Quadratic Trolling

Huzzah! New questions in the inbox! These three questions were all asked by someone named Lucy, who is probably about 14 years old and is mostly just trolling me. But because I have a policy of responding to all questions I receive if I feel like it, I will not disappoint Lucy by failing to respond to her “questions”.

A little context: imagine you’re a  14 year old girl, and you’re sitting around with a few of your bfff’s in your room surrounded by bieber posters. You are supposed to be doing math homework (you’re learning about quadratic equations), and you decide to take a break to check your Facebook status or retweet something Joe Jonas tweeted. After that you take a break to make fun of your mother, who has opened a tumblr but she’s doing it wrong because all she does is re-blog pictures of some old guy named Joey Lawrence and you have no idea who that is. You ask your mom, and all she says is “whoa” and starts laughing.

Then you google “old man” which is how you wind up on  ReubensCube. You share a few laughs and say things like “blogging, who does that anymore? What is this, 2007?” So then you decide to make fun of some old guy’s blog, not realizing that it’s pretty much the only thing he’s got going for him, other than his 1989 Score Barry Sanders Rookie Card. But even that’s not working out that great for him because he paid nearly $50 for it back in 1991, but then the trading card industry became flooded with garbage and the internet dropped the bottom out of the entire trading card market since it was no longer difficult at all to find any card you wanted, and so now it’s only worth $36 and that doesn’t even account for inflation.

Go ahead, little girls, laugh it up.

Lucy says:

what f(x)=ax to the second power +bx+c equals to

Wut? You are going to fail math, little girl.

do you know how to eat tacos ???

Is this a joke? There are exactly two things in this world that I care about.

Internet & Tacos

what is the bast instrument of string orchestra ?(it’s ether cello,bass,or viola i don’t like violins at all because my sister plays it . =)

It is the timpani, sorry little girl. If it does not have timpani, then it doesn’t count.

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What’s the deal with Mormon Missionaries?

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This question comes from my friend Nate, who blogs over at Thoughts on the Urban Environment. He’s also one of my co-conspirators at a new website I’ve started but haven’t told anyone about yet: Streets.mn.

Here’s Nate’s question, presented in pieces:

I have a couple questions about the LDS Church missionary system.

Y’all love these questions about Mormons. Luckily, Mormons are one of my favorite things to talk about, so keep ’em coming!

How does it work? Who does it? Are they volunteers? And, if you are from, for example, Minnesota, do you typically do your missionary work elsewhere, such as another state or country? Or, would one stay within their own local community?

Mormon missionaries are volunteers – not only do they not get paid, they mostly have to pay their own way. Missionaries make monthly payments TO the church to pay their own way. The church uses a sort of global sliding scale to determine how much it costs based on where you’re from and your ability to pay. The current cost to be a missionary for people from the US is $400 per month. Since many missionaries serve in poorer countries where expenses are cheap, the church can shift funds around and keep costs low for everyone. The church uses this $400/month to pay all of your expenses, so Missionaries don’t ever have to directly pay for housing, utilities, transportation, supplies, etc. Missionaries receive a small stipend each month (~$150) to pay for groceries, and miscellaneous living expenses, though it is anticipated that much of their food will be provided by members of the church.

Missionaries do not get to choose where they serve. They submit an application to the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and in a few weeks, they are told where they will be sent. It is not negotiable, except for in special circumstances. Typically only significant medical circumstances would result in a missionary staying in their hometown or state, but staying within the country is typical. The US exports missionaries, though the long-term global goal is to avoid missionaries having to cross national borders.

Most missionaries appear to be young men straight out of high school or college. Do people of other ages do this? Are women involved in the missionary process? Or, do women participate in ways other than door-to-door interactions?

Single men are permitted to serve if they are between the ages of 19 and 25, and are encouraged to serve as soon as possible after turning 19. Single women may serve anytime at age 21 and up. Men serve for 24 months, women for 18 (Do NOT ask why there are different rules for men and women – there is no good reason and it reeks of sexism). Senior couples can also serve after they are retired and no longer have kids at home. They are typically given more administrative roles, which is why you don’t see 70-year-old couples riding mountain bikes around town and wearing backpacks.

Is doing some type of missionary work required by the Church to continue being an active member?

No, although serving a mission for the church is very much a rite-of-passage and the cultural pressure for young men to choose to serve a mission can be extremely great.

Did you spend time doing missionary work? If so, where, and what was your experience like? Did being a missionary, biking around neighborhoods, help cultivate your love of bicycles?

Thanks! I look forward to reading the response.

