20 Years Ago

About 20 years ago, possibly on this very Sunday, I had one of the most important turning points in my life. This story is a hard one for me to share, but I felt I had to write it down. I didn’t start writing my journal till a few months after this event, and I didn’t want it to be lost.

I was just starting as a freshman at Brigham Young University in Provo, and had also just barely turned 16. In case you’re wondering, I had skipped a grade in elementary school, and ended up finishing my last two years of high school in one year via an independent study program. I had moved out of my parents’ home to live with my grandma, who lived about 2 miles from BYU, in large part because I didn’t get along well with most the guys in my youth group at church. My family doesn’t specialize in “black sheep”, so this was about as close as any of us got to “running away from home”.

Not wanting to repeat the experience I had had with my home ward, I didn’t want to be part of my grandma’s congregation. I didn’t want to be a college student hanging out with high school kids, even if we happened to be the same age. So I went to the student ward whose boundaries I lived within. The problem is that being an off-campus student ward that didn’t at the time have any apartment complexes in its boundaries meant that almost everyone in that congregation was of returned missionary age or older (21+), meaning I was the youngest person in the ward by over half a decade. I didn’t fit in at all, or have anything in common with anybody. Nobody was mean at all, but nobody at the time was really any more than “check the box” friendly either. I really didn’t feel like anybody understood me or really cared about me.

Being a teenager and a college freshman, and being away from family the first time is a challenging enough time for most people, but combine that with not really having any close friends, being 2 years younger than almost everyone I knew, and thus not really feeling like I had a connection to anyone made for an extremely depressing and lonely time. I personally hope that most of you reading this have no idea what I’m talking about.

Anyhow, this wasn’t working for me, so I went to talk with the bishop of the student congregation, and he told me that while LDS policy is pretty clear that you’re supposed to attend one of the wards in whose geographical boundaries you reside (we’re not like other faiths where you’re encouraged to shop around for a congregation you like, you’re supposed to worship and serve with those around you, from all walks of life), that in his opinion I might be better served if I found an on-campus freshman student ward to attend. I’d have to eventually move into that ward’s geographical boundaries if I wanted to stay, but at least at the time it was the best option he could suggest.

The only challenge was I had no idea how to find a freshman student ward to attend.

I remembered that a few of the students who had been in my freshman orientation “Y Group” had lived somewhere down in an on-campus housing complex known as Heritage Halls. But I wasn’t really sure where, or when on Sunday they went to church. I was getting ready to give up on the LDS church and organized religion at this point, but wanted to give it one last chance. I decided I’d head down to Heritage Halls, and find a place to wait to see if anybody I recognized happened to stop by. If they invited me to go to church with them that Sunday I’d go. Otherwise, I was ready to be done. It’s not that I thought the church was false, or that anything like that. I was just spiritually and emotionally done.

That was 20 years ago today.

As you can guess if you know anything about me, I did meet some friends there that day. When I told them that I was trying to find a ward to attend, they didn’t hesitate for a second, but cheerfully suggested that I should join them and their ward. As a brief aside, I have a Pandora station going in the background as I’m typing this, and right as I typed that last sentence a song started playing talking about how You’re Not Alone. I’m not sure there’s a more fitting way to put how I felt that moment.

They took me in.

I was young enough to be their annoying little brother, but they took me in. They introduced me to their other friends. After church, they asked if I sang, and when I said yes, they invited me to join them for choir. And when they found that my walk home was 2 miles, they invited me to stay around for dinner, and ward prayer that evening.

I was home. For the first time in many years, I felt like I was really and truly at home.

Did life stop being awkward for me, being 2yrs younger than all of my peers? No. Do I really feel like any of them understood me at all? Did I even understand me at all? No. Was my social life all roses from there? Not even remotely. But I was home. I knew that even though they didn’t understand me, they really honestly cared. In some ways that made it mean even more. Of all the places in the world I could run away to, and all the crowds I could’ve fallen in with, I’m not sure I could’ve found a classier group of 18 year old men and women on the planet.

Spiritually speaking, that year really was a turning point for me.

