Millions of people are suffering in Asia, so I’ll be brief.

Captain Ed over at the Captain’s Quarters blog has come up with a great idea — dedicate your entire earnings from this upcoming January 12 to helping those people who have been devastated by the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Southeast Asia. Sure, I could use this money for myself and my family, but it would just go to buy us some more stuff. Giving this money to aid people in desperate need is a better, and far nobler, use of my money.

Captain Ed is urging his readers to contribute to World Vision, and many people have done just that. Here is how I choose to participate: I have written out a check for the cash equivalent of a day’s earnings to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Humanitarian Services. World Vision is a great organization, but as a man with limited means, I want to make sure my donation will make as much of a difference as possible. I am giving my day’s wages to the LDS Church’s Humanitarian Services because I know 100% of the money donated will go directly to those in need.

I also intend to make full use of the matching charitable donation program at my company. I will bring my check in on Tuesday, and my company will match my donation dollar for dollar. If your company has a similar donation matching program in place, I urge you to participate to maximize the money sent to those in need.

Let me add my small voice to the clarion call issued by Captain Ed: Give. And give generously.

Can you separate the good from the bad?

There is a story of a God-fearing farmer trying to raise his sons up right. They wanted to run into town to see a new movie, but the farmer had heard that there was some nudity and coarse language that he didn’t cotton to, and he raised this objection to his sons. They listened to their father, but said that they were mature enough to ignore the objectionable stuff and enjoy the rest of the movie. After all, it was just a tiny part that wasn’t good.

The farmer told the sons that they were old enough to make their own choice in the matter, and they were free to go catch that matinee show if their chores were done that morning. The next day the sons tackled their duties with good cheer, knowing that at the end of their morning work, they had a long-anticipated movie awaiting them. When they arrived back at the farm, they were still talking excitedly about the movie they had seen. They greeted their father and told him about how much they enjoyed the movie. Sure, it had some bad bits in it, but they were grown up enough to overlook that stuff. The father was glad to hear it, and told the boys to wash up for dinner. Their mom had fried some chicken, and it was just being served. For dessert, the farmer had baked a large batch of brownies for the boys. As they were carving up big pieces for themselves, the farmer casually remarked that these were “special” brownies. He had taken a few tiny pieces of cow dung from the farm and sprinkled them into the brownies. But since the boys were mature enough, they could just overlook the bad bits. After all, it was just a tiny part that wasn’t good. Right?

Moral-teaching homily aside, at what point does the bad of a person, place, or thing overweigh the good? Is it possible to separate the creator from the creation? It is a quandary.

My wife says she likes to read, but she doesn’t like to read everything. For instance, she cannot abide Ernest Hemingway. No matter how much Hemingway’s stories are praised by readers and literature professors, she still maintains a distaste for them because she cannot separate Hemingway the author from Hemingway the man. She describes him as “a perfect S.O.B. in his personal life,” and his behavior was so repugnant to her that, even though she recognizes he had skill and ability, she cannot separate the man from his work.

Author and activist Susan Sontag died recently of leukemia. While she was praised by many in the literary world, I have never cared for her anti-American and anti-Western slant on subjects. I don’t care how much her stuff is raved about by the intelligentsia; I will not read Sontag’s essays because of the deep philosophical differences I have with her ideas. One example: “[T]he white race is the cancer of human history.” Oh, the irony! I don’t care what nuggets of literary gold she has embedded in her body of work; I simply refuse to wade through rivers of filth to find them.

My dad spent over two years in Samoa as a missionary representing his church. During his time there, he realized that nothing he did could keep the tiny ants out of the sugar tin. At first, he would carefully strain out the ants that would float to the top of his glass of punch. After a while, he learned how to blow the ants to the opposite side of the glass and drink the punch. Finally, he got to the point where he would just down the drink, ants and all. Sometimes what is objectionable becomes less so over time.

Let me give another example. In 1971, Ron Everett was found guilty of felonious assault and false imprisonment. The Los Angeles Times described the crime this way:

Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis’ mouth and placed against Miss Davis’ face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. [Everett], head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.

Six years earlier, Everett had founded US, or the “United Slaves Organization,” a Marxist African-American solidarity group on the UCLA campus that was even more radical than the rival Black Panthers. In 1969, the two organizations clashed over who would be the leader of the new Afro-American Studies department at UCLA. Two Black Panther members verbally denounced Ron Everett at a large meeting, and were subsequently killed on Everett’s orders by two members of US. This clash led Everett to a deeply paranoid distrust of the Black Panthers; eventually he tortured two women and was later arrested and convicted. Charming person, no?

