This article attempts to discuss the relationship between marriage and religion, as it has previously been asserted by many that there is none.  It also attempts to address how the intersection or religion and politics should be handled.

The Significance of Traditional Marriage

The most important reason traditional marriage should be upheld and defended is to protect the children.  Children everywhere have the right to be born and raised in a good family that will help them to grow, learn, and develop in a happy, safe, and loving environment.  It is the responsibility of adults everywhere in the world to make sure this is a reality.  We must defend the rights of children because they have no way to defend themselves.  For example: one may argue that homosexual or single couples possess a “right” to have children.  Rather, children have the right to not be a commodity.

One of the requirements for a healthy family is a marriage between two people of opposite and complementary genders—male and female.  Children have a right to have both a mom and a dad.  In cases where death, divorce, or other circumstances make this difficult, others ought to help them as much as they can.  Extended family and friends can lend aid to families who go through difficulties like this.  However, we should in no way endorse the propagation of “families” which from the start are improperly attempted to be formed through a sexually intimate relationship with two partners of the same gender.  Such a relationship does not create a family.

The Relationship Between Marriage and Religion

Many years ago, this truth would be obvious.  Now, people are confused.  Fortunately for us, we have the following document to help people everywhere remember and understand what exactly a family is:

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

This proclamation was written by prophets.  Yes, prophets—prophets like Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, and others.  There are prophets today on the earth.  You can learn more about prophets here and here.  They are a topic for a different discussion.  The point here is that they remind us of the will of God, our Heavenly Father.  When God created the earth and filled it with people, He established a very particular way that they were to live and populate the earth.  Here is a portion of His word from the Proclamation:

…marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

That first phrase “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” is extremely important.  It says the God, and no one else, ordained or instituted marriage, and He did so with the condition that it be only between a man and a woman.  Any relationship that does not meet this requirement cannot, by the very word of God, be marriage.

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

Here is further evidence to the sanctity and divine importance of preserving traditional marriage.  It is nothing other than a commandment from the very God that created this earth.

Marriage is a religious institution.  This truth is self-evident.  Marriages are most commonly held in church buildings, officiated by priests or other religious officials, described in the scriptures, and believed by many to be divine, inspired and sacred.  Traditional marriage is the oldest institution in the entire history of humanity.  Members of certain faiths, such as my own, even believe that when performed with the proper divine authority, marriage can last beyond the grave and into the eternities.

Religious freedom to define marriage is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  I’ll accept that this allows homosexuals to argue that according to their religious beliefs they can “marry” each other.  However, this also means that any religious institution and any individual has the right to recognize or not recognize such a relationship purely on religious grounds.  As citizen of the United States, I claim that right.  I refuse to recognize what may be termed as “homosexual marriages.”  I do not support the adoption of children by homosexual couples because I firmly believe it is a desecration of the sacred family organization that God instituted and a perversion of innocent children’s lives.

Marriage doesn’t appear to increase freedom

At the end of it all, this debate seems to hold an empty victory for the “winners” following the court decision because marriage doesn’t actually appear to increase freedom.  Generally when people marry, they promise to have sex less freely than they might otherwise.  They promise to limit the extent of their intimate associations with others dramatically.  They promise to watch their words and their actions so as to be faithful to their spouses.

Are people really celebrating the long-awaited declaration of the right to be restricted?

Let’s make a clarification here: benefits are not the same as freedom.  In fact, benefits in and of themselves imply some kind of restriction.  For example: married couples may receive tax breaks especially if they have lots of children.  However, these benefits are conditional on a restriction: the couple must be married and in custody of their children.

If homosexuals in intimate relationships desire to have these same benefits there are plenty of legal ways around that without mandating that religions change their doctrines to accept a new government-founded religion of bureaucracy.

Religion and Politics

Religion and Politics cannot remain separate forever—if someone says it is their religion to kill innocent people (the supposed ideology of many terrorist organizations), the government should not allow its practice.  If someone says it is their religion to raise children inappropriately, the government should similarly not allow it.  Who decides what the government should or should not do?  The people.

