Presidents Reports

Robert Lane’s President’s Messages

January 2010

Sometimes what’s in the news just cries out for a response. Such is the case now that Congress has done away with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that has been in place in the military for quite a while. It was a bad policy in the first place, as it directed people to be secretive and basically dishonest about their private lives.

With gay and lesbian individuals now able to SERVE OUR COUNTRY in the military and be truthful about their sexual orientation, a number of news items have shown how utterly stupid some members of the military, (active and retired) can be. The story of the Commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise has to be an example of a person who you would think would have the good sense not to make prejudicial, idiotic videos. While he may be a capable commander, it does make you wonder about his overall decision-making abilities. Now his career is pretty much over.

Perhaps this change in policy will help weed out some of the homophobic idiots in the military as more of them open their big mouths and insert their proverbial feet; at least we can hope. This will only last for a short time though, as they begin to realize that they had better keep their mouths shut if they want to finish their careers in the military.

The point has been made recently that the same kind of foolish resistance was present when the military was racially integrated by President Truman, but the sky never fell. And when the military started allowing women to serve in combat units, again the sky never fell.

I can’t think of a way that inclusion and diversity isn’t a good and strengthening thing to demand in all aspects of society, including the military. The only requirement should be is that one is qualified and capable of performing the job.

One final question: If we now allow homosexual men and women to serve in the military as equals with all the inherent rights, privileges, and responsibilities, shouldn’t that translate into our society as a whole?

How can we expect them to fight, be forever changed by the horrors of war, get wounded or even die, then deny them the right to marry whom they love and enjoy those very freedoms they have fought for?

February 2011

For Humanists of Utah, February brings our Annual Darwin Day event. I am happy to say this will be our fourth, and I hope one of many more to come—a day we have chosen to celebrate and advocate for science.

As I have been looking at my introductory remarks at past Darwin Day events, I feel a bit guilty about using nearly the same text each time. Yet I keep reminding myself and coming to the same conclusion that the reason we even have a Darwin Day have not changed, and I think a reminder even here in the newsletter is worthwhile.

The idea of science advocacy is an important concept. Disseminating scientific knowledge and making it interesting and enjoyable at the same time is a good goal. We need to do just that as much as possible. I believe I speak for all the Board of Directors (and I hope for the entire Humanists of Utah membership) when I say that Darwin Day is a good time to celebrate one of the most important discoveries ever made, evolution. The understanding of evolution and the later discovery of DNA as its mechanism made our view of biology change in many ways.

Yet evolution isn’t just about biology, it is also basic to physics. When physicists discovered nuclear fusion, they learned that change (evolution) in the creation of other elements by means of fusion in the interior of stars.

How grand it is to look out on the universe and to wonder at images of galaxies far away and to also look inward at the sub-atomic and to know that it has all been changing and evolving for billions of years.

One thing that got me motivated about creating Darwin Day happened years ago when I first used the internet to see what creationists had to say about evolution. While they had a lot of criticisms, there were also statements that evolution was a fraud, it was made it up, etc. It struck me as kind of funny because that made it sound like Darwin invented something. But it was a discovery, not an invention. Evolution has always been there.

I hope you will join us on February 11 for our fourth little act of advocacy, and to enjoy hors’ d’oeuvres, a presentation by our featured speaker David Goldsmith PhD in Paleontology, a video of Darwin’s life and accomplishments, and of course to have a piece of Darwin’s birthday cake.

March 2011

This humanist chapter president thing is creeping a little too far into the inner reaches of my mind. Amy and I had a bit of a laugh over a recent dream I had. I don’t remember any past dreams specific to humanists, but this one was. We were all gathered together for some sort of social and everyone was in line with plates at the ready. When I started to speak, anxiety went through the roof as I realized that I had forgotten to purchase and bring the food! There was grumbling and people were starting to leave, even though I said I would go get some pizzas or something. After that it started morphing into something else. As a skeptic I don’t believe that dreams are any portent of things to come. But you never know, as I age my memory isn’t what it used to be. Better bring a granola bar with you next time just in case.

I’d like to report that our Darwin Day celebration was a great success. The venue at Westminster College was quite pleasant with a light lunch and our usual cake with Darwin’s likeness on it; which I did remember to pick up! Professor David Goldsmith’s presentation was very interesting as he provided a historical view of evolution and the scientific method that came before and after his discovery. The movie Creation was excellent with its focus on the struggle Darwin had in deciding to write and publish what he knew would be quite controversial, and to say the least. Earth shaking.

Many thanks go to Board member Dr. Craig Wilkinson for his efforts in arranging the venue, speaker, and video; not to mention his generosity in providing the catering and Salt Lake Tribune ad. Also thanks to Bob Mayhew and Leona Blackbird for helping out with Darwin Day chores.

By the way, Creation was superb—to the point that I recommend showing it again on a future Humanists of Utah movie night; both for those who have not yet seen it and those like me who would enjoy seeing it again.

I now want to write about something that has been on my mind a lot recently: nuclear weapons. I’m not sure why it keeps popping up in my consciousness. While it is an important issue, there are other issues closer to home and more “of the moment” that I could write about. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that when I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era I went to tech school to learn about munitions and weapons. For four months we studied several hours a day, studying everything about small arms to chemical and biological agents, to nuclear weapons and just about everything in between.

The ratification of the new START Treaty by the last Congress was a welcome and overdue action. In a rather black humored way I would say that reducing nuclear weapons to a point where Russia and the U.S. can destroy the entire world two or three times over rather than six or seven times over is a good thing. But it is also a good thing that we show the world we are serious about arms reductions. Another advantage of the treaty is that eventually the reduction will lessen the economic burden or this enormous arsenal on our struggling economies.

However, I have a problem with those who say that the treaty is not enough and that we should get rid of all nuclear weapons on the planet. While I agree that eventually the reductions should continue to more reasonable levels, I see a few problems with the idea of getting rid of all nuclear weapons everywhere. It is unrealistic to think we could ever accomplish this goal. The knowledge and technology to build them and the growing industrial capability of countries to construct them exist, and it is not going to go away. Plus while we are reducing our stockpiles, other countries are working to obtain them or add to their own caches and delivery systems. I am thinking specifically of North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, and Israel. Furthermore, we should not forget that we have a lot of enemies in the world that would love to see us weak enough to risk attacking the U.S. Finally there is a strong desire by terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons.

I think that the prudent thing to do is to make sure that the nuclear weapons we retain are the best, most up to date, and in sufficient numbers to deter any enemies now or in the future.

It would be nice if there came a time when humans were of one mind so that total elimination was possible, but sadly that time is not yet anywhere in sight.

April 2011

In the past, Humanists of Utah has tried to become involved in some area of social activism within our community. I have to admit that at times the effort has not been what it could be in order to be sustainable and effective.

I don’t want to make excuses but it should be pointed out that at times the failure is also due to resistance by entities that we have tried to deal with. For example, when we started our essay contest several years age we discovered resistance from school administrators who did not always send the materials on to the teachers. Also when Board member Mike Huston died, I tried to have Humanists of Utah, as an organization, take up his cause of maintaining a library for incarcerated youth at a local detention center. After several attempts to create a dialogue with an individual at the facility, I gave up. There are other examples, but the point I am making is that sometimes public entities, school administrations, youth detention center personnel, etc. become “filters” removing things they may see as undesirable. Perhaps they see us as “evil humanists.” I am saying this in preface to a suggestion for a cause that I believe is a worthy one that can be implemented without much interference.

Our March general meeting featured Chloe Noble who spoke to us about the homeless youth in America. Her enthusiasm and compassion were well received by those in attendance. In fact, after her presentation, I had a few people say that “we should do something” for these youth. I felt that way myself, and plan to contact the Homeless Youth Resource Center to inquire how best to help. I think there are several ways we can assist: by donating money, donating goods (gloves, socks, sleeping bags, etc.) and by donating time. Plus there will be nobody “filtering” us out as undesirable.

I hope that our membership will give the thumbs up to this proposal and support this effort any way you can. Please let the Board of Directors know how you feel about this and remember that your ideas and suggestions are always welcome.

Moving on, I want to comment on the news, or what has been in the news. The other day I had to do something that I haven’t had to do very often, and that is to not watch or listen to the news, ALL DAY LONG; a total news blackout. I like staying informed about the world, from next door to anywhere else on earth. But, for some reason the constant, current crop of terrible disasters and political bullshit, etc. was driving me nuts. Between the 9.0 earthquake/tsunami with its overwhelming death and destruction and a radioactive nightmare at a nuclear power plant and problems that continue to unfold, the list goes on.

Then in the political world we get the conservatives trying to dismantle collective bargaining and to some extent government in general. They want to balance the budget on the backs of the average person and struggling Americans while continuing to favor corporations and the rich. They are screwing with the E.P.A., de-funding NPR, trying to eradicate Planned Parenthood,and all this while we pour billions, daily, into endless wars. And the list goes on.

Here in Utah, Republicans continue to write and pass laws that draw attention and dismay from around the world. They want to do away with accountability (for themselves), and further turn the state into a theocratic rightwing totalitarian state, including one where alcohol availability is parsed out by the dominant religion. Again, the list goes on.

If I keep this up I will start to drive myself crazy again, so I’ll give it a rest for now. As always, I hope to see you soon at our next meeting.

May 2011

I’m sure you can all understand that writing a President’s Message each month is easier some months than others. This month was turning out to be one of those difficult times; I’ve been busy, and our newsletter needed to be completed a little earlier this month. So while I was sitting here struggling for something to come up with, I decided to delete some e-mails while thinking of a subject to include in my message.

I subscribe to a number of online newsletters including AlterNet. It often has a link to a Rachel Maddow video. I just watched Maddow on The GOP’s “Small-Government” hypocrisy and it got me going; like one of many recent reports about Republicans that is guaranteed to raise my hackles. The clip is about how the newly elected governor of Michigan has pushed through laws that give the state government the ability to take over local governments that are having financial problems. Then, not surprisingly, developers can acquire chunks of land for their projects that nobody in these local communities can afford; absolutely infuriating.

Today’s Republicans are not about small government, they are about absolute power which is government at its biggest. Republicans work toward a gerrymandering, union busting, rights denying, choice denying, corporation loving, and big brother government. I realize that this is basically the same rant I expressed last month, but I can’t help it.

While conservatives deserve criticism and derision, liberals, progressives, and moderates also need criticism for being inept and seemingly unwilling to fight this kind of government takeover until it is near the point of no return

I too bear some blame because other than these rants, an occasional donation and a record of voting in nearly every election, I do little else to support sanity. I should do more, and I think our organization should do more. Although we must be careful about our non-profit status in regards to politics, we can still be active in many ways. One thing I would like to suggest is that we have speakers and discussion groups that deal with current events more often. Educate yourselves and get involved in any way you can.

Moving on to some chapter news, there are a couple of items to mention. Our affiliation with the Utah Coalition of Reason (UCOR) is progressing well. Its Board of Directors boasts a number of young and energetic freethinkers. The main goal of UCOR is to bring together various likeminded freethought organizations in Utah in order to coordinate and promote our organizations’ events, and also to plan joint events. The event planning committee of UCOR is making good progress in organizing a Darwin Day Festival for next year. There will be other announcements from the committee and a request for suggestions and volunteers. I am excited about their plans, which will include a student science fair with generous prizes for the schools sponsoring the winners. Several other events are being planned for this fest, with an adult get together that will include adult beverages. Watch this space for updates in coming months.

As I announced last month Humanists of Utah has decided to take an active role of supporting the Homeless Youth Resource Center (HYRC). To get the ball rolling, I recently visited the HYRC to get informed about their needs. It was no surprise that they need money for running the center. They also need volunteers to help in a few areas, such as serving meals. Additionally, there is a need for donated goods of various kinds from clothing, sleeping bags, non-perishable food, notebooks, stamps and much more. It is early in our effort, but we will be working to get moving and make it a sustained effort. So watch for announcements and requests for donations. Your personal support will be appreciated by our chapter and put to good use by HYRC.

June 2011

I have been some serious sitting and messing around with my new computer which includes listening to some music CD’s. While listening to one I hadn’t listened to for a while, I was reminded that it was one that would be on my all-time top ten list. That is saying something when you consider that Amy and I own well over a thousand records, tapes, and CD’s. I was also reminded that the Board of Directors had discussed some possible alternatives to our Discussion Group. One suggestion I had was to have a Music Night now and then. The question then becomes, what exactly do we want to do on these occasions? I think it would be nice to keep it diverse. We could have a performance night if we find someone willing to play. We might try a “Favorites” night where everyone would bring in their own favorite piece. Also, I would like to have a “message night,” with songs that have a message, either serious or silly

I don’t know about you, but music has been a big part of my life. I can remember when I was around 10 years old, my brother who was eight years older than me, would yell at me for listening, and therefor probably scratching them, to his records. He was and is a lover of classical music and he had a lot of records that I would listen to when I could. One was a recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Another one that I remember is a recording of Dvorak’s Symphony no. 5 “From the New World.” They represent a couple of many aspects that were part of my childhood years. But my goodness, that is just one of dozens and dozens of ways music has played a part in my life. I’ve been to 30 or more rock concerts, seen several operas, and dozens of symphony orchestra concerts.

Of course, recorded music has been the biggest part of my music experience. Our collection of albums, tapes, CDs and music videos have given me thousands of hours of pleasure. Sometimes I think about how hard it would be to have to choose 10 CDs to take with me to a desert island. I’m sure the more I looked over the collection the harder it would get. I would love to hear from you about this suggestion of a music night and your top ten music list. I’m going to start one that I am sure will need a secondary list of honorable mentions.

July 2011

In the last month or so the announcements of intent to run for president by several politicians make me groan. They will be in our faces for a year and a half before the next election. I don’t know about you, but at the age of 63 I’m getting a little tired of what is actually the never ending campaign. In fact I’m down right sick of politicians. Some of them are so obviously stupid that it is depressing to know that they are or will be in positions of authority making decisions for all of us.

We have an idiot Democrat, Anthony Weiner, who, quite literally, cannot keep his pecker in his pants. Then we get a couple of Republican aspirants (Palin and Bachman,) running around making insane statements that are not only idiotic lies or distortions, but are at time delivered in incomprehensible babble. To top it all off Mitt Romney tells a group of people, “I’m unemployed too.” Disgusting.

I realize voting is important, and I haven’t missed a general election in my entire life, but I’m sick of the politicians.

There, I’ve had my little rant, now on to something more positive.  As I have mentioned a couple of times recently that we will be involving the chapter in helping the Homeless Youth Resource Center. The needs of these young people are a glaring example of our society’s failure to actually provide adequate safety nets for those in need.

I am hopeful that our efforts will be successful and sustained. One fear I have is that an effort like this may become a once a year or a “holiday” charity event. Let us work to keep it going continuously.

In order to get started, I obtained their “wish list”. There may be an opportunity in the future to volunteer for the group for those willing to give time. But to get started we thought that we would link a “Wish List Drive,” with our end of summer BBQ and have people bring items that we can deliver to the HYRC. Without doubt, they would love donations of money, but I will include the list below so you can pick whatever you would like to give.

  • Canned meals (spaghetti-os, Chef Boyardee, Thick and Chunky Soups)
  • Men’s Boxers (Medium, Large, xlarge, and 2xl)*
  • Canned tuna
  • Tarps
  • Peanut butter
  • Batteries (AAA, AA, C, D)
  • Size Three Diapers*
  • Men’s Undershirts (New, all sizes)
  • Tampons
  • Postage stamps*
  • Lighters (preferably bic)
  • Plus size clothes and underwear for women
  • Full size body wash

Items most needed at present*

There is the list, mark August 11 on your calendar for the BBQ and plan on bringing a donation. But before the BBQ, I hope to see you at the July Movie. Bye for now.

August 2011

While I’ve been thinking about what to say this month, plenty of subjects have presented themselves in the news. I could keep whining about how disgusting politicians are, or about the debt ceiling. I could comment on how clueless and stupid Mitt Romney looks standing there saying “I’m unemployed too.” As if someone like him, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, ever had to compete for or hold down an ordinary job. I could go on about our junior senator Mike Lee stating that we should get rid of Social Security and Medicare, then churches and families would take up the slack. Begging the question, “how would churches and family take up more slack if they aren’t doing it now?” But I won’t go on and on because I want to say something about a Salt Lake Tribune Editorial from a couple of weeks ago.

The editorial by George Pyle “The idiotic things we do to ourselves” was a good article for the most part. He admonishes us to be civil and not to let the fear-mongers have the last word, and also not to abandon our ideals and principles when we become fearful. The arguments about civility have been an ongoing discussion for some time in the world at large and to our humanist groups.

But part of his last paragraph didn’t make sense to me and started to get under my skin a little.

It states. “It’s not that there are not a lot of evil people out there. But whether it was the Nazis that Eisenhower defeated or the Islamists that threaten us today, the real bad guys through history are the ones most hung up on tribal concepts of race, religion, language or some other tiny variation that really makes no difference. The ability to rise above those differences, difficult as it has sometimes been, is the main path on the road to human fulfillment.” (italics: my emphasis)

The more I thought about it, (where he says …”or some other tiny variation that really makes no difference,”) it just kept bugging me.

I thought to myself, “tiny variation?” that “really makes no difference?”

Well I beg to differ. I don’t know about you folks, but I can cite some variations that are not tiny and make all the difference in the world.

The difference and the distance between me and an individual who straps on explosives and destroys himself and as many victims as he can, is a gulf as wide, in my thinking, as the width of the entire universe.

And, the difference between me and that so called pastor Fred Phelps the homophobe who protests at the funerals of fallen U.S. Soldiers, is absolutely enormous.

Additionally, for me as a person of science, the difference and distance between me and those who insist that the earth is only 6000 yrs. old, and that evolution is a fraud is very wide indeed.

We should always strive to be friendly or at least civil whenever possible, but we shouldn’t forget or trivialize the vast differences that exist in humans and the human experience.

Moving on to more pleasant thoughts, I’m excited that our fall BBQ is coming up on the eleventh. As usual we will have plenty of good food, drink and conversation. I also anticipate more young folks from UCoR and SHIFT to attend. Please come and join us and be our guests.

Don’t forget we will also be taking donations for the pick-off of our effort to help the Homeless Youth Resource Center provide needed items for the homeless youth.

October 2011

I was going to start my message this month by launching into another rant about politics, politicians, and the financial mess this country and the whole world for that matter is in.

Lately I have been spending time at our family cabin. It hasn’t been getting used much lately, and I wanted to change that. Because it has mostly sat unused the last several years it needs sprucing up. It is a split level three bedroom cabin finished with knotty pine on the inside, with cedar siding on the outside. Plus there is a large deck on two sides that I built back in the late eighties. My parents purchased the cabin in 1960 and it has been the family getaway all these years. It is on the edge of civilization, with the National Forest only a few miles up the highway to Mirror Lake in the Uintah Mountains.

The expression “I want to kick myself in the ass…” is applicable here. To have such a nice place to go, that has such a great retreat since my parents bought it and not make use of it is dumb. It has always been enjoyable to spend time there, relaxing, fishing, hiking, and working on “the cabin.” One of the many things that I often enjoy when I’m up at the cabin is to go out on the deck with a telescope and look at a piece of the sky. At about seven thousand feet and away from the light pollution of urban areas, the sky is usually quite clear. Clear enough to see the Milky Way, clusters and a nice bright planet now and then.

Plus, over the years, the wildlife one sees is another enjoyable aspect of being on the edge of civilization. I can remember seeing numerous deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, rabbits, a bobcat now and then, all kinds of birds including a couple of eagles in the early years, a few harmless snakes and of course mice. In a setting that is pine trees and quaking aspens, rocks and wildflowers, a creek with trout and all the wildlife is sublime.

I’m going to use that place more and I’ll be heading up there soon to do more “sprucing up”, and laying in more firewood for the winter.

By the way, I don’t think I thought about any politicians or the campaign at all while I’ve been up there.

On a matter of chapter business, the board of directors has been struggling with what to do about the discussion group, which hasn’t been meeting for some time now. We would like to revive the discussion group or some other social activity. In discussing this problem, we decided to ask you the members of Humanists of Utah to let us know what you would enjoy doing. Some suggestions have been: A music night, a discussion at a coffeehouse or the like, more movie/video nights, etc. What do you think folks? We need to hear from you. We also need a couple of people to help organize this social activity and make it happen. So please help us with your suggestions and by volunteering some time.

As always, I’m looking forward to seeing you at our next meeting, hope you can attend, and enjoy the fall weather.

November 2011

I am sure that you have all noticed that human population has reached 7 billion. It is a troubling thing to contemplate how quickly we are increasing in numbers. While we have always been unable and perhaps even unwilling to provide a decent standard of living for all human beings, we are still increasing in numbers. It was interesting for me to note that since I was born in 1948, 63 years ago, human population has grown by about 4.5 billion.

