Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On Banksy and the Temple

I heard a thought a while ago that came from the UK graffiti artist Banksy, and it made me rather sad. 

When your name is said for the last time, that means the memory of you is now dead and gone forever. And that will happen to all of us.

However, having worked in the temple for about a month now, even though it's currently closed for renovations (I did go help with the cleanup one Saturday, and I'll tell you, only for Jesus will I set up Christmas lights in September, because I hate how Christmas is getting so big), I had another thought that occurred to me. As I sat there helping out and participating in all of these rituals for our honored dead, it occurred to me that, for each person who has lived on the planet, we say their names multiple times in the temple as they go from baptism, to confirmation, to initiatory, to endowment, and then to sealings.

Very likely, for most of the humans on the planet, the last time their name will be said out loud will be in an LDS temple.

And there's something beautiful about that. Instead of their memory dying and being fully erased, their memory is being invoked in rituals that will allow them to live forever in the presence of God, if they choose to accept those ordinances. So maybe in some sense the line from Banksy is true, that you die again when your name is said for the last time. But if your name is said for the last time in a Mormon temple, it's a deliberate attempt to make sure that your name, and your life, and those relationships most important to you, will be remembered and continued in heaven forever. It's our way of making this "second death" deliberate and meaningful.

I think that's rather poetic and nice.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Wussification of American Children

I want my kids to think of themselves this way.

Well, it happened again. CPS was called in to investigate a mother who had the temerity to let her child go play. Outside. In suburban America. Without adult supervision! Horror of Horrors!

I say again because this isn't the first time I've heard of such idiocy. Parents have been arrested for such things, or criticized on national TV for leaving their 7 year-old son at home alone, or had their kids taken away for leaving those same kids at home with the 10-year-old in charge, or leaving their 5 year old in a car for 5 minutes (this was a good article to read), or given misdemeanors for leaving their 11-year-old in a car alone. 11! An 11 year-old isn't going to die in the car; that's what happens to infants left in a hot car. Because infants strapped into their seats cannot open the car door if it gets too hot. 11 year olds can! If your kid cannot open a door at the age of 11, then I hate to tell you, but he or she is severely developmentally disabled!

In many ways, this "helicopter parenting" seems to be a uniquely American style of raising children. Other countries have cultures that allow parents to be far more "hands-off" with their kids, leading some to wonder if Americans are just in general "doing it wrong." I tend to agree. We are doing it wrong. Of course, part of the problem is the nosy "bad samaritans," who call the cops at the first sign of a kid doing something they don't think the kid should. We're so paralyzed with fear over "bad things" happening to our kids that we don't let them be kids. This is, of course, ridiculous because "bad things" like actual child abductions by strangers happen less and less and less every year. (I think part of this mindset should be placed at the feet of John Walsh, whose poor son was actually abducted and killed by a stranger. Walsh later became the host of America's Most Wanted, the poster-child TV program for making us think that bad guys lurk everywhere in America. My heart goes out to John, but his experience is statistically unlikely. Kids are more likely to die in car crashes.)

Over the summer I helped our young women with their high adventure camp. It was a three-day canoe camping trip down the Susquehanna river with some of the young women. Here I am, looking thrilled. (I actually was thrilled, as it was way fun.)

It reminds me of another young women I heard of once, who was apparently not allowed to go on a tubing trip, because her mother was afraid that she might get hurt. That river is like 2-3 feet deep, and moves so slow that I think a mother pushing a baby carriage might be able to keep up. Contrast that with something the bishop said to me the other day when we were talking randomly about flu shots. "My mother said 'you don't need no flu shot. You swallowed enough creek water and had enough cuts and bruises when you were a kid that your immune system is fine!'" This ties into the hygiene hypothesis, that the reasons that kids have so many allergies today is because they aren't dirty enough, and their immune systems therefore aren't properly developed. In other words, the reason your little muffin is allergic to everything under the sun is because you've been treating her like your little muffin all the time! (Okay, that was a little mean, but the general point stands that even our biology dictates that we need to expand our horizons as children or there are negative side effects.)