I wouldn’t be ordained as an Elder in our church for another two years, but when I sang “Ye Elders of Israel” with the brothers in that ward, I really felt that the song meant me as well. When the sisters sang “As Sisters In Zion”, I truly came to appreciate that the errand of angels was quite often given to women. After all, it had been a group of those sisters who had cheerfully invited me to join them that day 20 years ago.

Being surrounded by such good examples gave me strength, and made me want to be a better person–someone who worthy of having friends like that. It gave me a desire to know for myself if the restored gospel was true. In the end, I had to know, and finally got my answer. And when I did, the answer was that “You know it is true. You’ve always known it’s true? Wherefore can you doubt?” I truly gained my own testimony that year, a desire to get my life in order so I could serve as a missionary, a testimony of the prophet at the time, Gordon B Hinkley, and a love for sacred music. Most of what I’ve become as an adult was a direct result of events that year, all of which were triggered by a simply offered invitation when I needed it most.

I’m pretty sure none of those sisters or brothers in that ward had any idea of what they did for me. They were just 18 year olds, doing what came naturally to them–reaching out in friendship to someone who needed it badly. But they made all the difference in the world to me.

I’ve since lost track of almost all of them. But I hope and pray wherever they are, that if they’re ever found in the lonely and depressing circumstances that I was in that day, that they too can have someone be there for them with the gentle hand of human kindness. I don’t know if any of them remember me anymore, but I hope I’ll never forget.

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Filed under LDS Philosophy, Personal History

YHABFT: Thoughts on the First 2016 GOP Presidential Debate

[Note, on my other blog, Selenian Boondocks, I started a category called YHABFT (You Have a Blog for That). I sometimes have thoughts that I could try cramming into a twitter stream of consciousness, but I did that one too many times and Ben Brockert and Will Pomerantz started reminding me that “You have a blog for that” when I got too carried away. I’m just trying to save them the hassle of reminding me.]

I was able to watch a bit of the GOP debate tonight (before Fox pulled the plug on the UK news site I was using to watch it), and figured I ought to mention my thoughts. I’m trying to keep electoral politics on Selenian Boondocks to a reasonable minimum, unless it intersects with space policy, so I decided to post this here.

A couple of points up front about my political leanings to set the tone:

  • I’ve never voted for a presidential candidate from either major party–I think I’ve voted Libertarian most of the last three times.
  • I have registered “for that party that let me vote for Ron Paul in the primaries” both of the past two elections.
  • I have voted for Democrats, Republicans, and third party candidates, so I’m not the kind of person the GOP can consider a safe vote.
  • A candidate doesn’t have to be perfect to get my vote, but I do have to feel that their pluses outweigh their minuses, not just that they’re not as bad as the other major party candidate.

With all that said, here’s a couple of thoughts on the part of the debate I saw (roughly the middle 60 minutes of the two hour debate):

  • I can’t stand Trump, and I don’t think he’d make a good leader, but I don’t think his performance lowered my opinion of him.
  • I’m really not a fan of Chris Christie and his stance on domestic spying, and there’s almost no chance I’d vote for him if he got the GOP nod, but I had to give him points for his answer on the need for entitlement reform. I’m libertarian enough that I’d like to see Social Security go the way of the dodo, but since it isn’t going away, at least making minor tweaks like he suggested to make it less likely to blow up on future generations is a good thing, and it was ballsy to make that argument, even at a GOP debate. I don’t like him, but my respect for him increased.
  • Ben Carson was a total disappointment. None of the answers I heard from him impressed me at all.
  • I didn’t like Ted Cruz to start with, and some of his answers tonight made me even less of a fan.
  • Rand Paul is one of the few on the GOP side I’d be likely to vote for, but he only did so-so. At one point I think he interrupted Trump incorrectly, which came off kind of amateur hour. I did like his defense of the 4th amendment though. And his nuanced answer on the Iran Deal was better than I had expected with his attempt at pretending to be a hawk lately. But overall not a home-run performance for him this time around.
  • Kasich impressed me with points he made in two of his answers. I liked him making the point that while growth is important, it’s also important for conservatives (and libertarians) to reach out to those “in the shadows” so that all Americans feel like the American Dream applies to them too (he said it better than I could). I wish he’d gone into more detail on that though, because while the platitude is definitely good, the details matter. I also liked his answer on the “what would you do if your daughter was gay” question. I’m also pretty old-fashioned when it comes to questions of sexual morality, but agree with the sentiment that we’re supposed to love people, even if we disagree with what they’re doing. Kasich overall left me with a higher impression of him than I started with.
  • Probably the most surprising one was that I agreed with a decent amount of what Jeb Bush said. I still doubt I’d vote for him, but his comments on the importance of leaving educational curriculum and standards to the state were good–I just wish he’d do a better job of explaining what he means by “supporting Common Core”, because the two opinions at least on the surface seem to differ a lot. I really couldn’t stand the mach swagger BS persona that the GOP built up around his brother during his 8 years as president, and shudder at the thought of a Bush vs. Clinton rematch (could someone talk one of Perot’s kids into jumping in to make things interesting?), but have to grudgingly admit that I thought he also managed to earn some extra respect from me. Especially when he got in an aside about making immigration easier as part of his answer to some question.
  • Walker did ok on several questions, but I really thought his answer on his immigration 180 was pathetic. It really came across as “I had a principled view, but know I couldn’t get elected if I defended it.”
  • I can’t really remember anything positive or negative about Rubio’s answers, and didn’t like Huckabee’s answers (except for once) but can’t remember details about what he said overall.
  • I’m also glad I’m Mormon, because otherwise, I’d probably be in the hospital from alcohol poisoning from doing a drinking game (one shot every time someone invokes Reagan, etc.)…

