Boo Humbug: A Trick or Treat Manifesto

Small children dressed up in cute costumes going door to door to trick-or-treat.  That sweet relic of Americana is largely gone.  For various reasons, people now either don’t do it at all, or go to “safe streets” or “trunk or treats,” or they’ll only go around to people they know.  I suppose a lot of this is probably fueled by safety concerns–though there has never been an actual recorded instance of poisoned candy being given out, crimes by rowdy people out and about on Halloween are a reasonable worry. 

But none of that bothers me.  What bothers me is the coopting of this children’s holiday by the greedy and the lazy.  It has become a welfare for the sugar set.  Case in point: my wife and I have put a bowl of candy outside our door before on years when we wouldn’t be home on Halloween, and there has never been a problem until last year, when as soon as we did so and got in the car, a pack of teenagers descended on it and took the whole thing. 

I remember a Simpsons Halloween episode where the show’s ring of teenage hoodlums show up at a door sans costumes, demanding candy or threatening to egg the house.  But even that little bit of nostalgia has now become quaint.  Today, they wouldn’t be consciously extorting the candy, they would feel naturally entitled to it.  And if there were to be retribution for refusal, it would sure be a whole lot worse than eggs. 

So, here’s a policy I’m working on implementing:

  • NO to teens without costumes (is it a sign of the increasing infantilization of our society that there’s no ceiling on how old kids think they need to be in order to go trick or treating?)
  • NO to adults who only have a baby under one (seriously, is a kid without teeth going to eat this candy?)
  • NO to adults entirely (does anybody else see this happening more often now?)
  • NO to kids who can’t even muster the energy to say “Trick or treat!” (I’ll wait for them to remember or be prompted by a parent on the sidewalk, but I won’t volunteer a handout to kids who can’t be polite and do their part)

There are probably other scenarios I need to account for.  I know this sounds melodramatic, but I’m getting tired of having a nice night for the kids ruined by people who won’t do it right.  Maybe the packs of aggressive teenagers, the people with new babies, and the lazy, sullen kids without costumes at all were around when I was a kid, and I just didn’t notice it.  Maybe this is just my tendency to see things getting worse. 

But I know I’m hardly the only one who feels this way, and I’m pretty close to just turning off the lights and not answering the door at all.  And another wholesome tradition for the real children out there is gone.

Finding Christ In the Endowment

I went to the temple today specifically looking for references to Christ in the endowment.  It yielded a rich harvest that warrants much further investigation.  Not even counting every individual reference to Him, there were some pretty significant things I noticed.

The first and last words in the endowment are clear references to the Savior.  Truly, He is Alpha and Omega: even in the temple, Jesus Christ is the beginning and ending of everything.  Literally.

More fascinating still were the major references to the Atonement itself.  I counted five.  (I’d love to attend a session of work there with you sometime and discuss in more detail where I saw these five references and the insightful language the endowment uses to describe it!) 

Of course, this is perfectly natural.  The largest overarching theme of the endowment is the physical and spiritual reconciliation of mankind to God through Christ.  In fact, viewed in that vein, the entire endowment itself could be seen as a symbol of the Atonement.

The Real Purpose of College

Recently, a discussion in one of my college classes (the same kind I mentioned last year about “The Single Purpose of All Education“) brought up the topic of why these students were there.  They mentioned all of the trite, pat, “Sunday school” answers: to get training for a job, to earn credentials for a career, to add to their education, etc. 

Those answers are all adequate enough, I guess, (though it’s sad that none of them thought to mention an induction into a life as a literate citizen), but I threw them for a loop when I explained the truth.

It’s no secret that most college graduates do not work in the field of their degree, thus negating the “career training” angle.  So what is college really for?

Think about it.  What does having a college degree tell potential emloyers about you?  What can they surmise about you based on the fact that you have that piece of paper, wherever it’s from and whatever field of study it mentions? 

They can tell that you made a difficult long-term commitment and followed through on it.  And in the real world, my friends, a person who can prove that is worth their weight in gold.