In a list of problems which face humanity, Population growth is up there at the top in severity, because it affects almost all of the other problems we as a species face. Natural resources that are already being over used will be exploited even more as population increases. Pollution becomes ever harder to control, as do diseases, conflicts, unrest, and the list goes on.

Controlling population is so difficult to deal with because it is a global problem; it affects all humanity everywhere. Also, because people are divided in so many ways; by family, clan, tribe, religion, state, nation, organizations of groups of nations, etc., it makes it impossible to come to an agreement about any useful policies regarding population control.

Sadly this passing reminder about population is a moment that is only moderately being noticed and will fade away with a few documentaries and a handful of warnings about the perils of such continued growth. I fear for those who will live to see a world with ten or twelve billion or more. Can twelve billion people be sustained? What kind of quality of life will there be? Sobering thoughts in light of the fact that we aren’t doing that well feeding the seven billion we have now.

Another item in the news that caught my eye was a letter by a young student writing about the problem of underage drinking and taking a stand against it. She presents some good statistics and shows how it is a problem in the state of Utah. Underage drinking certainly is a problem and it needs to be addressed continuously. But I think she is wrong when she says that alcohol is a “scary and dangerous thing.” Like any substance alcohol can be abused. But it is the act of the human who abuses any substance that makes it dangerous. A bottle of booze does nothing on its own.

I have always thought it wrong to ban “things” as they are in reality only resources. Laws and punishment for breaking the law is the answer, not vilifying something like alcohol. The prudent use of alcohol is both pleasurable to the taste buds and a compliment to good food and is known to be healthful in moderation.

But to speak more to the idea of it being scary, I believe the cultural taboos about alcohol cause the most harm. I myself am an example, having been raised with the constant cries of the evils of alcohol and how it would ruin your life, and you will become a bum, etc., etc. Never was there mention of the millions of people all over the world who drink responsibly. That is the answer after all, learning to drink responsibly.

If we want to take that route (the scary route) then the world is full of scary things. A bottle of aspirin is scary if you take too many, and if you think about it, getting into a car with a tank of ten to twenty gallons of gasoline under or behind the back seat, should scare the hell out of you.

Well, I’m getting a bit silly, so I’ll say bye for now and I hope to see you at or next general meeting on the tenth of November.

December 2011

Wow, another year has slipped by! December 8th, Humanists of Utah will host our Annual Business Membership Meeting and annual banquet. We will have ham, turkey, vegetarian lasagna, and a number of side dishes provided by board members. I will be making funeral potatoes with one batch made vegetarian style. Members and friends are welcome so please make a note to come and join us for some good food and good company. Also, we will have an open microphone for anyone who would who has something to say. I hope some of you will give it a try; we’d love to hear from you. We will be starting 6:30 PM.

We will also be taking donations for the Homeless Youth Resource Center at the meeting. The Resource Centers most recent call for items includes: money, gift cards, backpacks, bus tokens, hand warmers, hygiene items, headphones, lighters, beanies and gloves. I think that sleeping bags in good condition would be useful as well. We can also give food items to their pantry and kitchen where they serve meals. I’m going to give them some of my homemade jam as part of my donation. It is my hope that we can make this a sustained effort, with a pick-up three times a year: at our BBQ, the December Social, and in May before our summer break.

This month I thought I would try to write my message without criticizing someone or griping about something that has been getting under my skin. That can be tough when there is so much to gripe about. But there was one item that made me happy, and that was to hear that the latest mission to Mars was launched. This voyage has a rover that is on steroids. Curiosity is its name and it is big enough to really get around the Martian surface and do some serious science. As the lover of science that I am, this adventure helps me feel good about science pushing the frontiers. We humans miss such a great opportunity to explore space by squandering so much of our resources on military budgets. Well there I go griping again.

I look forward to seeing you at our social so don’t disappoint and come and join us for the evening.

January 2012

My goodness here it is 2012, the year the latest bunch of doomsayers say we will all perish on the next winter solstice. Like all of the previous predictors of the end of the world, they will most likely be wrong. Some may ask “how can you be sure they will be wrong?” My answer is that their claims are not based on any knowledge like discovering an asteroid hurling toward earth. Those claims of doom rarely have any real science behind them. I strongly suspect that the earth will be here a year from now.

Occasionally I have expressed a desire to not be negative in my president’s message. At first, that was true for this month also, but I just can’t do it. There are a couple of thing in the front of my mind that I have to say something about.

First is the news that legislation authorizing indefinite detention of citizens was signed by the president. When I read about this I had to ask myself “What kind of country is it that allows this kind of law to go into effect?” This is a law that pretty much gives the government the ability to send you to a gulag or concentration camp. To then have no redress, no rights. This is not the United States I served in the Air Force for.

This has to be a violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments. These decrees, which deal with search and seizure, the right to a speedy trial, and other similar issues are fundamental to what this country is all about. Are we so inept at fighting terrorism that we must turn to destroying the very rights we claim to be protecting? The very words, “indefinite detention” are the exact opposite of “the right to a speedy trial.”

We can also take note that the media pretty much ignored this little item. This law is not a good start for the New Year.

The other thing that has been in the front of my mind is on a much smaller scale and local. It kind of made me chuckle in a black humored sort of way when I heard that a senior center, due to budget restraints, was cutting out most or all of the bread and some of the desserts. Additionally, the small portable CD player they used for exercise classes was broken and there weren’t funds to replace it. While I chuckled, I again asked myself, “what kind of country is this?” where we pamper the rich and a senior center has to go without. I realize that in the world of suffering these senior center items are pretty mild, but the contrast between rich and poor in these times is rather stark.

Before I finish I want to thank former board members Julie Mayhew and Karen Keller. Their time and efforts over the past several years is much appreciated. Again Thanks so much.

Donations for the Homeless Youth Center we collected at the December social were well received. The value was estimated to be over $600.00. Thanks everyone!

February 2012

I have often been heard to say that my humanism has its roots in science. I say that because in the end I understand that it was my interest in science that drew me away from religion. From the early age of about fifteen, I began asking questions that irritated the religious adults in my life. I remember asking someone in the Mormon bishopric, “If god created everything, then who created god?” This is the famous (infamous?) first cause question, which I think, can logically come to mind. The irritated response I received was that I shouldn’t ask those kinds of questions because they were unanswerable. I also remember there was some admonition about obedience and studying the scriptures.

As I have been thinking about science in my life, I wondered what it was in my youth that ignited my love of science. There are actually many, but the really big one occurred when I was my eleventh grade advanced biology and physiology class at a military school. The teacher had good resources. Suffice it to say, we had more than worms to dissect. Plus the teacher would dissect in class other larger animals he had access to. It was all quite fascinating. This is about the time when my “obedience” to nonsense was all but gone.

Obedience without doubt is a common thread with most religions. Here is another example I came across recently: “Independent thinking is not encouraged.” That statement from a religious publication, (not Mormon) stands in stark opposition to our humanist ideals which includes freethought as one of the paramount necessities. It is also necessary to advocate and defend science. Unfortunately quite often these days science needs to be defended. Defended from attacks by those who are working hard constantly, to put religious beliefs alongside real science in schools.

I am not interested in challenging anyone’s belief in god. People should always be free to believe whatever they wish. But when beliefs are turned into actions which we disagree with we must be willing to challenge efforts to, for instance, insert creationism into the science curricula in schools. Teaching students that the Grand Canyon was carved, virtually overnight by the Noah flood is nonsense and it most certainly is not science. Asserting that the earth is only several thousand years old rather than the 4.6 billion years it is estimated to be. It is unfortunate and frustrating that observable facts must be defended and at times it may feel like a waste of time to have to oppose nonsense that tries to call itself science. But we must continue to do so.

That’s enough about the conflict between science and religion. Our February Darwin Day will be our fifth, and we come together to celebrate Darwin’s birthday, his great contribution to science, and to celebrate science in general. So please join us for an informative evening and piece of birthday cake.

March 2012

“Personhood,” jeez folks, how many ways will the religious right use in their quest try to erode the rights of individuals in regards to our reproductive lives? I suppose the answer is, “every way they can find.” Year after year they pass or try to pass some legislation anywhere and everywhere possible that prohibits, restricts, or mandates some intrusion into our sex lives and our reproductive choices. “Personhood” of the fetus at the time of conception is one of their most recent efforts and another is to try to force women, seeking an abortion, to have intrusive procedures performed that are meant only to intimidate and humiliate. Not to mention the waste of time and resources these procedures represent that would be better used where actually needed. These people also work to make contraception options unavailable or hard to get. Additionally, they are having success restricting, even further, sex education. It is all quite maddening.

I was contemplating expanding on a couple of these specific items, when I began thinking, jokingly of course, of going with the trend. Maybe we should get on the band wagon and support having government control our sex lives.

So, If we are going to have government dictate that you carry any and all pregnancies to term, then we sure as hell should be willing control all the other aspects of our sex lives, so that we are able to say “You are only allowed to replace yourself,” that is, only two kids per couple. After that, mandatory sterilizations will be undertaken on everyone. Plus, let’s not forget that your sex life includes your sex education, which will naturally be nil to very little. And that education will be summed up perhaps this way: Avoid sex like the plague, until you are married, then, only to procreate. Procedure as follows: Under the covers, in the dark, no talking, man on top, get it over with quick.

Sorry folks but I just can’t help being a little snide these days. I’m really getting sick of these people. A good example is when we see a member of our dominate LDS religion in Utah dictating to the legislature. She is so powerful and feared by legislators that they give her a seat on the dais! Then some clown insults our intelligence by writing an op-ed stating there is no Mormon influence on the hill. But if we should dare oppose them they start whining about the “War on Religion.” But it is not a war on religion; it is a war against the attempts by the religious to destroy our secular society and the separation of church and state.

There are far too many of the religious who deny the need for or the very existence of a separation of church and state. They can’t understand that it is what insures that we can worship or not as we please.

Here is a thought for our Mormons neighbors or any other small religious group. If for the sake of argument, let’s say that the United Stated government in the early 1800s was a theocracy controlled by the Catholic religion. Do you think they would let a religion like Mormonism get off the ground or flourish? I don’t think so. The inquisition would be in full bloom. The only government that can insure freedom of religion is one that is neutral and favors none.

April 2012

This month it is necessary for me to get my message written early. Sitting here I remembered that the vernal equinox is in a few days on the 20th of March. I think I like this time of year the best, as it starts to warm up enough to get outside and crank up the garden. Nature is waking up and some of the early flowers will be blooming soon. Plus now is the time to get some of the hardy crops going. Last year was the first time in many years that I grew potatoes and was pleasantly reminded that even potatoes are much better when they have only been out of the ground for a couple of hours. I don’t want to bore you to death with garden talk, but it does lead into something I wanted to write about, namely sustainability and population.

In regards to sustainability, you would think that being frugal with resources would be second nature to a prudent, logical and rational mind. But sadly our human tendency is to use something until we use it up, or in the case of living organisms, until we push them to extinction. Whether from population pressure or the desire to make a profit, we use resources at frightening rates. Getting more involved in sustainability is a good thing to do and I plan to do more myself by trying to buy local and using some of the other “green” practices that are available to us. Sustainability is a broad subject and I think it would be interesting to have a speaker at one of our general meetings give a presentation on the subject.

As to population, when I was born in 1948, the population of the world was about 2.5 billion, and now it stands at 7.0 billion. It has nearly tripled in the 63 years that I have been around. I think over population is one of if not the most serious problems humanity is faced with. But the response we give to this problem is meager at best. I think we shrug it off partly because it is a very difficult problem and partly because people are more concerned with protecting a person’s right to have whatever size family they want. So we continue to add, at present, some 135 million people per year, while 56 million die.

Demographics and population statistics can be interesting and helpful in understanding how growth rates affect us. For instance, at present the world growth rate is 1.1 % which is down from a high around 2.2% in the mid-sixties. That looks pretty damn low, but you always have to remember that it is always growing. So with that 1.1% growth rate we get an increase of around 80 million per year. When you’re talking about a large number, like 7 billion, even a 1.1% growth rate represents a bunch of people.

It is quite understandable that a majority of people, world-wide, are busy surviving and not worrying about population growth. But I think it should be government policy to encourage its citizens to adopt the idea of only replacing their selves. In fact, it would be nice if population shrank a little, without doing it with wars and starvation. And wouldn’t it be nice to leave a little oil in the ground, a few trees standing, and a few fish in the seas, for the future and our grandchildren.

May 2012

The May meeting will be our last meeting before taking our annual summer break in June and July. This hiatus will also coincide with the remodeling of Eliot Hall at the Unitarian Church this summer. They have a target completion date of September 1st. While we hope they can keep to this schedule, but we worry that, as delays happen we are not sure the venue will be available for our September meeting. Therefore the Board of Directors has decided to make our September meeting a Movie night in the Student Union Building on the U of U campus. We haven’t decided what to watch yet, and are looking for suggestions. Something of general interest and under two hours please. Our August BBQ will not be affected or changed.

As we plan for the next year, we would love to hear from you to let us know what kind of speakers or specific speakers you would like to have at our general meetings. We would also like to know what activities to schedule in our effort to have social meet ups like we had at the new Museum of Natural History, at the University of Utah. Please give it some thought.

I have been thinking about changing my monthly message slightly by sectioning it off a little bit and adding some subtitles. One of the first sections would have to be something like, “Here comes the latest asinine actions of the Religious Right.” Too long, too messy? Maybe something shorter, like, “Stupidest actions from the Religious clowns,” (That’s not much shorter) or perhaps just, “idiots at work.” Got any suggestions?

I thought about this because there sure is plenty to report on lately. You may remember that in my March message I made mention of the effort to create laws to give “personhood” to embryos. That’s bad enough, but then recently there has been another proposed law to define pregnancy as beginning at the last day of a woman’s menses. Say What? That’s bogus from just about any way you look at it. But it really shows their stupidity in that they don’t even understand the basic biology of reproduction. I mean how does that work? You are pregnant the day your period ends before conception ever takes place? I know we try to be fair and civil toward these people, but they are freaking crazy folks and they deserve derision to the max! Pregnant before you conceive! It would be a lot funnier if they weren’t dead serious about this. By the way, this is all happening, if I remember correctly, in Tennessee. They haven’t progressed very much out there since they had the Scopes Trial, have they?

I don’t comment on the blogs much, but now and then an article in the paper or on an internet site will be one that is worth putting forth an opinion, a criticism or kudos. I don’t get into the back and forth that many bloggers get into, mostly because they often degrade into people calling each other names. Kind of that childish, “you’re an idiot” with the reply being, “I know you are, but what am I.” But recently when I posted a comment about evolution and creationism, one of the religious bloggers responded with that oh so irritating rhetoric and posturing that implies that we who are not religious lead such pitiful lives because we “don’t believe in anything,” and they tell us that they will pray for us. Well I didn’t bite on his comment because he hadn’t replied about what I actually said, only about me and my kind being pitiful. But if I were to rejoinder I think I might say that I was quite happy with my scientific knowledge and my life’s knowledge and experiences. I might also say that I prefer looking at existence the way Carl Sagan put it, when he said “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” I find that most satisfying and I find it amazing and exhilarating to be alive at a time when science and technology make it possible to learn and understand the nature of the universe from the infinitely small to the infinitely large.

June 2012

Last month I wrote that I was going to call part of my message something like “The Latest from Idiots.” Well this month there is much to choose from, but the United States conference of Catholic Bishops take the prize. And that is because these prize winners are now “investigating” the Girl Scouts. From the reports I have read this need to investigate stems from the fact that the Girl Scout organization publicly approved the membership of a transgendered individual in a Colorado Girl Scout troop.

The Catholic Church has always opposed any idea of reproductive freedom and has lately been stepping up its efforts against the more progressive nuns and catholic laity. It kind of baffles the mind to think of why they would spend time and resources on this “investigation,” which only highlights their pathetic effort to intimidate. While the nuns and Girl Scouts work in various efforts to assist and educate young women and the public in general, the Bishops are doing what…investigating? Pretty sad and at the same time quite infuriating.

The more I think about my message concerning idiots the more I get the feeling that maybe I need to include a similar blurb of a more “hopeful” nature. Reporting on something positive as an antidote to the reports about idiots taking actions that tend to make you “bristle up.” I’ll try to do that in the months to come so I don’t sound like I’m always whining.

On another subject, I have been contemplating how addicted we are to gadgets and screens. I certainly am, exemplified by the fact that I am sitting here in front of my computer screen composing this message, and to the right of the computer is a small T.V. that is sometimes on at the same time this computer is being used. Not to mention that in my pocket is my cell phone with a screen. But my addiction can’t hold a candle to the need for screens and gadgets by some in the general population. This was brought to mind recently when at an intersection I noticed that a woman was starting to walk out onto the crosswalk against the light. She caught herself soon enough to avoid trouble, but it was easy to see why she almost walked out into the traffic. She was walking along looking at her cell phone, (probably texting) and in addition was wearing ear phones. It’s pretty dumb to not be watching where you are going and not hearing what is going on when at a busy intersection.

Screens are essential these days, they entertain and educate and facilitate many function in modern society. An example of their superb usefulness has been the recent eclipse and also the transit of Venus across the Sun. Not only can you see images of these events, the images you can access are often of high quality and definition and you can see and watch these events whenever and as often as you wish.

Yet to me there is a worrisome aspect to screens when for example young people spend endless hours playing video games. It’s not that I worry so much about the content of these games as some people do, for me it is the large chunks of time wasted.

Well that’s about enough for this President’s message. Besides I want to go watch an episode of Star Trek on the big screen.

July 2012

At the June Humanists of Utah Board meeting, I put forth the notion that our chapter needs a makeover. I think we need to become more relevant to the times, to young people, and a bit more activist. To start with we can upgrade our website and get more connected to the internet world and to likeminded groups. I also suggest that we do away with our summer recess and get involved with the Pride festivities. The Pride Festival is a win-win situation for us in that we can work for a cause we believe in (human rights issues) and make our chapter better known to the public at the same time. I also think that we should have another social in the summer inviting members of the Utah Coalition of Reason, which Humanists of Utah belongs to, together for a Freethinkers event.

We should also keep our involvement with the Homeless Youth Resource Center as one of our activist/charitable causes.

There were a lot of good ideas discussed at the board meeting and we will continue to sort through them in the months to come. The board of directors would also like to hear from the membership of Humanists of Utah as to what kind of events you prefer. We’re hopeful that we can find a good mix of desirable activities throughout the year. I am confident that we can achieve these goals of improving the chapter to make our schedule more appealing to all.

However, not everything is being changed. The schedule will still include our February Darwin Day celebration, our August BBQ, our December social, and a few speakers.

In my years on the board and as president we have always struggled with attracting new and especially younger people to get involved and become members. We have also struggled with making the chapter more “visible” to the public in general.

I believe that fostering and assisting the Utah Coalition of Reason to accomplish the goal to bring free thought groups together for common causes and socialization is one of the best ways to increase our visibility. The Utah Coalition of Reason exists because of the awareness that freethinker groups are diverse and somewhat fragmented and thus we should use UCoR to help us coordinate activities and share resources.

Well, enough about changes, I hope your summer is going well. Yesterday was the first day with measurable rain in 38 days, so the rain was welcome and refreshing and helped with the fires raging around the state. The rain was great for my garden and I’ll soon be enjoying the freshest tomatoes you can’t buy. But my zucchini plants have already taken over. If I don’t check and harvest then for a couple days the little things turn into torpedoes. Anybody need a Zucchini or two?

August 2012

Last month in my message I discussed the fact that we are doing a bit of a remake of our chapter. I want to continue that discussion this month.

In talking to other board members, something came up as an option a couple of times. That option is to have an evening where a few members tell us about there “Journey to Humanism”. This is something we have done a few times in the past and I remember that they were quite enjoyable evenings.  Listening to someone and hearing how sometimes the story is similar to your own and sometimes quite different is always fascinating to me.  I think we should do it more often in the future. That means some of you members need to volunteer to give it a try. The Board of directors will put it on the schedule soon as one of the monthly events.

Additionally, I think it will be wise to start scheduling our events on a variety of days and times rather than our old way of always on Thursday evenings. I think our lectures should remain on an evening schedule, but I have had people tell me that they would like to get together on the weekend days and in the afternoon. I’m also determined to get some discussion groups going again.  The discussion group has always been one of the things that I enjoyed most about Humanists of Utah. That is, to simply get together and talk. So I think the first discussion should be on a weekend afternoon someplace where we can get a cup of coffee or something.

On another makeover subject, we are now taking steps to upgrade our website. It is early in the process and I don’t want to steal any of Wayne’s thunder, but I’m excited that the upgrade is under way. No doubt Wayne will let us know when it is up and running. The upgrade is part of our efforts to be better connected to the world in general and specifically to other like-minded freethinkers.

One of the sure signs that fall is around the corner is when, as I did, see the first commercials for FOOTBALL. That’s ok, I like fall a lot. I’ve been eating garden tomatoes for a while now. Plus I am looking forward to Our Fall BBQ being held on August 9th starting at 6:00 PM at John Young’s home at 2127 South 1900 East in Salt Lake City. Like I always say, please come and join us for some good food and good company.

