Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Memories

Lucy spent most of Memorial Day with her toothbrush (see illustration). Given my own past toothbrush experiences, I found this amusing. But what I really want to know is how everyone spent their Memorial day.

This year I was going to really memorialize--call my granpda (WWII vet), go to the cemetary down the street to visit Nick's grandparents with Lucy, and possibly even meditate on my feelings toward our current war and see if I could distill anything valuable.

Then the phone rang over the weekend and we made plans to go out to Dr. Sondrup's cabin (I worked for him as a grad student for those who don't know) to celebrate his birthday a bit and enjoy the afternoon. We had a great time (even the introverted among us seemed to enjoy themselves) with good food, beautiful weather, and late spring in the mountains. I really couldn't think of another place I'd like to be as I sat out on the deck with Nick and we watched the stream below us rushing intensly, overflowing with spring runoff. And yet, I still feel like I ought to have memorialized something, somehow. Maybe we'll go to the cemetary tonight before mutual with some mums (now that they're 1/2 off) ...

Did you do anything fun? Memorial? New? Have any good traditions to pass along? It's one of those holidays I need a bit of help on :)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Amusing ... as in A Musing

I read something in the paper this morning that produced an audible chuckle (maybe it was more of a sniff/snort ha).

First, you should understand that Nick and I receive a daily newspaper. We've never had one before, and when the year runs out, we'll never have one again (on-line is much easier and less messy). But I had to redeem some frequent flier miles that were running out, and they gave us the option to turn them into newspaper and magazine subscriptions (the amount of magazines we have coming into our house is somewhat obscene) and so I signed us up for the only paper available: The Wall Street Journal. Most days it just sits in the driveway until I remember to go throw it in the trash, but every once in a while I bring it inside, slip off the rubber band, and read it over breakfast if Lucy's down for an early morning nap. (I'm sure the neighbors are wondering--why get a paper if you're just going to let it sit out all day (or many days) and then throw it away without reading? But I digress.)

This morning I read an article by a man who has been tutoring students for the SAT in New York since the 1980s. He gave a pretty good summary of the changes to the test over the recent years and how those changes affect what the test actually measures. Students have been complaining that the test is too hard because they're getting lower scores, but his point is that the test now measures a student's ability to actually read with comprehension and think through mathematical concepts--abilities that are difficult to cram for by memorizing vocabulary lists. Near the end of the article he made several comments that really did make me laugh, so I thought I'd share them for your own amusement, just in case you don't get the Wall Street Journal.

"People complain that the SAT is biased and that the bias explains why students don't do well. That's true--it is biased. It's biased against people who aren't well educated. The test isn't causing people to have bad educations, it's merely reflecting the reality. And if you don't like your reflection that doesn't mean that you should smash the mirror" (David S. Kahn, "How Low Can We Go?" 26 May 06, W11).

The first two sentences were the cause of my mirth. There was also a hint of guilty recognition in my response--how many times do I fail at something and then try to blame everything but myself, feeling that the situation was biased against my success ... hmmm ...


Thursday, May 25, 2006

I am an Introvert

"I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush." That was my favorite quotation from this article about introversion. Some of you may be surprised that I think myself an introvert, though I suppose that most would say "well duh..."

A good way to know if you're introverted, the article mentions, is whether interacting with other people energizes you, or whether you need to "recharge" after being with people. I definitely need a recharge. I used to worry that maybe I just didn't like people in general, but I realized that I love people- in fact I can get quite lonely. I just need my daily alone time. Lots of it. And the more extroverted the other person is, the more quickly I get tired and need to get away from them- hence the quotation above. Some of you may remember my old roomate Josh. I love Josh. He's a great guy. He's also the most extroverted person that I know, a dynamo around other people whose mouth approaches mach 4. I remember getting home from tutoring in the physics lab, just hoping for a little rest and alone time to recharge my social battery, and he would find me on the couch and procede to hold long conversations consisting of a lot of him talking, and a lot of me nodding. There were many converasations where I literally did not say one word. It was almost claustrophobic being around him. My brother in law is very similar, though in that situation its a little different since I am visiting them and have prepared myself for the visit and know that when its all over I can go back to my own space to recharge.

