A place for me to save a few thoughts

Could this be 2019?

I had a disturbing dream last night. I’m sure the dream had something to do with the video I watched yesterday of high schoolers complaining about the new food requirements and fainting from lack of nourishment (YouTube video entitled “We Are Hungry”).

In my dream I was visiting a little girl in a hospital. I was trying to sneak her some food. 

She had been born prematurely, with a body weight under 5 pounds. This put her in the position of not yet being a person. Until she could gain sufficient weight to be a viable living human as defined by the government, she was not allowed to have a given name or to leave the hospital. She was assigned only a number until her weight and height would satisfy government standards.

Because her mother was unable to nurse her, she had to be fed formula at first. The small amount of formula she received was regulated by the government. With the many regulations against child obesity, the amount of nourishment she received was severely limited. She couldn’t get enough to eat to grow enough to show up on the government growth charts.

The little girl in my dream was crawling. In addition to small amounts of formula, she was given food pellets in carefully measured quantities. Real food was not allowed as it required too much preparation. Real food was available only to viable humans.

The penalties for sneaking food into the hospital were horrible. I somehow knew that her father had been imprisoned for doing just that.  Besides, food distribution was very carefully controlled. The government decided what you ate and how much you ate. Being overweight had harsher punishments than drug use or criticizing the government. Farmers markets and home gardens were a thing of the past. Everyone bought their calorie-controlled food with an EBT card in a government grocery store.

There was no realistic recourse in the courts. Since the government was now my advocate in all things, I couldn’t hire a private attorney. Lawyers who still had jobs had to work for either the executive branch or the judicial branch of the government. This wasn’t in my dream, but I assume police officers were no longer allowed to eat donuts.

I was tremendously discouraged. Gmail, the only email option, had become Government Mail, and all apps that might have been used to enlist help from others were distributed and monitored by the government. iTunes had become GTunes, and the iPad was now the GPad. The news media formally changed their name to GMedia, and private bloggers had disappeared.

Could my dream be a look into the future? Could it be 2019 and could Michelle Obama be the sitting president? I hope not. Pete

The Best Super Bowl Ever

We invite our whole family to come over for dinner on Sundays. If everyone came we could have up to 27, but usually we have 10-12. I do most of the cooking because Marieta could be happy never cooking another meal in her life, and she would rather set up tables and do the dishes.

On February 2, 2012, known by some as Super Bowl Sunday, Joe, Ellen, David and their families came over, so there were 16 of us. We were having finger foods. I spent the first half of the game cooking and serving the food, catching only glimpses of the game and the commercials.

By the end of the second quarter, the grandkids were ready for something other than the game. I spent half-time getting them settled downstairs with Peter Pan on the big screen.

Just as I sat down for the second half, Ashley, David’s oldest, came up and asked me to watch Peter Pan with her. I spent the 3rd quarter with Peter on the screen and Ashley snuggled against my arm.

Just before the start of the fourth quarter, David, Ellen and their kids left for home. As I sat down to watch the last part of the game, Shelby, age 2, came in with Julie and Casey. Shelby looked at me and said, “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Let’s jump.” Yo Gabba Gabba is her favorite show, and “jump” means jumping on the huge family room sectional couch.  Downstairs we watched Yo Gabba Gabba while Shelby jumped, danced and sang along. We finished just as the game ended.

Later in the week I would watch all the commercials commercial-free on Hulu and the fourth quarter while on the elliptical. I was happy for the Giants, but I was even happier for me. Grandkids are so much more fun than anything else, and I didn’t have to watch even a second of Madonna.

 

A Thought on Faith, Hope, and Charity

In our little MTC branch of 40 to 50 missionaries (The Missionary Training Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), districts of 8 to 12 missionaries would rotate in and be with us for almost 9 weeks. To make things easier for us in the branch presidency, we would go through a cycle of 7 subjects for our talks in our Sacrament Meetings. With 7 topics, the missionaries never heard the same sermon twice. (We didn’t need 9, because during the 9 Sundays we would have at least two Fast and Testimony Meetings.) The topics were very basic—faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, etc.

Although it would have been easier, I couldn’t give the same talk over and over again. If I didn’t prepare something new, I would get bored listening to myself. This meant I spent a lot of time thinking about and studying the same basics of the gospel over and over again.

For reference material we were allowed to use only the scriptures, Preach My Gospel (the missionary manual of the church) words of the living prophets (recent conference talks), and our personal experiences. Speculations, interesting tangents, and interesting ideas of non-prophets (like C. S. Lewis, for example) were forbidden. We taught Christ’s basic doctrine, since that was what the missionaries were learning to teach.

One of the topics was “Hope.” As I did my research, one of my sources was President Uchtdorf’s October 2008 conference address “The Infinite Power of Hope.” In the talk he said, “Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time.”

Each time I prepared my talk (and also when preparing talks on faith or charity) I would come back to this statement and try to figure out how faith, hope, and charity fit together to create a stable, three-legged stool. I’m sure there are many good answers, but I offer my conclusion. It will take me a few paragraphs to explain.

Faith is a principle of action and power. When someone disagrees with the statement that “faith without works is dead,” I think that person misses the point of the scripture. The verse is not about faith versus works, or grace versus trying to earn our salvation. I think the statement tries to teach us that having faith and doing nothing is not faith. If we have faith, we are faithful. If we have faith, we act and we do. If we have faith in Christ, we try to be like him and to be faithful to his teachings.