I was a missionary in Ohio from 2000-2002. Believe it or not, I didn’t touch a bicycle the entire time, although in hindsight, that was clearly a mistake (for several reasons). I had many wonderful experiences as a missionary that I will forever cherish, although I generally consider it to be an emotional low point in my life. I’ve written previously about my decision to serve a mission. Beyond that, I’m happy to leave that chapter of my life in the past, at least as far as this blog goes. I’m happy to talk your ear off about it in person sometime, should we find ourselves with a few hours to kill in an airport or something. Thanks for the question!

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Do you enjoy being a planner?

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This one comes from some anonymous creeper, which I will present in part, with my own comments inserted:

Hi Reuben,

We’ve never met, but I saw you at Menards once! haha

What the creeper? You saw me at Menards? I hope I wasn’t doing something embarrassing – like daydreaming that I’m floating in space surrounded by planets and stars in the middle of the light fixture aisle – or recreating that scene from The Little Mermaid with my wife:

Sha la la la la la
Don’t be scared
You got the mood prepared
Go on and kiss the girl

Anyway, hopefully you didn’t see that.

I’m done being creepy now.

Doubt it.

Do you have a degree in Urban Planning?

Yes. Did you already know that? I think you probably did, or else you wouldn’t ask. It’s fine. Small talk. Good stuff.

Should I get my Masters in Urban Planning if at present I have a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering? Where should I get my masters in Urban Planning!?

Well, I wouldn’t recommend getting a MURP degree just because you have a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. But, if you want to be an urban planner, then, yes, I recommend a MURP degree. I expect you’ll find that a chemical engineering undergrad won’t be much of a selling point if you’re submitting applications for planning jobs. As a side note, you know you’ll be taking a major salary cut, right? Engineering is probably a far more lucrative career choice. But, if you’d rather be a planner, then go for it.

I went to the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute. It was good. I liked many things about it, I didn’t like other things. I’d be happy to tell you more about what I liked and didn’t like sometime if you can come out of your shell and say hello to me next time you see me at Menards (but DO NOT interrupt me while I’m singing).

Do you find your career rewarding? I really appreciate any and all feedback!

Yes, I really enjoy being a planner/engineer. I enjoy playing a role in shaping the physical world around me. I generally find it interesting and satisfying. That doesn’t mean I enjoy every project I work on, but yes, I like it. Let’s talk more. Shoot me an email. Take me out to lunch. I’ll tell you anything you never wanted to know about it.

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Unhealthy Shame

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This one comes from a reader named Ellie. This is no ordinary question, though. The following question involves a sensitive subject and is of a sexual nature. You’ve been warned! Read at your own risk! You must be 18 years old (or this tall) to read this post.

Since this question is both long and complicated, I’ve rearranged it slightly, and I’ll present it and respond to it in pieces.

I understand you may not want to answer this on your blog because I am under the impression you may have a lot of followers from your church on here, which is why I attached my email. I hope to hear from you soon!

You are right, many of the readers of this blog are my fellow members of the LDS church, and this topic has the potential to offend many of them. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.

Most people who have never been involved with the church are shocked to hear Mormon views on masturbation. Outside of the church, as I’m sure you know, masturbation is viewed as a healthy, necessary part of growing up. Inside the church, from what I gather, it is perceived as an awful, disgusting sin that can lead to homosexuality and other horrible things.

I think this is perhaps a little bit of an overstatement about the perception of masturbation in the church. It’s true that there have been church leaders in the past who have suggested that masturbation will lead to homosexuality or any number of other things we would describe today as sexual deviancy. However, you will not find these teachings in the church anymore (or if you do, I think most members of the church are smart enough to simply outright dismiss them as ridiculous). Some members of the church may still use words like “awful” or “disgusting”, but this will vary greatly among members. The church continues to teach that masturbation is sinful behavior and should be avoided, and I suspect most members do not object to these teachings. But I also think that there is a growing number of members of the church willing to use words like “normal”.

Many healthcare professionals and therapists would say that what the church teaches on masturbation is unhealthy and can cause self loathing and unimaginable shame. It seems that to set yourself to such a high standard, if only at least as a young person going through puberty, will inevitably lead to failure (according to WebMD anyway, 95% of males and 89% of females say they have masturbated).

Agreed. Any time the church sets a behavioral standard and the members fail to live to that standard, shame will likely follow. Shame is a problem in the church, not only regarding masturbation, but for many topics. A quick google search will reveal many personal stories from individuals who feel like they can never measure up to standards set by the LDS church (or other churches). The rhetoric surrounding the topic of masturbation can be especially shame inducing.