Many people mistake introversion for dislike of humanity or just plain rudeness. Sometimes I get into one of my recharging states, and yet still have to be around people. I have a certain family member who whenever she sees me in one of my recharging states always wonders what the matter is. "Are you all right?" she asks. "Oh I'm fine, just tired" which is only semi-lying since I am just tired socially. Luckily Jenny realized what this was early on and just accepted that I would need time to myself during the day, or if we were together, to not take my silence as an indicator of my opinion of her.

The more I've thought about this, the more I've wondered if my friends have ever noticed, since I'm usually fine when I'm actually hanging out with people, its just afterwards that I need to recharge, and if I haven't fully recharged, then I usually won't go out into public. Then I wonder if my friends are like this as well, since I wouldn't necessarily know about it for the same reason above.

Sometimes, though, disaster strikes- when we have a planned dinner or game night with another couple, and then the appointed night comes and.....uh oh, my battery is low, but we have to go anyway and I am forced to endure...gasp, people talking! sometimes directly at ME!!! I always worry that they'll take my non-wordiness the wrong way and get offended, but we always seem to be invited back.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Garden Journal, Week 7

We've had 90 degree weather for two weeks now (at the beginning of May!) so our tomatos are taking off. They've all doubled in size these two weeks, so I hope we'll have a large crop starting in early July. Salsa, here we come!!!

The birds ate most of my watermelon plants, so I planted 8 more. They seem to stop bothering the plants when they get big. I hate birds.

The zucchini is getting big. I planted thrice as many zucchini and squash plants as I did last year, so they should pollinate a little better this time around.

This time in the tomato patch we've got about 35 plants.

The strawberries seem to be doing well, even in the heat, but 4 plants have died already. Do strawberries just not like Utah? Or is it my soil? Erin, help!!!

Lots of hot and sweet peppers, doing very nicely.

Half the tomatillos are getting quite large, while the other half keep getting trimmed down by birds. Though I think even with two plants there should be enought for salsa.

This time with the potatos, I'm hilling up the dirt around the plant as it comes up. More potatos that way.

This is the first time I've planted an appreciable amount of corn, and it looks like its doing great.

The lettuce is getting big. Need to plant more this week so we still have some when the tomatos are ready.

The onions and garlic are getting huge.

And my flower circle out front is doing well. The Blanketflower I planted last year from seed has all come back, and the zinnia and marigold seeds I planted this year are getting larger. It should be very pretty.


Finished first year of grad school

I finished my first year of grad school in economics last week. It was definitely a lot more learning than undergrad, and a whole lot less nonsense (the number of stupid questions dropped to zero, statistically speaking). I can’t say I understand the economy, just that I’m confused about it on a higher level than before.

I was on an ultimate city league team this last semester. We got killed in the tournament by a team called “Greenspin.” They were all from the Fed and had a picture of Alan Greenspan laying out for the disk over the Washington Monument. No shame in losing to that. My team had a lot of 30-50 year old type people on it. We had this sub five foot Asian woman on our team, who I almost had a few assists to. If a tall skinny man, or not so tall balding man were on the receiving end, it would have worked, but I wasn’t used to throwing to such a short target.

I bought the official disk for the league. It has a pi r squared written on it, so I wanted one, but it was purple. That almost stopped me from buying that one, but in the spirit of Jared, I bought it anyway. I haven’t named it yet (Beelzebub is still up and running), so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

I know Jared’s girl. I’m not sure why she’s crazy about Jared either, she’s a nice sensible person. She had a pajama party at her house. I wore the cow pajamas, and lent Jared Alaina’s red pajamas that she gave me o so long ago. I like to think it was the thought of Jared in those pjs that brought Velora to him.


