Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Smashed Violins and Internet Sensations

how my smashed violin might have looked on the floor of the parking garage; I didn't see it, so at least I don't have to live through flashbacks


I played as a member of  a string quartet  in an Ash Wednesday service earlier this evening. I did not have the time to spare on such a diversion, but my arm was figuratively twisted by a professor  whose wife was fretting about the original first violinist having bailed. I don't really see how Ash Wednesday equates all that well with a string quartet, as it's usually a decidedly low-key observance, but what the hell. The  congregation in question apparently had plenty of money to toss around, if what they paid me was any indication of their wealth. If what they paid the second violinist, who seemed to consider key signatures as mere suggestions, was anything more valuable than Monopoly money (hell -- I would've considered Monopoly currency too pricy a commodity to part with in exchange for her performance), they were ripped off in a most egregious manner.

Semi-regular readers may recall a previous conflict with my mother, who made short work of my previous violin by borrowing it, then almost immediately dispensing of it by backing over it with my dad's Porsche. It seems that she has redeemed herself to some degree. She finally came up with the rough equivalent of the violin she slaughtered. She says she intended to do so all along. I don't know whether or not to believe her, though I don't really care. The new instrument will get only limited play time, as it's a shell of the one my Uncle Jerry bought for me. 

The impetus for my mom  actually breaking down and forking over the bucks for the new violin was that she learned that I took my $18,000 violin to a beach bonfire in northern California when I was there with Claire's family and some friends a couple of months ago. I'm not sure what my mom's issue was. Hasn't she seen any of those Piano Guys' YouTube videos? They lug that expensive Yamaha grand (probably not as expensive as any one of my mom's four grand pianos, but still expensive nonetheless) all over Christendom and beyond. Still, if I'd know that taking the violin into dangerous territory or uncharted waters would result in a new violin coming into my possession, I would have carted the expensive violin off to a combat zone or perhaps to Antarctica a long time ago.

In any event, I now have no need to take my nice violin to the beach, to the morgue, to the forest, to the desert, or on my ascent of Denali should I attempt the behemoth. I own a two-thousand-dollar fiddle to cart with me on little side trips. In theory, it's not a bad idea. 

All I need now to complete my own personal string quartet is a viola. Wouldn't it be really cute if (once I obtained a viola) I filmed myself playing all four parts of a string quartet? I could become the next Internet string musician sensation, right after Lindsay Stirling or whatever her name is. Perhaps I could even gyrate all over the screen as she does to distract viewers from noticing that I'm not exactly exuding talent from every pore. It's just a thought, though,  and it will die in the thought process, as I have no intention whatsoever of attempting to become an Internet sensation in any form.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Political Rantings



I'm contemplating switching my voter registration to Republican for the presidential primary. If it looks as though my pal Marco Rubio is still in the race by the time the California primary rolls around, I will wish to support him. If he's for all intents and purposes out of the race, I'll participate in the democratic primary.

I was pleasantly surprised that Rubio did as well as he did in Iowa. It will be interesting to see what happens in New Hampshire, where a greater percentage of the population may actually be sane. Regarding Trump, and Cruz, I'm hard-pressed to decide which one is the lesser of the two evils.

My brother thinks I like Rubio because he's better-looking than the other candidates. I won't argue that he's the best-looking of the presidential candidates, though that's not why I support him. I don't disagree with the majority of Trump's views on the major issues, as he's a relatively moderate candidate. I do think, though, that he's so inflammatory and so lacking in decorum -- the apparent absence of any sort of internal filter regulating the words that come out of his mouth is particularly appalling -- that it would be unwise for our populace to elect him. I also think Trump is a sexist pig.

I  have only one vote, which I will cast it whether it makes any difference or not.  It would be nice if the U.S. would drop the whole electoral college thing for presidential elections. It's obsolete in modern times.

Is there currently in circulation a photo of Ted Cruz that doesn't make him look like a comic book character?


