Thursday, May 31, 2007

Norway tops peaceful nation list

Check out this article about an Economist magazine study on peaceful nations:

World's most peaceful
The Intelligence Unit of the Economist magazine has named Norway the most peaceful country in the world.The survey of 121 nations is backed by high profile names such as the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy Carter.

New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Japan occupy the spots just back Norway. Lowest in the survey are Nigeria, Russia, Israel, Sudan and Iraq. The USA is remarkably low on the Global Peace Index, at 96th.

An assessment of 24 different factors is behind the rating list, from the number of killings per capita, number of weapons, military spending, to the amount of organized crime and violent crime.

On the basis of their study, researchers reached the following conclusions; small, stable democracies that are part of a larger regional group, such as the European Union, score well; and economic living standards, education levels and regional integration are important.

Well, at least we made it into the top 100. And at the current nation count of 194, that puts us smack dab in the middle, which makes us the perfect balance between Norway's idyllic safety and benevolence and Nigeria's... well, whatever they're doing to make the bottom of the list. I'd probably know, too, if the U.S. media weren't so fixated on whether or not Paris Hilton is going to jail.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New luggage

Ever since 9/11, our luggage has gotten completely thrashed from airline flights. We got some pretty sturdy luggage when we got married (a DECADE ago!!!) and it held up really well… seeing us through multiple trips to The Promised Land© (AKA Utah and Idaho) as well as the occasional vacation. I don’t know if it was something about heightened terror risk or what, though, but after 9/11, our zippers have been damaged (although that might be because they’ve occasionally had to contain more mass than Marlon Brando’s pants in the later years), and now random wires are protruding from them which makes it hard to wheel them through the airport without snagging the carpeting. I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of luggage handling at the country’s airports, but I’m imagining a special task force armed with belt sanders, ice picks, hydraulic vices, and gnawing rodents to “de-Al Qaida” the luggage.

In response to this, Margaret and I saw a luggage sale this weekend and decided to invest in some useful carry-on baggage in an attempt to keep our stuff out of the hands of the baggage handlers. Now our biggest challenge will be to pack lightly enough that all our stuff will fit in the smaller bags. That’ll be easy when we go to a nude vacation in St. Croix, but we’ll see what happens when we have to pack for a winter vacation in Utah. Maybe this was Margaret’s way to encourage more nude vacations in the Caribbean.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Illiterate subway riders

I almost forgot about the spiel some homeless guy on the subway said while we were riding back from Brooklyn. The guy got on and said:

"Excuse me people." (Of course he didn't make eye contact with anyone on the subway, nor did anyone look at him. I guess it's a system to avoid human interaction... whatever works!) "I'm a homeless Vietnam vet. Anything you can give would be appreciated. I need all the help I can get, because when I was in Vietnam, I was exposed to Agent Orange. It was used to kill trees and other vegetarian..."

No, that's not a typo--he really did say vegetarian. (Although I guess there are a lot of people in the beef industry that would like to find a quick and easy way to kill vegetarians... they're so bad for business.)

NYC: Day Two

On Friday, we got up and headed over to the United Nations. That was a cool and inspiring place to visit. We took the tour and got to see the general assemby room, security council room, and a bunch of other interesting/depressing/hopeful things. While we were out on the grounds taking pictures when all of a sudden, I heard someone yell, "Jeremy!" I looked up and saw someone that I worked with on our fundraising gala! I was so surprised, then that surprise melted into chagrin faster than you can say "don't talk to me about work, can't you see I'm on frickin' VACATION?!?" (Well, actually, it melted faster than you can say that, but you get the picture.

After getting back on U.S. soil (the U.N. is considered "international territory"), we went to a discount clothing store, but didn't find much, then happened to wander over to the Brooklyn Bridge. Since by then it was getting around dinnertime, we walked over the bridge and went to a great pizza restaurant in Brooklyn. It was a fitting place for Jayson's birthday dinner, as the place is consistently ranked as the best pizza in New York... and in New York, that's saying something. I makes all those "Best pizza in Lewiston, Idaho" claims look like Tombstone frozen pizzas.

That evening, by the time we got home, Jayson was practically limping and when he took his shoes and socks off, discovered several nascent blisters. He'd bought some shoes during the day, but didn't think it was a good idea to try and break them in by walking 10 miles around NYC. He decided to just tough it out and not walk around as much the next day. (And as a sneak preview for tomorrow-- that didn't happen!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

NYC: Day One

With the effects of sleep-deprivation trailing us like toilet paper stuck to your shoe, we stumbled off the plane at JFK and made our way to the hostel I'd found online. The location was perfect... Upper West Side, right between two different subway lines, and within walking distance of great food and shops. My registration said check-in was at 11, so when we got there at 10:45 we had hoped to get in a quick nap before venturing out. Well, no such luck... that was the check-OUT time. We had to put our luggage in a locker and wait until 3:00. We walked down Broadway in a desperate search for caffeine. Actually, we must have been pretty out of it, because I can hardly remember what we did until we could check in.

