Reading Rainbow: Part IX

It’s time to dust off the old blog because it’s that time of the year again! There were several page poor periods during the past year, but a last minute sprint while trying to catch up with my Reading Challenge goal resulted in a generally strong finish.

As always, there were some serious stinkers but also some excellent texts. We won’t review them here except to say this: Don’t bother with James Bond. Read Casino Royale if you must, then move on from James Bond. Of course, I’m simply echoing sentiments from last year.

I’m curious. Do you set reading goals and track what you read? If not, why not? It’s extremely interesting to go back and see what you’ve read over the years, to watch the change in the books you consume. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but I recommend you start. I think I’ll pick up this subject in a separate post…

We all know the real reason you’re here (you accidentally clicked on a link to this page) so let’s get to the main attraction.

This year’s list consists of the following:

As always, here are links to reading posts from previous years:

Reading Rainbow: Part VIII (2015-2016)
Reading Rainbow: Part VII (2014-2015)
Reading Rainbow: Part VI
(2013-2014)
Reading Rainbow: Part V
(2012-2013)
Reading Rainbow: Part IV
 (2011-2012)
Reading Rainbow: Part III
 (2010-2011)
Reading Rainbow: Part II (2009-2010)
Reading Rainbow: Part I  (2008-2009)

Reading Rainbow: Part VIII

I’m sorry to disappoint you. I know you were looking forward to an entire year of not hearing from me. As it is, this post is dangerously behind schedule. My reading calendar is August-July. I’m sticking to those dates even though we’re more than two months overdue.

Following the trend of previous years, this list includes some excellent books as well as some serious stinkers. One of my personal challenges involves books that are part of a series. Once I start a series I feel like I have to finish it no matter how bad it is.

This year, I powered through three more books from the Dune series. I have one book left (Chapterhouse: Dune) but have been unable to find a copy. They don’t have it at the library and I refuse to buy this book. If you’re a fan of the original, do yourself a favor and let it stand on its own.

Continuing with my mistake, I thought it would be fun to read the original James Bond books. I was soooo wrong. I enjoyed Casino Royale enough to take me to the next book, but the remaining books have filled me with so much heartache and regret. I’m so close to the end that I can’t stop, but I feel so much shame.

Anyway, enough commentary. Take a look at the list and let me know if there is anything you want to discuss. As always, I would love some recommendations. I’m also happy to make recommendations. You can always see what I’m doing over at Goodreads.com.

Here are links to my read list from previous years:

Reading Rainbow: Part VII (2014-2015)
Reading Rainbow: Part VI
(2013-2014)
Reading Rainbow: Part V
(2012-2013)
Reading Rainbow: Part IV
 (2011-2012)
Reading Rainbow: Part III
 (2010-2011)
Reading Rainbow: Part II (2009-2010)
Reading Rainbow: Part I  (2008-2009)

Reading Rainbow: Part VII

Ha! You thought I forgot! Alas, you are wrong. As has been the tradition for the past several years, this is the list of books I read during the last 12 months. As always, I would love to hear your recommendations for books to read in the coming year. Of course, I may not love to read your recommendations, but I would love for you to make them. Almost half of the books I read this year were some type of recommendation. About eight or nine of them were solid. A couple were okay. Probably four of them were among the worst books I’ve ever read. I’ll let you guess which ones are the stinkers. Seriously, I would love for you to guess.

Soooooooo, here are the reads from the past year.

Here are links to my read list from previous years:

Reading Rainbow: Part VI (2013-2014)
Reading Rainbow: Part V
(2012-2013)
Reading Rainbow: Part IV
 (2011-2012)
Reading Rainbow: Part III
 (2010-2011)
Reading Rainbow: Part II (2009-2010)
Reading Rainbow: Part I  (2008-2009)

WCSD and the SBAC

So, in a fit of masochism I went to Washoe County School District Board Meeting last week. I went because the agenda included a discussion of the SBAC assessment tests, which the school district has adopted. More specifically, I went because I wanted to understand why parents do not have an option to opt their children out of the test. We’ve been going in circles with the principal and the school district.