Monday, February 1, 2016

Catholics, Mormons, Fundies, and Everything In-Between





                         


Religion is my particular concern at the moment, though not necessarily in the sense that one might expect. My personal religious beliefs are arguably a bit in limbo at this time, but I'm happy with my present theological standpoint of still having at least some faith in a few of the most basic principles of Christianity, yet simultaneously doubting that there is only one path to God. In any event, my state of faith is not a great concern to me at this time.

What does perplex me is the concern others marginally in my life have of late been expressing concerning the fate of my immortal soul. Several acquaintances -- mostly relatives, but some unrelated acquaintances as well -- have, in the past month or so, made very pointed comments to me about this precise matter. The Catholics think I should be a better Catholic.  The Mormons think I should no longer say anything that remotely hints at a disbelief in any of the many teachings (some of which are a bit hard to swallow, to put it mildly) of the LDS church. A couole of evangelical Christians are have asked me point-blank whether or not I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

My relationship with Catholicism has long been on the tenuous side. Just about the time I admitted to myself that Santa Claus was a metaphor, I came to the same conclusion regarding the Host and the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine,  Lest any of the anti-Santa fanatics who think that allowing a child to believe in a literal Santa causes him or her to later reject religious teachings on the grounds that he or she was lied to about Santa Claus, so what was told to him or her about religion was equally fictitious, use my words as fodder to support their own misguided views, I had my doubts about the Eucharist wafer being one and the same with the body of Christ considerably before I forced myself to come to terms with the unlikelihood of a fat man in a red suit delivering presents all over the world in a single evening.

I think Jesus existed. I know there's no positive proof, but I'm comfortable with the belief that he was. I'm not quite sure exactly how He came into existence, but that doesn't matter a great deal to me. The words in the Bible directly attributed to Him are words by which I feel it is reasonable to try to live my life. I'm a little more dubious about the words of some of the others, including the Apostle Paul.  I prefer to stick to the words of Jesus himself, though I know we cannot come close to authenticating that they were actually His words. Still, they seem wise enough that I'm OK with accepting those words and with trying [sometimes poorly] to follow them. 

Over Christmas break, two of my more devout Catholic aunts questioned me (they actually ambushed and ganged up on me; it was seriously like a planned attack) about my feelings concerning abortion.  I answered that I'm not in favor of it except in cases of rape, maternal health, or insanely young maternal age, but that I'm not comfortable denying anyone else the right to the procedure because of my personal beliefs. I don't know why my aunts would care so much about one relatively unimportant person's stance on abortion. I'm certainly not planning to open up an abortion clinic once I'm licensed to practice medicine.

Where Mormonism is concerned, it's a little less clear exactly what those who talked about it to me expect me to do. I do know they would prefer that I not speak or write in jest about the LDS Church. Whether this is out of fear for my immortal soul or simply because they don't like anything said about their church that is not 100% favorable is unknown to me. In truth, there's probably a bit of both. The conundrum in this regard is that I'm in a stress-laden environment, which will likely grow a whole lot more stressful before it becomes less so. I need moments of levity to lighten my mood and my load. I find the Mormon Church funnier than hell. Why should I not laugh at the things I find funny when the opportunity presents itself? I wouldn't be so insensitive as to make light of what the LDS Church and its members hold sacred directly to a person who practices that faith. The Mormons in my life only read it or hear about it from others. That, in my opinion, is their problem.

Beyond that, I am the very least of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' problems. Why should anyone care what silly little Alexis has to say about them? I don't go to LDS.org to post obnoxious comments. I don't show up on Mormon-friendly boards to debate with them. I rarely even go to organized exMormon sites to poke fun at the Mormons. I keep a low profile where my grandfather is concerned; his buddies do not know anything about his errant granddaughter unless he tells them himself. I occasionally share thoughts [which I distinctly frame as my own opinions] or stories [which are true, albeit with the caveat that anything one remembers from very early childhood may be ever so slightly degraded by the constraints of the human memory] in my own spaces or in the spaces of other like-minded individuals. I don't say or write any of these things with the intent of hurting the Mormons in my life. At the same time, if these people practically stalk my Internet activity, they may come across things that are hurtful to them. I'm sorry that people may have been have been hurt by something I said or wrote [not to them], but I'm not sorry I said or wrote it.

