Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sundry News Items

Have you been following the stuff in the news about all of the uproar over health care stuff and it providing means for contraception? It's not just any contraception - it's preferred contraception. Planned Parenthood receives over $300 million a year, so I'm pretty sure that if someone wanted to get a condom, they could find it. But what's more interesting is the various reactions some people are having around the country. At one university (not sure which), the health care offered by the university does not provide for preferred contraception, and so one female student spoke at and talked about how it was her preference, and she believed it to be her advantage to attend that university, but she felt that she was choosing between an inferior education but superior health care options to what she was being offered by her current university. Can you believe that? Thankfully, one person/organization spoke out against those type of comments stating that self-control is actually the first choice that a person has and people are not so helpless that they can't best protect themselves by simply practicing some self-restraint.

Have you heard about the uproar in Afghanistan? The issue is over some burned Korans. I didn't know much of the details until I read this article by Andrew McCarthy. He is probably the most knowledgeable person about all things Middle East. So the issue is the burning of Korans, only the military didn't know that they were Korans. They were books being passed around by prisoners that contained coded messages to each other that had to do with with escape plans and such, so the soldiers took the books and burned them to prevent them from communicating to each other. McCarthy raises the right question: how is it an appropriate response for some people to riot and kill other people when someone did  something unintentionally wrong? And why isn't it also defiling the Koran to write in it and raise insurrection? Because it serves their purposes. I posted that brief item last week, but Islamists (different from Muslims) are wackos. They will be a thorn in our side for a long time. An excerpt:

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims — not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims — are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book. Yes, it’s the Koran, but it’s a book all the same — and one that, moderate Muslims never tire of telling us, doesn’t really mean everything it says anyhow.

Muslim leaders and their leftist apologists are also forever lecturing the United States about “proportionality” in our war-fighting. Yet when it comes to Muslim proportionality, Americans are supposed to shrug meekly and accept the “you burn books, we kill people” law of the jungle. Disgustingly, the Times would inure us to this moral equivalence by rationalizing that “Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith.” Well then, I guess that makes it all right, huh?

Then there’s the second not-to-be-uttered truth: Defiling the Koran becomes an issue for Muslims only when it has been done by non-Muslims. Observe that the unintentional burning would not have occurred if these “fiercely protective of their Islamic faith” Afghans had not defiled the Korans in the first place. They were Muslim prisoners who annotated the “holy” pages with what a U.S. military official described as “extremist inscriptions” in covert messages sent back and forth, just as the jihadists held at Gitmo have been known to do (notwithstanding that Muslim prisoners get their Korans courtesy of the American taxpayers they construe the book to justify killing).

Mitt won Michigan and Arizona yesterday. Good for him. I'm still hesitant about him, mostly because he just doesn't seem to inspire the base, so I'm afraid of how he'll fare in a general election. It may be the Obama is so vulnerable that almost anyone can beat him, but I feel like I'm rooting for a dark horse to come up at the GOP National Convention. I like him the most of what's out there, but there's a part of me that feels like there may still be someone better than him that hasn't been made available yet. We'll see next week with Super Tuesday.

Last, this article by Jeff Jacoby about LDS proxy baptism for Jews. Jacoby is one writer whose views I completely line up with, and this piece is no different.  An excerpt:

So now there’s a whole new commotion, with some prominent Jewish voices once again loudly expressing indignation.

“Holocaust victims were killed solely because they were Jews,’’ fumes Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “And here comes the Mormon Church taking away their Jewishness. It’s like killing them twice.’’ The Simon Wiesenthal Center, pronouncing itself “outraged,’’ declares that the latest proxy baptisms “make a mockery’’ of Jewish-Mormon relations. Wiesel himself insists that Mitt Romney, as “the most famous and important Mormon in the country,’’ has a moral obligation to tell his church: “Stop it.’’

But if anyone should be told to “stop it,’’ it’s men like Foxman and Wiesel, whose reactions to this issue have been unworthy and unfair.

For one thing, the Mormon Church promptly apologized for the listing of Anne Frank and the others, and firmly reiterated its policy: “Proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims are strictly prohibited.’’ Leaping to take offense at something the church has unequivocally repudiated is cheap grandstanding.

