Saturday, June 27, 2009

Who makes up what books get to be classics? [Dillon]

Well, my teacher made me read "Pride and Prejudice" and I got thinking who makes up what books are classics anyway? I mean what makes "Pride and Prejudice" better then other books? 1st it's supposed to be ironic and funny ,but there's plenty of good books like that.
2nd yes, it does use large vocabulary in which the author (Jane Austin) is the only one who has ever known what some of those words mean. If your going to judge good books by its vocabulary then just put all of the dictionaries in the so called "classic list". I don't know about you ,but my dictionary has plenty of large words.
3rd "Pride and Prejudice" shouldn't be a classic because it's not even possible for a guy to like that book. Oh, by the way I didn't actually read it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why science and religion can coexist [Ryan]

I recently saw the movie Angels and Demons. One of the main themes in the movie was the conflict between science and religion. It’s not the only medium where such a theme exists — “Science and Religion” has its Wikipedia entry.

As I walked from the theater after watching the movie, I reflected that I was glad I belonged to a religion where we can be assured that science and faith can coexist.

A few weeks later, I overheard someone here arguing that we wouldn’t need science anymore once we were exalted. The next week, I learned of a person who left the Church because he couldn’t reconcile obvious evidences that pointed to evolution and his religious beliefs.

I think we may need to step back and look at what both science and religion are, and I think that we Latter-Day Saints might find the two a little more friendly than we might think.

Science is based upon theories, upon things we can see. It’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us through trial and error. Truth in science is established through finding proof.

Religion is based on a belief on a higher power, a sense of purpose. Like science, it’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us, and it’s also a little more: it’s our struggle to overcome the mundane and become more than we already are, also through a little bit of trial and error. Truth is established through faith.

They have their differences and their similarities, but can these estranged stepbrothers coexist?

Of course.

For example, we know for a fact that the earth (or the parts thereof, at least) is at least billions of years old. Tradition, including a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 77:6), tells us the earth has a temporal existence of only seven thousand years. It would seem that two dates contradict one another.

However, I firmly believe that because God works through science as well — but a higher form a science, one we don’t quite understand yet — that both statements may easily be and probably are true. Firstly, we might not even understand the basic statements as well as we think we do — who knows what exactly “a temporal existence” means? — so who are we to say they don’t match up?

Maybe the parts of the earth are billions of years old, but the formation of those parts as we now know it has only been around for a few thousand years or so. I don’t know. That’s just one explanation, and by no means the most authoritative one. Men a lot smarter and more educated than me could probably come up with better ones if they applied their knowledge of both science and theology, using both methods in their respective places to fill in aspects of the final truth.

Both science and faith have their places. The Book of Mormon isn’t going to help us much with the formation of limestone, and science won’t tell us whether abortion is right.

But when you put them together, you have a nearly complete picture, and even those places where they seem to overlap with a little discrepancy can be accepted as testaments to God’s use of natural laws to which we simply don’t have access.

It’s completely possible to live in harmony with both science and religion, as long as we recognize that they both have their place and together they give us different pieces of that great eternal puzzle that is ultimate truth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just have to try again in 2012, huh? [Connor]

During the final stages of last year's presidential election, I discovered that I had a lot of free time, even after doing dozens of Facebook quizzes with titles like "Are You A Potato?". This realization led to me entering the presidential race via a write-in campaign. Due to popular demand (two people), I've published here my election platform and views I used during the presidential election. I did, in fact, garner a grand total of 1,029 votes for me as president, although, granted, 1000 of them were cast by me, and 23 of the remainder were cast by people too young to actually vote.

Important note: I lost the election. But without further ado:

Election Platform

1. All stupid lawsuits will immediately be done away with. If somebody puts a bug in your salad at a restaurant, for example, you may NOT sue them for tens of thousands of dollars!

2. People on welfare who are unemployed have two weeks to get a job or the welfare checks stop coming.

3. All taxes will be cut in half. To make up for this, all Elvis impersonators, Katy Perry fans, and male cheerleaders will be taxed 10 times as much.

4. Donald Trump will fund the healthcare system.

5. All telemarketers must first serve a one year tour of duty in Iraq before being allowed to telemarket.

6. In order to boost the economy, we will immediately annex Japan, since they produce pretty much all of our cars, electronics, sushi, etc.

7. Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and other attention-hogging celebrities will be forced to live in one-room cabins with no power in northern Alaska on an all-Spam diet.

8. The first person to send me a cash contribution will be made Secretary of State. After that everyone who sends me contributions will be put on the Supreme Court.

9. America is going green! We are going to find new and innovative ways to get energy. To demonstrate this, Air Force One will be powered by the latent energy of a single baked potato. Also, the White House will be airlifted directly into Rigby, Idaho. Specifically, we are going to put the White House on the island in Rigby Lake.

A Question of Rebellion [Connor]

I'd like to pose a question here. You're entitled to your own opinion on it, unless of course you disagree with me, in which case you're wrong.

No, I'm kidding about that, but without further ado, here's the question:

Why is TPing considered so bad?

I'm referring here to the practice of spreading toilet paper around on your friend or neighbor's property. A harmless, fun little prank that used to be a valued element of Rigby's summertime culture. What happened to that? Every year, more and more parents suddenly become convinced that TPing is apparently some kind of evil practice. The way some people talk about it, you'd almost think it was on par with, for example, terrorism. I'd like to prove that that line of thinking is totally off the roll, if you'll pardon my metaphor. Of course, there are a few arguments, used time and time again, as to why TPing is so evil. For example:

1. TPing is vandalism.
2. TPing is disrespectful.
2. TPing is a rebellious pastime that encourages kids to misbehave in other, worse ways as well.

Let's be honest. TPing is NOT vandalism. The online dictionary lists vandalism as "willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property." Hmm. As destructive as toilet paper can be, I don't think it quite qualifies as "destruction of property." Defacement? Depends, really. I suppose if one believes that spending 15 or 20 minutes of time outdoors on a beautiful morning performing an easy cleanup on your lawn is a terrible punishment, then maybe it's defacement.

Nor is TPing disrespectful. I've TPed my best friends on multiple occasions, and they've TPed me. In fact, the tally of my TPing Jed Billman's house is now approaching five. Is TPing supposed to send some kind of "I hate you" message? Of course not. It's a harmless joke. Is the TP permanent? No. Pick it up. Is the TP going to bite? I sure hope not. What kind of TP are YOU using?

Does it lead to worse activities? Quite the contrary, actually. Kids need some kind of rebellious outlet, if you will, a little way to rebel. It's in kids' DNA. We have to do something to defy authority. TPing allows for a harmless way to vent out that inherent need to rebel. My own mother, actually, says that TPing is a good way to satisfy kids' need to rebel. Kids have to rebel somehow; would you rather know that they're putting toilet paper on a neighbor's lawn, or be comfortable in the knowledge that they're sneaking out at night, inventing their own nighttime activities to entertain themselves until the cops arrive?

I'm not saying, of course, that you should stand by and let somebody TP your house. Feel free to quietly slip out of the house, tackle them, and force them to clean up the house the next morning (I still bear scars from Bobby Roos' tackle during one epic TPing job). But FOR GOODNESS' SAKE, DO NOT CALL THE COPS ON TPERS. Sorry for stooping to using capital letters, but let's get real: is throwing a little TP around your property worth notifying the police? If the answer is yes, you need to get your priorities straight. Also, if your kid wants to go TPing, don't immediately refuse and put him under house arrest. Find out who he's doing it with and who he's TPing, and then let him go. It's that simple.

TPing is harmless way to have a little fun. Kids will always rebel somehow. It's your choice: you can choose to let them rebel and still know where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing. If that's too much, then you can tightly control them, ban them from this harmless outlet, and wait for them to find other ways to rebel. It's your choice.

Stupid Drivers (as seen in the Trojanier) [Connor]

This was another article I wrote for the Trojanier. I had recently suffered several close calls due to these so-called stupid drivers (a school bus swerved across my lane ten feet in front of me on ice, for instance), and we needed opinions for the Trojanier. Voila.

America is full of them, and they’re probably a bigger danger to our safety and sanity than the struggling economy and the threat of terrorism combined:

Stupid drivers.

I’m talking about the people who drive 25 mph in the left lane on the freeway for 175 miles, oblivious to the hundreds of irate drivers behind them honking, yelling, and opening fire with shotguns. I’m talking about the people who will drive down the freeway for that same 175 miles with their left turn signal on the entire time, the light slowly blinking and blinking and blinking and blinking in a never-ending routine that slowly drives you insane. I’m talking about (not mentioning names here) the people who take their complete attention from driving to text a message like “omg lol” as their cars, happy to be free from the control of a driver, swerve joyfully around the road, narrowly dodging signs, dogs, houses, etc.

