Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween!

I wish I had gotten sick on Milk Duds tonight. Instead I wrote a paper and ate candy corns (probably the nastiest and strangely most addictive candy ever invented).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Our Peers' Opinions

I've made a point of picking up the Daily Universe recently to follow this string of letters to the editor...
At least somebody's talking about it.

October 18
Will you mare-ee me?
Sure, let’s change the meaning of marriage and family. What would it hurt?
I, for one, would appreciate such a change. If the opportunity of marriage were offered to more than just a man and woman together, I would be able to receive the benefits. If I could legally marry my horse it would make things better for me. I wouldn’t have to pay sales tax on feed, because it would be food for my wife. I could claim my horse as a dependent that definitely does not contribute to the family income. I could receive along with my food stamps, feed stamps because it is my wife, not an unnecessary pet. The government might also give me a subsidized paddock. Do you think they would really expect me to keep a horse in my apartment? And as for procreation, we could always adopt. I've always wanted a little filly.
Greg Hebdon
Royal City, Wash.

October 20
The slippery slope fallacy
Tuesday's letter about legalizing marriage to animals was clearly meant to be humorous, but it employed a surprisingly common argument from the debate over gay marriage; namely: "If we legalize gay marriage, what's next, (insert something absurd or scary here)?" Isn't this an obvious example of the slippery slope fallacy? Do people who make this argument honestly fail to perceive a meaningful difference between a committed partnership of consenting adults and the exploitation of humans or animals? This argument makes about as much sense as saying, "If we give women the right to vote, what's next, giving zebras the right to run for governor?" or perhaps, "If we let our kids listen to rock-and-roll, what's next, letting them strangle people with guitar strings?"
Scott Hanson
Idaho Falls, Idaho

Horse letter lacked manners
Contrary to popular belief, there are those on campus who come from homosexual families. Although I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, I also believe that everyone is entitled to respect. Opinions that were published Tuesday were vulgar, hateful and disrespectful.
It would be pointless for me to defend gay marriage on this campus. Most of the student body already have their firm opinions. However, I will point out that beliefs similar to those expressed in a letter are the same beliefs that refuse to acknowledge homosexual individuals as human beings. These same beliefs are shared with those who threaten physical harm to my younger brothers on the way home from school. And if there are those who say that members of the LDS church do not teach their children to harm others because of sexual orientation, I would suggest that they research what happened to a boy named Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. I do not ask for acceptance. Love will continue despite what the letter writer or I do about it. I ask for his manners.
Mikell Kober
Orlando, Fla.

October 25
Bleeding heart elitists
As is apparent from recent articles and editorials in The Daily Universe, there is much self-congratulating and mutual back patting among the Mormons who are liberals among us. Just because they break with what they perceive as the unthinking majority of Utahns and Mormons in general, liberal Mormons suppose themselves by some stretch of the imagination to be more intelligent than the rest of us.
Religion is independent of politics. The fact that the vast majority of Mormons are Republicans has absolutely no bearing on the fact that the Democratic Party is for bleeding heart elitists who support the wasting of taxpayer funds so that they can feel good about themselves. As a wise man once said, at no point in your incoherent ramblings did you come close to anything that would be considered a rational thought. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your (liberal) soul.
Todd Barfuss
Farmington

Mormons in the mob
Comparing gay marriage to the marriage of a man and his horse is one of the most ridiculous and outright ignorant things I’ve heard. Homosexuals are not trying to marry animals; they are trying to marry other people. I know several homosexuals, and I was unaware that their status had been downgraded from human beings to barnyard animals. Although it may come as a surprise to some, gays are perfectly capable of being good people, and even (gasp!) leading spiritual, Christ-like lives. Yet they’ve been reduced to horses, all because they want to live happy, monogamous relationships with someone they love. Some don’t realize that many of the persecutions faced by the early church were in light of strange, and very illegal, marriage practices. Joseph Smith drew a lot of heat not simply for being a prophet, but for taking over 30 women as wives, including 11 teenagers.
Now the tables have turned. Suddenly it’s the Mormons who have found themselves in the mobs of persecution, belittling fellow human beings to mere animals. It’s time to realize that given our history, we are the last people in the world to be telling anyone who can and can’t get married.
Stephen Robbins
Albany, Ore.

