Wednesday, June 30, 2010

American Culture and Aid

I don't pop in here too often with my work anymore, but this one deserves sharing to a broader audience. I found a wonderful website today that provokes much thought about how our US culture affects international aid ... and a lot of it could just as well be talking about US Mormons (dunno if German latter-day saints or Chinese latter-day saints or Tongan latter-day saints feel the same.) So over here I'm going to talk religion instead of aid. The three starred links are to the original posts and are well worth reading.

Y'see, our stake president a while back was terminally ill and testified at one point that receiving help was one of the ***hardest things*** he ever had to do. After that, practically everyone confessed their own lack of ability to be served. "Jesus came to serve, not to be served," is the often misunderstood logic of those who forget a Savior who also allowed people to wash His feet or anoint his head as a service. Going back to the book of Pres. Monson stories, how much more often did I think of wanting to be Monson's shoes as the giver rather than the recipient of God's love?

My mother did her dead-level best to keep me from that attitude. Her primary argument, though, was still really about giving: by giving people an opportunity to serve me, I was serving them. Yes, the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, but "what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift." I have to think the Lord loveth a cheerful recipient too.

There is so much about being independent and self-reliant in the US culture (and some of LDS culture) that people feel unclean if they have to accept charity. Charity is even occasionally used as a dirty word. In those cases, that's because they do not see charity as the love of God expressed by the kind gesture of one person who feels love or compassion for another person, but as a statement of moral superiority:
Being able to survive on one’s own strength is almost a moral quality. “She worked hard and took care of her children, despite terrible challenges” = “she is a good person.”
And although we almost never say so directly, needing help is almost, well, immoral. (Which is exactly why, in my opinion, Nicholas Kristof can write with a straight face that boozing and whoring is what keeps Africa poor).

That, and a person's/religion's/country's sense of moral superiority naturally lead to a sense of entitlement, but a very different entitlement than we normally talk about: we're ***entitled*** to give - it's a right - and it is selfish of people to refuse our help. When I read that thought, I realized that was part of what I felt anytime someone had turned down my assistance while blaming it on Jesus.

Confessing my own weakness a little more, there was someone once upon a time who I found really annoying to serve because anytime I did, the person immediately turned around and gave me some trinket so that s/he wouldn't feel indebted to me. I compare that to one of my best friends: we were major supports to each other and both gave and received compassion, meals, time, ears and tears, and a few bucks once or twice, all the time feeling that we were receiving more from the other than we could ever give back. And being thankful for that.

In part thanks to those experiences, I've tried to move my inner reason for letting others serve me towards a notion of expressing love in a way they would accept as love. It's deuced hard to figure out, though, so a lot of people end up with casseroles, lanyards, and ***stuff I don't need anymore*** (file under culture of DI). And then there is the difficulty of being a home teacher who wants to love families who won't let him help with anything when we constantly teach that love is grown through service and vice versa.

Your thoughts? As giver AND receiver?

For more reading: then-CES Commissioner Eyring on the gift of being a good gift giver, where he learned how to give gifts by receiving.

Too Adorable for a sidebar

Hyrum made his first stab at drawing people yesterday. First he drew Daddy, then he drew Mommy.

When I came home from work, as soon as I walked in the door, Hyrum excitedly jumped up and down, put a hat on his head, and yelled, "Look like Daddy! Look like Daddy!"

Hyrum has begun 'tickling' Mommy. He runs his fingers over her arm or under her chin and giggles at her. Joy is not ticklish, but recognizing what he's trying for, she laughs away to encourage him. That thrills him even more. Often he's trying to stall for time to prevent something he doesn't like, but it's one of the first things he's done for physical connectedness with her, so she's thrilled.

New favorite phrases include telling us when his toys "turn on," or "turn off," or were "turned on" or off; "I find _____" and "I found _____;" and he's getting a lot better at saying longer names for the songs.