There's a further interesting development to this "wussification," one that particularly strikes home with members of my church, the Mormons. One of the most well-known images of Mormonism is that of a pair of Elders or Sisters with their black name tags. Men can serve for two years starting at age 18, and women for eighteen months at age 19. So here's my question? With helicopter parenting gone so awry, how on earth are we to prepare our young men and women to serve missions? Some have even speculated why there appears to be a larger percentage of young Mormons returning home from their missions early. You take your average middle-class suburban kid raised by helicopter parents and then throw him into Uzbekistan! You bet that kid isn't going to be able to hack it! Kids who used to wander far from home alone to go fishing? They're, unsurprisingly, more well adjusted.

My bishop has a mantra for the youth in our ward. "You can do hard things." He wants them to do hard things to learn to believe in themselves so they can later be productive members of society and of the church. Of course, the church has other problems with people being unable to adjust to adulthood––particularly in the dating arena, in my opinion, and I'm not alone.

So forgive me if it aggravates me that letting your kids do hard things appears to be frequently, in our society, looked down upon. This isn't helicopter parenting. It's turning into drone parenting. We do our children a disservice when we don't let them out. This article from The Atlantic does a fabulous job of describing all the problems with this, while demonstrating a fabulous idea used in the UK––a no adult playground with tires and fire and all sorts of stuff! (There actually is adult supervision, but they are hidden away so the kids are basically given free reign.) We need more stuff like that. Less drone parenting. I respect your right to raise your kids however you want. But don't call the cops on me if I raise mine slightly differently more Free Range Kids style. (Even the Onion makes fun of the "bad samaritan" idea.) Maybe we'll go camping a lot. I'd like that, actually. Susan doesn't seem so sold on it. But I'd like to do our best to make sure our kids aren't part of this "wussification," that they grow up to be good kids, good adults, good missionaries, and good . . . well, people!

Thus saith the guy who, as of yet, has no kids. But when I do have kids, I'm going to give them one of these.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The 10 Most Influential Books in My Life (So Far)

There's yet another "challenge" making the rounds on FB, but this time it doesn't involve getting ice water dumped on my head. It's to post the 10 most influential books in your life, and give short reasons why. I gladly accept the request to post my list, presented here in order (I think) of when I read them. I do so here on my blog, instead of FB, so I can have this available to look at in the future. I'm including pictures of the covers I grew up with, because those are the pictures that are associated with the books in my memory. (Especially #3.) I've found this to be a most enlightening exercise, and encourage you all reading this to come up with your own similar list and save it somewhere you'll have access to in the future, so you can go back and compare.

It goes without saying that the Book of Mormon is actually the most influential book in my life, but I think that using scriptures in such a list is a copout, and will not include it in mine.

1. The Enormous Egg, by Oliver Butterworth. (Read in 1989.) This book about a triceratops that hatches from a chicken's egg was the first book ever that I just could not put down. I read it in 4th grade and it was the book that first got me to really like reading. I've not stopped reading since, and now read over 10 words a second.

2. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. (Read in 1991, representing quite a steep learning curve from #1 above.) I was a smart kid, and was always short and small, and was bullied for it. I empathized with Ender a lot, and it was nice to see an action hero sort of kid that was an action hero because of his smarts. I wondered in elementary school if I would be selected to go to battle school and save the world, because I didn't much like being bullied, and going to battle school would show the bullies I was worth something! This book has aged remarkably well and I can appreciate it even more as an adult, even though I don't empathize with Ender as much. (I now empathize with Colonel Graff.) I thought the movie was okay.

3. A Princess of Mars/The Gods of Mars/Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. (Read in 1992.) Perhaps it's cheating to put three books as one, but the trilogy really is one continuous story. Edgar Rice Burrough's space fantasy is about a Civil War veteran mysteriously transported to Mars and having swashbuckling adventures. It had a big effect on my life, reading it right at the beginning of junior high, when I was noticing girls for the first time (Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars, is the original hot space chick-but is portrayed surprisingly progressively for a novel published in 1912), and wondering what all was going on with becoming a man. John Carter was a good fantasy role-model, even if he was a Confederate Veteran, meaning he had fought for slavery before his adventures on Mars. (In that vein, it also made me confront Edgar Rice Burrough's biases, and in so doing launch me into considerations of such things.) Also, it's basically the best escapist literature I think I've ever read. I still remember it all these years later. The movie adaptation was pretty cool too, even though, sadly, it looks like there will be no sequels.

