Things To Act
Monday, January 31, 2005
Taking the Church Apart
In October 2002 general conference, President Hinckley began his priesthood session talk by stating that the First Presidency and Twelve, in their meetings, had "in effect... taken the Church apart and then put it together again". The objective was "to see whether there might be some programs we could do away with." The policy changes announced in the talk included temple recommends being valid for two years instead of one; mention of "raising the bar" for missionaries, referring to Elder Ballard's talk from the same meeting, though what this would mean in terms of who could serve and who would be asked to wait was not yet apparent; and doing away with missionary farewells (although a similar policy had been announced, and apparently ignored by many, sometime before 1996 (scroll down)). I remember having a conversation shortly thereafter in which the thought was expressed that changing the length of recommend validity and telling us, again, to not let missionary farewells overwhelm sacrament meeting didn't seem like very many changes for the amount of work implied in "taking the Church apart."

Let's look at some of the changes since October 2002, though:

I think that we have a better idea now of some of the resulting changes from the aforementioned meetings than we did in October 2002.

Saturday, January 29, 2005
Inauguration Report
*The worst tickets were the "gold" tickets. They were also the fanciest. Evidently the theory was that people would be fooled by the trappings, at least until they got there. We (the person I was with and myself) had yellow tickets, which were in the category of second-worst. But we decided to brave the elements and go nevertheless.

*After scoring a free breakfast in the House office buildings, we emerged from the Rayburn at about 10:20 to try to make our way to the Yellow Gate. This brings us to Major Theme One: Horrible Crowd Control. We were stuck in the crowd on the sidewalk for over an hour trying to make our way to the gate. About 11:40, we finally made it.

*Security was so-so. We were expecting metal detectors. Instead, we were told to split into male and female lines for a pat-down. Evidently the theory was that no one could hit the president with anything from as far back as we were, and bystanders didn't need protection from terror nearly as much (I suspect that most terrorists are incompetent or we'd all be a lot more terrified, but that's another story. As is the fact that I've already thought of two ways to beat routine Congressional security for the Capitol, not that I'm going to try them). Back to the lines--the men's line was quick-moving. The women's line was glacial. Some women demanded to go through the men's lines, but the guards wouldn't let them. Cheney took the oath of office (at 11:50) before our party was actually through security.

*For the next ten minutes, we busily tried to find some spot that wasn't behind The Wall. There wasn't one. Guards weren't letting any more people crowd up onto the lawn, and bystanders continually claimed that guards had been arresting people who tried to the climb The Wall to get a better view. Several people tried it anyway, but not us. Throughout the President's speech, people kept trying it. Guards didn't do much (except occasionally tell people to get down), but people standing farther back kept yelling "Get off the wall." No brawls broke out.

*For most of the speech, we could occasionally catch glimpses of the General-Conference Style Screen That Lets You See What's Going On, Despite the Fact That You Came To See The Event, Not The Televised Version, depending on how people shifted above The Wall in front of us. The speech itself seemed like a nice stating of American ideals, and I tend to think that critics are reading way too much into it.

*The weather, though cold, wasn't as cold as it had been earlier in the week. That was good. We did see two people being helped by EMTs, but didn't press closer to get details.

*The benediction was rather weird. The preacher seemed overenthusiastic in parts, to the great amusement of my companion. We agreed that "clean X, clean Y, and clean financial statements" was the highlight, as did the people in the crowd around us, who were also laughing.

*The crowds getting out after it was over were also pretty bad, despite the fact that we stayed around awhile to see what things looked like above The Wall.

*We did see a handful of protesters outside the House Office Buildings on the way out. They had a sign saying something about a mandate to leave Iraq. I inquired about how the mandate could be for that, given that Bush, not Kerry, had won the election. They said something incoherent about some poll. I thought their sign would have been improved with a footnote explaining their references.

Skepticism for Term Limits
I've always been rather skeptical of the idea of federal Congressional term limits, for various reasons. The Monday edition of Roll Call, with a complete listing of seniority in both chambers of Congress, seems to provide supporting evidence. It is true that some people have been in Congress practically forever:
Date is beginning of service in the chamber.
1. Byrd (D-WV) 1959
2. Kennedy (D-MA) 1962
3. Inouye (D-HI) 1963
4. Stevens (R-AK) 1968
5. Domenici (R-NM) 1973
1. Dingell (D-MI) 1955
2. Conyers (D-MI) 1965
3. Obey (D-WI) 1969
4. Rangel (D-NY) 1971
5. Young (R-FL) 1971

However, skipping down to the middle of the lists is interesting.
49. Santorum (R-PA) 1995
50. Frist (R-TN) 1995
51. Wyden (D-OR) 1996
217. Brady (R-TX) 1997
218. Cannon (R-UT) 1997
219. Carson (D-IN) 1997

The Majority Leader in the Senate has been serving for barely over a decade, and over half the Senate has been in office that long or less. In the House, over half of the chamber has been replaced in the last 8 years or so. Only 114 Represenatives were elected before Clinton's first election, and only 76 before Bush I's. Only 24 were elected before Reagan's first election. Turnover may not be as high as some people would like, but is seems plenty high as it is.

Continuing Revelation
After seeing this thread on Nauvoo, I decided to do some investigative reporting (or, a bunch of people were going to the Temple and I decided to go too, but that doesn't sound as dramatic). Collected observations:

*The Washington DC Temple has fountains in it. New and different. It's also huge.

*If the First Presidency ever decides that certain vicarious ordinances aren't being performed enough, all they have to do is start circulating rumors that the ordinances are being changed. That'll pack 'em in.

