Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where Have All the Artists Gone?

One of my many New Year's resolutions is to find out where all the talented artists have gone. It seems that I'm always looking to the past to find the best examples of talent, creativity, and self expression, whether it be in the realm of art, music, or literature. I got a new iPod for Christmas and I am hard-pressed to find any modern-day band that compares to the artists of yesteryear. Listen to Queen's Greatest Hits and you'll see what I mean. There is nothing that compares to the vocals, melodies, harmonies, pianos, or guitars. My wife's cousin is an unbelievably talented drummer, despite his 10-year bout with cancer. Even with his physical limitations I know he drums circles around the competition. He's done a lot of studio work for different artists, and the feedback he gets from his peer community is this -- "Nobody plays drums like you anymore." He's my age, so I think it's a generational thing. Yes, there are some new artists that look promising, but until the next musical renaissance comes along I will continue to seek perfection in the past.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thanksgiving Day is that one day we set aside each year to express our gratitude. While I think this is a good idea, it's mostly a symbolic gesture because we really express our gratitude by our actions throughout the year. I think a more accurate term for it is "Thanksgiving Rewards Day," because we really celebrate the fruits of our thanksgiving by stuffing ourselves with turkey and watching football. Again, I think this tradition is fine, as long as we regularly express our thanks through our words and deeds. While I think JFK's legacy is hugely overblown, I think he got it right when he said "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

Yes, we need to live by our words, but uttering them can also be a great comfort to ourselves and others. The story of the thankful Samaritan has great meaning. As Jesus Christ went through Samaria and Galilee, “he entered into a certain village, [and] there met him ten men that were lepers” who “lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus told them to go show themselves unto the priest. “And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God. “And fell down … at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. “And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? “There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. “And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:12–19).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Same Sex Marriage and Polygamy

I'm no expert on the same sex marriage platform, so set me straight (no pun intended) if I'm not accurately representing their position. My instincts tell me that monogamy is not a tenet of the SSM movement. An initial internet search yielded this interesting website devoted to this question.

My hypothesis is this: monogamy is not important to SSM advocates. How do I come to this conclusion? Well, for starters, monogamy doesn't appear to be a plank in the platform. Second, SSM advocates often use infidelity and marriage failure rates among heterosexual couples as an argument in favor of SSM. The rationale is that heterosexual couples have done enough damage to the institution of marriage that SSM won't make any difference. This reasoning is often used against traditional marriage advocates, who generally believe that SSM will destroy the institution of marriage. My biggest reason for opposing SSM is that it would allow public schools to teach the next generation that SSM is normal. I believe SSM confuses children, frustrates the family unit, and has irreversible negative social consequences, but that's a topic for a different blog.

My point is this: SSM advocates claim that marriage is a right that should be extended to homosexuals. They base this on the fact that marriage is a legal arrangement between consenting adults. If I have framed their argument correctly, then in order to remain logically consistent and to strengthen their argument even further, SSM advocates should actively support plural marriage as well. Proposition 8 provided California with a definition of marriage: the union of one man and one woman. The objection from SSM advocates focuses solely on the issue of gender, not on the number of participants. If marriage is a right that consenting adults are entitled to, and if monogamy is not a stated ideal, then they should have no problem with institutionalized polygamy. Yet SSM advocates avoid the plural marriage issue like the plague, and they are smart to do so because they understand the stigma associated with polygamy. Their silence on this question is understandable, but I would love to hear an SSM movement representative provide a clear and unequivocal statement on polygamy.

A June 2006 article in the Weekly Standard included some interesting conclusions on polygamy by Stanley Kurtz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute. He was grieved at the arguments of modern intellectuals who support decriminalizing polygamy. Kurtz concluded, "Marriage, as its ultramodern critics would like to say, is indeed about choosing one's partner, and about freedom in a society that values freedom. But that's not the only thing it is about. As the Supreme Court justices who unanimously decided Reynolds in 1878 understood, marriage is also about sustaining the conditions in which freedom can thrive. Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family." While I tend to agree with his conclusion, it doesn't really demonstrate the nexus between polygamy and the undermining of freedom/democracy.