Oh, right! Speaking of songs. Today Hyrum sang to me! He said, "Let's go fly a kite Up to highest height. ... Fly a kite." No notes, but that is the longest continuous speech he has ever made and it's a song.

He's also taken to trying to sing with Joy and me more when we sing. So far he sings along with ABCs, The Chapel Doors (that seem to say to me Shhhh, be still), and he tried singing Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me when we sang it for Family Home Evening. The way he sings is to make an ehhh sound at a monotonic pitch until he recognizes a word and then he fills in the rest of the word. Now if I can train us to change keys to fit his monotonic pitch, he can sing the bass note for us and we'll harmonize!

Oh, he's also decided that "You Can Fly" from Peter Pan is really "I Can Fly!"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Latest Nutrition Fun

A few months ago, I told my doc I was fed up with South Beach and he sent me to a center. The center said, "that's nice" and told me to gather data while they got me a nutritionist. That took forever, but they got me someone whom I told my woes.

She turned me over to, a website that can suck a lot of time if you let it. Among its many uses, you can: input your food to find out not only calories, but carbs, protein, and fat intake; set goals for each of those or any micronutrient you want to eat enough of; track exercise; track any weight-related measurement; track sleep; receive lots of emails about health and nutrition (there's a fun one comparing restaurant and fast food meals); join numerous online groups to chat out your issues; write a blog; make sure you drink 8 glasses of water a day; input your own goals and track them (the Stormin' Mormon group has a goal of reading General Conference talks each week); read success stories.... There's a lot.

The main surprise for us using the nutrition tracker were how much fat there is in very little peanut butter and peanuts, so I chose to have ranch dip with my celery instead. A few other small changes like that were quick and painless.

I also renewed my Cornell gym membership and have been enjoying getting back to weight lifting (I can still benchpress my old undergrad weight) and reading econ journals while on the exercycles.

It was a lot of work and a lot of time and I didn't feel like there was a difference and I was really discouraged and dreaded meeting the nutritionist for a second time: the nice lady became Darth Vader about to choke the life out of me. It was bad. The second meeting with her ... wasn't as bad as advertised. If the first one was about telling my sad story and her realizing I was pretty sensitive, the second was about her finally telling me what her principles of good nutrition are and getting permission to not spend my life on sparkpeople obsessing over my food choices...

and finding out I've lost five pounds.


The main difference from South Beach is to add in more of the unrefined grains: about one each meal instead of one a day, and corn, peas, and potatoes can be that unrefined starch. She wants me to think of a plate that is filled with about half fruits and vegetables, one fourth lean meat, and one fourth good carbs. Milk, nuts, and other healthy things are off the plate but not out of the lifestyle. It's about "make sure you eat a little of each of these each meal" rather than "exclude everything not on this plate."

She mentioned attending a conference that compared Atkins and South Beach. Though the theoretical recommendations of the two say one thing, researchers measured what people normally consume on each diet. They got as much protein as they ought, but Atkins followers got 50% of their calories from fat and South Beachers got 35% from fat in practice, rather than the 25% that is my new goal.

It has been quite refreshing to have toast with my eggs again; müsli or granola as a snack; corn; raisins. Joy has been baking whole wheat again (hooray!). When some controls are lifted, you start learning which foods were important to you that you missed the most, like apple juice. I'm feeling more filled at each meal and don't feel as snacky between meals. As Joy and I left the appointment, she approved the plan as being much closer to what the Word of Wisdom recommends.

Best recipe to come out of sparkpeople: freeze a banana, cut it into larger pieces to put in a food processor, and blend it up. It has the texture of instant banana ice cream. Mix in whip cream or a little chocolate sauce or cinnamon or some berries or nuts and you've got a very versatile dessert.

Prayers of a two year old

The last two weeks, this has been Hyrum's prayer whenever he says it on his own:

Dear Father Heaven. Thank you Tarantara. Thank you Tuppence. Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tonight, he had a longer prayer.