How to Teach Young Men

I'm the Priest's quorum advisor, and was until recently the teacher's quorum advisor. I also attend the 14-16 year old SS class since the teacher is kind of new to being active in the church and often asks me to sub for him anyway. With all this I've gained a little experience as a teacher of young men (and to a lesser extant, young women), and would like to put together a list of ideas for those of us who find themselves in this sometimes unfortunate and sometimes enviable position. If you have experience with this as well, or ideas, please add to it.

1.)There is no silver bullet to teaching youth, but the closest thing that comes to it is this: Know your youth and be friends with them- especially outside of class. If you don't have many opportunities to get to know them outside of class, make them. Throw a class party. If you have a good relationship with them, then class will feel less like class, and more like a conversation, which is what class should be like anyway. They will feel more inclined to ask questions. By knowing them, you will also be able to conlude what their learning style is, and can better taylor class to individual students. Think about your favorite teachers. They were almost always the ones that you had some kind of relationship with outside of class (even if it was just talking after class for a few minutes). Also, there is some disagreement about this, but I find by actually being their friend, and come down to their level and make immature jokes and talk about stuff that they talk about shows them that you can come down to their level, which can help them follow you back up to your level when you teach.

2.)Their questions are more important than your lesson. If someone has a completely off the subject question (but still gospel related), I will usually put the lesson aside and have a conversation about that question with the class. They know a lot better than you what gaps in their knowledge that they have. If the question is not related very closely to the gospel but can be answered very quickly, I usually still answer it. If they ask non-gospel questions just to interrupt and get attention, I just tell them I'll answer it after class.

3.)Use more than one of the five senses. Talking is great, but if thats all there is, you lose them within minutes. There should be (interesting) visuals, something you can pass around to them that they can feel, and if you're really ambitious, something they can eat. Some consider it selling out by bringing treats like that, but if it helps hold their attention, hey why not? I often use the treat as part of the review at the end of a lesson in the form of a contest. Today in fact, I had the whole class willingly stay over ten minutes late because they didn't want to stop our lesson review. (They were competing for a 3 musketeers bar)

4.)As I mentioned in 3, review review review. I review the lesson at the end of class (often in the form of a game or competition), and review the previous week's lesson (and weeks previous to that) at the beginning of class. I always try to be conscious of previous week's material so that I can refer back to it during the current lesson. If they realize that they actually learn something during class, they'll usually like the class. I know repetition has somewhat fallen out of favor in the teaching world, but it works.

5.)Engage them physically. This is especially true of boys. When I teach, I never sit at the front of the class, or just stand at the front (I usually do this with adults too), I'm always changing where I am, often sitting down right next to the student that I am talking too. This really helps with "problem" students. If they are not paying attention, I'll come and sit right next to them and ask them some questions. If you're friends with them, this doesn't come across as condescending or like you're disciplining a problem student, its just one friend talking to another.

6.)Get them moving. Happy time is not just for primary. If you can think of a physical way to get the object of the lesson across, do it. One of the lessons that I remember from my priest's quorum advisor (I have a very bad memory by the way), was to "keep you're eye on the ball". He took us out into the field and had us try to hit a baseball while looking at something else off to our sides. Then he gave the short lesson on staying focused on the imptortant things in life and not getting distracted. Then we got to hit the baseball while looking at it. Nothing too fancy, but I still remember it.

7.)When you use the scriptures, never, ever, ever use them as a quotebook. "Repentence is important because of blah blah blah. To prove my point, lets read this verse from the book of Alma. See? I was right." When the scriptures are used, there should always be context. In fact, I always find it much more useful to use the scripture passage as the motivation for the lesson, rather than giving the lesson with some backup from the scriptures. I've spent entire lessons where all we did was read a chapter from the scriptures, and we talk about it as we read it. This builds a far greater knowledge of the scriptures than just using them as quotes (quotations, for JonnyF, Jared, and Warren).

8.)Don't be afraid to talk about stuff completely unrelated to the lesson, or even to the gospel. Talk about what they did saturday night. If you come into the classroom and find them talking about a certain subject (guns, cars, school, sports, etc.) join in the conversation. It gets them used to the idea of talking to the teacher, which is the whole goal of any classroom setting. During the lesson, if nothing is working to keep their attention, talk about that time when you were on that date with the really ugly girl who smelled funny, or that time when your tire blew out on the freeway.

