Thursday, January 28, 2010

Adventures in Sunday School: What would you do?

As some of you might know I am back in my favorite calling teaching Sunday School, and I am teaching the best age group, the 16 to 18 year old teenagers.

So I am what most people would call a liberal Mormon and that is okay with me. Even with that when teaching Sunday School I try to be neutral, or at least present both perspectives with the kids. Basically my goal is for them not to take things for granted, like their testimony or gospel knowledge, and to really think about the material and their relationship with God.

That said we had a great moment in class the other day. I was teaching Abraham 322-23 about how many were called before they were born.

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

From there I wanted to transition to the thought that this was not a unique event in scripture and went to Jeremiah 1:5.

5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations

Just as I was ready to move on one of my students pipes in with this question, “Why does it say ‘see birth control’ in the footnote?”

So you are teaching a class of teenagers in a small ward, how do you answer this? Be aware they were looking for an answer that discusses birth control. I will post my response later.

SLASH – Book #2

| Title | Slash |
| Author | Slash with Anthony Bozza |
| Genre | Biography |
| Pages | 458 |
| Publisher | HarperCollins |
| Copyright | 2007 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
Most of the book focuses on Slash's years with Guns N' Roses, including many rock star cliches: trashed hotel rooms, groupies, drug abuse, etc. Slash talks about Axl Rose, front man of Guns N' Roses, and the breakup of the band in the mid-1990s. He explains that Axl's inability to show up to gigs and rehearsals on time, in addition to Axl's almost dictator-like control of the band contributed to the band's downfall. Slash also states that Axl wanted to change the musical direction of the band to include more synthesizers and effects, rather than guitar-driven rock as with their earlier material.

Why I read It
I like early Guns & Roses, Slash is arguably one of the best in the world at what he does, and I found him interesting on his turn as celebrity mentor on American Idol.

What I Thought About It
First of all this book is very honest. Very honest about being in a rock band, the personality struggles between the various members, and what it is like being a junkie. You feel some sympathy for him, but he takes responsibility for a lot of the problems in his life. If you ever want to be a rock star you need to read this first; hopefully you can avoid a lot of problems in your career. The biggest and best message of the book for me was what it takes to be great, in this case the guitar.

Slash was a major BMX’er in his youth until he got a guitar as a teenager. From that day forward he just gave up riding. I think it speaks to the power of finding our true love in life. Once you have it you never waste anymore time on distractions. I am not sure if that sort of dedication is required to be great, but it surely cannot hurt. His first guitar was a cheap acoustic with only one string, but that didn’t stop him from practicing for hours. He would play the notes up and down the one string until he could get the rest. I also like how he learns that you cannot really be great guitar player by copying someone else’s style. It is okay to learn from other’s, but you have to be yourself. Very Bruce Lee like. Ultimately he learned that he had to give up trying to read sheet music for other people’s songs and just keep trying things out as he learned songs by ear. After many hours of practicing he would eventually figure it out, but in the process he learned a lot about how the notes and tempo work together.So we have dedication (without distraction), tons of practice (you should love practicing), no excuses about why you can’t (as they say in ultramarathoning RFD, relentless forward motion no matter what), and be true to yourself (innovate not imitate).

The second message for me was the effects of drugs and how they can control you and ultimately destroy you and those in your life.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography
Saul Hudson, better known by his stage name Slash, is a British and American musician. Originally from Stoke-on-Trent, England, he moved to Los Angeles, California as a child, where he began his career in the music industry. Slash is best-known as the former lead guitarist of hard rock band Guns N' Roses, with whom he performed and recorded between 1985 and 1996. He later formed the eponymous Slash's Snakepit and co-founded Velvet Revolver with his former bandmates Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum. His debut solo album, Slash, is due to be released in 2010. In August 2009, Time Magazine named him #2 on its list of the 10 Best Electric Guitar Players of All-Time
Anthony Bozza is a New York City-based author and journalist who is most famous for his writing in Rolling Stone Bozza is also well-known for his bestselling books on musicians which include rapper Eminem and hard rock band AC/DC as well as his work as co-author on the autobiographies of artists which include Slash, INXS, and Tommy Lee.