October 27
Religion and politics
I thought it was ironic that the letters by Todd Barfuss and Stephen Robbins had something in common. Their positions on the political spectrum are apparently opposite, but they agree that religion and politics are independent of one another. In the real world, they have a strong affect on one another. There is an attempt to segregate our lives into two segments: what we do on Sunday and what we do the rest of the week.
I agree with the position of the church that one can be a good member regardless of their political preference, but I’m tired of the attitude that one is ignorant if they let the words of revelation influence their political stances. I’m not hateful and I wouldn’t care about the issue, but Pres. Hinckley made the statement that we should support legislation that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. If Robbins thinks we don’t have room to say who should be allowed to be married or not, he should complain about it to President Hinckley. Vote how you want, but as for me and … (well, I don’t have a house), I’ll follow the prophet.
Shawn Curtis
Nibley


Charity over rhetoric
I would like to extend my hearty congratulations to those writers who have effectively hijacked the debate over homosexuality. Now a man is either a hateful, venom-filled bigot for condemning homosexuality or a beastly caricature for participating in it — all thanks to you. Reason and moderation do not appear to be highly valued attributes among our friendly neighborhood ideologues.
Unfortunately, some of us seem to have heard "love the sinner and hate the sin" so much that they apparently refuse to believe that it is possible, preferring either to vilify homosexuals or homosexuality’s opponents. Never mind that the rest of BYU’s population might actually value charity over cheap rhetorical tricks and slanted ideologies. Never mind that the analogy between Joseph Smith’s plural marriages and homosexuality is little more than a gross politicization of a complex historical issue and an oversimplification of the crudest brand.
But on second thought, cool-headedness lacks the blood sport intensity that "letters to the editor" readers have come to know and love.
Russell Stevenson
Afton, Wyo.

Homosexuality is Christ-like?
To be Christ-like is to obey the will of God, to bridle passions, seek to serve others, and be an example for truth and righteousness. The view that homosexuals follow such a high standard is ridiculous, and this is the problem with "supporting" gay marriage. Some, in their zeal to protect the "rights" of all actually lose focus of what is truly right.
This nation was set apart by the Lord, we know that. We also know that this nation is promised to prosper only if we keep the commandments of the Lord.
Some say that the government should not interfere with someone’s right to choose, that this is a moral issue. Moral issues are the center of civilization — not traffic, education or even gun laws. We need to make a stand as citizens of this country. We need to push for what is moral and good, not for things that are popular or maybe seen as "rights." I would hope that as members of the church that we do not judge, but instead, teach by our words and our example what is right in the sight of God. That, Mr. Robbins and all of you who think likewise, is what Christ would do.
Richard Sedwick
Harrisonburg, Va.

I think I agree most with Russell Stevenson.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You're Beautiful

Yes, you are.

Nevermind that this video shows a man partially undressing. It's my favorite song of the day...

I just moved the video to the sidebar, so check it out there.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's a beautiful life

Thanks to the miracle of wireless internet, I'm posting this from a patch of grass on campus. This week BYU is all pimped out in Homecoming paraphernalia and her trees ablaze with warm-colored leaves. My fleece jacket is back in the closet replaced by a simple T-shirt. Apparently winter is going to wait a few more days to darken my life.
I'm going to listen to some Ace of Base.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Metaphorical Mountains

