Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Has Arrived!

This is my jam lately. This album just released this past week. I'll take a closer look for y'all. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Confirmation Bias and Same Sex Parenting

Are you familiar with the term? A confirmation bias is the tendency that people have to look for, or only attend to information that confirms what they already believe. Everyone does it, and it's almost impossible to escape. It's also exactly what just about everyone does when it comes to politics and other similarly touchy subjects, as Jeff Jacoby writes about here:

Assuming Marks is right about the weakness of the findings on which the APA's verdict was based, how many advocates of same-sex marriage or adoption by gay and lesbian parents will consider changing their view? How many would back away from their support for gay marriage in the light of anything social science might say? I'd estimate the number at, roughly, zero. Conversely, suppose Marks's paper had demonstrated that the APA's declaration was even more firmly supported than previously realized. How many principled opponents of gay marriage would change their minds? My estimate would stay at zero.

In the same issue of Social Science Research, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus publishes the results of a large national study, based on interviews with a random sample of 15,000 young adults (aged 18 to 39) about their families, upbringing, and life experiences. Regnerus's bottom line: Children raised by their biological mother and father in stable families tended to turn out better than those whose parents had been in same-sex relationships. Even after controlling for age, race, gender, as well as subjective factors, such as being bullied as a youth, the findings were stark. Children raised by one or more gay parents, Regnerus wrote in an essay on Slate, "were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed." They were also more likely to have experienced infidelity, trouble with the law, and sexual victimization.

Regnerus's methodology has been sharply disparaged. Even some scholars who oppose same-sex marriage have underscored its weaknesses. Regnerus himself acknowledges that outcomes might be very different for kids being raised by same-sex parents today, "in an era that is more accepting and supportive of gay and lesbian couples." And he stresses that sexual orientation has "nothing to do with the ability to be a good, effective parent."

But even if his methodology were unassailable, would it change the larger debate over homosexuality and same-sex marriage? If you believe legalizing gay marriage is a matter of fundamental fairness, no scholarly study is likely to turn you around. And if you regard same-sex marriage as inherently immoral or absurd, a shelf of scientific journals touting its benefits won't convince you otherwise.

We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures with a healthy respect for facts and logic and science. And yet when it comes to the most controversial questions of public policy -- gun ownership, abortion, church-state separation, waterboarding, illegal immigration, you name it -- does anybody start with the data and only then decide where to stand? Most of us move in the other direction.

A lot of people have gone to great lengths to disparage the study, as Jacoby notes, but after reading his assertions in the article itself, he makes an honest effort to qualify his findings, suggesting that they are still very limited and may have different outcomes if they were to be redone today.

Mona Charen notes:

The studies on children raised by homosexual parents that predated Regnerus’s work suffered from a number of flaws. They tended to be examinations of “mostly white, well-educated, lesbian parents” living in metropolitan areas. They were often based on parental reports of childhood outcomes, and were composed of people who had been recruited at lesbian bookstores and other contact points — skewing the sample in favor of those eager to make a point. Not all of the studies were marred by such flaws, but nearly all were small, and thus lacked, in Regnerus’s words, “enough statistical power to detect meaningful differences should they exist.”

Regnerus’s study, the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), interviewed 15,000 adults aged 18–39, and asked dozens of questions about their lives, including whether their mother or father had ever been involved in a same-sex relationship. Among those whose parents had been involved in same-sex relationships, the outcomes were significantly worse than for children raised by married mothers and fathers. Even after controlling for factors such as age, race, gender, or the gay-friendliness of the state in which they lived, those raised in homes with one (or more) gay parents reported that they experienced more depression, ill health, unemployment, infidelity, drug use, trouble with the law, sexual partners, sexual victimization, and unhappy childhood memories.

 Anyway, these findings are interesting, but only insofar as a person can successfully interpret them in a subjective manner.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

...the tone that matters

Not too long ago a FB friend of mine made some comments about the Church's involvement with the City Creek Center, mainly negative comments about how the Church has decided to manage its funds. I never really knew the guy that well, being just a coworker of his at a law firm that I worked at for a few months, but I felt like I should say something to him about the tone of the comments that he was making regarding the Church.