Our country is filled with these people. For example, on one of my drives in Driver’s Ed, I passed a car that was randomly swerving across the highway. The driver, it transpired, was attempting to drive, text, and fill out a newspaper crossword puzzle at the same time. How do these people survive? I mean, if a moment of distraction is all it takes to get in a car wreck, how is it that these drivers, the ones who can drive from Rigby to San Francisco without ever once glancing out the windshield, have survived this long without driving straight through a McDonalds, or at least ramming into a garbage truck?

And how did these people attain license to drive? Many of them should not be allowed to operate a toaster, let alone a car. No offense to the people who text as they drive, but, in terms of safety, you might as well walk into a crowd and take random potshots with an AK-47, because texting and driving WILL eventually catch up with you, possibly in the form of a Greyhound bus into your passenger side door at 65 mph.

Use common sense. If your turn signal has been on for 175 miles and the driver behind you is attempting to slash his wrist on the rear-view mirror, turn the signal off. If you’re going 25 mph on the 75 mph freeway, speed up. And, for all of our sakes, if you’re going 55 down the road and a friend texts you, wait 5 minutes until you’re home to answer the stupid text. Thank you.

What girls should know about guys (as seen in the Trojanier) [Connor]

This is an article I wrote for our high school newspaper, the Trojanier. The idea was that I write an article for girls on how to interpret guy behavior, and a girl (Sierra Divine) write an article for guys on how to interpret girls. I found it pretty funny the article on how to interpret girl behavior made sense only after several more girls translated it for me. (Nothing against Sierra, who is, in fact, a far better writer than I am.)

What Girls Should Know About Guys
By Connor Kunz

When I first found out how confusing girls think guys are, I laughed until I cried. Guys are pretty simple, whereas trying to understand the mind of a girl is like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. Even when a girl gives a straight yes or no answer, it turns into a cross between a code-breaking exercise and a Princess Bride-style battle of wits. When does yes mean yes? When does yes actually mean no? And does it ever mean “yes, if you put deodorant on first”? These are all questions every guy must ponder. Compared to girls, guys are pretty simple. There’s just a few things to keep in mind:

1. Guys think stalkers are creepy. Do not spend entire days with a puppy dog expression on your face, following ten feet behind a guy, and then wonder why he never talks to you. If you are talking to a guy for the first time, do NOT begin the conversation with anything along the lines of “Hey hottie! I want a boyfriend!” It’s known as the Leech Approach, and the average guy reacts to it pretty much the same way as he would to a gigantic leech stuck to his forehead: Scream, peel it off, and put as much distance between himself and it as possible.

2. Guys don’t like girls who cheat on them. It’s that simple. If you like your boyfriend, then don’t cheat on him. If you don’t like him, then break things off. Cheating insults yourself more than it does him.

3. Find the happy medium between “Easy Girl” and “Complete and Utter Mystery.” Pay attention to this one. No decent guy wants a girl who will happily take any random guy who comes the day after dumping her previous boyfriend. It’s too easy, and it makes the girl look shallow. At the same time, don’t be a complete mystery whom no guy can even begin to fathom. Dropping hints is always preferable to the Leech Approach, but remember that guys aren’t great at picking up hints, so if the hint requires an entire team of professional code-breakers (all of them guys) to figure it out, play a little less hard to get and turn the mystery down to where he can, at least, in his male mind, figure out that you’re trying to send him a message.

One final note: Do not compare every guy to Edward Cullen. Edward Cullen is not human, nor is he real. If you are looking for “your Edward”, you will never find him. Sorry to be the one to tell you. We’re just ordinary guys here on Planet Earth.

Be careful what you write- the teacher might actually read it. [Connor]

This is an 8-page essay I wrote for biology. I figured it was just busywork and took a few liberties in writing it. Actually, Mrs. Beddes read the whole thing, and when the class asked what she was laughing about, she read it aloud to the class. I was surprised by how many people read it and loved it.

Phylums!
Connor Kunz

1. Calcarea
Despite sounding like a terrible tropical disease, or at least something you could catch from a poorly cooked taco, Calcarea is actually a thriving phylum of simple, completely sessile creatures known as sponges. Sessile means that they do not move and remain stationary, which is why scientists have dubbed them “nature’s couch potatoes.” They also lack true tissues, a fact that no American outside of a college-level biology class will understand, and that probably only half of those in a college-level biology class will understand. Sponges live a relatively simple existence as suspension feeders, meaning that they spend their days trapping particles of food passing through their internal channels and watching old episodes of M*A*S*H.

2. Silicarea
Silicarea and Calcarea are in fact, separate phylums, a fact that the writers of our beloved biology book apparently overlooked when they wrote it, seeing as they grouped them both under the heading of Porifera so as to provide a less satisfactory explanation. Not that I harbor any animosity toward the wonderful men and women who wrote this book. Anyway, it lists them as having exactly the same statistics and characteristics, and simply groups them all as sponges.

3. Cnidaria
The spelling of Cnidaria confuses many people into pronouncing it wrong. The trick is to remember that the ‘C’ is silent, so that it is correctly pronounced ‘pterodactyl.’ Cnidaria is also the only phylum thus far to be included in my computer’s spell check, a noteworthy fact. There are over 10,000 species of Cnidaria, including corals, jellies, and hydras. In a stunning revelation that will gross the average reader out for days, it is revealed that they are equipped with only a gastro vascular cavity, meaning that their mouth and anus are, in fact, one and the same. There is an unlimited number of tasteless jokes I could make here involving that fact, but I won’t.

4. Cnetophora
Also known as “comb jellies”, Cnetophora are largish, glowing jellyfish-like creatures that don’t look at all like giant radioactive nasal discharges, so just get that thought right out of your mind. They are diploblastic, which, for the benefit of those who have something better to do with their time then study biology books, means that they have only two “germ layers” around their coelom, instead of three. At least I think that’s what it means; I’m not totally 100% sure, and frankly, I have six more pages to write. Anyhow, many scientists believe that, because they are both diploblastic, Cnetophora and Cnetophora (pronounced “pterodactyl”) may share a common ancestor eons ago.

5. Echinodermata
Echinodermata are actually pretty cool. They exhibit radial symmetry, which, aside from being a somewhat outdated and out-of-style evolutionary adaptation (who knows? Maybe it will come back in style!), is pretty cool-looking in my own humble opinion. They include sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins. As a helpful little side note, do not ever touch a sea urchin. Now let’s move on. Another interesting fact about Echinodermata is that they move using a system of internal canals to pump water to different parts of their body.

6. Chordata
There are over 52,000 known species of Chordata, several of which are represented in the US Senate. Most of them are vertebrates. Meaning, of course, that they have a backbone. However, several groups, including tunicates, Democrats, lancets, and hagfishes, have no backbone. Frankly, I don’t know why they were grouped with Chordata. My personal theory is that the scientist in charge of classifying them was having a long day and decided that, in all actuality, nobody would ever notice that he had grouped a couple obscure species into an equally obscure phylum. Maybe he was also the one responsible for turning our biology book into a 1300-page monstrosity of indecipherable scientific jargon. I don’t know.

7. Brachiopoda
Brachiopoda are a group of giant, reptilian creatures characterized by their long necks, up to thirty feet in length. The creatures themselves grew up to eighty feet tall. They were herbivores, feeding primarily on gingko leaves.
Oh wait! Sorry, that’s Brachiosaurs! Brachiopoda are a phylum known as ‘lamp shells’ and are, in fact, closer to clams, only no doubt less tasty. Also, I doubt that “brachiopoda chowder” will catch on much. They are different, however, in that they have a stalk-like structure that anchors them in to their substrate. There are three hundred thirty-five species of Brachiopoda.

8. Phoronida
Compromising a rather pitiful 20 species, these are also known as marine worms. I don’t know about you, but for me this conjures up a mental image of a gruff-looking worm in a beaten-up US Marine Corps helmet and carrying a rifle, perhaps helping to raise the flag on a hill on the newly conquered Iwo Jima. Something tells me this is not the case. Anyways, marine worms live in tunnels on the seafloor. They have also been known to extend a tentacle out of their tunnels to trap food in a manner that has earned them a starring role in many undersea horror movies.


intermission
Whew. Four pages of PHYLUMS! Wasn’t that fun? Let’s all take a break for a moment to breath before diving into Act II, shall we?
Ok. Time’s up. On to Ectoprocta!

