Friday, September 26, 2008

Seussian Wisdom

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. " - Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can She Walk the Walk?

The strongest argument that Palin is unprepared for international diplomacy is her own campaign's refusal to admit reporters to her first big interviews with international leaders at the UN yesterday. The McCain/Palin campaign originally insisted that only photographers would be allowed in the room, but when the news agencies protested the campaign agreed to allow some reporters in, too--for less than a minute. The journalists got to hear Palin and Afghan President Hamid Karzai exchange pleasantries about Karzai's young son, then all members of the press were escorted out before anything else was discussed.

The McCain camp is nothing if not shrewd. If Palin was going to shine in these interviews, if she was going to impress the world with her diplomatic prowess and summarily lay to rest any doubts about her abilities, they would have invited every reporter on the planet to be there to witness it. The fact that they wanted cameras to show her looking diplomatic but no journalists to report whether she lived up to that image convinces me that her own campaign believes she isn't up to the task yet. They insist she's ready to lead this country in a very complex global community, but actions speak louder than words. Or photo ops.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Rectangular Friends

In response to the previous post, Christopher posed the question why readers often speak so fondly of books, but rarely of TV, film, the internet, etc. I originally planned to put my reply in a comment, but the subject is so dear to my heart (and my response was so lengthy) that I felt it deserved a post of its own.

I think one of the reasons books are so engrossing is that they require mental effort on your part. With film and television the story has already been imagined for you, and you can passively take it in. Books, on the other hand, require you to imagine the characters, their actions, and their settings for yourself. The story you experience is partly the author's creation and partly your own, and the whole adventure takes place inside your own mind. I think that's why books are so captivating, and why we often set them aside feeling we've just returned from a journey. In our minds, we really have been in another time and place.

I suppose you can have a similar experience on the internet and perhaps the radio, but those words seem very fleeting to me. While I admittedly read more electronic words than printed ones these days, they rarely inspire the same affection in me that a book does. Perhaps it is because internet words are constantly being replaced by the latest news or blog post. By contrast, the books that have earned places of honor on our front shelf exude a comforting sense of permanence and the pleasant memories we've shared together.

I think Internet text could be compared to acquaintances--the countless people I encounter each day whose presence, whether dull or captivating, is almost certain to be short-lived. They appear, they make their mark on my life, then they move on. Books seem more like close friends who are in my life to stay. There is a certain feeling of permanence about a book I can hold in my hands, and there's something comforting about the knowledge that whenever I feel like taking a fun or thoughtful journey, The Secret Garden or Garlic and Sapphires or The Screwtape Letters are waiting just across the room to invite me in.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Joy Will Surely Favor the History Books . . .

Sometimes a comic strip just speaks to me.

President Hinckley spoke fondly of growing up in a home with over a thousand books containing millions of words. I want that for our family, too. I love how the internet provides instant access to info on any subject, but there's just something delicious about picking up a real live book, flipping through its pages, and suddenly finding yourself immersed in a whole new world.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Pro-Life Feminist Has An Epiphany

Some of you, upon reading this, will praise Heaven that I finally saw the light. Others of you may think I'm either crazy or apostate. Or both. Heck, if I'd read this post a week ago, I probably would have thought the same thing. Let me try to explain.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a blog post by a feminist professor. Among other things, she posed the question whether someone (i.e. Palin) can be both a feminist and pro-life. She said she doubted it, since she believes the the fight for abortion rights and "reproductive freedom" is an integral part of the battle for women's rights and equality.

I'm not sure what possessed me, but I decided to comment that being feminist and pro-life seemed perfectly logical to me. After all, the fundamental principle of feminism is that one person or group should not arbitrarily impose its will on another. If you believe that an unborn baby is a person (as I do), perhaps a true feminist should be defending his or her right to life, especially since (unless she was raped) a woman seeking an abortion already made a choice that led to pregnancy, and she is unwilling to accept the consequences of that choice.