4. Who Wrote the Bible, by Richard Elliott Friedman. (Read in 2001.) Found this in my apartment in the Bronx on my mission. Read it and got my first taste of genuine biblical scholarship. Even though I have various disagreements with the author, the paradigm it helped produce in my view of scripture has served me well, and has helped me remain an active, believing, and temple-recommend holding member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

5. Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, by Richard Bushman. (Read in 2002.) I also read this on my mission. (I feel like I should state that I had already read the missionary library twice on the mission, as well as finishing our "Mastery" program in 8 months instead of the typical 12, so I had permission from President Stoker to be reading these "non-standard" books.) This book was my first real introduction to Mormon history and scholarship, and also served as another paradigm-shifter. Again, that paradigm shift and new worldview has helped me remain an active and believing member of the church.

6. Phadeo, by Plato. (Read in 2003.) Socrates' deathbed discussion and philosophical musings were literally life-changing. Ever since I read it, I've desired to live a life such that I could die with as little fuss as he did, ready and prepared to move on to whatever lies after this world.

7. Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley. (Read in 2004.) Reading this made me realize that so many of the things in this world that we spend so much effort on are, in the end, ephemeral and inconsequential. Maybe I became a bit too much of an delusional optimist because of this book, but I'll be darned if I'm going to go do some random job that I don't like and that doesn't help me build the kingdom or use my God-given talents for the rest of my life merely so I can have money. That's like Plan D at this point. Susan and I have sufficient for our needs.

8. Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard. (Read in 2008.) I've reviewed this book here on my blog. This book is on this list for reasons that might surprise you. The horror of the massacre is in no way blunted by the fact that the perpetrators all lived good lives before and after it. They just had one really really really bad week. Also, there's a line in the book that basically says, "we authors get the impression that if even one person had, at any time, said, 'hang on a minute,' the situation might have ended very differently. But nobody ever did." I think that now I would be such a person who would stand up and say "excuse me? No. I won't do that. And you shouldn't either." But I think that now I would be such a person because I've read this book. Before I read it, I could see myself getting sucked into such groupthink as was necessary for such an atrocity to take place.

That thought haunts me.

9. Nomad, by Ayyan Hirsi Ali. (Read in 2011.) When I read this book I realized that, despite the best efforts of my Ivy League professors, I'm still a cultural imperialist. Oh that there were more like me, in some instances. Read my review of the book here for more detailed thoughts.

10. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke. (Read in 2013.) Clarke is one of my favorite hard SciFi authors precisely because his hard SciFi is so . . . mystical. Decades before we discovered evidence of dark matter or dark energy, or postulated string theory (which may involve either 10 or 24 dimensions), he wrote books that talked about how the gaps between our current scientific understanding and what is really going on is so immeasurable that we don't have the faintest clue about our actual place in the universe. "Any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic," he said. This book speculates about a future where humanity ascends to a new plane of existence in a form of science fiction apotheosis. They are shepherded into this new form by a race knows as "the Overlords," who are incredibly technologically advanced, yet yearn for this apotheosis that they themselves are incapable of achieving. It's definitely a book that made me think about man's place in the universe, and how truth is most likely very much stranger than fiction. Here's my goodreads review of it.

Honorable Mention: "Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil," by David Paulsen. This BYU forum address, given on September 21, 1999 during my first semester at BYU, changed the course of my life. I didn't include it in the list, because it's not a book, but it beats just about every book on the list as far as impact on my life is measured. A few years later in my World Religions class, Professor Roger Keller said, "I wish all Mormons would take philosophy of religion, because we don't even know the questions to which we have the answers." Listening to this forum by my future mentor Dr. Paulsen was the first intimation for me of something I had come to know very well by the time Dr. Keller said it more succinctly and more articulately than I.

Honorable Mention: God is Not One, by Stephen Prothero. It's nice to have a well-respected and bestselling religion professor that gives a full-throated defense of what I believe, even if it's not currently in vogue in academia, namely, that all religions are not the same, and that to argue such is intellectually deceptive, factually incorrect, and morally questionable. He just says it nicer than I do. (Obviously related to Nomad, #9 above.)

I wonder what books I will read in the future that will knock some of these off the list? Here's to many more years of reading to come! My thanks to Mom, of course, for getting me to read books in the first place, recommending #2 and #3 above specifically.
Richer than I, you will never be,
for I had a mother that read to me. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thoughts on the Temple

The Washington, DC temple the morning of November 24, 2010, the day Susan and I entered it and were sealed for time and eternity. According to the photo's time stamp, this picture was taken during the time our sealing ceremony was actually taking place. 