Students Make Fun of Me, Part II

As I was reading the vocabulary example sentences mentioned in the last post, I saw many that *extolled* the virtues of one of my colleagues.  At least two dozen students wrote sentences like, “Mrs. X took the time to *scrutinize* my paper for errors,” or “Mrs. X cares enough to *meticulously* review the work of all of her students.”  I emailed some examples to her and she was pleased.  Hey, what teacher wouldn’t want to know they’d earned such a sterling reputation?

So, were there any examples in all of these classes about yours truly?  Yes, a few.  Only one jumped out at me as being even remotely positive: “Mr. Huston *deploys* sarcastic yet witty remarks to keep his students’ attention.”  That’s nice.  Sort of.  Certainly nicer than “Mr. Huston is of a *mediocre* height.”  And far nicer than “Mr. Huston’s class is like the *Holocaust* on crack.”  Geez, because being compared to the Holocaust isn’t bad enough by itself?  You had to throw crack into the mix?

The Use and Abuse of Parts of Speech, or, Why Basics Are Important

Finished reading example sentences my classes made up for a current unit of vocabulary words today.  As usual, many of these sentences are complete nonsense. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’d say that more than 80% of them were just fine, and even though each class had done plenty of exercises with these words and researched published examples, I still have come to realize that awkward sentences like these are a natural part of the learning process.  They’ll be revised next week, with guided practice. 

By far the biggest thing that strikes me about these, though, is the consistency of the most common error, and what a fundamental error it is: students don’t know how to use parts of speech.  We have nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and the rest drilled into us from elementary school, and here are high school students who, when shown that a word is a noun, will still try to use it as a verb in their own efforts: “He impetussed at me.”  Actually, the most frequent mistake–one that seems to come automatically when trying out an unfamilar word–is to make it an adjective: “He was a really impetus guy.”

So even in honors classes, I spend more time than I ever thought I would reviewing the difference between parts of speech and how to use them. 

I jotted down the “best” examples I saw of mistaken usages in this week’s papers.  Though some concern verb tense, confusing a word with a similar word, or attaching the wrong meaning to a word, the vast majority of these are matters of switched parts of spech. 

The vocabulary words are in italics.

**********

Our army is nostalgia.

Apple juice has a great quintessence.

This wind is impetus.

I was impetus and willing to talk again.

Lawyers tend to be duplicity people. 

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Clark County and Nevada Ballot Questions

Question #1: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to provide for the appointment of Supreme Court justices and District Court judges by the Governor for their initial terms from lists of candidates nominated by the Commission on Judicial Selection, with subsequent retention of those justices and judges after independent performance evaluations and voter approval?

A lot of conservatives are supporting this one, and I completely see their point: voters tend to put stupid people in office.  Case in point: Elizabeth Halverson.  Having judges temporarily appointed would solve that. 

But here’s why I oppose it.  First, just because the people are not doing their research and getting involved is no reason to take away their authority to choose their judges.  We should never, ever give away any of our autonomy.  Agreeing with the mindset that elites should take care of us can only lead to tyranny. 

Second, though there are areas in American politics where some leaders are chosen for us by other leaders (and before the seventeenth amendment, there used to be more), in those cases the latter were elected with the understanding that they would choose the former.  Such would not be the case here, where a committee of lawyers and other yahoos would have that power, but would not be picked by us for that purpose. 

Third, how does this guarantee there won’t be incompetence or corruption?  Unless this new selection committee is headed by Elliott Ness, they’ll be susceptible to mistakes and worse. 

No, Nevada, do not give up your power to choose your judges.

Vote: NO

Question #2: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to allow for the establishment of an intermediate appellate court, that would have jurisdiction over appeals of certain civil and criminal cases arising from the district courts?

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Clark County / Nevada Election Endorsements

My research for this relied heavily on the endorsements offered by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, both of which I studied in detail.  I also checked out some other organizations, such as Nevada Concerned Citizens‘ endorsements, my own comments from the primaries, and, of course, I googled each candidate and reviewed their web sites.  Here’s what I came up with. 