9. Ectoprocta
There are over 4,500 known species of Ectoprocta. They are a puzzling mystery that has baffled science as one of the most mysterious phylums in existence. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to after seeing the shocking lack of information on them. Even our book, which normally can drone on for hundreds of pages on such topics as the desaturated ionization of eubacterial DNA, has no more than a sentence on them. I did glean, however, that they are also known as ‘bryozoans’, they have a rough, protective exoskeleton, and that they live in sessile colonies, no doubt spending their days watching football.

10. Platyhelminthes
Platyhelminthes (pronounced “pterodactyl”) are classified as flatworms, a group that includes planarians, tapeworms, and flukes. They have bilateral symmetry but no body cavity, which is a fairly unique concept. Platyhelminthes are also known for their terrific batting average. ‘Platyhelminthes’ has been a standard in the National Spelling Bee for years, no contestant ever having spelled it correctly.

11. Nemertea
Nemertea compromise over four hundred species including proboscis worms and ribbon worms. I won’t lie: I find endless reading about phylums of obscure life-forms rather tedious, don’t you? I have a solution. Give me an A, and I’ll let you stop reading this. Okay?
Want to keep reading, huh? All right, have it your way. Nemertea have no true coelom, but have instead evolved with an alimentary canal, or digestive tract. They swim in the water (rather redundant, I suppose) or burrow in the undersea floor. Some Nemertea also use their proboscis to catch prey, which I personally find somewhat creepy.

12. Mollusca
Mollusca is tonight’s runner-up for number of species, with over 93,000 species of mollusks. Mollusks include snails, clams, squids, and octopuses. At least, the book refers to them as octopuses. I’ve always heard that called octopi, haven’t you? Mollusks have a soft body with a hard shell on the outside. Seeing as I haven’t eaten in hours, I now have a vivid mental image of a meal from Red Lobster: the feel of the hard shell of a king crab leg, and the butter-smothered taste of the soft meat within. Yum.

14. Annelida
I’m going on four hours almost straight of working on this, and frankly, I’m nearing my breaking point. It’s no coincidence that ‘studying’ is ‘student’ and ‘dying’ put together. Now, down to business. There are 16,500 species of Annelida, all of them apparently worms. The book lists them as segmented worms, which I assume is referring to the fact that they are worms with segments. Many Annelida have a cool feature that allows them to continue living after being cut in half. Imagine if humans were like that. Okay, I think I need to get done. Like, fast. . .

15. Rotifera
There are 1800 species of Rotifera. They are microscopic in size but nevertheless have very complex organ systems, including a digestive tract. I realize that having a digestive tract is not necessarily a sign of sophistication or intelligence, the Jonas Brothers being Example A. Anyway, these complex little Rotifera feed on microorganisms. It’s anyone’s guess WHY they choose to eat microorganisms; my guess is that nobody’s told them about pizza delivery.

16. Nematoda
Nematoda. Nematoda. Nematoda. It’s kind of fun to say, really. Nematoda.
Boy, I had better get done with this.
There are 25,000 species of Nematoda. The phylum is composed of roundworms. They are enormously abundant and diverse. Nematoda enjoys golfing, spending time with friends, and long walks on the beach.
And now. . . Our final phylum. . .
(drum roll)

17. Arthropoda
Arthropoda is tonight’s grand winner, with over one million different species and counting. Arthropods account for the vast majority of all known animal species, including crustaceans, arachnids, insects, and Joe Biden. They have segmented exoskeletons and jointed appendages. They also have the distinguished place of being the last phylum I cover in this assignment, meaning that as I type this, I am thinking of the wonderful and blissful freedom that lies ahead of me in having this assignment finished with. I hope you had fun in Costa Rica. Please give me an A. Thank you.

Will the parents of these people please stand up? [Connor]

Last night I attended an amazing concert by BYU Vocal Point. I've heard them sing before and was expecting a great concert, and I wasn't disappointed. At least, not by the performers. But I was downright horrified by the behavior of some of the audience.

Immediately behind me and to the left was the standard for any performance: the annoying guy right behind you who laughs too hard. There's always one, whether it's a movie theater or a play or what. But this guy took it to new extremes. If, for example, a singer introduced himself as Bob Johnson, this guy would start start laughing his head off at a volume that shook dust off the ceiling. Honestly, he was MUCH louder than the actual singers, who had him outnumbered nine to one and were equipped with microphones and powerful amplifiers. So every time they talked, I would hear something like this: "This next song is a personal favorite of ours because it-" "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA DID YOU HEAR THAT GUY? A PERSONAL FAVORITE? HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHA!" Needless to say, it drove me crazy. I started giving him strategic looks about a quarter of the way through. I thought he took a hint, but after intermission he resumed with a vengeance. I can only hope that his wife, if he ever finds one, is deaf.

Even worse, in my opinion, was the person behind me whose cell phone went off not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES during the first half of the concert. Now I can understand once- you're in a hurry, you forget to silence your cell phone and your friend calls to ask something. Now two times is pushing it- I don't know why the first time you disrupt the performance wouldn't be enough of a wake-up call to take the extra five seconds to turn your cell phone on silent. But THREE? I am very curious to know why that person evidently felt that showing off their ringtone was more important and interesting than an impressive concert that everyone present had taken time to attend and paid money to see. If they think that hearing their phone ring is more important than the actual concert, which it appears they did, I suggest that next time they stay home and keep their phone on. But if they want to attend a concert as a mature adult, I can only hope they realize that the people sitting around them, myself included, would probably have dragged them out into the parking lot and beaten them over the head with our own cell phones if that phone had rang one more time. Oh, and one more ring and that phone was going around the bowl and down the hole, if you get my drift.

I realize that was a lot of rambling. But for the life of me I cannot understand why some people apparently cannot help but make an effort to be disrespectful and downright irritating. If these people ever have the privilege again to attend a concert or at least a relatively civilized public event of some kind, I hope that they can, for the sake of the performers as well as the audience, at least try to PRETEND that they were raised by someone more civilized than wolves.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of Death Stars and seal liver: why marriage can wait

A few weeks ago, I published an article in which I suggested that I wasn’t into girls who had kissed a lot of people. This was the main point I wished to convey. Throughout the following week, I discovered many people who found my opinion somewhat disagreeable, including a few who apparently wished me serious bodily harm.

Of course, such controversy was very welcome, and nothing other than a pay raise or a pet cybernetic space monkey could cause an opinion writer more joy.

Thus, I thank all the people who disagree with me — and even those who wish me certain death — for making my writing career all the more fulfilling.

One point was made in a letter to the editor, however, that has some merit. A girl asked if why we dwell on dating and relationships so much here at BYU–I when there are so many other important things.

A good question — why do we focus so much on those things?

Is it because our leaders tell us ? Is it because we’re at that age when our blood is seventy percent hormones? Could it be the two factors together, combined and fermented to the point where they’re causing BYU–I students to become unstoppable juggernauts of eternal desperation?

I don’t know what the cause is, but I know the result: too often, I feel like a participant in a feeding frenzy. Does anyone else feel like we’re either the tiny scrap of seal liver floating in the water or one the crazed sharks desperate to be part of that exclusive club that gets a piece of meat?

It’s happened a lot: the first day in a new ward, everyone is scoping out the opposite sex. I’m going to describe this from the point of view of someone possessing a Y chromosome, since that happens to be the kind of human I am.

We guys see a cute girl — and to avoid more spiteful letters from than necessary, I will here define “cute” as “possessing enough attractive qualities, both inward and outward, that, upon first glance, outweigh any visible bad qualities” — and instantly, that girl is the Death Star and we are the Millennium Falcon, caught hopelessly in her tractor beam of love. Then, once attraction has been established, you can catch a whiff of desperation in the way the guys in the ward descend like carrion birds.

I’d like a wife as much as the next guy — assuming the next guy’s not a giant lizard or anything — but I’m not sure I want a part of that.

I agree that marriage is important, and that without it we’re in a bit of a bind as far as eternal things go. I just think that just maybe we might be able to let other things float to the surface of our minds occasionally.

This is probably the part where someone will dredge up an out-of-context General Authority quote that says we have to get married now — yes, this INSTANT! — and hurl it at me, but I don’t care.

Marriage is important, and infinitely so, but it’s my opinion that in the when a girl sees a guy wallowing in desperation to find an eternal companion, her attraction for him is about as nonexistent as a mother in a Disney animated classic.

It’s corny, but I heard someone say once that we get more success trying to “be” the one rather than trying to “find” the one.

I think there might be some truth in that.

Let's not be the sharks. Let's not be the seal liver. Let's be the ... well, this metaphor can only go so far. But my point — let's take a break from the desperate marriage race and just enjoy the ride.