I’ve never attended a school board meeting, so I didn’t know what to expect. Just prior to the SBAC discussion was a discussion about finding a new superintendent. Naturally, this discussion turned into a vote to place interim superintendent Traci Davis into full-fledged rock ’em sock ’em superintendent. Of course, to keep form, the board rescinded the vote because of concerns over possible probable violation of open meeting laws. More on this later.

boardmeetingAfter spending five hours listening to the board – actually, make that four since one of those hours was a secret, closed-door meeting that the public wasn’t allowed to attend – I started to get a feel for the different personalities in the room. There were multiple trustees with whom I would likely disagree severely on a lot of things, but I felt like they were making an honest attempt to do a good job. There was a least one go-along-get-along personality and one monster. I’m being very careful not to say anything that would reveal who is who because with my luck the monster might eventually stumble on this page. And he/she/it knows who/what he/she/it is. The board member who stood out the most was Nick Smith. He found me wandering around outside and helped me get to the meeting. I don’t know much about him, but I like him.

Although my original plans included attendance only, I ended up making a public comment. As the hours wore on, I made a few notes on my phone. I had a pretty good idea what I was going to say during my three minutes. Most of the people had left following the Traci Davis excitement, so it shouldn’t have been a big deal. Besides the board there were only a few people hanging out in the room. Still, it was a nerve-wracking experience.

Once they called my name, I went up and made my comments. I didn’t use my notes, which was quite foolish. As I recall, I blabbered and bumbled while struggling to make at least one single point. We watched the recording of the SBAC portion of the meeting at home because Emilie wanted to see the presentation given by Ben Hayes and Sandra Aird. I told her how electrifying it was and she had to see it for herself.

Inevitably, she wanted to see the comments following the presentation and board questions. My piece was pretty shaky, but not as bad as my memory had me believe. Here’s the gist: 1) Testing does not help children since results are not returned until the following school year when it’s too late for teacher’s to make use of the information, 2) the information is seemingly only used by the federal government when deciding who gets money and how much and 3) where is all this money going?

For the record, I don’t like getting money from the federal government. Once you take their money, they get to call the shots. This amounts to selling our kids and their future. When you consider the tremendous national debt ($18,159,901,810,448.37 currently), how can you possibly justify saddling these kids – who you say you’re trying to prepare for the future – with additional crushing debt?

Speaking of money, where does this funding go? My children’s school has a playground full of portable classrooms. Some of the kids are forced to meet in the common areas of the school because of lack of classroom space. There doesn’t seem to be an immediate plan to build a new school. When we complained to the principal about having around 30 kids in a kindergarten class with only one teacher and no aide, the principal explained that if we wanted an aide in the classroom we would need to pay for the aide ourselves at a cost of several hundred dollars per child.

So, where does the funding go? Overcrowded schools would suggest to me that there is an increase in people paying taxes. To be honest, I don’t know the numbers, but it seems that tax revenue should be up. And we are supposedly getting millions of dollars from Washington. So, where does the funding go?

While researching the SBAC test and our school district, I unintentionally stumbled on TransparentNevada.com. I was surprised to find that there are 12 pages of WCSD employees that have total compensation over $100,000. And thats’s with 50 employees per page. I’m not very good with Common Core math, but I think that puts the number at around 600 employees. I’m not going to beat a dead horse. I understand that running the district is a huge job. Having to budget for school buses, supplies, fleet vehicles and so on. Managing school police and groundskeepers, etc. I get it – it’s a big job. But, c’mon. What happened to public service? We’re being a bit generous with sacred taxpayer funds.

Which leads to what you can only hope will be my final point. While discussing the matter of finding a new superintendent at this board meeting, multiple plans were proposed, which ranged from a fairly small-scale exploratory campaign costing around $15,000 to a full-scale national candidate search costing around $50,000. The matter came to a vote because several board members just couldn’t justify wasting $15,000 when a good candidate sat right in front of them.

I’m against needless waste as much as anyone, but seriously? We’re getting money from the state and federal government, it seems that compensation is competitive and we’re not spending money on building schools. It seems like there should be plenty of money in the bank account and we’re going to quibble over $15,000? After the Pedro Martinez fiasco, the school district should not be opposed to doing their homework.