September 2012

Our annual fall BBQ was again a success as we ate, drank and conversed in the comfort of member John Young’s backyard. We thank him for hosting the BBQ at his home and we thank his daughter Cindy and her husband Art King for their hard work setting up and doing the cooking on the grill. Plus I want to thank all the board members and regular members who brought lots of tasty side dishes. We’ve been meeting there under a couple of big old apple trees for four or five years now, and it has become quite an enjoyable send-off for our new season of events after the summer recess.

When I conversed with a few of you at the BBQ, about what was on the calendar I mentioned that we were working on a slight makeover of the chapter. I talked a little about some of the changes we are considering and some we have already approved. One change I said we were making was that we would no longer have a summer recess during June and July. The board concluded that we should remain active year round, and that there are plenty of things to do in June and July.

One of my thoughts about this makeover is that the Humanists of Utah should plan three types of activities: A lecture and educational events series (speakers, Darwin Day), socials (BBQ, December potluck, movie night, etc.) and advocacy (Homeless Youth Resource Center, Pride Festival).

Now that June and July are back on the calendar for planning events we can add a few new events and even move a few around to mix things up. Getting involved in the Pride Festival is a June event that I have already suggested in past President’s messages. So far, July has nothing planned.

One thing that might help us decide which activities to plan is a list I received from Evelin Damian at the last Utah Coalition of Reason board meeting. The list is called Secular Holidays by Season and it is a good place to start when looking for alternative events. These dates are now in our Calendar that can be found on the Events page on our website.

Next up is our movie night on September 13th for a showing of, Inherit the Wind. There will be free goodies and drinks along with my decadent popcorn. See you there.

October 2012

I wish the spring and fall seasons weren’t so transitory. They are the times of the year I enjoy the most, mainly because the temperatures are mild and pleasant. Plus at this time of the year I am about ready to murder my first Hubbard squash. Exciting, don’t you think! Well, maybe not exciting, but definitely tasty.

While these dry mild days are enjoyable, what we really need is a lot of moisture for the next several months. The drought we’re going through is pretty severe and will get even worse if it isn’t a good water year coming up.

For the last few months I have been writing about our chapter’s make over and I need to continue in this message. I’m excited by the prospect that the changes will give our chapter a needed boost. But that excitement is tempered by the realization that these changes represent an increase in work hours to get everything done.

As we are moving ahead with our plan, reality tells us that we are going to need help form you, the membership, to volunteer some time to help with various events and projects. We need a few people to be board members, as we have lost a few in recent years and not all have been replaced. But I don’t want to scare you away with talk of board membership; even a few hours here and there can be enormously helpful. We hope to have some new committees going soon, so think about being on one or even just working for one. The three main committees will probably be, Advocacy, Special Events and a lecture series.

Working for our Advocacy Committee might include our project with The Homeless Youth Resource Center, or with our newest project to have a showing at next year’s Pride Festival. Our Special Events Committee will plan for Darwin Day, the Fall BBQ, and our December dinner social. And of course, the Lecture Series Committee will deal with speakers and perhaps a discussion group.

But like I mentioned above, we need help. Sadly, if we don’t, much of what is planned will have to be scaled back. Please contact any board member or call me (801-486-4209) if you can help.

I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend the October general meeting. My youngest Niece is getting married that day and family comes first.

November 2012

The loss of life in the wake of this so called super storm named Sandy is tragic. As I write this message, the extent of the damage, injury, and loss of life caused by hurricane Sandy, has not been fully determined. In fact, on this Halloween evening the storm is still causing problems with continued rain and snow. We already know it will take a lot of time, work and many billions of dollars before the lives of those impacted by the storm return to anything resembling normal.

Humanists of Utah has donated to disaster relief in the past, and I think this is another one of those times when we should put together our contributions and send them through a humanist organization (most likely the AHA). There is no doubt that the relief organizations will be in need of donations to keep their operations going. The Board of Directors will determine an amount to give from our treasury and add it to any donations we receive from the membership.

Another reason I wanted to write about this big storm is because of the climate aspect. If you get on some of the internet blogs you find people arguing about whether the storm is an example of global warming or climate change. But one storm does not define a climate. Remembering the old saying, Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get, is useful. As geographer I do worry some about climate change, but my feeling is that the seemingly endless arguing about climate change distracts us from dealing with the real problem, pollution. The question as to how much humans affect climate would become moot if we reduced pollutants by a significant percentage. Our societies allow far too much of our waste products to be dumped on the environment, mostly for the sake of the profit margin.

Sometimes when arguing on a blog, I get a little smart assed in my response by saying something like, its really quite simple. Clean air is healthy and GOOD for you, dirty air is BAD and unhealthy. Clean water is GOOD and good for you, dirty water is BAD and unhealthy. Is that so hard to understand?The World Health Organization estimates that about 2 million people die prematurely due to air pollution each year. Isnt that reason enough to clean up the air? I think it is.

December 2012

Flo Wineriter’s recent article in our newsletter advocating “Religious Humanism” was thought provoking. Those in the humanist/free thought community who wish to be considered religious humanists are free to do so; I think this stance is good for the humanist community in that it provides the fellowship aspect of our humanist philosophy. The Unitarian Church provides service for many of our humanist members who are also Unitarians.

I will readily admit that as someone who comes to humanism from a scientific point of view, I am a bit negligent in the fellowship area. But I’m happy to report that chapter member Elaine Ball has offered to work to change our lack of fellowship and make us a more, if you will, connected membership. And, as you may already know, Elaine is a certified humanist celebrant.

Reading Flo’s article reminded me of a lament I have sometimes, when these discussions about religion and humanism come about. I wish the discussion wasn’t so often about humanism as an alternative to religion. I know, I know, in many ways it IS the alternative to religion. Dogmatic religion, that is. I also know that we have to “Man the Ramparts” in many areas where religious fundamentalists seek to change secular society. Here I am going off on a rant about secular society, but I can’t help it. Whenever I bring up secular society or see it in print somewhere being vilified, I want to ask. “Why don’t you understand that our secular society is why everyone has the right to worship or not however they wish?” The marketplace of religion is open and free, as it should be. But a majority of religious people really do hate the idea of a secular society.

Well, enough of that stuff. I hope that you will join us at our December Social for (as I always say) a good meal and some good company.

January 2013

As long as I have been President of Humanists of Utah and writing this column every month, saying something about the New Year has always been tough. Perhaps partly because I find it amusing that we have somehow decided THIS is the first day of the year. Why not start the year on the shortest day of the year, although that’s the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. Or maybe an equinox would be better. But I guess whining about how the ancients set up the system won’t get me very far. I guess it’s just the geographer in me being contrary.

But getting back to thinking about last year, it was quite a year if you ask me. As I worried that we voters might be stupid enough to elect the likes of Mitt Romney in as President. That was kind of spooky. Plus for me personally it was, to say the least, a busy and challenging year. I’m kind of glad it is over. As far as the New Year goes, I don’t make resolutions, nor do I make predictions. For the most part I just hope the world will somehow be more peaceful.

But I don’t want to dwell too much on the past right now, rather I want to talk about some of our plans for Darwin Day. This year the planning is being done by UCOR and in association with other local freethought groups. The keynote speaker will be Jon Seger, a local evolutionary biologist and recipient of the McAuthor Genius Award. There will be catered finger foods, a screening of the BBC biographical film Creation, some displays and literature tables and t-shirts and other “stuff to buy,” and of course a birthday cake.


Darwin Day Celebration
Saturday, February 9, 2013
4:00 PM
Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building Auditorium
University of Utah Campus

You do not have to pre-register, but we will appreciate it if you know you are coming. This will help us with planning for the catering. Also, pre-registration will entitle you to “extra goodies.” Please plan to attend and bring a friend!

This year’s event will be our sixth annual Darwin Day, and I hope that it will continue to be held for many years to come. It is personally the one thing that I hope continues long after my tenure as president. I have found our Darwin Day celebrations and the people I meet at them a rewarding experience. I never tire from talking to like-minded people.

But I shouldn’t neglect January. This month’s general meeting will feature Salt Lake Tribune columnist Lya Wodraska, our first speaker of the year. I’ll be there, I hope you come too. I’m bringing the cookies.

February 2013

Our January general meeting was canceled due to bad weather. The first significant snow storm of the year made it too treacherous to be out on the roads. I hope none of you went out in that mess to try to get to the meeting. While it was unfortunate that the meeting was canceled, I was actually happy that the weather had changed from dry polluted inversion to wet and stormy. Plus, living on the edge of a desert, we can always use the moisture. Speaking of which, as a geographer, I sometimes measure how much precipitation we get. Where I live, the latest group of storms has dumped 16 inches of snow which has settled now to about a foot. Not to mention about a half an inch of rain.

Anyway, as we canceled the meeting, your HoU Board members became aware of the fact that we had no way to inform the membership of last minute meeting changes other than by an email blast. That awareness brought up the idea that a phone tree might be helpful. At least for those of you who attend meetings often enough to want to be informed. If members show enough interest we will set one up. So give us some feedback and let us know if you think it is worthwhile.

February means Darwin Day. In fact this will be our sixth annual Darwin Day celebration. I won’t go into the program here, as there are announcements elsewhere in the newsletter and online. However, I do want to mention that Evelin Damian, Zack Stevenson, and Brian Trick of the Utah Coalition of Reason have been doing a stellar job of planning Darwin Day for us this year. Their efforts have put together an event that will be an enjoyable and memorable event. So please do join us.

I want to mention another thought I’ve had about Darwin Day and that is the possibility of creating a foundation to insure that Darwin Day continues far into the future. I know that is a big order to say the least. I admit to knowing nothing about the process other than the fact that it will require a fair amount of work and of course money. I feel that such a foundation (with ties to HoU) would be a positive thing for our chapter and more importantly for the good of science.

March 2013

First of all want to thank Evelin Damian, Zack Stevenson, and Brian Trick of the Utah Coalition of Reason for planning and managing this year’s Darwin Day event. Also thanks goes to Bob Mayhew for manning our table all evening. Additionally, thanks to all who volunteered. Thanks again everyone, job well done.

I would like to relate what was the most rewarding aspect of the evening for me personally. After I spoke opening the evening and after I read a definition of humanism, several individuals came up and thanked me because they had found that many of their feelings and ideas were in line with humanism. One person even said that he had found his niche. That makes me happy and reminds me of one of the reasons to host these events and that is to introduce as much of the public to humanism as we can.

U-CoR is also helping us start the process of creating a foundation for Darwin Day here in Utah. Along with that they will be helping us plan for our participation in “Pride Day” activities, our newest event we have decided to get involved in. We will have a booth of some sort and we will enjoy spending the day supporting a worthy cause.

I mention the weather quite often in my President’s Message, perhaps too often, but I can’t help it. Today the temperature got up to about 60 degrees and enough snow has melted that a little bit of green is showing up here and there. So of course I am all hot to get the garden planted but have to tell myself, “ whoa Bob, it’s only early March, we could end up with more winter yet.” A chilling thought. Anyway, I’m happy that the daylight time is getting longer and the temperatures warmer. It won’t be long before I start complaining about the heat.

Thinking about summertime reminded me that there has been some talk about having a “Freethinkers Picnic” during the summer. It might be nice to meet at a park somewhere for a U-CoR sponsored picnic.

April 2013 – no report

May 2013

Sometimes after a violent act such as the tragedy in Connecticut, the question “Why are we so violent?” is asked. I don’t know why someone would go mow down little children? Perhaps mental illness; perhaps desperation, or both. But I have to say that violence is a part of human nature. Not part of our better nature at times. Yet the ability to defend oneself and others is to be able to fight back violently if necessary. As I have been thinking about the subject of violence and it’s relation to guns, I went through my memory, to see how violence was part of my life.

As a child in the 1950’s I had my share of little men. They ranged from army men to cowboys and Indians and spacemen. I had cap pistols and the like, plastic swords, and ray guns and more. Some of my earliest memories of television are of the newsreels they showed of the Korean War. As a youth I hunted deer, pheasants and rabbits. In high school I joined the CAP one year, and my parents sent me to a military school for my junior year.

When I joined the United States Air Force I was sent to Munitions and Weapons Technical School. In retrospect his was one of the most interesting things to happen to me. Spending months in school learning how to handle and use all the various weapon systems was fascinating. If memory serves right, at that time they used the acronym CNBC which was short for Conventional, Nuclear, Biological, Chemical warfare. We studied it all, from small arms ammo to the largest conventional bombs and incendiaries. We studied nuclear weapons of various kinds. We studied those lovely chemical and biological weapons also.

I was sent to Thailand in February 1968 to participate in the Vietnam War, my job was to prep Five hundred and seven hundred and fifty pound bombs to be loaded onto one of the most effect destructive weapons systems there is, the B-52 bomber. When I returned from Thailand, the Air Force made me into a cop where I worked law enforcement until I was discharged. Suffice it to say I had a bit of violence and force at times in my life.

Getting back to guns and violence, I have to say that I understand the outrage and all when something this awful happens, but I find myself on both sides of the ”gun issue.” I feel anyone who wants to own a fire arm should be free to do so. But I also feel that gun owners should have requirements and restrictions in a similar way that we have for automobiles. With guns, especially hand guns, I think you should have to license it, take a written test of the laws and safety. Plus you should be required to show competence in handling a deadly weapon.

I’m really not interested in anyone’s paranoia about the government coming to take everybody’s guns. It is stupid to think that the government would be dumb enough to try to confiscate all the guns and start an underground weapons world that would make the drug war look tiny. Never happen.

With guns or other objects and substances, I hate the idea of banning them. Because if we are going to ban guns because they can be used to kill, don’t we have to ban a lot of other things that are harmful? For example, shouldn’t we ban tobacco? It kills a hell of a lot more people than guns do. Yet we really don’t want to see this distinction. The suffering and costs from a product like tobacco is horrid to say the least. But laws should be made to deal with the actions of people not to ban things.

Returning to violence once again, I will say that one of the best ways to combat violence is to improve the human condition, even though this is a big order.

June 2013

You may remember that my message last month was about violence and guns. I wrote about how I had guns and violence as a part of my life. Well I would like to add to what I said by looking at our history here in the U.S. Much of what I have to say is quite obvious to most of us, but I want to say it anyway.

You might say this country was and continues to be forged in violence. Europeans came to this continent and eventually killed off most of the Native Americans or ran them off their land. For Native Americans, “Manifest Destiny” was a curse.

We had a bloody Revolution to create this nation.

We tolerated one of the most violent institutions there can be, slavery. An institution that steals people from their homes, then buys and sells these human beings and forces them to labor with only a bare subsistence lifestyle.

Also, with violent abandon, we nearly made a thriving species of Bison go extinct by slaughtering them by the hundreds at a time.

We’ve participated in world wars and many other regional wars, “peace keeping missions” and the like.

We have horrid “racist organizations” that are steeped in violence.

I guess the reason I’ve been on this rant about guns and violence is because after a tragedy like Sandy Hook, I see on the internet blogs and threads, people “wondering why we are so violent.”

When I see those kinds of questions, I just want to scream, “Just take a look at human history for hell’s sake!” There I said it. I feel better now. Enough said.

I hope you will all come and join us for our summer movie night on June 13. I hear it is a really good one. Plus I will be bringing the popcorn and a carrot cake.

I’m also going to bring a CD I have of cartoons. I remember when there was a cartoon or two before the main feature. I guess I’m dating myself, but I think I’ll reinstitute the cartoon at our movie night. I also think we should have more movie nights throughout the year on nights other than our regular meeting time, perhaps on our old discussion night periodically.

July 2013

It is hot out there, really hot out there. I know because I have been replacing my mother’s swamp cooler in this heat. You can’t work on a roof for long when it’s over 100 degrees.

It is tempting to use this heat and drought to point to climate change and global warming as suspect causes. But one thing the study of geography teaches you is that climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. One or two events or changes are not enough. But studying events over long periods of time is one of the tools for understanding climate.

But there are a number of ways to study the changes that occur or do not occur that together can point us in certain directions in regards to climate. The study of ice on the planet is one of the areas that show us directly that change is happening as the overall ice budget of the planet continues to shrink. This shrinkage has been and continues to be quantified and studied.

As a student of geography, I was interested in the frozen regions of the planet, so studying the edge of the frozen world was what I could do here in Utah. In the Uinta Mountains, with peaks over 12,000 feet, there are some areas of periglacial zones. That is, where there are some varying amounts of ice year round (nival patches, rock glaciers, etc.) Anyway, I may have a few words to say about what I learned in the mountains before we watch the video at our July meeting. But not to worry, I have no plans to get long winded.

For anyone who is interested in learning more about the frozen regions of the planet, I recommend two web sites, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS).

The Chasing Ice video we will be showing is a presentation of the EIS. It is an excellent video presentation of this shrinking of the ice budget. The photography is quite beautiful and informative at the same time. Glaciers are huge dynamic features of the planet, yet in a way quite delicate in the face of rising temperatures. I hope you will join us on Thursday, July 11th. There will be goodies and good conversation, so bring a friend and get out of the heat with us.

September 2013

This month on Thursday the 12th Humanists of Utah will be hosting our first speaker of the season. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Brien Moench will present. Speaking about environmental issues, Dr. Moench is with Physicians for a Healthy Environment. I’m looking forward to an interesting presentation and discussion with light refreshments.

Regarding speakers, it would be helpful if some of you freethinkers would make suggestions to our Board of Directors about other individuals you would like us to invite to give a presentation. You may know someone who would give an interesting presentation. Give us a call or email and let us know.

I’m also happy to announce that there will be another picnic this summer. This family picnic is usually a social hosted by Atheists of Utah, but they agreed to make it a joint social for all the Utah Coalition of Reason member groups. We thank them for letting us join in. This is an excellent chance to meet other free thought individuals from the other coalition groups. I plan to be there and I hope some you reading this will come and enjoy the picnic with us. It is scheduled for Sunday September 15, 5:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Sunnyside park –1735 East Sunnyside Ave (840 South). Hamburgers and hot dogs provided, with potluck side dishes. Humanists of Utah will be providing a variety of beverages, but we still need a few more side dishes. Hope to see you there.

Like most people these  days, I get much of my news and other information from the internet. When reading news items and articles I like to check out the comment threads at the end. Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the article, with some being informative, some funny and smart assed, some really stupid, some absurd. I don’t comment very often but every now and then someone says something so ridiculous I just have to join in.

A couple of weeks ago I joined in on a thread, and what was said has stayed on my mind. As threads often do, it had changed from whatever the article was about into a general line of comments about Peace and how to achieve it in the Middle East. I was about to give it up when a woman started preaching about the only way to peace was through Jesus Christ. I had to say something. I thought about saying a few things about the history of religion being full of wars and violence and torture and on and on. But I didn’t. Instead I tried to make my reply a little different.

I made my point by asking “Does anybody for a minute think that if any major religion were to be in absolute control there would be peace?” I really doubt it.

If Islam for example were to convert or eliminate all who were not Islamic, peace would not reign as they would soon turn on each other, you know, Sunni against Shia. And once Sunni or Shia reigned supreme they would then find individuals in their own group to pick on that weren’t quite pure enough. The same is true of Christians being in control. First Catholic and Protestants would soon be at each other’s throat, just to start with. And if Judaism were supreme, Orthodox Jewish groups would soon be battling with liberal Jewish groups.

I made these points in several comments and ended by saying that even if religion could bring peace, it would be a hollow peace, as freedom would not exist because not adhering to the dominate religious dogma would not be tolerated.

Some people on the thread liked what I said, but after one more comment the woman who got me going stopped replying. I think often people who make blanket statements don’t have very good arguments to back them up. Well so much for my anti-religion rant.

October 2013

The last thirty days or so have been busy for the free thought community. Our September speaker, Dr. Brian Moench, gave us a most interesting presentation about the effects of Air pollution on our bodies. As someone concerned for the environment, I have always known that air pollution was bad for our health, causing or making worse respiratory diseases and the like. But one example he gave showed how insidious and diverse the effects can be by telling us how some pollution can cause the placenta in pregnant women to shrink and thus restrict Oxygen and other essentials the fetus needs for proper development. While the truths about these effects are rather grim, the Doctor kept it enjoyable with a number of humorous pictures. We want to thank Dr. Moench for the excellent presentation, it’s always good to become better informed about a subject, even if the subject is as I said, “rather grim.”

Elaine Ball made sure Humanists of Utah had a presence at the 9th & 9th street festival. While she held vigil through the rain, our support left much to be desired. The puny beach umbrella I purchased while useful was insufficient for a booth. To help complete our “event kit,” we will purchase a four legged canopy.