The Redbreast – Book #1

| Title | The Redbreast |
| Author |Jo Nesbo |
| Genre |Fiction - Mystery |
| Pages |521 |
| Publisher |HarperCollins |
| Copyright |2000 (trans. 2006) |

Synopsis (from web-site)
Voted the 'Best Norwegian Crime Novel of All Time'
The book, published by Harvill Secker and translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, is set in the weeks before the new millennium. It follows Harry Hole, a police officer of seven years and a recovering alcoholic, who is forced to make a judgement call which ultimately and unexpectedly results in his promotion to inspector. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until he hears of an unusual gun being fired. Then a former World War II soldier is found with his throat cut and things take a bloody turn.

Why I read It
I really enjoy Swedish and Icelandic fiction so I testing the waters of other Scandinavian countries, Norway in this case.

What I Thought About It
I am always apprehensive when I start a new (to me) author and the book is fairly large. I guess I am afraid of commitment, because life is too short to waste time on books I don’t like. This is why you will rarely see me be really negative about a book; I will quit reading it if it doesn’t grab me by page 50. This book delivered though. Strong mystery and it was tied into history which is always an added bonus for me. I never knew about Norway’s involvement with the Nazi’s on the Russian front. Even with that the mystery boils down to a crime of resentment and jealousy, and the solution is obtained with solid police work. Real crime with authentic investigation, perfect.

Funny because I am immature, the lead character is named Harry Hole. It probably has different connotations in the original Norwegian.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography
Jo Nesbø worked as a freelance journalist and a stockbroker before he began his writing career. The No.1 national bestseller, The Bat Man, is the first installment in the Harry Hole series. He sings and writes songs for the band Di Derre. He has also tried his hands on writing children's books.

The Thresher Award for Non-Fiction

What makes great non-fiction? It must present interesting information in a captivating way. That is where most non-fiction fails. It is either way to dry where only the most diehard enthusiast can be bothered to make it all the way through (i.e. my Thesis), or the subject matter just doesn't have anything going for it. Now most books I read meet the last qualification because I wouldn’t have picked it up to begin with. This list of five books where very readable and overall I learned quite a few things from them.

In reverse order:
5. Got Fight by Forrest Griffen
Informational AND funny AND insightful about more things than the actual topic.

4. How We Decide by John Lehrer
One of many psychology books I read this year. Good examples are used to illustrate what should be commonsense principles.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen
One of those pivotal moments in my generations history is laid out in this interesting book. The real power of the book comes in the analysis of the mental state of the young men who committed this terrible slaughter. If you ever wanted to know more about what actually happened (there are a lot of myths out there) than this should be one of your source books.

2. Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters by Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa
I was almost tempted to make this my non-fiction book of the year because it was so much fun and led to a lot of casual discussion and debates. This book is based in evolutionary psychology, the premise that every decision we make is based on us surviving and propagating the species. With that starting point they attempt to explain all number of human behaviors with plenty of examples. If you are looking for a really good time with a psychology book, then this is absolutely the one you should get. According to this theory, Mormons should be one of the top proponents of gay marriage. Read it to see what I mean.

And the Winner is:

1. Hope Endures by Colette Livermore
This book is the memoir of a former nun in Mother Teresa’s Order. It recounts her life as she joined as a teenager and the next twenty years she spent working with the poor before she left to pursue a medical degree. This book made me really ponder what it means to be a Christian and become more aware of Pharisaical behaviors that pervade modern Christianity. This book is interesting but also has the power to change your life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where I apologise to my future son-in-law

This was a real interaction between Cenny my 9yo daughter and Zeke my 10yo son.

Cenny, in a firm and authoritative tone: Zeke, let the dog out.

Zeke: I don't have to. Why don't you let the dog out?

Cenny, in the same tone: Zeke, let the dog out.

Zeke: You are a butt. You let the dog out.

Cenny: Zeke, let the dog out.

Zeke, yelling: No. You stink. I don't have to.

Cenny: Zeke, let the dog out.

Zeke, walking to the door with the dog: You're lazy. You stink, etc., etc, etc.

Cenny sits down on the couch next to me and says: Zeke is so easy to get to do stuff. Just keep repeating yourself and ignore what he says.

To my future son-in-law - you never had a chance. Sorry

Good To Know

How Much Is Your Sperm Worth?
Created by Online Education

Most people get $40 or less, the maximum is $200.

Sperm banks pay the most for young men who are taller than 6", attractively built, possess advanced degrees and have proof of a very healthy family tree.
Don't worry if the number seems low because banks are INCREDIBLY picky.

