Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Mormon Policy on Gay Families

I have now had some time to think about the new LDS church policy and do not feel so reactionary about it. For anyone who is still unfamiliar, though I am not sure how that is possible, it is a new policy that declares anyone who is LGBT and lives in accordance with that identification (for example, are in a same sex relationship) are considered apostates. Any children living in a household (at least most of the time) with a parent or parents who are living in a same sex relationship will not be allowed full membership until they are 18 and denounce their parents' homosexuality.

Many religions have always seen homosexuality as a sin and therefore any homosexual acts as sinful. This is not new, or a surprise to anyone. But what did surprise people is the way the LDS church leadership has chosen to deal with the children of these individuals. And for me there are two big issues that arise with this new policy that seem to be in direct conflict with other Mormon and Christian doctrine.

1. Blessings, Baptism, and the Priesthood: For the church to create a policy that prevents an innocent child from receiving these ordinances they are either saying that children of a LGBT parent are not worthy, and are therefore being punished for the sins of their parents, OR they are saying that these ordinances maybe aren't as important as they seem. Because if they really were essential to an individuals exaltation then they are damning these children for something they have no control over until they are 18. But on the other hand, maybe getting blessings when you are young, and being baptized at age 8, and doing temple ordinances like baptisms for the dead when you are 12, and (if you are a boy) also getting the priesthood at age 12 really aren't that important. At least not essential at the currently typical ages. Perhaps more children should be made to wait a little longer before participating in some of these things so you can really be sure they fully understand what they are doing and that LDS doctrine is not in conflict with other beliefs they may hold. Which brings me to my second issue, which is a harder one to get around...

2. Family Conflicts: The justification the church issued for not including children of LGBT parents in these ordinances can be summed up as "for their own good." The LDS church leaders say that they do not want to cause confusion with children who are living in a household that is in direct conflict with church teachings. This sounds like a noble gesture; they want to preserve the family. Until you realize that they are actively recruiting young people who are still living with their parents to convert to the church. These are children of parents who are not members of the LDS faith. There seems to be no concern for conflicts that may arise between the belief system of a parent in a heterosexual relationship and what the LDS doctrine teaches. Now those parents have to give permission for a child to be baptized if they are under 18. But the opportunity still is there for these children to be baptized with parental permission where this is not the case for children of LGBT parents. Is the LDS church going to agree to not recruit the children of non-members, or even the children of members who are not living in accordance with the doctrine? If this was truly their goal, then they should also have a policy not to recruit anyone under the age of 18.

I think this is why many people are struggling with the new policy on both sides of the church. For those who are not active members or were on the verge of leaving anyway, this is just one more example of the church showing exclusion and discrimination before love and acceptance. Which is hard to co-exist with the broader Christian beliefs that the LDS church is supposed to be based on. But the other side that is struggling are the true believers. They believe that this is inspired doctrine whether we understand it or not. However, it is not an easy policy to understand and so once again these true believers have to act as the apologists for the church. They try to reiterate the messages from the leadership that attempt to explain why these policies are good. But at the same time the LDS church teaches that we have agency, and we should be able to tell right from wrong, and even that we only need to rely on these feelings to know that the church is true. So if this policy is good, and from God, shouldn't it be immediately apparent to most people? After all, Mormon missionaries only ask investigators to pray for a feeling in order to know the entire church doctrine is true. Members should, then, be able to trust their feelings. But if they question, or think something doesn't feel right, they are taught that THOSE feelings aren't true feelings. Only feelings that confirm the church can be true feelings. So in reality, you cannot trust you own feelings - only what the church tells you to feel. All of this leads to a sense of cognitive dissonance and those true believing members get defensive about their beliefs because they don't like when someone points out the inconsistencies in their religion. So they either fight back through insults ("it's easier to question and give up than to do the right thing," etc...) or they avoid the topic altogether with anyone who doesn't confirm what they are supposed to believe.

I know there are some people out there who will feel that they do not fall into either of these broader categories, and that is great. If you believe in the policy wholeheartedly and do not feel defensive about it, or uncomfortable with it, then that's great. I am not seeking to tell anyone they are wrong. I am only reporting my observations and the questions I have for the church moving forward that this policy seems to directly conflict with. I clearly don't believe this was inspired by God, or even very well thought out by LDS church leaders. It is unfortunate that children may suffer due to these policies. I hope those who are hurting can find their own peace with the situation.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Books on Stoicism

I recently read The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking and it has me interested in Stoicism, Buddhism and meditation. I came across this list on Reddit but couldn't get it to link to Pinterest. So I copied it here for my own reference. I may update this with my reviews as I actually read these (if I actually read all of them). I may take some off the list and add in some different books on meditation and Buddhism along the way, but rather than overload my goodreads list with all of these books - I decided to list them here and then add them to goodreads as I decide which ones I am actually going to read ;)