While this man was born Ron Everett, he has since started calling himself Ron Karenga or Maulana Karenga. His greatest claim to fame, aside from torturing and beating women and ordering the execution of rivals, is that he created Kwanzaa, the holiday celebrated by less than 2% of Americans in the seven days between December 26th and January 1st. Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits,” and it is a syncretic holiday, meaning it is a blending of a multitude of different traditions and celebrations — a synthetic holiday, if you will. Most harvest festivals in Africa are celebrated months earlier, but Ron Karenga explained Kwanzaa this way in an interview with the Washington Post:

People think it’s African, but it’s not. I came up with Kwanzaa because Black people wouldn’t celebrate it if they knew it was American. Also, I put it around Christmas because I knew that’s when a lot of Bloods [Karenga's term for African-Americans] are partying.

You could say that I don’t celebrate Kwanzaa because I am not of African descent, and that is true. But calling Kwanzaa an African holiday is like claiming pizza and tacos are traditional Scandinavian dishes. But if people wish to celebrate Kwanzaa, I will not stop them. They are free to dedicate the seven days of this holiday to the seven principles Karenga chose: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

A growing number of people will end their celebration of Kwanzaa on New Year’s Day tomorrow, and I wish them happiness. They either do not know of the origins of Kwanzaa, or do not care. After all, I don’t mind that many, if not most, of the Christmas traditions are of pagan origin. That knowledge doesn’t distract from my enjoyment of the Christmas season. But because I cannot separate the thuggish actions of Ron Karenga from his creation, I do not and cannot celebrate Kwanzaa. Personally, I’ll skip the invention of an avowed Marxist, torturer and death-dealer. That’s how I solve this Kwanzaa quandary.

Merry Christmas to you!

Does that annoy you? It does? Well, let me say this as nicely as I may: if hearing someone wish you a Merry Christmas makes you annoyed, there is something wrong with you. You’ve got issues, my friend. You see, when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, they are wishing you happiness and joy, and if you take offense because someone wished for your happiness with this expression of good will, what does that say about you?

The latest poll shows that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That means only about 4% of U.S. citizens might potentially be offended by Christmas, but this whiney minority has been working for years now to pull every instance of Christmas celebration from public life. Nativity scenes can’t be on public property because someone might be offended. You can’t sing some religious Christmas carols because someone might be offended. Government and business workers are told not to say “Merry Christmas” because someone might be offended. And a 7th grader in a Santa suit was turned away from the Christmas dance because (all together now, folks) someone might be offended.

I am a Christian, and I love the Christmas season. It is a time for remembering and commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah often lands very near to Christmas, but while I am not Jewish and I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, I would not be offended in the least if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I would smile and thank them graciously.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Podkayne of Mars, the title character learns that saying “thank you” to the people around her means they treat her much better than her brother, who never thanks others. “A small tip is much more savoir-fairish — and gets better, more willing service — when accompanied with ‘thank you’ than a big tip while saying nothing,” she discovers. Because of the polyglot nature of the area she is visiting, she spends time and effort to learn how to say “thank you” phonetically in many different languages:

If you say “tok” instead of “key toss” to a Finn, he will understand it. If you mistake a Japanese for a Cantonese and say “m’goy” instead of “arigato” — well, that is the one word of Cantonese he knows…. However, if you do guess right and pick their home language, they roll out the red carpet and genuflect, all smiles.

Does it really matter what language you use to thank someone? Some people think so. While traveling from Germany to Denmark, we stopped at the border to have our passports stamped. For the last two years, I had spoken either English or German, so after getting my passport I thanked the border guard by saying, “Danke.” His reply was a surly, “I’m not German!”

Was I trying to insult him? Not at all. Was he insulted? Yes. And it was his issue, not mine. I frankly wouldn’t care what language someone thanked me in. I would gladly accept the thoughtful meaning behind the phrase, but I’m not part of the perpetually annoyed class.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin is another of the non-annoyed people. As a Jew, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the least, but he certainly does enjoy the holiday time and the way people behave differently during this season — nicer, kinder, more giving. He is pleased when people wish him a Merry Christmas, and he happily wishes them a Merry Christmas back. Though it isn’t his holiday, he recognizes and appreciates the sentiment.