9.)Change of venue. Sometimes it helps just to be in a different place. If its nice, go outside. Related to this, make sure the classroom you are in is such that you can have a nice compact semicircle. If there are boys in the second row, you've lost them already. If the class room is too big, move to a smaller one, and if you can't, get there beforehand so that you can arrange a small, intimate teaching space.

10.)Stories are fun. We're all human, and most of us like a nice storytime, as long as the story is engaging and you have the ability to either tell it or read it in an engaging manner. Bonus if its funny. On the flip side, reading something out of a book is the worst thing you can do if its long, if you're not an engaging reader, or if its wordy and sermonlike.

11.)Never read anything out of the lesson manual during class. If you involve the lesson manual at all in preparing for the lesson, make your own notes and refer to those during the lesson. Seeing or hearing the teacher read something out of the lesson manual just reminds the students that you're only there because the bishop asked you to, and are not putting effort into the class. When notes are prepared (if you even need any: I try not to have them so the lesson seems more like a conversation to the class), keep them short and concise so you're never reading anything to yourself for longer than 3 seconds. Deacons have been clocked losing their attention at 1.2 seconds of teacher inactivity.

12.)If you have a monotone voice (like I tend to have), lose it, at least for class. Who wants to listen to a monotone? Make your voice varied and interesting.

13.)Never ask stupid questions. This is condescending and the students will lose their respect for you as a teacher. I'm talking about questions like: "So, is it good to steal?" "Are we supposed to respect our leaders?". Stupid questions tend to be yes/no questions (though not always). If the answer to a question you are about to ask is painfully obvious, don't ask it. If you were going to ask it to progress to another point you wanted to make, do it in a way that avoids asking a condescending question. "So we all know we're supposed to respect our leaders, but what if our leader is obviously wrong about something. What do you do?" Unfortunately, many of the lesson manual questions are like this, which is why I rarely use the manual, except as a guide as to what the subject matter is.

14.)In the spirit of the previous point, expect the most out of your students intellectually. Spend as little time possible on plot and basic lessons of morality and behavior, and go for the meat. You'd be surprised how much your class responds when they realize you're not just giving them gospel milk anymore but are throwing out meat. If you treat them like adults intellectually, they often respond with adult thoughts. When I was 12, our SS teacher (your average gospel milk distributor, complete with warm fuzzies) was replaced with our stake patriarch who just got back from serving as a mission president. Those lessons were amazing. He took the intellectual gloves off and actually challenged us. I still remember his lessons. Obviously, this assumes that you are very, very prepared for the lesson, and know the subject matter inside and out, on many different levels.

15.)And to finish up a rather long post with a touch of irony: less is more. My worst teachers in college have been the ones whose goal in a class was to get as much material on the chalkboard as humanly possible. Quantity is most definitely not quality, and I've found that the more material you cover, the less they remember about any of it (especially true of the more factual lessons).

As I write this, more ideas keep coming to me- some that I currently do, and some I don't yet, but this is quite long enough. Please add to it as the ideas come to you too.


Obedience and the Power of God

Consider these two passages of scripture: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.1 Ne 3:7

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.D&C 124: 49

In the spirit of our contradictory commandment discussion a few weeks back, do these two passages contradict each other? If not, explain.


Friday, May 19, 2006

In other news:

I have a girlfriend.

I just wanted to announce this because it seems rather monumental to me. I haven't "dated" someone in 37 months. What's more, I haven't "dated" someone who wasn't a rebound in... er, 43 months.

So in the interest of celebrating new and rare occasions, I make this post. Her name is Velora and she's from Texas. She served in Longbeach, CA and speaks Spanish, French, and a bit of Polish. She did her undergrad in Geography at BYU and did a one-year masters program in Eastern European Studies (hence the Polish) at the University of Birmingham in England. Now she is in my ward in Alexandria, Virginia, and she's crazy about me (which continually comes as a surprise to me).