I also read this article that I thought was interesting (http://www.i4m.com/think/sexuality/masturbation_help.htm). However, the article also made me wonder what this man would do if young people at his church confided in him about their masturbation ‘struggles,’ what would he say to them? Would he speak his mind and try to ease their pain the way he perhaps wished someone would have eased his, or would he remain anonymous the way he did in the article? Food for thought!

Ok, fair enough for that guy. I don’t disagree, although I think the article is weird and unnecessarily explicit.

I have seen how the churches’ views on masturbation have led someone very close to me to feel horrible amounts of guilt and shame and I wish I could take all that shame away from him. It breaks my heart to hear him be so hard on himself about the topic, using words like dirty, and unworthy, it makes me sick. I guess what my question is, what is your opinion on this topic?

Yes, it sounds like your friend is in a very sad place. I think the most unfortunate part of the situation is that your friend probably thinks he’s alone – that he’s the exception in the church for struggling with this. Far from it. If his peers were willing to speak more openly, I expect your friend would discover he is in good company. I hope you can convince your friend that there is an important difference between feeling legitimate guilt for doing something you are not proud of and feeling unhealthy shame. Shame is rarely a useful emotion.

My hope is that masturbation becomes more normalized within the church. I think the church is afraid to teach that masturbation is “normal” behavior, because they’re afraid people will accept that as license to engage. However, I expect that the church will find that each generation in the church will increasingly adopt a “normalized” perception of masturbation regardless. I expect teenagers will grow up increasingly hearing persons outside the church using words like “normal” and “healthy” to describe masturbation, including well-respected therapists, doctors, and other professionals. Regardless of whether the behavior is sinful, the church will have to decide if they want to continue to emphasize teachings that modern scientists and therapists disagree with.

The church has de-emphasized without disavowing many teachings in the past (forbidding birth control, for example). I predict that this will eventually be one of them.

Anyway, that’s all I can say about it. If you need any more light reading, I’m a fan of The Mormon Therapist, who has written on the topic of masturbation many times.

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Is there forgiveness for Murderers?

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox. This one comes from my friend Greg, who is back from the dead after falling off the face of the planet for the past 10 years (sorry, inside joke). I’m gonna warn you, though. This is a great question, but it’s heavy. Here’s the question:

Reuben, with the latest update in the Susan/Josh Powell and their sons’ case, there are many around me that are immediately condemning Josh to certain Degrees of Glory. Although, everyone knows that we are not capable of making such judgements, they all start flinging scriptures and opinions of how the Bible, BoM, and D&C explain murder. So my question isn’t really pertaining to the Powell case, but rather murder in general. Can forgiveness be given to those who plan and execute first degree murder? (Not that I’m planning anything.) I’m just curious to some outsiders perspective on the matter. . .

So in case anyone out there is living under a rock, Greg is referring to the tragic recent events involving the Powell family out in Utah, members of the Mormon church. Josh Powell, a man who (in hindsight) clearly has severe mental issues, [probably] killed his wife Susan back in 2009, and [definitely] killed himself and his two sons, ages 5 and 7. For more details about the events, see Wikipedia. An example of the controversy Greg is referring to can be found here.

First, let me just say that hell if I know what happens to murderers, right? You’ve got me…

But when has that ever stopped me from pretending like I have all the answers?

I don’t really understand the whole idea of a literal atonement. The metaphysics are beyond me. I don’t understand how Jesus dying thousands of years ago saves me from my actions today. Or how His suffering somehow means that I don’t have to. Or why a loving God would require suffering to begin with. The equation just really doesn’t add up for me. Why wouldn’t we all just suffer for our own sins? How, metaphysically, does one person’s suffering transfer to another person? If God is all powerful and all loving, why couldn’t He forgive us if He felt like it even without Jesus? And who is the bean counter in heaven that makes sure everyone’s Suffering Account (TM) is paid-in-full?

I know the sunday school answers to these questions, and no, I don’t find them helpful.

But here’s the thing: If I’m going to believe in Jesus (which I choose to do), then I’m going to believe in the most powerful Jesus I can imagine. And the most loving and compassionate one, too. The Jesus I can believe in is not one that will save me from some sins but not others. He’s not a sort-of-powerful deity that isn’t quite supreme enough to overcome the highest tier of sins, or the kind of deity that creates us (with all our flaws) without providing a path for redemption. And He certainly is not a God of vengeance (vengeance makes for great comic books – Ghost Rider anyone? – but lousy Christian deity). So yes, I absolutely believe that forgiveness is possible for murderers. And rapists and [insert horrible crime]ists. I won’t settle for any lesser Jesus.