Upon checking in, we discovered why we'd gotten such a great deal. The room was small, as in The Gap changing room-small! The rooms had a shared bathroom which were clean when we got there at check-in. We knew there was some sketchiness to the place, however, when a couple of German girls came downstairs complaining about their toilet on the third floor. They said, in broken English, "The toilet upstairs is not okay. It is full of... how you say? 'shit?'" The other girl, unsure if her friend had said the right word, added, "It is... you know... brown." At this point in needing some sleep, however, we would had taken a cot at a homeless shelter (as long as the homeless shelter had private rooms, a turn down service, and a view of Central Park.) Anyway, we did check in and promptly lay down to take naps. When we woke up several hours later, we took a walk around the neighborhood and stumbled upon a comedy club. We paid the $15/person cover charge, then after being seated, found out that they had a $16/person minimum for drinks... which you paid regardless. Since the Diet Coke was unlimited and I knew that despite how much I drank I'd have to cough up $16 for it, I kept the waitress hopping to keep up with refills. There was no way that I was going to pay $16 and not get as much pop as possible!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ahhh. That's the sound of relaxation

Well, my brother and I got back from New York late last night. Of course since we were still on east coast time, we woke up before 6am, much to my chagrin. We are both completely exhausted. The public transit system is awesome in New York, but you still end up doing A LOT of walking. We easily logged 5 to 10 miles a day. Factored over the course of the 6 days we were there, that puts us at about... wait a sec, six times seven... carry the three... between 30 and 50 miles! I was fortunately wearing shoes designed for walking, but poor Jayson. Since he didn't even know he was going to be going to NYC when he flew over here, he had only packed one pair of shoes... and they were flatter than sandals. By the end of the first day, after walking all around the United Nations, midtown, and over the Brooklyn Bridge, he'd developed several blisters... and not on the sides of his feet from rubbing shoes, but on his SOLES, from just walking so much. I told him that his Mormon pioneer ancestors were probably rolling in their graves. Braving rugged trails, Indians, and polygamy in their non-ergonomic, non-air-cushioned, non-breathable BOOTS! He kept saying he should get some shoe inserts but we kept telling ourselves that we wouldn't walk so much the next day. That never really panned out, so he just endured the nuisance... but by the end of ALL of the days, we were looking for any excuse to sit down... even if it meant having to sit on a filthy sidewalk next to a homeless guy. (Although sometimes if we knew that we'd only get to sit down for a couple of minutes, we'd stay standing... that was too cruel a tease for our abused feet.)

Here's a quick run down of our trip, with the boring parts needlessly exaggerated and the exciting parts... also needlessly exaggerated:

Tuesday, May 15
Margaret left for Utah to visit family despite having MANY opportunities to come with us to New York. Evidently the draw of visiting Temple Square was greater than the draw to visit Times Square. Jayson flew in about 30 minutes after Margaret flew out, so I just hung around the airport after dropping Margaret off. After he landed, we went home and I told him about his surprise 30th birthday present... a trip to NYC! He was dumbfounded, as he knew we had something planned, but he was figuring something like the draft horse plowing competion finals or belt sander races or something. He didn't get much sleep that night, being so excited and all, which makes me wonder if I should have told him about the trip the following day, right as we were boarding the plane.

Wednesday, May 16
Since we were staying in a hostel on the Upper West Side, I decided it would be prudent to go buy some flip flops, antibacterial wash, hand sanitizer, new bedding, lice spray, roach motels, and incense. In the end, we decided to only get the flip flops. There's nothing like a shared shower to make you appreciate something like that... and since Jayson is more of a germaphobe than I am, (which is saying something), he concurred. (On a slight tangent, I remember back on my mission where one of my apartments had MUSHROOMS growing in the shower! We'd pull them out, but since they grow pretty fast, after a day or two, they'd be back. If I could endure a missionary's apartment for two whole years, I figured I could handle anything a hostel could throw at me.) After a day's preparation for the trip, we eventually made it on the redeye flight to NYC from Portland, leaving at 11:30 pm! Why do those flights seem like such a good idea when you see them online, but then, when the day comes and you're faced with the prospect of losing an entire night's sleep in an uncomfortable airplane seat with only a bag of chips and a pop to tide you over you think a different flight may have been worth it. I somehow managed to contort myself into a position that allowed semi-slumber, but Jayson couldn't sleep at all. Despite all the privations, we managed to survive the flight and witnessed the sun coming up over the city as we were landing.

