Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nauvoo Mapping Committee

In late August I was invited to participate in a committee tasked with mapping a plan for economic development in Nauvoo. I'm not sure if I was invited because they were seeking diversity, and had not yet filled their quota of eccentric people, or if they just needed seats filled.

A team of three people from Western Illinois University, who do this sort of thing for a living, led the group in brainstorming plans for development ideas. Some good concepts have come out of the process, but as the conversation becomes more granular, concrete ideas are more difficult.

Also, the process seems to be bring out buried hostilities. Whether this is by design, or if it is by error, I don't know. The consulting team asks the group, which has now grown to about 50 people, to identify things we like and don't like about Nauvoo life. It seems to follow the pattern that corporate brainstorming might follow, using SWOT analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses. But identifying weaknesses in a corporate environment is less risky, because people feel less emotional attachment. When you ask a person what they dislike about where they live, an emotional outpouring of all life's disappointments springs up. In a group environment, the intensity is multiplied.

I hope the process will not become bogged down in histrionics and anger. I wish it to succeed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Squirrel Industrial Accident Rates

It is time for the Nauvoo Commuter's update on wildlife preparations.

The raccoons are getting fatter, as they do every autumn. But the most astonishing development seems to be the tragic slaughtering of squirrels by cars.

Automobiles crush squirrels throughout the year, but the numbers have surged recently. Perhaps the squirrels have become hasty. As they haul their winter gatherings throughout the year, they dutifully watch both ways before crossing the streets, as their mothers had taught them to do.

But as the prep time grows short, they panic. Omigosh, the squirrels individually say, I don't have enough for winter. They stop their cautious travel policies. And the roads are covered in squirrel inards, as they have ne'ery an OSHA inspector to guard them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In April, the Nauvoo Quilt Co. was established. The beginnings are small, but we opened our doors last weekend. The goal is to help us connect with our heritage through their folk arts, mainly quilting. Julie has an extensive collection of antique quilts to show, and is selling some parts of her collection. We're selling patterns based on historic quilts, so people can make their own piece of history.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the vicissitudes of tourism

The tourists are trickling into Nauvoo, some to commemorate prohibition's greatest advocate and some to enjoy the oldest winery in Illinois. Whether it be the celebration of the Word of Wisdom (God's Command to Avoid Alcohol etc.), or the celebration of imbibing alcohol, Nauvoo aims to please.

The Nauvo Commuter reckons that May 1 is the official kickoff of the tourist season. But even now, Nauvoo begins to tingle in elation.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Inflation or Deflation

Economists seem to be divided into two camps in predicting the medium-term U.S. situation.

Some predict Japanese-style deflation (Japan still has not recovered from the adverse effects of their stimulus package of the early 1990s, and asset prices are again tumbling.) The others predict Weimar Republic-style inflation. Just check out the Fed's website to see that the printing presses are running overtime. (The line on the graph showing the number of dollars being printed went almost vertical recently.) I've read about both theories from multiple experts and they are both well reasoned.

(A third camp is typified by the Paul Krugmans of the world, who recommend making as many disastrous mistakes as possible, but the Nauvoo Commuter pays them no heed.)

So which way are we headed? We all want to know.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This Week in Nauvoo

This week the U.S. government frantically planned for an economic recovery using means proven to bring fatality. I lived in Japan when their government implemented a stimulus package, and know that country has not recovered, 19 years later, from the ill effects of the package. They were no more successful that FDR, whose plan dragged down GDP until he dragged us into a European/Asian war. But what else is to be done?

We ignored it all. In Nauvoo, we played a giant game of Trivial Pursuit. The Nauvoo Betterment Society sponsored a team trivia competition to raise money for town improvements. So each person paid $10, little more than the cost of a Starbucks trip, to enter. Nauvoo doesn't have a Starbucks shop anyway. The committee raised a bit, which they will hopefully invest before Bernanke's printing presses create hyper-inflation. Perhaps the Betterment Society should instead mimic Tim Geithner: we can borrow money to buy our debts back. But quantitative easing doesn't buy real park benches or street lamps. In Nauvoo we live in the real world, so we need real money. That is better anyway, as we were also able to play a fun game. If only we had written "Dekalb, Illinois" for "where was barbed wire invented and first produced?" Then our team might have won.

One contestant declared that Chicago should be made an autonomous political entity, like the District of Columbia, so the rest of Illinois would be free of their corruption. But how could the new entity survive, without the property taxes of the honest real people of Illinois?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lord Shiva in Galesburg

Driving from Nauvoo to Chicago last Spring, I stopped at a 7-11 in Galesburg, Illinois to purchase petrol and to ask directions. I was surprised to find the cash register operated by Lord Shiva. I was surprised, as I suppose he has very few Hindu followers in rural Illinois. Perhaps it was just an Indian man who looked very much like the Hindu deity. In either case he was very friendly and helpful, which I hope will bring him some good karma. I'm sure Elvis Presley will not be any more obliging if I ever see him at a 7-11.

When we were trying to decide whether to move to Nauvoo, we visited a local sacrament meeting. The bishop approached us, and we explained to him our crossroad. He paused and responded, though he seemed to be speaking to himself, that "well, this is home." This phrase could have come as a prompting from the Holy Ghost, or as a recitation of a Chamber of Commerce slogan. Because he doesn't work in the private sector, and because they are the exact same words I had been thinking, I believe it was the first reason.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Living in the True America

About nine years ago I visited China and saw the Forbidden City, walked the Great Wall, etc. But what impressed me most was the extent to which China had become less Chinese. Hyper-capitalism didn't make it less Chinese, though the streets were clogged with autos rather than bicyclists in Mao suits. Leaving rural roots is what changed the culture.