In case anyone cares.

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Filed under Politics, YHABFT

Thoughts on Answers to Prayers

I’ve had two recent events that got me thinking about prayers and answers to them. One of them was a conversation over lunch on my last day at Space Access. I can’t remember all at the table, but at one point someone brought up the concept of prayers and that he felt he had had some of his answered over the years. One of the other gentlemen at the table mentioned that as humans subject to confirmation bias, we tend to remember events which reinforce our beliefs, and forget those that don’t, and that if you pray for help in various situations that you’re more likely to remember the times when the thing you asked for happened, and forget the times when the thing you asked for didn’t happen. More recently, a recent twitter friend of mine, who is a fervent atheist made the claim that 90% of surveyed scientists do not believe that prayers get answered, as though that was an indication that faith was somehow unscientific. He also claimed that faith is belief in something without proof or evidence.

As for me, I have no doubt that I’ve received answers to my prayers–not just when I asked for something I wanted and got it, but literal answers sometimes. Some of the answered prayers were semi-miraculous, where I can’t think of a legitimate scientific explanation for what happened.

Like when we had our garden in Loveland protected from a hailstorm as a child after my mother had us pray for help. The prophet had told us we ought to plant gardens if we could. We had done so, and now a massive hail storm was coming, so my mom gathered us children around, and we said a prayer telling God that we had done what he had asked and that we needed his help to protect those crops. The hailstorm came, and while there was so much hail that it had looked like it snowed in our backyard, and while most of the trees in the neighborhood took severe damage, almost no hailstones fell on our garden plants. The walkways between the raised berms in the garden were deep with pebble-sized hailstones, but the plants weren’t harmed, and in fact we had the best harvest from that year’s garden that we ever had in my childhood memory. I don’t know of a realistic scientific explanation for how hail would fall inch deep in the paths and in the yard, but wouldn’t touch the four raised beds of the garden.

Or on my mission in the Philippines, I had several experiences (at least one in Bolinao and at least one in Binmaley) where we needed to find someone in a part of town I had never been to, and didn’t have a map for. We had prayed for help, and I saw a map in my mind, clearly marked showing where the person was. We’d go to that place, find roads exactly where I had seen them, and find the person there exactly where I had thought. In some cases, when I later found a map of the area, some of these roads weren’t even shown on the maps. How do you scientifically explain seeing a vision in your mind of a map of an area you’ve never been in, that accurately predicts exactly where the person was?

The weird thing though was that of these more tangible answers to prayer, where I can’t think of a legitimate scientific way to explain away the answer, most of these events weren’t actually that spiritually consequential. The 2-3 times I saw the map in my mind’s eye never led to teaching someone who accepted the gospel, in fact in both instances we met with the person and they weren’t interested and we never came back. The only one of these tangible answers to prayer that seemed to have any spiritual significance to me at all was the incident described above with the hailstorm in Loveland, and that’s probably because we were asking God in faith to protect something we felt he had asked us to do through the prophet.