So, in case you didn't notice from the video from my last post, I've shaved my beard. Yup. I'm now officially an ordinance worker in the Washington, D.C. temple, so the beard had to come off. That has its advantages. One is that I look younger. Classes started this week, and the first day the professor in the classroom before me told me I would need to wait for my professor to open the door; he couldn't let me in without the teacher. I informed him that I was the professor. I'll take that as a compliment.

But back to the subject at hand, being a temple ordinance worker is an unusual calling in the church, since you sort of have to volunteer for it, as opposed to all other callings in the church which are decidedly not volunteer, but I look forward to my time serving in the House of the Lord.

My first official shift was last week, and not only are the shift coordinators the parents of one of my good friends here in the area, another friend of mine was in the temple being somebody's escort, so literally my first assignment was with someone that I've known for years. It was a nice way to ease into the work, to be surrounded by people I already had a connection to.

Also, of late I've been actually going through the temple for people that I'm related to. My sister-in-law has been doing family history, and has a nice big google doc full of people whose work needs to be done. I feel that I have a better experience at the temple when doing work for my own honored dead, as opposed to somebody else's. Of course, any temple work is good, but doing names for your own family is the "right" way to do everything in wisdom and order. Also, with the new familysearch.org, it's very easy to find people whose work has not yet been done. I'm starting my own google doc to find some of my side of the family's honored dead.

See, when Wilford Woodruff first started doing his own genealogy, he discovered that the task of doing all of his ancestor's names was monumental. Far too large for just him to do. So he called upon other saints to help him.

"I have gone to work with the assistance of my friends and redeemed my father's and my mother's house. When I inquired of the Lord how I could redeem my dead, while I was in St. George, not having any of my family there, the Lord told me to call upon the Saints in St. George and let them officiate for me in that temple, and it should be acceptable unto Him. Brother McAllister and the brethren and sisters there have assisted me in this work, and I felt to bless them with every feeling in my heart. This is a revelation to us. We can help one another in these matters, if we have not relatives sufficient to carry this on, and it will be acceptable unto the Lord." 
Wilford Woodruff
"The Law of Adoption," Deseret Weekly, April 21, 1894, 544 

So the rule of thumb was, and is, that you should do the work yourself. If you cannot, then others can help you with it. Over time that's just evolved into our general practice of going to the temple and getting a name. It's somebody's family, so you're helping them do their work even if you don't know who they are specifically. But doing it for my own family members has felt more proper and right. 

My Dad recently said something that I think is true. We in the church actually have five standard works–the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and finally, the Temple. I like that description. Recently I've discovered that general idea to be true in my own life, and I suppose in some ways my wanting to be a temple worker is to more thoroughly explore and understand the ordinances of the House of the Lord for my own edification and knowledge. 

Even if I look like a child now. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge-Write Your Representatives Edition

Well, I was challenged to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by my brother N (who screamed like a little girl when he did it), Derek Downey, and Steve Peterson.

The problem, of course, is that to do a proper ice bucket challenge, you need to have enough ice, and Susan and I only have two ice trays. That is insufficient. It wasn't until Sunday night that Susan stumbled upon the solution . . . using a freezer bag to keep the extra ice cubes around while we fill up the trays again. I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't think of it first. In any event, now I have enough ice to do it properly.

The question arises, of course, who should I challenge? Should I pick people I would like to see get soaked in freezing water, just because they deserve it . . . I mean, for my own amusement? Rich friends who can donate lots of money (presumably)? Some celebrities, to try to get more cool videos like these from Patrick Stewart (most class), Benedict Cumberbatch (most never-ending), and Lindsey Stirling (best "that is cold" voice catch and screams)?

In the end, I decided to challenge people who are good friends, yet whom it would be amusing to see get soaked in ice water (as opposed to people I actively want to get soaked in ice water, and there are a few of those even if they will remain nameless). I challenge Mark Wright, a professor of ancient scripture at BYU and specialist in Mesoamerican anthropology, Russ Bowers the Jolly Giant, and Heidi Johnson.

However . . . you three don't have to donate anything to the ALS Association. They're doing fine.

In fact, donating to ALS research certainly isn't the most efficient use of our money.