I’m convinced that a good event kit is a necessary thing to have. I think it should include a table, some chairs, a canopy and a cooler (we already have the table and two folding chairs). We should also have our literature and merchandise up to date and ready to go. Having an event kit may seem trivial, but I feel that one of the best ways to get our message out and recruit new members is to have a strong and persistent presence in the community, at the Pride Festival for example.

Also last month I attended the Utah Coalition of Reason picnic/BBQ. As I mentioned last month this event was originally one put on by Atheist of Utah. Making it a U-CoR event brought members and friends from Atheists of Utah, Humanists of Utah, Shift, and the post Mormons together. Board member Dr. Craig Wilkinson and I stayed the whole time and had numerous discussions with other attendees and especially some younger people, some of whom know little about Humanists of Utah. We need more of these events to help grow our chapter. Our contribution to the event was to bring beverages. I purchased over a 120 drinks and water and at the end of the night they were all gone. At one point I counted nearly 90 with some having left already and a few still showing up. It was a big success and people in leadership positions of the various groups were happy with the large turnout.

In regard to Utah Coalition of Reason, Utah, I want to commend them for the work they are doing to unite the free thought community. They are working hard to promote and plan events for the member groups. They are presently working on a number things, including Our Darwin Day event in February and the American Atheists Association annual conference to be held in April next year. They are also working on a fund raiser with California Pizza.

As we move into the future I feel that more cooperative public events is the way to go. Because volunteers are scarce, I think we should cut back on the number of speaker events we have yearly. These traditional lecture events are poorly attended.

November 2013

To say that people are contentious, as I have heard human beings described, is quite an understatement. The amount of resources both natural and human that are wasted by our being “contentious,” is staggering to say the least. But of course this statement begs the response, “So what else is new.” Yet I still wonder some times what humanity might look like if we were even half as warlike as we are. For me, I think of a species that could be busy exploring our Solar System and putting greater emphasis on the arts and medicine.

But lately, all the strife around the world and the “contentious” nature of our politics here in the U.S. has me dwelling on human pugnaciousness. No doubt I could drone on and on about the continuous nature of war or about the recent government shutdown, but there is a song with a message that I think sums things up quite well. The song is by a rock group named Rush and is titled Territories. It is one of my favorite tunes. For a song with a message, I feel there are none better. If you feel inclined, I suggest that you go to YouTube and type in Rush Territories and listen and follow along. It’s a great song, if you like Rock and Roll music.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU


I see the Middle Kingdom
Between Heaven and Earth
Like the Chinese call
The country of their birth
We all figure that our homes
Our homes are set above
Other people than the ones
The ones we know and love
In every place with a name
They play the same territorial game
Hiding behind the lines
Sending up warning signs

The whole wide world
An endless universe
Yet we keep looking through
The eyeglass in reverse
Don’t feed the people
But we feed the machines
Can’t really feel
What international means
In different circles
WE keep holding our ground
In different circles
We keep spinning round and round
And round

We see so many tribes
Overrun and undermined
While their invaders dream
Of lands they left behind
Better people-better food-and better beer
Why move around the world
When Eden was so near?
The bosses get talking so tough
And if that wasn’t evil enough
We get the drunken and the passionate pride
Of the citizens along for the ride


They shoot without shame
In the name of a piece of dirt
For the change of accent
Or the colour of your shirt
Better the pride that resides
In a citizen of the world
Than the pride that divides
When a colourful rag is unfurled


December 2013

This coming Thursday the 12th of December is the day for our annual membership meeting and winter social. As we have done in the past, board members will bring side dishes and the chapter will provide whatever else is needed. I will as I always have, make my sister’s recipe for funeral potatoes. We will have an open microphone for anyone who might have something to say. So please come and enjoy the food and company. And please bring a friend.

During this time of the year I try not to get into discussions with religious friends and relatives about Christmas or religion. Yet sometimes it is forced on me and probably many of you freethinkers, when someone asks questions like,” If you don’t believe in Christ, why do you celebrate?” Well, I try to answer in a good natured sort of way, (smart assed, but good natured). I let them know that I refuse to let the Christians have all the gluttonous materialistic fun. Sometimes I add that I didn’t turn their religious holiday into a commercialistic frenzy of buy, buy, buy.

I haven’t had this happen to me for a while, but I observed it on a blog where the religious where crying about the so called War on Christmas. They accuse just about everybody, but especially atheists and secular humanists with their “agendas.” Yet, one has to ask, how such a relative small minority can destroy Christmas; especially when many of my fellow freethinkers would mostly like to not be bothered with Christmas. For me I’ll be going to family gatherings and the like and putting back on a couple of pounds I recently lost.

A number of years ago I decided that rather than buying and giving friends and relatives’ candles and other small gifts I would bake cookies and give everyone a plate. It is somewhat of a chore, but a satisfying one. In a selfish way it eliminates all that shopping. But it is also satisfying to see how well received these cookies have become over the years, even if they did come from the kitchen of a heretic like me. This year most of my family will be in town, so I’m baking more cookies this year. By the time I’m done I will have baked over two thousand cookies. Crazy huh.

January 2014

Happy New Year everyone, I hope the holidays were enjoyable for all of you freethinkers. I had a lot more relatives in town than usual which was nice but more hectic. I’m happy the New Year is here. I know it is a ways off, but I am ready for spring and to get out of the cave and the haze (partly) and into some warmer weather.

I want to thank outgoing board member Lisa Miller for her time and efforts during her time on our board of directors. She will be missed. I also want to welcome new board members John Barnes and Lauren Florence to our board and look forward to working with them to move our agenda forward.

Having removed some time consuming obstacles from my personal agenda, I’m happy to have more time for Humanists of Utah issues and projects. There is much to be done as we work on the calendar of events coming up. This month we are excited to start the New Year by welcoming Charles Lynn Frost to our podium.

February we will host our annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah. This year’s celebration will be on our usual meeting night the second Thursday, which is the 13th of February. It will be held at the Unitarian Church in Elliot Hall where we usually meet. Planning has been delayed a bit, but just in the last few days we have finalized plans to co-host with Utah Friends of Paleontology. We are actually combining our two monthly meetings which occur on the same day each month. Also we have confirmed that the State Paleontologist James Kirkland will be the featured speaker. Stay tuned for more details.

We could use some suggestions for speakers for the months we feature speakers. Even suggestions for a subject would be helpful.

It is shaping up to be an eventful year for the free thought community. In April the American Atheist Association is holding their annual convention here in Salt Lake City. This promises to be an excellent opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals. Then in June the Pride Festival will be another opportunity, especially with all that has been going on since Judge Shelby’s ruling making it possible for Gay’s to Wed.

The HofU Board is planning on having a presence at the Pride Festival this year. To help with having a presence at the Pride Festival (or any other event,) I’m continuing to purchase items to create what I call our event kit. When it is finished it will contain items such as a canopy, tables, chairs, literature display items, a cooler, etc. We plan to make this kit available to the other free thought groups such as the Utah Coalition of Reason, Student group SHIFT, Post Mormons and others groups.

Well, enough for now. Hope to see you on January 9th for our first meeting and speaker and conversation with friends.

February 2014

Humanists of Utah is gearing up for a busy spring and summer this year. As you may already know, next Thursday, the 13 of February is the date for our 7th annual Darwin Day celebration. This year we are co-hosting with the Utah Friends of Paleontology Our Keynote speaker will be Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland. There will be refreshments before and birthday cake after the presentation. Plus, there will be fossil displays, literature tables and memorabilia for purchase. See details on time and address elsewhere in the newsletter. So please join us for a fun and informative evening.

As we plan for the spring and summer events, part of our goal is to create a professional kiosk for use by Humanists of Utah and the other Freethought groups in our area. We have applied for a grant to the American Humanists Association’s Chapter grant fund. If granted, (and I think they will), these funds will help purchase items such as canopies, tables, chairs, coolers and the other items necessary for a first rate kiosk. The kiosk will be large enough for two groups, as there will often be Humanists of Utah and other freethought groups at the same time at various events and street fairs.

I have reserved a space for Humanists of Utah for the Utah Pride Festival in early June. This will be a perfect opportunity to use this kiosk at an event that is going to be quite interesting this year, in light of the ongoing situation with Gay marriage litigation. We’re excited to be a part of this event and advocating for such a worthy cause. Plus there is the bonus that we get good public exposure and an opportunity to speak to people about humanism.

All summer we plan to have a presence at as many street fairs and the like as we can.

As is always the case, we can always use some volunteers to help out.

In closing I would like to ask that you think about subjects you would like us to cover or speakers you know of that would be a good fit for our audience.

Anyway, bye for now, hope you can make it to Darwin Day.

March 2014 – Lead Article

April 2014

Often when I am thinking about what I want to say in my president’s message, I feel a little guilty that I almost always have some criticism or something to complain about. But I can’t help it. For me lately I seem to be getting to a point of oversaturation with regards to conservatives. I admit that lately I have a hard time even listening to some of them. But what I find most distasteful about conservatives for a long time is first their constant obstruction of just about everything. Second, is the way they will weaken or (when they are in power) ignore) entities such as the EPA to the point that it is only marginally effective at best. Then after they have done all the damage they can, they point at it and call it a failure. This, “way of the conservative”, is also apparent in the lies and distortions that have been part of their efforts to damage what they call Obamacare. Rather than getting on board in what appears to be the trend in the world, Some type of universal health coverage for all in our society, they try to kill it or weaken it. And then, again after they have attacked it changed it, damaged it, they call it a failure. These practices of theirs are apparent throughout the political landscape.

Yet, as my rant drifts a little, it links conservatives to religion as one of the key motivators of conservatism (And you say “what else is new”). Perhaps I can express it this way. I have in my mind a kind of editorial cartoon of a human figure shackled to a ball and chain. The human figure wants to move ahead…to progress. But the ball and chain that is religion slows the figure down. The ball and chain of religion is also further anchored to the dead past and would like to pull humanity back into the practice of many of the past’s horrible traditions.

But they are doing a pretty good job in the here and now as we see them roll out their budget, with more cuts to programs that help citizens with needs of various kinds. How much further will they try to degrade struggling people in this country? Every bit as much as they can it appears.

Well, I better move on or I’ll start bitching about what the Religious Right is trying to do to education. Which really makes me crazy.

Anyway, on a positive note, I am happy to announce that our request for AHA chapter grant funds was granted in the sum of $800.00. As I have mentioned before, we are building event kits or kiosks. This money is granted for this purpose and along with some of our chapter funds and I have already purchased a quality canopy and some of the other items. Sometime in the near future I plan to have a learning session so that those of us who will be using the canopy this summer at various events can have a “dry run,” to learn how to put it up properly. It’s a nice ten by ten canopy with a back wall and two side half walls. It is pretty easy to put up, but it is a two person job.

I’m excited about Humanists of Utah and our other local groups using this kit through the summer to promote humanism and free thought ideals where ever we can.

Finally, don’t forget to check the speaker announcement for this month. Dan Ellis of the Atheists of Utah will speak. I’m sure he will fill us in on the upcoming American Atheists Association Convention this month. I sure hope some of you go and enjoy as I always have when I have been to humanist conventions, mingling with like-minded people from all over.

Hope to see on the 10th to hear Dan. I’ll bring the cookies as usual.

May 2014

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of the, I hate the federal government/militia clowns/states righters/sagebrush rebels/secessionists/freeloading rancher/whatever crowd. Judging from the way this state government runs things, I want more federal government not less. Keeping as much land as possible protected and natural resources used and paid for fairly and judiciously should be a priority.

If we were to give in to any of these scenarios where states’ rights prevailed we would likely see the sale and commercialization of nearly everything. Plus if a state (especially Utah) were to become the ultimate authority, it wouldn’t be long before the majority religion would assert their power and influence even more than they already do, and democracy would likely disappear as it would anywhere a theocracy prevails. Now that may sound a bit paranoid, but I think it’s true.

But I think the dumbest notion is secession from the Union, which was settled long age with a little incident called the civil war. The idea that a state could become a sovereign nation inside the U.S. is just plain dumb. I guess in a way it’s not a bad Idea for them, because the day after a state became a nation it could then apply for foreign aid from the federal government of the United States of America. You know, so they could keep up the roads, bridges and dams, to mention a few items largely funded by the Feds.

I’m happy to have lived most of my life in Utah, except for a short time in California and four years in the United State Air Force. It’s a beautiful state with a wonderful diversity of landscapes. We have more national parks and monuments than any other state except Alaska and California. But, I’m merely a resident of Utah, free to live in any state, because I am a citizen of the U.S., not a citizen of Utah.

Like I said last month, I seem to always be criticizing someone lately and it is pretty much criticism of conservatives who make up the above “slash groups” I listed and a few more I didn’t. Perhaps I should call my newsletter contribution “The Bitch and Moan Column.”

Moving on, I want to write a little about what we might say is an ongoing controversy over whether to be accommodating or confrontational in our dealings with those we disagree with. The controversy has been around for a while and was part of the reason that the humanist community split into The American Humanist Association and The Center for Inquiry. With CFI being, shall we say, more stridently atheistic than AHA.

At one of the annual CFI conferences I attended, one of the panel discussions was called Accommodation or Confrontation, with four of the keynote speakers discussing the issue. Of the attendees I spoke to, the opinion I heard most was that, as I have always felt, that it isn’t an “either or” situation, but that both approaches are needed depending on the circumstances.

For instance, some progress has been made recently as some Evangelicals are starting to see stewardship of the environment as the “Christian thing to do.” I believe we should be as friendly and accommodating as possible in this sort of case. But on the other hand, in a recent article I read on the internet, some asshole mayor in the Midwest called gay people the equivalent of “axe murders and cannibals.” I have no interest in being nice in cases like this. This idiot and all who are like him deserve only…well, everything we can give them, or at least lots of derision and opposition. And that’s just one example of the disgusting crap coming from religious conservatives. These people are why I am more inclined to be confrontational these days.

A short anecdote might be helpful.

Several years ago a chapter member and friend asked me to stop by to discuss atheists. While an admitted atheist herself, she really disliked the “in your face hatred of Mormons” she observed in the atheist groups and certain individuals in our Humanists of Utah chapter. She talked about how well she was treated by Mormons, some of them general authorities as she dealt with then in her personal business. Being friendly and not wearing her humanism and atheism on her sleeve, she got along well. She couldn’t understand why some people spent so much time being opposed to the LDS church. I think I helped her understand a little better by relating my experiences growing up Mormon and being in business in Utah. I won’t go into detail here too much, but suffice it to say it was unpleasant and stifling to be a “questioning youth” in a Mormon family, to say the least. I also related how I got “screwed” more than once in my working life by the good brethren.

I think it is accurate to say that many of us in the local freethought community have some legitimate bones to pick with the LDS faith for personal reasons and religion in general for secular reasons.

Well, so much for my “Bitch and Moan Column.”

June 2014

As I write this message for our newsletter, I am in the middle of getting our booth equipment ready to set up at the Pride Festival. As this is our first time to have a booth at the festival, I’m sure it will be a learning experience in setting up and running a booth. But while I am a worry-wart about having everything we need, I’m looking for to meeting and discussing the issues and humanism with a diverse bunch of people attending this year’s Pride Festival. Also, as we have one Annual event, Darwin Day, we plan to make our presence at the Festival annual as well.

I’m sure all you freethinkers will agree that advocating for gay rights, civil rights, and indeed simple human rights is a worthy cause and one that we want to participate in. I am hopeful that the tide toward equality will prevail, as more states change their laws and Federal Judges in various States rule that State laws denying citizens their constitutional rights are unconstitutional. It has always driven me a bit crazy that those opposed to gay marriage don’t understand the basic idea of the Constitution to protect every ones rights and to strive for equality. They don’t seem to get it that it is the secular nature of our society that insures our religious and other human right, for all of us, not just those they approve of.

Not to forget, we will be having another movie night on Thursday June 12. This month we will be watching and discussing Robert Reich’s documentary “Inequality for All.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I suspect it will be interesting and quite maddening.

I’ll be there with the popcorn and other refreshments. Hope to see you there.

July 2014

I’m happy to report that Humanists of Utah’s first booth at this year’s Pride Festival was a great success. Bob Mayhew and I manned the booth for the two days with assistance from my nephew John Lane. Elaine Stehel also helped out by giving us a break on Sunday.

Our new canopy functioned well and for the most part we had adequate literature for the event except for a couple of items like back issues of the Humanist magazine. It is interesting to note the difference in what people buy of the evolve fish merchandise. We sell more T-shirts at our Darwin Day celebration, whereas at the festival people like the small things like stickers and magnets. In fact one of the first items to sell out was the magnet that said, “I’m just guessing but I think god hates bigots far more than fags.”

It truly was a wonderful experience to talk to so many people. A festival of such a diverse group of people is an event to relish. Even the loving couple having a little argument (with apologies to us) in front of our booth was entertaining.

This was also a great opportunity to make a showing for organized humanism (our local group and the national parent group American Humanist Association. The AHA’s Chapter Grant funds we received helped purchase our booth canopy and equipment and we thank them.

As I’ve said before, having a presence at an event like this is an obvious win-win situation as we celebrate and advocate for a just cause of equality and gain exposure for our organization and humanism.

That exposure reminds me, that I want to welcome all of you who signed up for the three month free subscription of our newsletter. I hope you will find something you like about our group and the humanist philosophy. One way to get to know us would be to come to our meetings on the second Thursday of the month. This month we have a speaker from “Save our Canyons” who will speak to us. Then in August we host our annual BBQ and we would love to see you there for good food and conversation with friends. So I hope you will give us a try. I have often characterized our group as an oasis of free thought in a desert of irrationality. I am confident you will feel the same way.

Well…before I end this message I want to mention the sort of rollercoaster ride we have had with the judiciary in the last couple of weeks. First we gave a hearty hooray when we herd that the appeals court upheld judge Shelby’s ruling. And a first time ever (I believe) for this kind of ruling. Truly historic. Then yesterday we got the horrid decision by the SCOTUS in the Hobby Lobby case. Truly horrid.

Anyway, here’s hoping to see you on Thursday, July 10, for our monthly meeting. As always I will be bring the cookies.

September 2014

It has been a really busy summer for me this year. Lots of projects to do, (more on the list than ever got done) and there were a fair number of relatives in town for visits. It was great to see people you haven’t seen for years, but being host and travel guides is exhausting.

Most recently our August BBQ went well with around thirty five in attendance. The day turned out to be perfect, not to hot or cold. We set up our canopy to let people see it and put it to use. Like I always say, “Good food, good people and good conversation make for an enjoyable evening.

I watch a fair number of videos on the internet. Mostly science and free thought stuff with people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the like. Recently I’ve noticed some comments about the fact that many of the famous scientists of the past and the present were and are also religious. Some comments suggest that it is their faith that somehow inspires them to achieve. Some wonder how, after making discoveries or doing research that they don’t lose their faith. And some would say that many, in the past, presented a religious countenance to stay out of trouble with the powerful religions of the times.

I suspect that all the scenarios have happened. I am sure that there are and have been those who have prayed, even about their work, who go on to do good science in various fields. I’m sure some put on a religious face to avoid problems. I also suspect that a number of those who are known for their “science” that are also known to be religious, have a kind of duality, in that they can separate the two quite easily. I would use as an example, a person well known for his work and also that he was a friar in a religious order, Gregor Mendel. It is acknowledged that he started the modern science of genetics with his studies of hybridization. But also, in his days, and much of history, being in a religious order or the like made it so you could get educated for free as Mendel availed himself of.

Simply put, I think there are many who can, “do science,” and then put it away while doing other things in their lives. Isaac Newton while inventing Calculus wasn’t looking for answers in the bible, even though he was known as a religious man.

In a video lecture, Neil Degrasse-Tyson makes the point that we in the science world have to acknowledge that many if not most of the great scientists of the past were also religious.

Well enough about that.

I’m not quite sure where to put myself politically. It has evolved over the years, but I haven’t voted for a republican for a long time. Yet my feelings or positions on issues are not exclusively liberal. An example might be my support for the Second Amendment. But in that regard I think regulations should be far stricter than they are. For instance, a person wishing to obtain a concealed carry permit should be required to pass a written test, be able to take the weapon of their choice and safely assemble it, load it, fire it, unload and put away the weapon. That is not required in Utah at present.

But this brings me to an area where I struggle. I have always been against laws, most laws that ban “things,” or substances. Inanimate objects if you will. I’ve always felt that the thing that should be outlawed is what a person does with an inanimate object. The gun, the axe, the knife, the car, don’t commit crimes, people commit crimes. So I don’t like to ban or outlaw anything.

On the other hand, when you see how much harm some thing or substance does to humans you wonder why it isn’t strictly banned. Tobacco is one of those substances that deserve banning. When you look at mortality statistics, it makes you shake your head and ask, “Why is, a product that is essentially a poison that kills often slowly and painfully and that puts great strain on the health industry, not banned.”

Tobacco killed my father, at least three or four of my uncles and step-uncles and aunts. One of our Board members died several years back from smoking…need I go on.