He has voiced a number of concerns about same sex marriage, mostly, and recently about this real estate development project. I wrote him a message so as to not make it a public debate, but I guess that is kind of the path that he has decided to take with all of his concerns. Here are a few of his comments to me:

As I read your thoughtful response, I couldn't help but think "that sounds just like me two years ago." Please don't mistake that as some chiding superiority. I'm just pretty sure that I understand where you're coming from, because I used to feel the same way. I used to focus my thinking on how the Church operates through the lens of "the Church and its leaders are always led by God, therefore there must always be a wise/prudent/divine purpose for its seemingly errant decisions."

For me, that perspective came from a lifetime of hearing Mormon mantras such as "the prophet will never lead the Church astray," "follow the brethren," and "the Church is perfect," etc.

I simply can't follow that philosophy any more. I know for a fact that the GA's, prophets, apostles, or whoever CAN lead the Church astray. They DO make mistakes -- sometimes horrible mistakes that cause a great deal of harm. Now, that doesn't change my relationship to God or the Gospel, but it certainly changes the way I view and examine the Church as a institution. I can elaborate on that point further if you'd like, but suffice it to say that I think to invest blind faith/trust/obedience in any institution led by fallible men is akin to putting your trust "in the arm of flesh." 

What really disturbs me is not so much that he has some skeptical thoughts about the Church, because doubts can creep up every now and then for the most faithful members, but its the tone and attitude of his message that I find so unnerving. 

There is certain ground where faithful members shouldn't ever want to tread and I think this line of thinking happens to be one of those areas. It's an attitude where one believes that he knows what's best, or that he has the mind of God, where he feels that his leaders do not. It's one thing to have doubts and concerns about certain doctrines or practices, but it's quite another to be voicing those in such a way as to cast doubt on the leadership and institution of the Church itself. This kind of dangerous attitude is reflected as much in the doubting of the leadership of the Church as it is in the reluctance to accept callings and assignments given by local leaders. This kind of person can accept the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, in the Bible and other prophets and prophetic works of the past, but finds it a struggle to embrace the living Church and its inspired leaders of the present.

Credulity in the mistaken principles can be a dangerous thing. It can lead to an impassioned hypocrisy that is misguided at best and wholly damning at worst, but when its founded in truth, meekly seeking the mind and will of God, it is something that helps turn the sinner into a saint.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Different From Other Times

I read an interesting article that comes from the May issue of Vanity Fair about what went into the sitcom Friends. It's a good length article, but very interesting. This part about the show ending kind of struck me given some things I've been feeling today:

MATT LeBLANC: That whole ending, that was a rough two weeks. We went away for Christmas for two weeks, and then we came back for two final weeks to shoot the one-hour finale. I had quit smoking for four years, and in that final two weeks I started smoking again because we were so aware that our time together was coming to an end. “Yes, I’ll talk to you. Yes, I’ll always know you, but I won’t know you like this. I won’t see you every day, all day. Eat lunch together every day. To have this awesome, awesome experience every week. It’s coming to an end.

So in those final two weeks, we would steal away these little moments. “Hey, let’s go hang out. Let’s go sit in my room.” It was really … a lot of Kleenex.

I've been stranded at my apartment today because I'm having my car worked on, and here and there I've thought about different people who might be able to take me away and distract me for a bit. One of those people is Mike Reid. It broke my heart a little bit to think that he is on his way driving to his next adventure that will carry him for the next four years.

I've always felt close to Mike, but these last four years we've gotten a lot closer just because he was one person I knew that I could always lean on out here in Utah. I've gone through phases with different friends, and I'm still friends with most of the people that I first met out here when I moved back to Utah, but Mike has really been my rock. While I've changed roommates, circles of friends, dated a few different girls, Mike was the one constant throughout this entire time.

He was my lunch buddy, my intramural soccer teammate, and even my bowling classmate once. I just love the kid to death. This is true of most all of the Reids, but Mike especially feels more family than just friend. I'm really excited for him and and proud at the same time that he's going on to dental school in Michigan, but sad at the same time that he won't be here anymore. And that's where that Matt LeBlanc statement comes in. Things will change and be different, and they'll never be the same as they were during this time.