Also, whose idea was it that some sins are more grievous than other sins in God’s eyes? I’m not sure I believe that at all.

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Crazy Mission Stories

Huzzah! Another question in the inbox! This one comes from Joey at Wide White.

I came across this video of two Mormon missionaries getting attacked by a parrot when they knocked on a guy’s door. It made me wonder if you have any crazy stories of things like this happening during your time as a missionary?

Here’s the video:

HA. LOL. That video is great.

That missionary’s reaction to (what appears to be) a perfectly harmless pet bird is priceless. Plus goober Missionary #2 swatting at the bird like a 12 year old with a giant grin is pretty good, too.

So you want to talk Mission Stories, huh?

Here’s the thing about mission Stories: Mormons love to tell them, but after a while you just get kind of sick of them. Mission stories all start to sound exactly the same after a while.

You see, missionaries all get home from the mission, and start telling each other mission stories. And everyone is pretty sure that their mission stories are better than everyone else’s. And all these returned missionaries try to convince each other that they served in the biggest ghetto ever and there has never been a ghetto more ghetto than their ghetto. And then you figure out that their definition of ghetto is Richfield or somewhere else completely middle-class. And then you figure out that you’ve all got exactly the same set of stories.

Plus, a lot of things that are really funny at the time just don’t make great stories. For example, watching this video was funny, but imagine Goober Missionary #2 trying to tell his friends at home about this experience 10 years from now.

One time, we were out tracting, and we knocked on a door, and when the guy opened it, lol, a bird came out! and I was like “Sqeeeee!” and my companion was like “Heeyeyyeyeyywoo!” And then the bird flew back in the house and they guy told us he wasn’t interested in the Book of Mormon and asked us to leave. Oh man it was crazy! Fun times.

See, not exactly riveting.

After a while, you get a little bit jaded. Now, if I’m sitting in Sunday School and some dude raises his hand and says, “Well this one time on my mission…”, I just roll my eyes.

“Oh great,” I say, nudging the guy next to me. “It’s Mission Story Guy.”

I had some fun times as a missionary. I have many fond memories of life as a missionary and different things that happened on people’s doorsteps. I met a million different kinds of people, met some really great folks, and was rejected in pretty much any way you could imagine. But I really don’t like to talk about the mission much. Those experiences are important to me, but they don’t really make great stories, and they don’t define me – and the mission overall just wasn’t a high point for me.

I love watching vids of Mormons on YouTube, though! I love that all these 19 year olds have so much free time on their hands, little to no direct supervision, and increasingly, video cameras and bicycles. It’s a perfect combination for YouTube!

Maybe some of my readers have some good mission stories for you, though. What do you say, readers? Ever get chased by a bird while knocking doors?

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Planned House Projects

Huzzah! New question in the inbox! This one comes from my friend Sarah:

I’m so excited about your new house, which makes me curious: What kinds of projects do you have planned for this house? (Or maybe you are choosing to leave it “as is.”)

I’m so glad you asked.  Seriously! because I am totally in love with my new house and I can’t wait to show it off in a middle-class consumerist kind of way. Here it is again:

1939 Tudor

We’ve got all sorts of projects planned, and we’re still having serious discussions about whether ReubensCube is the best place to share that info, or whether a new spinoff blog is in order. Houseblogs are awesome!

Because I’m all about starting new online projects with gusto and then mostly ignoring them later. Oh, and in addition to the possible new house blog, I’m also starting a new urban policy blog (this one is a group blog with a dozen other folks – more on that later).

Anyway, off the top of my head, the To Do list includes:

  • paint everything
  • kitchen remodel
  • bathroom remodel
  • construct closet shelves
  • sand wood floors
  • new tile in fireplace
  • new tile in entryway
  • refinish front door
  • jack up one side of the garage 6″ and try and level the floor
  • add a shower to the upstairs bathroom
  • add a shower to the downstairs bathroom
  • re-insulate attic
  • replace all water lines
  • fix sump pump
  • fix range hood
  • regrade exterior near foundation
  • rewire garage
  • move electric panel
  • spend time with my daughter

I just have to include the last one or else I’ll forget with all those house projects going on.

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Mormon or Christian?

Huzzah! New question in the mailbag! I’m proud to say that this question was asked just a couple days ago (as opposed to the last questions I answered 2 months late…) This one comes from Joey at Wide White:

Do you consider yourself more Mormon or Christian? Or does the distinction even matter? Within Christianity it seems that some, such as Catholics or Baptists or others, identify more with their sect/denomination, while others, particularly “evangelical Christians,” identify themselves more broadly as Christians.