Dear Father Heaven. Thank Thee Church. Thank Thee *something garbled*. Thank Thee sleep. Thank Thee Mommies Daddies. Jesus Christ, Amen.

Happy Mommies Daddies.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More Corning Glass Museum

A cube ... that looks like a hypercube ... made up of triangles.

Another 3D vase

There is only one other amazingly large glass boat like this in the world.

Birth of a Bag of Holding

Funky chandelier


Formal chandeliers


This is a musical instrument made of glass, played with wet fingers.

Trick cups - try to drink them in any conventional way and they will spill on you. Oh, those wacky Germans!

A scene from a
marble maze
in The Labyrinth.

Happy Fathers' Day

Favorite Hyrum Phrases

Again again again

Try again

Doesn't work - he also uses this for chocolate milk that isn't chocolaty enough

Oh yes!

"Wake up" sometimes is used instead of "Get up"

He invites me into his room each morning with "Come in." Sometimes when Mommy goes to the ladies' room, he asks her to rejoin him in the hallway with "Come in" also.

This week we are teaching him to say "May I have _____, please" instead of "I want."

He was outside playing with bubbles and said, "I got you!"

No tickle. ... Tickle! Tickle! ... No tickle.

We are glad that he rarely says "No sing" anymore. Joy reports that he makes it pretty obvious, though, when she shouldn't sing.

When I put him in pause, I used to ask him to count to 10 to show me he had calmed down. Then that became too easy. So I started asking him to recite the alphabet. Now that's too easy - he starts reciting it as soon as I grab him for pause, thinking it will get him out. Next he's trying to count up to 30 to prove it to us - without us asking.

He mentioned his sleep game earlier. Here's a video of us playing it at my brother's house this month. We played it yesterday at WalMart - I piled three large bean bag chairs on top of him laying down. He smiled so happily and asked for another one.

Inspiring Experiences That Build Faith

Joy got this book for Christmas and I just finished reading it today. Inspiring Experiences That Build Faith: From the Life and Ministry of Thomas S. Monson is a collection of Pres. Monson [who?] anecdotes organized by general topic. The two most plentiful are service and missionary work. Other sections include faith, prayer, testimony, stories about other people (aka examples of the believers), and humor. People who have paid attention to him will recognize many of the stories, but given the number I could rattle off that weren't included, it's still only a small sampling of his wit and wisdom. Rather than describe his stories, I wanted to share a few of the reactions and things I learned in them.

As I made my way through the service section, I had two questions that kept coming predominantly to my mind: Why don't *I* have experiences like that? and Why *don't* I have experiences like that? :)

One answer from the Spirit reminded me that in all of his stories, there are at least two people. Even if I couldn't see myself in Pres. Monson's shoes, I could readily see myself in the hospital bed, the priest in the grease pit, or the widow in the rest home, all visited by God's tender mercies. He has often been mindful of me and, in special ways, let me know He was aware of me. These stories aren't about what a great guy Pres. Monson is, but rather how God knows each of His children and loves them. Gratitude replaced guilt and ended envy ... or at least moved the emphasis in my question from myself to a sincere question.

Another answer came from reading a story where, rather than simply being instructed to stop his car at someone's home or having a phone call come to him from someone in the distant past, he mentioned how much he had prayed for and about the family he had visited. The question came to me: How often have you prayed about your sheep? Not nearly often enough. I've been repenting.

One of the stories he told from the mission over which he presided reminded me of difficult days from my mission. Though I had loved the people in that area, I loved them to sorrow as strife, hurt feelings, and apostasy slowly tore the unit - and families - apart. I have been reluctant to think about that area in the years in between, preferring to reminisce about my first area where I loved the people to rejoicing. His story helped me reach out again, though, to learn what has happened to the people I prayed and wept over. Though the news hasn't been good so far, Pres. Monson's stories helped me to rekindle love and feel the healing that has happened over the years.