Hope is about emotions and feelings. If we have hope, we are hopeful. We have confidence and enthusiasm. If our hope is centered in Christ, we have confidence in his Atonement, and we trust that eventually everything will work out for the best.

Charity is the pure love of Christ. If we have charity, we love unselfishly. It is never about what we need or want. We love selflessly, expecting nothing in return, and love as Christ would love.

So, how do the three fit together? Let’s assume that we feel prompted to visit someone who is sick. If we follow this prompting with faith, we go. Perhaps we grumble to ourselves that we are inconvenienced or that we won’t do any good, but we go.

If we have hope, we go with enthusiasm and confidence. Perhaps we won’t be able to do any good, but still we go with a smile and a happy heart. Perhaps we go to feel better about ourselves or to finish an item on our to-do list, but we go cheerfully.

Finally, if we have charity, we go with no thought for ourselves. We try to see the person as Christ would. Our concern is for that person, and our only desire is help in whatever way we can.

In the case of a missionary, if he knocks on a door, he shows faith. If she has a smile on her face when the door opens, she demonstrates hope. If the concern is only for the person opening the door, and how he or she might help that person, then he or she does it with love. He or she is not thinking about checking a box or meeting a goal.

If we have faith, we go. If we have hope, we go cheerfully. If we have charity, we go for the right reasons. These are my thoughts on the three-legged stool which is stable, even when the surface is rough or uneven. Life is much better when we do, when we do it cheerfully, and when we do it unselfishly.

NCIS and Alzheimer’s Disease

My favorite TV show by far is NCIS. (For those of you surprised by this, I admit to liking Glenn Beck a lot, but not as much as NCIS.) I didn’t start watching NCIS until the 6th season. I started by watching the older shows on a USA Network NCIS marathon on a vacation and was hooked immediately. NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the show solves crimes related to the Navy or Marines.

This week’s episode featured Bob Newhart as a retired NCIS Medical Examiner. His character suffers from Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and he made a visit to his old NCIS office in Washington, DC. While there he became confused. Once the staff solved this week’s crime, they helped Bob Newhart remember his time at NCIS by showing him a video of the people he helped during his career.

Since my dad has AD, the episode hit very close to home. Recently I put together a video for of our 2010 Thanksgiving dinner. I made sure to take a short clip of each of my children, each of their spouses, and each of their children. I edited the whole thing down to 20 minutes and added labels for each person. Like the NCIS episode, I thought I could help my dad remember and get to know his children and grandchildren. Unlike the NCIS episode, when I showed my dad the video, he couldn’t concentrate on it enough to watch it. A little too much of him had already slipped away.

His AD started with what seemed like normal senior forgetfulness. We realized something was wrong, when he would ask the same question more than once or make the same statement more than once. At first he would remember that he had already asked that question. Once he was diagnosed with AD, he knew enough to be depressed and frustrated.

We try to visit my folks every two or three months. Living with him everyday, my stepmom doesn’t notice the changes as much as we do. We notice with each visit that he has lost interest is something he used to like and has lost a skill he used to have.

In the early stage of AD he still liked the news and sports. Slowly he has lost interest in both. He would try to follow and participate in conversations. Now he mostly listens. He still knows his wife, his dog, his children, and his brothers and sisters, but he can’t remember much about them. He is always surprised to learn we have six children and that they are all married with children. Lately he has been discouraged with me when he rediscovers that I don’t have a job.

From what little we knew about AD, we expected him to lose things, to wander around looking for things, and to become confused at times. This seems to happen to all of us at one time or another. What I didn’t understand or expect was that so many other things would be erased from his memory.

We notice especially how he loses skills one by one. Throughout his life he could fix anything and could do just about anything with wood, glass, or electronics. On one visit we noticed he stopped fixing things. For example, a door latch needed oil, but he couldn’t remember to do it or how to do it. On another visit we saw that he couldn’t remember how to work the thermostat. This last visit he had forgotten how to shave. He can still read, but he doesn’t, because he can’t hold on to the context. Now when he looks at a tool, he can’t remember why or how he would use it.

I finally bought a couple of AD books so I would know what to expect. It’s not good. Far from just losing short-term memory or becoming confused more often, AD erases everything. In the end a person has no skills at all, and may even lose the ability to talk and and to walk.

It would be so nice if life were like a TV show and a short video would bring everything back to mind. It is sad, but not every problem can be solved in 42 minutes. Pete

Forget Bond Funds

I guess I’m mostly finished with all the talk of the end of our financial world, so I’ll summarize.

During periods of deflation, especially with increasing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), you want to be in cash. During times of low inflation and decreasing FUD, you might want to carefully be in stocks. During times of high inflation, especially with increasing FUD, you want to own stuff.

Cash means currency (the US dollar or something stronger), bank certificates of deposit (because they have very small penalties if you cash them in early), very short term bonds (US treasury bonds and perhaps the municipal bonds of states in good financial shape), and money market funds.

Be careful not to think of bond funds, especially medium or long-term bond funds as cash. The value of bonds goes down when interest rates go up. With interest rates at historical lows, you don’t want to own bond funds or long-term bonds. (I’m trying not to give advice, but, if you are in an intermediate to long-term bond fund or treasuries due in 5 to 30 years, get out quickly.)

If your 401K lets you choose between a stock fund, a bond fund, and a money market fund, then right now you probably want to be in the money market fund. If you think the US economy is improving or showing signs of improvement, then you’d want to choose a stock fund. If you think interest rates are going down, then, and only then, would you choose the bond fund.

So, for now, forget bond funds. Pete