So I ask...if it's really all about consenting adults, on what basis can one support SSM and oppose polygamy?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Size Does Matter

As I sit here composing this blog, I'm enjoying a nice large bowl of my favorite cold cereal. It's one of those oatmealy-raisiny cereals, the kind that sticks in your teeth, doused in extra-cold milk. Sometimes I pour the milk in a bowl and put it in the freezer for a few minutes, just until a small ring of ice forms around the edge. I love cereal, and I know why. Growing up in a relatively large family with little disposable income, we ate what my mom bought. And that was usually Corn Flakes. On special occasions, or when my mom was feeling unusually spendthrift, we got Shredded Wheat, Kix, or Cheerios...but 95% of the time it was Corn Flakes. I hate Corn Flakes. In my movie about an overpopulated future earth, the dramatic phrase would be "Soylent Green Corn Flakes!"

Recently I became aware of my tendency to eat out of extremely large bowls. This is not good, because what looks like a small amount in a large bowl is actually a fairly large amount of food. I believe I started doing this after my mission to Korea, where they put hot soups and other foods in incredibly large bowls. They only fill the bowl about halfway, but I think part of the reason is that it helps prevents spills. I need to control my portions, so I'm going to try to select smaller vessels in an attempt to trick myself into thinking I'm eating a lot. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's Your Story?

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a childhood friend I haven't seen in over 30 years lives less than 10 miles from me and is still a faithful member of my church. He spoke in my ward today and shared some personal stories related to his assigned topic. It was quite nostalgic. It made me think about the other speaker -- the high councilman who droned on an on and didn't tell one personal story. He essentially read from the scriptures and summed up with his testimony. If there's one thing that people in our church need to learn, it's public speaking. Yes, I think that sharing one's personal convictions in public can have a strong impact on an audience and move them spiritually, but I also like to hear their personal stories and the experiences that have shaped their character. Good public speaking is essentially the art of storytelling, and it would do us all good to reflect on those stories that have shaped us and to share them in a meaningful way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bicycle Safety

As a commuter via automobile, motorcycle, and bicycle, I am keenly aware of the dynamic interactions between vehicles of differing proportions. As a result, I ride my “higher risk” conveyances very cautiously and try to avail myself of the safest route in a given situation. According to Washington State law, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and is expected to follow the same rules as motor vehicles. Yet there are many situations when it is simply suicidal to pretend I’m anything but a bike (narrow, winding, shoulder-less roads with fast moving traffic, to name one). I want to share a situation that I encounter nearly every bike commuting day, with the hope that a little education will result in greater safety for cyclists. Two streets intersect, and the street I’m traveling on has stop signs. I stop and wait for an opportunity to cross the intersection. Invariably a car will stop for me, even though it doesn’t have to, intending to yield the right of way. This is a courteous, thoughtful, and dangerous thing to do. It is dangerous because the motorist cannot force the traffic in the opposing lane to stop for me. It reminds me of the fairly common situation in which a motorist traveling in the left lane stops for an oncoming car turning left in front of him. This seems to be the "nice" thing to do, but the motorist cannot control whether the driver in the right lane will stop. Treating bicyclists more like motorists, and less like a special class of vehicle, is safer for everyone concerned. Although the situation usually dictates the best course of action, a good rule of thumb is -- if you wouldn’t yield the right of way to a car, you probably shouldn’t do it for a cyclist.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I am an environmentalist, but not a raging, pathological one. I try to commute to work on my bike as much as possible and consume resources sparingly, but I don't preach to others. I don't workship Gaia, nor do I passionately embrace my forest friends of the wooden variety. I do like trees though; you've got to if you live in the Pacific Northwest. Yet I think a lot of committed environmentalists believe we are depleting our resources, and once they're gone the world will end. Many radicals actually believe they care more for the environment than others. This is a perverse way of thinking, because it assumes that people are indifferent to a declining quality of life. If there is a nexus between the environment and quality of life, then it stands to reason that we are all environmentalists to one degree or another. Most people are driven by self-interest, so it's logical that they want clean, pristine surroundings and enough resources to maintain or improve their standard of living. It's not really a matter about who cares more, but a difference of opinion about what can be done to preserve our surroundings and conserve/expand our resources. I don't think it's a zero-sum game. There is just too much curiosity, innovation, and imagination on the earth to limit us to what we've got right now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Against the Grain