With respect to the individuals who have expressed concern for my salvation as far as whether or not I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior . . . I actually have done so. When I was twelve, I'd heard just enough of such talk that I was troubled by the idea of Catholics being excluded from heaven over a technicality. I formally accepted Jesus. Some would say I was merely hedging my bets with my actions, and perhaps I was, but the acceptance was sincere, and I haven't rescinded it. I have no reason to believe Jesus has, either. I'm covered on this base.

On the other hand, if this were the most serious problem in my life, I lead a fairy tale existence. Alas, such is not the case, though from what I hear and read, others around me are dealing with matters of far more gravity than that with which I presently contend. I should probably stop complaining.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Church of the White Blood Cell

I hesitate to be contrary, but I think i just used this for free. It will probably be unceremoniously yanked in the near future, at which time I'll scour Google Images for another white blood cell icon.



This morning I was asked to perform as a last-minute fill-in for a violinist at at third-year medical school student's wedding. I finished the job just a short time ago.The  violinist originally contracted by the bridal couple  was the bride's cousin, and his flight from somewhere on the east coast was grounded due to inclement weather. If anyone had asked my opinion -- which no one did --  I would have told them to forget about the violin parts, and I would have asked me to fill in for the keyboard artist, whose skills could most charitably be described as atrocious at best

I'm not quite sure under what rock the hired organist/pianist was found, but it was clearly a stone that would have been best left unturned. My initial assumption was that she was most likely a relative of either the bride or groom, as no one so unskilled would have possessed the utter gall to ask for compensation to make a mockery of someone's wedding. I was wrong. She was paid what she said is her usual fee of two-hundred-fifty dollars for the privilege of butchering every song she attempted. (The fee would have been modest had she been able to scratch and claw her way at least to an absolute minimum level of proficiency.) What I don't understand is why someone didn't realize after hearing the woman mangle one song after another at the rehearsal (which she did, I was told by the best man) that she wasn't quite up to snuff. Whoever knew of my violin-playing ability and gave my name to the bride would also have known that I play piano and organ.  The songs were less painful to hear because I played along on the violin, but they would have been better still had I just played the piano and organ myself. I did my personal best to cover up the other musician's incompetence, but the world's greatest violinist (which I am not) is powerless to camouflage all the wrong notes of a pianist or organist who is determined to be heard at all costs.

From the perspective of the bride and groom as I see it, the sole consolation is that there doesn't appear to be much if any correlation whatsoever between the quality of music at a wedding and the longevity and satisfaction of the marriage. The late Vladimir Horowitz might emerge from the grave to perform for a wedding, and the groom could still very well turn out to be a  controlling, wife-beating, child-molesting thief of women's undergarments who has wives and children in seven states and three Canadian provinces. 

The professor to whom I refer as Larry Bakman [because of his physical and auditory resemblance to the faux TV judge] was in attendance and spoke to me after the wedding. After complimenting me for not sucking as much as the organist did, and amidst a thinly veiled solicitation for music lessons for his progeny, he asked me about my church -- not the Roman Catholic Church, or even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but the church I told him I plan to found as soon as its tax-exempt status has been granted. Initially I was caught off-guard and didn't know quite what the hell he was talking about, but I recovered quickly enough. The man invited himself to my church's Sunday morning service tomorrow. I told him that at my congregation's next service will consist of watching YouTube videos because I plan to be both too busy and too exhausted to throw together anything more substantial this week, and that, furthermore, my followers do nothing so bourgeois as to attend Sunday morning services. If he truly desires to see the inner workings of my religious society, Professor Larry Bakman will need to drag himself there on a Wednesday afternoon as all the rest of us do.