More odious by far is the accusation that a posthumous “baptism’’ to which no Jew attaches any credence is tantamount to a second genocide (“It’s like killing them twice’’). What an ugly slander. Even to the most zealous Mormon, proxy baptism is simply the offering of a choice — it gives non-Mormons in the afterlife a chance to accept the gospel, should they wish to. You don’t have to buy the theology — I certainly don’t — to recognize that its message is benign.

As a Jew, I am less interested in what other religions teach about the fate of Jews in the next world than in how they affect the fate of Jews in this world. Rafael Medoff, a scholar of America’s response to the Holocaust, notes that Mormon leaders were outspoken supporters of efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi Europe at a time when many mainstream Christians were silent. For example, Utah Senator William King — among the most renowned Mormons of his day — strongly backed legislation that could have saved Anne Frank and her family.

Outraged by proxy baptisms? Count me out. As my stunted family tree attests, the Jewish people have very real, very dangerous enemies. Mormons undergoing peaceful rituals in their own temples aren’t on the list. 

While listening to some interviews last year at the COB, one rabbi expressed a similar point of view. He stated that if he were to get outraged by proxy baptism then that would mean he was giving credence to a belief in a religion that he doesn't subscribe to. Makes sense, right? He felt that all the outrage came less from practicing Jews and more from the liberal ones. Thought that was interesting though.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Random Things

Was reading this morning and I thought this excerpt was interesting, especially the part at the end:

You know Bernard Lewis, the historian who is the dean of Middle East scholars, and a friend of National Review, and an NR cruiser. But did you know that he was leading a plot to divide Egypt into four separate states? Oh, yes. MEMRI -- the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute -- has the story, here.

It is not only the Muslim Brothers who are peddling this lunacy: It’s the official Egyptian press. Lewis is the “Jewish-Zionist Orientalist,” alternatively “the Zionist conspirator historian” -- etc.

I have said it for decades, ever since being exposed to the Arab world while in high school: The region will never, ever progress until the fever breaks -- until the culture of the lie, the culture of nutty paranoia, dies or weakens. More than poverty or anything else, it’s lunacy and lies that hold the Arab world back.

Many Arabs will tell you this, when they think it’s safe to do so.

Quick story -- a repeat: On 9/11 or 9/12, I received an e-mail from an Egyptian acquaintance, who lectured at the university in Alexandria. Very well-educated, Westernized woman. She said (in essence), “I hope you’re okay. And please know it couldn’t have been Arabs who did this -- it must have been the Jews.”

If she could do no better than that -- what hope was there for the man who emptied her trash at the university?

The same writer, Jay Nordlinger, had an interview with the New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez. She's doing great things down there, but in reference to some reforms she's trying to bring about in education in her state, he quotes George W. Bush, when talking about advancing kids in school for social promotion, he called that the "soft bigotry of low expectations." I actually had an experience not unrelated to that with my work in the internship office. I can't believe some students have made it almost all the way through college.

Today is George Washington's actual birthday. Incredible man. I don't know a whole lot about him, but I have heard, I'm always amazed by. Anyway, here's a pretty famous letter he wrote to a group of Jews who had warmly greeted him. In it is a very famous affirmation of religious freedom.


While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, [1] from all classes of Citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

Go: Washington

And then one last thing from John Stuart Mill. You might hear a lot about people, maybe just politicians, that what we need to bolster the economy is more consumption. Mill touched on this topic long ago, and he's pretty compelling:

Among the mistakes which were most pernicious in their direct consequences, and tended in the greatest degree to prevent a just conception of the objects of the science, or of the test to be applied to the solution of the questions which it presents, was the immense importance attached to consumption. The great end of legislation in matters of national wealth, according to the prevalent opinion, was to create consumers. A great and rapid consumption was what the producers, of all classes and denominations, wanted, to enrich themselves and the country. This object, under the varying names of an extensive demand, a brisk circulation, a great expenditure of money, and sometimes totidem verbis a large consumption, was conceived to be the great condition of prosperity.