I wonder because I asked 2 Mormon missionaries who approached me once why it was so important to convert me if I was already a Christian. You don’t really see Lutherans trying to convert Methodists. I’ve seen Baptists try to convert Catholics, but that’s only if they don’t consider the Catholic (or even Catholics in general) to be Christian in the first place. I wondered why it mattered that I specifically be Mormon if we’re all Christians anyway. They said something about heaven having tiers and Mormons are the top tier and other Christians are on a lower tier. At least that’s how I remember it. I could be totally misrepresenting it.

Anyway, if this is a dumb question, feel free to make all sorts of fun of me.

Good question! The great Are Mormons Christians? debate is always a fun one, and it’s being asked a lot lately due to Romney’s likely success at securing the Republican nomination. I think the answer is simple – of course Mormons are Christian. When taking an overview of worldwide religions, it is very clear to me that Mormons fit under the Christian umbrella.

In my shallow understanding of Mormon history, I get the impression that past generations of Mormons weren’t overly concerned about whether other Christian sects accepted them into the Christian body or not. In fact, I get the impression that until the mid 20th century, Mormons considered their rejection by other Christians a badge of honor – evidence that Satan was trying to tear down God’s chosen people – evidence that the rest of Christianity had been corrupted. However, today’s Mormons are very quick to insist that they are Christian, and that the chasm between Mormonism and other Christians isn’t as wide as many think it is. Being accepted into the body of Christianity is very important to the modern church.

Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t significant differences between Mormonism and other Christian sects, which most Mormons also quickly acknowledge. Mormonism likes to maintain a comfortable arms length from the rest of Christianity – close enough that we share many common beliefs – far enough that we’ve got enough unique truth that you should leave your current church to join us.

As for me, I definitely identify with the Mormon label more than I identify with the Christian label. Mormonism is more than a set of beliefs – it’s a culture, a way of life, a group of people. It’s no secret to readers of this blog that I don’t always agree with the LDS church – I’m not Mormon necessarily because I agree with it – I’m a lousy Mormon as far as other Mormons are concerned. But I’m proud of the Mormon label because it represents a people and a way of life that have always been good to me. It’s not really about beliefs. It’s about people – and I LOVE Mormons.

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Some Bike Questions

Huzzah! New questions in the mailbag! Actually, these are old questions that I never had a chance to answer because of the moving and homelessness and such. Apologies for being so tardy on answering.  I really do love getting questions, even if it takes me a while to answer.

First question was asked back in early October by my friend Curtis:

What are your thoughts on the new bike lanes as a cyclist and a driver?

Good question. It depends on which bike lanes we’re talking about. The City of Minneapolis has installed several miles worth of new bike lanes over the past year. The bike lanes on 1st Ave seem entirely unnecessary, but are nice as far as bike lanes go. I was thrilled to see bike lanes added to portions of Blaisdell and Chicago Avenues. I love the bike lanes over the Franklin Avenue bridge, and I have high hopes for the lanes being added to Riverside Avenue.

However, I’m not thrilled by the lanes on Franklin Avenue west of the bridge. They’re classic door zone bike lanes, and in an area with a very high parking turnover rate. Franklin wasn’t a great place to ride before the bike lanes, but I’m not convinced the lanes are much of an improvement.

But generally, I’m totally bananas for new bike lanes.

Next question was asked anonymously, also in early October:

How has your bicycle commute changed now that you live in the ‘burbs?

Well now isn’t this question a little outdated now that I’ve already moved back to Minneapolis? Actually, anything south of 38th Street totally feels like the ‘burbs to me, so since I’m way down on 49th Street, I pretty much live in Bloomington.

Since moving to the ‘burbs, my route is longer, and much more of it is on streets. I used to live 4 blocks from the Midtown Greenway. Now, I live half a block from Minnehaha Parkway, but the parkway just isn’t nearly as direct a route, so I ride north 20 blocks to get to the Greenway. So much more street riding out here in Bloomington.

Apologies again for taking FOREVER to answer these questions!

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Wizard Camel

Huzzah! New question in the inbox! This one was submitted anonymously:

is the dremel sawmax any good

Good question! However, before I answer it, I have a question for you:

is punctuation any good

Anyway, back to the original question. How the hell would I know? I’ve never used one, nor did I know it existed.  But I did google image search it, and this is what comes up:

If you can make this with a Dremel Sawmax, then you are a wizard. What is this? Is this a wizard dog? A wizard camel? WTF?

That’s pretty cool, right? Altough, after clicking on the image you learn that the Sawmax wasn’t used to create the wizard.

So here’s the bottom line. The Dremel Sawmax: It’s worth Google image searching.

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