All the previous commenters on this post were solidly pro-choice liberals, and though I tried to frame my comment respectfully, I was just sure that sooner or later somebody was going to verbally tar and feather me. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised that we all had a respectful, thoughtful conversation about what we believe and why the two sides rarely manage to see eye to eye. Though I still disagree with many of the perceptions pro-choice views are based on, the commenters did repeatedly emphasize something I agree with, and as I’ve reflected on it, it has completely transformed my approach to the abortion debate.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that widespread abortions and our society’s acceptance of them are two of the great horrors of our time. It deeply troubles me that so many women kill their own babies for essentially selfish reasons, especially since those babies only exist because of choices the mothers made. I view abortions as murder of innocents who cannot even defend themselves, and I have always assumed that the logical outgrowth of that belief should be advocacy of laws to label abortion as the crime it is.

While I feel our laws make important statements about what we value and tolerate as a society, the blog commenters pointed out that in the case of abortion, it isn’t quite that simple. They insisted that so many women have come to see abortion as a right and a necessity that if it were made illegal the practice would not stop. It would simply go underground, still killing babies and potentially endangering the mothers with shady, back alley practices. The law might make a statement, but practically speaking it would have little effect.

As I reflected on this, my thoughts turned to the Prohibition movement of the 1800s. In that era, the great moral debate was about liquor and its corrosive effect on individuals and families. In 1919, opponents of alcohol finally saw their dreams realized in the form of a constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol in the U.S. The law was a dismal failure. Public demand for liquor was so strong that the law proved unenforceable; since people couldn’t obtain booze legally, they just found ways to get it illegally. Fourteen years later after its ratification, the prohibition amendment had the dubious honor of being the only amendment in the U.S. constitution that has been repealed.

While I would love to see our country reject abortion, I think pro-life efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade are doomed to the same failure as prohibition. Even if they could obtain such a law or ruling, a generation after Roe the genie is too far out of the bottle and the law would most likely be unenforceable. If people really want to take a stand against abortion, I don’t think fighting for a law or ruling is the effective way to do it.

A year ago—or even a week ago—I never would have imagined I would write the above paragraph. As previously mentioned, I always assumed that if you believed abortion was a pernicious, murderous evil, the only logical course was to fight for a law prohibiting it. When I suddenly questioned that assumption today, I wondered if I had become delusional, or worse: apostate. In search of a little clarity, I went to the LDS Church’s website to see what the General Authorities have to say on the subject. If an anti-abortion proposition was slated for California’s ballot next year, I wondered if our ward would receive a letter from Salt Lake urging us to throw our full weight behind it, as we did with Prop 8. has an index of gospel topics that provides basic information on Church doctrine, with related quotes from Church leaders. I was surprised to find that the “Gambling” entry clearly “encourage[s] Church members to join with others in opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of any form of gambling,” and the “Same-Gender Attraction” entry declares that “we cannot stand idle if [those with same-gender inclinations] indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation,” yet the “Abortion” entry merely explains why the Church soundly condemns that practice. It declares that we should not encourage or assist others to obtain an abortion, but there is not a word about opposing it in the political sphere. I wonder how many Latter-day Saints assume the Church supports passage of anti-abortion laws, and would be stunned by the suggestion that it doesn’t.

I should clarify that while I think advocating national anti-abortion laws is an ineffective way to combat abortion, I’m not saying pro-life people should throw our hands up and accept the practice, either. I think if we really want to decrease the number of abortions in our country, we need to decrease the demand for them through education. It encourages me that both presidential candidates regret the existence of abortions and feel the best way to prevent them is not to keep butting heads about Roe, but to educate people so there are fewer unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Though it’s hard to get a clear picture of what kind of education McCain has in mind, Obama has been outspoken in his support for sex education that focuses on abstinence and the sacredness of intimacy, in addition to explanations of contraception. He also supports counseling for pregnant women that would present viable alternatives to abortion. That strikes me as a sensible balance between presenting people with the best and wisest course, and accepting the reality that some will choose not to follow it.

