Friday, November 20, 2009

Mastering - update

Phew! Right, here's where I've gotten:

1) Taking the GRE ... DONE! Last Saturday.

2) apply for a masters program ... DONE! Sorta. I'm off-cycle with admissions so I'm going non-degree this Spring and being all official in Fall

I've also

3) Registered for Spring classes and gotten everything I wanted to get

4) Met with the faculty member I'd like to chair my committee and gotten enthusiastic approval AND learned my area of focus is what 1/2 his sabbatical proposal was about which is just all kinds of cool.

5) Met with the associate chair of graduate studies and generally been welcomed and patted on the head and told I'm a bit mad with my timeline but best of luck and all that


6) Met with my boss and broken the news that I'll have to drop some of my hours what with my rather insane plan for the Spring. Fortunately my boss is either a saint or a close approximation thereof and said any number of marvelous supportive things and also pointed out that my lead-in explanation had given her the momentary fear that I was going to out-and-out quit (we lost one full-time person last week and will likely not be allowed to hire a replacement until... well... ever possibly) so just dropping a few hours each week was comparatively easy.

All of which means I'm just a little bit committed to this now! Now, to make things just a leetle more interesting, in the past few weeks I have also:

1) slogged through my more than pathetic effort for NaNoWriMo which was originally going to be a genuine novel and then had to turn into a rambling, sort of stream-of-thought memoir sort of thing that is completely self-indulgent and honestly not terribly interesting or well written. I just didn't have time to do the novel and ended up, two days before the deadline to begin, deciding to have another stab at the memoir, knowing it wasn't going to be organized or focused or even planned in any way. However, I had promised myself I would do it and I'm doing it and I have 51,268 words dumped in there. Some of it is reworked blog posts, most of it is just rambling memoir stuff. I'm not sure how they'll count it (what with the blog posts) and I still have a bit in process for this last week but it's at least there. Kind of. A little.


2) been finalizing the major project I've been working on forever which is, ready or not, to be launched with fanfare in three weeks.

So actually starting grad school should be nice and relaxing really, in comparison... won't it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last Words

Well, I hope last for a bit, but this was on my mind this morning so...

Someone sent me a link recently to a post on the Passive Aggressive Notes website. You can read the post itself here, but here's the text of the posted note:

Hi – you don’t know me but I’ve noticed that you go into #360’s apt late @ night & I sometimes see you coming out in the morning. & it’s obvious that you sleep over ther [sic] b/c your car is parked @ King Henry all night. I know that it’s really none of my business, but I my roomates [sic] & I think that it’s innappropriate [sic] to be staying @ a boy’s house all night. I feel like I should talk to someone about this problem, perhaps King Henry, but I think that you could, & should, fix this problem on your own w/out my intervention.

Thanks for your time

Have a great day =)

The post has gotten over 350 comments, ranging originally from the "Sounds like Utah," type which produced the "stop hating on Mormons" response to later an explanation on what would have produced the note and a defense of the practice (getting involved in other people's private business that is - not leaving anonymous notes on cars). The commenter was well spoken, articulate and friendly and, I think, left a generally positive impression of herself although not of the policy involved or, frankly, of the organization that drafted that policy. I think she should be commended for keeping the discussion light and polite - and I would point out that many of the non-Mormon commenters were not able to do the same.

Her explanation basically went like this:

1) King Henry is a BYU approved apartment complex and in order to be a BYU student one must live in an approved complex AND sign the BYU honor code. (I can't link you to the code itself as its showing an error message, but you can read about the code on the Wikipedia page here.) Anyone who lives at the complex must have signed the code and should therefore abide by it.

2) She had not only a moral obligation to report any activity by her roommates that violated the code, her own school standing (and her housing) were at risk if she did not do so.

In other words, students at BYU (and by extension apparently in BYU approved housing whether students or not? I'm not clear on this one) must abide by the honor code and other students or residents are required, on pain of punishment, even expulsion, to monitor others behaviors and report any infractions to the authorities.

Keep in mind that the LDS article of faith #2 states "we believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for adam's transgressions" which, if you want to take it very literally means only that Mormons do not believe in Original Sin but, if you want to look at the broader meaning should imply that Mormons believe that each person will be responsible only for their own misdeeds - in other words, that each person is ultimately responsible for their own soul. No punishment should be meted out to the innocent based on the actions of the guilty.

In practice, all Mormons are told repeatedly that they have an enormous responsibility for others. Leaders talk of how you will feel when you die and are met in heaven on the one hand with tears of joy from those whom you have saved and on the other tears of sorrow from those you did not reach. It is partly this belief that drives the strong missionary program in Mormonism; it is this same belief that explains the way Mormon leaders and, at least culturally if not doctrinally, all Mormons feel not only justified, but obliged to pry intimately into other's lives. There is, I want to be clear, a very positive side to this - Mormons believe in service and want to know when someone is in need. They also feel that they MUST save someone's soul, particularly an apostate (or inactive member), and therefore they must, for example, know where that person lives even if the person has not been to church in years and no longer considers themselves a member. There is a special mission calling where members spend hours trying to trace what in their eyes are "lost sheep." Bishops not only can but must yearly ask intimate questions of all Mormons, including young adults (starting at 12 I believe) about their moral standing, their sexual habits and practices, their diets, their scripture study and other things.

All of this, maybe, explains why Mormons feel they can, even have to be passionately involved in the fight against gay marriage. It is after all just an expression of that responsibility for others.

What I would remind them of however is this:

The people whose lives you are so eager to interfere with did not ever sign your honor code. They are not, the vast majority of them, affiliated with your church and therefore they have no responsibility to abide by a set of regulations that you have chosen to live by. You therefore have no right, even if you feel you have the responsibility, to deny them recognition of their family. Your spiritual onus really, as I understand it, is to share the gospel and to live by its standards and abide by any covenants you have willingly and knowingly made.