On the other hand, many of the most meaningful answers to prayers that I’ve received have been ones that a scoffer or skeptic could easily brush off as some sort of delusion or wishful thinking–times when I felt that God had literally answered my question I had been trying to get an answer for. I remember my freshman year at BYU praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I had been raised in the Church, but had plenty of doubts, and many of my internet friends I had made that year were also agnostic or atheistic. It would’ve been rather convenient at the time had I not received an answer. But if you’re ever with me on BYU campus, I can show you where I got my answer. It wasn’t some glorious vision or tangible miracle–I just felt a voice tell me “You know it’s true. You’ve always known it’s true. Wherefore can you doubt?” This happened in a busy hallway in the Eyring Science Center in between classes. There was no audible voice that anyone else heard, but I knew my prayers had been answered, and I had no excuse for further doubt. And really there’s never been any going back for me. But a skeptic could easily claim that I had dreamed this up or imagined it.

Why is it that my experiences that a skeptic who had experienced them would have the hardest time brushing off weren’t usually that meaningful to me, while the ones that could be easily brushed-off were the most life-changing ones? I don’t know. But I know my prayers have on many occasions been answered. I know it, and I’d be dishonest to myself and the evidences I’ve seen to claim otherwise.


Filed under LDS Mission, LDS Philosophy

Service and the Atonement

If you ask an LDS church member to name a scripture related to serving others, one of the ones you’ll likely here the most is from the Book of Mormon, specifically Mosiah 2:17, which states:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

In some ways this parallels the Savior’s teaching in the New Testament, in Matthew 25:31-46 (specifically verse 40), which in the KJV states:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I think it’s easy for us to take these verses metaphorically. That serving our fellow beings is furthering God’s goals. Or that doing something (good or ill) unto “the least of these our brethren” is like we’re doing it unto Christ. But what if these verses are less metaphorical than we think?

Isaiah, when he testified of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:4 (repeated by the prophet Abinadi in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 14:4) stated:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.

And the Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, testified about Christ (in Alma 7:11-12), saying:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Basically, a lot of times we forget that in addition to the paying “for our sins”, and the “dieing and being resurrected so that we can live again” parts of the Atonement, Christ also somehow willingly experienced all of our pains, sorrows, frustrations, loneliness, guilt, shame, feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and in short all of the injustices and challenges we face in life. Not just those brought upon ourselves by our own poor decisions, but those that come as a result of living in mortality with imperfect bodies, and those caused by the carelessness or willful malice of others. Christ is able to understand us and empathize with us, not because he also had a rough life and bore griefs that were somewhat analogous to our own, but because he experienced the whole of human suffering as part of his Atoning sacrifice.

On the flip side, did he also experience all the small acts of kindness, and service, where people went out of their way to “lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees”? Did he experience the joy that the lonely feel when one reaches out to them to let them know they matter and are cared about? Did he feel the hope restored when we visit someone who is sick or in prison and cheered their hearts? Did he feel the relief of the overwhelmed when someone paused to share their burden with them? Did he feel the relief we feel when someone forgives us of our screwups and mistakes, or when someone shows us undeserved mercy?

I’m not sure how profound this really is, but it was an insight I had this morning that I felt was worth sharing. It definitely put the concept of service in a new light for me.


Filed under LDS Philosophy

One of my Favorite Joseph Smith Quotes

From “The Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” (p. 246-47):

But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feeling that influence the children of men, causes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,” or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. He will judge them, “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.

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Filed under LDS Philosophy

Does the 1968 Inflation-Adjust Minimum Wage Justify a $15/hr Minimum Wage Today?