It is not necessary, in the present state of the science, to contest this doctrine in the most flagrantly absurd of its forms or of its applications. The utility of a large government expenditure, for the purpose of encouraging industry, is no longer maintained. Taxes are not now esteemed to be “like the dews of heaven, which return again in prolific showers.” It is no longer supposed that you benefit the producer by taking his money, provided you give it to him again in exchange for his goods. There is nothing which impresses a person of reflection with a stronger sense of the shallowness of the political reasonings of the last two centuries, than the general reception so long given to a doctrine which, if it proves anything, proves that the more you take from the pockets of the people to spend on your own pleasures, the richer they grow; that the man who steals money out of a shop, provided he expends it all again at the same shop, is a benefactor to the tradesman whom he robs, and that the same operation, repeated sufficiently often, would make the tradesman’s fortune.

In opposition to these palpable absurdities, it was triumphantly established by political economists, that consumption never needs encouragement. All which is produced is already consumed, either for the purpose of reproduction or of enjoyment. The person who saves his income is no less a consumer than he who spends it: he consumes it in a different way; it supplies food and clothing to be consumed, tools and materials to be used, by productive labourers. Consumption, therefore, already takes place to the greatest extent which the amount of production admits of; but, of the two kinds of consumption, reproductive and unproductive, the former alone adds to the national wealth, the latter impairs it. What is consumed for mere enjoyment, is gone; what is consumed for reproduction, leaves commodities of equal value, commonly with the addition of a profit. The usual effect of the attempts of government to encourage consumption, is merely to prevent saving; that is, to promote unproductive consumption at the expense of reproductive, and diminish the national wealth by the very means which were intended to increase it.

What a country wants to make it richer, is never consumption, but production.
 Anyway, just thought all of that was pretty interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Trop Sesh

For Andrew's bachelor party, he wanted to do a winter trope trip. So with snow blanketing the surrounding mountains, we swung from a tree rope into a pond of not-quite-but-may-as-well-have-been freezing cold water. It was actually really fun:

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Singleness

These aren't my thoughts, but those of a Catholic woman. I posted this on FB, but wanted to include it on here for anyone who maybe didn't see that, and I also include some more quotes and thoughts of my own. This was on NRO the other day and gives a great perspective on singleness and appreciating that time in our lives while still living full of faith and hope. I think anything that she says in this piece actually has direct application for anyone out there in the LDS faith and is still single. And from a guy's perspective, I think this probably applies as much to men as it does to women in a lot of respects. So here is the article.

This piece is actually an interview with Kathy Stimpson, author of The Catholic Girl's Guide for Surviving the Single Years. Some excerpts:
‘Singleness can very much be a cross, a source of struggles and suffering offered up to God as you journey towards him. It’s also an opportunity, however short or long-lived, to serve God and others in a unique way,” Emily Stimpson writes...
LOPEZ: A book called Embracing Your Single Vocation made you cry. But isn’t that what your book is advocating?

STIMPSON: Not in the sense that book meant it! The author of that book, God bless his well intentioned heart, had this theory that if you weren’t married by a certain point in life, your 30th birthday, you should just accept the fact that you were never going to get married and try to be happy about that. My book presumes just the opposite, that most young women reading it will get married one day, only that day will come a little (or a lot) later than it did for their mothers and grandmothers. Some of us won’t marry, of course, but most of us will. (At least that’s what the statistics say.) Accordingly, the Survival Guide’s goal isn’t to encourage readers to be happy about being single forever and ever — I hope they won’t be single forever and ever — but to offer some advice that can make the single life more bearable; suggestions that can help women not only to be sane and happy but also to become the woman God is calling them to be. Whether we ever marry or not, those ideas come in pretty handy, so handing them on is what my book is about.

LOPEZ: Which idea discussed in your book is our culture most in need of?