Of course we do not actually meet for religious purposes on Wednesday afternoons or at any other time, because the religion exists only in conversations with Professor Larry Bakman. We will, however, make a single exception and meet on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 3, for the sole purpose of satiating Professor Larry Bakman's curiosity. I'll make it a point to pass a collection plate. I'm undecided as to what form of deity we will pretend to worship. The flat Earth and the Flying Spaghetti Monster have already been taken, so I'll have to come up with something vaguely original.  People from at least one of my study groups will show up. If Larry Bakman fails to appear, we'll study. For that matter, we may just study even if he does show. Maybe we worship the God of Medicine. Perhaps we even worship the human immune system. 

In any event, I'll pick up a carton of extremely tasty flank steak burritos from a taco truck that sells them midway between the medical school and my condo. Professor Larry Bakman will not be offered a burrito because the burritos will be a part of our Eucharistic rite, and we do not have an open table; only believers of whatever it is I decide that we believe will be allowed to commune with us. I happen to know that Professor Larry Bakman would offer up his own child in a ritualistic sacrifice in exchange for one of the flank steak burritos from the taco truck to which I allude if such a burrito were not otherwise made available to him.

Even if Professor Larry Bakman professes to believe, he will not have professed his belief prior to the deadline for being granted inclusion into our Eucharistic ritual. He can drool until he dehydrates himself, but he will not be given one of the coveted burritos. And I'll buy so many of the damned things that the taco truck will be out of flank steak by then if he tries to pick one up on his way back to the campus.

In the past thirty seconds I have inadvertently stumbled  upon a deistic focus for my religious society. We shall worship the white blood cell. Such allows for and even lends itself to the eventual schisms so inevitable among religious groups. My followers can ultimately regroup themselves depending upon whether they deem the true nature of the Supreme Being  to be more closely aligned with neutrophils, esinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, or monocytes. The possibilities for further fracturing among my band of religious zealots are limited only by the bounds of the knowledge of biology and by the human imagination. The possibilities for schisms, divisions, wars, rumors of wars, and hosts of other conflict far exceed anything of which any Abrahamic religion ever conceived. Profound, isn't it?



















Monday, January 18, 2016

ExMormon Literature: A Disappointing Purchase





I've read numerous accounts of LDs mission experiences including [but not limited to] William Shunn's The Accidental Terrorist, Scott Miller's The Book of a Mormon, David Wagner's No Ordinary Mission, and Craig Harline's Way Below the Angels, in addition to  first-person accounts of varying lengths penned by my own cousins. Before clicking the "Buy Now" button on my most recent purchase of When I Was a Fucking Mormon Missionary  by Bailey Jones, I skimmed a couple of short reviews, of which at least half were uncomplimentary. I naively dismissed the negativity of the customer reviews as being the likely product of members of the LDS church eager to discredit anyone who told the real story of what it was like to be a young adult serving a mission for their church.

While the reviews of which I write may very well have been motivated by anti-anti-Mormon bias, after having read the book, I would echo some of the sentiments expressed therein. A good portion of the negative comments focused on the author's use of profanity.  Some reviewers took exception to the author's the use if the f-word in the book's title. I don't agree with that particular criticism: the use of  fucking in the title served as fair warning that the auther would not be frugal with respect to expletives. A buyer has the right to be warned about liberal use of profanity.

As for me, I'm far from shocked by the use of expletives. I use them myself on occasion [though far more often in written than in oral form; the words just don't flow from my mouth as freely and as easily as I would like them to, and I end up sounding like a kid practicing forbidden vocabulary while parents and teachers are not within earshot].  An occasional and well-timed application of an unexpected curse word can have a nice effect. Randomly distributing profanity throughout an otherwise not-terribly-compelling piece of writing, however, does not magically rescue the work from literary mediocrity or worse. Sprinkling f-bombs and consistently choosing cruder terms over milder ones eventually loses its charm, shock value, or anything else it might have had to offer. One would normally try to eschew the overuse of any given content word in writing. For example, a semi-skilled writer wouldn't repeatedly rely upon the the use of adjective incredible, or upon its adverbial counterpart incredibly. The writer would eventually, one would hope, scour his or her memory bank for a suitable synonym, or at least consult a thesaurus. Why would fucking be an exception to this general rule? What is so overwhelmingly powerful about the word that would merit its inclusion on virtually every page of a manuscript?*