Yet I don’t really want to ban it. I still smoke a few cigars a year when weather is good outside. I also buy chewing tobacco. While none of it goes anywhere near my mouth, I make a sun tea out of it and use it as a natural insecticide. Go figure.

Anyway, I hope to see you soon, perhaps on September 11 for our first speaker of the fall season.

October 2104

Last month, due to a misunderstanding in scheduling, rather than hear our speaker who was to give a presentation on Beowulf, we watched a movie, “Beowulf and Grendel.” The movie was an excellent production, with no CGI and a fairly decent representation of the story for the most part. It was also filmed in Scandinavia which is the setting in the epic poem. Although I think all dramatic representations of Beowulf take some artistic liberties. They seem to want to “sex it up” a little.

I’m quite happy that our speaker Julie Boyden will give her presentation on Beowulf this month. I find this Old English epic poem quite interesting.

I don’t know how, but an English teacher I had, as a junior in high school, at a military school actually made the study of the subject interesting to me. I say this because I was a poor student who couldn’t sit still for five minutes usually. But this teacher made it work by not making us suffer too much with the alliterative verse thing. Rather he taught us more about the where and when, the kinship, the tales of bravery and conquest that were a part of the culture depicted by the poem. Set in a Scandinavian culture where large protective mead halls were built, where they would basically party and brag of their conquests. I’ve forgotten a lot, but I do remember that one thing I found interesting was that such early tales would be about heroes and monsters. They were, in a way, one of the first English stories of super heroes.

Also, when one learns that J.R.R. Tolkien translated Beowulf, one can see how the epic poem influenced his creativity in the “Lord of the Ring’s and Hobbit” books. Anyway, I’m looking forward to Julie’s presentation and hope you will come and join us. I’ll bring the cookies.

Moving on, I want to mention our December Social. Many of you know that each year we have hosted a Social on our Second Thursday meeting date in December. The chapter supplies the main dinner items and the board members bring side dishes and such. I always have a good time visiting with everyone and enjoying the good food. In the past we have had some entertainment to add to the night, but we haven’t done that for a couple of years. I hope we can change that, so I’m asking for suggestions in that regard. Or, would anyone be interested in a raffle? Anyway, think about it, let’s make it a little more of a party and not just a dinner. Let me know your thoughts and please invite a friend to join you.

November 2014

To start with, what makes me frustrated and angry is that I know of several friends and relatives who do not vote. Whatever excuses they have are all usually pretty lame and often I think it is just laziness. I know it is hard to care sometimes and it appears hopeless, but if we stop participating then the big spenders will buy every election even more so than they already are. Not to brag, but at age 66, I don’t think I have ever missed voting in a general election. Even if it is only a symbolic vote in the face of certain defeat, it is always good to practice the habit of informed voting.

In the aftermath of the election, it’s interesting to see all the media headlines about the “Resounding Defeat” and the like. It can be quite disheartening if you listen to too much of the punditry. So for me, I have decided that I need to not dwell and lament on what has happened several times in my life, and that is the change in the majority party in the houses of congress. It’s nothing new. I have also told myself that the place where I can make a difference is to continue to work on our chapter’s agenda. That agenda in part being: advocacy for humanism, science, free thought and to continue our participation in events like the Pride Festival. In other words, as I have heard some people in the progressive world say lately, “Back to some serious grassroots work.”

As the New Year approaches, our chapter needs some help from its members, we need board members, we need volunteers, and we need suggestions and some feedback. For instance, The AHA Chapter Grant application will be due in January. Is there a charitable cause you think we should apply to the grant for? I hope some of you members will consider getting more involved. Oh, and before I forget, I know some of you must have someone in mind who you would like to hear as a speaker. Please let us know.

Speaking of speakers, I’m excited to hear from our upcoming speaker, Salt Lake County Clerk, Sherrie Swenson. I myself have several questions to ask about gerrymandering, efforts to pass voter I.D. laws to suppress votes, Citizens United and so on. I’m sure it will be interesting and as usual I’ll bring the cookies. Actually I think I will build a carrot cake or something also. So make plans to join us to hear our speaker and enjoy refreshments and conversation.

December 2014

Hello Humanists and all assorted free thinkers. I hope the holiday season is going well for all. I still enjoy this time of the year even if I don’t believe in the Jesus thing. In my life I have been asked a couple of times why I still “participate”, and I have replied that I wasn’t going to let the Christians have all the fun with the materialistic orgy and gorging of food without me. I still also enjoy the giving, which is why Friends and relatives receive my homemade cookies each year. It’s a bit of work but I do enjoy baking a couple thousand or more cookies each year. It’s not a bad way to keep the kitchen warm this time of year. I even still like the winter season, though I look forward to spring more now because of my love of gardening. Anyway, enough rambling for now.

Thursday December 11, we will host our annual dinner. I’ll be picking up all the big items and board members brings an item of their own making (I’ll be bringing the “Funeral Potatoes”). The last few years the dinner has been pretty much just that, a dinner. This year we will again have some entertainment (musical) and we will also have a raffle for a dollar a ticket with all the proceeds going to the Homeless Youth Resource Center. Also in that regard please bring other donations you might want to give as well and we will deliver them to the Center along with the proceeds from the raffle.

Darwin Day will be coming up in February, so I thought I would mention it now so you can plan ahead to join us. Through the years we have had speakers on a variety if subject in keeping with the idea that Darwin Day isn’t just about Darwin, or evolution, but about all of science. With that in mind I have said I would like this year to have an astronomy theme. We’ll see if we can find someone to speak to that theme.

This year again we will be hosting it at Eliot Hall and we need a few volunteers to help, especially with set up and take down, so let us know if you can help and come and give us a hand.

I always say I hope to see you for some good food and good conversation.

January 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I hope your all well and enjoying the holidays. It gets kind of busy for me, because as many of you know, I bake a lot of cookies this time of year; but I do enjoy sharing them with others during the holiday season. Even if it means rolling out a couple thousand! I’ll be bringing some to our January meeting also.

Last night, New Year’s Eve, I called Flo Wineriter, to wish him a happy 90th Birthday. He sounded good and said he was feeling a bit better. He will be spending much of his time in St. George but will visit back here in the Salt Lake area monthly.

Humanists of Utah owe much to Flo. He was one of the co-founders of Humanist of Utah and served as President for many years. We greatly appreciate his wisdom and leadership, his knowledge of humanism, and that through the years and that he is always friendly to all. So again, Happy Birthday and Happy New Year Flo. As we were saying good bye, he told me to go out and make Humanists of Utah successful again this coming year. I told him we would do our best.

We have a good start this year as our January 8th general meeting will feature Dr. Jay Jacobsen as our speaker and of course some of those cookies I’m always bragging about and good conversation to go with them.

Then in February we will host our 8th annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah. This year we will be hosting the event at Eliot Hall. We are hoping to have astronomy as the theme, and I am currently working on finalizing our speaker. This year Darwin’s birthday, February 12th, actually falls on our usual second Thursday meeting day. It is an event I always look forward to because of my love for science. I always enjoy celebrating and advocating for science on Darwin’s birthday.

Our chapter will also have several opportunities to participate in events throughout the year, such the Utah Pride festival, street fairs, and perhaps the state fair as well. But participation in some events will only be possible if we get a few more members to volunteer to help. Please give it some consideration.

It would also please me to just hear from some of the membership. Wayne would love to include a letter or book recommendation or tell us about an interesting web site.

One possibility to get something going with members might be to start a new recommended book list. In the past we have had a printed list, but it hasn’t been updated in a few years, so maybe we can start a new one. Which reminds me that our web site is being upgraded, and a recommended book page can surly be one of the features. Anyway, Think about your favorite books and let us know.

Bye for now and see you next week for our January meeting, and bring a friend.

February 2015

On February 12th our chapter will host its eighth annual “Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah.” As I ALWAYS say, “I’m looking forward to an enjoyable evening celebrating Science with friends and other likeminded people.” I’m also proud of the fact that we have maintained this event for eight years now. Plus, I have always come away from these events having learned something new. But science is more than just cold hard facts. Science imbues the mind with understanding (if you put it to use). It touches our senses and fills us with awe as we humans explore amid the beauty, complexity and vastness of the universe. But the awe we feel is different from that of the religious sort whose awe is toward a deity and all that that entails. For me, at least, my awe is the, “Wow, That’s really cool!” sort. Like the first time I saw the Hubble deep Field images of nearly countless galaxies in this small little piece of the sky that is in the neighborhood of 13 billion light years away. Now that’s awesome. Those images also helped us realize that an understanding of deep time is not unfathomable but an essential part of understanding the “workings” of the Universe. Now that’s awesome.

When I was thinking about this year’s theme for Darwin Day some months back, I enjoyed revisiting what we did at previous D. Days. So just for fun, here’s a quick rundown. In 2008 our first celebration had afternoon speakers Professors Kristen Hawkes and Henry Harpinton on biology and Darwin’s insight. Then in the evening Professor Scot Sampson talked about the need to educate about deep time and evolution. Our second D. Day featured Professor Frank Brown, Dean of Earth Sciences at the U of U who talked of the Hominid discoveries in the Turkana Basin in Africa he has worked on throughout his career. Our third featured Bruce Dain from the U of U who gave a historical presentation of Charles Darwin. Our forth had Professor David Goldsmith speaking paleontologically. Our fifth was at Westminster with Dr. Alan Rogers talking anthropologically. Our sixth Darwin Day was with Jon Seger on evolutionary biology. And last year our seventh, we cohosted with Utah Friends of Paleontology and featured Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland speaking about Utah’s vast dinosaur quarry and collection.

After looking at the past years speakers I thought it would nice pick a subject other than the same ones from previous events, so I suggest Astronomy. The Board agreed so we decided to make Astronomy the theme for Darwin Day this year. To that end we have invited Paul Ricketts from the University of Utah to give us a presentation. He accepted and will give a presentation on “The Lives of Stars.” (See full details elsewhere.) As we usually do, we will have a reception with finger foods before the presentation, then the presentation followed by birthday cake. Again, as I always say, “Please join us for good food, enlightenment and good conversation.”

One more thing before I go. In the next few months I plan to write a series in the newsletter about guns and gun violence. It is a subject that needs more than one 500 word column, and it is a subject which I am squarely on both sides of the fence, which can be uncomfortable at times. I invite your comments and feelings about this subject and would love to consider them and even present them as part of the discussion. So call me or email me with your thoughts.

March 2015

I want to thank all the board members and chapter members for helping make our Darwin Day celebration a success. An extra thank you goes to Bob and Julie Mayhew for helping order, pick up, prep, and deliver the catering items. Again thanks to all who helped in the kitchen and with setup and clean up and to Leona for overseeing the merchandise sales.

Paul Ricketts from the Physics and Astronomy department at the University of Utah was our Speaker. His presentation, “The Lives of Stars,” was quite enjoyable. It is most satisfying to me to learn a few new things about how stars form, live and die. I am sure those who attended felt the same way, as we went a little long with a lot of questions at the end of his presentation.

It was a long day and it wore me out, but it was definitely worth it, as it always is. I’m already thinking about what theme to choose for next year. Any suggestions?

Our speaker for March comes to us from the University of Utah’s Women’s Resource Center. With that in mind, I thought I’d say a thing or two about women.

I have for a long time agreed with the assertion that humanity would be a lot better off if women were empowered. That is to say, be given the authority to run their own lives as they see fit. Specifically to have control over their reproductive lives. To not be considered property, and to have the opportunity to get an education. To have equal pay for equal work. I may be forgetting something important, but I think those three things would improve, quite obviously, life not just for women but all humanity. Plus isn’t it just the fair thing to do. Fairness, now there’s a concept that is only rarely applied today.

One thing that I’m sure would happen, would be a cut in the population growth rate. Slowing population growth is essential in my mind, to solving many problems such as pollution and a growing scarcity of resources. Additionally, education and better pay for women will improve the lives of the women and their families. I know, I know, I’m stating the obvious, but it bears repeating.

It’s rather sad, frustrating and infuriating that so many cultures are still so male dominated. That our primitive behavior of male dominance based mainly on greater physical strength still prevails in the modern world. But it’s not just physical strength, as the insertion of religion into the equation solidifies male dominance. As a young teenager I fell into those feeling of dominance. But as an adult I never felt like I needed to be “The Boss” in a relationship. I love to cook and never felt like domestic chores were solely women’s work.

I guess the hard question is how to change these old entrenched proclivities. And if we are making progress in some of these areas, I feel that it’s moving far too slow.

Last month I stated that I was going to start a series on guns and gun violence. However, our newsletter deadline arrives a little sooner this month. So that project I will endeavor to

April 2015

No report this month

May 2015

Guns and Violence

When it comes to guns, I have a split personality, as I suspect many of us do, in that I don’t believe in banning guns, or anything else for that matter. But I also don’t believe in the unrestricted ownership of whatever firearm you want.

Several years ago, in contemplation of some part time security employment, I obtained a concealed carry permit. The requirements for this permit, in my opinion, are grossly inadequate, consisting of a class with no test, application and picture taking. Whereas, I feel that anyone wishing to carry in any way should pass a written test regarding safety and the laws. They should also be required to show the ability to safely load their weapon, fire it at a target, unload it and stow it away. Plus I think it would be a good idea to require this of all weapons purchases. You have to do this for a driver’s license, why not for deadly weapons.

But as I think about all that I have say about this subject, I see that it is one that may need to be dealt with in more than one average message of mine. So excuse me if I have to “cut it off” and finish it next month.

Anyway, in my case, this somewhat moderate view, this split personality comes from having “Guns and Ammo” as a significant thread in my life. It runs from my childhood days through my years in the Air Force up to today. I would like to talk about parts of that thread a little and it might be mildly entertaining to read about me as a delinquent causing trouble in the Bear Lake Idaho region.

I grew up in an LDS family that fished and hunted quite a bit, as did our relatives in southern Idaho. It is there, (Paris, Idaho) that I experienced some “Huck Fin” like adventures and some delinquent behavior that can make you cringe in hindsight.

When I was 7 to 11, in the mid 1950’s, I spent a few weeks each summer at my uncle’s farm in southern Idaho, where my Tomboy cousin and myself would roam the “bottoms” (as we called the area around the north end of the lake) having lots of fun with homemade sling shots and our pockets filled with penny candy and fireworks. It’s true, at that age, I was having the time of my life blowing stuff up with firecrackers and M-80s, at the Paris dump and anywhere we found something worthy of destruction.

I was always there for the 4th of July and in the mid 1950’s fireworks of all kinds could still be purchased, even by children, in Idaho and Wyoming. Cherry bombs, Roman candles and fountains that make today’s junk fireworks look pretty crappy. But what I really loved were the M-80s, those little dynamite like pieces of destruction. And I always bought a whole box of a hundred and forty four and my cousin had her box as well. As a pre-teen it was total bliss to have such an arsenal. Plus I always brought some home to wow my Utah friends and continue the mayhem.

But we were schooled pretty well about safety by watching our older brothers and parents. Plus, strange as it seems, blowing something up with an M-80 is loud and you can SEE what it would do to your fingers. So we always knew that if you had a problem, drop it and start over. Later in life when I attended United States Air Force Munitions and Weapons Technical School, explosives safety instruction had an adage “With explosives, no do-overs or second chances.” A bit obvious but always wise to be mindful of.

The one thing we did though that makes me cringe a little even now is the thought of the times when we snuck my uncle’s over and under gun out and took it down to the dumps to shoot at the rats. If you don’t know what an over and under gun is, it is both a shot gun (.410G) under and a 22 cal. Rifle on top. Both of them single shot. It was what they used at the farm for unwanted guests like skunks and other animal thieves that frequent a rural farm in the 1950’s. As an 8 to 10 year old it does make me cringe a bit, but it is where I first became a good shot. With rats, you just kind of follow them around with your sites for a bit, then when they stop to look around, BAM! Sorry, hope nobody has too much sympathy for rats.

Well, that’s about enough about my childhood for now, so I will cut it off here. Next month I will finish by writing about police shootings, which is where my split personality on the subjects is most apparent.

So bye for now and I hope to see you next week at our general meeting. I’ll bring the cookies.

June 2015

Guns and Violence
Part 2

Last month I started a series with my president’s message about guns and violence. I want to continue the series, but as I was thinking about all the blathering I want to do, it became apparent to me that two installments aren’t going to be enough. For one thing, I’m having too much fun reminiscing about my past. I hope it’s not too boring.

Continuing on with how guns and ammo were a part of my life, the next step from fireworks and hunting, my life with “guns and ammo” takes a big leap when I attend the United States Air Force munitions and weapons tech school. During this training a person learns about all the different weapons systems. It literally included everything from small arms ammo to nuclear weapons. If I remember right, they called it CNBC (Conventional, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical). That covers a lot of different weapons and the 1300 stock list of weapons and components was huge. But the first thing they teach is of course safety. Like I said earlier, “With explosives, no second chances.”

In retrospect attending this school was fascinating and strange, with many hours slow motion films of these weapons demonstrated. We humans put a lot into developing and manufacturing all kinds of ways to kill each other. The school lasted for several weeks of all day long in the classroom and plenty to study back at the barracks.

After finishing this schooling, I was stationed at Hill Field for a few months before I was shipped out to U-tapao Air Force Base in Thailand for a year, mostly during 1968. The base was a big one because we were a B-52 base where bombing sorties went out to targets in Vietnam almost continuously.

My Job was in the bomb dump at a facility called BABS (Bomb Assembly Building) where we installed the fuses and delay elements, suspension lugs, couplers and fins. They were then ready to be put on the wings pylons (24) or installed into racks of 42 (2 racks per aircraft) for a total of 108 bombs. It’s one hell of a weapons system.

I actually enjoyed the munitions career field and began working with the guys in EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) to get my foot in the door. If they had sent me to EOD School, I probably would have had a very different life as a career man in the Air Force.

BUT, when they sent me back after my year in Thailand, they crossed trained me (do to an imbalance in my field) to a Security Police Squadron. I really hated being out of munitions. But like a good young Sargent, I did my duty.

The little more than two years that I worked Security Police Law enforcement Is where some of my duality about gun violence and police violence got its start. In that time I went to a couple of fatal vehicle accidents, a couple of other accidental deaths, fights, a small riot, a few fires, one armed robbery and numerous “domestic disturbances.” These conflicts, where you deal with a variety problems, is where one side of my duality came from. The other side came from working with fellow security police officers. Some were very good officers and some were very bad ones.

Next month I will continue by relating a couple of intense encounters I had at a domestic disturbance and another incident just on the street. But I need to close up for now.

Actually, as I write this, tomorrow is the 6th and I will be setting up our booth at the Pride Festival for the second year. You won’t see this until after the festival, but I hope I see a few of you there this weekend. If not, perhaps I’ll see you for our movie night this month. I’ll be bringing my DVD of The Court Jester. It’s a delightful classic comedy with Danny Kaye, Basil Rathbone and Angela Lansbury. I will bring my homemade popcorn and other movie junk food. See you soon.

July 2015

This month, I want to finish with my short series about guns and gun violence. But first I want to thank Susan Fox, Rob Duncan and my nephew John Lane for their help during the Pride Festival. Their assistance lugging stuff around, setting up and manning our kiosk is much appreciated.

The festival was a success and enjoyable for all who attended. Our spot was in a better spot for traffic. We had over twenty people sign up for our free subscription and we handed out many of our brochures and other literature. We also sold over three hundred bucks worth of merchandise. One bummer though was that the first time our canopy was tested with rain…It leaked. Luckily we had a large back up tarp that we used as a rain fly over the canopy.

It was a pleasure to be a part of the festival, to witness this wonderful diversity of loving people and to support such a good cause. I hope that some of you who signed up for the free subscription will come and join us at one of our meetings or events. We would love to get to know you.

Guns and Violence
Part 3

Last month I finished by saying that I would relate a couple of incidences I responded to and also to say a thing or two about police officers.

In the Air Force I met and worked with a few men I would consider adrenaline addicts. They were always looking for a reason to give someone a hard time, hoping for a reaction so they could assert their authority. I also met many who served properly and with courtesy.

I guess the point I should get to is in regards to all the recent killings by the police around the country. Some are obviously wrong, with one example of a cop charged with murder for shooting a guy who was running away, in the back.

But I don’t think the general public really understands what it is like to be on patrol with deadly force at your hand and some, shall we say, troublesome people to deal with. Once while on patrol late at night, I pulled up behind some guy dancing in the middle of the street. After I ordered him to the side and I pulled over to the curb, he ran up to the patrol car and jumped in on the passenger side. I took the keys and exited the vehicle, drew my weapon and ordered him out of the vehicle. I had no way to know his intentions or whether he was armed in any way. Had he not complied and put his hand on the riot shotgun in its mount he would have died. As it turned out he was unarmed and unhinged.

Another time I responded to a domestic disturbance in the NCO housing area. When I knocked on the door, rather large women nearly knocked me down with the screen door as she pushed her way out on to the sidewalk…waving a large butcher knife and looking to slice up her husband, who had disappeared.