That's all, really. Just wanted to share the love. Updates will come as needed.



Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Added Insight

I take back any previous remarks that could possibly be interpreted as sarcastic involving the use of toothbrushes.

I've been spring cleaning the house lately in an attempt to get it clean enough that when my mother visits in the end of June she won't even be tempted to think that she needs to clean anything. If I can achieve this desired effect, then I believe I will have moved one step closer to full-fledged adulthood. (I always feel like I'm fourteen again whenever she visits and notices dirt/disorder--she doesn't really say anything, but the eyes, the eyes ... they give her away. For those of you who have "cleanliness is next to and possibly right above godliness" mothers, you know what I mean.)

Anyway, I'm just about done with the upstairs. After my aforementioned experience with enrichment last month, I decided that maybe I should give the toothbrush-as-cleaning-tool a try since it was so highly touted by our visiting cleaning representative. Wow. I really am impressed. The humble little toothbruth removes dirt from the most unlikely and inaccessible places. So I thought I'd let y'all know that despite any prior semi-sarcasm regarding the toothbrush I have been converted. It's a happy story all around.

Now if the toothbrush could only help me figure out what I can make for dinner ...


Monday, May 15, 2006


Now that we've had salsa night for about two months, I thought some introductions might be in order. I meant to do this when we started, but kept on putting it off. I'll put in a descriptive blurb in for each person (If I write too much or put info. that you deem too sensitive to be displayed on the internet, tell me and I'll change it), and everyone can add to it as they please.

Erin, I'd like you to meet Young Mother (Julia). She and Jenny were in the same ward for awhile growing up, and eventually reconnected at college. She and her husband Sam are cutthroat Settlers of Catan players, with whom we (not often enough) engage in battles that go well past our childrens' bedtimes. Speaking of kids, they have 3 little ones that are hysterically smart- their two oldest know more about dinosaurs than most aspiring paleontology graduate students. Julia, Erin is our friend from when we all lived in Provo together before (and after) Jenny and I were married. She was Jenny's roommate for a semester, and secretly wants to come live with us to tend our garden and future ranch.

Julie, meet JonnyF. JonnyF and I were roommates for a summer that was far too short and had I not been almost engaged to Jenny at the time I would have submitted a roommate extension form to his secretary. But, since I couldn't find his secretary's number, and since I wanted to live near Jenny, I let the submission deadline pass. Like you, he has an affinity for math, and also like you, he is married (but to a girl, unlike you). He likes Dave Barry, the Transformers movie, and Ultimate Frisbee. JonnyF, this is Julie with whom I grew up in the same ward. As co-captains of the cross-country team, we engaged in many semi-legal activities, including but not limited to: street sign collecting, tee-peeing, and...well I'll let her talk more about it if she wants.... She is married to Jon, and have the cutest little boy in the world. If she were catholic, she would have attained sainthood while still mortal for teaching middle school math.

Gwen and Adam, this is Warren, often referred to as patch. We made good friends with Warren when we were all in the same ward as Erin, Jared, Morgan and JonnyF. He is currently working on his PhD in economics, at some prestigious school back east. Like JonnyF, he also likes Dave Barry, Ultimate Frisbee, though I'm not sure what his stance is on the Transformers movie (I'm pretty sure he is pro-transformer's movie). Warren, this is Gwen and Adam. Jenny was very good friends with them before her mission when she, Gwen, and Randy were in the same freshman ward. They have three amazing kids, and Adam is some kind of college professor. He co-established an online academic journal of philosophy and scripture that is linked to on the main page, which I thought was pretty cool- hence the link.

Randy, meet Julie C. Actually, you two have already met, since Julie C. is Jenny's sister, and Randy was my roommate/best man at my wedding, and we have a picture of you two together for some reason. Julie C is married to Dan and they both enjoy long walks, ms. pacman, and 2nd order partial differential equations. Julie C is an amazing calligrapher (we have two of her works on our wall), cross-sticher, cook, and lots of other stuff. They both work for companies that recruit people with large brains. Julie C, as you know, this is Randy. We were companions on the mission for two months, and then constantly conspired to go on divisions together after that. He knew Jenny before me, and ironically the two of them exchanged letters at least once when we were companions. When I was tracting to find nice housing when I arrived at BYU, his was the first door I knocked on, and we took that as a sign that we should be roommates. When Jenny did her background check on me when we were dating, he luckily told her a good story, as we are now married. He is married with two cute little kids, and apparently is handy with wood restoration.

