  Cutting taxes is definitely good.  It stimulates the economy.  It's like if I took that 30 dollars and invested it.  I might come out ahead of the interest rate on the card.  But if you cut taxes while raising expenses you are just digging a whole that is harder to get out of.

Eventually the credit card gets maxed out.  China doesn't want to lend us any more money.  Then the government has basically two options:
1. They can increase taxes
2. They can print the money.

Neither option is good.  If you get taxes too high it strangles the economy.  Herbert Hoover tried that during the depression.  After that, it became the Great Depression.  

If you print money you turn into Zimbabwe.  

In 1980 when the Zimbabwe dollar was established it was worth more than the US dollar.  It was worth about $1.47.  Things went well for a while.  They started by printing money just to pay off some debts.  Each time they printed a little more the problem got worse.  By July of 2008 an egg cost ZW$50 billion.  Teller machines would not allow you to withdraw more than ZW$100 billion per day.  Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to buy a loaf of bread.

People say it can't happen here.  Well, why not?  We are governed by the same laws of economics.  A United States Federal Reserve note only has value because we all agree it does.  If the government starts printing trillions of them, they become as worthless as the paper they are printed on.

So, back to my point.  We have a new congress with a Republican majority.  Republicans are still the minority in the Senate but with a few more seats.  In November, Americans gave a resounding message that we are looking for fiscal responsibility and constitutional government.  (It all happened just as I predicted it would a year ago.)

Republicans have a chance to give the people what they want.  They may not necessarily accomplish their goals, but it's important for them to try to get some conservative legislation passed, particularly targeting spending.  If this happens, even if it is blocked by democrats in the Senate and in the Presidency (perhaps especially in that case) we will be looking at a Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican President in the white house come the next election.

If Republicans turn out to be as crazy spenders as the democrats (as they have many times in the past) the American people will be fed up and it could mean that democrats retake the house in 2012.

Of course, I hope I'm completely wrong.  I'd love to see President Obama turn things around.  I'd love to see him curb his spending.  I'd love to see him create some certainty in the market place.  I'd love for democrats to govern a little more from the center, even if it means they won't be swept out in future elections.  I'd love for the United States to remain a bastion of freedom and hope to the world.

What do you think?
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