Sunday, November 25, 2007


Who knew this exists? I learned from my 5-year-old grandson. You buy a webkins. You get a “code.” And voila, you have gain entrance to a secret, magical world.

My grandson, Jacob, is particularly keen 0n “going for” ALL of the beach accouterments. You can get a “job” to earn dollars for purchasing your dreams. Or you can go the arcade and gamble for webkins dollars (it takes, for example, $750 webkins to get a set of surfboards for the beach theme room Jacob has named “Ocean Waves"). Jacob tried to teach me the Dicekins game (but I just didn’t get it). His parents secretly gamble for dollars for their son. And Jacob is keen on getting yet another webkins (which comes with some $2000 webkins for wheeling and dealing in the webkins world). For that, he mopped the kitchen floor for a dollar. And has plans to rake leaves and wash window. All in search of yet another webkins (which costs $15 in the real world; Jacob has now saved $7 towards his next webkins).

What do I think about this?
• Jacob mopping the floor. Pretty thorough and impressive for a five year old. Clean floor. Cheerful worker. Goal oriented. Good? Bad?
• Jacob using the computer mouse. Pretty impressive small motor skills. Menus. Game moves. Better than me--though how easy is that?
• Jacob’s goal oriented behavior. With webkins world, he learns that things cost, you can’t get around that, you have to earn the money. If you make bad choices, you deal. (He is selling back earlier purchases, shifting around what he did a few weeks back and now seems to regret.)
• Parents. I saw both dad and mom playing the webkins games to earn Jacob dollars. Now those games aren’t easy. I certainly couldn’t have earned him any money even though he tutored me in dicekins (or whatever). But what does this teach? Under the table? Family solidarity?
• Web world? Real world? Where does this lead? Not entirely sure. I brought computers to my kids. I live from software. My husband spends his life at the computer. Not entirely sure. . . . . .

Smart, funny, amusing kid. Where does webkins lead? Not entirely sure. This kid doesn’t watch TV. He does watch videos. (And he could perform all the songs from “High School Musical.) He’s also playing chess online. He’s also playing outside an writing his own book of "scriptures." I’m working in this world of software and online communities. Where does it lead?

Not entirely comfortable. Would oh so happily get back to books, walks, writing (though mostly on a computer). Still there is this romance of ink and paper, and I haven't entirely abandoned that mode.

I was born too early and too late. Such a life lived in between. It’s hard to know what to make of this all.

Getting home

Not so easy. A lesson I have learned. Do not fly in or out of the airport in Newport News Virginia. Flying in for Thanksgiving, my flight from Atlanta was cancelled--with an offer to fly in 8 hours later. Flying out, my flight is now 2 hours late, and I get to spend the night in Atlanta (my cost not the airlines because this is an act of God, weather, not Delta). And fly home tomorrow.

A convoluted trip. I voted thumbs down on the eight-hour wait in Atlanta and flew into Richmond, rented a car there, picked my suitcase up in Newport News (60 miles apart--both some 30-40 miles from my son’s home on the outskirts of Williamsburg, near Jamestown). And so tonight I drove to Richmond, dropped off my rental, my son drove to Richmone, picked me up and drove me to Newport News. I’ll wait here 4 hours and spend a very short night at a (too expensive) hotel in Atlanta.

All in all, I won’t be that much in the hole. I had planned to arrive home between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., go to bed and sleep. Get up at 10:00 or 11:00 and prepare for the descent into work on Tuesday. The plan now. Sleep in a somewhat expensive bed in Atlanta, fly out in the morning. Get home by 1:00 or so. Still part of the day to recover. Not that much difference all around. Though a whole lot of hassle and some money. I did check on a flight tomorrow--$333 to make the change. A good night in an Atlanta bed at that rate (and more of my day in Seattle) seemed like a better plan.

Isn’t modern life just too complicated? I had thought of driving to Williamsburg with Bevin--but decided that would take two weeks, not three. That may have been easier. Still a possibility for my sabbatical--I have never driven cross country. And Bev is such a good traveling companion.

(By the way new granddaughter is so cute, and son, daughter-in-law, and grandson so good to be with. Webkins. That’s what I learned about from grandson Jacob. A whole new world. But for another day--assuming I do eventually get back to Seattle.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thinking about Romney and abortion

I’m a bit of a political junky, so I have been following presidential primary politics for a while now. With my Mormon background, it’s hard not to pay just a little extra attention to what the talking heads have to say about Romney. Recently on hearing yet again about Romney’s flip flop on abortion, I started thinking about the Mormon position on abortion (or at least the position as I knew it back in the eighties). Mormons are definitely anti-abortion, but not in quite the way most conservative Christians are. I think the wobbly nature of Romney’s discourse on abortion may well have roots in the Mormon position.