Tomorrow I'll start with the actual crazy and zany misadventures of two twenty-somethings thirty-somethings in New York City.

Monday, May 21, 2007


On Saturday night, Jayson and I went to Times Square to see all the
craziness. It was about 10pm. Anyway, en route to the subway, Jayson
looked down and found a 10 dollar bill! Some homeless guy would have
killed-literally-to have been the one to find that. Instead it was the
small-town Idaho boy. He used it the next morning for breakfast,
saying 'breakfast is on the street.' And surprisingly, the street
makes a GREAT bagel!

Friday, May 18, 2007


Well our hostel isn't as bad as I could imagine, but I'll just say I'm
glad we brought flip flops for the skeezy shared bathroom.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Well, after literally months of preparation and subterfuge, my brother is in town for his 30th birthday and I'm taking him to New York. He came to Portland thinking we'd be going to Seattle or something. The highlight of the schedule is a Mets/Yankees game... something that I'll sit through, but that my brother will see as the be-all end-all. Entries will be sporadic for the next week or so, as a result. (Although I might be able to add something here or there from my phone. So if you see entries like "U R not going to believe this...", you'll know why.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Prejudice is okay sometimes

This got me so mad when I read about it. Evidently Rev. Al Sharpton... you know, the guy who was at the forefront of calling for Don Imus' firing for his prejudiced remark against blacks... had the audacity to say this about Mitt Romney (not that I'm supporting Mitt for president, mind you... my support is currently with John Stewart):

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that. That's a temporary situation."

Evidently you only have to be indignant when someone is prejudiced against YOU. If it's another group, then go right ahead... that's not being prejudiced... it's just stating the truth.

What a stupid remark, anyway; what makes his belief in God real, while a Mormon's belief isn't? Maybe he knows his belief is real because God gives him the power to be judgemental about others' beliefs. If that's true, then I guess I can credit a higher power for my discernment ability to be judgemental about others in general, which makes me feel less guilty about being cruelly critical (but I only use it when absolutely needed.)

Read the whole article here, where you can read his nonsensical defense of what he said (including the always useful "taken out of context" clause.)

Whew! Survived!

Well, this weekend's event went off alright, I guess. I can't really remember everything that happened. Maybe the memory is being suppressed.

On a more interesting note, on Friday, we were driving through our neighborhood (remember, the neighborhood my dad calls "Hippie Town") and saw a guy in snorkel gear... complete with snorkel, mask, wetsuit, and flippers... sitting on top of a car. Intrigued, I drove around the block so we could all get a better look and when we drove by him again, a guy wearing only a Depends diaper was walking by. Our ward was having a get-together and we figured they were headed over to that.

Speaking of Conservative Values©, I just love today's comic "Pearls Before Swine:"

I especially like the opening of the prayer: "You don't know me." Classic.

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Atlas-like burden

Now I know how Atlas felt carrying the unimaginable weight of a planet on his shoulders. My work's annual fundraising gala is tomorrow and the combination of being in charge of the "look and feel" and being completely obsessive-compulsive about details is pulling me toward a self-implosion. If you see on next week's news a story about me shaving my head, getting out of a car without any underwear on, and attacking photographers with an umbrella, you'll know the reason.

For my birthday, Margaret gave me a gift certificate for an hour in a sensory deprivation chamber. I think I'll schedule that for Sunday. I need to turn off the outside world and escape into the blissful utopia that is my mind. Where Diet Pepsi flows in streams and peanut m&m's are the gravel paths. And I've had too much of my opium cough syrup.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Was Brigham Young a feminist?

Imagine my surprise when I read that Brigham Young... the second president of the LDS church... husband to innumerable wives... etc., etc. said the following quote:

"We believe that women are useful, not only to sweep houses ... and raise babies, but that they should stand behind the counter, study law or medicine ... and all this to enlarge their sphere of usefulness for the benefit of society at large."

And he said this in the 1800s!

As a bit of irony, the quote was in an article about women at BYU that quit school as soon as they get married. You can read the article here. Watch out when you get near the end where you'll find this little gem:

"After asking his class why the prophet has told women to get an education, a BYU professor stated their anticipated responses were good, but wrong. In his opinion, women need education so they don't have 'stupid kids.'"

Once again proving that a women's worth is directly and exclusively tied to her husband and/or children's achievements... and that's it. While this has so many examples why it's patently wrong, for my only exhibit, I'd like to present to the internets court Queen Elizabeth (just because she's here in the US right now and her interactions with President Bush made people wonder what it would be like to be back under the British Crown instead of under Homeland Security surveillance.).