So I'm amending the challenge. Mark, Russ, and Heidi, you can donate to any medical research charity of your choosing. I myself am going to make a small contribution to the American Heart Association, and to write my senators and congressmen to make sure that the NIH is properly funded (because that's where most US medical research, even for ALS, is done, and their funding isn't doing so hot due to recent budget cuts.) Shout out to Brady and Galen from my ward for that additional idea. Galen donated his money to Autism research in honor of his autistic son. That's why mine isn't the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it's just the Ice Bucket Challenge.

And now what you've all been waiting for . . .

Thanks to Susan for not dropping the bucket on my head. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Musings on the Light Side, or Why I Hope JJ Abrams Goes Christian

The cover from the comic book where Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade get married. 

A little over five years ago, I wrote a post on this blog titled "Musings on the Dark Side, or Why George Lucas Shouldn't Have Gone Buddhist." It might be worth reviewing, but my basic thesis is that, in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Anakin's fall to the dark side is framed in Buddhist terms, and in my opinion Buddhist evil isn't actually evil. Simply put, Anakin has too much attachment to his wife, and this leads to his becoming a Dark Lord of the Sith. Because loving your wife is evil. Or something. Anakin suffered from many flaws with regard to how his character was written. This is my major complaint.

Today I would like to talk about the opposite topic, namely, the light side of the Force. In the original trilogy, the light side is never explained at all, although the dark side is. "But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight," says Yoda.

So the question then becomes, if that's the dark side, these negative emotions, then what does the light side consist of? In the prequel trilogy, and even in some of the expanded universe, the answer to this question is "no emotions." The Jedi are more buddhist monks than samurai warriors, more placid and emotionless than upholders of truth, justice, and the American way (or whatever).

Anakin says, in Episode II, "Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi's life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love."

So you can have a vague, undefined form of love, but it can't actually be aimed at anything. I argue that love that isn't actually aimed at anything isn't actually love, but that's perhaps a more technical discussion about emotions that we'll pick up another day.

And then there's the Jedi code from various sources in the expanded universe:

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

There it is, right in the first line: There is no emotion.

Or from the third line: There is no passion.


In a comment on the above post, my former roommate Adam said this:

"Remember the final fight scene where Luke is hiding and Vader begins to taunt him? Apparently Luke's emotions are pretty close to the surface because it doesn't take long for Vader to discover he has a daughter and then threatens to corrupt her. Suddenly, Luke jumps out, light saber ablazin', the musical score really picks and the movie goes into what I like to call 'epic mode.'

The first time I saw that, I loved it. I felt like Luke was finally fighting for the most noble cause, protection of the innocent and family. Isn't that a very Capt. Moroni thing to do? Imagine my surprise when George reveals that Luke was never closer to the Dark Side than at that moment. Hand slice, wild look in his eyes, the emperor gets really excited to see Luke go berserk like that. I guess Lucas was already trying to show that attachment to anything, even immediate family, can be dangerous."

And you know what, Adam is right. That should be the moment that Luke is closest to the light side. Fighting for family? There can be no higher cause, no motivation more noble, no justification more clear. Now, you can still fight for family in the wrong way, which is what I had taken Luke's actions to be, that he was enraged by the thought that Vader would corrupt Leia and therefore went hog wild on his father. It's the question there of how to fight a war against the Dark when war itself is one of the Dark's most effective tools. (And now we're into just war theory, which is also another sidetrack technical discussion that we'll pick up another day.)

A great moment recently in cinema that illustrated what the light side should be came from Frozen, which I liked a lot. In the movie, Queen Elsa's cryokinetic powers are obviously linked to her emotional state. "Conceal, don't feel," is the mantra she was taught by her parents, even though that's a stupid way of dealing with such things. See this HISHE for a hilarious take on Frozen.

In the movie, the troll shaman also says "an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart." When confronted with her inability to unfreeze the land from the eternal winter she has inadvertently set off, Elsa despairs. She can't control her powers that well. Until, at the end, after hearing once again the shaman's saying, she shortens it to "love will thaw." With this new insight, she is able to not only control her powers but to undo what she has already created, returning the land to the summer it should have been having all along.

Love is the opposite of the fear and shame that Elsa feels. It's what allows her to undo the damage her powers have caused. And you know what . . . this isn't Buddhist. This is actually Christian. "God is love," says 1 John 4:8, and whether you have a Mormon view of God as a Father in Heaven (with a Mother in Heaven and us as Their literal children) or the inner complexities of the traditional Christian Trinity (where God is lovingly relational even within Himself), you are very very far removed from the Buddhist ideal of non-attachment. Of course, sometimes the Christian God is portrayed as an omni-benevolent computer program incapable of having genuine emotions (I would argue), but that's yet another side-track discussion we'll pick up another day. Ah nerd theology. So much to do! So little time!