If any parents actually read this: Please do your homework about Common Core. We’re selling our kids; we just aren’t sure who’s buying. You should not be willing to trade the education of your child for a few extra bucks.

If anyone from Washoe County School District actually reads this: You need to let parents choose what’s best for their children. If a test will not help the child then they shouldn’t be forced to take it. We should be able to agree on that. But to take it a step further, you need to embrace school choice. WCSD admits they aren’t very successful as schooling kids; that’s the reason they embraced Common Core so whole-heartedly. As parents, we need vouchers. We need competition. The only reason you should oppose this is because you feel you can’t compete. If you truly care about kids, stop treating them as a statistic to be used to get funding.

Important Announcement – Eyes Only

Soooooo, what is the deal with this place? You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t shared any new information about the family, the kids and related stuffins. Don’t worry, I was under no pretense that you were here because you had any interest in me. That’s okay – I can take it.

I made a decision to stop writing about the kids for privacy and safety reasons. They’re at an age where it seems like a good time to get out of the public-display-of their-entire-existence business. Rest assured, the details of their lives are still being recorded for whatever nefarious purposes I might later conceive; however, those details are being recorded in a private journal instead of on the very public internet.

Should you decide to continue visiting this place, you’ll be met with material much like you’re reading now. Uninteresting diatribes about mundane topics. There is a silver lining, though! I am committed to producing more frequent diatribes than any other time during the past year.

If you can be satisfied reading my tripe then luck is on your side. If you truly want to know about the fam without the torture of communicating with me directly, then yours is an unfortunate circumstance. Let me know if this is a big deal and I may consider putting up a password protected area.

 

Reading Rainbow VI

Well, I did it! I went more than a year without posting anything. The reason for my inexcusable slothfulness can be explored another time. For now, it’s time to post the sixth annual list of books I read during the past year. As usual, I read some very good books and I also read some incredible stinkers. I will leave it up to you to decide which are which.

I welcome feedback about by choice of books, as well as recommendations for books to read. As always, links to previous lists can be found at the bottom of this post. It seems we’re be struck with much ado, so without further ado, here’s the list:

Reading Rainbow: Part V (2012-2013)
Reading Rainbow: Part IV
 (2011-2012)
Reading Rainbow: Part III
 (2010-2011)
Reading Rainbow: Part II (2009-2010)
Reading Rainbow: Part I  (2008-2009)

Reading Rainbow: Part V

Well, it’s August so that means it’s time to blog again! The reading year has ended so that gives me something to blog about. (It’s a personal year, not an actual calendar year – don’t feel like you missed something in school.) The only real notable achievement is that I finally finished the entire Sherlock Holmes series. Woo.

In case you’re looking for a recommendation (which I’m acutely aware that you’re not), I would have to say that Shaken Faith Syndrome is my favorite of the year. Jefferson Lies and Hostile Takeover were also very good.  If you’ve read something good lately please let me know. I think there needs to be a Book Club for Men or something. Anyway, links to previous lists can be found at the bottom.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
The Great and Terrible, Vol. 2: Where Angels Fall by Chris Stewart
J. Golden Kimball: The story of a unique personality by Claude Richards
The Eye of Moloch by Glenn Beck
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
The Great and Terrible, Vol. 1: Prologue, The Brothers by Chris Stewart
The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes, #7) by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes, #9) by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath by Joe Lieberman
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns by Glenn Beck
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Clichés: The Worst Thing Since Sliced Bread by Stu Burguiere
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Charlie Bucket, #1) by Roald Dahl
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Damascus Countdown by Joel C. Rosenberg
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Coraline: The Graphic Novel by P. Craig Russell
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents by Friedrich A. von Hayek
Black List (Scot Harvath, #11) by Brad Thor
Kill Shot (Mitch Rapp #2) by Vince Flynn
Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck
The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly
The Snow Angel by Glenn Beck
The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson by David Barton
Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America by Matt Kibbe
The Tehran Initiative by Joel C. Rosenberg
Miracles by C.S. Lewis
Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen by Richard Paul Evans
Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony In The Face Of Criticism And Doubt by Michael R. Ash
Cowards: What Politicians, Radicals, and the Media Refuse to Say by Glenn Beck
Decision Points by George W. Bush