I do not feel that political activism against the rights of others not of your sect is sharing the gospel and, personally, I do think that it is opposed to some of those lovely, simple ideas that are at the bedrock of your religion:

"Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won't profit you at all....

"Without charity—or the pure love of Christ—whatever else we accomplish matters little. With it, all else becomes vibrant and alive." (Joseph B. Wirthlin: The Great Commandment, Ensign, Nov 2007, 28–31).

The pure love of Christ - the one who said, "judge not that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1) and, even more importantly, "a new command I give you, love one another." (John 13:34)

You teach that families are forever and are justifiably proud of the commitment to the family found in your doctrine. No one, no matter what the fear-mongers say in their illogical and unsupported rhetoric, is threatening your family. All they want is to form one of their own.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Right, although it is dispiriting (and... well, we'll say irritating as that sounds mild and sort of like a rash rather than something soul sucking and stress-producing and generally end-of-the-worldish) that things are still a bit nebulous and uncertain when it comes to time, last night when faced with the option of a) fretting and b) deciding that All Was Lost because it is far easier (somehow) to NOT hope for the best and instead assume the very, very worstest possible of the worst I did something rather unusual- I plumped for c) assuming that while things aren't going as smoothly as I would prefer and there might still be some bumps to deal with, things are still going to happen, the claim will be paid (eventually) and therefore it wasn't going to bring the wrath of the fates down on my head if, for once, I had a little optimism and tried a bit of hope.

I'm finding it a bit difficult now and then, as it turns out six years of steady pessimism does tend to be habit forming, but it's also rather exhilarating in a mild way, particularly as when I stop staring firmly and unrelentingly at the delightful image of The Horror That Just Might Be there is actually a not-quite-so-horrible potential out there. So, here's what I'm doing to carpe the diem:

1) Taking the GRE so that
2) I can apply for a masters program and
3) Expand my skill set (and have a rather good time as well as I do like school) and
4) Graduate at the same time as Child 3 (yipes. Which will take some doing but is just manageable) and
5) Move to a climate not quite so enervating and possibly
6) Try something new as a job for a change.

Of course that means getting the GRE, the please-be-on-my-committee letters, the please-let-me-in-your-program letter (please? Even if it's the wrong time of year?), the please-give-me-a-recommend-thanks letters AND the writing samples done in... oh less than a week. Or so. Which is a doddle when you look at the fact that I am hoping to get my MA in a year and a half rather than the more usual two years...

I can't wait!

Monday, November 09, 2009


Phew - that was fun, wasn't it!

Yes. There is a great deal I feel about the election in Maine. In fact, it's a bit split - rather like the vote. On the whole I'm going to take it as a good thing that the election was so close. Of coures, I can do that because it's not my family on the line - I can say that it's positive that an election like this was, technically speaking, within the expected error margin for a poll on a divisive issue. It isn't as though my children were being told their family wasn't a family.

There has been a bit of news though. A few weeks ago there was a message on the phone machine, a message from the lawyer who has been struggling for a year or more now to get the US Labor Department to act on the claim I filed five years ago. It wasn't a long message, it just said that there was a... chance I think is how it was put... that there would be a ruling and then they said something about needing a mailing address for checks. I actually had to listen to the message three times. Then I made my family listen to it for me because surely they weren't saying there was any sort of hope at all. Then I panicked.

I mean, as long as it was just pending there was always the chance something would happen, right? Then I could detach enough to provide paperwork, and then more paperwork, I could (as odd as it sounds) wait indefinitely just so long as everything remained... possible.

So naturally I didn't tell anyone. Child 3 knew - couldn't help but know as it actually found the message, but outside of the household no one, no one was told. After all, it had been five years - five and a half really, so who knew how long it could be now. No point in getting everyone's hopes up; best just to hope for the worst, as always.

Which meant that a week and a half ago when I came home to an, "oh, ever-so-sorry but we did TRY to deliver this registered letter and won't it be convenient for you to pick it up during normal work hours tomorrow instead?" message. Cue another rather significant dose of panic because, honestly, does anything good arrive with a green piece of card and a requirement for signature? But you can't just leave registered letters uncollected at the post office - I'm pretty sure uncollected registered letters make baby Jesus cry - so, of course, I went to pick it up.

It was a fat stapled wodge of paper, much of it in legalese. Actually it wasn't the worst legalese I've ever seen since it was, eventually, decipherable. It did take a reading or two to figure it out though. Claim it said, and filed, and something about... ordered. There was definitely an order involved and I do believe it possibly mentioned... paying.

Which sort of prompted three days of, "No. No not really, I mean, really they, no. They wouldn't. No. Really." Because we're articulate in our expression of happiness around here.

Within 12 hours I had worked out at least three reasonable ways it wouldn't work properly and it was all yet another extention of the might-be's-not-really's we've been living with for the last six years. It took another 36 hours (and an encouraging and very kind email from my lawyer) to decide that, tentatively, it just might maybe possibly be (you know, given a particularly optimistic an unlikely definition of possible).

But you know the really funny bit? It turns out that while there's an order it's nearly impossible to know what that really means. The labor department types could decide to actually act on it, or they could put things off for 30 days - or maybe 45, or they could, apparently, require another long and drawn out action of some sort that, frankly, I don't yet understand because I'm trying very hard not to imagine that they would request it. So, yes, we have a ruling! And yes, it will all be resolved. Soon. Or, maybe a little less soon, or possibly much less soon than that. It could happen tomorrow or maybe it will just keep on stretching out impossibly long, extending again and again and again this whole mess, keeping us in a sort of intolerable, infinite limbo.

It's lucky I've had so much experience at this.