So I hope that some form of love and attachment, positive emotions, are what we see more of in the upcoming Star Wars films. I want a more robust understanding of what the light side actually is. It should not be the absence of emotions. It should be an overabundance of positive emotions. Perhaps it would be nice if we had more terms for what we in English call love. The three greek terms, eros-erotic love, philos-friendship, and agape-unconditional love, usually translated "charity," would be a good start). Perhaps Lucas just didn't have the vocabulary to articulate different kinds of love, and so threw it all out. So whatever form the Jedi take in these next movies, I hope that JJ Abrams is able to articulate a better version of the light side. In the expanded universe, that is no longer going to be used as canon, Luke was actually married to another Jedi, Mara Jade, and they had children. I hope that sort of thing continues. Family is arguably the best way to show love and attachment and to cultivate the positive emotions (which do not flow quickly and are not as easy to fall into as the dark side emotions).

In short, the opposite of anger, fear, and aggression isn't to eliminate all emotions, like George Lucas says.

The opposite is the positive emotions, chief among them love! I hope JJ Abrams goes more in that direction. Time will tell.

After all, there are other things that Disney is getting right.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Diet Plan

For the Cranney family book club last time, we read Eat to Live, by Joel Fuhrman. His website is here. I won't go into a lot of details other than to say that you really should read the first few chapters, where Dr. Fuhrman details all of the goods and bads of the standard American diet (spoiler: we eat poorly) and introduces his basic diet plan, which can be broken down into a single equation.


In short, eat foods that have a high ratio of nutrients per calorie consumed. Those would mostly be vegetables and fruits. Also, eating vegetables and fruits is good because of all the micronutrients and other things they come with. In short, there are many benefits from eating them, more than by even taking a nice multivitamin every day. So I read the book, and was sold on his basic premise. We need to eat more fruits and vegetables.

You know that rule that you should never go to the store when you're fasting, because everything looks good, and you buy too much food? Well, you should also not go to the store the day you finish this book. I did, and was paralyzed by indecision about what kind of fruits and vegetables I ought to buy! I ended up just buying some bananas and strawberries, and making smoothies, except that we don't have a great blender. Also, I finished the book at a point when I had simply bought a lot of food already, and I wasn't going to waste it, so we've been eating our regular fare for the past month or so since I finished the book. We worked our food supply down, not replenishing it, until our vacation last week. (During the vacation, I was pretty good about eating fruits each day, but alas, apparently the Mikkelsen side of the clan doesn't like salads, so there were few opportunities for vegetables.)

However, I'm going to the store now. And that means I'm going to buy lots of fruits and vegetables. Dr. Fuhrman has 10 easy rules to follow for his six week plan, and I'm just going to follow 3 of them. Maybe I'll add more in as we go, but for now:

1. (His Rule #10.) Keep it simple. To that end:

2. (His Rule #2.) Have as much fruit as you want. I'll be getting oranges, pears, apples, bananas, pineapple, and cantaloupe, and eating them for breakfast and snacks.

3. (His Rule #1.) The salad is the main dish. Eat it first at lunch and dinner.

That's the basic plan. Susan has also agreed to make soups more of the base of our diet, because soups are good for you too, but these are the three rules. I'll still be sticking to the 2000 calories a day resolution (so far I only owe the NRA $.50), which has helped me lose about 20 pounds so far this year and about 4 or so inches off of my waist. The last few months I haven't been dropping as much, and I'm not where I wanted to be in August, so hopefully this will also help. Dr. Fuhrman recommends going completely vegetarian. That isn't going to happen for me and Susan (I still have memories of my former roommate Adam eating peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon because he was craving the protein so much when he was vegetarian for a few months), but I'll be eating better from here on out. I'm not big into diets or fads, but his science convinced me that I could, with small changes, do much better. So when I say this is a new "diet" plan, I don't mean that I'm "going on a diet" with the connotations of losing weight that phrase usually entails. I mean that I'm going to change my diet.

Wish me luck.

Edit: You know what, I'll add a Rule 4. Don't drink calories. (After I've gotten rid of the juice I've already bought.)