As I back peddled and drew my weapon I ordered her to drop the knife. She did comply, but if she had come at me with the knife I would have had to shoot a woman with a knife.

These life threatening incidences were all a result of others actions, not mine.

Along with those kind of experiences, when apprehending some individuals you are subjected to attempts to fight you, head but you, kick you, bite you, spit on you and attempts to get at your weapon.

So I hope as we scrutinize the actions of police officers we remain mindful of what they face often on a daily basis.

Well that’s enough on that subject for now.

August 2015

I’m looking forward to our BBQ this month and I hope many of you will come and join us for the evening. I also want to let those of you who signed up for our free subscription at the Pride Festival an additional invite to come and bring a friend. I always have a great time in John Young’s backyard visiting with everyone and stuffing my face with good food. So, again, please join us

Now, I think I’ll ramble a little about a couple items in the news recently. Some of you might say that’s what I always do.

But lately I have been thinking a fair amount about how religious conservatives have reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision making gay marriage legal everywhere in the U.S. It’s amazing how apoplectic they become and how they strike out with all sorts of stupid, nasty, mean and disgusting statements.

But one of the blog entries I came across has kind of stayed with me. The blogger was, it seemed, quite sure this horrible decision by the court was a sign of the end times or the “real beginning of the end.” He was, making himself, “ready,” with provisions as he put it. Which was a little puzzling and humorous at the same time, as I wondered why he needed provisions if it was going to be the “END.”

Of course this is nothing new as we have witnessed through the years with their opposition to so many changes in this country that have moved us ahead. Giving women the right to vote was a good thing. Getting rid of the laws prohibiting interracial marriage was a good thing. Instituting the civil rights legislation was a good thing and the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage was the right thing to do. None of these changes have caused the end of civilization. They have in fact improved it. But it is nearly always the case that it is religious conservatives who opposed these changes. And it never occurs to these folks, as it does to us, that they are always wrong about the effects of these progressive changes.

Finally, I have to comment on an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune. On August 5th, by Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, titled “Utah should refuse to submit a clean power plan.” The column is mostly about problems with regulations concerning mercury emissions and eventual carbon rules that have been overturned by the Supreme Court. But for me what is most apparent to me is how this op-ed is really all about the cost. This is nothing new coming form an “energy alliance.”

I am not naïve, I know costs are a legitimate consideration, but what is strikingly absent is any mention of the environmental issues or health issues and their costs. I’m sure we can cite statistics showing the billions pollution cost us medically and environmentally. But how do you put a price on quality of life issues. If pollutants cause say asthma problems for you or your children, what is that change in quality of life worth in dollars. What if a person’s lung cancer is caused or other ailments made worse by pollutants. How do you quantify those changes in terms of dollars. For the energy interests profits are all that matters.

September 2015

A number of years ago we started what was to be an annual Thomas Paine Day. Originally we wanted honor him for his role in revolution with his writings. Plus I also didn’t like the way he had been, (as I termed it,) “shelved” because of his views on religion. But later we changed it to Founder’s Day and then kind of trailed off in doing this as one of our annual events or subjects. This month we are endeavoring to revive this idea. So please join us for some enlightenment by our featured speaker and refreshments including one of those yummy cakes we get from granite bakery.

I’ve been writing these messages for quite some time now and I enjoy doing so. But sometimes I feel like I’m always complaining about someone or something. Not that complaining is always a bad thing, but just not all the time. It’s hard not to be critical and even derisive in cases like the County Clerk in Kentucky, who still will not do her job and issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples, even after the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the execution of the court order against her. But I would rather write about something else. So I’m going to talk about my garden. (So you think,” that sounds boring.”)

It may be boring, but I’m mentioning it to also advocate the ideas of grow local and buy local when you can and for me also having a home garden. The advantages of the “going local” are several and obvious, like keeping the money close to home and also being able to buy fruit and veggies that are Not picked way to early. You know, ripe, with flavor. The open markets around the valley are a good way to buy and a fun outing. Next year I plan to look into a community garden somewhere close to where I live.

Something else I would like to propose is to find a way to save some of the fruit that goes to waste each year. There are so many trees in this valley that are, shall we say unutilized. This year I canned peaches and pears at about a hundred bucks for the fruit. It seems a shame to me when I see trees that with a little care can produce a fair amount of fruit. So maybe next year I’ll see if any of you humanists want to share your fruit trees. I’m always looking for apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums.

I know that canning isn’t for everyone, but homemade applesauce, canned peaches and pears, apricot and plum jams are worth the effort.

One humorous note about my garden is the amount cucumbers I have harvested and continue to harvest. We’ve eaten them, given them away and I’ve made sixteen quarts of dill pickles and about the same amount of mustard pickles. Plus right now there are about twenty pounds down in the kitchen challenging me to do something with them while out in the garden is about a hundred pounds of Hubbard squash waiting to be dealt with. I guess I better get busy.

October 2015

I’m still recuperating from attending the Third annual Comic Con at the convention center here in Salt Lake City. My sweetheart, Amy, surprised me a few weeks ago when she told me she had bought us three day golden passes to Comic Con. So I thought I would write about my experience. Like Amy said “we had a blast.” Indeed it was quite enjoyable in a number of ways.

But while I’m thinking about them, I have a few suggestions about attending Comic con. One obvious thing is to wear good shoes. You’re going to do a lot of walking. I think I must have walked at least 15 miles in three days going back and forth and around all the vendors on the main floor. Plus we walked an extra mile round trip to where we parked on the second day. Another suggestion is to go early the first day because that is when it is the least crowded and the vendors haven’t ran out of the popular items yet. Most of which are gone by the third day. And most important, if you can, take lots of money.

Don’t go if you hate crowds or if you’re not into Sci-Fi, Fantasy or Horror “stuff,” it’s what it’s all about. They had the entire convention center and it was full. It was full of vendors of all sorts of artists, authors and lots of crazy people, like me, there to buy all kinds of stuff. Plus there were photo ops with celebrities and of course lots of food. There were also dozens of workshops and presentations and retrospectives and tributes. And naturally, the big draw for many was having Chris Evans of Captain America addressing the audience in the grand ballroom on the third day.

But for me, the most fun of all was all the people watching you could do, without feeling guilty for staring. There were thousands of people dressed in all sorts of costumes. You name it, and someone was there in costume and they were all quite willing to pose for you or with you. Speaking of costumes, they had as many people in costume as they could get, to gather in one area so Guinness World Records could get a count. They did and it was announced they broke a record set in China in 2011 with a count of over 1700. But there were still hundreds and hundreds more in costume not being counted still wandering around with the rest of us.

I did say bring lots of money didn’t I, because there are a lot of things to buy when there are hundreds of booths to check out. Because it was a mini stay at home vacation for Amy and me, it was possible for us to spend a little more. And spend a little bit more we did. I for example I bought six shirts, (only two will be gifts) a couple of pictures, coasters, playing cards and other items of swag. Amy did the same plus she had originally bought us each photo ops. Mine was with Walter Koenig. Cool. Although they do run you through like cattle when there are a couple hundred waiting for their photo op.

There was one “touching” moment in a retrospective of Leonard Nimoy. After the presenters gave a nice pictorial of his life, they opened the mic to the audience. One young man talked emotionally about how as a youth the persona of Spock with his insistence on logic and reason helped him greatly to use reason and be skeptical. That was quite satisfying for this old humanist to hear. So I think I will leave this as is without bitching about any republicans or religious idiots this month and just say, as always, “Hope to see you Thursday at our general meeting. I’ll bring the goodies.

November 2105

Sometimes I have a hard time thinking of something new to write about each month. Plus lately I’ve been extra busy. But I know a couple of individuals who are struggling with serious health problems. Plus, they are struggling with obtaining needed resources, in one case, and obtaining disability benefits in another. So this awareness of the “struggling” I see reminds me of a good subject (well related) to write about. That being the lack of a Medicaid plan for Utah. Still, after all this time, nothing. I mean, they have had quite a bit of time since the first opportunity to implement something came available a few years ago. But the decision makers are happy to pat themselves on the back for being fiscally responsible. As if that were really the case as they try to lure business with tax breaks and allow other corporations to pollute without much in the way of any useful restrictions. But I digress.

So, what does it say about our culture here in Utah that everything is business as usual while people want for basic health care? It would appear to me that there is a total lack of empathy (from conservatives) for the needs of a large number of fellow human beings. This seems a bit odd to me because on the one hand the dominate religion here, LDS, does do a lot of charity work and giving. But on the other hand we have those in our state government who are almost all of the LDS faith that refuse to get anything done for the needy. It does seems that the bottom line, profits, matters of money are more important than the needs of some who are struggling and even desperate for help. And recently we’ve seen local media reports make reference to statistics that state that a number of people have died due to the lack of action on the part of our legislature.

Sometimes it’s a little baffling to me that we Americans haven’t come to some sort of collective awareness, that if we provide a few of those basic needs like food shelter and basic health care, we will have a healthier society in general. Why don’t we understand COLLECTIVELY that if people aren’t stupefied by poverty and ill health they might be more productive, happier, and less prone to destructive or criminal behavior? I know some will cry about the evils of socialism, but some aspects of socialism are worthy ideals when implemented rationally.

I’m well aware that providing health care for those who have little or no means to pay for it is an expensive endeavor. But I think it can and must be done, for all the moral and practical reasons that are so blaringly apparent to all. Except, of course to certain uncaring conservatives.

December 2015

It would seem inappropriate for me to use my December President’s Report to criticize religion. But I just can’t help it. Those of you who know me know that I don’t shy away from disparaging religion, but you may also know that I prefer to counter the effects of religion as best we can by advocacy for our humanist aspirations and the advocacy of science. Plus, some of the discussions and arguments become the same ones over and over again and somewhat tiresome.

But recent events, both worldwide and right here at home, have gotten under my skin to the point that my head will explode if I don’t vent a little. This venting could easily turn into a tome, so I’ll try to just touch on three things, the Paris terrorist attack, the Colorado Planned Parenthood shootings and the Mormon effect here at home. My, oh my, I took a break from writing this report and in the time that has passed I have become aware of the latest shooting in San Bernardino. It has derailed my train of thought. It is difficult to get back to what I was going to write about, but I’ll try.

In regard to the “worldwide” event, I’m referring to the killings in Paris (there were bombings elsewhere too). I don’t want to dwell on condemning these horrible acts. That should go without saying. But I do want to comment on the continued cries that “this isn’t about Islam.” I understand that the average moderate religious individual is not responsible for the actions of others. Although I think the moderates could and should do more to counter and resist the murderous elements amongst them. But there are those of their same basic religion that are using THEIR own version, their interpretation of their religion to justify their actions. It is about religion, not everyone’s religion, but religion none the less.

If we move on to the Planned Parenthood shootings in Colorado, we don’t have to look to deep to see religion involved here also. It is my opinion that the people who doctored the video about Planned Parenthood regarding fetal tissue awhile back are partly to blame for this incident. For me, it is almost like inciting to riot, but in a more sneaky way.

Finally I want to write about the “Mormon effect” as I sometimes call it. I am sure you are aware of the “uprising” the LDS church’s edict about children of married LGBT couples being excluded from rituals and baptism until age 18 is causing. Plus, they also have to disavow their parents and their parents’ lifestyle to be accepted. It is kind of like the Old Testament where some group or tribe of people are to be cursed for seven generations. You know, punished for the sins of the fathers or mothers. Pretty pathetic beliefs if you ask me. But I also got a little black humored chuckle over this. I understand this is serious and very hurtful for many in this situation. Exclusion can be difficult to deal with. It happened to me when I told the bishopric that I was not going to accept being made an elder in the church and would not accept a mission call. The “Mormon Iron Curtain” came down and most the Mormon neighbors wanted little to do with me. But I did not care because I had little in common with them and would soon join the U.S. Air Force and leave happy valley for four years.

Getting back to the chuckle I got, it was also because when my children were born we decided not to have them blessed by the church as all their grandparents requested and were appalled that we did not. It is funny because my children have actually thanked me that the church didn’t have their names.

Thanks for letting me rant about religion. We are hosting our annual December Social on the tenth. So be sure to come and bring a friend. I am looking forward to it.

January 2016

Happy new year everyone, I hope you had a pleasant holiday season.

Looking back on 2015, for me it was a rather busy year in spite of my being mostly retired. I could spend some time reflecting positively and negatively on the year. There is plenty to reflect on both personally, locally, nationally and worldwide. And, have no doubt I will have a lot to say about subjects like Donald Trump, terrorism, the environment, etc. in the month to come. But for now I would rather contemplate the coming year.

Personally, I had sort of a wow experience as I realized that I will soon be (no doubt) getting notices of my fifty-year high school reunion. Now I’m feeling like a real geezer (with apologies to those who don’t like the word geezer.) It should be interesting see who shows up. I remember last time Amy and I sat at a table where two of the wives (obviously Mormon) were determined to sit with mostly folded arms determined NOT to have a good time. It was held at a country club with all the decadence of a cash bar. But enough about the past for now.

In regards to our Humanists of Utah schedule, we have as our January guest speaker, Terry Orme, editor and publisher of the Salt Lake Tribune. Interestingly, my wife Amy knew Mr. Orme when He was doing the concert reviews and such. Her father John O’Connor was an editor on the city desk at the time and from what I’m told, Terry would pass on extra tickets to concerts to John for his daughters. So I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing from Mr. Orme and I hope you will join us.

In February we will be hosting our ninth annual Darwin Day celebration. This year it will be held at our usual venue in Eliot Hall at the Unitarian Church. As usual, there will be a reception before the speaker with catered finger food and a birthday cake for after the speaker.

I know I’m getting ahead of things a little bit, but one reason I have been excited about our Ninth Darwin Day event is that next year will be our tenth. That seems to me to be a milestone of some note. Hopefully the tradition will go on for many years. It has also been a dream or aspiration of mine to eventually form a foundation that could help make sure in goes on indefinitely. Now I realize forming a foundation is no simple task. It takes a lot of work and funding to plan and implement such a project, but I certainly think it is worth the effort.

That’s about all I have to say for now except to ask that you let us know what we can do to get more of you to join us more often. You know, we rarely here from some of you and we would like to see you.

Thanks to all for your support.

February 2016

Greetings freethinkers, now that it’s February, I’m already getting anxious for spring. I know it doesn’t look very promising outside right now with all the snow we have. But I’m starting to notice the daylight hours getting a little longer and that’s encouraging. Plus Home Depot is tempting me now that they have this year’s seeds already out. As I may have mentioned before, I’m going to get more active in supporting the grow local/buy local concept. But for now my focus needs to be on our Darwin Day celebration.

This February’s Darwin Day will be the ninth. You have probably already received a message or two from other board members regarding Darwin Day and other matters. Please take the time to respond to our Survey and let us know what kind of programs you would like to see. We are hoping your feedback will help us make improvements that will increase attendance and membership and make for a more enjoyable schedule of events. So your input will be very helpful.

Also in the messages will be calls for volunteers for the various projects we will be planning. Bob Mayhew is planning a bus trip to the Cleveland Lloyd Quarry for later in the year, plus Elaine Stehel is planning to get a monthly discussion group going again. Plus, during the year we will be participating in the Pride Festival and hopefully some of the street fairs this summer. So we could use a few volunteers to help out.

Getting back to Darwin Day, the fact that it is the ninth has made us mindful that next year will be a sort of a milestone being the TENTH annual celebration. So the Board is planning to make this event extra special. To accomplish that we will be forming a committee soon after this year’s Darwin Day to plan the “Tenth Annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah”, and we’d love to have you join us in the planning.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here with talk of the tenth Darwin Day.

We will be hosting the Ninth Annual Darwin Day on Thursday February 11th. We will start at 6:30 with a reception with some finger foods to munch while we mingle. There will be a literature table and a table with some Evolve Fish items for sale. At 7:30 we will present Dr. Alan R. Rogers, Professor of biology and anthropology at the University of Utah as our speaker (See more details elsewhere in the newsletter.) Then after Professor Rogers gives his presentation, we will serve our traditional birthday cake with Darwin’s image on it. I’m looking forward to our annual celebration of science and hope to see you there.

I can’t sign off though without saying something about the Ranchers and their occupation up in Oregon. I don’t want to spend a lot of time right now deriding their actions and goofy thinking (I could write a tome). But it does kind of make me laugh when I think of what they really want. They want free resources to run their business. I mean, what business wouldn’t like free resources? They want free forage for their animals, but I’m sorry, there are no free rides folks. When I had a cabinet shop years ago, it would have been great if ANY of the “resources” I needed to run the business were free. But it just doesn’t work that way.

I’m not sure, but it may be that the rangeland cattle business is on its way out, especially during drought years when forage gets pretty scarce. Perhaps the scarcity of forage due to the drought is what’s driving them to want more access to areas where there’s still something for their cattle eat.

Anyway, bye for now, and I hope to see you next Thursday, where the thinking should be a bit more rational.

March 2016

Happy March everyone! It is a little early to get too excited about spring, but it’s hard not to when it is so pleasant outside. However, even though it is pleasant out, it is not really “good weather,” because what we really need is much more moisture. But whether winter returns or not, I will be planting peas and other hardy crops soon. Also in that light I will continue to advocate for growing local and buying local where possible and for us meat eaters, we should buy local that is grass fed and treated humanely. I am finding this easier to do at the various weekend markets around the valley.

Anyway, in this month’s report, I have just a little rambling to do, as there are several items I want to touch on.

First I want to thank everyone who came to our Darwin Day celebration, I had a good time and I hope you did also. I also want to thank all those who helped make it happen, Art King for arranging for our speaker, Bob Mayhew for set up and take down, my nephew Chris Lane for set up and take down and Elaine Stehel for handling the merchandise and literature and helping promote the event.

As Elaine and I have been mentioning we are starting to plan the Tenth Annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah already. Our Darwin Day events have been smaller in size the last few years and we mean to change that by starting early and planning big. We are planning to have it at the University of Utah again as we did for the first several events. We plan to spread it out a little, with an afternoon and evening of things to do (as we did the first few years). This will all be possible if we get enough volunteers.

While I am mentioning volunteers I need to emphasize that having enough volunteers will determine how many other projects we can sponsor. We will have a kiosk at the Pride festival again this year and I will be there for that, but I will need help. There are also some street fairs in the summer that would be a good way to make ourselves Humanists of Utah) better known to the public. But in the last few years we had no volunteers, so no street fairs. I hope we can change that.

As I ramble I almost forgot that we had our first discussion group in quite a while. It was enjoyable to sit and talk again. Our old discussion group use to be one of my favorite things to do and I am glad it is back. This has been a project that Elaine has undertaken and I thank her for reviving it.

One more thing, you will see an announcement in the newsletter about our planned bus trip to the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in September. Amy and I have already RSVP’d and the chapter has reserved the bus so I hope you will RSVP and come along.

Finally, I will not be able to attend March’s meeting, as I will be heading to St. George for a memorial service on that day. But Elaine will pick up some of my cookies, so enjoy and I will see you soon.

April 2016

More Feds, Not Less

Of course there are areas where I think the federal government is too large or intrusive. But when it comes to federal lands, be they parks, monuments, wilderness areas, waterways, beaches, national forests or BLM lands, I say more government oversight and control not less. Plus, I think more federal money should be allocated to maintain them properly, rather than the usual inadequate funding that comes from the U.S. Congress. And while our Government hating politicians and angry citizens want to disarm BLM and other federal employees, I say the opposite. In the light of “Bundy Clan” type of armed stand-offs and armed takeovers of federal lands and facilities, I feel the U.S. government should make sure that our agencies can protect themselves and the lands in a fashion that can deter those who would take up arms and force federal employees off federal property, and threaten violence if they don’t get what they want. Plus, I hope that the penalties for these actions are heavy, which I think they are from what I have read.

As we discuss these issues of federal lands, our reaction or at least my reaction to their claims of ownership or right to use these lands free is that “THESE LANDS BELONG TO ALL AMERICANS!” To say this is becoming somewhat hackneyed, but it is the biggest truth, if you will, that they won’t face.

In the end I personally consider them traitors not patriots as they claim to be. And, I would ask them, “patriots of what?”

I am a citizen of the United States of America, not Utah or any other state. I am a resident of Utah, but without the approval of any Utah official I can change residence to any other state I choose. I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, not the Utah Air Force. When I served, I wasn’t just serving Utah, I was serving the entire nation. Well…enough of that.

I want to suggest we have a discussion or two or even a forum about a subject that has come up a number of times in the years I have been a member of Humanists of Utah. The subject is more or less civility. That and the words we use when, for instance, we are discussing issues with individuals with differing views, assertions, and demands. When do we compromise, confront, or even agree? I think it is always a subject worth discussing now and then.

Civil dialogue is always preferable, but we shouldn’t be afraid to say that the battle for say universal human rights is a battle, a fight against those who would deny them to certain “groups” of people. Plus, I feel that the denier of universal rights deserve the denigration they receive.