The other night, I had a dream where Margaret and I found ourselves in a wild west looking train station. As a train pulled up laden with supplies, the engineer asked us why we were there. When we told him that we didn't even know how we got there, he said, "Oh, you must need to be taken in. Let me deliver this stuff and I'll be right back to take you." We didn't know where "in" was, but waited and soon after, sure enough, the engineer came back. Right after boarding, Margaret and I got separated and I ended up in a place where you had to sort yourself between good and evil by taking a red marked or yellow marked gel pack and add some dye to it to confirm. Well, of course I grabbed the yellow, being the "good" one, but then discovered that I didn't have the dye to put into it. I then got some, but when I opened up the pack, some of the lid came off into the gel, rendering it unuseable. When I asked the worker what I was supposed to do, she told me that another batch would be ready in three days. As I milled around waiting, I got to talking with someone, who told me that we were in the afterlife, which consisted of all these different places that people were sent to depending on their personality and outlook. This particular one was for people that did things out of an unshakeable sense of obligation. Ugg. My subconscious has me pegged! It's like it can read my mind!

Anyway, I woke up aggravated! I get sent to bureaucracy-central while Margaret probably got sent to the one for people who couldn't care less about "rules." I'd imagine that one looked like a giant rave with plenty of ecstasy floating around. Either that or the one in charge of keeping track of all the genealogical records. It's probably one of the two, but either way, I'm sure she'd be having TONS of fun.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Proper dinnertime conversation

Last night, Margaret and I went to dinner at the home of a couple from our ward. They have several children, all under the age of 5. Well, their 3-year-old daughter was completely enamored with me, wanting to play with me, talk to me, and sit next to me at dinner. During the course of eating, she looked over and saw the mole on my face and told me that she had a mole, was on her leg. Then, before her parents could do something about it, she stood up on her chair, pulled down her pants and underwear, and showed off her mole--which was on her leg, alright... where the leg meets the crotch! Just what you want to see when you're trying to eat. After she'd showed off her mole, she nonchalantly pulled her pants back up and continued eating. I wonder what the age threshhold is that pulling your pants and underwear down at the dinnertable becomes a conversation stopper. (And I'm pretty confident that I'm LOOOONG past that point!) Which reminds me of this one time in Norway... well, I'll save that story for later.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fleeting mortality

I had an unexpected email in my box this morning. It was from my mission's web master, announcing that a returned missionary had died recently. Intrigued, I read the letter and found out that the guy had served from 2001-2003, making him only 24 years old. Last Tuesday, he was struck by lightning! After being on life support for a few days, he finally died! Talk about the very definition of random. What made it even more shocking traumatizing was that there was a link to his blog... holy crap! That could have been me... especially given my history! (Let me elaborate):

A peculiar Norwegian missionary custom involved placing the outstretched thumb and pinkie to your forehead to act as a lightning rod. When someone you're talking to uttered something unforgivably damnable mildly blasphemous an hysterically funny religious observation, just in case God was REALLY pissed at what they'd said you'd make that sign to avoid the collateral damage that a lightning bolt would probably inflict. Needless to say with my cynical attitude, irreverence, and penchant for satire, people around me were always protecting themselves. Needless to say, I never got struck by lightning, but God did get back at me by placing me with this one companion for four months who made my life Hell. Several times during that period, I would have wished for lightning!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


How are we supposed to come up with the political will to actually DO something about global warming when there are people out there who have this kind of grasp on planetary rotation? Here's a letter to the editor from an Arkansas newspaper:

"You may have noticed that March of this year was particularyly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two.

"This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

"Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects."

Connie M. Meskimen, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Gee, this liberal Congress could pass a law that stated that 6 months was one year and instantly double EVERY AMERICAN'S LIFE EXPECTANCY. That'd get them reelected!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Grasping at straws

You know your argument has devolved to ridiculous levels when this is one of the opponents says something like this:

"In recent weeks, backers and opponents have discussed when life starts and what death means. A priest testified that embryonic cells are clearly human because people find it gross to consider eating them 'as a kind of human caviar.'"

WHA? How in the world could that be an argument? I hardly think that people finding something gross to eat constitutes something's humanity... Personally I would have a problem eating stem cells from the following sources: horses, chimpanzees, narwhales, venus flytraps, koala bears, lemurs, asps, and... well, now that I think about it, pretty much anything. I guess according to that priest, EVERYTHING is human, because I can't imagine anyone ordering stem cell stew of ANYTHING off a menu... and we live in a world where people will even eat BIRD'S NESTS! Well, in the priest's defense, I will admit we DO eat embryonic chicken cells (except for my grandmother, who HATES eggs with a fiery passion), but only because they're so tasty in a nice omelet.