After all, every shark gets a nice meal eventually.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Welcome to Fortune and Glory

This is the first post that is unique to this blog. The other day, I was sitting in my Media Management class thinking about all the people who were making huge amounts of money blogging, and I thought, "Man, Mace Windu could totally beat Darth Maul." Then I thought some more, and I started thinking about blogs, and I thought, "Man, I might be able to make some money off of this."

So that's the purpose of this blog, I'll be honest. I'm trying to put my writing talents to use. I get a lot of feedback: some people want to shoot me and others will take a bullet for me. I'm hoping to get both categories here, something I probably wouldn't get if the blogs appeared only on my Facebook account.

So come and browse, read and comment — or just click on the ads. I need an iPhone.

How time travel would work — really

This is not one of my normal columns, but I think of what kind of letter to the editor I would get if I published this in Scroll. Some of my columns border on irrelevance, but this one ... well, just read it.

There are three ways that time travel works in books and movies. I'm not talking about how you actually travel back, but I could devote another column to the methods I've seen — sorry, heard of — used, including black hole, flux capacitators, temporal displacement and the like. I'm talking about the logistics of what would happen when you travel back in time and inevitably change the past.

I've actually been thinking about this pretty deeply. To illustrate each, let's say I went back in time and killed my grandfather before he could ever meet my grandmother. In each scenario, let's look at what might play out next.

Way #1: The predestination paradox model. Basically, everything that you did while going back in time was supposed to happen and has already been taken into account in the current timeline. This is the time-travel model used in the TV show "LOST." If I went back in time and killed my grandfather, somehow that's how things were SUPPOSED to happen. Maybe the guy I thought was my grandpa wasn't — maybe he was a guy who would have killed my real grandpa had I not killed him. It's also used in the "Terminator" movies — a robot from the future was left in a factory and the factory workers used that robot to build more robots, which resulted eventually in a robot from the future being send back in time. ...

And then, in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Harry's interaction with the past didn't change anything in the past. He simply used a Patronus to save his past self the way things were supposed to happen. In other words, the events originating from your supposed interference in the past were already in place in the established timeline before you traveled back in time. Daniel Faraday, from "LOST," says it best: "Whatever happened, happened."

Way #2: The one universe model. According to this model, whatever you go back and change will be reflected when you return to your own time. Though this is the model used in the "Back to the Future" movies, it's impossible and creates and entire host of universe-shattering paradoxes. Let's say I were to go back and kill my grandfather before he could have a chance to meet my grandmother. This would make it so I was never born, right? So if I had never been born, nobody would have gone back and killed my grandfather. If nobody had killed my grandfather, I would have been born. Then, I would have gone back and killed my grandfather. Then I would have never been born and ... See the mess that this creates? "Back to the Future" simplifies this concept.

Way #3: The multiple universes model. This is used in the new "Star Trek" movie and is the least complicated of the three models of time travel. If you go back and change the past, any change you make will only create a parallel universe — your own universe will be totally unaffected. If I were to go back and kill my grandfather before he could meet my grandmother, it would only create an alternate universe where none of my grandfather's descendants were alive.

Stay tuned for more ramblings, assuming your head hasn't yet exploded.

Five principles of girl-ness

Before I begin my regular column, I think I owe an apology to all the Jane Austen fans I offended last week. No, I take that back — actually, I just an apology to Ms. Austen herself. Jane, you’re welcome to stop by and have a free Otter Pop anytime — on me, as a token of my regret for my na├»ve suggestion that your books might benefit from a little less feminine angst and a few more gunfights.

To any Twilight fans I may have offended, however — well, you’re on your own.

There are some things we’re not meant to know. Where dinosaurs fit into the scheme of things, for instance. Or why the Spori doesn’t have a vending machine for drinks.

Or what drives the inner workings of the female mind.

Nevertheless, I’m going to sum up the basics of what I’ve learned in my years of living on the same planet as the female half of the human race.

Correct me if I’m wrong, which I probably will be.

Principle #1 — Girls are absolutely necessary for the survival of the species. Just trust me on that one. Or go ask your mom.

Principle #2 — Girls don’t have any clue what they want. In this way, they are much like sea sponges, except more infinitely intelligent, more beautiful, and somewhat less predictable. So — not like sponges at all, I guess. (The analogy was worth a shot.)

Principle #3 — Girls don’t mean exactly what they say. I reference Kelly Kapoor from The Office: “Who says exactly what they’re thinking? What’s up with that?”

If a girl tells you she wants to hang out sometime, what she actually means is a) she is trying to be nice and doesn’t seriously want to do anything with you, or b) she actually wants to hang out, or c) she is planning to emigrate to Mexico. It could be any of the three, or none of them. You never actually know.

Principle #4 — Girls tend to be more lovey-dovey than males. They leave posts like this on each other’s Facebook walls: “OMG! You’re so beautiful! Come visit me!” A guy would never, ever, write something like that on another guy’s Facebook wall, even if the alternative proved to be a dire threat to his life or manliness, like having to watch the six-VHS set of Pride and Prejudice.

Principle #5 — Girls are wonderful, beautiful, indispensible additions to humanity, without whom I would probably be at home watching reruns of 24 again this weekend.

BYU–Idaho Pharisees miss the mark

I love BYU–Idaho. Weekly devotionals, an unparalleled (and somewhat idiosyncratic) dating scene and prayer before classes — you just don’t find this kind of environment in very many places. “Another great day at BYU–Idaho” is possible every day if you’ve got the right attitude.

But what is that right attitude? It might be more elusive than you think.

When you live in perfect little LDS bubble, some people tend to develop perceptions of righteous that are — I’m going to be honest here — hypocritical, Pharisaic, and somewhat skewed.

Remember last summer? Scroll’s letters to the editor were rampant with angry comments on several topics that shouldn’t have merited the heated discussion that followed.

I’ve chosen examples from last year so as to not offend more people than is necessary to get my point across, but if you peruse recent letters to the editor and listen to conversations on campus — anyone remember the Naked juice controversy last semester? — this kind of Pharisaic misinterpretation of the standards of the Church is ever present and thriving.

What happened last year was this: The Sun Shack, a student-operated eating venue on campus, had an advertisement that featured an attractive, modestly dressed young woman with ketchup smeared on her face. An angry student wrote to Scroll decrying the evils of such a provocative ad, and then the dam broke, flooding the email inbox of Scroll with responses, both in the negative and the affirmative.

That same semester, a headline reading “Little shop of horr … uh, flowers” — obviously a clever play on the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” — drew similar frustration from people who somehow interpreted the “horr” in the headline to mean something totally different. (Oddly enough, the connection didn’t even occur to most of us. What does that say about the mind-in-the-gutter factor of those who were offended?)

I’d like to think I try to my best to live the gospel, but that doesn’t mean burdening others with my own grossly inflated view of spirituality. When someone does that, we miss the mark with our attempts to make up rules and standards or impose our exaggerated standards upon others.

I’m not perfect, but that’s my point: nobody is, and maybe we should concentrate on real issues before we allow our need to feel spiritual interfere with feeling the Spirit.

How to waste time

Do you have one of those troubling lives where everything you do seems to actually mean something? Do your actions fill you with a sense or purpose? Do you look forward to the future with optimism that your hard work will pay off?

If so, you need to get a life.

Such a life, of course, is found by wasting time. Goals, work, intelligent conversation with actual carbon-based life forms — all those things are meaningless smoke in the wind.

How do you waste time?

Spend time on Facebook. It’s an excellent black hole for time. It’s easy to interact virtually with hundreds of people without ever putting on pants. You can even update your status so often you begin to refer to yourself in third person.

Watch 24. This is a TV show where every episode depicts an hour in real-time of a day in the life of federal agent Jack Bauer. In the course of 24 hours, Bauer always manages to kill dozens of terrorists without ever needing to use the restroom or eat. It has the potential to hook you, like televised cocaine, until your heart beats tick-tock and you can’t walk around in a normal social setting without searching for an exit and a place you can hide and call for backup during a firefight.

Play World of WarCraft. Trust me, nothing impresses a girl like describing your level-67 Night Elf Rogue and your quest to find the Lost Trinket of the Faraway Voodoo Isles — except maybe telling her that you haven’t slept in four weeks and are currently alive only because your blood is pure Red Bull.

Have a marathon of all the extended edition Lord of the Rings movies. Want to see the entire quest, from ”The world is changing” to “Well, I’m back”? Want to travel from the Shire to Mordor and back again? Want to see Saruman and Gandalf, Aragorn and the Army of the Dead, Theoden and Eowyn? Want to watch approximately 32,000 orcs with the combat prowess and aim of turnips be skewered by the good guys? With the minor sacrifice of twelve paltry hours of your life, all these things can be yours.