Ballot questions will be handled in another post. 

SENATE

I won’t repeat everything I’ve already said here many times about this race, but suffice it to say…

Vote for: Sharron Angle

CONGRESS, DISTRICT 1

Kenneth Wegner has not campaigned aggressively, nor has the party supported him sufficiently.  I love his signs, but that’s hardly enough to be taken seriously.  At the same time, Democratic incumbent Shelley Berkley is strong.  I saw a billboard for her last week that simply said something like, “Honesty.  Integrity.  Hard Work.”  Know what?  I can’t deny that.  She’s clean of scandals and has a good reputation. 

Basically, this race is pointless.  She’ll win by about a zillion percent. 

Still, Berkley voted for the stimulus and ObamaCare.  So…

Vote for: Kenneth Wegner

Incidentally, even though it’s not in my district, I hope people for Joe Heck instead of Dina Titus for the other Congressional seat up for grabs this year.  Titus is just as liberal as Berkley, and has run a foul, dishonest campaign against Heck.  Dr. Heck, on the other hand, is a consistently conservative leader with the dedication we need to help our state.

GOVERNOR

Meanwhile, Brian Sandoval actually is ahead of Rory Reid by about a zillion points, so this one’s pointless, too!

By the way, if all of the conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are doing it because we hate Hispanics so much, why are we giving one a landslide victory in the election for our governor?  Hmmm, maybe the left’s convenient assumptions about us aren’t accurate after all…

Vote for: Brian Sandoval

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It’s easy to criticize NPR, but…

Yes, NPR was shamelessly biased and intolerant for firing commentator Juan Williams for expressing a tame personal opinion that dared to color outside the party lines (when they were really just looking for an excuse because they hated him for not hating Fox News; he isn’t conservative–far from it–he just doesn’t hate them–that’s unacceptable!).  Always funny how those who squawk loudest about tolerance and variety are the least likely to live it. 

Still, all the criticism against NPR that’s slamming them for violating his “right to free speech” is wrong.  Our right to free speech is not the same as a guaranteed platform or audience.  It’s merely a restriction on persecution.  NPR isn’t persecuting him, just refusing to give him a bully pulpit anymore.  In a free country, employers are welcome to terminate the employment of whoever they want.  We may not like their reasoning, but it’s their call to make. 

Of course, the bigger problem for me here is not that NPR is advocating a leftist agenda so much as they’re disingenuous about it.  Stop claiming to be neutral when you’re not!  There’s nothing wrong with being a liberal media outlet, but at least be honest about it. 

Several years ago, around the outbreak of the Iraq war, I listened to Teri Gross’s show Fresh Air for a while.  I stopped after her biased treatment of guests became too obvious to bear.  Liberal guests were adored, worshipped, joked with, and flattered to no end–I remember when the author of What’s Wrong With Kansas? came on, Gross exuded giddiness like a preteen with a crush. 

But when the occasional conservative would come on, I could hear the irritation in her voice–she would grill them in this terse, quizzical tone that sounded like a scientist studying a bug under a microscope: “I don’t understand this weird thing, but I’m trying to wrap my superior mind around it.”  One Bush administration official got yelled at with increasing vigor as he failed to wither under her scrutiny.

Whether or not they’re balanced, biased, or whatever else, we shouldn’t be funding a public media outpost at all, though.  If, as the defenders always say, taxes are such a tiny part of their budget, then why make such a big fuss about letting it go?

Students Make Fun of Me

One of my college classes is about to be assigned a process paper to write.  I usually word the assignment like this: “Describe in detail a process for performing some activity.  Choose an activity with which you are familiar, but with which most other people may not be familiar.”

I used to phrase that last part differently: “…with which you are familiar, but which you think Mr. Huston probably doesn’t know a lot about.”