Today is Christmas. If you don’t celebrate this holiday at all and you are one of the perpetually annoyed and whiney minority, have the common decency to let others enjoy this holiday. At the very least, you should appreciate the day off from work.

This is the jolly month of December. It isn’t as cold or nasty as January, and there are several religious holidays that make this month stand out. Originally, I was thinking that Hanukkah, Christmas, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa were all religious holidays in December. While Ramadan is a lunar-calendar-based holiday like Hanukkah, it happens in September/October, and Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday at all. So I’m going to focus mainly on Christmas and Hanukkah, while touching lightly on a few others.


December 25 is the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, and 80-88% of Americans are self-professed Christians. 1 Fox News reports that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the numbers add up to 103%, so there are some people who admit to celebrating multiple holidays. (And who can blame them for wanting to enjoy the winter holidays as much as possible?) While the account in Luke 2 doesn’t mention the day of Christ’s birth, it has become associated with the 25th of December. Very few scholars believe that Christ was actually born on that day, and most acknowledge that early Christians didn’t celebrate His birth at all. This tradition was started in the fourth century, and the date as well as many currently accepted symbols of the holiday were *ehem* borrowed *ehem* from various pagan celebrations. This basically made it easier for the pagan Romans to convert to Christianity and still keep their winter fun. Well, the orgies went, but you can’t have everything.

Do the pagan origins and symbols distract me from celebrating Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ? Nope. Not at all. I have no problem taking the symbols and traditions from other cultures and times and making them part of my traditions. I’m neither Swedish nor Dutch, but I’ll gladly take part in the smorgasbords and Sinterklaas Days brought into my family by my wife.


Hanukkah, or “dedication,” is an eight-day Jewish celebration that pre-dates Christmas. Back in the second century B.C., the Greeks controlled the lands of Israel. The Greek ruler outlawed Jewish ceremonies and rituals and demanded that the Jews worship the Greek gods instead. This kicked off a rebellion led by Mattathias, and later his son, Judah Maccabee, that was successful in fighting off and defeating the superior numbers of Greek warriors.

During Greek rule, the Greeks had taken the Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the worship of Zeus. This defiled the temple, and after it was retaken by the Jews in 165 B.C., the Temple would need to be rededicated. Consecrated oil was needed to light the temple menorah, and all that could be found was a small flask with enough oil for a single day’s use. It would take a week to make more consecrated oil. Miraculously, this one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days, and is the reason why Jews today light eight candles to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting until it could be replenished.

While this holiday is the best-known Jewish holiday by non-Jews, it doesn’t have nearly as much significance to the Jewish people as do Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish calendar is lunar-based, which means the holiday of Hanukkah doesn’t fall on the same days each year. While Hanukkah mostly falls in December, it sometimes takes place in November. Probably due to its proximity to the Christian Christmas, Hanukkah has become more and more a gift-giving celebration, often with gifts being given on each of the eight days. The Hanukkah holiday is celebrated by about 5% of the U.S.


And so we reach the catch-up section for festivals that other religions celebrate during December. Kartigai Deepam is the Hindu lunar-based holiday that occurs in November or December. December 8th is Bodhi Day, when Buddhists commemorate the enlightenment (bodhi) of Shakyamuni Buddha. There are about a million each of Hindus and Buddhists in the U.S.

While there are about 3-5 million Muslims in the U.S., there really isn’t a religious Islamic holiday in December. Ramadan is in the fall, and Eid al Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, is another lunar-based holiday that often falls in January or February, although it is scheduled for December 31st, 2005. But since it is based on the sighting of the new moon, it takes place on different days in different places. Finally, many pagans celebrate Yule or Winter’s Solstice on December 21st or 22nd (like today)! If they had any good sense, they’d be celebrating my birthday today.

And what music did I listen to while I typed this up? Why, December, of course, by George Winston.

There is a difference between cost and value. Cost is how much you pay for an item. This may be tangible, such as the $2.50 for your Starbucks coffee, or intangible, such as what you would have spent with that $2.50 instead of picking up your double-mochaccino-half-caf-with-foam. Value is what you are willing to pay for an item. Thus, people are only willing to buy something if the cost is equal to or less than their personal value of that item. If you value that hot dose of zing juice more than the $2.50 cost, you will stand in line, pony up the money, and head out with caffeinated cheerfulness.