I try to stay on friendly terms even with people whom I disagree with emphatically on one or more subjects. A few good friends of mine on the space side of things are also very economically progressive, and recently I’ve been seeing several of them making variants on this argument:

Basically, the inflation adjusted minimum wage was $11/hr in 1968, and that “worked” so we should be able to afford something similar today. By the way this number is bandied about, it makes it sound as though that 1968 number was a number that was sustained for a long time, and the moved away from recently. I was curious what the inflation adjusted minimum wage trend looks like, so I decided to look it up on the Department of Labor website. If you check out this table, and convert it into graph form, you get this for the minimum wage from 1938 when it started to 2012 (the last year on that particular DoL website):

Inflation Adjusted US Minimum Wage from 1938-2012 In 2012 Dollars (Source: US Department of Labor)

Inflation Adjusted US Minimum Wage from 1938-2012 In 2012 Dollars (Source: US Department of Labor)

Doing some basic statistics on this series, the mean minimum wage over this time was $7.09/hr, slightly lower than today’s $7.25/hr. The standard deviation is ~$1.60/hr.

If you look at the trend though, the pre-WWII numbers look like outliers on the low end. What if we drop them? The new mean would be $7.62/hr (slightly higher than today’s minimum wage), but the new standard deviation would be $2.48/hr.

That means that the 1968 minimum wage was actually 2.5 sigma above the mean minimum wage for the 1950-2012 timeframe–which is pretty obvious from looking at the chart. Is picking the data point that is the largest outlier from the mean over the past 60 years really a legitimate point to extrapolate from?

More importantly, $15/hr would be 6.74 sigma above the mean for the past 60 years. Ignoring all of the other arguments for or against the minimum wage, can anyone seriously claim that being over six sigma over the mean is something where past experience can give us any confidence that this won’t cause serious problems?

$15/hr Minimum Wage in Context of 60yrs of Inflation Adjusted Minimum Wage Data

$15/hr Minimum Wage in Context of 60yrs of Inflation Adjusted Minimum Wage Data

As I said, there may be other more legitimate arguments for increasing the minimum wage, even to $15/hr, but I don’t think the 1968 inflation adjusted minimum wage is a very strong argument when taken in context.

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Filed under Economics

Goff Family Picture — September 2014



September 16, 2014 · 10:58 PM

Goff Boys


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September 16, 2014 · 10:55 PM

Symmetric Myopia on Ukraine

I wanted to comment on an interesting case of symmetric myopia I’ve been noticing regarding the situation in Ukraine.

Basically, I’ve noticed that both pro-Western and pro-Russian partisans tend to suffer from a very similar bias. They assume that supporters of their cause in the Ukraine were 100% legitimate grassroots opposition to tyranny, while the other side is 100% bought-and-paid-for toadies of external forces. For example:

  • Pro-Russian view of the EuroMaidan protests in Kiev: most if not all of the anti-Yanukovich protest movement was a CIA-sponsored effort to overthrow the rightful government of Ukraine to replace it with a pro-western puppet government that will place a hostile military alliance (NATO) right on Russia’s doorstep. If there were any legitimate gripes, they shouldn’t have been handled by violently storming government buildings in Kiev and western Ukraine, but through the democratic process. Use of violent force against opposition protesters may have been regrettable, but they were using violence too to storm government buildings.
  • Pro-Russian view of events in East Ukraine: On the other hand, the reaction in East Ukraine, to a Pro-Russian is a organic, locally-driven grassroots protest both to the illegal actions of the EuroMaidan movement, not some sort of attempt by Russian special forces to annex the East. If their actions are a little on the militaristic side, they’re just mimicking the EuroMaidan tactics of occupying government buildings using violence, and trying to force extra-legal governmental change. If removing the president in a way that wasn’t allowed by the Ukrainian constitution is ok, holding a referendum on autonomy/secession should be ok too in their mind. If Yanukovich’s forces firing on violent protesters storming government buildings in Kiev was evil, how is using the military against violent protesters in Donetsk not also at least somewhat evil?
  • Pro-Western view of the EuroMaidan protests in Kiev: To the pro-Westerner, claims of US involvement in trying to destabilize Yanukovich and support his ouster are just crazy paranoid excuses being used by a cynical Kremlin to undermine what were almost entirely organic, locally-driven, grassroots protests against corruption and tyranny. Using force and acting outside the bounds of the Ukrainian constitution were ok, because it was a fight of liberty and western values against tyranny and corruption. Even though more extreme elements of the Maidan movement did use violence to storm and seize government buildings, they were doing so for a pro-democratic cause. The people really were yearning for a move to integrate more with the West and participate in modern society, and this whole situation shows why so many in the EuroMaidan want and need NATO militarily protecting them from Russian aggression.
  • Pro-Western views of what’s happening in Eastern Ukraine: This is Russian maskirovka plain and simple. Putin wants to annex large parts of Eastern Ukraine, and he’s using Russian agents and special forces (“little green men”) to prep the groundwork for an outright invasion and occupation. Sure, he’ll wrap himself in claims of protecting Russians, but only a small fraction of Eastern Ukrainians or Crimeans in that poll back in February wanted to outright be annexed by the Russian Federation, so obviously, this isn’t a grassroots movement, but “astroturf” acting as cover for an illegal invasion/occupation. Using military force on these “terrorists” is legitimate and good because they’re obviously either traitors or foreigners. If they wanted more autonomy, they should’ve worked through the democratic process, and not stormed government buildings and taken extralegal measures.