Here's to a day when abortion is no longer debated because there is simply no more demand for it. Even if we never achieve that completely, I'm hopeful that efforts in that direction will bear some fruit. They certainly can't be less productive than 35 years of butting heads has been.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Praise Effort, Not Brains

A commenter on STM’s blog recently included a link to an article about praising children. It reported that children who are praised for their intelligence come to fear risks and don’t work as hard, whereas children praised for their efforts are more willing to try new things, and try harder. The “smart” kids fear that failure will mean they aren’t smart after all, and they put in minimal effort because they assume smart people succeed effortlessly while dumb people have to work at things. The “hard-working” kids, on the other hand assume they are in control of their success, and that they can always achieve it by working a little harder and trying again when they do fail. Studies also found that continual praise can actually be less effective than intermittent praise, because the child comes to expect constant reinforcement.

I was particularly struck by a study on inner-city students in which a group of them were taught lessons that intelligence is not innate and that the brain is like a muscle—if you exercise it, it grows stronger and more effective. Many of the students openly mocked the lessons, but as the semester progressed their study habits and grades improved while the habits and scores of the control group stayed the same.

All of this particularly resonated with me because I often praise Joy for being “smart” when she figures something out or “good” when she obeys a rule. I don’t know if she entirely understands me, but I’ve already noticed that when I prompt her to say a word she knows well, she sometimes evades my request, even if it means walking away from a toy she apparently wanted to play with. Perhaps that behavior is unrelated to my past praise, but I do think it wise in the future to praise what she does (e.g. “good job sounding that word out” or “thanks for following directions”) rather than praise qualities she can’t control (e.g. “you’re so smart”).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prove Yourself

I'll try not to rant, but the McCain campaign's accusations that Palin critics are sexist is really getting on my nerves. The criticism and scrutiny she has received is no worse than what the other candidates have endured (remember Reverend Wright?), and it positively pales in comparison to the false rumors about Obama that too many Americans accept as solid truth (e.g. the belief that he's Muslim or was raised in the Middle East).

Even more frustrating to me is the double standard these complaints demonstrate. The Palin supporters who howl the loudest are often the same ones who skewered Hillary Clinton supporters a few months ago for making a similar implication that Clinton was heavily criticized because of her gender.

Palin herself summed the whole matter up nicely in March 2007 (presumably talking about the Clinton-related sexism complaints): "When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate, with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, 'Man, that doesn't do us any good.' . . . I mean, work harder! Prove yourself, to an even greater degree, that you're going to be the best candidate." Perhaps she still feels that way (so far I haven't heard her personally play the gender card), but if so I sure wish she'd share that philosophy with some of her fans.

The latest incident of supposed sexism speaks volumes about both campaigns. In a statement about McCain’s resemblance to Bush on major issues, Obama said that “if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.” Since Palin recently compared herself and other hockey moms to pit bulls with lipstick, the McCain camp insisted Obama's comment was an insensitive, sexist insult to Palin, and they demanded an apology. Never mind the fact that McCain made the same pig-and-lipstick joke about Clinton’s health care plan last year.

For his part, Obama expressed regret that when our country is in the middle of an energy crisis, two wars, and a recession that threatens millions of homes and jobs, the McCain campaign wants to focus on slander rather than solutions, taking an innocent remark out of context and blowing it out of proportion when there are so many other things we need to be talking about. The whole affair is consistent with the campaigns' contrasting philosophies: Obama tries to inspire people's hearts and minds, while McCain appeals to their fears and prejudices.

The most frustrating thing for me is that McCain's smear campaign, though reprehensible, is also shrewd. Our emotions affect our choices more than we like to admit, and propaganda often influences people more than rational discussion. It also requires less mental effort than actually analyzing issues and reaching a conclusion about whose plan is best. It's so tempting to take that easy road, but I really hope Americans will base their ultimate choice on reason and principle rather than inflammatory rumors, no matter who they vote for.