Most of the stories are from his own life and are in roughly chronological order, so this can be a good reference tool for teachers. The number one thing I missed was a collection of his sermons about death and resurrection. As perhaps the Church's most requested funeral orator, he has spent a lot of time pondering and preaching about these most important topics.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Played with a Bunny

Hi there. Hy here to show you me being soft with the bunny at the Dryden Dairy Day. My friend Kate joined us in the cage as well.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

May Pictures 3-1

I'll give you fair warning: I'm in a very economist mood tonight as I write.


Scenes that caught my eye in Helsinki.

New York City
There are a bunch of vendors in the park line that winds its way to the boats that take you to the Lady. They all sell the exact same pictures. I confess I spent some time during this anniversary pondering their business model. Are they atomistically independent sellers all crowding into the same area or are they all part of the same franchise? What keeps them from differentiating their products even slightly? I didn't see them in other parts of New York where we went. While I'm familiar with Hotelling's theories about why similar businesses cluster, there are other clusters, other "beaches" in New York City. Whether they are multiple businesses or one, I'd have to think one of them could earn higher profits moving to Chinatown

My brother and I also enjoyed discussing the photoshopping in the pics. The Twin Towers are in the first picture, disappear by magic in the second picture, and return in the third; oversized boats appear and disappear; the island to Miss Liberty's right (our left) disappears and reappears at random... all the same angle, variations on coloring to let you know the sunset is Totally fake.... Strange business model.

Okay, enough economics.

We spent a good deal of time in Chinatown after visiting the Lady.

Our ladies were fascinated by the street vendors and the restaurants that wanted to display their meats. We tried to identify them, but with little enough success (another strange business model?). I bought a pound of grapes for a dollar that were delicious, shared them around our party and gave a bunch to a fellow who was hungry.

We wandered the stores, bought very little, and grabbed some dinner from a sit-down restaurant that only took cash. Another strange business model?

One of the billboards in Times Square featured the leader of Iran. I was mildly interested, so took a picture. Those billboard spaces have got to be EXPENSIVE. Does the UANI really believe this is the most cost-effective way and place to advertise? It certainly has the potential to be seen by millions every day - not bad - but it's one of hundreds of flashing, changing signs in a teeming mass.

The real reason this got posted is that when Hyrum saw it, he pointed and said, "Daddy!" I decided that the best way to respond to that would be to revise upward my opinion of his looks and take it as a compliment.

The New Amsterdam Theater where we saw Mary Poppins has some amazing well decorations. No one complained as I filmed them before the show started. Here is Progress.

Corning Glass Museum

Blocks upon blocks of glass, all of them with interesting shapes, bubbles, trees, designs, and patterns.

May Pictures 3-2

Corning Glass Museum

A cup within a cup. Very ingenious.

In the section on Medieval glass you turn a corner to see a rounded stone arch and this stained glass shining on a very rare cup. Since they don't allow flash, my shot of the entire scene is pretty off. But the window turned out okay I think.

Another decoration where I'm most impressed by the angling of the shadows to make it look like four counter-cyclical sculptures.

Six Flags: New England has a rule about pictures. You can't take any pictures while on the ride, but you can from a distance. So most of our pictures involve Hyrum having fun.

Joy and Emie kept pointing to get Hyrum to watch the camera. By the end he finally decided he was having fun.

Hyrum's very first character hug. Granny knelt down just like we do, stretched out her arms for a hug, and up he ran. It was pretty magical. Thanks, Granny. You helped make the trip.

Hyrum's first solo ride was in their helicopter. We're not sure if he pushed the button or if the operator did to make it rise up, but he loved it. They wouldn't let grown ups on the ride, so our tall two year old got to fly solo. What a happy boy!

He also enjoyed riding in the bus... the bus that acted like a ferris wheel!


