Transit Trash

One of the things I miss most about the United States of America is my car, a 1989 blue Toyota Camry. In my family, this is known as the blue camry to distinguish it from the white camry (1988, though now OOC) and the new camry (1998, which in to be parallel should be called the “champagne camry” but that’s just terrible). Living here without my own personal horseless carriage hasn’t been too problematic. I lucked out and landed a basement apartment right near a train stop. The train takes me to school, church and to the Superstore, so my needs are met. It is annoying, though, that I can’t just get and go wherever I want. I have to plan things, figure out bus schedules, rush to catch transfers and generally do way more logistical planning than I have ever found possible.

Not having a car does have its advantages, though. Say you want to get out of a socially awkward appointment: “I’d love to, but I don’t have a car.” Say the missionaries need someone to go on splits: “I’d love to, but I don’t have a car.” Or say the committee you’re on needs someone to run silly errands: “I’d love to, but I don’t have a car.” Never mind the fact that I’d actually not love to. Also, not having a car has definitely curtailed my spending, which is probably why I can manage to cover my rent and all other expenses with my ten-hour-a-week job.

Another advantage of not having a car is funny stories from riding the train. The following are the highlights of my experience riding the friendly rails of Edmonton Transit.

Yeah, but only if you’re gonna defraud them

On the train, coming home from work one evening, I overheard two men, clearly construction workers, catching up on their recent lives.

CW #1: So I got that job at the Provincial Archives.

CW# 2: Oh yeah? I saw that posting, but then noticed there was a background check. How’d you pass that?

CW #1: I know, it was serious stuff. But, they only cared if it was fraud or something. Violent stuff didn’t matter.

So, if there’s a possibility you might be using the Archives for nefarious purposes, they won’t hire you. If you’re just going to beat your coworker with a shovel, welcome aboard!


Thursday at ten o’clock in the morning. Surely it takes some skill to be drunk so early in the morning doesn’t it? And it’s always two men, usually with the effects of either some serious falls or a bar fight or two. Always dressed shabbily. I often think of them as the “anti-missionaries.” They go about in pairs and start uncomfortable conversations with strangers on public transit just like regular missionaries. However, their appearance and attitudes are nearly the exact opposite of 19-21 year-old Mormon boys freshly . Mostly, I just try to avoid both when I see them.

Polyglot Edmonton

One evening on the train, I was struck by the fact that there were no fewer than five conversations going on around me, none of which were in English. There were a couple of young women speaking French, a Latino couple going on and on in Spanish, an animated discussion in what sounded like Arabic across the aisle, two middle-age African women speaking something I couldn’t understand and a group of Chinese students prattling along. I’d be a fan of this diversity if all the groups didn’t think that, since nobody understands them, they could all yell their conversations.

Dog Bites dog, women fight

Two middle-aged women get on and sit down on the same bench as me, a clear flaunting of the unwritten rule to spread yourself as far apart as possible (there were several empty benches right near where I was). They then commence to have an argument. Apparently one woman’s dog bit the other’s. They started out being very restrained, but it got animated. One started going on about how it’s always the other’s needs that are being met. I tried to ascertain the relationship between these two women: sisters? coworkers? neighbours? lovers? The dialogue and arguments had the ring of lovers but then one of them mentioned her husband and the other mentioned her kids. They just went on and on, continually breaking my understanding until they finally fell into a silence about as easy as a Sunday NY Times Crossword. Fortunately for me, they erupted once again, this time gesticulating wildly just as my stop pulled up and I had to slither between them to get off.

Problematic Perquisite of the Priesthood

Today, in Elder's Quorum, the lesson was on the Priesthood. Or rather, the lesson would have been on the Priesthood had we time. After Sunday School had gone over, people had taken 15 minutes to socialize, and all the announcements were said, we had about twenty minutes to feast on the good word. This is typical for this ward and it really pisses me off. Not so much because I love the lessons, but because it's frustrating the reason for the meetings. We meet together oft to build up the Saints, yes. But socializing for ten to fifteen minutes between each meeting isn't' necessary, surely. What could possibly have happened during Sunday School that requires that much discussion?

At any rate, the lesson was on the Priesthood. We only as far as the conversion story of W. Woodruff. The story goes that Zera Pulsipher was working one day and received direction from God to head north for He had "some business" for him there. So, Elder Pulsipher gets his neighbour and they head out. The first house they stop at happens to be a relation of Wilford Woodruff's. Elder Pulsipher later baptizes Bro. Woodruff.

So, here's the issue: the guy teaching the lesson asks did Zera Pulsipher need the Priesthood to get that revelation. I feel no. Others in the quorum said yes, and starting saying how the Priesthood is the power to teach and so on. Someone took my side by giving the example of sister missionaries. If messengers needed the Priesthood, there wouldn't be any of them. The teacher then said Elder Pulsipher needed the Priesthood else he couldn't baptize. True.

Now, I'm not Zera, but the way it's described it sounds to me that he hadn't a clue why God called him north. God just had "some business" for him there. He didn't know he was going to baptize or even necessarily preach the Gospel. Why would he need the Priesthood to do God's errand? I can think of several examples of God inspiring non-Priesthood holders to do his will. Solomon in building the temple, Paul in being struck down on the way to Damascus, and Abish to run and get all the people to come and see the power of God. They didn't need the Priesthood to receive this revelation, why would Z. Pulsipher?