STIMPSON: Well, on one level, I think single women need some help navigating the challenges, both practical and spiritual, that come with being single in the post-college years. When it comes to issues such as vocation, femininity, dating, chastity, work, and finances, we’re facing challenges our mothers and grandmothers rarely faced. On a deeper level, our culture needs women who can be witnesses — witnesses to the dignity and vocation of femininity, witnesses to the beauty of chastity, and witnesses to what it means to trust God in the face of suffering. Ultimately, the book is call to young single women to be those witnesses. And hopefully, it’s a help for them in answering that call.

LOPEZ: “Learn to submit”? We have to be a nation of Michele Bachmanns?

STIMPSON: I’m not sure what goes on in Michele Bachmann’s house, but the type of submission I’m talking about in the book is not the kind that requires you to submit to your controlling ex-boyfriend. That’s a bad idea. I’m talking about submitting to God, to his will, and to his plan. And also to his truth. Too many of us have set ourselves up as our own pope, picking and choosing what we want to believe based only on what’s easy or convenient. But that doesn’t get you very far, at least not if happiness and holiness are what you’re after. Authentic freedom, loving as we’re called to love, comes from surrendering ourselves to God. It comes from dying to ourselves and letting our hearts and minds be conformed to Christ’s. That’s a type of submission we all need to practice — men and women.

I'm going to leave it at that. I only went through the first couple of pages and I pretty much just included everything from there. What I really like about the article is that the tone is very positive, which I think is really key to handling your single years gracefully and eventually what allows you to settle into a happy, healthy relationship. I think optimism is a natural outcropping of faithfulness, and until we can learn to be happy and content regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, it's not going to make a difference our marital/single status.

Let me speak as an "expert" after surviving (nearly...talking in terms of nearly first, not nearly surviving) my first year of marriage. I think marriage is kind of what it was like going from premortal life to mortal life. There were some great things about premortal life, I'm sure, but there were definitely more benefits to mortal life and that's why we ended up coming here. Being single should be a good time in life, and there are some things that can only really be done while single and it's great, but when it comes time for marriage and the progress and different set of challenges and circumstances that come along with that, then embrace it when it becomes available. Until that time comes, however, enjoy whatever your circumstances might be. Bloom where you're planted. You'll be much happier that way. When the time is right, it'll work itself out.

California Weird

Did you hear? I don't know how closely you all follow the Prop 8 stuff in California, but last week it was deemed unconstitutional by the 9th District Court, which wasn't a surprise at all. know what is surprising? The 9th District Court had an reversal/vacate rate of 88% in 2009, 79% in 2010, and over the last 10 years, that rate has averaged about 81%. Do you realize what that means? 81% of the time a higher court chooses to either reverse or vacate the decision that was made by the 9th Court. It's the highest reversal/vacate rate in the nation, and with Prop 8, everyone pretty much knew that it was going to go that way. But what does that mean for the credibility of that court's decisions? The Supreme Court of the United States disagrees with it almost all of the time, so are they the ones that are wrong? I guess the SCOTUS has leaned a little more conservative over the last decade, but still, not that far off. That's quite extreme.

And in other news that was tossed around heavily on Facebook, fines can be given to those throwing frisbees or footballs on California beaches. Someone mentioned no digging holes either. So basically treat the beach like a cemetery and no doing beach things at the beach. Thankfully that's only in LA county at the moment and I've actually never even been up to any of those for actual beach time. Phew.

I just don't understand that state. I love it to death, but I hate it at the same time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines!

Over-hyped? Over-commercialized? Yes and yes, and more. All the things that people say about Christmas being way overblown and how people lose the meaning of the holiday and all that can be applied to Valentine's day too. I've said it before on here, but for all of those people out there who say that they don't like some mass-market commercial holiday to tell them when to express love and well-meaning thoughts, that's a total cop-out. Shouldn't it just be nice to have an excuse to go ahead and be romantic and expressive for any reason at all? Isn't it nice to have Christmas time to have a deliberate season to reorient ourselves toward Christ and others? Why is Valentine's any different?

This video from the History channel explains some of the origins of the holiday. Like just about every other present day holiday, its placement on the calendar has a lot to do with Christianity trying to take over an old pagan holiday, but that doesn't do anything to invalidate the reasons and meaning behind the holiday itself.