But let’s stop looking at this from an Econ 101 perspective and bring it into the real world. A parent understands value and cost instinctively when he or she creates a punishment for misbehavior. The child then weighs his or her options: do I value putting ants in my sister’s Cheerios more than the cost of having my butt waxed by a 2×4-wielding dad? For most kids, the cost of the punishment is higher than their perceived value of misbehavior, and Dad is spared the call from Child Protective Services asking him to explain the suspicious bruises on Junior’s backside. The scary thing, at least to a parent, is when the child decides, “You know, the punishment is a pain, but I’d rather behave badly and pay the price than give up what I want to do.”

All crime has an associated cost. If Chris Criminal commits a particular crime twice and is caught each time, it is obvious he values the commission of the crime more than the possible cost of punishment. A criminal who has a rap sheet as long as your arm is someone who obviously values committing crimes far over the cost society can dole out. If Chris Criminal kills someone and is thrown in jail, we can see what value society places on the life of his victim based on the sentence Chris is given. Based on a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, society valued the average victim’s life at eight years of incarceration in 1981 to 14 years in 1995. That is the cost of a slain human soul in the United States–fourteen years. Life was valued even cheaper in England during these same years, with a murderer serving an average of five years in 1981 to eight years in 1995. With costs like these, is it any wonder that some criminals choose to kill again?

I believe in the death penalty for murder–not out of a need for revenge, nor because I particularly want to punish the criminal, although punishment is a valid response to a crime of this nature. Rather, I am in favor of capital punishment for two primary reasons. First, someone who commits a crime worthy of capital punishment is a menace to others, and society has the responsibility to protect its people by removing this kind of violent offender permanently. While serving as a juror in a capital punishment case, I was asked if I would favor life imprisonment with no chance for parole as a sufficient means of removing that criminal from society and preventing him from causing harm to others. My response was that, even in prison, he would still have access to other inmates and guards, and that he had already proven through his acts that he was a menace to the people around him. Second, I support capital punishment because I value human life so highly. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is not. I value the life of a victim greater than the eight to 14 years of imprisonment that society imposes on a killer. If a man knew, without a doubt, that killing his wife and unborn son would result in his death–not might, but WOULD result in his death and quickly–then perhaps Laci and Connor Peterson would still be alive today. Scott Peterson clearly valued returning to bachelorhood in the arms of Amber Frey more than he valued the life of his wife and unborn child. Anyone who could make such a cold-blooded calculation is worthy of being removed from society in a way that makes it impossible for him to re-enter it and harm anyone else.

Scott Peterson’s impending death also serves the purpose of deterring other Peterson-wannabes, reminding them that the price for committing murder is a long wait on death row, followed by a sudden shock or a big sleep at the end. Some opponents of capital punishment pooh-pooh the notion of deterrence, saying that it is impossible to prove that capital punishment keeps people from committing crime, since you can’t prove you stopped something from happening when it didn’t happen. But it’s hard to argue against this fact: when Scott Peterson is dead, he will be permanently deterred from murdering anyone else.

If our society truly values individual life highly, then someone who commits murder and deprives others of life cannot be treated lightly by society.

This casual disregard for the value of human life is evident in the daily news. On December 5, Kathy Feaganes Allen made a U-turn and ran down some teens who had accidentally hit her car with a golf ball. There was no damage to her car, but the kids most definitely suffered damage. This was not the action of someone who lost control of her vehicle; Allen willfully turned, accelerated and plowed into the teenagers. She then coolly got out of her car, lit a cigarette and called her husband to report what she had done. To Allen, the value of her car was greater than the lives of those three kids.

But this can’t be all that surprising, when our society holds human life in such disregard. At any time during her pregnancy, a woman can have a doctor destroy her unborn child’s life. The same act which contributed to Scott Peterson’s death sentence happens every day in America at the mother’s request. In Oregon and in several other locales, assisted suicide is permitted by law. In Florida, Michael Schiavo has shown that he prefers to have his disabled wife die by starvation than to divorce her and let her own parents care for her. As much as we joked about giving Grandpa an extra morphine drip in his IV, we never truly wanted to be the agents to contribute to his death; he received all the medical attention he could get before he passed away. But each year, numerous elderly relatives are hastened to their death by families who have grown tired of caring for them. Americans have proven by their actions that they like the idea of convenient death for inconvenient people.