The editing in this book was substandard. I read from the author's blog that in an earlier book, the absence of editing was deliberate. The author did not want any change of the overall essence or tone of the book  to happen as a result of the editing process. I looked for a similar note in the preface or preamble to the current book, though I did not find one. Perhaps it was there and I simply did not read carefully enough to find it. In any event, I would suspect that the author desired "rawness" for this book as well. A spell-check may have been run, as the typographical errors I noticed were ones in which actual words were substituted for similar words that would have made more sense. An example would be the use of the term "sleuth of rules" when can only guess that "slew of rules" was the intended meaning. In any event, I consider the author's choice not to edit the book to have been unfortunate. Someone -- even the author herself -- could have read the manuscript carefully and might have caught the actual errors resulting in confusion over semantics without removing any of the all-important expletives.

I googled the author, which provided me with a link to her blog, on which I clicked because I'm nosy. I also read a transcription of an interview she gave.
The author, who writes under an assumed name, claims to have an bachelor's degree in English from Brigham Young University. Her assertion may very well be true, though if such is indeed the case, I'm thoroughly unimpressed by the standards of BYU's English department. Her writing in her blog is far more technically accurate than is the writing in her book, which lends some credence to her claim that the lack of editing in at least one of her books was deliberate. 

Still, the author's blog shared a few insights not casting the author in the most positive of lights. In one case, she discussed the publication of a subsequent book. She described it as a collection of short stories. A few sentences later, she referred to that same book of short stories as a "novel."  I would expect that an English major would grasp the distinction between a novel and a collection of short stories.  In another post, she made reference to  a "ratio of people living in ward boundaries versus those who actually attend church" as "50 per cent." I was a biochemistry and music performance major [as an undergraduate], so I'm not necessarily the best source for precise definitions of mathematical and statistical terms,  but I'm pretty sure that a ratio is the relationship between two values with respect to the number of times the first contains the second. I don't think a percentage is a ratio. Perhaps it's nit-picking, but both examples I cited demonstrate that the author is arguably lacking with regard to the level of general knowledge one would expect a holder of a "bachelor of arts" degree to have attained. Vocabulary should be an area of strength for an English major, and the vocabulary of an English major should extend beyond literary terms to the basics even of mathematical terms. I haven't even scratched the surface in terms of the many ways in which the author's lack of mastery of the conventions of standard written English is not on par with what one would expect of a university English department graduate.

All of that having been said, the book's single greatest detraction, in my opinion, was its lack of absorbing anecdotes. The author told readers that her companion in the Mission Training center "acted manipulative and bitchy." She told readers that her mission president was an "asswipe." Would her story not have been more compelling had she shown us just how it was that her companion behaved in such bitchy and manipulative ways and what it was her mission president did to convince her that he was such an asswipe? These are only two examples of the many places in her book in which the author might have painted a more cogent picture for her readers. I suspect that the story of the author's mission probably is a captivating one, but her retelling of it was anything but captivating.

I could list even more ways in which  the book disappointed me, but I shall cease. As it is, I'm risking a major blast. The author sometimes googles her pen name or book's title. Those who have criticized her works are frequently called "morons" or "idiots" in retaliatory rants. I may very well be the next idiot or moron blasted in her blog, or perhaps even in the comments section here. I wish my aunt could be given a refund on the purchase price of the book, but I doubt that will happen.

P.S. I live in a house that is very much made of glass in terms of my own typing skills. My blogs frequently contain typographical errors. My written work for school, however, does not, nor would any manuscript I sold on Amazon or elsewhere.