Cheaper than Therapy

STM has vowed not to post (much) about the election until November. Bless her for her restraint. As for me, I'm tired of resisting the urge. If I don't post about things that inspire or bug me, they buzz around in my head all day and make it hard to focus on anything else. It's starting to drive me nuts, and since blogging is cheaper than therapy I've decided to just accept reality. I never imagined my blog would have a political theme, even temporarily, but it looks like that's just how it's going to be for the next couple months. And I haven't even decided who to vote for yet.

If you want to skip the political posts, it won't hurt my feelings in the slightest. There will still be plenty of warm fuzziness on our family blog, and occasionally here, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I felt like posting tonight, but I didn't feel like thinking, so I decided to borrow an idea from my cousin-in-law (and Flickr).

1. type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
2. using only the first page, pick an image.
3. copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker. (choose 4 columns, 3 rows, individual URLs).*

1. what is your first name? Kimberly
2. what is your favorite food? Good food
3. what school do you go to? BYU (I suppose "life" would have been more accurate)
4. what is your favorite color? Blue
5. who is your celebrity crush? Phillip (he's a celebrity - just ask Joy; he's a fun guy, too)
6. what is your favorite drink? Cranberry juice (cranraspberry, white cran peach, cranstrawberry . . . gooood stuff)
7. what is your dream vacation? British Isles (or Italy, or the Yucatan Peninsula . . .)
8. what is your favorite dessert? Fruit Cobbler
9. what do you want to be when you grow up? More loving
10. what do you love most in life? God
11. one word to describe you? Curious
12. your nickname? Sweetheart

Photo Sources:
1. Heart Glow, 2. Chmurka & BuĹ‚eczka (+ MESSAGE TO THE WORLD), 3. The Reason Why I Love Spring, 4. When I'm sleeping, I slow down my breathing...Living in dreams, dreams that come true...thinking of the color blue... ZZZzzzzzz..., 5. Clitocybe fragrans Fragrant funnel 1, 6. ballerina tea party, 7. A PIECE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH. (KILKENNY, IRELAND), 8. Peach & Pear Cobbler with Candied Ginger and Butter Pecan Ice Cream, 9. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 'tiz the Season! ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ What have we here? ~ Christmas Kitty, Good Cheer! Happy Holidays, Everyone ! ! !, 10. Cosmic Dream:kerala:India, 11. Got milk?, 12. ♪ Yellow Rose

*If you want to try this at home, I hope you're more familiar with Flicker than I am. It took me forever to figure out how to get the resulting mosaic into my post. If you need help I'll do my best to explain what I did, but it would really be the blind leading the blind.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Post That Thought It Was a Comment

This blog is becoming too political for my taste (and probably yours), but by golly, if I don't post something about Palin's speech last night, my head's gonna explode. So I'm going do the next best thing: I'll keep the post nice and short, so you can stop reading here if you want to. On the other hand, if you can still stomach any more of my mixed thoughts on Ms. Palin, go ahead and read what promises to be my lengthy comment on this post.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An Observor Observed

"Didion [suggests] that when we write down details of place and time and people, we are also writing a description of ourselves. I never thought about it that way before, but it's true. . . . Who we are will always be present in what we observe, what we write; what, out of all we observe, we choose to write; how we choose to write it; how we are changed by writing it."

This evening I wandered onto a friend-of-a-friend's blog that had a single entry, most of which appears in the preceding paragraph. Her words reminded me of another recent experience I had in the blogosphere.

This whole Palin thing has been on my mind a lot lately, and when I read another blogger's enthusiasm about McCain's choice I was struck by the differences in our perceptions. Christie's view was very optimistic; mine was more pragmatic, and perhaps a bit cynical. Seen in the context of our other posts, our responses say as much about us as they do about the event we observed. Christie strikes me as a very positive person who finds joy in the colorful pleasures of life. By contrast, I feel my approach to life is mostly black and white practicality, with a hint of world-weary cynicism. I want to see more color in life, but I'm just not sure how to do it.