Many laws are funded on religious beliefs.  For example: we have laws that punish people for hurting or killing others, for stealing, and for lying.  At least one of the ten commandments given to Moses applies to each of those laws.  Human rights are granted by the love we have for each other, and Jesus taught that the most important commandments of all were to love God and to love each other.  We have references to God in our Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag and on our coinage.  Generally government attempts to refrain from regulating religion, but there are always opportunities for the two to cross.The recent Supreme Court decision brings us there now.  Politics are closer to religion than ever.  Now is the time for the people to decide what they believe and to act on it.  Now is the time for people to make their voices known in a bold yet loving way.  A decision must be made on this issue, and it must be made by the people.  When religion and politics cross paths, the general public ought to make the decisions.  They need to be represented, and there is no one better to represent them than they themselves.

Some helpful links

Mormons and Gays

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Rather than start conversations with everyone I know about what I think and why I do, I decided to write about this topic in depth.  Hopefully this will answer common questions and concerns people have about what I believe.

Injustice

The first point I want to make clear concerns the injustice of the Supreme Court’s decision.  I’ll try not to go too in depth as to the flaws in our current political system (especially because it really is quite good compared to the rest of the world) but sometimes things get out of hand.  In this case, nine justices were left the responsibility of deciding a matter that affects every citizen of the United States (and quite a few who aren’t).  Whether or not it infringes on my rights (as most will argue it will not), the redefinition of marriage made by the Supreme Court affects my personal life and that of countless others.

It removes from me the freedom to define marriage according to my religious beliefs.  It removes from children the right to be raised by two complementary parents—a mom and a dad.  It declares that the government has the power do these things without a general consensus or public vote.

The final decision on a matter as important as this should not be made by government representatives.  It should be made by the people.

In fact, it has been made by the people before.  In what I consider my home state of California, Proposition 22 was passed years ago adding legislation that recognized only marriage between a man and a woman.  This legislation was added based on a popular vote.  Later, it was overturned by a small number of representatives on the California Supreme Court.  Proposition 8, adding an amendment to the California state constitution, was similarly passed by millions of people through a popular vote and promptly overturned by a small number of court representatives.  As the years have passed, other states have made their own policies concerning the definition of marriage.  Now the entire representation of the will of millions of people concerning this matter has been removed and replaced with a decision made by the majority of just nine members of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Is this democracy?  Is this the free United States of America we sing about?

Reactions

As a result of this debate, many people have incited heated arguments on both sides.  I won’t seek the defend either side at the moment because I’m sure people on both sides have caused plenty of trouble.  The point is this—this issue does not require name-calling (homophobic, bigot, queer, or other harmful words) or insults.  This issue requires careful study, reasonable discussions, and at least a consensus to leave the topic be if no agreement is to be made.

I have plenty of experience trying to share people what I believe and convince them of what I know to be true, and I am fairly certain that some people just won’t change in the short amount of time we expect them to.  At best we can extend our love and be patient.  The time may come where they will be able to see things the way we do.

I am appalled at the reactions of some when they get involved with discussions about this matter.  Many appear to be proud of the way they ruin their relationships with longtime friends and insult people who disagree with them.  They flaunt the poor way they have treated others.  I myself held a private conversation about this issue with an old friend who then proceeded to publicize our discussion along with insults pointed at me.

Love wins?

That word is so much cooler than “education.”

Anyway, the education system in America, and possibly even the whole world, needs a major overhaul.  The problem lies with the tradition of students going to several years of public school, then attending a college or university of some kind.  Apparently (read: according to society), without this essential experience of college education, students aren’t worthy of holding a job.  Of course, what complicates this further is the catch-22 of people needing job experience before they hold a position anywhere.

Going to school is expensive.  Public schools require our tax money, and colleges require tuition and possibly even more tax money if they are supported by the government.  Work experience is hard to come by unless it is in the form of jobs on the burger flipping level of difficulty, in which case it probably wouldn’t contribute much to competency in needed skills.  Employers and institutions both miss what really is most beneficial to young people looking to get  a job – relevant, paid work experience.

While this is less practical in elementary and middle school education, where students should focus on basic reading, math, science, computer skills and even some history, literature, art, and other culture simply so they can participate in society as literate and somewhat knowledgable people.  Beyond that, it’s understandable how some basic skills and general education might still be necessary, but they should be examined carefully and individually every year to ensure this is the case before it is mandated that every student take classes for them.  The majority of a student’s later education should focus on what he or she will be doing in the field (as in, what he or she most enjoys doing and is best at), and try to mimic the field as much as possible.