1) A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
     by William Braxton Irvine
This was my re-introduction to stoicism and led me to think that I should incorporate stoic practice into my life. It is not academic but I have not found major contradictions with my understanding of the ancient texts. Review by Walter M. Roberts III here
2) Stoic Serenity: A Practical Course on Finding Inner Peace
     by Keith Seddon
Originally intended as a correspondence course, this book has writing assignments and uses Meditations and Letters from a Stoic as references. You will want to use the versions I have listed below if possible since the page numbers and paragraph references are specific to those editions.
3) Meditations (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature)
     by Marcus Aurelius (Robin Hard translation)
Edition used by Seddon's book/course above.
4) Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)
     by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Robert Campbell translation)
Edition used by Seddon's book/course above.
5) Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life
     by A. A. Long
This is extremely valuable for intermediate/advanced study. I recommend it after having a good understanding of stoicism and Epictetus so that the issues and interpretations have some context. Review by William O. Stephens here
6) Stoic Studies (Hellenistic Culture and Society)
     by A. A. Long
Review by William O. Stephens here
7) The Hellenistic Philosophers, Vol. 1: Translations of the Principal Sources, with Philosophical Commentary
     by A. A. Long and David Sedley
AA Long is one of the living experts, if not THE living expert on Stoicism. I have seen this text referenced multiple times.
8) The Hellenistic Philosophers: Volume 2, Greek and Latin Texts with Notes and Bibliography
     by A. A. Long and David Sedley

9) Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics, Second edition
     by A. A. Long
According to one of the comments, this contains different material from the The Hellenistic Philosophers Vol 1 & 2.
10) Stoicism (Ancient Philosophies)
     by John Sellars
This is an introductory academic text that is used in the College of Stoic Philosophers - the online course offered by NewStoa.
11) The Art of Living: The Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy (Bristol Classical Paperbacks)
     by John Sellars
Review by Brad Inwood here
12) Musonius Rufus: Lectures and Sayings
     by Cynthia King
Rufus was Epictetus' Stoic teacher, and this recent book is the first translation of his complete extant works. Review by William O Stephens here
13) The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
     by Pierre Hadot
Review by Rachana Kamtekar here
14) What Is Ancient Philosophy?
     by Pierre Hadot
Review by Donald Zeyl here
15) Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault
      by Arnold I. Davidson

16) The Stoics Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia
      by Brad Inwood
Review by Tiberiu Popa here
17) Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome
      by Brad Inwood
Review by Katja Maria Vogt here
18) The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy)
      by Brad Inwood
Review by Joachim Lukoschus here
19) A New Stoicism
     by Lawrence C. Becker
Review by R.W. Sharples here
20) The Philosophy of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Stoic Philosophy as Rational and Cognitive Psychotherapy
     by Donald Robertson
A summary of a review is on the books website here
21) The Stoic Life: Emotions, Duties, and Fate
     by Tad Brennan
Review by Andrew Smith here Review by Gretchen Reydams-Schils here
22) Epictetus' Handbook and the Tablet of Cebes: Guides to Stoic Living
     by Epictetus
Review by Michael Trapp here
23) Discourses, Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library)
     by Epictetus

24) Epictetus: Discourses, Books 3-4. The Encheiridion. (Loeb Classical Library No. 218)
     by Epictetus
Everyone who has read multiple translations recommends these two volumes.
25) Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot (Reprint ed.)
     by James B. Stockdale
I read the text of two lectures Stockdale gave along these lines, I am interested in reading more.
26) A Man in Full
      by Tom Wolfe
Stoicism in a modern narrative format, my understanding is that Wolfe's conversations with Stockdale inspired this book.
27) Everything Has Two Handles: The Stoic's Guide to the Art of Living
     by Ronald W. Pies
Apparently this work is meant to show the confluence of other Religious ideas and Stoicism along with examples from modern therapy. Pies is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts Medical School.
28) The Philosophy of Epictetus
     by Theodore Scaltsas
Review by Brad Inwood here
29) Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations
     by Steven K. Strange
Review by Jon Miller here
30) The Meaning of Stoicism (Martin Classical Lectures. Volume XXI)
     by Ludwig Edelstein
From the NewStoa College of Stoic Philosopher's reading list
31) Heraclitus: Fragments (Phoenix Supplementary Volumes)
     by T.M. Robinson
From the NewStoa College of Stoic Philosopher's reading list

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Easy Pepper, Potato and Sausage Skillet

I have been looking for a good recipe to use some of my garden peppers. I couldn't find one recipe that stuck out to me, so I came up with my own variation on a couple of different recipes. Here it is:

Prep Time: 20 Minutes     Total Time: 80 Minutes
Serving Size:  1 Cup       Calories per Serving: 300 (may vary depending on type of sausage used)

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 1/2 cup Peppers, diced
1 1/2 lbs Red Potatoes, diced 
14oz Pre-Cooked Chicken Sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick *I used Chipotle Jack chicken sausage, but you could really use any flavor
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
Instructions: Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add potatoes to skillet. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 40 minutes or until potatoes are soft, mixing regularly. Set the potatoes aside on a plate and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and peppers. Cook, mixing regularly, until the sausage is heated through and the peppers are soft, 5-10 minutes. Return potatoes to the skillet and add the seasoning to taste. Cover and let all heat together for about two minutes. 
*When I make this again (and I am sure I will) I think I will try minced garlic with the potatoes from the beginning instead of the garlic powder. This may also be good with some onion in addition to the peppers. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Cinnamon Chicken

I don't normally blog recipes, but this one needs to be blogged! I found it in Runner's World magazine. And it is from the Runner's World website that I found the above picture (the one I made I ate too fast to take a picture of it). I am re-posting this recipe because they have left out a very important step from their recipe. I think my dinner would have turned out even better had I read through all the instructions first and realized they forgot to mention a step. So, mostly for myself, I am rewriting the recipe here intact. (I would have thought they'd have corrected their mistake on their website but it also has the error. Here is their recipe). 

The missing step is to remove the chicken from the pan after browning. I didn't realize that this needed to happen until I had already gone through the next two steps and the chicken had been cooking for an extra 20-30 minutes, at a higher temperature than intended. So I pulled the chicken out and didn't add it back in until the very end - so the chicken and spices did not all stew together the way they were supposed to.

This recipe takes a while. It took me 2 HOURS tonight. So be prepared for it to take that long with prep and all. But an hour of that time is simmering on the stovetop, so settle in and find yourself something to for that hour while your delicious meal is stewing. 


1 chicken (2 1/2 to 3 pounds), cut into eight pieces
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 peeled garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 peeled, coarsely chopped medium yellow onions
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

Boil water with some sea salt and set aside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Mix the cinnamon, kosher salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix all over the chicken pieces.

Mince three of the garlic cloves. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat (a 12-inch skillet with sides about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high will allow you to brown all the chicken at once). Add the chicken to the oil and brown for about four to five minutes on each side, until it is well browned all over. 

**This is the missing step: REMOVE CHICKEN FROM PAN 

Lower the heat to medium-high and add the onions and minced garlic. Cook for about three minutes, stirring constantly, until the onions have softened and are a rich golden brown. Add the wine. When the wine has evaporated, add the water, chicken stock, tomato paste, oregano, and remaining two garlic cloves. Return the chicken to the pan. The liquid should cover about 3/4 of the chicken pieces. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about an hour or until the chicken is tender and thoroughly cooked. Season the finished sauce with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve over a bed of quinoa or another favorite grain. Serves four.
If prepared without the skin:
Calories: 360
Protein: 40 g
Carbs: 18 g
Fat: 11 g
If prepared with the skin:
Calories: 650
Protein: 47 g
Carbs: 18 g
Fat: 41 g

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How American Work Culture Hurts Everyone (especially women)