It seems that no matter where I've lived during my life, I've never fully assimilated into the dominant culture. There has always been a certain tension, whispering that somehow I am different from the rest. It might have something to do with my semi-nomadic life journey, which has taken me from Los Angeles, to Salt Lake City, to South Korea, to Seattle. I have lived in the Puget Sound region longer than any other place, so I am comfortable calling it home. Yet even here I cannot help but reject many of the social, political, and cultural ideologies that are commonly held by the mainstream community.

I was a toddler during the 60's, yet I missed much of the anti-establishment movement and only learned about it later as a teenager and young adult. While there is something about the peace & love generation that strikes a chord with me, I believe it generally devolved into a radical movement with very negative elements that can still be seen today. Part of me wants to "stick it to the man," but the other part recognizes that the man is generally a productive and positive contribution to society.

In politics I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the conservative/liberal continuum. Socially I'm conservative and pro-life but I also feel the government should do what it can to help level the playing field. I believe in rugged individualism and personal accountability, but also accept the notion that some are disadvantaged through no fault of their own. There are some Libertarian principles that ring true for me, yet I feel the movement is largely irrelevant and guided by some crackpot theories.

Utah and Seattle are polar opposites; Utah is a bastian of conservative thought, and liberalism dominates the culture of the Puget Sound. The ideological rift between western Washington and eastern Washington is interesting; there are still some today who feel eastern Washington should secede and become its own state, with Spokane as its capital. I don't believe secession is the answer, but the idea demonstrates the extremes that people do consider.

My right-brain thinking lends itself well to the culture of Seattle, but I will never accept blue hair, tattoos, and multiple piercings as the fashion norm. These freaks need to realize that no one will ever take them seriously looking like they do. However, I respect creativity and individual expression as long as it doesn't create hostility or negatively impacts others. The flip side to this is the overly puritanical attitudes of religious conservatives. I am a person of faith, yet I cannot help feeling like a rebel compared to others in my congregation (ward). Sometimes I'll get a puzzled look if a wear something other than a white shirt to church. I heard a joke about three things one can do to stay out of the bishopric: 1) wear colored shirts; 2) grow a beard; and 3) call everyone by their first name. I no longer have a goatee, but I cannot part with my soul patch.

Although Utah is a conservative state, I recognize that the higher population centers, like Salt Lake, are gradually becoming more liberal. I think this is the natural progression of urban growth -- the idea that as the population grows and people are crowded into smaller spaces, the greater the urge to foster a sense of community. I think community is laudable and something we should aspire to, but when taken to its extreme it becomes communism, which I think is very bad. I also think in higher population centers there is a tendency to dehumanize people and view them as objects, or obstacles to overcome. I especially feel this when trying to negotiate a busy city street full of pedestrians.

The conservative side of me believes that the family is the fundamental unit of society. I think we should rely on family for everything and look to the government as a last resort. Unfortunately, due to bad luck in some cases and poor choices in others, reliance on the government is a first resort. Government should be there to provide some welfare assistance, but it's important to understand that government will never care more for the needy than family will. That's one of the reasons I think there is too much emphasis on the presidency of the United States. Some feel that the person who occupies the oval office will have a huge impact on their lives. These are the same people using the phrase "Think globally, act locally," yet they can't help their neighbor or be civil at the grocery store. I believe that we make the biggest impact on the local level, and that really begins with families, friends, relatives, and neighbors. I think the most important work I can do is to teach my kids to be honest, productive, law-abiding, educated members of society (queue the Whitney Houston song).