“Enlightened” Europe has taken this concept several steps further. At first, the severely handicapped were euthanized. Then indigents, political dissidents and Jews were marched into gas chambers and liquidated. It took the Allies several years and millions of lives to force the Nazis to kick the eugenics bad habit. But sixty years later, Holland is picking up where the Nazis were forced to leave off. Officials at Groningen University Hospital recently admitted that they have euthanized (read: killed) four infants with severe disabilities. This announcement was downplayed in the world media, buried in the back pages of newspapers if it was reported on at all. The bare facts are horrifying: Dutch doctors may, without parental consent, take the life of a child up to 12 years of age if they deem it necessary. Parental wishes in the matter are only to be taken under advisement and are not in any way binding. In this regard, the European Union is inching closer to Hitler’s dream, but without the ovens. C.S. Lewis appears eerily prescient:

The greatest evil …. is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

I value my life, and the lives of those whom I love, greater than any white-coated doctor or smooth-talking politician ever could. But God values human life even more than I do. The Lord reminds us that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). Those who do not value what God prizes so highly will be held to account for their actions.

Just recently, our friend Captain Midnight has been extremely busy with work and other duties, so today I’m taking over. One moment, please.

Arr! Weigh anchor and secure the captain’s cabin, Mr. Halliwell, this here ship be ours fer the duration!

With that particular housekeeping duty out of the way, I’d like to address an issue that Sticks in My Royal Craw. We’re not talking about minor annoyances like “and the media smote the Kerik, and all Homeland Security was laid to burnination,” or those annoying form letters stating that your insurance claim has been denied, or even those department store ads so rife with scratch-and-sniff perfume samples that your mailbox reeks like a miniature French cathouse. No, in this case I refer to the Freegan movement–or as I prefer to address this august body, the Freakans.

As far as I can tell from their website (and no, I’m not going to do their propaganda work for them by providing a link. That’s what Google is for), Freakans are an extremely anal subset of anticapitalist vegans who seem outraged that vegetarianism and veganism have been embraced by mainstream America. Apparently they are so appalled by the ease of leading a “cruelty-free” lifestyle these days–the fact that one can find tofu dogs, Boca burgers and organic produce at most national supermarket chains, for instance–that they feel it necessary to separate the True Believers from the casual vegetarians by making things even harder. (Their mindset of austerity for its own sake puts me in mind of crotchety old Sister Mary Lazarus from the film Sister Act: “I liked my old convent, in Vancouver. Out in the woods. It wasn’t all modern, like here. No electricity. Cold water. Bare feet. Those were nuns.”)

Freakans, like many cults of austerity, derive their toe-curling satisfaction from drawing a line even further back in the sand; of creating and living by a veganer-than-thou standard. They adhere to a more rigorous, less mainstream existence than the thoughtless, consumer-driven satisfaction of their vegetarian brethren and sisters. No longer content to bask in the warm, rosy glow of self-righteousness that comes from shunning meat and animal products, the Freakans “monetarily consume nothing so as to give no economic power to the capitalist-consumer machine.” By opting out of capitalism, they intend to overthrow the system, returning everyone to a simpler, more natural way of life where humans and animals alike simply gather what they need from Mother Gaea–whether they like it or not.

You might, perhaps, expect those who live by this kind of manifesto to shun the profligate city life, move to the back of beyond, run a subsistence farm and commune where they make their own clothing and barter with each other. But there you would be wrong–for such a lifestyle demands intelligent, hard-working, and above all capable people, and Freakans are none of these things. No, instead Freakans are urban foragers. They take advantage of every free offer they can find, frequent soup kitchens and food banks, dumpster-dive, squat in abandoned buildings, and otherwise live on the tips and tailings of urban life.

American society is extremely wasteful. We throw away an alarming number of perfectly good items because we do not take time to think what else could be done with them, or who might need or want them. (There are some grassroots efforts to change this situation; go check out Freecycle for more info.) But there’s a huge difference between seeking to create a more streamlined, less wasteful society, and seeking to destroy that society by refusing to participate and sponging off its waste. Quite aside from the fact that there is not now, nor will there ever be, a critical mass of Freakans to effect any meaningful societal change; quite aside from the point that these pampered hothouse weeds of Western culture would swiftly die without a society from which they could scrounge their necessities; there is another reason why I view Freakans with a mixture of pity and contempt. They have made the conscious decision to discard thousands of years of human civilization, of progress, art, science, poetry, of social improvements, better medicines and modern dentistry in favor of the craven subsistence life of scavengers–and they desire to drag us all down with them.

