Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 4.16.2018

Woke up the other morning in the stone age. No Internet, no phone service, no TV. It's fairly sobering how much we depend on the Internet to be there for so many reasons. Checking Facebook is not the issue. The big deal is how much we depend on the resources. Barb can't get what she needs for her ESL lesson prep. I can't do book narration or even preparations. The files I need are on the cloud.

So with no Internet, one spends the morning cleaning out drawers and file cabinets and sorting out all the detritus that ends up in my office. And checking every few minutes to see if Spectrum has restored service. Luckily, it was a little too chilly to comfortably work in the yard. Too bad.

Alternately, one can sit around and listen to the clock chime. I calculated that the heirloom clock chimes 312 times in a twenty-four hour period. Other chiming clocks strike 306 times, but the family clock over achieves and strikes 3 extra times at the 1 o'clock hour. Ahh! Internet's back. Thank goodness. I was getting ready to rearrange my sock drawer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Mormons Again - Tales from the Tree

  There's a passel of Mormons hanging out in my Family Tree. I've mentioned them previously, and noted that given the fundamental leanings of most of my relatives, they sort of stand out. They are not in the direct line of ancestors, but sit far out on skinny little branches, for the most part distantly related to or married to those in the line of closer relatives.

Of course, with multiple wives and boundless progeny, it is not hard to find some connection. The gentleman that is the subject of this post was married to a woman who was my 9th cousin, 4 times removed. Whatever that means. But then again, he had 19 wives and 67 children! He could be related by marriage to you, as well. By the way, I'm not sure how you even come up with 67 names for your kids, and I'm pretty sure they probably had to wear name tags.

But what caught my eye about this near-relative was not his family, but the statement, "John D. Lee is perhaps the most controversial figure in Mormon history."  Say What?

 Sure enough, a quick Google search turned up a lengthy Wikipedia article, several PBS features from The West film project, an article from the Smithsonian, several treatments from a variety of sources, including official LDS postings, and even a link to a 456-page book written by Lee himself, entitled, "Mormonism Unveiled; Or The Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee; (Written by Himself)."

According to these accounts, Lee was a shining star in the early and formative years of the Mormon movement. After he and his first wife converted to the young religion formed only 7 years prior, his religious zeal became the driving force in his life. He played an active role in the near-war conflicts that rose between the Mormon communities and the resentful "gentile" neighbors, joining the "Danite Band" - the organized Mormon militia. He was promoted to the First Quorum of the Seventy, which directed the church's extensive military activities, and was chosen to guard the home of founder and prophet Joseph Smith.

He must not have been much of a guard, however, because Smith was arrested and later killed by a mob. Undeterred, Lee turned his devotion and loyalty to Brigham Young and was a key figure in the mass migrations to Utah's Salt Lake valley. Along the way, he adopted Young's doctrine of plural marriages - rather zealously, it seems.

For the next decade, Lee played an important role in expanding the Mormon refuge in the West. He became a prosperous farmer and businessman in Southwestern Utah, helping to establish communal mining, milling and manufacturing complexes. He became the local bishop and the Indian agent to the nearby Paiute Indians. And he continued to be a frequent visitor and trusted confidant of the church leadership in Salt Lake City.

By 1857 the United States government had had enough of the "Godless Polygamists" and President James Buchanan sent an army to Utah to set things straight. Fearing annihilation, the Mormons responded in force, and that's the backdrop for the still-controversial Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which a wagon train of about 120 gentile immigrants, suspected of hostility toward the church, was slaughtered by Mormon and Paiute forces in southwestern Utah.

Lee's involvement in the massacre -- the extent of which is still vigorously disputed and will probably never be known -- was to haunt him for the next two decades, and would ultimately lead to his execution. He had written a letter to Brigham Young shortly after the massacre which laid the blame squarely on the Paiute Indians, but even among his own neighbors rumors of Lee's guilt abounded. In 1858 a federal judge came to southwestern Utah to investigate the massacre and Lee's part in it, but Lee went into hiding and local Mormons initially refused to cooperate with the investigation. 

 By the late 1860s, however, even  his Mormon neighbors were turning against him because of his connection with the massacre, and even some of his wives and children deserted him. In 1870 a Utah paper openly condemned Brigham Young for covering up the massacre. That same year Young exiled Lee to a remote part of northern Arizona and excommunicated him from the church, instructing his former confidant to "make yourself scarce and keep out of the way." 

He was not successful, however, and in 1874 Lee was captured and placed on trial. After an initial mistrial, Lee was found guilty in a second proceeding. The trials were the subject of enormous public attention and gave rise to many accounts of the massacre and of Lee's life, no doubt varying widely in their factual accuracy.  Most played up the fact that Lee had numerous wives and emphasized the plight of the women and children killed and captured at Mountain Meadows.
 On March 23, 1877, nearly 20 years after the massacre and proclaiming his innocence, Lee was executed at Mountain Meadow.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 4.9.2018

The Austin Learning Ally studio closed its doors at the end of March. As I understand it, this was the last production studio to close and the Learning Ally organization is now a virtual community. All of the readers, checkers and the preponderance of staff members are working from home, connected online.