And then here's a fun song. I probably posted this one last year:

I've always been one to do something for the holiday, even if I didn't have a specific Valentine in mind, whether it's just sending a funny card to a friend, or something romantic for someone I really care about. I guess I just have always really loved the holiday.

So there it is. Happy Valentine's day to my beloved, Amy. She's been doing a photography challenge with her sister and I just love her latest post because it's just so her - happy and active and cute. Check it out here.

Love you all and have a happy Valentine's day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Will I Know?

It's always kind of weird when a huge celebrity dies, especially ones that have kind of fallen by the wayside. The way I got the news, and this is probably true for a lot of people, is through status updates on Facebook or Twitter. Social media really does rule the roost when it comes to breaking news. I don't watch much live television, and I usually get my news through the internet, so it's pretty selective the things I'll hear, except for what comes through social media. It's how I found out about Osama Bin Laden, and it's how I found out about Whitney Houston yesterday.

The reaction that some have to celebrity deaths is interesting. I remember when Michael Jackson died a friend of mine didn't think much of it, even saying something like, "so what? The world is rid of another pedophile, good riddance," kind of thing. Others post tributes to that person and really lament that loss. So why do people mourn the passing of such flawed people?

I think it has mostly to do with the final realization that the person has utterly and completely wasted his or her talent. We do have some level of personal investment in these people because maybe Michael Jackson was the soundtrack to your youth, or Whitney Houston expressed what you couldn't in her cover of I Will Always Love You. There is some level of involvement, personally, that we have with these people, even if they are in every other way so completely distant from us.

So when we see them floundering and struggling through their trials and demons, we look at them often with scorn and disappointment, but the actual passing brings an end to the person who just couldn't ever turn it around, and that should be a sad event. It's not only of a life, but of talent and promise that could have affected many people in lots of good ways, but was left unfulfilled. That is definitely a sad thing to behold.

Anyway, I'm sad for Whitney Houston. Hers is a very tragic story. She has a lot of really great songs, but this one was always one of my favorites. I used to go to an 80s night with a buddy and we always really loved when this one would come on. It's just fun and happy. Here you go:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Running Season

For the last couple years my running season has started earlier and earlier. The first three marathons I ran were all at the beginning of Fall, meaning that I was doing the peak of my running in August and September. September is not a bad time to run in Utah, but August is kind of horrific, unless you can get out early, which I have always had a problem doing. Now that I'm running a marathon in June, however, my season starts this month and peaks in April-May.

Anyway, I really enjoy having a seasoned of heightened physical activity. Since about 2006 or so, I have actually been really good about exercising regularly. I was prompted by my fat period where I was about 20 lbs more than I am now, wondering how my diet of fast food and mainly soda were holding me down. Then I got a gym pass, lost more than 25 lbs in two months, and I've never really looked back.

I guess I don't ever really take a long break, but I definitely do ramp up my activity level, and this year I have added more lower body workouts to supplement my running. I had a nagging injury that I couldn't really pinpoint that started back in November and never really left. After talking to a few people about it, I started focusing more on strength exercises and weight training and it has made a world of difference.

In the last month I've run consistently 4 times a week, worked harder on my legs and maintained the other lifting that I do, and my 2 month long nagging injury is now only in the background and I hardly notice it now. Yesterday I did 60 lunges, hamstring curls, leg presses, calf raises, and then I ran 5 miles right after. The start of my run was tough, but by the end I was down to a 7 minute mile. I felt pretty awesome.

I even went out and bought a kettlebell that I'm looking to incorporate more into everything that I do. The standard kettlebell swing is great for the hamstrings and glutes, but there are a few more back exercises that I think will be really great.

So far I'm only signed up for the Utah Valley Marathon, but I will probably pick up at least one more half, a mud run (Tough Mudder anyone?), and maybe do my first tri this year.