There are two or three areas for children to play. Despite us spending most of the day between them in the grown up section, Hy was remarkably well behaved and happy the whole day through. We all took turns sitting out while the others rode.

Hyrum and Daddy also got to fly together, but when we were in the air the plane kind of blocks your view of the cute one.

Hyrum's favorite ride was a pirate ship that not only swings back and forth, but also spins.

"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down...

... and write myself a letter."

Hi there. Hy here.

What letter am I going to write? Today I like writing the letter H.

I also write the letters A, C, F, E [I first write an F, tell Mom and Dad, then add a line to make it an E], T, V, and Z. I draw the numbers 1, 2, and 6.

Mommy left at dinnertime to go to the temple, so Dad and I may get some blogging done tonight.

Daddy told me to draw an A just now, so I made a squiggle. Daddy said, "That's not an A, Hyrum." Then I said, "J."  He was impressed. It is indeed a J.

"S."  Yes, that's an S. New records being made live here.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No longer a gentleman

Some of the side-effects of the branch talent show were unexpected. One was that I got to hold on to the borrowed accordion for much longer than anticipated. About 6 weeks longer! Hyrum rejoiced.

Another was thsy Joy learned the awful truth: her husband was serious about wanting to be a gentleman. Hunh? you ask. Well, you may recall that the definition of a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipe or the accordion, but doesn't. That means those instruments have been high on my list of "next instruments I want to learn to play." Joy never realized I was serious.

Then there was even hope we might get to the Keep the accordion! The sister who owned it never played it. The sister she lent it to first was moving and her hubby was making them get rid even of furniture, so there was a good chance we might be allowed to keep this gorgeous, classic wonder. Hyrum had even learned to call it by name ("cordion") and request Praise the Man or Tarantara or Spirit of God on it. Daddy had started playing around on it in earnest, figuring out how to instantly transpose simple songs, change to minor keys, and play the same song with different voicings....

They wants it back, my precious. The nice husband said she can keep it, Cordion. Cordion.


If anyone took a video of the talent show, please let me know.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dryden Dairy Day

Hi there. Hy here.

This weekend we went to the Dryden Dairy Day with my good friends. I used to be best friends with their son who's older then me. Then I wanted to go there to play with their baby. Now I'm excited to go see their mommy. She even watched me during a choir number at church and I was sad to leave. That's cause she got me a Bob the Builder jumpsuit. I'm wearing it in the picture!

Anyway, we went to the parade. I liked the trucks okay, except their horns were too loud. The best part was the trombones in the two bands that came marching by. I wanted to see them Again!

I got a chance to hug Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Six Flags taught me you can trust people in polymascotfoamalate.

I also ran up to pet the sheep. It wasn't very wooly, but it still talked to me. The horses left some candy on the road, but it got cleaned up before the kids could get to it.

Mommy is calling me away to go to bed now, so I'll tell you all about playing with the bunny later. That's all for now!

Oh yeah, and I got a chocolate bug!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zorro was Here

That or it was Hyrum who drew that letter Z on the Aquadoodle.

Hyrum's Top Ten May/June

This was a very slow month musically for Hyrum. Most months, he has to listen to a song over 30 times to get onto the Top Ten list. This month ... 14 is the cutoff. Lots of time traveling and with family must be to blame, I reckon.

Also for the first time in months, the #1 song is NOT Tarantara. Mary Poppins has supplanted Tarantara AND Bob the Builder thoroughly.