The Thresher Award for Fiction

I have selected nine books but they are from five authors. At the end of the day these books made me think and provided an excellent story. I wouldn't hesitate to pick up any of these again for another read through, and I would recommend them to everyone interested in a good journey. Ultimately good fiction is just that, a journey in which you leave your life if just for a little bit and experience something foreign. It takes a skilled writer to transcend the words on a page, and then to open your own life up for self-analysis.
In reverse order:

5. Italians Shoes by Henning Mankell
Henning Mankell is one of my favorite authors and this little story is a departure from his crime fiction that has made him internationally famous. It is a story of second chances and commitment set in the wilderness of Sweden.

4. The Riley Spartz Series (Stalking Susan and Missing Mark) by Julie Kramer
Julie Kramer is a local writer who has hit a homerun with this pair of books about Minneapolis investigative TV news reporter Riley Spartz. Great writing, especially for a new author, plus good solid mysteries to boot. The best part of these books for me is all the Minnesota references thrown in. As Minnesota is my adoptive state, I found myself recognizing most of them. The best news of all is Julie Kramer is coming to my library on the 21st to speak!

3. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
This book was disturbing but I couldn’t put it down. I pick it up to read a few pages before bed and the next thing I knew it was 2am and I was done. It reminded me a lot of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, but more graphic. This is the story of a young girl kidnapped by a pedophile and kept as a sexual slave for years. If you ever feel that the press desensitizes the issue of kidnapped children or other victims of sexual assault (I get the romantic impression from the media that while it is bad, it isn’t that bad) then this book will set that myth straight. The horrific circumstances that abused victims must endure should never be taken lightly, or the whitewashing of the perpetrators given to easily.

2. The Garnethill Trilogy (GarnetHill, Exile, Resolution) by Denise Mina
Tartan Noir at its best in these three wonderful books. Murder, mystery, revenge, and mental illness are all laid out in this overarching plot on the streets of modern Scotland. If you want to see what Scottish mystery is all about (and there is a lot out there to enjoy) you cannot do better than this series. This book also features a nontraditional investigator who is battling demons of her own involving a very real descriptions of depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

And the winner is

1. The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo {read in 2008}, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest) by Stieg Larsson
These books are phenomenal! I am totally on the wagon for this worldwide sensation starring troubled investigated reporter Mikael Blomkvist and his reluctant partner, the slightly autistic and computer genius Lisbeth Salander. After Khaleed Hosseni, these books have been the largest sellers in the world for good reason. Book one has already been made into a movie in Sweden but an American studio is already looking to make an English version.
The beautiful, diminutive, and kick ass heroine has been mistreated and underestimated her whole life because she is different (has trouble with social relationships), and because of her unfortunate family history. Even to the point that the powers that be have taken steps to trash her life to meet their goals. The idealist reporter is always willing to take on the good fight regardless of the odds; he just has to believe that what he is doing is right.
Book one finds them investigating an old mystery at the behest of a powerful and rich family. Book two moves into Lisbeth’s past and the steps she takes to get even and the actions of the corrupt to destroy her. Book 3 finds them dealing with the repercussions of book 2.
Unfortunately Steig Larsson passed away after writing these three books because his original outlines showed he planned on a 10 book series. I mourn him and those lost 7 books.

So if I can recommend anything, the Millennium Trilogy is a not to missed opportunity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

It is time for the Thresher Awards

So this year I officially managed to read 119 books, not my best since I started keeping track back 7 years ago, but still pretty good (I read 122 in 2006). Now I realize most of you will not be inclined to read back through all the reviews so I will make my annual best of the best list; the top five nonfiction and fiction books of the year.

Now this may not be as prestigious as some of the other book awards out there, but it might be one day. To qualify I must have read your book in the year 2009 regardless of when you published it. I won’t list all 119 out here, but here are the statistics I kept track of:
119 total books
37 Nonfiction books
82 Fiction books
39 Female Authors
80 Male Authors

And for you statistic nerds out there;
31 Fiction books by Female Authors
8 Nonfiction books by Female Authors
51 Fiction Books by Male Authors
29 Nonfiction Books by Male Authors

This upcoming year I will also keep track of pages read. Please suggest any other stats that would be interesting. Award posts to follow shortly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Can We Say Awkward???

I know the gays love me, being I am a totally hot guy, but sometimes even I am caught off guard.

So I was at the grocery store picking up some stuff for Lisa - because she is very demanding. Anyways, I am checking out when the DUDE bagging my stuff looks at me, and in a quiet voice says:

"I get off work at 10pm."

I was like ok, whatever, and then I quickly got out of there. I hope he doesn't wait for me too long.

***For those of you not in the know, my oldest works as a bag boy at the grocery store***