It's just kind of exciting is all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Two links I thought I'd throw out to you:
  • This one is from Business Insider talking about how sales from the Iphone alone outdid all of Microsoft last year. Another blogger points out that it was not too long ago that some anti-trust lawsuits had been filed against Microsoft saying that the company was too big and that it had a monopoly over the market. For all you Iphone and Mac lovers out there, I hope that people don't start crying foul against Apple and trying to limit their business because other companies can't compete. From the article:
    It was not long ago that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was fending off those observing that Apple's market capitalization was closing in on Microsoft's by saying that, regardless of market cap, Microsoft's business was much bigger and more profitable.

    Not anymore.

    Now, Apple's business (in Q4) is more than twice the size of Microsoft's--$46 billion to $21 billion--and more than twice as profitable: $17 billion to $8 billion.

    And, needless to say, Apple's market cap now dwarfs Microsoft's. (Although, interestingly, Apple's market cap is not yet 2X Microsoft's, despite the difference in revenue, profitability, and growth rates. The market still appears to be concerned that Apple's "closed system" is vulnerable to the same sort of disruption by Android and other more open systems that Apple's Mac business was back in the 1990s).

    What's just as remarkable here is that Apple invented the iPhone business out of thin air in 2007. This is not an old product category. It's a completely new one. Which means that Microsoft or anyone else could have invented it.

    (The same can be said for the more recently introduced iPad, which is now cleaning Microsoft's clock in that category, too.)

    For the first decade of Steve Ballmer's reign at Microsoft, some folks cut him a break for the company's stagnant stock price by observing that the market had changed. But the market changed for Apple, too, and Apple innovated two huge new product lines, one of which is now bigger and more profitable than Microsoft's entire business. So Steve can't be cut a break for that anymore.
  • And this post from a blog called Study Hacks. The guy is now a professor at some prestigious university, but what I really like about his stuff is that he's always talking about how the career worth pursuing is one found through the development of well defined skill sets. He talks about how Steve Martin is a good example of this: 
  • Martin’s Diligence

    One of the things that has always impressed me about Steve Martin is his diligence. In his memoir, Born Standing Up, he emphasizes this theme — defining diligence not just in terms of persistence, but also in the ability to ignore unrelated pursuits.

    Martin was, of course, being facetious when he pepped himself up with the idea that it would only take 40 years to get good at the banjo (he was playing at a high-level in his act within 5 – 10 years of starting his training), but this statement reflects a deeper truth: getting good at something is not to be taken lightly; it’s a pursuit measured in years, not weeks.

    This diligence defined Martin’s path.

    He spent decades focused intensely on his act, which meant two things: banjo and jokes.

    After reaching the peak of the live comedy world in the 1970s he turned his attention for years to making movies.

    Then he spent years working on fiction writing.

    More recently he’s returned back to his banjo.

    If you collapse Martin’s skills into a flat list, he sounds like a Renaissance man, but if you take a snapshot of any particular point of his life, you’ll encounter relentless, longterm focus on a very small number of things.

    Diligence Versus the World

    I’m reintroducing this idea of diligence because I keep encountering it in the stories of people with remarkable lives and yet almost never see it mentioned in the online community where Study Hacks lives.

    And this is a problem.

    We’ve created this fantasy world where everyone is just 30 days of courage boosting exercises and life hacks away from living an amazing life.

    But when you study people like Martin, who really do live remarkable lives, you almost always encounter stretches of years and years dedicated to honing craft.

    Anyway, just thought those were interesting. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Groundhog Day!

At first I was just gonna post this clip sequence set to I Got You Babe just because I love Groundhog's Day (the movie), and then I came across this article and it's kind of amazing how seriously some people take the movie.

I've always really liked, and it's funny how many little things I find myself saying that come from this one.


Anyway, here is an article that talks about it at length, and an excerpt:
Personally, I always saw Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal return of the same in this story. That was Nietzsche’s idea — metaphorical or literal — to imagine life as an endless repetition of the same events over and over. How would this shape your actions? What would you choose to live out for all eternity? Others see Camus, who writes about how we should live once we realize the absurdity of life. But existentialism doesn’t explain the film’s broader appeal. It is the religious resonance — if not necessarily explicit religious themes — that draws many to it. There’s much to the view of Punxsutawney as purgatory: Connors goes to his own version of hell, but since he’s not evil it turns out to be purgatory, from which he is released by shedding his selfishness and committing to acts of love. Meanwhile, Hindus and Buddhists see versions of reincarnation here, and Jews find great significance in the fact that Connors is saved only after he performs mitzvahs (good deeds) and is returned to earth, not heaven, to perform more.