And last but not least, Morgan this is Jared (Cabeza). Yes, yes, I know you already know each other, but this is just how it worked out, ok? Jared was my apartment mate when JonnyF and I were roommates, and we home taught each other, I believe at the same time. He currently is a big shot K-street washington lobbyist. Actually, his real job is far less interesting- nuclear (Nucular, for you texans) and chemical weapons non-proliferation. Morgan is finishing his degree in chemistry, is married to Alison, and has a cute little girl Lucy's age. We often get together to race our kids and play games. Morgan (along with JonnyF, Warren, and Randy) was on our (almost) championship ultimate frisbee team Disco Stu

Again, add (or subtract) to my rather brief introductions as you feel the need to.

So now that you all officially know each other, feel free to invite any friends to salsa night that you think would be fun to have in on the conversations. Just make sure they keep their feet off the couch and bring their own chips.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Refinishing a table: a Gospel analogy

I am nearing the completion of a project and, since it's Sunday, I'm grasping at some Gospel butterflies.

We got the offer for a free, highly used, kitchen table a few months ago. Since we're still eating on a plastic card table in there, we couldn't refuse. But when the table was dropped off to us, I couldn't help but ask myself, "what did I get myself into?"
After pulling out the 8"x8" white and cracked tile and a few hours of sanding, this is what the table still looked like.

Working on it became sort of a little escape every once in a while. But I swear that I thought I'd never get all that white and pink paint off. The majority of it was sanded off with the little sanding sponges. I used a random orbit sander on the top and parts of the sides. I tried using a chemical stripper on one of the legs, but it made such a mess and took longer than just using the sponges. Anyway, my whole life I never saw the lure of having a little workshop--and especially why so many older men seemed drawn to wood-working. I found out through this project that it is quite satisfying and can quiet your mind, lending to moments of reflection on your life. Anyway, with the help of my dad putting in the new mozaic tile and grouting it, it is now ready for the final coats of high gloss epoxy and urathane. What do you guys think?

So, seeing the stark contrast between the old grimy version and the updated version, I realized that it could be a gospel analogy. I may be stretching here but I had to find a way to share this little project (you likey Erin?). So the power of the gospel is that it can take a shabby, dirty, stinky, person, and with some hard work, with some painful sanding, a little dismantling and cleaning, some refinishing, an entirely new vision of the person can be seen. With the table, we had no idea that it had such beautiful wood underneath the stained white and pink paint and the grime, and I think that the same is true with many people we come in contact with throughout our lives. They've just been beat on for so many years, that we can't see the beauty underneath it all. Have you ever mis-judged someone that way? I probably did with my wife when I first met her. But that's a different story.

The table is far from perfect and has developed a whole new set of imperfections, but I'd say it's at least 200% better looking now. Anyone else have any little projects to share?


Friday, May 12, 2006

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Before I decided I wanted to be an actuary, I considered several other occupations: accountant, engineer, and math teacher, to name a few.