Even making the assumption, as the Freakans and many anthropologists do, that early humans were far less advanced than they are now, why would anyone want to go back to that lowest-common-denominator standard of living? With all its problems, 21st-century Western human culture is fairly amazing and filled with myriad wonderful things to enjoy. How many of you would jettison Mozart and Vivaldi, da Vinci and Michelangelo, cheese and chocolate for a chance to pound acorns, masticate bugs and suck the juices out of an egg? How many would willingly step from the living standard of an omnivore–or even an herbivore–to a coprophage? To put it in other terms, would you rather be on the same level as a bear, a cow, or a cockroach? Frankly, the Freakans have made no progress in convincing me that their way of life is, by any measurable standard, better than or even equal to what I now enjoy.

The saddest thing about Freakans is the world which they have freely chosen to inhabit. With delicious, sensual, miraculous existence all around them, they choose grey, shriveled, neo-Puritan subsistence. They scrounge for discarded, moldy cheese rather than enjoying the wholesome fruits of honest labor. They skulk through back alleys alone rather than striding down the avenue with friends. They would rather live in an abandoned outhouse than enjoy the warmth and friendship of the hearth.

Do not mock them, my friends, for they have chosen their own living hell.

Ah, I can see the Captain on the shore, hollering something about slimy bilge rats. Don’t worry, I’ll give him his ship back. WHEN I’M GOOD AND READY!

This is what happens when you write an article about how you love you wife — she steps in and does a guest article for you while you are busy. All right, you slimy bilge rats! Bring back my ship! — Captain Midnight

I love my wife. She is the joy of my existence, and so for the next little bit, I’ll explain some ways I have shown love and affection to my wife. You women can stop reading this if you want, or if you like the suggestions, drop subtle hints to your husband like, “Read this!” or “Read this now!” The latter is for women who have realized that their husbands, like men in general, appreciate a more direct explanation of what to do because we are men.

There are many small things you can do for your wife like opening doors for her. A large trucker once observed my brother opening the car door for his wife. The trucker leaned out his window and shouted to my sister-in-law, “Give it five years, and he’ll stop doing that for you!” I’m not sure when he stopped opening the car door, but I know we have passed our decade mark together, and I still open doors for my honey. I remind her that this can stop when she starts to open her own door, rather than waiting for me to do it for her.

With the rise of feminism, quite a few people have become confused about the motivation behind acts of chivalry. I know my wife is fully capable of opening the door herself; in fact, I’m sure that with only a moment’s concentration, she can figure out how that latch works. I do it as a way of showing my respect and love for her on a daily basis, because one of the ways to show your love for others is by doing things for them. Sure, they could do it for themselves, but when you do something for them, you make your love visible. I cook pretty well and could cook food for myself if I needed to, but when my wife does this for me, I know that she loves me.

Another small physical act I perform for my wife is occasionally brushing her hair. Since she grows her hair long because she knows I like it, it’s only fitting that I help her comb the part in back that’s hardest to reach. I also love to walk arm in arm with my honey. Of course, she can walk unescorted, but I like being with her. It’s a chance to cuddle close in a public place. And I even know the proper side of the sidewalk one should choose when escorting a lady down the street.

Much of our courtship and subsequent activities have been word-based. We constantly use instant messaging to send notes back and forth. This works particularly well when I’m busy on the phone at work, because I can still chat with her via my fingers. We’ve even been known to spend hours sending silly messages back and forth on our computers while sitting in the same room, but that’s because we’re geeks. In the Rose is Rose comic by Pat Brady, Jimbo is always leaving little love notes in Rose’s teacups and other places scattered around the house. It’s a small and simple way of letting someone know you love them and are thinking of them. Our method is more high-tech. We use whiteboard markers on the bathroom mirrors. (Make sure that they are whiteboard markers rather than permanent ones, or you’ll be in trouble.) Depending on how well you wipe the mirror afterward, a long and hot shower together can reveal past conversations on the mirror. (It also works great for making shopping lists, but that’s not so romantic. Shopping gives me hives.)

Sometimes doing things for others can be a big deal. I posted nothing last week because I was busy coding a database-driven blog for my wife. (Ooooo! –TPK) She didn’t nag or mope about it for a long time, dropping hints about how much she would like it. Instead, it was an offhand comment she made that spurred me to action. So in between missions of Homeworld, I set up the database schema and started coding her pages. (Ladies: just because I can sometimes pick up subtle hints, do not assume your husbands can do it. More on that below.)