Among other things, this means a severe and merciless examination of the purpose of tests.

In my humble opinion (you can tell it’s humble because I told you it was), generic tests are the worst way to measure the intelligence of an individual.  Apart from the fact that most tests simply require memorization and perhaps the occasional thinking question, people are different from each other and should be evaluated in different ways.  Rather than requiring the passing of a test to signify successful education, students should be able to choose between various methods of evaluation, some of which may include the following: writing an essay, giving a speech, teaching a class, assembling an exhibit, compiling  a professional report, demonstrating concepts with homemade examples, etc.  By implementing different ways to test people, better evaluations can be made because choice allows students to pick a method that allows them to present themselves in the best way possible.  They can pick the test that is most comfortable for them, and which is most conducive to allowing them to succeed.

In addition to using different methods of testing, education should involve different methods of teaching.  Some students learn better alone, some better in groups.  Some better from live people, some better from videos, others from books, articles, personal experience, and some by teaching others in various ways.  Students should be able to choose the way in which they learn to best suit their wants and needs.

The reason this argument needs to exist is because people are fundamentally different, and institutions don’t realize that.  Some people adapt very well the tediousness of memorization and the concept of finding the one right answer which is present in so much of our current schooling.  These people are similar to those who established and especially who maintain the current system of order.  They find it in their interest to keep things stable, even if that means keeping them the way they always were.  However, every so often, this order should be checked for the plagues of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.  If any are present, the current order should be quickly and unceremoniously overthrown, and then replaced with new and superior methods.

We are at such a time now.  The world is changing at unprecedented speeds, and the current education system is nowhere near equipped enough to handle it.  At the rate students are learning now the world will leave them far behind as it advances in technology and culture without them.

We need bold students who will spread these ideas to teachers and administrators.  We need advocates who will encourage others to act.  We need the keepers of the current system to understand the need for change and allow for flexibility in policy.

This change will not and should not happen too suddenly.  Even good changes may bring about disaster if wrought too quickly.  Instead, deliberate, careful, yet bold action should be taken immediately to plan for the future of education.  Only after time will the full results of the combined efforts of concerned students, parents, and teachers manifest themselves in a magnificent revolution of education.

Let us take action now to prepare a better way of learning for the children of the future.

“I hope they call me on a mission.”

Recently I turned in my papers to serve a full time LDS mission.  This means I registered with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to leave and visit a certain area, assigned by Church authorities, for two years.  During that time I will give service and teach others about my religion.

Why am I doing this?  The first and foremost reason for me personally is because I feel it is required of me.  This isn’t to say I feel obligated without reason, but I am choosing to go on a mission right now because it is the recommended course of action for male members of the Church who are my age.

A close second reason is because I simply feel like it’s the right thing to do.  Right now I don’t want to go to another year of college (perhaps partially because I’m somewhat burnt out after attending four semesters/terms in a row) but do something else instead.  A mission fulfills that requirement beautifully.

Thirdly, I believe that going on a mission generally makes people into better people, as does other difficult yet rewarding undertakings, such as parenthood.  Two years of service and teaching, quite possibly in a foreign land and through foreign tongues, have no small effects on my character.  I hope to use this opportunity to become a better person.

That being said, I still have some worries and concerns.  Likely the highest is my problem with initiation.

Generally, I prefer to be alone or with close friends that I already know.  My favorite way to meet people is through mutual friends that I already have who can introduce me.  I have lived most of my life this way, generally met most of the people I know this way, and feel quite comfortable doing so.

This will not work on the mission.  While serving I will never be by myself unless I’m in the bathroom because I’ll have a companion who I need to always be with.  I won’t be able to meet people slowly and gradually because I will be purposefully seeking them out in public with the goal of talking to as many people as I can.