I was a bit offended by the notion that God only gives revelation of this sort to Priesthood holders. I understand the teleological conclusion behind sending Priesthood to W. Woodruff, but surely the guy would have sought them out had those not holding the office of priest found him. The discussion just lacked any notion of a God who works in mysterious ways. I wonder how President Woodruff would have felt about us denying the message of his favourite hymn.

Too much time at a reference desk

I got an email from my sister today in which she mentioned starting out yoga. She knew that I have done it for a while and was wondering how I learned (I use a collection of books). In my response, I not only provided significant bibiliographic information about the books that would make subsequent finding easy, I added the links to Amazon for her as well. If this is indicative of anything, it's that I already think way too much in librarian mode.

This same sister, when asking us sibs in a general email if we had heard a certain cd and wanting to know why it was explicit received from me a general description of why cds got the explicit labels (sources cited, of course) and a useful redaction of the Amazon user review's that explained what, in particular, caused this cd to warrant the black box.

Should a question of any sort come up while chatting with friends in a computer lab (in person or virtually), I'll take the time to seek out the requisite information. Like mentioning that Elvis own a Book of Mormon. Clearly my friend needed a source for that. Or debating whether Philadelphia or Boston has colder winters, the gut feelings are simply insufficient. Quick, to informationplease!

I wonder if other people find this sort of insistence on more and more information charming or just irritating. I'm going to say charming.

I ♥ Brigham

Well, maybe not, but I do ♥ some of the things he said. Last night, I came across a gem about Jesus being conceived by the HG (something we don't or maybe didn't believe, it's never been that clear to me). Brother Brigham said, if this were the case, it'd be a dangerous idea to give women the gift of the HG, since all of them would suddenly be with child and no one to blame for it except the elders of the Church.

Brilliant! even if it doesn't follow that just because the HG could impregnate that he must always do so. What sort of mind does it take to come up with something like this?

The art of dottage

My favourite class this semester is Cataloguing, which is either a very sad statement on my other courses or a very odd statement on my personality. In truth, it's a combination of both. Two weeks ago, we dealt with Dewey. I like Dewey. It makes sense. You can unravel the pieces. You can have numbers with fifteen digits beyond the decimal. Ok, that last part is one of the few negative aspects of Dewey.

This week, we went over Library of Congress Classification. I'm less thrilled by it, mostly because it's not a simple matter of memorizing facets. You actually have to use the tools. Where's the fun in that?

LCC did, however, spark a great discussion. The prof had given some examples in his slides. In one, a dot before a topical Cutter was missing (this is probably meaningless to non-librarians, suffice it to say there appeared to be an atypical omission of a period). Being the nudge that I am, I asked him about this. I really like this prof, but communication is sometimes sketchy, as English isn't his first language. So a debate ensued amongst the class. We started out a cross purposes because I called the dot a decimal, which is problematic because LCC isn't a decimal classification system. When we got that sorted out, we learned that the dot is aesthetic and not necessary, except when it is. The rules for this were decidedly vague. Basically, we learned to dot if told to and not to dot if told to. So much for "teaching us correct principles".

All this reminded me of another time I asked a question that sparked this much controversy. We were studying Boolean logic. We covered the standard AND, OR, NOT. I wanted to know if there were an operator that would exclude the overlap, giving us everything outside the vesica piscis. So, if you wanted everything that had pigs and everything that had swine but not things that had swine AND pigs. A discussion followed about such not being possible in a single operator (but possible by combining two NOTs with an AND), sprinkled with a whole a lot of confusion. The prof settled it finally by telling us "It's called Boolean logic." Yeah, but that's disspointing.

In fact, there is such an operator. It's the XOR one. Ha! Now if only I could think of a use for it...

But, do they like us?

I recently watched Mormon America, a film based on the idea of "off the street" takes on Mormonism from non-Mormons all across the well-known USA (NYC, LA, New Orleans, DC, etc.) Essentially two dudes take their car and camera and hie thither and yon to stand around and stop people to ask them what they know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The result is as follows:

There are a few smile-worthy moments, but nothing to write home about. Fortunately, the filmmakers only demand 35 minutes of your time. Even still, I’m not sure it’s worth even that small investment. I mean, do we really need a movie to let us know that “they” think we’re still polygamists? Or that they think we’re wholly contained in Utah (a fact which the presenters harp on). What was lacking were the strong anti-Mormons (no Baptists telling Darryn he’s off to hell) or the entirely crazy perceptions. I guess the Church really is coming out of obscurity if horns, hypnotizing missionaries and hordes of gold have fallen by the wayside. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. The more interesting conceit, at least to me, would be to carry out the same project along the Wasatch Front or in Southern Idaho to see what the non-Mormons who live among us believe. But, unless I become a semi-star of Mollywood, I doubt that such a project will get off the ground.

A couple informants confused Mormons with the Amish. This poses the less interesting possibility of a life lacking cellphones but rife with freshly churned butter, but also opens Mormons up to Rumspringe, the Amish period of living like the English right before baptism, as one interviewee suggests. I think I’ll stick with the morals if it means I can have buttons, electric ranges and the Internet.

What struck me most about the whole idea, as well as its outcome, is the appalling self-centeredness it shows of our people. We feel deeply, at least in official rhetoric, that we have something good to offer the world. As such, we cannot believe that the world knows so little of us. We desperately want to be known. Clearly, we’re approaching name recognition at least, however slowly it may be. But this project is really less of an experiment for humour (and nowhere near a compelling addition to the documentary canon) and more of a narcissistic salute to the Mormon consciousness in the jello belt, where all the earnings will be made. Thanks, guys, but no thanks.