Play Halo on XBox. Have you ever awakened at two a.m. wishing you had the Halo theme stuck in your head? Have you ever cursed yourself when Jeopardy comes on, frustrated at your inability to answer Alex Trebek when he reads, “This is the best way to snipe out the pilot of a Scorpion tank from atop the Blood Gulch cliff”? (Answer: “What is a rocket launcher?”) Have you ever possessed the mad desire to suddenly snap to consciousness, a game controller in your hand, potato chips on your face, and no memory of the last day and a half? Halo can help your dreams fly higher than a Covenant Banshee.

See all the benefits of wasting time? Why would any one harbor a productive desire when so many wonderful options are available?

Time to get a life.

Finding faith with other faiths

When I was little, I viewed people who weren’t members of the Church like they were in some way irreconcilably different from the people like me. I viewed them way I would lepers, aliens in disguise, or Democrats.

They were different from the others in my predominantly LDS community. Some people had tattoos; others had earrings in odd places. Some people just smelled different — a clear indication that they weren’t on the straight and narrow.

I remember when the first family of non-members moved into our subdivision. I rode my bike past them with furtive glances over my shoulder, as if their dark influence might cause my tires to explode, leaving me at their mercy.

My parents were and are great examples of tolerance, but I still couldn’t get over the way non-Mormons were simply different — and that made nonmembers scary.

A mission was an eye-opening experience. Most of the people I met weren’t LDS, and many of them could totally have passed for such. In my two years of service, I encountered hundreds of amazing, wonderful people who either hadn’t had a chance to find the gospel or simply weren’t interested.

Still, these people loved their families, went to work every day, watched Star Wars, called themselves Americans, used deodorant and ate regular food. They went shopping at the mall, drove cars, spoke English, celebrated holidays and got irritated when people played hip-hop at full volume in the middle of the night.

They did not, however, sacrifice goats to their demons gods, plot the hostile takeover of peaceful neighborhoods, eat babies or soak their tentacles in specialized alien fluid every night to keep their skins moist in Earth’s atmosphere.

In other words, these people really were normal human beings.

I went to General Conference recently, where the protestors against the Church were engaged in their semiannual quest to save our souls. Four years ago, when I attended conference before my mission, I saw the protestors as minions of Satan out to destroy the peace that existed on Temple Square.

Now, I see them as possibly God-fearing, good people who might just see their holy crusade against Mormonism as nothing more than their own version of missionary work.

Then, just as I was coming to appreciate a heterogeneous environment and accept that a world where everyone was a clone of me might not be the ideal situation, I came to BYU–Idaho.

I wouldn’t say that diversity is dead here, but I wouldn’t say it’s alive and thriving, either.

I simply wish we had a little more diversity to even things out and prepare us for the real world, where not everyone is a Primary graduate.

A few weeks ago, I went on a date. It went great, and afterward, I called up the girl’s roommate, with whom I am good friends, to get the scoop. “Oh, she had a great time,” said the roommate, who then filled me on more details.

Certain that I knew all I needed to know, I swooped in and asked the girl out again.

This time, as we were making cinnamon rolls, she blithely informed me that she couldn’t eat sweets because she was on Lent.

Yeah, she was Catholic. Here at BYU–Idaho. I stuffed my cinnamon roll into my mouth, uncertain of what to say.

It seems my spiritual journey had reached an apex — She wasn’t LDS, and yet she shared our morals and values. There really can’t be anything too bad about that.

I love my religion, and I know it’s true. But I can accept that others might have their own beliefs, creeds and faiths.

Here’s to BYU–Idaho, where you can be assured that the person sitting next to you probably shares your values.

And here’s to the real world, where there are still a lot of good people, and where we can all join together and do some good.

What could have been if I hadn't become a comm major

I’m a proud communication major with an emphasis in journalism, but sometimes I wonder what life would have been like if I had taken the road less traveled, or at least the road traveled by people who actually want to make money in their lifetime.

Just kidding — there are plenty of good jobs left in journalism, provided you’re willing to sell a kidney now and then to supplement your income.

But what would life have been like if I had chosen, say, accounting, as my major?

My dad is an accountant, and a good one, but the apple in my case fell so far from the tree that it landed in Portugal. I was never able to look at vast arrays of numbers and think of anything but gnawing off my leg.

Or what if I had instead majored in English? I’m one of those shallow people who prefer the ticking clock on the TV show 24 to iambic pentameter, and I’m pretty sure Jack Bauer could beat up T. S. Eliot, anyway. No contest.

How about wildlife biology? I love animals, I really do. It’s just I like jerky, steak and Chicken McNuggets more.

Speaking of which, I could have gone into beef production — a time-honored industry with all the direct involvement with meat that I could ask for. Oh, wait a minute — do I really want to know what actually goes into my McNuggets? Small dogs? Maybe Department of the Treasury employees?

Psychology — I think they’ve got their approach all wrong. Why waste time on the human psyche when they could be working on deciphering the female mind? It’s not like we’re trying to marry Freud, for goodness’ sake.

Or university studies? I honestly have no idea what that is. I’m pretty good with context clues, but all I can deduce is that you’re … studying … uh … university … stuff. That’s all I’ve got.

I could have been a business management major, but when I was five, aliens stole my brain and switched it with a future Freddie Mac executive. Man, those aliens messed up.

I doubt I could have been a child development major, despite the significant amount of cute girls in that department (by the way, child development girls, I’m a lot better looking than my picture on this page suggests). However, I’ve heard through the grapevine that applying the use of tranquilizer darts to unruly children is discouraged.

I couldn’t have been a nursing major. What is it about blood and guts that makes me cringe? Oh, it’s the fact that they’re blood and guts, which are wonderful things only when kept secured safely inside of me.

History education — Someone has to teach college history in those huge lecture halls in the Ricks, despite the fact that every student is, in fact, playing Solitaire. It’s just not for me.

I’m not bashing anyone else’s majors. If communication majors ran the world, the economy would be in even worse shape, but at least President Bush could have actually hired a real speechwriter. I’m just wondering what could have been.

However, if I had been something else, you wouldn’t have this blog.

And wouldn’t that have made you sad?

Life within a life

We’re all born. We grow. We get disappointed. We gain victories. We watch our children grow. We’re happy, we’re sad, we’re hopeful. Then we all die.

Some people get to do it twice.

I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New Mexico. In a way, this experience was a microcosm of life, a shortened version of all that gives life its venerated humanity.

Nearly two hundred years of missionary work has spawned a lingo that only missionaries can understand — Fathers give birth to sons, sons succeed fathers, and the circle of life spirals on and on to the measured rapping of calloused knuckles on doors.

I was “born” in the little town of Bloomfield, a splotch of diners and gas stations on the prairie of northwestern New Mexico. My “father” — my trainer — was a self-admitted hick from Driggs, Idaho, a scion of the same old polygamous family that produced me.

Like any child, I sometimes wanted to learn faster than I was — I cried, I fumed. I strained through spiritual growing pains, falling on my face and trying to walk before I could crawl. Soon, I was able to do full door approaches alone, hawking the Book of Mormon like a vacuum salesman with the desperate belief that his Hoover could solve the world’s problems.

It wasn’t over. My inadequacies haunted me. Sometimes, in the quiet of my study at the twilight of a long day, my shoes piles at the door covered in dust, I would kneel in prayer and beseech my true Father for relief from my infirmities, that I might better serve him.

But this was life, and I was a child walking in faithful obliviousness to my parents’ purposes for me.

In time, I sired a son of my own — my first trainee, Elder Findlay, was a spirited young missionary with a headstrong passion for the work. When our paths diverged, I watched his progress, watched him grow.

Every emotion embedded in the human psyche, every feeling that combines to separate the human creature from the other animals on this God-given earth, exists in some form on the mission.

Sadness prevailed when an investigator fell away into the mists of dogmatic falsities. Joy reigned when I returned to Albuquerque to watch a women I had taught and baptized enter the temple.

Disappointment struck me again and again, contention reared its sagebrush-laden head, and even romantic love ebbed and flowed, only to be snuffed out by the subsiding trickle of letters.

And then, as in the age-enduring lament of poets and bards, death faced me. Two years of service stared me in the eye with all the ferocity of a life spent. I recalled my first years as a missionary, my growth, my successes and failures —

Then I stepped off the plane. One life was over; I was ready to continue the next, the things learned in the first stockpiled for the second.

One can never live too many lives.

Nerds, unite (except Trekkies)!

My Mac dictionary offers, among others, this definition: an intelligent, single-minded expert in a particular technical skill or discipline.

Before I buffet the reader with the blustery gale of my nerdiness, I’m going to state that everyone fits the above description to some degree — some obviously more than others.