And so it is with us. Our culture is based on traditions from our agrarian past. That is one reason we love living in the midwest. It is the conservator of traditional American values.

Being American has no reference to ethnicity. It is completely an idea. But again, it is certain that Middle America is the reservoir of positive American values. Middle America is the part that rescues us when the excesses of the coastal residents threaten to plunge us into oblivion. When the East Coast decides to start a war in a foreign land, they call up the boys from the Heartland to fight for them. West Coast residents become giddy because they think the business cycle is history, and make investing errors large enough to bankrupt the country, then they are saved by the only people who save money in the bank: the people living between the two coasts. And devastatingly expensive natural disasters are almost always within a few hundred miles of the ocean. Guess whose taxes rebuild the beach mansions for those who should have never built them in hurricane or earthquake zones?

The coasts are the ears of America, bringing knowledge from overseas, starting trends and fashions, hearing without listening…. In between is the brain: America’s Heartland.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saved by Grace

In late 2006 I thought I was going to die. I had given my all to build the Kingdom, I was working a super-stressful commission-based job, and I had some other struggles in my personal situation. I continued to weaken my already broken health.

Then I found out my wife was pregnant. My energy already pulled to my maximum stretching point, I was shocked to learn that my time obligations would increase. As I struggled to cover all the duties in the far-flung outposts assigned to me by Life, I physically crashed.

As our soon-to-increase family size would no longer fit in the house, we decided to move to small-town America. I wanted to stay, but because of the baby, had to leave Japan. The move preparations were grueling, and I began to struggle with breathing. I had no relocation company to help me. But after arriving in the U.S. I felt relief. Our baby Grace was born soon afterward.

Far from the “hot breath of expectations” imposed by life in Japan, I was gradually able to gain strength. Life is no longer slipping away. I have a distance to go before I can be pronounced healed, but I am strengthening.

So I can say that, even in a physical way, I was saved by Grace.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nauvoo Exodus Re-Enactment

Participating in the re-enactment last week made us quite cold and uncomfortable. But none of us died, so we were much more fortunate than our ancestors. I think my ancestors were quite put out by my complaining. Below is an LDS Church News article on the topic:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More on Hickman High

I often drive between Nauvoo and Independence, MO, and can pass this school, which may be named for one of my kin. I found this on Wikipedia:

Sam Walton is also a Kewpie! It sounds like an impressive school. Can no one speak up about changing the mascot? It is a naked plastic doll sometimes given as a prize at by carnival folk in a pre-modern era.

If you are a Hickman alum, please feel free to take a stand and explain to me what I don't understand about the situation.

Hickman Kewpies

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Joseph Smith’s stable

At Christmastime we wonder exactly where the stable was into which the Savior was born. But we don’t know.

But in the meantime, we do know where Joseph Smith’s stable was, which I checked out shortly after Christmas. Old Charley may have boarded here. Only the outline of the wall remains. The location is on the east end of the Joseph Smith block, and is well maintained. My children are in the above photo.

Mississippi Thawing

Last week we participated in the re-enactment of the Exodus. It was an extraordinarily cold day, which was fitting and proper. Since then temperatures have been balmy, and the Mississippi has been gradually thawing. 

Even if the ice were thick enough, I doubt it would have been smooth. Crossing would have been treacherous. If we are ever again chased out of the state at gunpoint, I plan to take the Keokuk bridge.

Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith Cabin Site

Last Sunday I discovered the location of the cabin of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. I was reading the Memoirs of Joseph Smith III, and he identified the spot where his grandparents has lived. The spot is now commemorated by a console of electrical meters.

The site is on the northwest corner of the Joseph Smith, Jr. block, so in a straight line between the Mansion House and the Nauvoo House, northeast of the Homestead. My understanding is that they lived in a temporary location previous to this site.

I believe that the Community of Christ should put a marker on the spot. The former inhabitants were two of the finest people to have ever breathed. I plan to mention it to them sometime.

Raccoons Not Drinking Acai Berry Juice

Last November I noticed that the raccoons around Nauvoo were gaining weight. Not the kind of fat we gain around the holidays. They were monstrous and could hardly walk. I wondered if they were all in sumo training. (If you've ever witnessed a sumo match in Japan in person, you know it ain't all muscle.) I assumed they were preparing for hibernation. (Disclaimer: I am not a zoologist, and have never played one on TV.) 

The raccoons seem to have lost a lot of weight since then, as I nearly hit one this morning and his tummy wasn't dragging the ground. The secret: they drink the juice of the Black Walnut(TM). Some of my friends have made fortunes convincing their neighbors to drink fruit juice, and I want to get in on it. As black walnut trees are abundant here, I am preaching that as the cure for obesity. If you want in on this ground-floor opportunity, we will be holding our first annual convention in March, where we will sing kumbaya and hear testimonials from thin raccoons. Just convince 40,000 of your friends to buy juice that costs 4,000 times more than the cost of production. (Full disclosure: all research indicates that the juice works best if you sleep without eating for three months.)