I may not entirely be able to pass Bryan Caplan’s “Intellectual Turing Test” with these comments, but I think they’re at least somewhat close to the mark. So, what’s my point? It’s just that both the simplistic Pro-Russian and the simplistic Pro-Western views are likely wrong. Ukraine is a strongly divided country, with a very wide range of opinion. Both the EuroMaidan and eastern separatist groups are probably both a mix of genuine grassroots opinions and foreign pot-stirring. There’s plenty of evidence that the US had some hand in supporting the overthrow of Yanukovich, but acting like this was entirely-US driven is obviously bunk. On the other hand, acting as though there’s no reason anyone could legitimately be pro-Russian without being bought and paid for is also absurd. If the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine are entirely just a Russian plot to annex the East, and reform the USSR, Russia sure is taking its sweet time following-up on things. That causus belli excuse Putin needed that was provided by the anti-Russian killings in Odessa was almost a month ago, and still no real sign of Russia having any desire of crossing the borders.

I guess my reason for bringing this up is that the naive “our enemies are pure evil and our allies white as snow” propaganda going around the internet is only likely to lead to more violence, more escalation, and a very bad ending for the people of Ukraine. That may benefit extremists, war profiteers on either side who’ve been jonesing for a Cold War 2.0 ever since 1990, and domestic politicians trying to get a good old fashion Two Minutes Hate going to distract from the screwed-up domestic politico-economic situation, but that’s not going to lead to anywhere good for the supposed objects of our sympathy (the Ukrainian people).

Acknowledging that neither side has a monopoly on good or evil, and that both sides have both legitimate gripes, and have both severely overstepped legal bounds, is IMO a key to starting to defuse the situation and find a solution that minimizes further loss of life, and gives the average person in the Ukraine the best possible deal. To be stable in a country so evenly split, that deal probably looks like less “winner takes all democracy” and more federalism/decentralization of power. But that isn’t going to happen so long as people insist on being blind to the faults of their own side, and acting like their “enemies” are entirely foreign-grown.


Filed under Foreign Policy

Learning Spanish via Duolingo

As any of you who follow me on twitter have probably noticed, I’m fairly strongly pro-immigration, if not outright pro-open borders. With that in mind, I was sitting in the “Priesthood Session” of the LDS General Conference last fall, when a rather profound talk by Gérald Caussé made me realize that if I really care about immigrants to this country, many of whom are here from Spanish-speaking countries, that I ought to teach myself how to speak Spanish. I may not be able to make much of a difference in changing the laws of our country to make them more just towards those who would like to live and work here, but had the misfortune of “choosing the wrong parents“. But I can chose to spend some of my time to learn their language so they can feel a little more at home and know that they’re welcome here.

Anyhow, nice sentiments and all, but I set that goal over half a year ago, and had so far done nothing to accomplish it. Then this morning a friend introduced me to a cool new language site, Duolingo.com. They’ve got a great user interface, I like the gamification, and my inner entrepreneur loves their clever business model–they offer you free and fun language training, and in turn some of the practice you get later in the process involves translating online documents from that language into English (with multiple users having the chance to vote on and correct each others translations). Much more clever than “we’ll show ads and make money that way” that seems to be the default approach of far too many websites these days.

Once again, starting a goal is easier than keeping that goal, so I’ll try to give periodic progress reports as a way of keeping myself motivated. Until then, ¡Buenas noches!


Filed under Goal: Learning Spanish, Immigration