However, I have found that language might work to my advantage in this situation.  I am a native speaker of English, and I find that while I can often express myself most accurately using it over other methods of expression (especially when writing), I am much more bold when speaking another language.  Let me provide an example: I remember once during the time that I took Spanish in high school, my class went on a field trip to a restaurant.  We all had to speak Spanish the entire time, including when we ordered our food.  While we were eating, a small kid who was probably no older than twelve wandered into the restaurant.  Under normal circumstances (read: in English mode) I never would have said anything to him, but under the guise of Spanish, I asked him what he was doing in the restaurant all alone and why he wasn’t in school.  Using a nonnative language freed my otherwise powerful innate tendency to remain in the background unless called out.

I believe the reason for this is because using other languages engenders some amount of amusement on my part.  Many of the bold things I do in life I do because they are amusing to me.  For example, if I am walking with a group of friends somewhere, I might start walking backwards or run and jump over/off something.  If I find an opportunity to use sarcasm, quite often I will take it.  Most surprising to me is my willingness to spontaneously do impressions or act in a way I wouldn’t normally on whim or impulse because I am illustrating a point.  This occurs especially often if I am emotionally attached to the subject matter.  Whatever the case or reason, I believe I am more bold when I am amused.  Because of this, it is quite possible that I will be called to a foreign language speaking mission because it will help me overcome this barrier.  I even hope that I will need to speak a foreign language for mainly this reason, although in general I would also prefer to learn another language (as in one other than Spanish) just for the experience of doing so.

This is my current mentality.  I’ll find out in about two weeks how correct I am.

Update: I was called to the Argentina Córdoba Mission Spanish speaking.  I report to the MTC December 12, 2012.

One day a few years ago I had a brilliant idea.  Tired of writing in a disjointed disorganized journal arranged in rough chronologic order but lacking connections between events and missing a basic overview of myself, I decided to revamp the way (or at least one of the ways) I write about my life.  This new method involved a piece of software many of us use quite often – MediaWiki.

MediaWiki is the engine that runs Wikipedia.  It’s free for download and you can run it on a web server (if you have one, for example Metalectricity) or locally if you have an AMP (Apache, MySQL, and PHP) environment (also free for download, just Google around and you’ll find it).  I’m using MAMP on this computer because I primarily use Mac OS X.  The name of my MediaWiki journal is LifeSite.

I decided to use MediaWiki to organize my life originally because I thought it would be cool to have my own Wikipedia page, but also because this software really helps with organization.  Rather than just write down what happens to me chronologically, I can organize it with other categories as well.  I can categorize events into celebrations, family gathering, shows, sporting events, and concerts.  I can organize people I know into family, friends, co-workers, teachers, acquaintances, and Church leaders.  Best of all, each of these subjects can be interlinked throughout the wiki, allowing potential viewers to find out more about a subject I mention in passing without me having to explain it over again or refer them to an earlier page or alternate work.

It’s true that the narrative style of traditional journals may work better for describing events and life experiences because of the ease in adding emotion and feeling.  I would still recommend keeping these journals alongside a wiki should you ever choose to adopt this method of record keeping.  I hope to do the same, however often I write in my journal (which, as of late, is unfortunately not very much).

At any rate, I would recommend starting or keeping a journal of your life regardless of how you do so.  In addition to the traditional notebook and pen you can use, consider typing in a word processor, starting a blog, using a wiki, recording sound or video logs, taking and organizing pictures, or any other method you choose.  I rather enjoy making a record of my life.  I especially thank myself when I look through old journals and see what my life was like and how my perceptions have changed.  For example, in one of my journals years ago I wrote something along the lines of “When I grow up, I want to be a computer programmer and an animator.”  Unbeknownst to my younger self, I ended up as a Computer Science: Animation major (after of course a small bout of Animation BFA).  Realizing your dreams, even if you didn’t know you had them, is very satisfying.

Journals also help your friends, relatives, and especially close family.  It is quite likely that you are far more valuable than you perceive yourself to be.  There are many people who would love to find out more about your life, especially if you are no longer available to tell them.  Even if you are, writing down your experiences certainly helps you remember the truth more accurately.

So.  Keep a journal.  Use MediaWiki if you like.  You’ll thank yourself in years to come.

Memorizing is for computers.

I think one of humanity’s goals should be to make computers act more like humans, rather than to make humans act like computers.  Computers are obviously inferior entities which are as subordinate to their creators the humans as we are to God.  We made computers so they could do all the boring, time consuming, repetitive work we didn’t want to do ourselves.  And yet, in most educational institutions, the primary way of measuring how much students learned is a test of memorization.  Shouldn’t we be required to think instead?