The Mormon position allows for abortion in the case of rape and grave danger to the health of the mother. For conservative Christians abortion is murder of an innocent child. The child dies without baptism, without faith. Thus the abortion means the loss of both the mother, who murders, and the child, who dies without the benefits of Christ’s saving grace.

I suspect the ambiguity of the Mormon position--with its allowance for justified abortion--begins in the Mormon notion of the soul. For Mormons, the soul is eternal. It has a life before its mortal existence, comes to earth to take a body, and lives on after mortal death. For traditional Christians, the soul begins with life. So the child aborted in the womb has only that brief existence. For Mormons an eternal soul enters an earthly body. When is not exactly clear. But no tragedy for the aborted child in the Mormon version of the story. If the child’s soul has not yet entered the body, then that soul will be allotted another body. If the child’s soul has entered, then that child has obtained its necessary body and will be exalted in the highest Mormon heaven with all of the innocent children who die before eight, the age of accountability and baptism.

In other words, the abortion is no tragedy for the child in the Mormon version of the story. It forecloses little in the eternal view of what matters. In the traditional Christian version, it is a tragedy, in many versions foreclosing salvation for that child. In the Mormon story, it is the woman who suffers and is judged, not the child. She is the one who must justify her decision before her God. Abortion is a terrible event, but the official position of her church signals a measured and merciful view to the horror and pain women may face.

So on this matter I am inclined to allow Romney’s wavering views on the extent of a woman’s right to choose--he is finding his way along a spectrum that is part of the larger conversation about abortion among Mormons. The dominant note in that conversation is definitely pro-life--most Mormons in the twenty-first century are proud conservatives. But the Mormon God through his church’s leaders has allowed for a terrible choice.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Idaho Halloween

Yes, I realize that Halloween was last week. But I’ve been thinking about my childhood experience of Halloween all week (as each day brings more rejected candy dumped out in the kitchen area at work).

I grew up in a small village (350 people on the sign at the outskirts of town) in southeastern Idaho, where my dad was the “sheriff.” Which says nothing about his job description. He was in fact the town employee. He plowed the snow, graded the roads, kept the city ball diamond groomed, the grade school playgrounds and parks watered and mowed, the weeds along the road down. He sent the water from the city well to be tested. He was the town dog catcher (known to take a gun and a dog to the town dump).

I loved Halloween--one of the most festive days of the year in our little town. Each year a Halloween “carnival” was held at the grade school. Costume parade, cakewalk, bobbing for apples, haunted house. Everyone gathered after kids had trick or treated around town. My misbehaving peaked at writing on windows with soap (never with wax which was pure evil to my dad).

My dad hated the night--the one night of the year he was most the sheriff, trying to bring a little peace, a little law and order.

Naughty boys (always boys as far as I ever knew) had a yearly ritual. Tip over outdoor toilets or put them on the roofs of sheds and barns in town. (No one really used outdoor toilets by the time I was a kid but many of them still existed on local property.) A canal flowed around the town. Bridges over the canal were made of wood. The second ritual of bad boys was to pile bales of straw on the bridges and set them on fire.

So my dad spent Halloween chasing kids away from the toilets and the bridges, pulling the toilets off sheds, covering up the nasty holes, putting out the fires on the bridges and scattering the straw along the graveled road.

My memories of Halloween then: the excitement of the carnival (after the excitement of the candy and being just a little bit bad) and one very pissed off Dad!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why no posts?

I ask myself from time to time why I managed to post as much as I did while I was off with Bev. Now an easy answer would be that I had more time. But that wouldn’t be true. I don’t really have all that much easy, computer time when I’m with Bev. She certainly doesn’t get computers. And if I’m just sitting there and it is daytime, then from her view I’m being really annoying. We aren’t walking, we aren’t driving, we aren’t drinking soda, we aren’t shopping. These are activities she gets. Sitting with a small thing on my lap, ignoring her. This she doesn’t get.

So why did I write then, and I don’t write now. I used to write in the evenings, mostly when Bev was sleeping. So now I come home from work, but I don’t write.

Some random thoughts on this mystery. During that time my brain was able to slow down enough to daydream, muse, contemplate, think. It wasn’t assaulted with external assaults and requirements. At work, I spend my time “thinking”--but it’s quick, short, tactical, high pressure. When I come home at night my brain is swimming. Nothing settles out that is working spending more time on. In fact I spend my time holding these quick, intense thoughts at bay.

So I guess my evenings are mostly spent trying to send my brain into a loop that doesn’t assault me, hassle me. That’s the mode my work brings upon me. So what do I do? Read e-mail. Read the blogs of kids and friends. Watch TV. (Watching movies usually seems like too much of a commitment.) Download audiobooks. Wash dishes. Listen to audiobooks as I fall to sleep. Keep my brain, my thoughts at bay.

This is not good. I’ve always thought of my brain as my friend, not my hassler (torment is way too dramatic here). So this means that I need to find a way out of the return of my current life patterns. Life tires my brain. This not helping.