Reading lists from previous years:

Reading Rainbow: Part IV (2011-2012)
Reading Rainbow: Part III
 (2010-2011)
Reading Rainbow: Part II (2009-2010)
Reading Rainbow: Part I  (2008-2009)

Why Mormons Should Think Twice Before Pulling the Lever for Obama

I normally don’t like to use this blog for political things, but this year is a historical presidential election. It’s not “politics as usual” as many have come to expect. I’ve heard some of my LDS friends say lately that not only did they vote for Obama in 2008, but they also plan to vote for him this year. I understand that in 2008 the only other choice was McCain and I can empathize. Really. But this year there is a stark difference in the candidates.

As briefly as I can, I would like to summarize why I think that Obama’s beliefs cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the LDS church.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics.” The Church has repeatedly stated their position in regards to politics. That said, the Church also “Encourage[s] its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.”

Hopefully, you’ll do further research on your own to verify the facts. If you can still push the button for Obama in November, then it’s up to everyone to”[respect] the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.”

Debt

Members of the Church are no doubt familiar with the following statement:

Since the early days of the Church, the Lord’s prophets have repeatedly warned against the bondage of debt. One of the great dangers of debt is the interest that accompanies it. [emphasis added]

Why shouldn’t we apply the same standard to our country? Obama started his term with a national debt of $10.6 trillion. The national debt is currently over $16 trillion. That’s more than a $5 trillion increase in less than four years. Were you upset about how much money George W. Bush spent while in office? Consider that he added less than $5 trillion to the debt in 8 years. And that was while waging two wars.

Let’s apply this to you directly. Since Obama took office, everyone in your household has picked up an additional $16,000 of debt. Including that $16k, you now owe $51,000 thanks to your government. If there are two adults and two kids in your house, throw an extra $204k in the “owed” column of your budget.

On top of the crippling debt, we pay hundreds of billions of dollars a year in interest. In 2011, we spent $227.1 billion on interest alone. That’s 3 1/2 times more than we spent with the Department of Education and 5 times more than we spend on the Department of Homeland Security. Did I mention that’s just the interest payment?

The Church stays out of debt and tells it’s members to do the same. Do you think Obama agrees?

Welfare and Helping Others

It’s clear that Obama is happy to provide government assistance to anyone who wants it, regardless of need. As president, Obama changed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to eliminate the work requirement. This was not done through the legislative process; he acted unilaterally (and illegally).

TANF was the first program to make a substantial difference in welfare cases in 40 years. Considering the success of the program, why would Obama change the fundamental principles that made the program successful? I think the simple answer is contained in a YouTube video that’s been going around.

Contrast that with the Church’s stance on welfare:

The purpose of Church welfare is to promote self-reliance and to care for and serve the poor and needy. For assistance, recipients are encouraged to work (when able) so that they are blessed and can bless the lives of others. Work is a guiding principle in the Church’s welfare program. [emphasis added]

It’s obvious that Obama is giving hand-outs while the Church is giving hand-ups.

Charity

The Gospel Library states:

Charity is the pure love of Christ. It is the love that Christ has for the children of men and that the children of men should have for one another. It is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and the most joyous to the soul (see 1 Nephi 11:23).

I believe that Obama would agree that helping others is the greatest work that we have to perform during this life. His method for achieving this goal is ineffective at best, sinister at worst.

Poverty has increased by 6.4 million people since Obama took office. What’s more, after spending trillions on helping the poor, there are just as many people living in poverty now as there were when the “war on poverty” began. So, Obama thinks that we can eventually tax everyone out of poverty, but the facts don’t bear that out. Since we know it won’t work, is he just buying votes? (Do you want to watch this again?)

Compare the difference between helping people through taxes compared to donating to LDS charities:

Obama takes your money through taxes and gives it away. That’s how he helps. Other than photo-ops, have you ever seen a picture of Obama actually helping others? I’ve never seen one. Not only that, I’ve never heard a story about Obama doing anything to help anyone. Would you like to be shocked? Read this story about Dinesh D’Souza and George Obama. Ask yourself why this wasn’t on every news channel.