I have nothing against memorization that occurs naturally.  For example, I memorized the positions of the letters on the keyboard I’m typing on now because I’ve been using the same layout to input text into computers for years.  My memorizing it makes my life easier because now I don’t have to look at the keyboard each time I need to press a key.  However, despite the fact that I don’t need them, the letters are still there.  In fact, there are very few keyboards that don’t have letters printed on the keys.  Why?  Because even though quite a few people have memorized the layout of QWERTY keyboards, it is likely that the majority haven’t to the extent that they would feel comfortable typing without the help of the alphabet laid out in front of them.  The presence of the letters removes the need for people to go to a class or train to learn the keyboard layout.  Instead, they can go straight to work, perhaps being less productive if they had more practice, but with enough ability to make some progress anyway.

I think we should apply this principle to other aspects of our lives in which we currently train ourselves to memorize.  Understandably, it is convenient and sometimes even necessary for people to know mountains of facts (such as if they are in the fields of medicine or law) but I think that the majority of education should focus on thinking instead, with memorization being an incidental.

Generally I find that schools adopt better systems (in my opinion) for teaching as grade levels progress higher, possibly with the exception of history.  Elementary schools have lots of vocabulary tests, mathematics memorization tests, science principles tests, and many other tests that basically require children to regurgitate what they were told in class onto a piece of paper.  While I wouldn’t expect graduate thesis quality interpretation and analysis from children this age, I think they should still be subject to more thought provoking material.  Looking back on my own preliminary education, the most valuable things I learned were probably to read and do basic mathematic operations.  Almost every course involved copious amounts of reviewing what we had already learned, and more memorization that I would ever care for.  I was not satisfied with my elementary education despite my more than satisfactory grades.

On the other extreme, colleges generally do better in this area – there are writing and English classes that actually require students to write, there are math classes where formulas and constants are given on the tests and students simply have to know how to apply them, there are science and engineering classes which require experiments and projects, and most importantly, there are specialized classes which expand the wide variety in the type of education one desires to obtain.  College involves a lot more project work (something that most people will be doing in the field), or at least offers the option for students to study using that method (depending on the major).

In the middle of these two are middle school and high school, each with varying degrees of memorization required to receive passing grades in class.

The reason I’m so concerned with this is because pointless memorization goes completely against my character.  I’d rather have access to a book internet filled with all the information I would ever need to know and reference it every time I need to know something.  If I wanted to learn a skill, I would take a class and practice that skill in a way specific to the subject that would most help me learn, remember, and enjoy myself at least somewhat while doing so.  I have done exactly that many times, and through the application of principles I’ve learned while doing projects, I’ve subconsciously memorized countless facts, tips, and lessons without complaint.  This is how I would like to learn everything – I would like to start out by doing as much as I can, whether it be reading, writing, observing, experimenting, or building, and then glean petty facts I find on the way.

What I don’t want to do is emulate a computer, and then be graded on how well my brain, the product of billions of years of evolution and a key part in the crowning creation of God, compares to a box filled with metal and plastic and which thinks in ones and zeros.

Yes, I’m writing this because I recently had a bad experience with just this phenomenon (and not for the first time either).  Yes, I can be to blame.  If I had studied harder, I probably would have done better on that memorization test.  If I had slept for more than two hours the night before, I probably would have done better as well (which reminds me, I still haven’t slept that off yet).  But would it not have been too much to ask to instead have me write a few paragraphs detailing the connections I made between points in the material I was supposed to have internalized well enough to mentally barf snippets thereof onto a piece of paper?  Some people may flinch at the sound of the word “essay,” but in this case I believe it would have served me better.  By requiring me to write, I would have to study the text more scrupulously, rather than simply try to guess the key words and names that would probably show up on a quiz.  I would have found more value in my pursuit of knowledge by writing than by memorizing.

“But wait!” you say, “Why don’t you just do that yourself?”  Well, I have motivation problems.  The only reason I do most of my assignments and study is because the class requires it.  I rarely ever do any more than is required, unless I really enjoy the assignment (such as in classes that involve computers or creativity) or if extra credit is involved.  I’m sure other people have similar motivation problems too.  These can be solved so easily if our teachers would just realize they should change their methods.