I have a certain ability in math so I thought of these as logical possibilities. There have only been two other occupations I have ever seriously thought about. These jobs have little to do with math, and I don’t think I have any special talents or skills that would help me. The reason I have thought about them is only that I think that many of the people who are now doing these jobs are doing an extremely bad job.
One of these occupations in politician. I have already revealed my secret plan to go into politics when I retire.
The other occupation is whoever it is that decides how traffic lights work.
I have seen some stupid stoplights in my life. I think everyone has. In many cases, I think it’s just a matter of programming the dang things to work different. For example, I’ve seen stoplights where the default signal for all directions is red. This might be good in theory, allowing the light to turn green quickly when it senses a car coming from any direction, but I’ve seen it work very poorly in practice (turning red again too soon and making all the cars behind the first car wait). In this type of case, as with many others, I think it would just take a simple tweak of whatever “operating program” the light has been set with.
Sometimes I get more ambitious and think I want to be head of the transit authority, or road commission, or whatever. Some roads are designed pretty stupidly. For example, at many intersections in Michigan, you are not allowed to turn left. If (unlucky you) you have to turn left, then you either have to turn right then make a U-turn, or go straight, make a U-turn, then turn right (depending on posted signs). There has to be a better way. There are of course other examples of bad road design that I could name, but we would get bored if I did. In other words: there are a lot.
There you have it. For some reason this stuff seems to drive me crazy more than even bad drivers.
Does anyone else have pet career ambitions that will never happen but are fun to think about?


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Personal eternal impact

I had a few thoughts about eternity today, and what the effects of my actions on it will be. This was triggered by my acting as voice for Kiya's baby blessing today. Earlier this morning I read 2 Nephi 4. Verse 12 reads:

And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried. (emphasis added)
And so, Lehi's blessings to his children appear to have been largely influence by the 'feelings of his heart'. We can see that they were all upheld. That got me thinking about all the other instances in the scriptures where the Lord is bound to bless people because of the faith of and the convenants made with their fathers. I am a father. My sphere of influence has become, in a very real sense, eternal. "Could the words that I feel inspired to speak during this blessing really have such a huge impact on the future of this baby girl?" I thought to myself. Other such thoughts got me really nervous and so I had to stop and pray for some peace. (When I get really nervous I have very real biological reactions that are not so pleasant.)

These thoughts were triggered by my participation in a priesthood ordinance, but I realized that we make decisions very often throughout each day that have a very real effect on eternity--for ourselves and for everyone around us. In those terms, living seems like quite a large responsibility. Everyday, Heavenly Father puts my family (and others I come in contact with) into my sphere of impact. Will I be an instrument in his hands to further the eternal potential of his children? Or will I excuse myself, sink into a corner, give up my power "to act" and become something "to be acted upon"?


Garden Journal, Week 5

The peach tree- the only tree or vine I have ever planted, untouched by the jaws of Maggy. When it started flowering this spring, we had an unexpected frost (the same that killed off my zinnia and marigold seeds. Note to self- when the weatherman says it will be 35 overnight, assume he meant 25), and most of the peach flowers were kind of burned off. Not that I care, last year it set way too much fruit, and it all ended up withering away halfway through the season since the tree could not support all of it at once. This time, I pulled off most of it and left maybe 15.

The (purple!?!) tulips are finally blooming. I swear the package said dark red. The daffodils never made it. I wonder if they'll still come up next year...

My pride and joy- the tomatos, are just starting to flower, which means in a little over a month I'll finally get to break my 7 month tomato fast. Well, I've eaten tomatos since then, but the store bought ones shouldn't even be considered tomatos. They truly are an affront to God.

Here's mister Pepper. I bought several red, and a green pepper plant, including several jalapenos, serrano, and a banana pepper plant. I don't know why they distinguish between red and green when they sell them, since they all start out green and all end up red anyway- which still doesn't explain why I claim bought 4 red and 1 green...

I'm planting a lot more squash this year since Lucy seems to like it, and Jenny found a great butternut squash soup recipe (It's REALLY good, and I don't like squash...). Zucchini too since she makes pretty good zucchini bread. That, and we really want to stuff someone's backseat with zucchini while they're in church...

I've returned to the tomatillo. I planted several at our provo house and really liked the salsa they made. I justified not planting them the last two years saying that I could just buy them at the store. Well, I never did.

The peas seem to be coming along nicely. I wonder if they'll naturally lean over and grab that fence, or if I'll have to encourage them.
The strawberries are beginning to flower. I bought a variety that says they make good fruit in their first year. Interesting though, the stems are also red... I've never seen that.