Take me, for example. I like to think of myself as a person possessing basic social graces. For instance, I have enough sense to avoid interrupting people when they’re speaking. I can sense when a particular action would be unacceptable in polite company, like telling generic, endless stories about my mission or setting fire to my eyebrows. I like to think that I can survive socially.

But I do have one nerdy vice.

Before my mission, you could pick out some minor character from the background of any movie and I could tell you that person’s backstory, home planet, and lightsaber color. I have a cabinet back home of Star Wars paraphernalia, including a limited-edition Revenge of the Sith cereal box and the entire set of Star Wars Pez dispensers — except that pesky R2-D2 one, which has so far eluded me. My bedroom here at college has three separate representations of Darth Vader.

Am I a nerd? Yeah, and proud of it.

Do I still have standards? Of course. For those of you still subsisting in woeful ignorance, Star Wars and Star Trek are two totally different franchises; the first is cool and the latter is nothing more than a cheap science fair dressed up with some semblance of plot and character development.

(If I get letters to the editor about that one, I will truly consider it the highlight of my writing career.)

But there are other ways of being nerdy. I have several roommates who stare at the TV like it’s some sort of primitive idol, sacrificing their spare time to the heathen gods of ESPN. There’s nothing wrong with this, but when I hear them spouting off facts about the winners of the Heisman Trophy or the last three coaches of the Lakers, I smile to myself. We all have our own kind of nerdiness, don’t we?

Everyone’s head contains some sort of useless information, whether it’s the home planet of Luke Skywalker (Tatooine), the best way to win Guitar Hero (set fire to the guitar console) or the only person to win the Heisman Trophy twice (Frodo Baggins).

A nerd is nothing more than a person with a passion. We’ve all got passions. Some people cook. Some people play golf. Some people sing. As long as we have a hobby to divert our time from the demands of reality, we are nerds.

Show me a person who claims he’s not a nerd, and I’ll show you a person who has no life.

Why I'm not married yet

DISCLAIMER: If you're looking for a depressive rant about the sad status of my love life, go somewhere else. (Also, you might want to ask yourself exactly WHY you're looking for such a thing, and possibly seek help.) This is not the rambling of a lovesick loser lost in his laments, but an intellectual look at the reasons behind my — and perhaps other people’s — lack of the One Ring to Rule Them All on my left hand.

Two more of my friends recently got engaged. Another one or two are close. My friends, none of them older than 22, are all biting the matrimonial dust. And those are only the male friends. My old female friends, for the most part, were sucked into the marriage dimension a long time ago.

And yet here I am, lingering in limbo. I don’t feel any particular pressure to get married, but it would be nice, sometime down the road, to have an assurance that my wife wasn’t killed by a stray arrow in the war in heaven. It would be nice to discover that romance was more than, in the immortal words of The Monkees, “fairy tales / Meant for someone else / But not for me.

“What’s the use of trying? / All I get is pain / When I wanted sunshine / I get rain …”

Thought the use of that song carries the risk of relegating this serious reflection to the status of whimpering melodrama, it really can sum up how I feel sometimes.

I try to think what my problem is. I’m attracted to enough girls to rule out the possibility of my being gay. I think I might just be too picky.

My ideal girl is smart, talented, attractive, spiritual, and mature. The exact definitions of those qualities are a little flighty, allowing for some leeway, but I know exactly what I want, and I’m not willing to budge.

Somebody once told me that in order to find the one, I have to be the one. That could be why I’m not yet married. Have I learned enough? Have I honed my talents enough? Have I attained a level of confidence enough to accent my attractiveness? Have I grown enough in my spirituality? Am I mature enough?

I don’t know.

To employ a horribly sappy metaphor, my heart has been broken at least three times since I’ve been home from the mission. Not that this is any unusual feat at BYU–Idaho, where loves are found and lost like the rise and fall of petty empires, but it still hurts.

If you jump off a diving board and do a belly flop, you try again. If you belly flop again, you still climb up the ladder to give in another shot. But what happens if you get the same result the fifth or six time? Statistically speaking, you’re going to eventually do a flop-free dive, but try telling yourself that when you stand dizzily at the top for the eighth time, your stomach still smarting from the last seven impacts.

That’s how I feel about the whole love thing. What’s the use of trying? All you get, after all, is pain. The Monkees knew what they were talking about, even if they could’t spell worth a flying banana.

My point in writing this blog isn’t to sound depressed or desperate, only to get my thoughts onto the screen — where, like any good writer desires, people can read them.

If, by some crazy random happenstance (to borrow a line from Dr. Horrible), my future wife is already one of my Facebook friends, listen up. I’m trying to make myself better for you, so be patient.

I'll find you soon enough, but it's not my priority yet. I'm not yet what I want to be for marriage. It would also help if I had some money.

Wife, be ready for me.

Also, I sometimes quote Star Wars in my sleep, so be prepared for that.

My thoughts on gun control

Over two hundred years ago, the right to keep and bear arms proved to be one of the strengths that bore the struggling American colonies to freedom as a united nation. Minutemen and ill-equipped militia banded together to drive one of the world’s superpowers from the American shores.

Now that right, assured of its hallowed position in the history of the United States., is in jeopardy. Liberal groups, claiming the interest of safety, want to remove the Americans’ right to have their own firearms.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

There are some who would interpret the word “people” in that statement to mean the military, and those whose official duty it is to keep the peace. However, it is unlikely that the Founding Fathers meant it that way, having just emerged from a war where the common man, not only the police or a standing army, took up arms against tyranny. While law-enforcement and military professions are noble, each individual citizen should retain the ability to protect himself and his family.

Gun safety will always be an issue. Many well-meaning people believe that taking guns away from people will solve many of the crime problems societies face. However, statistics show otherwise.

A study based from the FBI Uniform Crime Report illustrates this point. Though the handguns per capita in the United States since 1945 have risen dramatically, the amount of gun-related crimes has remained relatively steady. Contrast that with Washington, D.C., which banned handguns in 1976. From 1976 to 1992, crime doubled, while the nation’s crime rate grew by a mere 12 percent.

Look at the example of Peru, where citizens aren’t allowed to own firearms. Instead, houses are enshrouded in bars to defend against criminals with no such restrictions. A former missionary who served there said, “In America, criminals live behind bars and people are on the streets. In Peru, criminals are on the streets and people live behind bars.” Such is the price of laws where ordinary people have no access to any means of defense.

Making laws against guns will only affect those who obey the laws. Great Britain has enacted strict gun control laws in the last fifty years. Now, according to several English newspapers, the number of illegal guns in the country has doubled. Those who choose not to obey the anti-gun laws will find their own ways around the law as they always have. Then the guns will have been taken out of the hands of the law-abiding citizen, though the criminal will still procure firearms from methods outside the law.

There is a necessary right for every American to be able to protect himself. Without the realization of this need in the past, America may never have been able to gain independence. In another study, this one by the Northwestern School of Law, Americans use firearms to defend themselves from criminals at least 764,000 times a year. The same organization surveyed imprisoned criminals and found that 34% of them had been "scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim.”

Perhaps local governments should be given the ability to regulate firearms. It’s acceptable for an Idaho government, made up of Idahoans who know how Idahoans think and what Idahoans need, to decide what’s best for Idahoans, for instance. It is not, however, acceptable for a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. to decide what is best in a faraway state in which he has never set foot.

And what would ordinary citizens need guns for?

Many different tastes and varied pleasures abound in the great United States, which stretches thousands of miles across mixed lifestyles. Many of those cultures fused into the great nation enjoy hunting and other outdoor pursuits, in which guns — held by responsible, benign adults — play a major role. Others enjoy shooting targets; still others collect firearms as a hobby.

Responsibility is a key factor. Simply arguing that something can be dangerous is not a justifiable reason for cutting off its availability. The key is to teach how to properly store, care for, and use firearms to avoid accidents. Thus, the law-abiding citizen — the only ones truly affected by anti-gun legislation, as pointed out earlier — would continue to enjoy the benefits of firearms.

Americans must be aware of the issues surrounding gun control and make choices based upon logic and statistics, not propaganda from either the right or the left. American history was written by those unafraid to stand up for their rights. The loyal supporters of the Constitution must never allow the precious pieces of American legacy to be stolen — like the freedom to keep and bear arms.

[Random point for Scrollies only: Alderaan was a peaceful planet, without weapons, and it got blown up by the Death Star. See where gun control got them.]

Apples to apples

I think I can safely say that most BYU–Idaho students know the dangers of premarital sex and will agree that such relations are in violation of the commandments of the Church.

But violations of the law of chastity, in my mind, are not the only things that can spoil a girl for me.

Somebody once compared sex to an apple, saying that the more a girl indulges in premarital violations that sacred act, the more she becomes like an apple of which someone has taken a bite.