I can think of several times when I've had those kinds of feelings. I can remember my mom waving goodbye when I drove off to college, and she was just balling her eyes out, knowing I wasn't going to come back as the kid she knew ever again. I remember leaving BYU right before my mission, saying goodbye to my friend Cid at the basketball court outside of DT, knowing that that goodbye would be different from many others. Leaving California, the second time, was a hard one too. I remember leaving Dave's apartment complex and just feeling so, so sad.

Anyway, just reminds me of this scene from Shawshank Redemption with Red's words about his friend, Andy Dufresne (a Stephen King story, betcha didn't know that, huh?):

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tear Down This Wall - 25th

This happened a few days ago, but it's still worth noting. A few days ago was the 25th anniversary of Reagan's Tear Down This Wall speech at the Brandenburg gate. Let me excerpt from something the writer of that speech wrote:

In April 1987, when I was assigned to write the Brandenburg Gate address, I spent a day in Berlin with the White House advance team, the logistical experts, Secret Service agents, and press officials who went to the site of every presidential visit to make arrangements. In the evening, I broke away from the advance team to join a dozen Berliners for dinner. Our hosts were Dieter and Ingeborg Elz, who, after Dieter completed his career at the World Bank in Washington, had retired to Berlin. Although we had never met, we had friends in common, and the Elzes had offered to put on this dinner party to give me a feel for their city. They had invited Berliners of different walks of life and political outlooks–businessmen, academics, students, homemakers.

We chatted for awhile. Then I explained that, earlier in the day, the ranking American diplomat in West Berlin had told me that over the years Berliners had made a kind of accommodation with the wall. “Is it true?” I asked. “Have you gotten used to it?”

The Elzes and their guests glanced at each other uneasily. Then one man raised an arm and pointed. “My sister lives twenty miles in that direction,” he said. “I haven’t seen her in more than two decades. Do you think I can get used to that?” Another man spoke. As he walked to work each morning, he explained, a soldier in a guard tower peered down at him through binoculars. “That soldier and I speak the same language. We share the same history. But one of us is a zookeeper and the other is an animal, and I am never certain which is which.”

Our hostess broke in. A gracious woman, Ingeborg Elz had suddenly grown angry. Her face was red. She made a fist with one hand and pounded it into the palm of the other. “If this man Gorbachev is serious with his talk of glasnost and perestroika,” she said, “he can prove it. He can get rid of this wall.”

A few things I've read recently about WWII and the fall of the USSR has made mention that it's worth remembering that the outcomes of both events was in doubt for a long time. It wasn't clear for a long time that the Allied forces would defeat Hitler, and for many years it was not clear that the USSR would ever go away.

Reagan was one of the few people who recognized the challenge that the Soviet Union presented for the US, and probably the only one who actually believed that if the US took them head on, they would not last. 

When you read about what it was like for the people of East and West Germany from the excerpt above, how can you not appreciate the Reagan's boldness in making that statement. He didn't write it, but he said those words against the opinions of all of his most trusted advisors who attempted many times to soften the message that he felt he needed to deliver.

And to think that Gorbachev was given the Nobel Peace Prize, as if he had any choice in the outcome of the Cold War, what a joke.

Thank heavens for President Reagan.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Marathon As a Metaphor

This past Saturday I ran the Utah Valley Marathon. That is marathon number five for all of you who are counting out there. Leading up to this race, I thought I was feeling pretty good. I did a moderate amount of training, had incorporated more strength training, and had a few good long runs in preparation up to the marathon.

***If you want to skip race specifics, then skip down to the next set of asterisks.

For some reason I kind of took the last few weeks off during the taper. Part of it was our trip up to Vancouver over Memorial day weekend. Most of it was probably me just wanting to be done with the schedule. I just had had enough with the rigors of always feeling like I had to work out and do more.

So as the last week arrived before the marathon, I, of course, wanted to partly make-up for the lost fitness, so I went back to my normal Monday work-out, although I did cut-down on the weights and reps I was doing, and the length and intensity of the run following. But even that proved too much. I kind of shredded my calves and they ended up being sore the next 5 days, and sore enough on the day of the marathon that I knew within the first ten minutes of running that race that I would not be having a PR kind of day.