The problem, of course, is that I ended up reading a ton of essays with titles such as, “How to work out,” “How to impress women,” “How to dress with style,” etc.  Guess I left myself open for those.

In a similar vein, I used to show my honors high school classes some of the satirical personals ads from the London Review of Books (things like, “Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible,” or “To some, I am a world of temptation. To others, I’m just another cross-dressing pharmacist. Male, 41.”) and, as a brief warm-up writing activity, ask them to try drafting a humorous personal ad for a hypothetical person who’d have no real hope of attracting someone.

Too many of them came up with the same idea: “Skinny, sarcastic English teacher seeks someone, anyone, to help him forget what a hopeless loser he is.”

*Sigh*  Good one.

Meghan McCain Is 25, Not 26

On Sunday, John McCain’s daughter-turned-pundit Meghan McCain dropped a now-infamous dis of Delaware Senatorial candidate–and staunch conservative–Christine O’Donnell. 

“Well, I speak as a 26-year-old woman and my problem is that, no matter what, Christine O’Donnell is making a mockery of running for public office,” McCain told anchor Christiane Amanpour. “She has no real history, no real success in any kind of business….I just know, in my group of friends, it turns people off because she’s seen as a nutjob.”

Among many other problems here (as Doug Powers noted for Michelle Malkin, “In that case, O’Donnell should forget about the Senate and run for President”), is a fact nobody else seems to have noticed:

Meghan McCain is 25, not 26.  Her birthday is October 23.  What does this mean?  Either she doesn’t know her own age or she figured her bithday was only a week away, so she decided to go ahead and bump up her age a year. 

Really?  Who does this after third grade?  She wants to be taken seriously as a political commentator, but she’s introducing her remarks with the equivlent of, “I’m seven and three-fourths years old!  It’s almost like I’m eight!” 

That should tell us all we need to know about the maturity of Meghan McCain.

Harry Reid and the LDS Church

A fascinating article in yesterday’s Las Vegas Sun analyzes the hostile relationship between Nevada’s LDS senator, Harry Reid, and the majority of members of his own faith. 

One reason given in the article is that, in 2006, when church leadership supported a proposed constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage, Reid not only voted against it, he publicly spoke in opposition to it.  The Church doesn’t seem to pursue people’s membership for such public opposition anymore, but there was a time when they would have, and certainly the lay membership understands that such a stance is not in complete harmony with the expectations of faithful members to support our leaders. 

Another major example of Reid’s public dissention, not mentioned in the Sun article, was a 2007 speech at church-owned BYU.  In his remarks, he criticized some prominent, recent church leaders, specifically naming former church president Ezra Taft Benson, and said, “I think they’ve taken members of the church down a path that is the wrong path.”  Wow.  Calling out a prophet for leading the church astray, which our beliefs strictly say that God wouldn’t let a prophet do?  That’s a little bit out of step, to say the least.  What exactly is this “wrong path” down which we’ve been taken, Senator?

Just to show that this lack of charity isn’t only for his own brethren, though, Reid said in that same speech, “They are the most anti-Christian people I can imagine, the people from the Christian far right.” 

I suppose I’ll be criticized here for a lack of charity myself, but a couple of things need to be understood.  First, I’m not attacking Reid.  I’m not questioning his faith, his worthiness, or his value as a person.  Such vicious hostility is wrong, and I do not support it, not toward Harry Reid, not toward anybody.  I am, however, pointing out some difficult facts about him that we need to accept and confront honestly when we discuss religion and politics. 

Second, that is totally appropriate.  Reid is a veteran public figure, whose public statements, even on his private beliefs, can and should be open to scrutiny.  If a conservative member said such disdainful things about church leadership from their political perspective as Reid has, liberal church members would be rightfully indignant.  It is absolutely reasonable to consider Harry Reid a poor example of loyalty to the church that I’m sure he sincerely believes in, just as much as a Catholic politician who repeatedly votes for abortion bills. 