* An obvious exception might be a sex manual or similar how-to book.




Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hot chocolate, Bundys, and Palins


I'll probably never again look at hot chocolate in quite the same way.


My friend gave me her personal recipe for homemade hot chocolate. This friend has cooking skills that are even less impressive than mine are. Her idea of cooking from scratch is buying a pizza from Papa Murphy's or a similar place that sells pre-assembled pizzas that you take home to bake.  I should have been skeptical of her hot chocolate recipe. She says that you take one packet of Swiss Mix hot chocolate and mix in the hot water. Then you stir in one level teaspoon of Pillsbury ready-to-spread vanilla frosting until the frosting melts. Then you sprinkle  marshmallows on the top and drink it. Then, if you're Alexis, you throw up after having just one sip of the vile concoction. Don't try it unless you're bulimic and welcome the opportunity to toss your latest meal.

Bristol Palin had another baby. Doesn't it make you feel that all is now right with the world around you when you hear that the queen spokesperson of abstinence has her second kid out of wedlock? 

The Bundys and their associates and partners in crime are still occupying the federal wildlife reserve in Oregon. Another group of militants showed up on the premises with the reported intent of "providing security" for both sides of the conflict. Wouldn't  you feel intensely secure in the prospect of having a large number of armed half-wits circulating around you? With security personnel such as those, who needs insecurity?

The members of Bundy's tribe are now driving the federally-owned trucks and heavy equipment around the premises of the refuge, claiming the vehicles now belong to the citizens of the area. If one of the students who attends an impoverished high school a few stones' throws from from my medical school were to get into a federally-owned vehicle and turn the key in the ignition, much less to drive the conveyance, he or she would almost certainly be arrested. I certainly hope that all of this is noted, and that when the scofflaws are eventually rounded up, appropriate charges are levied. 

While I enjoy peace as much as does the next person, it seems, in retrospect, as though our federal law enforcement agencies may have erred in not addressing the Bundy clan's lawlessness more aggressively in the previous encounter.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reproductivity, Family Trees, and Stupidity

My family tree is far more convoluted than is this piteous stock illustration.


My newest cousin has a name, Kensington Malia, though the name won't be considered "official" until the child is blessed in the Church. If her father screws it up in the blessing ceremony, the name will have to be changed on the birth certificate. Don't scoff, as it's happened before. Kensington Malia. I'll leave readers guessing as to whether "Kensington" is one of the few real cousin names I've posted, or if, as in a case of most of the cousins I've listed, it's a para-wording of the actual name.

It seems that I wrote prematurely, or at least incorrectly, when I suggested that Kensington was likely to be my final first cousin. Another aunt is pregnant again. I won't even go to the pretense of suggesting that this cousin-to-be is the final installment in this generation of the family. God only knows how many more babies my rabbit-like aunts will squeeze out, and I'm not sure even God knows. He (or She) is probably throwing  His (or Her) hands in the air in disbelief even as I type these words.

I tallied my cousins just because I needed something to occupy my mind for a moment while a professor was lecturing abut something that was making me queasy. On my mom's side I have a total of nineteen cousins. On my dad's side, I currently have sixty-five cousins. (One cousin, William, was born after I compiled the list of cousins on my dad's side.) If nature proceeds as planned, although I highly doubt this blessed event was ever planned, the grand total will expand to sixty-six. (Eighty-five will be the collective total of first first cousins for me.) Only time will tell in regard to the finality of this number. For the record, the next generation is moving along in oyster-like fashion. (Oysters are among the most prolific of breeders of complex organisms, even more so than rabbits.)

Last night my brother was pondering aloud concerning the reasons for my fathers' siblings fecundity. The possible reasons may vary from one couple to the next. My father is one of ten surviving offspring, so he and his siblings have a head start in terms of filling up an entire republican caucus with just their own seed. Four of the ten had only two surviving children each, but the remaining six more than made up for their siblings' reproductive slacking. The reasons I have so many cousins on my dad's side, according to my brother -- and for once he's not totally out in right field and actually has a bit of a grasp of the reality of the circumstances -- are varied. 