So for most of my life I feel I've gone against the grain, but perhaps subconsciously, and now consciously, there's an optimal tension I need to maintain my equilibrium.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Accepting "What Is"

It's been several weeks since my last blog, mostly because I've been extremely busy with projects around the house as well as summer activities with the kids. I've also been spending a lot of time reading other blogs and news, but I haven't felt much motivation to write anything myself. I guess I could feel bad about it, but I'm at a point in my life where I don't really feel too bad about anything. I think too many of us feel bad about ourselves because our culture teaches us that we need to measure up to some artificial standard, and when we don't measure up we're supposed to feel guilt or shame. It tells us the way things "should" be. Well I hate the word "should" when it's used to tell me what I'm supposed to do. Obviously in some contexts there is a societal consensus as to what constitutes appropriate behavior. On the other hand, there are many situations in life where "should" clearly does not apply. Lately, I've been able to relieve a lot of stress and anxiety through meditation and by focusing on "what is," rather than "what should be." It's very difficult to do because our culture tells us otherwise. But I am making progress and am feeling some relief from the pressures of life. I am finding that when I feel fear, anxiety, or pain (not the "ouch I hit my thumb with a hammer" kind of pain) it's usually because there is some dissonance in my mind between what is, and what I think should be. I am also coming to the realization that we have far less control over our circumstances than we think. Yes, the rugged individualist in me would claim otherwise, but there are actually very few things in life we can control. I think it has something to do with that pesky principle called free agency.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day?

I like Independence Day, but most people only know it as the Fourth of July. I asked an adult co-worker what holiday was coming up, and she replied "The Fourth of July." I said, "No, not the date, the holiday." She was confused.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Snatch the Pebble from my Hand

I know my boys are spoiled and my wife overindulges them, but I love them all the same. They've had more unique and interesting experiences in their short lives than I had by the time I was 25, but I know that ultimately it will be be to their advantage.

Luckily for us, and by us I mean my wife Alisa, the kids have extremely busy summer schedules complete with swim team, scout camp, ceramics classes, and now, Kung Fu. Yes, all four of them will be studying this martial art of the Far East. I cannot imagine what motivated Michael to ask for Kung Fu lessons. Yes, we recently saw the movie "Kung Fu Panda," but I just don't see the connection.

I can see it now. I arrive home from a long, stressful day of work, anticipating a quiet, relaxing evening at home with the wife and kids. Suddenly, four black-robed Kung Fu masters emerge from the shadows, intent on my slow, painful demise. I try desperately to fight them off, armed only with my wits and superior physical strength. Yet they are too many, and I fall victim to Tiger, Mantis, Viper, and Monkey.

Actually, I'm excited that they're interested in Kung Fu because it puts a little more emphasis on the mental-emotional-physical nexus than other marital arts. But mostly I just want to call them "Grasshopper."

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Father's Day was bittersweet for me today, having buried my father about two weeks ago. My wife, kids, and in-laws are always great on Father's Day, though. Alisa always gets me a card and a nice gift, and the kids always make something special at school or in Sunday School. Usually it's a custom tie with the kids' picture on it, or a hand-made card, piece of pottery, t-shirt, etc. Alisa is much more deserving of Mother's Day than I am of Father's Day. The kids are deserving of nothing. Sounds harsh I know, but in our home, every day is Kids' Day.