I read an article today that really got me thinking about our work culture. The article was about Katherine Zaleski who used to be president of a company and in that role she discriminated against other women who were mothers, assuming they did not have the time to dedicate to their jobs fully. But then she became a mother and was faced with the dilemma of work/life balance. She decided to quit her office job and start a company with a friend that supports women in tech fields who want to work from home. Sounds like a noble effort to accommodate women's roles as both mothers and wage earners (article here).
      However, I do take some issue with the article as a whole. While I cringed at her admission of the terrible way she judged mothers, her "redemption" story also left me disappointed. While I do admire what she is trying to do now, by providing avenues for work from home (something coveted, competitive and often difficult to arrange), I am disappointed that she had to quit her office job. In fact, the whole article felt more like an advertisement for her new start-up company than anything that would actually help women who currently face the dilemma of work/life balance as mothers (unless they work in the technical industry and want to use her new company's services to find a new job).
      Women finding new employment after having a baby is not a novel idea. Often, however, the options are as limited as the pay. Work from home jobs, or jobs that are off-hours to balance child care with a partner, are jobs that generally aren't as lucrative. Instead of encouraging women to find new (limited) jobs that accommodate them, why can't we demand more flexibility from more industries and businesses? Research shows that being flexible with your employees on how and where they work shows an increase in productivity and job satisfaction.
       One point the Fortune article makes is that we put too much weight on actual hours logged in the office, and less on amount and quality of work produced. This is something that has always bothered me about American work culture, and it is something that really doesn't benefit anyone. Any worker (mother or otherwise) who has life obligation and is not able to "burn the midnight oil" might be seen as an underachiever. While I acknowledge that there are instances where staying late is needed, it should not be the norm. If someone manages their time well and works efficiently, they ought to be able to leave on time most days. If not, perhaps they are not the dedicated, hard-working, great-example-of-an-employee, but rather someone who is inefficient with their time and thus has to stay late to complete their work. Or perhaps the company is asking them to do too much, especially if they are salaried and only getting paid for a 40 hour/week commitment but then expected to do 60+ hours of work.
      Not only that, but with modern technology some employees are expected to always be reachable and to respond to emails/texts/calls no matter the time or day. While we like to think that all of this extra work effort is helping America (and Americans) there is little evidence that it is. Just take this report comparing the American economy to Germany's, and this guys who nicely sums up the difference in work culture between the two countries. For all our effort we are earning less and saving less, even if we are spending more. Which also begs the question, what are we spending our money on if all of our time is spent at work? With all of this emphasis on "work ethic" as only evidenced by number of hours spent at your work desk, it is no wonder that women feel anxious about and discriminated against for starting families. This is just another part of the intricate web that keeps women from having equal footing with men, and the fact that it is the women, and not men, who are expected to change their whole lives for their children is topic for a blog post all its own.
       In closing I would like to acknowledge that a lot of companies are moving to be more flexible. They are invested in their employees' quality of life and job satisfaction with the understanding that those employees will work harder and be more loyal. It's these flexible companies that are attracting the best, most qualified employees and are experiencing the most growth and profits for their efforts. So my hope and prayer is that it is only a matter of time before accommodating work schedules are the norm and no one has to choose between having a job and staying home with their children. As Katherine Zaleski does point out in her article "if you want something done ask a busy person to do it" and therefore, no one should be reluctant to hire a busy parent.

photo credit: <a href="">Portrait of a female executive</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The "Vegan" Menu

I want to say from the get-go that I am not a vegan, but have nothing against vegans. I think it's admirable when someone chooses that lifestyle and to me it seems like it would be a hard lifestyle to maintain. I have a lot of respect for those who are able to do it even if they only do for a short time.

That being said, I am often perplexed by vegan restaurant menus. I have only been to a few vegan restaurants in my day, but all of them have had "chicken" and "beef" and "pork" on their menus. I understand that these items are not actually chicken, beef or pork so I once asked a waiter at a vegan restaurant what the "chicken" wings actually were. He responded that they were mostly made of wheat gluten. I guess 'wheat gluten wings' doesn't sound as appetizing. To me it sounds like they've taken all the gluten that's been extracted from gluten free products and molded it into chicken wing shapes and then fried it. Definitely not something I want to be eating. Which brings me to my first argument against using animal names on vegan menus:

1. People want to know what they are eating. We've had a bit of a culture shift in recent decades where people are starting to care more about what it is they are actually eating. I would assume this to be especially true for a group of people who have decided to go out of their way to ensure they do not consume animal products. They are probably more aware of what they are eating than most of us who are otherwise health conscious, because I would assume they have to read labels of most foods they buy to make sure they were not accidentally consuming an animal product. Vegans may even not be at all turned off by having wheat gluten on their menu. Perhaps it is something that shows up in a lot of vegan foods. If you think it's going to hurt your business to tell someone what they are actually eating, maybe you should consider serving something different on your menu.

2. Vegan's don't want to eat animals. My second argument for not using animal names on vegan menus, is that those who chose to be vegan should not find animal products to be appetizing. You would think that seeing "beef" on a menu would make someone not want to eat if they've chosen to avoid eating animal products.

3. Vegan's don't (or shouldn't) want their food to taste like meat. I have heard someone say that they put the animal product names on the menu because that is what the vegan food is supposed to taste like. I would think that someone who has chosen to be vegan would also not want their food to mimic the taste and/or texture of animal meat. If you want to eat something that is called chicken and tastes like chicken, you can just eat chicken.

But all joking aside, my last and most poignant argument against using animal names on vegan menus is a more philosophical one:

4. Using animal names on menus perpetuates the idea of animals (and animal products) as food. Even if those ordering from your menus know that it is not actually chicken, by calling it "chicken" you are feeding into the cultural food norms that say chicken is a food. In fact, you are promoting the idea that "chicken" is a more valid food than wheat gluten since you have chosen to list "chicken" as the menu item instead of what you are actually serving.

Again, I am not a vegan. I am just someone who cares to know what it is I am eating. I don't object to eating vegan food and enjoy going to vegan restaurants with my friends. But I do get frustrated with not knowing what I am actually ordering because the menus aren't telling me.