*Watching Temple workers relearn an ordinance can be interesting, but often requires patience.

*I have some thoughts on the actual changes, but, alas, this is not the forum in which to discuss them.

Friday, January 28, 2005
Boring Ward Clerk Minutiae
Our ward's computer system was finally upgraded last week from the old MIS/FIS DOS-based system to the new MLS Windows-based system. It seems to be much more convenient in quite a few ways--no more filling out certificates with an ancient typewriter or by hand, for one. And the financial and membership systems are integrated into one program, so clerks don't have to switch back and forth when dealing with the random requests that are made in the hectic twenty minutes after church ends.

When the ward's data was loaded into the new program, though, I did have to spend quite a bit of time dealing with the (mistaken) assumption the system seemed to make that every member's preferred name and legal name were identical--forty-five minutes of deleting middle names from the "preferred name" field on each individual record. Or perhaps it was my own fault--the new system seems to not have the option that the old system had of making changes to the local data without changing the membership record on SLC's computers, so maybe I (and previous clerks; I was called just over half a year ago) should have been submitting "preferred name" changes to Salt Lake all along, instead of just making the changes locally.

Edit: fixed embarrassing grammatical mistake pointed out to me by my wife

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Can Deacons Be Home Teachers?
This webpage seems to imply that the answer is generally no. Quote: "From the time priesthood holders are ordained to the office of teacher, they have the opportunity and responsibility to serve as home teachers."

This scripture seems to imply that the answer could sometimes be yes, since deacons are to assist teachers in all their duties. That decision would be made by the bishop, of course.

The webpage is, then, most likely a case of "preach the rule, not the exception" (a reference to the story in this talk.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Social Security Reform
The President's longstanding desire to meaningfully reform the Social Security system is one of the biggest topics on the political agenda right now. I hope to write more about it later, for now I present the following links:

Club for Growth has launched a new blog about SS reform. An ungrammatical motto, but interesting stuff, including links to two Social Security calculators which allow you to compare private account options to the current system, making certain assumptions of course.

The Rules
Only a matter of months after adding a guest-blogger...

Some people get by with "Do unto others..." Congress elaborates a bit, producing book-length manuals of arcane rules (and, in the House, a special Rules Committee to assign each reported bill its own special Rule, just for fun). I hope to split the difference and arrive at a reasonably-well-satisfied medium:

1. The Senate Judiciary Committee Rule: Write pseudonymously. This stems from a light-hearted fantasy about, forty years from now, being on the fast track for confirmation until some obscure Senator says "Now, about this screed you published on your weblog in 2004..." Better safe than sorry is our motto. Which is not to say that determined people couldn't figure out who we are. We just have to make them work for it. So, few to no personal asides, Old Home Week, &tc.

2. The Get Over It Already Rule: Minimal self-referentialism. Talking about stuff is fun. Talking about talking about stuff is less fun. Reading someone blog about blogging about blogging gets downright boring.

3. The Gospel Stuff Rule: Be nice, not apostate. Etc. The Nauvoo charter is a nice summary of many expectations for reasonable behavior for LDS here and, well, everywhere.

4. The Participation Rule: Anyone can comment, though we make no promises about preserving them forever, and get downright nasty about flaming and/or serious profanity and/or stupidity and/or spam. Guest-blogging is by invitation only. Though I'm not saying that sending an email asking for an invitation wouldn't work...

5. The Off-Topic Content Rule: On a blog? You're joking, right? The only hard-and-fast rule here is that It Must Be Interesting (see Instapundit's motto, which, alas, does not meet our rigorous content guidelines). By the way, I get to define Interesting.

6. The Technical Support Rule: It Must Be Free. I wouldn't say no to ad revenue, either. Helpful suggestions about free upgrades to functionality are accepted, of course, bearing in mind that I have little desire to muck around in code for more than about 90 seconds at a stretch (one reason the blogroll remains problematic...).

7. The Political Hedge: I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks in the record. [**Pause**] Without objection, so ordered. (Further rules may follow, as I think of/remember them).

Back In The 'Jams--Blogging From An Undisclosed Location
...which really isn't all that hard to figure out, for those familiar with the ways of the BYU.

1. I would apologize for not having time for blogging for entirely too long, but at this point I assume no one is reading anymore. Oh well. Starting over...

2. I had an insanely busy semester last semester. As I've whined before. I may post some on my more interesting exploits at some point.

3. I hope to be blogging more regularly from here on out. Hope is a wonderful thing, isn't it. With luck, I may even catch up on four months' backlog of Bloggernacle-reading. With more luck, I may even bother finishing my still-in-progress blogroll.

4. I have moved away from Provo to participate in BYU's Washington Seminar, and thus am now DC-blogging. I intern in an undisclosed Congressional office which I most likely will not be directly writing about, for reasons which should be fairly obvious. I may have to change my blurb at some point, as BYU-blogging is becoming more and more of a stretch.

5. This is a bit more self-referential blogging than I normally tolerate, which reminds me that I've been meaning to get around to writing the rules of the blog at some point...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Unexpected Juxtaposition
I was working at my desk, and heard music that I had previously encountered only in the hymnbook coming from the university bell tower. Since I left BYU some time ago for graduate work at a non-Church-owned school, this was rather surprising. Of course, I had forgotten which words went with the music, since playing the organ or piano usually keeps one from singing. So I had to sing the (wordless) music to myself and count syllables while finding it in the meters index in the online hymnbook. Result: "I Saw a Mighty Angel Fly", music by Vaughan Williams. Less surprising, then, I suppose, especially given this comment.

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