I've planted gladiolas out in the front yard garden bed that runs along the house for two years running, and it looks as though they managed to survive the winter there. (The dahlias did not survive in the regular garden though...) I can't remember what color they are. I think its a mix, but I won't find out until about July or so.
In the foreground is garlic, with a few baby spinaches, and in the background is the main bed of onions, garlic and lettuce.
Yay! My grape came back... again. Both winters now Maggie has gotten into the garden and decided she really likes to chew on grape wood. I thought both times it had died permanently, but both plants seem to be coming back.

And as our final exhibit we have....Jerusalem Artichoke. I've never grown it before, but if you've ever lived in Utah in the summer, you might remember those tall, almost sunflower type yellow flowers (but smaller) growing on the side of the road as if it were a weed. It turns out they're all jerusalem artichokes. I hear you can use them like potatos or turnips, and that they have a nice flavor. We'll see about that. I actually bought one in the middle of last summer. I thought it had died off, but lo and behold the plant had grown into two tubers, and both resumed their growth this spring. I transplanted them to a more fertile, sunny spot.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Concerning LOTR

Now that I'm well into the Fellowship I inevitably notice where the movies have departed from the text. I'm definitely not one of those purists who think that Jackson should have just stuck with what was in the book and not try to add or change anything- that is inevitable any time you try to transfer text to film. Overall I think he did a good job of balancing his artistic opinion while staying true to the story.
My question is what is everyones' opinion of particular changes/additions/deletions to the story. Are there any changes you like more than how it was originally, or are there any changes that you think made it worse (keeping in mind that it HAD to be shortened in order to work as a film)? Is there any scene left out that could have been put back in again at the expense of some other scene you didn't like as much? Is there anything added that just did not work for you?

I liked: (not an exhaustive list)

The inclusion of (some of) the backstory of Aragorn and Arwen from the appendices. In the book itself he seems almost too perfect, and in movies characters are always more real and easier to relate to when they have flaws and normal human passions. The inclusion of that element (part of his motivation for saving Middle Earth was to "get the girl"), while much derided by many hard-core (read- nerdy) Tolkien fans, was a very good addition in my opinion.

In the same vein, the modification to Theoden's character- how he "failed" (in a sense) at Helm's Deep, then redeemed himself at Pelennor

I disliked-

The dead army winning the battle of the Pelennor for them. I think it wouldn't have taken any longer to tell the real story- that they only helped Aragorn free the slaves on the ships, and then he mustered an army as he travelled to Minas Tirith, where with his assistance the armies of Gonder (conspicuously missing in the movie) and Rohan defeated the invasion. It is always more emotionally thrilling to see the heros sweep the enemy aside (like the charge of the Rohirrim- probably the best battle scene in all of movie history) than to see an army of undead do it. This way of doing it also brings up questions like- 'if he was able to make them fight at Pelennor, then why not at the black gate?'. Definitely one of those "should have just left it alone" scenes.

I'm sure theres more, but I'll remember them as I read more...


Waiting for Ultimate

Have you ever hoped and prayed for two different, apparently unrelated events, then have both of them happen at once, except one of them ruined the other? I've been waiting to play ultimate again for a long time. I played for awhile with this group up in salt lake, but they were really good and I'm not in the best of shape. So I stopped, and waited for this other group to start playing in Sandy when it got warmer. They finally sent me an email this week saying that thursday (today) would be the first game. I was stoked. I found my cleats in storage and cleaned them up, I started running again so I won't be laughed off the field when I start gasping for air after 20 seconds of running, and I called up a few friends to come with me.

Some people reading this may know that I also have a garden. Gardens require water. I am lazy. Therefore, I love rain. We haven't had a good solid day of rain in many many weeks now, and I was starting to wonder what was up.

Alas, both hoped-for events have happened on the same day. Frisbee is scheduled at 8:00 tonight. It is also currently raining quite hard, with no end in sight. And its not the nice, warm summer rain that is pleasant to play frisbee in; no, its the hard, driving winter rain complete with high winds.

I guess this is a blessing in disguise- I'll be able to run for another whole week so that by next thursday I'll be able to run them all into the ground!!! BHA HA HA HA HA!!!