Thursday, October 30, 2008

Piccolo Pete

Since I've spent most of my life in the dry Western United States, fireworks have been banned in most places I've lived since I was a kid. So my wife and I had to go way back to remember this old favorite: the Piccolo Pete.

What brought this little blue screecher instantly back to memory? Our one-year-old daughter, who has recently demonstrated that she can emit a high-pitched noise just like a Piccolo Pete in church, in the library, in the store, or anywhere else where she can find a captive audience.

I wonder how many years she'll have this talent. It might be a good self-defense mechanism when she grows older.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Proposition 8: A letter to the editor

The San Bernardino County Sun was kind enough to print a letter I sent last week regarding Proposition 8. A section that The Sun edited out (probably for length) is enclosed in []:

"Proposition 8 would amend our state constitution to recognize only marriage between a man and a woman as valid in California. [Interestingly, 75% of voters in San Bernardino County voted for this same wording in 2000 before the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year. As I’ve talked with many voters in our community on Proposition 8, it’s become clear that the mainstream of our county still believes that marriage between a man and a woman is the God-ordained way that families are created and established.]

"Many Californians, including me, are concerned that if Proposition 8 fails our children will be taught in schools that same-sex marriage is equal to traditional marriage. Opponents of Proposition 8 say that this won’t happen, but should we really believe this?

"Earlier this year we saw how a few individuals using the court system can widely affect what our state is required to do. All it will take are a few activists and a court decision to change the way marriage is taught in our schools. In fact, all it takes is one teacher with an agenda to change the way marriage is taught in your child’s class. I see little protection from these scenarios without Proposition 8.

"Opponents of Proposition 8 say that even if same-sex marriage is taught in schools, I have the right under California law to withdraw my child at any time. But do we really want it to come to this? And what about teachers who aren’t comfortable including same-sex marriage in their curriculum? Will they be able to withdraw without fear of losing their jobs or being sued?

"Please consider these questions before you vote on Proposition 8."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Got The Message?

Lately I've been using some additional Bible translations to help get a supplemental understanding of phrases that are complex or archaic in the King James Version (the official English translation used by the Mormon church). This is a trick I learned at BYU when a professor required us to read at least one additional translation of Isaiah to give us another perspective on difficult passages.

The most interesting Bible I've come across in these studies is The Message, translated by Eugene Peterson. Originally employed as a teacher of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary, Peterson took a job as a pastor and, in his words, "I was now plunged into quite a different world. The first noticeable difference was that nobody seemed to care much about the Bible, which so recently people had been paying me to teach them." (All quotes are from the The Message Preface.)

Peterson realized that he had a gift for conveying the message of the Bible in everyday, conversational language:

"I lived in two language worlds, the world of the Bible and the world of Today. I had always assumed they were the same world. But these people didn't see it that way. So out of necessity I became a translator..."

Peterson's interpretations of "the Bible in the language of Today and the language of Today in the language of the Bible" caught the interest of an editor, who convinced him to work on a complete translation, or paraphrase, of the Bible. This became The Message.

You can get a good taste of what The Message is like by reading the Ten Commandments story in Exodus 20 (link is from You can fly through a chapter in a minute or two. I find this useful for getting a quick overview of a story or an alternate view of one of those occasional "Say what?" verses in the writings of Paul or Isaiah.

Peterson states that his intent with The Message was just to get people reading the Bible. "It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available."

For me that excellent study Bible is the King James Version published by the LDS church, which contains the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, and excerpts from the Joseph Smith Translation. But when I've got five extra minutes to hang out in the kids' room while they fall asleep, The Message makes for a very nice inspirational read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Salvaging a rough sports week in a big way

I guess a Modern Mormon Dad is entitled to a sports post once in a while, especially after a week like this. Last Sunday at this time things sure looked a lot brighter for the Dodgers, who are now facing a long and uncertain offseason, and the BYU Cougars, whose BCS-busting hopes fell to pieces Thursday night at the hands of an energized and clearly superior TCU team.

Thankfully I have another football team that wears blue and white, makes their home in "Happy Valley", and plays the same faux-roar recording after a first down, and these guys are the REAL DEAL this year. But for two and half terrible quarters it looked like Penn State might also falter this week and drop their tenth straight game against Michigan. The Nittany Lions battled back, though, and took the lead with this play:

This safety late in the third quarter made it 19-17 and from there Penn State decided to tack on 27 more points just to make the win a little sweeter.