Standing in a dark parking lot somewhere up American Fork Canyon at 6:55 a.m. this Saturday, I really would have preferred to be back in bed.
Somehow someone had convinced me to roll out of my covers at 5:30 a.m. to go climb a mountain. Looking up at the gray silhouette of that mountain, the severity of what I had agreed to do began to set in. The peak stood five miles away and 5,000 feet above me. I was cold, tired, and sick and seriously considered just waiting in the car while my friends went ahead.
The hike began gently--first a paved road, then a wide and soft dirt trail weaving along a small creek through colorful aspen groves. The air was warmer than we had expected. My friend who had convinced me to come led out at a quick pace but I could keep up.
Just as I began to enjoy myself, dawn illuminated the valley and we finally got a clear view of our goal. My heart sank. The peak looked like a distant fortress protected by snowy slopes and rocky cliffs. The idea of someone trying to walk there seemed laughable. The idea that I would walk there seemed impossible.
I let my hiking buddies know that I was really just in this for the scenery and didn't mind at all if we didn't make the summit but we just kept on hiking at the same rapid pace.
After an hour of hiking we had crossed the valley and wiggled up several sets of switch backs. The trail became steeper, my muscles ached, and my breathing was heavy. Pausing momentarily in a rock field, the peak appeared even further away than before and hopelessly out of reach. I was tired, but not exhausted. I knew I could keep taking steps forward and progressing toward the goal, but the idea of actually reaching the goal seemed absurd. I looked down at my shoelaces, focusing on each step and trying to forget about what I knew lay ahead.

I had a commitment back in Provo at 1:00 p.m. so we had previously decided that we would absolutely have to turn around by 10:00 a.m. At 8:30 we reached a saddle and dropped back down a few hundred feet to a ridge that jolted harshly upward toward the summit. At the ridge, the trail turned sharply vertical. This part of the trail was less traveled and nonexistent in spots. Mud and snow made the climb especially difficult. I dug my toes into the ground and leaned forward to keep from slipping. I tried not to look back down. Several times, I lost my footing and found myself sliding downward. Each time I stopped my fall by dropping toward the ground and digging my knees and bare hands into the snow and mud. Stopping the falls was painful. Crossing a snowfield, my footing gave out and I landed hard on rocks buried under the snow, bruising my shins. My fingers stung from scraping through the icy snow.
On the exposed ridge, the wind beat on my bare skin. Every muscle in my legs throbbed. The wind, cold, and tired muscles made me clumsy. The curve of the ridge made it impossible to see the peak. All I could see was an impossibly long ridge that twisted into the sky.
Even though I knew that we were technically getting closer with each step, I felt farther than ever. Even my climbing buddies began to talk of turning back. We had already seen splendid scenery. We had already gotten a workout. Now the scenery had turned ugly and the trip had turned painful. Why continue on?
We checked our watches at 9:30. We still couldn't see the peak but decided to press forward until 10:00.
Not long afterward, the peak came back into sight only a few hundred meters away. With renewed energy, I ran across the ridge, scrambled up some rocks to the point, then thrust both arms into the air and yelled “I’m the king of the world!” A ferocious wind kept me from standing too long at my throne. I posed for two quick pictures that show me smiling brilliantly. My face shows no sign of the torture I endured to get there.
We literally ran back down the mountain and made it back to Provo just in time for my commitment. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been as drained as I was yesterday.

The whole way up the mountain I was thinking how the hike was like a metaphor for life. I think that’s why I was so happy to reach the summit.


I started seeing a counselor recently to try to sort through some of my many issues. Some of my friends congratulated me on taking that step like it was an incredible turning point or something. To me it’s just another step. I’m moving forward toward some goal. My goal isn’t quite as clearly defined as say a mountain peak, but there is some goal—maybe its being an old man sitting on a front porch with a wife who I love and watching the grandkids play or maybe its exaltation. Really I have no idea.
Even if my goal were clear, I don’t know how determined I am to reach it. As long as I can, I just keep moving forward. Sometimes I fall and it hurts and just aggravates the wounds, but I keep going. Sometimes I totally disregard the goal and just focus on my shoelaces or the nice scenery. With each step forward, the way grows more difficult, the steps I need to take are less defined, and the consequences of falling are greater. There’s a good chance that my time will run out in life before I ever reach the goal. As I trudge stoicly forward the goal seems further and further away and all the more unreachable but I have to believe its getting closer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