I’ve always enjoyed discussion groups and now that our HoU discussion group is back I hope you will join us.

May 2016

It is getting to be a busy time of year and as usual I’ve been putting things off a bit, so now I have to get with it. The Utah Pride Festival is coming up on June 3rd-5th and we will have our Humanist of Utah kiosk there for our third year. I need to round up our gear, which use to be a challenge to get all of it in a Subaru. But now that I have a full sized van, that is not a problem anymore. While it is a fair amount of work, it is always an enriching experience and a good way to help make our organization known to a lot of good people. It will be fun. I hope some of you will join the crowd and stop by our booth.

Last year we were celebrating the SCOTUS decision about Gay marriage. Happy as we were, we knew the battle wasn’t over as we now witness the ugly laws being written in some states. Nothing but mean, nasty and ugly laws

Our May general meeting will feature a forum of speakers speaking on subjects that are at the heart of what the Pride Festival is all about. You know like universal human rights.

I like forums where we can engage one another about current issues and even long standing issues. Come and join us, I’ll bring the refreshments. I repeat myself quite often when I say that I enjoy discussions with like-minded friends.

Keep an eye on our schedule, we will be having a movie night this summer and our discussion group will continue. We will have our BBQ in August. Also do not forget to RSVP to go to the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur quarry this fall. This day trip to the quarry will be fun and informative.

I do not have much else to say and I know you’re tired of me writing about gardening so I won’t say much about having peas and radishes and lettuce and spinach and…well never mind. See you soon I hope.

June 2016

I hesitate to start my message with bad news, but I must report that my efforts to have our Humanist of Utah kiosk at the pride festival failed. Too many problems with the registration process and my unwillingness to spend enough time working them out ended with us not having a booth at the festival. I apologize for that; I could have gotten help but didn’t.

Moving on, I think we should do as board member Elaine Stehel suggested and look into participating in the 9th and 9th Street Fair and other opportunities to get our message out into the general public more. The Street Fair was one of the first times we had a booth. It was a learning experience. We had a rather poor canopy and a large umbrella. It rained a fair amount and that made it clear that if you are going to be serious about having a booth, you need a good canopy and other items. With the AHA chapter grant we received a couple of years ago we did just that and purchased a canopy and other equipment. So we have the booth with tables and chairs and coolers and literature and merchandise to sell and we should put it all to use when we can. As a small group we have limited resources for promoting humanism, having a booth at community events are opportunities to do that promoting.

Again moving on, our general meeting this month will be a movie night. We’ll be showing An Honest Liar about “the Amazing Randy.” I met him a couple of times at humanist conferences. He is quite interesting to talk to with his tales of exposing faith healers. But this film is more about his personal life and struggles. I hope you will come and join us. We’ll have lots of junky movie treats and my salty buttery popcorn.

I don’t have a lot else to say this month and I’m sick of the mention of Donald Trump and that I get several emails a day from Hillary. Politics are bought and paid for and the blowhards are so tiresome and hard to take.

One thing that I have been thinking about lately is that the notion that being retired means being less busy is bogus. I guess for some it may be, but for the present I seem to be as busy as ever. I’m going to have to take more breaks…for days at a time.

Hope to see you soon.

July 2016

At our June meeting we watched a documentary about the magician and bullshit debunker James Randy, aka The Amazing Randy. As I mentioned last month, I have met him a couple of times at various “annual conferences” held by the AHA and the CFI. He was quite engaging and loved talking about the faith healers he had “outed” and he would talk about how he could fool a class room full of people by giving them all a written horoscope then asking them if they thought he picked the right one for them. Then, after a majority of them raised their hands he informed them that they all had the same horoscope. He is amazing that way. Exceedingly friendly, you always know you’re in the presence of a well-practiced showman.

But the documentary also showed a part of his personal life he was willing to let us see. He was, late in his life coming out as a gay man, but also dealing with the possible imprisonment and or deportation of his companion and life partner whom he had been with for many years. Happily, it all ended well.

Recently, while I was watching the tube for a while, an ad came on for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Chia pets. It was a nice moment of comic relief as I giggled a bit about the absurd nature of this campaign season. But, in this rather strange election cycle I thought, “why not.” So I think I’ll go looking for a couple “pets” and get them growing. Then wait and see what they look like on Election Day.

I suppose every election season has its “strangeness,” with mud-slinging and character assassinations. But I think this one is going to be rather unique in the amount of trash talk. The likely candidates have plenty of “baggage” that will be gone through with zeal by their opponents. While at the same time important issues concerning this country and the world will get canned responses or little discussion at all. That’s why I have expressed a dislike for, or at least some weariness for, the political process. But I’ll still be a part of it and I never miss voting. Regardless of who you vote for, please vote, a big turnout is always a good thing. Staying involved in a state so “one sided” can be discouraging, but involvement is a must for me.

As a non-profit organization we are restricted from endorsing candidates or getting directly involved in politics. And I have no desire to use the chapter that way. But it would be nice if some of the religious non-profits would do the same. It’s obvious if you follow the news around the country that many “churches” of various denominations more or less ignore these restrictions or find ways to get around them. Plus there is little done by authorities to punish violations of the statutes.

This month our guest speaker will speak to about what has been going on with the Salt Lake Tribune. Having been recently purchased by a huntsman family, it will be interesting to hear about what’s happening and what changes may be in the works. So I hope you will join us for an informative evening. I’ll bring the refreshments.

August 2016

Hello Fellow Freethinkers

I have been pretty busy this summer so I shouldn’t be surprised that August has snuck up on me, but it did. I don’t know about you but this record breaking heat is getting old. I always look forward to the fall season and the cooling that will be coming. It is also a little troubling though to contemplate the knowledge we have that hundred plus temperatures are part of climate change. The drought in the west continues to be a problem and is one of the long term manifestations of climate change. As the drought starts to span several years it becomes less a weather phenomenon and more a climate indicator. Being a Geomorphologist as a hobby I keep track now and then on a few indicators that are rather telling. One of the most obvious data points is that for some time we have been able to judge and quantify the amount of ice on the planet. It is shrinking and has been for the most part for some time. As the reflectivity (albedo) changes more energy is absorbed, ice diminishes. Quite a simple concept really. But even when there is photo evidence as proof of glaciers retreating over the years many still refuse to see the obvious.

Well anyway, I was talking about the nice fall weather so I could plug our BBQ but got sidetracked bitching about climate change. I know it’s a busy time for everyone, with vacations and all, but I hope you will try to find the time to come to our August BBQ on the 11th at John Young’s home. As usual board members will bring pot luck like items and the chapter will supply the rest. As I always say, come join us for good food and good conversation.

Before I go I want to mention one other thing. A couple of weeks ago several board members and I had dinner with Fred Edwords of the American Humanist Association. He contacted me and said he was on a speaking tour and as he was traveling through Utah, he offered to meet with us. Fred has been “doing humanist stuff” for over forty years. At the dinner, we got a lot of good suggestions for ways to improve our chapter. We discussed things from fund raising to the use of social media. At a recent board meeting we agreed that we should move forward on some of his suggestions. This will mean making some changes. As we begin this process we will be looking for your opinions on proposed changes and new projects. I’m excited about working to get more people involved with our group and have our chapter get more involved in the community. At our next board meeting I hope to have us decide on a couple of these suggestions from Fred and take action on them soon. I’ll keep you informed.

That’s it for now friends.

September 2016

In recent conversations with Humanists of Utah board members and regular chapter members the subject of de-baptism events has come up. These happenings have occurred more often lately in part due to the recent pronouncement by the LDS Church concerning children of gay parents needing to reject their parent to become members. You know, that good old Biblical notion of suffering the sins of your father. Since that pronouncement, thousands of members have undergone this ritual to remove themselves as members of the LDS church.

I think it is about time for HoU to host one of these events. I am also willing to be first to undergo this ritual. For quite some time I hav maintained that I am the one who decides whether I am a member or not. But a couple of people point out that regardless of what I say, I am still on the roles and considered a member by the church. This is true of course, because the LDS home teachers stop by every fourth Sunday to say hi and see how we’re doing. They’re nice people and they are actually aware of my humanism and our group, as they are related to former member and one of HoU’s founders Martha Stewart. They will be disappointed, but I can’t let that stop me. So if there are any of you who still need and want to free yourself from the LDS church, let us know, and let’s make plans to do this soon.

Moving to another subject, I want to say something about gun violence. I know I have visited this subject at least a few times in the years I have been writing my report. But sometimes something gets me going again. Actually I don’t want to write about gun violence so much, but more about some statistics.

Gun violence is certainly a horrible problem in this country and I think stricter laws should be written. But recently in the comments thread of an article about gun violence, I got in an exchange with a woman who was so upset that Americans weren’t more outraged about this violence and working to ban guns. What I pointed out was that our society is a little strange to me in that we are outraged about gun violence and rightly so, but not very outraged about other “more deadly” aspects of our society. I then pointed out that while guns had caused 33,000 deaths in a recent year, tobacco cigarette smoking alone accounted for 480,000 deaths in a year. That’s about 15 times more deaths than from guns. So where’s the outrage. They’re both products sold legally in the U.S.

The woman I had the exchange with also felt that the gun manufacturers were criminals and partly responsible for the deaths. So I asked her if tobacco growers and their employees were criminals also, because after all, they are in the business of selling poison. I got no response to that.

I know statistics can be boring and used improperly they can be misleading. But they can also shed light on a subject and cut through some of the emotional response we have to issues such as gun violence and the like. Cold hard facts sometimes in comparison, sometimes in charts, columns, graphs and maps help broaden our perspectives on issues where emotions and media hype fail.

October 2016

Greetings everyone. As we head into the holidays I want to say how excited I am about upcoming events. Next week we have Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement scheduled, then in December our business meeting and banquet. Soon after that, in February, we will be hosting our tenth annual “Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah.” I hope you will look at our schedule and plan to join us, and bring a friend.

I want to continue writing about my experiences with people of color I started in last month’s newsletter. My next experiences came when I entered the United States Air Force. As I was leaving for basic training, some neighbors in the “Ward” advised me to “stay with my kind.” But at basic training my squadron had men from all over and of several ethnicities. So, staying with your kind was stupid and totally impractical, even if you wanted to. There weren’t that many young white Mormon boys around. Plus, the military pretty much lets you know to pack your prejudices away. But I did learn what real prejudice is when I was stationed at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. I was stationed there for temporary duty as extra security for an aircraft that was being tested there. Twice, while in the 90 days I was there, groups of GI’s were harassed or confronted. Once at a pizza parlor and once at a picnic ground.

At the pizza parlor, I learned that the problem was that the local boys couldn’t understand how us “white boys’’ could be hanging out with n—-rs. They were as mad at us as they were hateful toward the people of color in our group. This was in 1970, but when they learned that we were all trained security police officers they backed off.

At the picnic grounds, we were having a BBQ with blacks and whites but this time with women too. You know wives and dates. This caused a couple of locals to call the police who came flying out to our location. But this was a squadron party and our commander happened by to say hi and have a good time as this was happening. He talked to the police officer in charge and they went away.

I’m not saying that everything was always calm among GI’s on base but I did not many racial problems. In the two fights that I got into that were memorable, one guy was from North Carolina who was always drunk and the other a short little guy who couldn’t stop talking about how much greater Italians were than everyone else. But neither was black. Next month I’ll finish with how I feel about current issues like the black lives matter movement.

I want to end my message with a little rant about a term or phrase I think is lame and useless. The phrase I’m referring to is, “we’re all immigrants.” It seems to me to be a silly exercise. My great grandparents brought my grandmother with them to the United States. They were immigrants, but I’m not. I haven’t moved anywhere. Also, if we were to go with this notion, we would have to call Native American immigrants, as they did migrate here thousands of years ago. Anyway, just a little rant.

November 2016

Those of you who joined us for our trip to the Cleveland-Lloyd quarry were treated to a fun and interesting excursion. I won’t go into detail here, as there is a write up elsewhere in the newsletter. But I wanted to say that I think this kind of HoU event is a great idea and should be repeated as often as possible. Along with the educational aspect of the trip and the scenery, you also get a chance to meet and talk with people. And I mean converse rather than just a hello and a hand shake.

Other trips to geologic or geographic excursions could be planned. Perhaps an emphasis on a trip could be to give sort of a basic traveling course in Utah geology. As a University of Utah Geography student, the classes I took that included “Field Seminars” were the most instructive. Going to and studying the actual features you study in the books is most instructive.

We should also consider trips that are just for the fun of it. Wendover now has a really nice concert/theater hall, where Amy and I recently saw a comedian. Perhaps even an overnight trip. Let’s talk about it.

Sometimes it is hard to cover a subject a person writes about in the 500-word article. So I’m going to write about a subject that will need to be continued for a couple of issues.

The issue is race and racism. Or, more specifically, my experiences with people of color in my life. I was born and raised in SLC (Holladay) Utah. Attended Skyline High School where there were no black people at the school and none in my neighborhood. So my contact with black folks was nonexistent. That is until I attended a military school for my junior year in high school. That’s where my first real contact with African Americans occurred. As I recall, even at this California school there was only one black kid. This black student behaved horribly and was gone in a short time. I remember some talk among the students about this kid, mostly negative. But I remember my roommate asking “How would you feel if you were the only white boy at an all-black school?” Makes you think.

When I attended this school in 64-65, I would take the train home for holidays. It was cheap and in that era, while it was a passenger train, it was also known as a mail train, so it stopped everywhere. It was there on the train that at 16, I first shook the hand of a black man.

The train’s restrooms had a lounge area for sitting and smoking. The porters on the train were all black as far as I could tell. While sitting in the lounge area, a couple of porters came in and we shook hands. After a moment, I told the two porters that they were the first black men I had ever met. They were friendly and chuckled at my questions and I believe entertained by my interest.

I think even back then, and probably before I was becoming a rational thinker and started wondering why someone’s skin color mattered, or as I might express it today, “Why would you judge someone or instantly have disdain for a person you don’t even know based on skin color?”

It may seem strange to you that I write about my experiences with black people as events, but it helps show that for many of us we may have had little or no real experiences with other ethnicities and thus have only what we see and hear to make judgements.

My next experience was during four years in the U.S. Air Force. But I will leave that for next month.

In parting I just want to remind you to attend or October meeting where we will present a new video of the life of Thomas Paine. Because this will similar to a movie night, refreshment will be served at the beginning so you can munch while we watch and then discuss the video and Thomas Paine after.

December 2016

I want to finish my little series about my personal experiences with people of color. It also comes to an end because after my years in the Air Force, I have had only minimal contact with blacks or other people of color a “white boy” gets living in Sugarhouse. I want to finish with two thoughts, one the Black Lives Matter movement and the other a thought about diversity.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, I think stupid white people should keep their mouths shut, rather than making statements like “all lives matter.” Because on its face, the statement is an attempt to diminish the fact that Black folks do have a problem with being more likely to be shot by police than other races do. It is an unfortunate fact these shootings happen and are one of the results of poverty, as are poor health care, poor nutrition, etc.

My thoughts on diversity begins with how wonderful it is that the universe is as diverse as it is, including the part of it we call humanity. But in our dealings with other races we humans tend to use diversity to divide us. We see this tendency throughout history and we see it played out daily in the present. It really is too bad that we humans don’t embrace this diversity better. Imagine how boring it would be if we humans, for some weird evolutionary reason, could only be one shade of grey. But then if human nature stayed the same, I guess we would find some other “difference” in “some” people in order to have someone to dislike. The shape of your ears perhaps. Whatever. I’ll have more to say, but later.

Our December Social is coming up on the 8th and I hope you will, as I always say, join us for some good food and good conversation. One item that I plan to talk about a little bit at the dinner is our plan to start a book club series. In discussing ways to make our meetings more appealing we (board members) decided to make some of our second Thursday general meetings into book club meetings rather than having a speaker. With that in mind, I hope you will give some thought to the idea and come to the social with a few suggestions for books you like. I think we can consider some periodicals also. I think our general meetings should also have more forums on current affairs. So again, think about some books and forum subjects for us to consider. I’m excited about these changes because I have always enjoyed discussion groups and forums where we can all get involved and have our say.

I suppose I should say something about the election. First, I can say I am so sick of politics I could just…you name it. But in my sixty-eight years I have seen the back and forth nature of power and politics. The good times the recessions, wars and presidential resignations. I kind of hate it when people say we must move on, but the clock does keep on ticking so we do have to start planning, together and as individuals. I think for me I am going to be putting more of my time, energy and donation to help and advocate for causes that will be needing support considering the fight that the new administration will bring. I also plan to personally get more involved and donate more to organizations that appeal to me, such as the The Planetary Society, the American Humanist Association, and our chapter. I think we should all remember that our favored organizations need funds and support now more than ever.

See you at the social.

January 2017

Greetings freethinkers, I hope the holidays were enjoyable for you. As free thinking individuals, it can be hard to be all that “festive” around Christmas time. Not too often, but a few times at party or family gathering I’ve been asked why I celebrate Christmas if I don’t believe in Jesus. I try to be a little humorous by stating that I not going to let Christians have all the fun with the gluttonous materialistic turmoil. It usually works, as they usually must agree when I say that it hasn’t been free thinkers who turned it into the frenzy.

But I had a good time at our Annual Banquet and Business Meeting and we took in a respectable number of donations for the Homeless Youth Resource Center. The Board voted to add enough to the money we took in for the raffle to round it up to $600.00. I always buy more food than we use at the social with because I’m more worried about running out than having too much. So, I also took a couple of frozen turkey breasts, a bunch of extra drinks and a few other things we had left over. Additionally, my brother is associated with an AA fellowship hall which received several cases of pies. They had way more than they could use, so he gave me around twenty pies. I kept two and added the rest to what I took to the Homeless Youth Resource Center. Going to the center also gave me a chance to see their new home and it’s a nice place, far better than their old home on State Street. I want to thank Board of Directors for supporting our renewed commitment to this cause and to especially thank Board members Lauren Florence and Elaine Stehel for taking the lead in helping support this cause.

To start the New Year, the Board of Directors of Humanists of Utah has decided to make our January 12th general meeting into our first book club meeting. Being that it will be the first, it will be one where we will plan how to precede, how often, where to meet and so on. I have never actually been part of a book club, so I hope you’ll come and join in the planning. I suspect some, if not many of you have been in book clubs and can give us some hints on what works. I’m excited to start this group, because one of life’s pleasures is good literature. There are a lot of possibilities we can consider, like whether to meet on a different day say Saturday or Sunday. We can perhaps think about meeting where coffee and refreshments are available.

In regards to the literature to consider, we discussed the idea that we could pick a book for two or three months down the road and some shorter subjects, and even some periodicals monthly subjects. Anyway, I hope a good number of you members and friends come and join us to get this thing off the ground.

Before I say good night, I want to remind everyone that our tenth annual Darwin Day celebration with Humanists of Utah is coming up in February. Keep your eyes open for other announcements regarding the event, and plan to attend and bring a friend or two.

Good Night

February 2017

Every February for the last nine years Humanists of Utah has hosted a “Darwin Day Celebration.” This February naturally marks our tenth annual Celebration and I’m quite proud of the fact that we have sustained this event that long. I also hope that we keep it going for a long time to come. Plus, in this “new era” we are facing now it will be even more important to advocate and even protect science.

In past years, I have been highly involved in the planning of our Darwin Day events. But this year, I had wanted to be even more active in the planning to make sure we had a special tenth year event. But I have been unable to help much this year as my mother’s care needs are increasing and consuming most of my time lately. But the people who are doing the planning and arranging everything have put my mind at ease. They have stepped up and done a great job and have a terrific event in the works. So, I personally want to thank Elaine Stehel, Sally Joe Fuller, and John Welle for their efforts and thanks to all who are helping to make this a great tenth annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah.

Before the last board of director’s election, I informed the board that this would be my last term as President. I do plan to remain a board member. But it is time for the change and giving the “keys” to someone else will allow me to concentrate my efforts for HoU in a more focused way. I hope to work more closely on our events like our BBQ, Thomas Paine Day/Founders Day and the rest, but especially our Darwin Day event.

For several years, I have been harboring the idea that Darwin Day needed a Foundation to make it an event that is self-sustaining. I know that’s a tall order, but the process exists and I intend on working toward that end. The ideals of Darwin Day as a celebration of science needs to be sustained and increased, especially in this “new era” I mentioned, where rationality will be in short supply.

I hope you’re planning to come to our Darwin Day celebration coming up shortly. I’m excited and have a few things to say about our subject of climate change and all that that entails. Plus, having a forum for the first time should make for an enjoyable change.

That all for now, see you on the 11th.

March 2017

This month’s general meeting will be sort of a combination book club meeting and a celebration of Pi Day. I’m looking forward to both and I’m hoping more members and guests will join this book club. I especially enjoy meetings where there is a discussion, about a book or something from the news. Books are also one of my favorite things, so discussing books puts two things I enjoy together. So I hope you will join us. Also, to help celebrate Pi Day, we decided to change the usual refreshments and are going to serve Pie.