If I were to describe the best type of loving acts for your wife, they would have to be simple and thoughtful. A week in Hawaii, while spectacular, isn’t something you will do every month–even if you have the money to do it. Regular, simple acts of kindness will do far more to bolster your relationship than grand, showy productions. It’s far better to build the relationship through consistent, simple acts of kindness and love, such as a love-note tucked under a pillow, than it is to buy your way back into her heart with a showy piece of jewelry after ignoring her in favor of others. Which do you think Kobe Bryant’s wife would rather have: a $4,000,000 diamond ring, or a husband who is absolutely faithful to her? I’m sure she would much rather have those missed hours than a lump of hard carbon on her finger.

Acts also need to be thoughtful. Despite what you’ve heard, it’s not just the thought that counts. Once you have spent time with your wife, you should begin to recognize what she does and does not like. I know my wife will be far happier with a can of asparagus spears than a multi-thousand-dollar clothes shopping spree, because I’ve spent enough time with her to know that she hates shopping for clothes, and the can of asparagus will be gone in about four seconds. Giving a woman expensive perfume when she hates it will not give you nearly as much credit in her eyes as making her a simple peanut butter sandwich when you know that’s what she really wants. Just because you’re thinking of her when you give her something does not mean it was the right thing to do. Men: any birthday, anniversary or Christmas gift that has a plug attached, unless your wife specifically requested it, is not a good choice. If you want to bring home a practical gift, it would be wise to accompany it with something romantic such as chocolates, roses, or a can of asparagus spears. However, if you know your wife well enough to know that she will squeal over a set of power tools, go for it. The key is to know your wife’s likes and dislikes. The only way you will get to know these things is to spend time with her.

Women: do not hint. We men rarely catch subtle hints. If necessary, give PowerPoint slide presentations and make sure there are printed copies for him to take and study afterward. We’re talking charts and graphs, ladies. Saying, “Gee, I’m a little chilly” is most likely to inspire him to go turn up the thermostat. He will not be able to divine that you are asking for a fur coat, much less know whether you prefer sable, mink, ermine, or faux. “I don’t want to cook tonight” does not necessarily mean, to your man, “Let’s go out to eat.” You are just as likely to get pizza.

Talk show host Michael Medved was trained by his wife many years ago to bring home flowers every day, because his wife loves flowers. More than a lot of other things, she adores having fresh flowers in the home. He’s even arranged to have flowers shipped to her on days when he’s away. As his rabbi explained, “It’s much cheaper to bring home flowers than it is to settle a divorce.” Knowing my honey’s love of gold-foiled chocolate coins, I bought several packages of them and taped little love notes to each one. Then I hid them throughout the house. It didn’t take her too long to start finding them, but it wasn’t until we moved that she found the last coin. By then the chocolate was iffy, but the note was still fresh. It’s been several years, but she still has the notes.

Yesterday morning, my wife found gold coins in her shoe as part of the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition. She was very happy to see them.

Oh yeah. I’m that good.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, let the shopping frenzy begin! After all, isn’t that the essence of the Christmas season?

Speaking of Christmas, I really dislike seeing stores and towns put out their Christmas merchandise and decorations earlier and earlier each year. This year I noticed that Wal-Mart had several aisles of Christmas decorations out two weeks before Halloween. Yes, I recognize that Christmas is the major money-making season for businesses, but pushing the season earlier and earlier really doesn’t help them as most people don’t shop any earlier for presents. I wish stores and people would enjoy each season and holiday as they come, rather than trying to rush into the next one.

OK, rant over. Now back to the leftover turkey. Mmmm…….

Today is Thanksgiving Day, our holiday celebrating the bounteous harvest of the Pilgrims. Since that time, we gather to celebrate and give thanks for the things we have been given. I am thankful this year for God, family, and country.


Since everything we have comes from God, I am thankful for all the things He has given me. While I try to thank Him by doing what He says, I know that will never be enough. King Benjamin explained it this way:

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.


I love my family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into. The times of greatest joy and happiness in my life have come from being with my family. Nothing else I do in my life will be as important or ultimately as meaningful as the time I spend with my family. David O. McKay once summed this up with the statement, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”


This is a land of freedom, and the twin freedoms of worshiping God and serving my family are cornerstones supporting the continued success and freedom of our country. “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” While this quote is often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, it doesn’t appear anywhere in there. But whether or not the statement is his, the sentiment is true. No other country has done so much for so many others. While we may not always be popular with other nations, America has been successful in freeing over 50 million people from oppressive governments. Regardless of whether you love or loathe President Bush, he has been very successful in offering freedom to the world by seeking to destroy tyranny and terrorism wherever it lurks.