The Utah Valley Marathon is a really good race. It's well-organized. The expo was small, but seemed to have some nice booths as I quickly passed through it while picking up my packet. The parking was easy for the shuttle buses up to the start. The major downside was that they were leaving at about 3:30 AM. Yikes. I knew I would have a tough time sleeping, but this made what little rest I got even shorter than what I would have liked.

I got in bed just before midnight, but laid there until at least 1 AM before I ever fell asleep, then woke up at 2:11 AM, only to fall asleep intermittently until about 3 when I just decided it was time to get up.

The temperature for the race was pretty close to perfect, about 70 degrees or so. The only thing I didn't like was the strong headwind while running through the canyon, which is about 9 miles in the middle of the race.

The course, however, was beautiful. The start is up past Wallsberg, UT, which is beyond the Deer Creek Reservoir. We started at six and ran with the sunrise peaking over the rolling hills. The course is mostly downhill, but not as steep as Deseret News, so that was really nice.

I was running pretty well in the beginning. I had a 7:30 min/mi pace for the first 8 or so miles, and then started to slow down as I started to approach Provo Canyon. My left knee started feeling pretty tender, which has never been a problem for me, so I thought it might be a result of my shifting my running because of the soreness in my calves. I think my running mechanics shifted a bit to compensate, and I feel confirmed in that thought because the knee doesn't hurt at all.

By mile 18 or so, I was feeling very fatigued, my legs just worn out completely. It didn't feel like a fueling problem. It just felt like a pure fatigue problem. My first half marathon split was 1:48, which was only 2 minutes off of my St. George pace, which was also my best marathon. The big difference being that my second half of St. George was actually four minutes faster than the first half, while this second half was 20 minutes longer than the first. Fatigue.

***Marathons always have a way of making me feel grateful. I went on at length about my experience in my first marathon in Chicago, and how grateful I just felt for Dave and Caitlin that came to support, random people who cheer along the course, and all of the wonderful volunteers who help out.

This time around, I was really feeling it for my wife, Amy. I first saw her at around mile 13, and she made the effort to drive down the canyon and meet me several more times along the way to cheer me on. I saw my sister-in-law Elisha running back along the course to support her friend and run with her to the end, and I saw Amy at the end with her brother Scott.

Marathons are hard. They're long, and they take months of preparation, and even then, sometimes you're still not entirely ready. It turns out marathons are really, really long. Dumb things can mess up a race. Last year it was just a super steep drop in elevation, and this year it was probably just working out a little too hard, too late in my preparation for the marathon. I ended up running just barely under 4 hours. I walked a lot at the end.

From the very start of the race I had a really hard time not thinking negative thoughts about how I was feeling. Part of me wanted to quit, and in these last two marathons in particular, it's taken a lot for me to not just want to give up. The novelty of getting through a race is lost on me now. I've run five of these. I'm getting to be kind of a vet with these things, so it turns out that isn't any kind of motivation for me to do these anymore.

The thing that has gotten me through these last couple of races, however, is just the thought that I know my wife wants to see me finish. I know that she will always support me, even 6 months pregnant, by herself, and at early hours on a Saturday morning, to drive along canyon and yell for me encourage me to go on. I can hear the emotion in her voice every time she yells for me, and that becomes enough fuel for me to finish even when it feels impossible to pick-up my leaden thighs and trudge another step towards the finish line.

And that's the difference now. I'm married to the sweetest person I know, and she will always cheer me on and want me to succeed, even if I no longer want to do it for myself, because the luster of just finishing for my own purposes is no longer as vibrant, but if it's her expectation that I make it, well, then I guess that's just what I'll do. Sometimes that means finishing another mile when you've already run 25.2 of them.

I went into this race thinking that I would take a long break from marathon running, but not even a day later, I started thinking about other races that I would like to run. I'll probably take this next year off from doing another marathon, but I know I'll be back. Not even three days later and I think I can run again already. And I'm actually even excited about it. We'll see.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

-from Dandelion Wine

You may have heard, but author Ray Bradbury passed away yesterday at the age of 91. Back as an undergrad, Dave took a class on literature and film and some of the things that they studied about Farenheit 451 sparked my interest in Bradbury's work. I read it and just loved it. Very prophetic. Some time later I ended up reading Something Wicked This Way Comes and I think I may even like that one most of all. Amy loved Dandelion Wine when she read it as a youth, and I read it a few summers ago.