Our tenth annual Darwin Day celebration was a great success and I again want to thank Elaine, Sally Jo, John and everyone who helped make it a success. The forum about climate change was a welcome change from a single speaker and I think we should use it more often, both for Darwin Day and at times, our regular meetings.

In my opening remarks at Darwin Day, I mentioned the fact that when we discuss and or argue about climate change we are being diverted from the discussion of the fact that the things that humans do that effects climate, is also detrimental in other ways to the environment and toxic to all living organisms. It may be an exercise in stating the obvious, but I want to write a little about why pollution exists rather than how it gets there and what it does.

We humans just don’t want to pay the full price for dealing with our waste products. While it is understandable that our species can never have zero impact on the environment, we could do a lot better. The problem is, that our capitalism and free enterprise systems lends themselves to greed. The number under the bottom line must come first, and one of the first places to cut cost is in disposing of waste products. So, we get toothless regulations or no regulations and as is often the case, health concerns are overridden by the quest for big profits. They really don’t care if they’re killing living creatures, including humans. One example is that the quest for profits keeps us dependent on a technology that is over a hundred years old, the internal combustion engine. All kinds of alternative technologies exist and have existed for quite some time that can reduce our energy consumption, but they are just not profitable enough on their own or they threaten to eliminate the enormous profits of the long-established energy producers and their cohorts in other industries.

Anyway, like I said, I may be stating the obvious, but it worth repeating. So I’ll leave it at that and close by again saying that I hope to see soon at our March meeting.

April 2017

Happy Spring everyone, the pleasant temperatures are getting me outside a lot lately. Boy is there a lot to do, but I do love planting time. However, things are different for me this year.

I don’t have much of an appetite for talking politics or issues right now, so I thought I would just ramble a little about what is different for me this year. Suffice it to say I am a full-time care giver for my mother. That has made it necessary for me to move back to the home I grew up in. In as much as I will eventually own the home I have been slowly but steadily moving in, and it is all exhausting.

Going through her things getting rid of this and saving that, then doing the same with my stuff is taxing. But as taxing as it can be, we did have a laugh together the other day. When I got up the other morning, I noticed the carnage she inflicted on the supply of drinks in the refrigerator. My mom still gets around on her feet pretty well and gets up a number of times at night for a drink and sometimes a snack. Anyway, I lined up the drinks she opened the night before and we had a good laugh as we noticed that she had opened three Glucerna, Two Izze juice drinks, Two Pepsi’s and a V-8 for a total of eight. Sometimes there are moments.

I’ve been living, amazingly, for over thirty years at a four-plex. That means, at least for me, without looking like a hoarder there is a lot of stuff that has been “stuffed into closets, containers and anywhere it is out of the way. As you start to box stuff up, it grows and grows because it is not stuffed into closets anymore! So, you begin to realize what a task it will be to move. I have mostly started with books from inside and tools outside. When I stop to think about it, I’m sure we have over three thousand books including paperbacks and all. Some of the old text books from eons ago must go, along with old almanacs and outdated medical books. It also gives me a laugh to find that I have multiple copies of some of my favorites like three of Carl Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World, and several works by and about Charles Darwin. To me, books are friends and my books about science, humanism, by authors like Asimov, Dawkins, Harris, etc. are all going with me.

The one thing I will miss at the old apartment is the large backyard I used and had a garden some 80 by 30 feet. Now I need to scramble to find and prep some areas for tomatoes, peppers, squash and a new planting of herbs.

One last thing before I go. In all the thirty some odd years we’ve lived at this apartment, we have never had cable TV. As I have been watching it more I have been paying more attention to the commercials. They certainly run the spectrum in a way from excellent and funny to really stupid and even offensive. We get talking mucus and fingernail fungus. We get woman’s bladders dragging them off to bathrooms and cannibalistic breakfast cereal. I just hope nobody comes up with a character for Preparation H. More commentary on commercials next Month. Thanks for letting me ramble.

See you at the general meeting, I’ll bring the cookies.

May 2107

This month I have three items to touch on, one humorous, at least to me, another serious and one about me.

I have mentioned before that for the last twenty-five to thirty years I have not had cable TV What little came over the air was enough for Amy and me. Now that I’m spending much of my time at my mother’s home, I have been watching a lot more TV and the commercials are something else. I think one of the most hilarious is the marketing of razors. I mean really, how many times and ways are there to improve the razor. Have they made one with five blades yet? Soon they’ll be laser guided. I know it’s stupid thing to write about, but I can’t help it.

Speaking of stupid things, I want to get to the serious thing I want to address, that being our new administration. I realize the as a 501c3 organization we must avoid using our resources for political reasons. But I don’t think I’m barred from giving my opinion. I can say what I have on my mind in a few sentences. We have a president who seems to only function in an adversarial mode. That along with the politics of fear and hatred appears to have brought us to a point where the whole world is angry and on edge. All this fear and hatred is not new or all his fault, but this president has added a lot of fuel to the flames. Is this a good way to govern? Where every issue is a battle to always give HIM a chance for a “victory.”

Moving on. Board member Sally Jo asked me help her put together a bio of myself for last month’s newsletter. That didn’t happen so this month I thought I would answer one of the questions she asked me to review. First on the list is where I have lived and my favorite place.

I have lived here in Salt Lake City all my life except for about a year when we moved to California just a mile and a half from Disneyland. I was eight years old then and met a kid who knew how to sneak into Disneyland. But that’s a whole story of its own. However, I did spend four years in the United States Air Force, where I was stationed in Texas, Colorado, Utah, Thailand, New Jersey, California and Oklahoma.

The second part of the question, “my favorite place,” has more than one answer, or at least two. When it comes to cities, there is no doubt it is San Francisco and the bay area. My other favorite place is far different from the highly compact and highly populated streets of San Francisco, and that is the Red Castle area of the High Uintah’s Wilderness Area here in Utah. It is a beautiful area where you will be camping about eight miles from the nearest dirt road at around 10,000 ft. and still be looking up at the top 2 to 3 thousand feet of mountain tops. I could go on and on about the beauty of this area, but there isn’t room.

But there is room for one little anecdote about being an experienced backpacker who meets up with friends who are not so experienced.

Soon after I began backpacking I determined that I was going to always go it alone as far as equipment and meals. Sharing was too problematic and I sometimes went in a day ahead of friends. So, I always packed rather heavy (seventy pounds) with extras like “real food” and a tape player for music and to record notes for my geomorphology studies. The real food I would bring along was a medium size potato, a small onion, a small can of mushrooms, some butter, salt and pepper. Plus, enough Aluminum foil for cooking in the fire. Plus, I also had a flask of B&B.

After setting up camp, I would go fishing first thing and usually catch a nice sized fish for supper. You can imagine the envious looks I got as I stuffed onions and mushrooms in the fish, surrounded it with the cut-up potato added salt pepper and the butter and wrapped it in a few layers of foil. Then after rolling it around in the coals of the fire for about a half hour you open up a real treat, especially welcome after hiking in eight to ten miles. I would share a taste but only a taste to those who came with light packs and nothing but freeze dried meals and granola as they tried to cook freeze dried chili (at 10,000 ft) long enough that the beans weren’t crunchy.

(no June 2017 report)

July 2017

Greetings freethinkers, I hope that your summer is going well. The temperature here in Holiday, Utah was 101 yesterday.

But, first off, I must give a heartfelt thanks to board member Elaine Stehel who has by the time you read this message moved back East. For Me personally she made sure that our Tenth Annual Darwin Day and our participation in the “Pride Festival” were big success, at a time when I could not be much help. And I personally thank her for that. Elaine has put a lot of her time and energy (I don’t know where she gets it) into Humanists of Utah and I know the rest of the board members join in thanking Elaine for all she has done for the chapter. Good luck Elaine in your new life and we hope we can stay in touch.

Getting back to how hot it is, I was going to say that having moved back in with my mother to care for her does have some perks in that it is large enough and cool enough and has a swimming pool out back. So, I can’t complain about the heat. I mention this about my mother’s home to put into perspective how different one’s situation can be regarding healthcare. While my mother is fortunate to have Medicare, a supplemental insurance policy and personal assets that assure she get all the best care, there are many in our society who have little or none of that. As I have been watching more of what is going on with the Affordable Care Act I worry about all those individuals out there who must rely on Medicaid. I sure hope that our society can someday soon find a way to cover everyone. I personally think everyone should have something resembling Medicare from birth throughout their life.

I won’t be able to attend our movie night, but I think you will be seeing a weird little movie called Rubin and Ed, It is really funny. I am looking forward to seeing you all at our August BBQ.

September 2017

This month my part of my message is personal; my life has changed significantly recently with my mother’s recent death. Many of you are aware that I have been a fulltime caregiver for my mother, but the caregiving goes back further in that Amy and I have been doing it for several years, first with her father and then, with some overlap, my mother. So, for the first time in a while there is no caregiving for someone in need. I’ve been telling people, that while there is plenty to do, it kind of feels like I’ve been leaning into an 80-mph wind and then suddenly, the wind is gone and you feel like your falling into a void of sorts. I could leave when I want and didn’t have to sleep with waking every time I heard something at night.

My Mom lived a long life, she was 96, with the resources to do what she loved to do and that is to travel. AT 85 she went to China and then to Mexico for the umpteenth time just a few months later. And she still traveled to U of U football game out of state until just a couple years age. The last month or so was very difficult, but she is through suffering.

When I moved back home with my mother to give full time care I had access to cable television for the first time in decades. Seeing too much of this disgraceful joke of a president is sickening and discouraging to say the least. So, you just have to stop watching at some point.

On the other hand, I’ve been watching The Weather Channel almost constantly since the beginning of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. That event became the biggest flood disaster in history. Now we have Category. 5 Hurricane Irma. And remember, a category 5 hurricane is not just 5 times bigger than a category 1 hurricane but rather 500 times stronger. Now as I write this message Hurricane Irma has been a category 5 for days and is breaking records as it goes. It is very potent and likely to impact Florida in a big way statewide. If that’s not bad enough, there is another hurricane named Jose that is a category 3 heading across the Atlantic. This will be a Hurricane season for the books, in a bad way.

Watching these storms also got me thinking about climate change. I have often cautioned people when they point to specific weather events as proof of climate change or global warming. But it is hard, as a geographer not to notice that this global warming makes for warmer waters, and warmer water is where almost all the energy for these Hurricanes comes from. It is not just a warmer climate with rising sea levels that global warming brings but also changing weather patterns.

Watching all this destruction found me admitting to myself that I’m not all that ready to evacuate if necessary for an earthquake or whatever. Preparedness is something we need to pay attention to. Perhaps we can discuss it as part of a meeting or at our book club.

Now that I will have more free time, I look forward to getting more involved in our chapter. I hope to see you at our next meeting. I might even find time to bake a cookie or two by then.

October 2017

I’ve always been a procrastinator, so I nearly always submit my message for the newsletter late. But this month Wayne needs it to be done early, (or at least not late). So, being a night person, I decided to start this message late Sunday night/early Monday morning, after finishing some domestic chores. I sat down with a snack and my Laptop. But first I turned on the TV to catch the news and the horror of the Las Vegas shooting was unfolding right in front of me on my 60-inch screen. At that point I knew I couldn’t word process anything. All I could do was watch. So now it’s the day after and I need to write my message and all I can think about is this incident which is being called the worst mass shooting in modern history. So, I’ll just have to write about it.

While I watched I took a few notes. First was that this killer was in a group the FBI call, “rare, random, and unpredictable.” He was 64, which is older than usual. He was wealthy. He left no note or manifesto, nor was he part of a group of any kind that they know of so far and he wasn’t religious. And in that sense that he is that rare uncharacteristic terrorist killer seems to have the media baffled. To think that it was just a common man who became insane at some point and quietly proceeded to plan and execute that plan is hard to fathom. He may well be one of the scariest kinds of killers, the ones who are normal all their life until they snap.

I also noted that as soon as I saw footage with sound, it was obvious that he had full auto weapons. At first, I thought “where did he get full auto,” then said to myself “duh, it’s really not that hard actually. “So far, they have found four or five dozen weapons and explosive material. So, it could be he was thinking about doing some bombings also.

Of course, there is already gun control talk immediately and rightly so. There is much that could be done to tighten up access and the prohibition of weapons and accessories that civilians should not own. At least not without strict licensing.

But I often say, in discussing gun control, that those who want to kill will find a way. Restrict guns somehow and the killers will get better at making bombs, or creating toxins, or just ramming a large vehicle into a crowd and of course as we are aware of, planes into buildings. Unfortunately, we have seen these other means to kill used throughout the world. One commentator said something about how sad it was that as startling and horrible these acts are, they are becoming almost routine.

As I write this message there are 59 confirmed dead and over 500 injured, some critically. I don’t really have much else to say. At a time like this, the often-invoked cliché, “we have to move on” is inadequate but somewhat true. And we’ll be left with another infamous date.

November 2017

I was thinking how it was odd that for the last several months, when I finally force myself to write my President’s message, there is a disaster of some sorts happening. First with Hurricanes, fires, the Las Vegas shooting, and now on Halloween a terrorist attach with a truck running down people in a bike and pedestrian lane in New York City. But I had to use skepticism to remind myself that what I’m doing in my life here in SLC has very little to do with what happening on the streets of New York. It has, however, been distracting and makes it hard to focus and changes my mood. But I really don’t want to talk about disasters.

What I was thinking about, before the Halloween incident was to say a few words about pejoratives and censorship.

Our previous President and co-founder Flo Winewriter advised us to always try to communicate with those we may disagree with a civil tongue. It’s good advice, if for no other reason than the fact that yelling and name calling rarely accomplish anything. But what do you do when your opponent uses your desire to be nice in conversation against you. Making it look like they won the argument because they are more aggressive and a louder mouth. I’ve heard it said that conservatives are fist pumpers and liberals are hand wringers.

This has become particularly common in our political discourse with President Trump constantly using pejoratives of the derogatory and belittling type. He seems to be unable to engage anyone who disagrees with him without turning it adversarial.

As a rather black humored joke I asked if the list of pejoratives that fit Trump was a big as the list of his lies. But I saw the folly in that as I realized that, while the list of pejoratives that fit Donald Trump is a long one, his lies create a tome that I suspect goes back to when he first uttered a sentence as a toddler.

On the somewhat related subject of censorship, I kind of chuckle and groan when I see the media censor a word like bullshit. With all the horror and coarse language, we see and hear in movies and on TV, it seems rather hypocritical to think we are protecting the public from something shocking by writing bullshit, bulls—t. Its more than hypocritical, it’s quite silly.

One more thing before I sign off. The idea that we should be in some way forced to honor or salute the flag, the pledge of allegiance to the flag or stand for the national anthem is absurd. I didn’t serve four years in the U.S. Air Force for a flag or a song or a pledge. I served for our country and its freedoms which include sitting or kneeling or any other form of protest including burning the flag.

For two of the four years I served I was a Security Police law enforcement Sargent who raised and lowered the base flag with pride. But I also understand that the flag means different things to our diverse population. I believe it was Malcolm X who said “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.” And I remember seeing a Native American on TV say that the only salute he had for the U.S. flag was a middle finger. Pointing out that the U.S. government robbed them of their lands and attempted genocide, somewhat successfully, on Native Americans who were here first.

That’s all for now freethinkers. Let’s hope there’s no disasters for a while.

December 2017

Hi All, hope you are enjoying the holidays. In recent months I have often noted and talked about some recent disaster or shooting that has occurred. But this time I just want to wish you all happy holidays and talk about my cookie mill. That’s what Amy and I call the process. I’m mentioning this partly because I have been moving into my mother’s home and have a much larger kitchen to use. So, I have spread out the mill and it makes me chuckle how much stuff I have. Imagine twelve cookie sheets, six wire racks, two stand mixers, a hand mixer and on and on.

At our meetings when individuals find out that I bake the cookies they get somewhat amazed when I tell them that I bake two or three thousand cookies this time of year. But it really isn’t that amazing when you think about the fact that just doubling a batch will give you over two hundred, so that’s a good start. I’ve been baking cookies for over thirty years now. It started when I got tired of trying to shop for gifts this time of year. Plus, cookies freeze well, and I’ve been happy to bake enough to have them available year-round.

After this year though, I plan to cut back on cookies a bit and start trying my hand at baking breads and some pastries I use to make but haven’t tried for a while. I enjoy all kinds of cooking and watch a fair amount of the chef shows and try new things as often as possible. The culinary arts are one of the ways to make life much more enjoyable.

Next week is our Winter Social and I hope you will join us and like I always say, Come and enjoy some good food and good conversation.

February 2018

Because there was no newsletter last month, this is my first opportunity to say happy new year. So, happy new year. Now that it is February, that means that instead of a general meeting, it is time for or annual Darwin Day celebration. This year board member Dr. Craig Wilkinson has taken the lead in planning the event and we thank him for that. I won’t say much about the event as there will be an announcement elsewhere in the newsletter. But please do attend and bring a friend.

This month my message will be mostly about chapter business. For quite some time now the board of directors has been concerned with the slow decline in membership and a drop off in attendance at meetings. The board is considering various ways to address the chapters problems or needs. There were a couple of problems we have known for a while, Thursday meetings and evening meetings. I know driving at night is a problem that some have told me keep them from coming to our meetings. So, we have decided to start the process of change by switching to a weekend afternoon schedule. This means that we will not be meeting at the Unitarian much anymore, being that the church itself has the weekend use of the facilities understandably tied up. Also, we will be going to a bi-monthly schedule. No meeting January, March, May, July, September, November. If attendance improves or we decide to add something to the schedule like a bus excursion or the like, events can be easily added. This schedule change also means that the newsletter will be bi-monthly. Finding venues will be the biggest new challenge for the chapter, but I think moving it around a little won’t be a problem. Perhaps we can find a venue more centrally located in the valley. If anyone has suggestions as to venues please let us know and we would also love to hear from chapter members with suggestion for improving Humanists of Utah.

The voice of humanism and its aspirations need to be broadened in this trying political times and not allowed to decline or be weakened. I hope our efforts to improve Humanists of Utah will help us to be part of the humanist voice which is very much needed.

This year is the last year of my presidency of the Humanists of Utah. I’ve been the president for a lot of years, and it’s time for a change. Its been an honor to be president and I plan to stay on as a regular board member. But I want to be free of “running things” so to speak. Plus, becoming a regular member will allow me to do what I would like to do, and that is to concentrate on the planning of our special events like Darwin Day, our BBC, possible bus excursions and so on. One last thing, the American Humanist Association is holding its Annual Conference in May this year at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Board Member Wayne Wilson and myself will be attending and it would be great if some of you attended also. This will be my fourth conference, once in Amhurst, New York, once in Portland, Oregon and once in Las Angeles, California. They were all excellent with interesting speakers and sessions and a lot of likeminded people to meet. Plus being as close as Las Vegas eliminates the high cost of flying back east or elsewhere. So please give it some thought.

That’s about it for now. Hope to see you at our Darwin Day celebration.

April/May 2018

I hope you are enjoying the spring weather as much as I am. It is my favorite time of the year as I think I have mentioned every spring that I have been writing these messages. All my life I have enjoyed growing things to eat. And nothing is fresher than what is growing right outside your back door.

Speaking of back doors, some of you may know I am moving into my deceased mother’s house. It is a bit strange, as this is where I grew up. But my mother didn’t grow much food, so I’m having to eek out some spots among the bushes. But I love putting seeds in the ground early. Planting things like carrots, peas, lettuce, spinach, onions, dill, etc. I’m also going to grow some herbs in quantities to be able to give some away to friends and neighbors. There is already lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme and oregano and I plan to plant more. But enough of my gardening zeal.

By now I hope you know that we are going to a bimonthly schedule and to also move the venue around to a variety of places on different times and days of the week. With that in mind, I hope you will give some thought to places you think would be a good place as a venue for a meeting or event. This February’s Darwin Day Celebration at the Utah Division of Natural Resources facility was an excellent venue. And if they are willing, I think we should have Darwin Day there often. I would also ask you to think about what you want us to schedule. With only six dates to plan for, do we want more socials, more speakers, an advocacy project? The Board of Directors would love to hear from you.

Speaking of Darwin Day, it was a great success this year with the work of Craig Wilkinson, MD, Utah Friends of Paleontology, Atheists of Utah, and all the other participating groups making it happen. There were exhibits to check out, a tour given by UFoP members. There was an excellent presentation with birthday cake after.

It is never too soon to start planning next year’s event, so I want to suggest that we think about the theme and subject. Though we have had Climate Change as the subject recently, the threat it presents seems even more pressing with Trump as President. Unfortunately, with this man in the Oval Office, much that has been accomplished environmentally in the past is being attacked and undone. It will make a good theme again as well as an opportunity to advocate for the environment.

With that said I think I’m going to close and go do the environment a little good by getting some seeds planted.