God, family, and country — three blessings that I am especially thankful for this November.

[The following was an email The Pirate King sent to Bill Whittle of Eject! Eject! Eject! in response to his recurring theme of Europeans despising Americans. I felt it was worthy of a wider audience, since I love my honey. Besides, there is a sublime irony in pirating stuff from The Pirate King. -- Captain Midnight]

The French–and several other European nations–like to accuse us of simplisme. It’s a nice vague term which seems to accuse us of being simple as well as making things overly simple, and its unstated obverse is that intelligent, sophisticated folk recognize and accept a life filled with nuance, neither simple nor easy.

Once upon a time, this disdainful attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I was astounded at the hubris of Germany, France and Russia when they refused to join us in waging war against a common enemy, believing that the entire effort would come to naught without their token assistance. I was annoyed by Jacques Chirac, who in a petulant fit snubbed our Commander-in-Chief by refusing to call and congratulate him on his re-election for a full week after the event. M. Chirac further grated on me by showing his historical ignorance and deep ingratitude by pointing out to Prime Minister Blair that England had “gained nothing” by its loyalty to the United States in this war. (How soon, simple Monsieur le President, we have forgotten the Ardenne Forest and the beaches of Normandy. I do hope your nuanced view of the world accepts of such concepts as “debt of gratitude.”)

But I have come to a point where I no longer rankle at Europe’s high-minded tendency to treat our nation as an ill-behaved, headstrong child. The thing that caused me to change my mind was, oddly enough, the recent death of my grandfather. At his funeral I had some time to think about the particulars of his life, and it turned out to be quite illuminating.

Grandpa was born in Sweden in 1922. He was an unwanted child, passed from relative to relative until his teen years, when he became apprenticed to a butcher and delicatessen owner. There he learned the fine art of food preparation and became a talented cook. But he did not stay in Sweden to ply his trade; the butcher warned his teenage apprentice that the National Socialists were rising to power in Germany–and that Scandinavia likely would not lift a finger to stop them. So, on the wise advice of his boss, he went to America.

It didn’t take Grandpa long after he got here to sign up for military service. As a champion skier who held several ski jumping records in his home province, he was placed with the ski troops. He came home alive, but missing a leg and riddled with cancer. Doctors gave him six months to live; miraculously, the cancer went into full remission and those six months turned into some 60 years. Rarely did he speak of the war, preferring to focus on work, family and sailing. It wasn’t until some 40 years after his service that his military files were declassified and he was free to talk about precisely what he had done in World War II. But he always recognized that his service, however horrific, was necessary to keep America and the rest of the world safe and free.

Europeans would probably have called my grandfather simplisme. They would regard him, an unwanted child from a backwater province of an unimportant country, as “the wretched refuse of [their] teeming shore.” But Grandpa had some special qualities within him, even as a teenager: intelligence, ability, a drive to succeed, and the willingness to relocate to a land that would foster his success.

A generation ago, there were still people like this in Europe. In America, we usually call them “immigrants.”

I maintain that much of Europe despises America not because of our simplisme, but because of our strength as a people. And to be honest, we have them to thank for it. Certainly in these days, more immigrants come to the U.S. from outside Europe than from within it–but in previous generations, the overwhelming majority of new Americans came from the Old World. Any European who displayed a trace of gumption, drive, or desire to succeed packed up, moved and became an American. The immigrants’ determination and zest for life enriched our national can-do spirit, and their love for their adopted country boosted our natural patriotism. Modern Europeans, on the other hand, are the direct descendants of those individuals with little or no natural drive–those who stayed behind. Their anemic bloodlines show in their indolent unwillingness to act in their own best interests, like an old purebred dog covered with bloodsucking ticks who is too lazy even to scratch at them. (By contrast, we are a mongrel nation, but a strong and healthy one.)

My grandfather always kept his love for Sweden. He had a Swedish flag, cooked Swedish food, and on occasions when he returned to visit Sweden, the tears would well up in his eyes. Sweden was, after all, the nation of his birth. But America was the nation of his choice. This was the country that harnessed his desire to fight evil in the world, supported his desire to make something of his life, and provided him with safety and peace in his old age. This unwanted child of Europe became something worthwhile in America–and his story was not at all unusual. His immigrant experience was solidly typical of the experience of millions who left their own countries to seek something better–and found it in America.

And if you don’t think the Europeans are jealous of that, then you really are simple.