He really has a way of capturing human experience, and of dressing it up with so much eloquence. I think what I liked so much about Something Wicked was all the discussion it has about good and evil, and the flawed characters that rise above themselves to combat the evil.

Anyway, it's worth everyone's time to become acquainted with his work.

Orson Scott Card had this to say about him:
Now, though, I realized that it wasn’t just on stage that the flow and music of language counted. Bradbury used it in his fiction; he used it all the time.

You never had to stumble or pause when reading Bradbury. It wasn’t just the smoothness of his language — it was the way he used repetition, fragmentation, breathless run-on sentences to sweep you through the tale.
His language made even the quotidian narrative sections emotional, so when the story reached for deeper feelings, they were within easy reach.
And now let me give you some examples of his craft:

  • "It won't work," Mr. Bentley continued, sipping his tea. "No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now. Time hypnotizes. When you're nine, you think you've always been nine years old and will always be. When you're thirty, it seems you've always been balanced there on that bright rim of middle life. And then when you turn seventy, you are always and forever seventy. You're in the present, you're trapped in a young now or an old now, but there is no other now to be seen."

  • “A stranger is shot in the street, you hardly move to help. But if, half an hour before, you spent just ten minutes with the fellow and knew a little about him and his family, you might just jump in front of his killer and try to stop it. Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know is bad, or amoral, at least. You can’t act if you don’t know.”

  • “Why love the woman who is your wife? Her nose breathes in the air of a world that I know; therefore I love that nose. Her ears hear music I might sing half the night through; therefore I love her ears. Her eyes delight in seasons of the land; and so I love those eyes. Her tongue knows quince, peach, chokeberry, mint and lime; I love to hear it speaking. Because her flesh knows heat, cold, affliction, I know fire, snow, and pain. Shared and once again shared experience.”

  • "We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"

  • "I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly." (Bradbury in Farenheit 451 talking about the value of reading.)
 And then this is from Something Wicked This Way Comes when Will asks his father about the evil carnival:

“Dad, will they ever come back?"

"No. And yes." Dad tucked away his harmonica. "No not them. But yes, other people like them. Not in a carnival. God knows what shape they'll come in next. But sunrise, noon, or at the latest, sunset tomorrow they'll show. They're on the road."

"Oh, no," said Will.

"Oh, yes, said Dad. "We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight's just begun."

They moved around the carousel slowly.

"What will they look like? How will we know them?"

"Why," said Dad, quietly, "maybe they're already here."

Both boys looked around swiftly.

But there was only the meadow, the machine, and themselves.

Will looked at Jim, at his father, and then down at his own body and hands. He glanced up at Dad.

Dad nodded, once, gravely, and then nodded at the carousel, and stepped up on it, and touched a brass pole.

Will stepped up beside him. Jim stepped up beside Will.

Jim stroked a horse's mane. Will patted a horse's shoulders.

The great machine softly tilted in the tides of night.

Just three times around, ahead, thought Will. Hey.

Just four times around, ahead, thought Jim. Boy.

Just ten times around, back, thought Charles Halloway. Lord.

Each read the thoughts in the other's eyes.

How easy, thought Will.

Just this once, thought Jim.

But then, thought Charles Halloway, once you start, you'd always come back. One more ride and one more ride. And, after awhile, you'd offer rides to friends, and more friends until finally...

The thought hit them all in the same quiet moment.

...finally you wind up owner of the carousel, keeper of the freaks...

proprietor for some small part of eternity of the traveling dark carnival shows....

Maybe, said their eyes, they're already here.”

Love it. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

So Awesome

Have you seen this already? It's probably the coolest, sweetest thing I've seen in a long time. And I don't even feel like it's been that long since I've seen some great things too.

I love that camera view showing her. Getting married is just the happiest thing in the world. Some friends of ours just recently got engaged and we're just so excited for them, and of course, it makes me think about my own wedding day and how wonderful that was. I'm so glad I married one of the happiest people I've ever met. It just makes every day so much brighter.