You know what?  Maybe I should actually talk to the guy.  Even if he doesn’t change it for the whole class, perhaps I can convince him to allow just me to complete an open book short answer quiz instead of the usual multiple guess assessment.  Again, some people may hate that idea and prefer the quiz (perhaps they like memorizing and we need to customize the learning experience rather than globally change it) but I’m willing to see if I can do something to improve my perception of self-worth.  If I remember, I’ll let you know in a few days how it goes.

This comic has more meaning for me every day: http://xkcd.com/149/.  I wish it actually worked like that (in real life that is).

Recently I installed Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin on my Macbook Pro 8,2.  Needless to say, it’s having a hard time measuring up to Mac OS X.  Nevertheless, I am determined to fix most of the blatant problems I have with it in light of my new major and because I like messing around with things.

I have now come to associate a new term with myself because I do mess around with things quite a lot (most of them computer related) and that term is “hacker.”  I like it because of the negative connotation it usually has (especially to the non-computer public watching popular entertainment) which is technically and more accurately associated with the word “cracker.”  I decided to cave to the definition provided by this website recommended by a former roommate (the same who convinced me to set up Linux on my computer in the first place).  The document that helped me accept the decision of switching my life goals from involving arts and design to computers and technology can be found on the same site here.

My first experience with Linux can actually be traced to the time where I crashed an older computer that my parents inherited from my grandpa.  My dad, being a bit of a techie himself, took it upon him to install a now deprecated version of Ubuntu on our tower in order to access our data and connect to the internet.  We didn’t have any backups (and probably still don’t) or any other computers that my parents were willing to subject to the potential dangers of internet usage (of course, they were all running Windows) so Ubuntu seemed like a good solution for the time.

And I hated it.

Ubuntu to me was nothing like Windows.  Those were the days before I spent most of my computer time in a browser and instead relied on the compatibility Windows provided for games and other software.  The interface was not as shiny as it is now, and I live for shiny interfaces.  Sure it worked, but I was honestly rather happy when my dad was able to boot Windows again (although that may have only been when we got a new computer several months later).

Since then, I used Windows Vista (the version of Windows on our then new computer) until I got the Macbook I’m typing on now.  Mac OS has quickly become my favorite operating system.  Everything works beautifully, rather quickly, and with clean, intuitive interfaces.  I can barely stand living without multitouch gestures or multiple virtual desktops (causing my current qualms with Ubuntu).  Even if I’m not using them all I still flip between desktops for fun.

However, Ubuntu is getting close to proving its worth.  It is free to download (as are many other Linux distros), but it still costs my time to battle through its faulty GUI.  In that regard, Mac OS puts up a magnificent  fight because everything for the most part just works.

However, knowing this got me thinking – will open source software eventually rule the world?  There must be a point where so many people become involved with open source projects that they eventually compete with and maybe even surpass their privately funded counterparts in quality and functionality.  For example, Linux is well on its way to replacing Windows, GIMP could take on Photoshop, Inkscape is another Illustrator, Firefox already destroyed Internet Explorer, Blender is battling Maya, and a host of other software packages war across the expanse of the earth and the internets.

Generally I find that private software is still better, at least at face value (disregarding the cost factor).  However, I think that the customizability available with open source software, the opportunity to suggest and contribute new features, and, for the experienced, the ability to fix problems by writing directly to the source code of the application may eventually overrule the ease of use, professional look, and guarantees included with private software.  Price almost decides the battle upfront – if it weren’t for the piracy of private software, open source would likely be leading in installations, even if professionals continued to use higher end packages.

Unfortunately (for the consumers that is; the vendors are probably happy with things as they are) we have not yet reached that day.  Windows is still selling operating systems for more than a hundred dollars each, Adobe is still selling design software for several hundreds of dollars each, and Autodesk is selling 3D creation software for multiple thousands of dollars each.  However, it is possible that the day where most people look to buy professional software as the first option to solving their computational needs will soon draw to a close.

I never thought this would happen to me.

A few days ago, I was enjoying art a little more than I usually do and I got really torn up about the whole Concept Art thing.  I grew really jealous of the artists I was admiring and kept thinking to myself “Wow, that’s amazing.  I’ll never be able to do that.”