After while, you don’t want an apple everyone’s taken a chomp out of, right?

For me, kissing is like slobbering on an apple. It’s not quite like eating an apple someone already bit out of, but it’s not quite as appealing as munching into a fresh ripe fruit.

I realize the analogy isn’t perfect, but it works if you’re a non-germaphobe like me, who once ate a bag of popcorn I found on the floor at a movie theater after pulling out the empty candy wrappers.

Still, I wouldn’t want to partake of an apple coated in twenty other guys’ glistening drool.

I met a guy on my mission who bragged about making out with 35 girls, at least five of whom he hadn’t know their names at the time. In my Math 108 class a few semesters ago, we took an anonymous poll of how many girls each guy had kissed. One guy scored over 50.

Where would the fun be in that?

I don’t mind if a girl I date has kissed a few guys. A little experience is tolerable, and maybe even preferred by some. Few people will find their eternal mates without a few failed relationships behind them, and it’s okay to have lips that carry a little experience. But I don’t want someone who’s been around the block too many times.

This rant isn’t the resentful whining of the words of an embittered mind behind inexperienced lips. It is, I hope, a plea for people to prioritize before the regrets have time to accumulate.

Guys, let’s think about this. Maybe there’s some low-moral hottie who will let you make out with her. Maybe there are a lot of them. Maybe you’re attractive enough to maintain a physical relationship with a girl you’re not really into, resulting in a lot of noncommittal lip-locking.

It might be fun, but what would your future eternal companion think of all that?

I doubt the girls we really want would appreciate it much.

And, girls — you may be a hit if you’re willing to give a little of yourself to every guy who comes along, but that won’t last.

If you kiss your heart away, you might have fun for while, but you’re simply not the kind I want to marry.

And keep your apple away from me. I hate slobber.

An actual response I received to my Twilight column

This is a letter I found waiting for me in the office today. It was written in all caps with blue marker on four plain pieces of paper. I've kept all the original spelling and punctuation. I just wanted to share this joy with everyone. It reminded me of a ransom note, the kind of thing taped around a brick and thrown through a window.

DEAR RYAN,

OR TASTELESS MALE YOUR CHOICE. TWILIGHT IS A BOOK AND GRANT IT OR NOT SUBJECT TO OPINIONS BY THE READER READING IT. I HAVE READ THE ENTIRE SAGA AND ONLY LIKE THE ACTION PARTS OR AT LEAST/MOSTLY THE PARTS OF ACTION BEHIND THE SCENES, (I RECOMMEND THE MOVIE, IT TAKES THE WHINE OUT OF BELLA AND THE ACTION IS MORE PROMINENT.)

STAR WARS IS NO COMPARISON TO TWILIGHT. STAR WARS IS WAY BETTER AND FAR MORE INTERESTING.

ONE LAST THE ... THIS IS AMERICA WHERE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK YOUR OPINION. IF YOU'RE NOT WELL YOU MUST LIVE IN A COMMUNISTIC PRISON. BUT, I MAY SOUND STUPID BUT, YOU GIVE POWER TO THE EVENTS THAT YOU ENCOUNTER. IF YOU DON'T LIKE YOU DON'T HAVE TO LISTEN, JUST BURN IT. IT IS NOT YOUR THOUGHTS.

BUT IF YOU WANT A HATEFUL, ANGRY LETTER ...

[Here follows the letter "Q" in red letters all over the next page.]

WELL GOOD THING THAT IS OVER! HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR OPINION BECAUSE IT IS YOURS.

SINCERELY, YOUR FRIEND OF PERKINS HALL...

THE HUMAN ENIGMA

That's it. Is that not amazing? After reading it five times, I'm pretty sure this person liked my column, but I'm not quite sure what "you give power to the events that you encounter" means. I'm not entirely sure that English is the native language of the writer. But whoever it is, thanks for agreeing with me ... I think.

Help us, Barack Obama — you're our only hope

t seems there are multiple opinions concerning Barack Obama, and they seem to be leaning toward the extreme ends of things.

On one end, we’ve got the frenzied liberals who think Obama is some sort of Chosen One reserved for the latter-days to save the world. According to these Obama fans, as far as I can tell, Obama will end single-handedly end world hunger, lift the country out of the recession, stop terrorism, defeat Lord Voldemort and bring balance to the Force.

On the other end we have the imperiously self-righteous conservatives who denounce Obama as the antithesis of all that is good in the world. They apparently regard him as the Antichrist, up there with trolls who eat little children and people who wear brown belts with black shoes.

I don’t mean to lump actual human beings into stereotypical groups, but we all fall somewhere between the two extremes, and we have to be careful to recognize both good and evil for what they are, and to find good where we can.

For instance, on the Obama-liking scale, I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t sacrifice goats to a golden Obama statue at the equinox; nor do I use one of the many issues of Time plastered with his face to wipe spaghetti sauce from my chin.

No, I didn’t vote for him, but I support him.

Our country is in trouble. Our economy is in the toilet, and it won’t take much for the money we’ve still got to spiral into oblivion down a capitalistic S-bend. The war in Iraq continues to drag on without an apparent purpose to the average American.

At this point, I’m willing to see what Obama has to offer. If there’s anyone in a position now to pull America out of the doghouse, it’s our new commander in chief.

He’s definitely not perfect, our president. But he’s got some good ideas, and he’s our only hope short of direct divine intervention, and I hope we’re not due for the Second Coming for a few years yet.

And so, to paraphrase Star Wars’s Princess Leia:

Help us, Barack Obama. You’re our only hope.

The evils of hip-hop and rap music

I see that other people have other tastes. A lot of guys like watching football, for instance. Some people are obsessed. I’m pretty sure my dad makes ritual sacrifices to Bronco Mendenhall, BYU’s head coach, under the full moon. Some people, possibly through some bizarre genetic defect, don’t like Star Wars.

But that doesn’t mean I have to share these tastes, or that I can’t, in the spirit of free comment, point out that aliens have clearly taken over the brains of individuals whose tastes differ widely from mine.

Today I will denounce a force for evil that has been more destructive than nuclear bombs, more immature than wearing your underpants on your head, and more pointless than golf.

I hope you’ll excuse me for including a small amount of healthy sarcasm for a topic I feel strongly about.

It’s rap. Hip-hop.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to sleep, I can feel the seismic vibrations of rap permeating the walls of my apartment. It doesn’t matter than the walls are thin; I suspect the thump of the hip-hop beat could penetrate thirteen-inch-thick titanium.

That’s just one of the reasons I hate hip-hop. Even though my tastes are base enough that high culture like Twilight escapes my appreciation, I simply can’t stoop far enough to settle for what could reasonably be called failed poetry.

Can’t write sonnets about love, draft verses about the moon, or even pen limericks about porcupines? Not a problem. Just write awful lyrics where the word “player” somehow manages to rhyme with “say.”

Consider yourself shallow? Just rap. Most rappers seem to be consumed by the threefold desire to get some action, make money or shoot somebody, in no particular order. Granted, those three desires have permeated literature for thousands of years, but rap has simply found a way to reduce those already basic themes to nearly animalistic urges.

I’ve always felt that rap lovers have a compelling need to compensate for a definite lack of masculinity. What other explanation is there for their preference for booming systems where a beat like some sort of Apocalyptic war drum drowns out any last vestiges of genuine music?

And I’m not racist. I don’t care what ethnic or racial groups are generally associated with hip-hop. White people made country music, and I hate that, too.

Everyone has different tastes. I recognize that others have different tastes than I do, and I won’t judge anyone with such tastes, except to say that they obviously inhabit a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder than myself. Ha. Just kidding.

On MY mission ...

I run the risk of sounding like an arrogant punk, I know. I only ask that during the short slice of time when your eyes are perusing this column, you suspend any judgment of me and instead evaluate what I have to say.

As my mission drew to a close, I harbored the impression that once I got back, I would be honey to all the beautiful flies out there, to use a completely unflattering metaphor for girls.

I thought that using my newfound powers of spirituality, I would be able to woo any girl I wanted.

Now I wonder what alien parasite burrowed into my brain, forcing upon me such naivety.

Here at BYU–I, everyone is a returned missionary. Sometimes I swear I can hear the Manwaring Center vending machines reminiscing among themselves about the good old days when they baptized a village in the Amazon.

Hardly an FHE goes past without those weary words “When I was on my mission …” RMs are full of stories. If they’re not telling about the time they had to spend a night in an active volcano, they’re describing the incident where they followed a hunch and converted half the country’s mafia.

The details may vary from RM to RM, but the premises, unless we’re cautious in the sharing of spiritual experiences, can be a dime a dozen.