1. Semper Fidelis - 89
2. Feed the Birds ("Tuppence" a Bag) - 76
3. Let's Go Fly a Kite - 59
4. Praise to the Man - 40
5. Tarantara - 39
6. Mickey Mouse Club March - 33
7. Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious - 27
8. Handel's Hallelujah Chorus - 15
     Seventy-Six Trombones - 15
10. Imperial March - 14
11-13. With Cat-Like Tread - 10
     The Spirit of God (Like a "Fire" is "Burning") - 10
     High on the Mountain Top - 10
14-20. Bob the Builder Theme; Little Drummer Boy; Pines of Rome; You've Got a Friend in Me; The Egg; Joy to the World; Singe Praise to Him - 9

All time Top 10:
1. Bob the Builder - 846
2. Handel's Hallelujah Chorus - 461
3. Tarantara - 318
4. Seventy-Six Trombones - 159
5. Praise to the Man -148
6. Mickey Mouse Club March - 128
7. Little Drummer Boy - 124
8. Pomp and Circumstance -117
9. Feed the Birds - 99
10. Star Wars: Imperial March - 97
11. Ten Little Indians - 92
12. Semper Fidelis - 89

And the usual stuff for my records is after the break

Random May Picture 2

Another example of Finnish architectural touches.

NY skyline from the Statue

At the Statue they have a series of small statues of famous people involved in her design, construction, and placing. Among them is Monseieur Eiffel (and his tower) who designed her support structure so that her skin can be moved independently but she still remains upright.

Joy tried to look serious like the Lady, but couldn't keep from smiling with her carrot-torch.

I mentioned that Times Square has an M&M store. Check out their greeter.

The prime attraction in New York was going to see Mary Poppins on Broadway in the New Amsterdam Theater off Times Square.

Here is Joy, believing in the magic.

Memorial Day, we joined my parents at the Corning Glass Museum, which was our second date ever back in the day. This was one of Joy's favorite pieces. The vases/spheres were three dimensional in part because the glass is and in part because of multiple layers of glass held suspended within other layers of glass.

I liked this piece of glass because of its shadow. Even though it's just a hook holding up a piece of blue glass, it looks strikingly to me like a woman selecting a dress to wear.

If you don't want to spend the money for a ticket, the gift shop by itself is worth a visit. This is all glass. Move over plastic fruit: here comes the glass dessert tray.

And another Hy-5.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

May Pictures 1

Far too many wonderfully fun, interesting, exciting, picture and note and blog-worthy things have happened in the last month so we've had no time to blog about ANY of them properly. Just a couple pictures of Hyrum to keep the grandparents mollified. ... And I still don't have time to do anything justice (I really wish more people had my problems) so here are some random pictures of our adventures this month. A faster way than trying to remember and comment on everything.

FINLAND - Derrill's work conference, May 14-16

An example of the architectural touches and colors that are everywhere (in the part of the city where I wandered anyway).

In the city hall (where we had dinner one night) is this fascinating interlocking finger statue.

The roof of the dining, exhibition, cultural hall of the city hall. It was actually my least favorite dinner there - too many very unusual spices: I couldn't have more than a bite of the tomato salad and I was with a Hindu friend who couldn't eat the meat (oversalted salmon and beef) so I pondered what a South Beacher does when the only thing he could really enjoy is the bread....

NEW YORK CITY - For our 5th anniversary, Joy and I left Hyrum with Pop and Boo (Thank you!) and joined Steve and Emilee (thank you!) for a day in the Big Apple.

Attraction #1: The Statue. We had a lot of fun in line listening to the steel drum players, the trumpeter with a stereo system for accompaniment, the contortionist, and the proselytizers. Tickets to the crown are sold out months in advance, so we missed out on that. But I got to touch the base of the statue! Look for pictures of everyone posing as The Lady a bit later.

Miss Liberty's Book: July 4, 1776. A pretty good book. Have I mentioned I like my camera's zoom?

We wandered randomly around Chinatown. Each of us took turns choosing which direction to go when we came to an intersection. We explored stores, bought local foods, gave some grapes to a guy who was hungry, and had fun soaking it in for a little bit.

We made our way to Central Park where a family who didn't speak any of the 5 languages we speak took our picture.

Times Square. A more wretched hive of scum and villainy I hope I never meet. But we did explore the M&M store!

To the Subway!

And here's some more fun for Hyrum at Six Flags.