Wasn't that a great video, by the way? That's the $200 ticket and $500 airfare I didn't have to buy to see a guy jumping up in front of me during the game-changing play. Someday I'd still like to make it to Beaver Stadium and camp in the parking lot and wave a white pom-pom...hopefully before Coach Paterno calls it quits.

BTW, this will be my second straight year dressing up as JoePa for Halloween. Time to roll up the khakis!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What do you do at the Happiest Place on Earth?

We've lived in Southern California for over 3 years and have not yet set foot in Disneyland. (I've hit the Rose Bowl, Dodger Stadium, and the Staples Center, so I guess my priorities lie elsewhere.) Thanks to an overseas visit we'll be getting from my sister, we've finally scheduled a magical day to check out "The Happiest Place on Earth". But that's the catch- we have one day, probably 6 hours if the kids do real well and we try to beat traffic.

So what are the "must-see" places in Disneyland with a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, and 6 hours? Any tips for taking young children there? I'm hoping some of you friends with Disneyland experience can guide me on this one...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

SALSA...the way WE know it!

One reason I like having Netflix is that I can get jazz videos that would be difficult to find in a mainstream rental store. These are often hit or miss, but this week we found a great one: "Tito Puente: Live in Montreal". This one-hour excerpt of a concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival contains a nice variety of Latin jazz styles. I am no expert of these, but as Tito explains in the bonus interview, his intent is just that you have fun listening.

There's no question that the band is having fun playing the music. The members vary so much in culture, age, and grooming, that it looks like Tito just grabbed a bunch of cats off the street, but the beautiful thing is that they all come together in a tight, intense sound. Tito himself leads the charge, scatting and pounding the timbales and other instruments whose names I don't even know. My son especially enjoyed seeing those.

The film is no piece of artwork, even for 1983, but skill and enthusiasm of the band members makes up for that. Near the end, Tito quips to the audience that to get invited to these festivals, he has to portray his band as a "Latin Jazz Ensemble", but "Now that I got my foot in the door...we're gonna play SALSA! The way WE know it!" The roaring finale of "Pare Cochero" leaves no doubt that Tito's salsa is hot, hot, hot.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A second temple for Argentina

At the opening session of today's Mormon General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced the locations for five new temples, one of which is Córdoba Argentina. I would love to have seen the reaction of church members and fellow missionaries that I served with on my full time mission in Argentina. I can imagine packed meetinghouses of members gathered to watch the broadcast, buzzing with excitement at this announcement.

We occasionally speculated that the next temple in Argentina would be built in Córdoba. The city is centrally located and is home to at least four stakes. I don't have a Church Almanac, but I'm pretty sure that's the most of any Argentine city outside Buenos Aires, where the first temple in Argentina is located. Since I returned from my mission I have listened closely to every temple announcement in General Conference to hear if Córdoba's name would be called. Today's announcement is a confirmation to me of the Church's inevitable growth across Argentina and the world.

It was my privilege to work with many stalwart missionaries from Córdoba and other provinces that will be in this temple district, such as Catamarca, La Rioja, and Santiago del Estero. I love to think of them attending the dedication of this temple and frequently worshiping there with their families.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mormon General Conference happens this weekend

This weekend millions of Mormons around the world will be watching or listening to the church's General Conference, broadcasted twice a year from Salt Lake City. At the conference, church leaders give short talks about Jesus Christ, the Bible and Book of Mormon, the restoration of Christ's church in modern times, and other gospel topics. Traditionally the president of the Church addresses the conference several times. Musical interludes are provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and other local volunteer choirs.

If you're curious about Mormons, General Conference is a good way to get a dose of the church's official teachings straight from its world leaders. The talks cover basic topics and are easy to understand. This is partly because the talks need to be translated into many languages and reach an audience that includes many new members of the church.

I like to listen to conference through the Internet. This page will get you to video and audio streams. You can listen to the live broadcasts or hear archives of previous conference. The live sessions will occur on:

Saturday, October 4, 12:00 PM EDT
Saturday, October 4, 4:00 PM EDT
Sunday, October 5, 12:00 PM EDT
Sunday, October 5, 4:00 PM EDT