Then I looked through my old sketchbook.  The one I drew in every day thinking it would help me get into the animation program.  And you know what?  There’s some pretty good stuff in there.  Maybe I’ll post a couple scans to Brandimation.

No, I’m not going to change my major back to Animation BFA or make any other drastic changes like that, but I’m also not going to give up on myself as an artist.  I decided that I still want to learn how to draw, but I don’t think I could ever handle doing it for a job.  I decided I would rather draw in my sketchbook whenever I fancy rather than fill out a page requirement for a class.  This won’t help me become a great artist as fast as other people who do do this, but I’d much prefer learning at a slower rate, one where I can actually enjoy the process of drawing.

Thinking about this makes me consider other things I’m good at (or at least I perceive myself to be good at) like writing and piano improv and mild parkour.  I don’t set times at which I practice either of those things, I just do them.  I like doing them so much that I make time to do them, and as a result I’ve gotten rather good at doing them.  In fact, if I started disciplining myself to write three essays every day or practice piano for an hour every day or go running and jumping every morning I think I would start to hate it.  I’ve decided if this strategy and mentality works with writing and parkour and piano, it will work with drawing too.

As far as computer science goes, I think I’ll be great at doing that for a career.  I can easily dedicate hours to fixing problems or adding functionality to projects (as proven by my past experience) and I believe that I have the ability to address the specificity and sophistication required in this field much more easily and much faster than I would in an art career.  In a way, I think creating art as a career almost defeats the purpose of art for me – I don’t want to create art for a job, I want to make it because I like doing it.  In a way I value art more than I do computer science, as I feel fine getting paid to program computers because I’m not as emotionally attached to doing so.

So.  I am still an artist.  I’m going to draw whenever and whatever I feel like.  I’m going to have peace of mind every time I admire the work of another artist because I know I can be creative too.  I’m going to start believing the people that can tell me I can draw well because you know what?  To some extent, I actually can.

Recently I read a novel for my persuasive writing class at BYU called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (written by Michael Pollan).  While I probably wouldn’t have bought it myself to read just based on the cover, I did find it rather interesting.  The main point of the book is to convince the reader to follow a few simple guidelines for eating: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

While on the surface this recommendation seems rather obvious, reading the book made me question my eating habits.  How much did I really follow these words when I ate?  While looking at my foodstuffs with a more critical eye I realized that most everything I owned wasn’t really that good for me.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to make changes.  I’ve been so ingrained with the traditions of my parents that I have a hard time breaking out of them now that I’m in college.  Even still I eat raw vegetables at dinner because that’s what my dad served me and my siblings.  When I first started living on my own I relied on frozen dinners and other preprepared food like my mom got for us.

However, I’ve slowly altered that trend.  Throughout several months at BYU, I’ve gradually cooked more for myself, eaten out less, bought more natural foods, and eaten more fruits and vegetables.  I’ve done this because I like to cook, I take recommendations and things I’ve learned from other people, I followed the example of some of my former roommates who try to eat healthier, and because I’ve read the book which inspired this post.  Each of these have helped to build the better habits I now practice; no one event could have done it alone.  Even now I am slowly adjusting to adopting better eating ways to go about eating.  Some of that adjusting involves eating the unhealthy food I already bought and don’t want to waste.  Some of it involves chipping away at old habits and familiar name brands I’ve used all my life and replacing them with healthier, more natural products.  It’s possible, just slow.

Honestly though, the main reason I agree with the book is because it told me what I already thought but in a stronger, bolder way.  Of course it makes sense to eat foods where you know exactly where all the ingredients came from without having to take a chemistry class first.  Of course it’s better to eat more fruits and vegetables.  There’s no way we can even hope to duplicate the product of millions of years of evolution in a few years with even the most advanced technology we developed in a single century.  Sure it’s good to study nutrition, but we should rely on what we evolved to consume for our sustenance – food.  Real, natural, whole, unaltered food.  Our bodies can’t really handle artificial “foods” as well as they can natural ones, so we should take note of that and eat things we can actually digest.  The reason we (well, some of us) are stuck on this terrible artificial diet is because it’s full of things that are hard to find naturally in food – refined sugars, salt, and fat.  All of these are very pleasing to eat, but not good for our health when in such large quantities and when unaccompanied with other nutrients.