The burning question: Was all this intentional? Yes and no. Ultimately, the story is one of redemption, so it should surprise no one that it speaks to those in search of the same. But there is also a secular, even conservative, point to be made here. Connors’s metamorphosis contradicts almost everything postmodernity teaches. He doesn’t find paradise or liberation by becoming more “authentic,” by acting on his whims and urges and listening to his inner voices. That behavior is soul-killing. He does exactly the opposite: He learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, even the bourgeois hicks and their values. He determines to make himself better by reading poetry and the classics and by learning to sculpt ice and make music, and most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.

We're watching it tonight. That'll be good.

On a related note, I finished the 7th and final book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which is proclaimed to be the magnum opus of all his work. I guess by now I'm a pretty big connoisseur of his work - I think I've read about 15 of his books - and I really kind of love him.

In one of his short stories he talks about how he actually believes a version of hell is having to repeat the same thing over and over. I don't think any of you are going to be reading any of his books anytime soon, so I'll spoil the Dark Tower for you: the gunslinger is doomed to continually repeat his quest to reach the dark tower forever, but with one caveat in the last few pages. He's actually atoned for one of his mistakes en route to the tower, so it's my contention that he is actually on his road to redemption.

Anyway, it's just interesting to think about how this relates to our everyday lives. While we don't repeat exact sequences and events in our lives over and over, but we do have similar trials and experiences through which we try and perfect ourselves until eventually we do overcome and find our own sort of redemption. Part of the human experience is being endowed with weakness and just general difficulty, and in the process of trying to overcome them, we find godliness.

So who knew Groundhog Day was such a deep movie? There ya go.

Like a Good Neighbor?

Several months ago I posted about how we had gone on a couples date with some people that lived right below us. At the time, I was sure that we would become really good friends, play games with each other all the time, and someday go on vacations together.

Things started out well enough. We're close in age to each other, so we seemed to relate on that point. We both got married a little bit later, but were also recent newlyweds. We conversed pretty easily with each other. We even had some common friends between us. We invited them for dinner and we played Farkle. Then they invited us over and we played bocci. They brought us some treats one time. They filled in for our primary class while we were in Europe. And then that was about it.

We would see them in church, but they never went out of their way to say hi to us or engage us in conversation. Ever. Even when we would pass them in the parking lot behind our place, they never said anything more than just a cursory "hi." And I don't know about Amy, but I did always try to engage them in conversation. I asked them about their Thanksgiving and how it was in California. When I heard they were going to have a baby, I congratulated them and asked them about the due date and how she was feeling. Amy made white chocolate popcorn and we went downstairs to drop it off for them and wish them a merry Christmas.

And then all of a sudden about a month ago we heard that they had bought a place and they were moving. The weird part is that before we found that out, through a girl who did Amy's hair, I had just stopped them in the parking lot to tell them that we needed to get together again soon and do dinner and games or something.

I don't know. I guess I felt like I needed to write about it just because I had been making comments to Amy ever couple of days or so about how weird I thought it was that they never once mentioned they were going to move, or even said goodbye, or a bunch of other things that I thought were off. I know she's probably tired of hearing about it from me, but I definitely feel spurned.

I like to think of myself as a person who will make a pretty good effort to maintain contact, to let people - especially ones that I consider friends - know that I am interested in their lives. (Even if I sometimes forget to acknowledge your birthday.) And it's weird to me that I felt like I made a pretty good effort at that, and then received nothing in return.I just would think that when you've invited someone in your home to sup together, when you've had at least a few meaningful interactions together that you'd do something as simple as say "bye," or just do something to acknowledge that you were more than just strangers to each other. That's not weird for me to feel that way, right?

I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be that person who is completely detached from the people that are around me, from people that I have consistent interaction with.

I guess this whole experience just really reinforces that for me.