I thought about the army

I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm, but my favorite business professor seemed to push all my wrong buttons this morning. Now, just over two months from graduation, I’ve become disenchanted with my business major.
I entered class today with high expectations. For once, I wasn’t scrambling to finish the reading. We were planning to discuss a case which I had thoroughly read and even highlighted. I knew all the key points and felt the confidence that comes with preparedness.
As the discussion developed, all that early morning studying suddenly began to catch up with me; my vision became foggy, my thoughts wandered to soft things, and my upper and lower eyelids drew closer. The sound of my name jolted me back to reality. My professor was asking me a question.
I rewound my brain, remembered the question and responded perfectly. Two more questions and two more perfect answers. Then the professor told me that was the easy stuff. He asked a deeper question. I can’t remember what the question was but it was something like “what’s the fundamental message, what’s the underlying thing this case says but doesn’t say?” He was clearly fishing for some specific combination of key words. I searched the room for a friendly face that would offer me some hint as to the answer. I was met with blank or perplexed faces. I searched the professor’s face—cold stare… the PowerPoint slide—all the stuff I already said… my highlighted text—that’s the stuff it did say, he wanted something novel…
“Umm…” I stammered. “I don’t know.”
He repeated the question, this time emphasizing new syllables and otherwise confusing things even more. I could tell it was becoming a game to him, like Catchphrase or something. He clearly had a specific response in mind. I knew all he had to do was click his little PowerPoint button and an answer would pop up.
“Umm… I really don’t know what you’re looking for.”
His eyes met mine in a silent glare. I started to combine vocabulary words and ideas from the case to form a vague sentence that only restated what I had already said. I hoped he would say “not quite” and go on to explain what he was looking for.
Instead he asked me if I’d had enough, if he should ask someone else, or if I wanted to keep trying. I said I’d had enough.
He moved on to another student and repeated the questioning style. The other student was equally perplexed.
He finally clicked his PowerPoint button and we all let out a little sigh when we saw the magical answer appear. The answer was actually quite brilliant, but it wasn’t so much an answer as an interpretation. It really hadn’t occurred to me. It was the type of idea that teachers come up with when they study this stuff for their job… the type of idea they teach their students.
So if that had just happened once today I may have forgiven him or even thanked him for opening my mind, but the whole class went like this. Maybe he had just read a book on allowing students to “discover” learning for themselves instead of teaching or something, but it clearly wasn’t working—despite our best gaming, not one of us ever guessed what the PowerPoint button would pull up. That would have been fine, cause the conversation was good, but the professor kept getting more and more angry with us. Finally, he exploded.
“Is this too hard for you guys? Do none of your other teachers ask you questions and expect you to participate?”
Funny, just as he was saying that I was thinking “man, I’m sick of business” and I was writing a note to myself in the margins of my paper to apply for the Border Patrol and the Peace Corps.
“Business is supposed to be hard…” The professor continued. “Are these questions too hard for you El Veneno?” I was wondering where the Peace Corps would send me.
“Yes,” I said and put my head back down on my desk. The class chuckled.
The professor gave a long speech about being prepared for class and told us he could tell within 15 seconds of asking a student questions whether they had come prepared to class or not. I wanted to vindicate myself waving my highlighted pages with the notes in the margins but instead I kept looking like I didn’t care.
For the last few minutes of class, we met in groups to discuss how we could creatively present findings to a group of managers. When we shared our ideas he told us why we were all wrong. He clicked the PowerPoint button to reveal that the best way to present findings to high-powered businesspeople involved cut-outs and a felt board. He told us he hoped we’d be able to apply that sometime in our careers. I hope he was being very sarcastic or something.
In my next class, I went online and started applications for the Peace Corps, the Border Patrol, and thanks to one of those “Be all you can be” ads in the Daily Universe, the army. I hope I get over this by tomorrow. I really don’t want to join the army.