Again, it’s obvious.  We just need to do something about it.

I’d recommend reading this book, even if you don’t think you completely agree with it.  There are a lot of interesting points in it, and I like the way the author uses logic and common sense, even if it comes at the expense of the usual number of expected statistics and studies which normally accompany works such as this.  Be warned – the author is a journalist, not a scientist, but I still think you should check it out.

–Brandon

Or why I want to raise the price of gas.

There is a simple solution to all of this energy crisis stuff.  Tax fossil fuels.  I’m not supporting a Republican or Democrat platform or even Green or Libertarian anything.  I’m an economist.  No political party, just logic.

Unfortunately, this will never happen.  We love our low gas prices way too much to vote for a law such as this that will regulate our use of fossil fuels.  We would esteem any individual or committee who did so as insane, which would in turn lead them never to do so for fear that they would not be reelected.  Even if a high tax law did pass, it would probably last for a few months or days before someone else repeals it.

Nevertheless, a nice, fat tax on gas would honestly be great for the earth.  It would force everyone to conserve, whether or not they want to be environmentally friendly.  It would pace our rapid consumption of fossil fuels, giving us more time to rely on them before we have to switch to renewables.  It would spark developments in technology that would make transportation more energy efficient at a much faster rate than the “were being green” status currently motivating companies to do so.  It would cause people to move closer to their work and drive less, reducing congestion in crowded motorways.  Plus, the government could really use the money to help pull us out of this whole debt thing.  Sure they should really cut a bunch of their programs first (go Romney?) but the extra income they gain from taxing gas couldn’t hurt.

We’re going to have to do all of this anyway when fossil fuels run out, so why not start now?  As much as I support utilizing the resources of the earth, I believe we should do so conservatively (see Conservationalism for more details).  Sometimes it’s hard for us to make these decisions, especially if it is easy to justify being wasteful.  If gas prices dropped to $ 1.50 a gallon, people would drive absolutely everywhere rather than walk, ride (bike, bus, train), or fly (on planes, not by themselves).  This would make it very crowded and dangerous to be on the road because so many other people are also there.  On the other hand, if gas was $ 8 a gallon, people would drive much less than they do now.  Suddenly it’s twice as expensive to commute 50 minutes away to work twice a day five days a week. Rather than live far away, waste commute time, cause traffic, increase the chance of accidents, and pollute the atmosphere, people will be encouraged to move closer to their places of work (or find work closer to their homes), use alternate forms of transportation, or even do more work from their home.

Understandably there are reasons people live far away from work (e.g. in the suburbs).  Probably the biggest reasons my family does is because the schools are better, the neighborhoods are safer, the air is cleaner, and the environment is quieter.  In fact, I’m sure these are reasons why most people live in the suburbs.  Raising the price of gas would force those who live in the suburbs to either leave the comfort and advantages of a more isolated community or bear the increased expenses from travel.  They would have to endure the cost of higher prices at least until technology catches up with the high prices and leads to the development of alternate energy vehicles.  Because the amount of time this could take is unforeseeable yet likely to be inversely related to the magnitude of the increase in gas prices, people in this situation should be considered when making the decision to tax gas more.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every decision.  However, it is important to note that when we do run out of fossil fuels, the people who are in the comfortable situation of depending on living in the suburbs will be at an even greater disadvantage than they will be if they are taxed more right now.  If fossil fuels were to suddenly run out tomorrow, the prices of remaining gas would immediately skyrocket, and only increase from there.  In some places, the world would be crippled because of their reliance on gasoline.  The majority of motor and air traffic would shut down, although I suppose everyone driving the Nissan Leaf would be having a heyday.

Someday, fossil fuels will run out.  It may be a few years from now, it may be a few centuries from now.  Whatever the case, we ought to be prepared with alternate technology and methods of transport so we won’t be as affected by the loss of gasoline as we would be if it occurred today.  Unfortunately, people (including myself) will likely find it hard pressed to be motivated enough to find these solutions soon enough to be effective, so they must be persuaded with the cost of high prices instead.

Let me know what you think.  Honestly, though, I’ll be surprised if such a tax ever passes.

–Brandon