The kids are counting down the days until school is over; I imagine their teachers are too. They get out on June 18 and go back the day after Labor Day. Michael had a particularly difficult year. The transition to middle school was not smooth for him, but the challenge has made him stronger and I'm sure next year will be much better. His grades were surprisingly good, compared to how the year started. There was something discernibly wrong with him at the beginning of the school year. After a lot of research and doctor's visits, we discovered he is allergic to most foods. Wheat, corn, soy, eggs, milk, tomatoes, and yeast, to name a few. He subsists primarily on rice and teriyaki chicken or beef. He can eat fruits and vegetables, but he is unwilling to do so. The other kids are also mildly allergic. Michael takes some digestive enzymes and other treatments for the allergies. The doctor says that his allergies should subside at some point in the future. I had a missionary companion who had similar allergies, but he could not resist his food temptations. He also couldn't resist the temptation to go on splits with another missionary and see a Van Halen concert. Too bad for them some church members saw them in the crowd, but that's another story. Every so often this unnamed companion of mine would go on a binge and eat an entire half-gallon of ice cream; he'd then spend the rest of the night in the bathroom. Everything he ate would eventually come back out, but I'm not sure which end.

Joseph is the best for eating healthy foods, but he's also the one with the biggest sweet tooth. The number of different things Adam eats can be counted on one hand: potatoes, meat, cheese, rice, and fruit. Benjamin's tastes are similar to Joseph's. At least they eat my homemade chili, which is mostly beans. I love beans and legumes. There's so much you can do with them, and they're so good for you. Alisa's uncle used to say "The more fiber it has, the more you should eat. The less fiber it has, the less you should eat." I'm kind of nutty about fiber. I take a fiber supplement every morning, just to make sure I'm getting some during the day. Some days I don't eat well, so I know the fiber is doing some good. My brother's friend, a gastroenterologist, said if you're not getting enough fiber in your diet, a supplement will help. Most Americans don't eat nearly enough fiber; too many prepared and processed foods available. That's why colon cancer is so prevalent in this country. We are also too sedentary. We've moved past the agricultural age, through the industrial age, and now reside squarely in the information age. There's not a lot of physical movement required in the information age. It used to be we had to work, physically work, 8-12 hours a day in the field. My grandparents grew their own fruits and vegetables and lived quite independently until a couple years before they passed away. Grandpa and Grandma Passey lived to be 96 and 97, respectively. Their lives are a great example of work ethic and cooperation. My Grandma Krogh was a workaholic. I learned a lot about a hard day's work from her. She would put us to work mowing the lawn, clipping the hedges, raking leaves, painting, helping with the roofing project, you name it. I'm very grateful for these examples, because I think we're slowly losing the work ethic of the previous generation. People say that we are busier and work longer hours today than we did in the past. I would agree we are busier, but that doesn't always mean work. I think more and more people are becoming allergic to work and exercise.

A lot can be said about the relationship between physical activity and mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The benefits of physical exercise on our brains and our spirits is often understated. My goal is to get more physical exercise, and more sleep, so I can be a little sharper. I'm going to go pump up my tires so I can ride my bike to work tomorrow.

Monday, June 9, 2008

T.M.I. (Too Much Information)

I'm no English scholar, but I've always been fascinated by words and etymology. Probably comes from my dad, who loved a good play on words. I know the question will come up sooner or later, so I might as well dispel the great mystery about the name of my blogsite now. My dad loved to give ordinary words unique and complex spellings, as well as come up with new words and names for things. He also created his own pet names for his children, such as "Skarpathian Pugsforth," and "Buford Paisley" (Buford, you know who you are). "Skarpathian" is a bit of a stretch from "Scott," but then again, that was my dad.

In college I had a couple roommates who shared my interest in vocabulary. One of them had a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary (the print was so small you almost had to use a magnifying glass) and we'd look up various words for fun. One day we came across the word "gymnos." This is a Greek root meaning "naked" or "in the nude." It is evident from the art and history of the ancient Greeks that they had great admiration for the human form. It is said that athletes and Olympians in ancient Greece would compete in their events either completely naked or with very little attire (count me out for wrestling!). My roommates and I would jokingly use the word in such context as "I'm going to get gymnos and take a shower now." It is fairly clear how the words "gym," "gymnastic," and gymnasium" are derived from this root. Unfortunately for me, these words elicit some disturbing imagery every time I hear them. I am mildly revulsed at the prospect of holding a meeting or event in the "gymnasium," and the thought of my son taking a "gym" class is somewhat troubling.