I’d also like to add that I can’t wait for this election to be over.  I’m getting tired of thinking about Harry Reid, and writing about him.  After November 2, hopefully I’ll never have to again.

Lord of the Rings Heroes As College Students

Before submitting my classes’ midterm grades on the registrar’s web page today, I had to view a short tutorial for the program. As it played, I noticed that the designers had used characters from The Lord of the Rings as their model students for the demonstration. This begs a few questions:

1. Is it really fair to fail Boromir? The hobbits certainly praised him later on. This teacher could justify letting him squeak by with that last minute extra credit he did.

2. Even if you blanch at the silly “hunk” moments in the film versions, it’s hard to justify giving Legolas a D, and he really can’t be given a grade that’s a full letter lower than Gimli. Is something personal at work, here? Sour grapes, perhaps?

3. How the heck do you justify making Gandalf a sophomore? If any of them is at least a graduate student, a TA, or even an adjunct working on his dissertation, it’s him. Really, this part is just cracked.

4. When I saw that the female characters are majoring in music and education, I wondered if sexism might be afoot, until I noticed that the men are also rather artsy around here. Nice touch making Gandalf a history major. Still, shouldn’t Eowyn be majoring in engineering, or some “hard” science like that?

5. It would have been nice to see some villains on here, too. Grima Wormtongue could be that smarmy cheater nobody likes. Definitely pre-law. The Witch King would be majoring in sports medicine (with a minor in marketing), and passing with flying colors. Saruman (freshman) changed his major from social work to focus on a future MBA. Alas, he drops out before he gets very far.

Teachers On Facebook

I saw this article on Drudge Report this morning, about teachers in New York getting fired for improper interactions with students on Facebook.  Rightfully so, too–these “teachers” are malicious perverts who deserve what they get. 

I’ve seen plenty of teachers on Facebook, and interacting with students online in other ways.  Their level of interaction varies from not having any student “friends” at all to frequent contact with many students.  Everything I’ve seen appears to be kosher, and I hope that there aren’t any problems around here. 

When I started using Facebook last year, I didn’t have a student policy in mind, but I immediately realized I needed one.  What I quickly settled on was this: I wouldn’t “friend” current students or accept requests from them, but I would be open to being friends with former students.  That seems reasonable to me. 

Maybe the most important thing to remember is that it is a public forum–ultimately, everything online is.  Conducting ourselves with such in mind will lead to fewer problems now and no regrets later.

Edgar Allan Poe Writes Real Estate Ads

After teaching Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” last week, in which he wallows in every chance to describe the building in as much awful detail as possible, I wondered how such skills would carry over to the modern world of real estate advertising.  Thus, this, with obvious material lifted straight from the story:

FOR SALE. 4 bed, 2 bath, spacious lot. Bleak walls, vacant eyelike windows, rank sedges, decayed trees. Good starter home.

AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY. 2100 sq. ft. Black and lurid tarn w/ precipitous brink and ghastly tree stems. Also, HOA dues.

Ranch house, gated neighborhood, close to schools, w/ a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, leaden-hued. A fixer upper.

Downtown duplex to rent. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, hanging in a fine tangled webwork from the eaves; no masonry fallen! No smokers.

Retail/office space available. A wild inconsistency between perfect adaptation of parts, crumbling individual stones. Reminds one of a long neglected vault. A barely perceptible fissure, which, extending from the front of the roof of the building in front, makes its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it becomes lost in the sullen waters of the tarn. Zoned for commercial operation.

Cozy bungalow for sale. Carvings on ceiling, somber tapestries, ebon blackness on floors, phantasmagoric armorial trophies rattle. Take the virtual tour online!

Condo units for lease. Large and lofty. Windows long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light make their way through the trellised panes. Accented by vaulted and fretted ceiling. Fully furnished: profuse, comfortless, antique, tattered. Many books and musical instruments lay scattered about. College students preferred, pets OK.

Don’t miss upcoming mansion open house! Good for close family. Contact Usher Realty. Some remodeling needed.