It was sort of a poignant moment when I finished up my last studio session; I've been showing up there a couple of times a week for more than 10 years, and on my first no-studio day, I felt slightly bereft. I had been leading a somewhat hybrid existence for a couple of months - working both from home and from the studio. Now it's all home studio.

And the home studio continues to be a work-in-progress. I have quieted the echo or "slap" in the room with foam panels, but the Eskimos living next door presented a bigger challenge. I'm sure they are Eskimos, because they run their air-conditioner 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I swear I head that A/C unit during our hard freeze in January! Just glad I'm not paying that electric bill.

The air-conditioner is located right outside my "studio" windows, of course, and the noise it makes is clearly discernible in my recordings. First I stuffed foam panels in the window spaces, and that helped, but not enough. Barb was strangely dead-set against my bricking  the windows, so, I took the scientific approach and began researching materials with the highest noise reduction coefficient that I could afford.

That material, it turns out, is "rockboard" - rigid panels made up of compressed rock wool insulation. I figured that I could make up some panels that were only semi-permanent and stuff them in the openings, so I ordered a big box of panel boards.

No home improvement project - or in my case - studio improvement project is without setbacks, and mine came when I opened the box of rockboard and was greeted with a big warning notice that rockboard was only slightly less dangerous than a runaway nuclear reactor, and that you should wear protective clothing, use a breathing apparatus, double wash your clothing afterwards and to be safe, burn them and junk your washing machine. Huh. You would think the company selling this stuff would have mentioned this.

So no raw, uncovered rockboard surfaces allowed, but unbleached muslin has a nice, tight weave and a few yards of that and a can of spray adhesive and all my panels are properly diapered and currently stuffed in the window openings.

Did it stop the A/C noise? Not completely, but I can live with what remains. Now if I can just get Barb to remain absolutely silent while I am recording.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 4.2.2018

I blame Daylight Savings Time. The older I get, seemingly the earlier I rise - which is annoying, but but more about that in a moment. And with the time switch, it is now dark when I get up. So the other morning, I got up - in the dark; made my coffee - in the dark; poured my cup - in the dark; missed the cup and poured hot coffee on my hand - in the dark. Ouch. I am certain that would not have happened if we were observing "real" time.

Now about this early rising. One would think that this phase of my life would allow me to be a slug-a-bed whenever I wanted. That I could snooze as long as I wanted. But noooo. Some seven hours after I go to bed, I've enjoyed all I can stand, and its up to greet the dawn. Which is a while comeing, these days. See above.

Barb, on the other hand, does not share this affliction, so I have some quiet time to listen to podcasts, or music, for example before she gets up. I even got me some nice blue-tooth earphones for that. So the other morning, I'm getting all set to listen, and I realize that I had not "paired" the headphones to my iPhone, and rather than quietly enjoying my music, it is blaring away. I panic at this point, and I'm smothering my phone and pushing all the buttons on my phone, trying to get it to shut up.

Did you know that if you press the side button five times your phone automatically dials 911? Yes. Yes, it does. But first it alerts you with a piercing WHOOP WHOOP alarm! And then, a voice says, "Do you need police, fire or EMS?" According to Apple support, there was a countdown screen to allow me to cancel the call, but if you are clutching the phone close to muffle the loud music (which is still playing) you are unaware of this bail-out screen.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday Meanderings - 3.26.2018

Indulge me here. Like most old-timers I like to reminisce from time to time.

On a regular basis, our minister has a couple participate in the worship service by reading the scripture for the day. Most often it is a husband and wife that does this; sometimes it's a mother and son. Yesterday it was Barb and I.

After church Barb remarked that there is a new edition of the Jim Bishop book "The Day Christ Died" - some 50 years after its original publication in 1967. She mentioned it because that is the book that started it all.

Fifty years ago we were living in Abilene, starting a family, and attending Highland. This was the Mid McKnight era, and Mid regularly had me "warm up" the audience by reading scripture 5 minutes or so before services began. Then I would step aside and spend the rest of the service in a small recording booth adjacent to the stage area (absent from my wife and young child - a fact that Barb still brings up from time to time).

One Sunday the verse was from Genesis - the section where the Serpent, in response to Eve's assertion that they must not eat from the tree, lest they die, responds, "You will not surely die" - and for some reason, I literally hissed that sentence. And a light came on. I realized that there was a dynamic in scripture that I had never heard growing up. And the fact that I got positive reinforcement from several only sealed the deal.

At some later point, Mid asked me to read a section of the Bishop book. It dealt with the execution itself, and it is raw and emotional text. And I read it raw and emotionally, to bring it off the page.

And that was the beginning of 50 years of reading scripture aloud, like it was meant to be heard.