Compare this with Mitt Romney. Have you ever seen this picture? No media was there. He was helping another person for the sake of helping. Mitt Romney helps others regularly. Often privately without media presence. Often anonymously.

If you want to compare how much Romney and Obama love their fellow man then I think the choice is clear. I don’t think there is anything noble about sending the IRS to your house to audit you.

Obama’s Way versus God’s Way

This is just another arm of the two previous topics. Everyone wants to help others. Most people probably agree that the wealthiest should help the most. Here’s where the difference between candidates becomes clear: Obama is forcing you to give using the barrel of a loaded gun. Do you think that’s an overly dramatic statement? Try not paying your taxes. When they come to take you to jail just tell them “no.” I assure you that your fight will end with a) you paying your taxes, b) you in jail or c) a bullet in you head.

Obama makes it sound like a positive thing:

My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re gonna be better off if you’re gonna be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody. [emphasis added]

There are a million ways to prove that this does not work, but I’m trying to keep this within the context of gospel teachings. Marion G. Romney gave an outstanding talk about this issue in the April 1966 Conference titled “Socialism and the United Order Compared”. The whole thing is essential reading; however, here are a few highlights (all quoted from mentioned talk):

  • The cornerstone of the United Order is belief in God and acceptance of him as Lord of the earth and the author of the United Order
  • Socialism, wholly materialistic, is founded in the wisdom of men and not of God
  • The United Order is implemented by the voluntary free-will actions of men
  • One time the Prophet Joseph Smith asked a question by the brethren about the inventories they were taking. His answer was to the effect, “You don’t need to be concerned about the inventories. Unless a man is willing to consecrate everything he has, he doesn’t come into the United Order.” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 7, pp. 412-13.)
  • On the other hand, socialism is implemented by external force, the power of the state
  • In harmony with church belief, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, “that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property” (D&C 134:2), the United Order is operated upon the principle of private ownership and individual management
  • The United Order is non-political
  • A righteous people is a prerequisite to the United Order
  • Socialism argues that it as a system will eliminate the evils of the profit motive
  • The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich (D&C 104:16)

In this sense, Obama seeks to replace God with government (Exodus 10:3). Government does all.

Abortion

Without making this a deep theological and nuanced discussion, I’ll quote an excerpt from the Church’s official statement on abortion:

The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.

Compare the gravitas of those remarks with one made by Barack Obama during a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania:

I’ve got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.

 

The list could go on forever: quantitative easing, hostility toward Israel, border violence, unrest in the middle-east and Europe, healthcare reform, etc . Whoever you vote for, make sure you do it after looking for the truth. I think Mitt Romney is a man of integrity – something sorely missing from Washington. I don’t agree with Romney on everything, but he’s a good man and will make a great president.

If you support Obama, I would love to know why. Please leave a comment or email me. And I won’t be offended if you do so anonymously.

Reading Rainbow: Part IV

It’s that time of the year again, although this year promises to be lacking. After achieving a seismic goal of 51 books last year I decided to abstain from setting any type of goal for this year. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you can catch up on previous reads here:

Reading Rainbow: Part III
Reading Rainbow: Part II
Reading Rainbow: Part I 

Of the books I read this year, there are several that I am downright ashamed to have read. There are several others that were phenomenal. Since I have recently beefed-up my book collection I should have a much better showing next year. So, here they are in reverse chronological order by date read:

As always, I invite recommendations. And you can always keep up over at Goodreads.

Of Hairs and Stairs

So, what do you do for fun on a Saturday in April? Well, if you are me (you are not!) or one of a few other select individuals (you might be!), you might drag a grand piano up some stairs. Not just any stairs, mind you. These stairs would contain some wild twists and turns, sudden drops that fall into some kind of abyss and at least one narrow passage that combines all of the above. Miraculously, the piano survived and so did everyone that helped (last I heard, anyway).

The only real casualty resulting from the move is my haircut. I need one desperately, but I didn’t have time to get one due to the piano move. If my hair gets much longer then I might start looking like an actual hippie. Next thing you know, I’ll be appointed to PBHO’s cabinet. I need a haircut.

Congrats to C. and J. on their sealing. Great experience. Glad Emilie and I could attend.