Yes, words can be interesting, but sometimes too much information is a bad thing.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dee Clinton Passey, 1935-2008

It is difficult, if not impossible, to sum up the measure of a man’s life in a sentence, paragraph, or even a page. Dee Passey’s greatest legacy will be his example and the attributes that live on in his posterity.

I remember many examples and hidden life lessons taught by one who was scarcely aware he was teaching. I remember Dad teaching my deacon’s quorum in Taylorsville, Utah – I don’t remember the lesson, but I do remember the bag of Chips Ahoy cookies he brought for the team that got the most answers right. I remember the fun we had when we were kids playing around in the yard, shooting off rockets pressurized with water. I’m sure this came from the rocket scientist in him, as did the Red Devil firework displays each year. I remember how each of the boys in our family won first place, or close to it, in each of the scout pinewood derby races we competed in. Dad shaped and crafted our racers with the meticulous precision that only an engineer could possess. I remember one year he was responsible for providing the trophies, and in an attempt to get the glue to dry quickly, he accidentally melted them in the oven. They resembled shiny wilted flowers.

I knew Dad to be a man of few words and simple means, but he could make your head spin on many subjects, including politics, religion, science, medicine, and technology. I’m just beginning to grasp about half of what he tried to explain to me – when we meet on the other side I will ask him to clarify the other half. I cherish our many telephone conversations in which we exchanged various observations and philosophies on life. I remember a man who was smart, witty, talented, and extraordinarily creative, yet his humility and quiet dignity belied his education and intelligence. Dad’s deadpan sense of humor was arguably his best asset, and that attribute can be seen in many of his children and grandchildren. No doubt he got it from G.I. Passey, the original funny man (“Sit on the ground and let your feet hang over”).

Dad had an infectious smile, was always glad to see you, and had a genuine concern for each member of his family. He was always interested in what others were doing – the epitome of selflessness. I remember a man who, at times, was weighed down by life’s burdens, yet he carried those burdens with a positive attitude and a hope for a new tomorrow. Dad was by no means perfect, but who can achieve perfection in this lifetime? I know that most things he did were for the purpose of improving his family’s lot in life. Dad has had an immeasurable impact on my life, and when I see him again I will thank him for his love, concern, and contribution to who I am. Thank you Dad, I love you.

Hitting the Dreaded 40's

This is my first foray into the world of blogging, so please bear with me as I negotiate the landscape. I've always been a few years behind the curve, except in the case of DVD players. I remember buying one of the first DVD players on the market, a Toshiba model, for about $350 on sale. I typically avoid being the first to invest in new technology; I'd rather let someone else victimize himself by being the beta tester.

Anyway, it's been a tough adjustment to admit I'm middle-aged. Scrapes and bruises don't heal so fast anymore; I always feel tired and sore, even when I'm trying to exercise; and I can no longer hide my male pattern baldness. My dad went bald much earlier in life, so I can be grateful that my hair has lasted about 15 years longer than his. Yet I have reached a crossroads in which I have to make a fateful decision. I can try to grow my hair out to obscure the "island," the small tuft of hair remaining in the front, or I can cut everything else so close that I'm practically bald anyway. I'm leaning towards the latter. I've always thought the "comb-over" look was ridiculous, and I've never seen anyone hide their baldness with any degree of success, except with a hat. For someone who always had thick hair it will definitely be a different look for me, but I'm okay with it. I just don't want to get sunburned. I suppose the natural reaction is to compensate for this loss in some other way, like body-building or buying a new sports car. However, I am disinclined to pursue either.