Some of my aunts and uncles have large families because they feel that it's what God and the Church expect of them. Birth control has never been officially banned for Mormons, although some members of the LDS faith have interpreted various words of caution from church leaders against limiting family size as a de facto prohibition of artificial methods of birth control. Even among those who don't consider birth control to be against the Church's teachings, the prevailing belief is that God wants LDS couples to have as many children as they can support without risking the health of the mother. (Risking the health of the mother is a subjectively-defined term. To the most ignorant LDS adherents, if conception alone doesn't risk the mother's life, it's considered a safe undertking.) Among some members of the faith and certainly in some branches of my family, children are seen as empirical data supporting evidence of their parents' righteousness. 

It seems worth noting that the reigning LDS Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Thomas S. Monson, and his late wife Frances, had only three children. My best guess without actually being privy to any inside information would be that the late Mrs. Monson probably delivered her children via Caesarean section in the days of lengthy vertical incisions, when three was usually the highest number of such deliveries recommended most doctors.

Others of my aunts and uncles may like sex. Some may be too inept to use birth control effectively. In other cases, they may be too lazy to use birth control effectively. Regardless of the underlying cause for the failure to implement birth control, the effect is the same: too many offspring.

Matthew threw this last possible reason for having a large number of children for entirely theoretical or academic purposes. Some people have many children because they genuinely enjoy children. There's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that it applies in the instances of my father's siblings who have large numbers of children. The only members of my father's family (other than his mother) who actually like children are the ones who had only two children. It's possible that this phenomenon -- the actual liking of children by those who have only two children -- may actually be an effect rather than a cause. Such certainly makes sense, as it's easier to enjoy children if one doesn't have to clear a path or risk stepping on half a dozen of them every time one needs to use the bathroom.

Matthew shared something in class today about the birth of our sixty-fifth cousin on my dad's side. This led to an extensive discussion (irritating me somewhat, because I'm paying for my education, and I don't need to waste lecture time for which I've paid by talking about how many cousins I have). No one in the cohort has as many cousins as Matthew and I do. I know sixty-five is not a world, national, or even local record. With high birth rate being prevalent among Mormons,  there would likely be numerous LDS families who would edge past our family in terms of sheer numbers. For one thing, there were four reproductive slouches in my dad's family of ten children. Sometimes the original families have zero slouches. 

Most of my cousins on my dad's side have even more cousins than I do. Most of them are LDS on both sides, and while the numbers of cousins on the other sides of their families don't necessarily reach the sixties, they do quite possibly reach the forties. They have fewer cousins on my side than I do, because some of those large nuclear families I count as cousins are siblings to them. Still, their overall numbers of cousins may be close to or even in excess of one hundred.

Then again, my number of cousins is probably close to the 99th percentile ranking. If you look at a family such as the Duggars, it wouldn't take very many families of nineteen to overtake my dad's family. I don't think either Jim Bob's or Michelle's siblings have contributed enough collective spawn to their litters of cousins to overtake us. Most likely Jim Bob's children will reproduce enough offspring to best my generation of cousins in the population war, as will their friends the Bates family and some of the other Quiverfull Movement fundies.

Several times my large number of cousins has come up in discussions. Usually people just scratch their heads at the insanity of it. Once in awhile someone will insist in response that they have at least as many cousins as I do. (In some of these cases, people are counting step-siblings and live-in pseudo-siblings from several different relationships. It's not the same thing. If someone was neither born nor legally adopted into a family, they don't count in the total of cousins. Furthermore, it's not a contest any intelligent person would desire to win. Sometimes less is more.) In some cases the ones professing to have more first cousins than I are people I actually know, and I know their estimated numbers to be wildly inaccurate. I could ask  them to actually count their cousins, but I let it go. If they really want to believe that their extended family is even more stupid than mine is, they are free to bask in their mistaken ignorance with my blessing.