However, it’s not my intention to sound cynical.

The mission experience was a microcosm of life, all the hopes and sorrows of life compressed into two years. The Spirit abounded. It’s only natural for RMs to let flow the rivers of memory. It’s another idiosyncrasy typical of those quirky communes of righteousness we call wards and stakes.

And another thing — there were a lot of missionaries out there who were mediocre at best. My mission, during the two years I resided within its borders, contained a significant number of those who considered themselves outside the realms governed by petty things like rules. My mission even had a few real bad apples, the ones who got into trouble I can’t even mention.

Anyone who has served a mission should know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you were one of them. And not to sound narcissistic, but it might irk missionaries who tried their best that such former elders are also claiming the title of RM.

And what is a returned missionary, exactly?

Before I came home, my mission president told me that there are two kinds of returned missionaries.

First, there are those who come home after two years or eighteen months of dodging rules and enduring the admonitions of priesthood leaders confident that at long last they have earned the exalted title of returned missionary and can take their place in LDS society. These missionaries went on a mission and returned to life as it was.

Then there are the ones who return home, but don’t return to the way things were. They can’t. The people they were before the mission are forever buried beneath a polished sheen born of hard-learned lessons. For them, the RM title isn’t an honorific, like a cold medal pinned on a uniform. It’s an invitation to continue the growth that so accelerated during the course of their service.

Listen to me. I sound like John Bytheway. Again, I’m not trying to vaunt myself above anyone else. I won’t tell you what kind of missionary I was. I’ll let those who know me now and who knew me on my mission be the judge of that, one way or the other.

But, girls — remember those two kinds of returned missionaries? Which one do you want to marry?

Give everyone a chance; the principle of repentance is real. My only request, really, is that every returned missionary act like one.

An Albuquerque Christmas

My mom asked me, in lieu of a traditional Christmas card in which the family members’ achievements over the course of the year are detailed and quickly forgotten by the reader, to write up a summary of our recent Christmas trip.

With that boring introduction out of the way, let me back up — a little over a year ago, I got home from serving an LDS mission to New Mexico. Our family elected to head back there to see the sights and visit some of the people I’d met during my time there.

Now, just to clarify, our family includes Dad, enjoying the reprieve after his recent release as bishop; Mom, always at work keeping the house from disintegrating into utter mayhem; me, Ryan, a genius writer majoring in communication at BYU-Idaho; Reilly, currently in France Connor, a sophomore in high school, beginning the long road to understanding girls; Dillon, future NFL coach currently enduring junior high; Abby, a feisty little girly-girl who bleeds pink; and Quinn, everyone’s favorite youngest brother.

Before the trip could begin in earnest, however, we had to endure the ride down there. From Rigby, Idaho, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, is about fourteen hours in a car, theoretically. There’s a little-known theory of relativity devised by Albert Einstein’s half-brother Alberto that states the number of hours in a car grows exponentially when influenced by the amount of passengers in a vehicle, the amount of random stuff accumulated underfoot, and the ratio of juices boxes and jerky to actual food. All in all, the drive to Albuquerque took about fourteen years, but we made it.

Our first site of interest was Mesa Verde, a spot in southern Colorado where ancient Pueblo Indian ancestors built homes into the sides of the cliffs. Next, we went to church in a small town on the Navajo reservation called Crownpoint, where I served for four months about two years ago. I was pleased to see all the same people I had known there, and I was especially happy to learn that several of the people whose baptisms I had a hand in were still active and holding callings. There are few things more rewarding for a returned missionary (one of which is finding a wife, but that’s a ramble for another year’s Christmas letter).

Then we embarked. In the Albuquerque area, two things stood out. First, I’d forgotten how many drunks, homeless people and generally scary people there are in the otherwise enchanting city of Albuquerque. Of course, even the hairiest, most insane denizen of the ghetto deserves a decent Christmas, so we collected gift bags for the homeless people and went around giving them out. Next, we visited Sky City on Christmas, an Acoma village built directly on top of a mesa and observed a sacred dance in which villagers dressed as elk danced in an old Spanish mission before gun-bearing honor guards.

In the end, we returned to Idaho a little tired, a little carsick, and a little weary of fighting one another for a bed. But our hearts, like our stomachs and our bladders, were full by the time we finished the long car ride.

It was an amazing experience, to be sure; it was a welcome departure from the Christmas traditions, which, unless we’re careful, can become as rote as a second-rate nativity play.

I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. If you ever have the chance to serve a mission, do it. If you have the chance to go back, do it. And if you have the chance to eat Navajo tacos, do not put barbecue sauce in them. It messes you up.

Happy New Year.

My Twilight review

Let's pretend that instead of being the thrilling space opera it is, Star Wars had been written by a woman with only the faintest grasp of what makes a good plot. Let's say that Han Solo spent all three original movies telling Princess Leia how much he wanted to kill and eat her. Let's speculate how things would be if the excitement built up to the point where Luke flew off to destroy the Death Star, only to have him pass out en route and wake up a few hours later with everyone celebrating, all the action having happened while he was frolicking in dreamland.

Pretty stupid, right?

I recently finished the bestselling book Twilight, and, honestly, I wasn't too impressed. Maybe it's because I'm a guy and my literary needs involve a few more explosions and fewer declarations of undying (no pun intended) love.

First, I could have gone without Bella's incessant reaffirmations of Edward's utter perfection. I understand that his skin is flawless, his eyes are rapturous, he has superhuman strength, his kisses have the power to instantly put a woman into a state of extra-bodily bliss and his pukes probably smell like Bath & Body Works lotion. I just don't need those facts repeated.

Next, what the heck is up with Bella's attraction to a vampire who wants to drink her blood? Next time I go out on a date, I will tell my date (repeatedly; perhaps every ten minutes) that I hunger for her in more ways than one. If I believed Twilight, nothing would turn her on more. Girls love Edward because he can control his urges; what about us normal human beings? I've been on dates with girls I've been strongly attracted to, and to my knowledge, I've been pretty good at controlling my hormones. Would it be better, if you're a hot girl, if I told you at regular intervals how much I lusted after you but was able to contain my infatuation? Seems to work pretty well for Edward.

Now comes the biggest quibble I have, the one that, if fixed, could have redeemed the book in my opinion. WHERE THE CRAP DID ALL THE ACTION GO? It's not that the author got too busy to put action in; there's plenty of it. It just happens behind the scenes: There's a part where you're in a hotel room with Bella as she frets like a six-year-old girl and you're wishing strongly to be out there with Edward, tracking the bad guy vampire, but do you ever get to see the exciting stuff? Nope. Wouldn't it be more effective, as far as the story goes, just to SHOW the danger Edward's in, instead consigning the reader to hear Miss Whiner's jumbled thoughts about her lover's peril?

Then comes the clincher. The plot builds, and so does the reader's anticipation, as Bella finds herself face-to-face with an evil vampire. Edward is on the way, tensions are rising, your heart is thumping — and then she blacks out, only to awake having missed the whole fight between the bad guy and Edward. What's the use of having the action take place offstage? It's like spending hours preparing food, only to fall asleep and hear others describe it later.

There you have it. Twilight: the perfect escape from reality for thirteen-year-old girls who have yet to realize that men are human, not undead incarnations of Jane Austen love interests (Yes, Pride and Prejudice's Mr. Darcy is not human, but a robot from the future sent to destroy women's perceptions of men). Twilight: the perfect blubberfest for people whose literary tastes are flawed and whose emotions run unchecked.

Light and Truth — a poem

Here's a poem I wrote while I was on my mission. It works with the tune of "Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy," "Come, Thou Fount," and any song with an 8787 meter.

Light and Truth
By Elder Ryan Kunz

From oblivion’s rambling matter
To the void’s vast, empty sea
Sprung a light, a noble purpose
Heav’nly Father’s plan to be.
Separating light and shadow,
Bringing form to formless night —
Through God’s word creation’s workings
Would bring truth into our sight.

Far away, from darkness fleeing,
Trav’lers sought the Lord in prayer.
‘Cross the sea, the Lord reserving,
Promised lands awaited there.
How to light their ships for sailing,
How to keep their passage bright?
Sixteen stones, with God’s own finger,
Lent the vessels heaven’s light.

In a grove, for wisdom seeking,
One young boy spoke from his knees.
In an answer, light descended
In a pillar through the trees.
“This,” He said, “is my Beloved,”
God of knowledge, truth and light!
Through the boy they lit a beacon
‘Luminating paths of right.

God our Father, source of all light
Shared His truth in ages past.
The Dispenser of all reason
Shines his lamp again at last.
As we share it, we discover
Our own light will never dim.
For this is light eternal —
To know God and dwell with Him.