Monday, December 29, 2008

Civil Disobedience

Yesterday, in Elders Quorum, we discussed Elder Perry's talk in the last General Conference. Elder Perry's talk was based off of thoughts made by Thoreau. Thoreau was a great American...but he was also a criminal.
He wrote an essay on civil disobedience. Peaceful rebellion against false government practices. Thoreau himself spent a night in jail for refusing to pay taxes (he didn't want to support slavery and the Mexican-American war).
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Dalai Lama, and many others have practiced civil disobedience, following Thoreau's example.
People who practice civil disobedience do so peacefully. They do so understanding that they may be thrown in jail, or even beaten or killed. They do so to set an example, to show that a government practice is wrong, to help bring public awareness to an important issue.
Today, like in the past, many who practice civil disobedience are criticized. People who believe, mistakenly, that the government is always right, call these people sinners. They are not sinners. They are rebels. They follow a higher law than man's. They deserve our respect, not our criticism.
Joseph Smith practiced civil disobedience. He tried to escape from jail. He did other legally dubious things for a higher purpose.
Our founding fathers practiced civil disobedience. The Boston Tea Party is a great example. So is just about everything else they did to separate themselves from Great Britain.
Christ himself practiced civil disobedience. His family illegally fled from the government as the government killed all the other young male children. He went against Jewish law and picked and ate corn on the Sabbath; he also healed on the Sabbath. He cast out the money-changers in the temple.
May we all have the courage and wisdom to engage in civil disobedience when the circumstances warrant it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weird weather

Hope everyone had a good Christmas.
We just visited a used baby store for a car seat, stroller, etc. Getting ready for the big change.
We definitely miss being around most of our family and friends for Christmas. Maybe next year we'll be able to make it out to Utah/Idaho.

So, about a week or two ago (I don't remember the exact day) I woke up in the morning, went on-line...and discovered it was 6 degrees. Very cold.
Today, I went outside, and it was unusually warm. Cloudy, but warm. I just took a look says it's 70 degrees, google says 68.
That's right.
How is this December 27th?
We're definitely not in Idaho anymore...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I'm blogging from a bed and breakfast. April's still sleeping. The building we're in dates back to 1830. Just a one night deal, and we got a last-minute deal on it. A classy living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom with a jacuzzi. And a supposedly wonderful breakfast this morning. Top-quality. A get-away before the baby comes. Bed and breakfasts are so much better than hotels.
We were going to drive to a German restaurant (I have a good coupon) for dinner, but an ice storm led to closed-down freeways, and we ended up going to a good but over-priced restaurant close to the bed and breakfast.
Hopefully the ice will melt and the freeways will open today so we can get back home.
Merry Christmas!
And Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008


The semester is over. Very nice to get that out of the way. Next semester will be hard too, but at least the language of law won't be brand new to me. I have an idea of what to expect.
We've been trying to get money from an old health insurance company for months. They keep on sending us lame excuses for why they won't pay us. I finally sent them a long angry letter (instead of polite phone calls and letters) and yesterday we got a check! It feels good to stick it to the man and win, that man being health insurance companies, or, in other words, the devil.
And, on an entirely random tangent, the coolest thing about dinosaurs is that they're not actually extinct. I'm not talking about the Loch Ness monster. I'm talking about birds. I grew up hearing that the dinosaurs were extinct, but it's not really true. Of course every species of dinosaur that was around 65 million years ago (and, for that matter, every genus) is gone. But we're continually learning more and more about dinosaurs, and the more we find out about them, the more we are able to establish a direct link between them and birds. An article I found today is a good example of some of the similarities. My reptiles professor at BYU considered birds just another type of reptile. So next time you see a bird, just think of it as being a modified dinosaur. Because it is.
For more info on the ancestors of birds, google "bird dinosaurs," or just click here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

With all the hoopla in Utah about this (driven by Buttars, by the way), I thought this article was spot on. Check it out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What makes a great teacher?

Recently, ranked some top professors, and the one that topped the list was one I'd taken courses from.
He was a good professor, but I think what put him at the top of the list was his absurdly easy classes. And I'd say absurdly easy classes should be a negative factor, not a positive one.
And I started thinking.
What makes a truly great teacher?
An incomplete list:

1. Respect for students. One of my professors right now has some great skills as a teacher, but she's scary and mean, at least to a few of her students. I recently overheard one of the library staff refer to her as...
Oh. Right. G-rated blog. Let's just say I'm not alone in thinking this otherwise good professor has serious people issues.

2. True love of the subject. If the teacher's not excited about it, the students won't be either. Well, at least unless it's like the chastity lesson I gave in Gospel Essentials the other week. Maybe it's best for teachers not to get too excited about specific topics in certain situations...
I'm especially impressed with a teacher who can make an awful subject interesting (Mr. Kinsel (Math), Dr. Wood (chemistry), and Ted (chemistry/physics)--I'm looking at you).

3. Good communication skills. Don't let me get started with one of my current professors...a brilliant guy, but he has a hard time talking.

4. Organized. Again, another current professor (well, current except I took her final on Tuesday) has problems here.

5. Good knowledge of the subject. This one's for all those high school coaches who were there just for the sports, but had to teach anyway...some of you may know your stuff. Most of you don't. To be fair, the above-mentioned Ted is an exception, but he doesn't spend a whole lot of time on the coaching side of things. This also applies to the fifth grade teacher who told us to do a report on an animal and then told me I couldn't do it on snake because a snake's not an animal. Yeah. I realize it's fifth grade, but still...according to my mom, she later called a goose a duck. Not a bad teacher overall, but she needed some very basic-level assistance with animal identification.

6. They're demanding. This BYU professor? My education professors at UVSC? Definitely not demanding. Education requires work. If I'm not trying, I'm not learning. There is no way my kids will get the easiest teacher, even if that teacher does happen to be the most popular one. And kids need to be prepared for the real world. An easy education class is not adequate preparation for a classroom full of 35 hormone- and rage-filled teenagers. An informative yet ridiculously easy Mission Prep. class is not adequate preparation for the craziness of a mission.

7. They make you think. This is where CS Lewis is at his finest. I took institute from Thomas Griffith. He was my stake president at the time, and a good teacher. And one of the most thought-provoking teachers I've ever had. This was not a class that required work, as there was no grading. But it still required thought. He asked deep questions. I'm not entirely surprised that he's now a judge on the DC Court of Appeals--this nation's second highest court. I am surprised that he's scheduled to visit my little law school in a few months to speak--definitely exciting.

8. They do their best to make the material applicable to their students.

To be honest, I sometimes fell short in all of these areas as a teacher. I despised a couple of my students, I wasn't a big fan of some of the things I taught (cells, for example), I sometimes found it hard to say what I wanted to say, I sometimes wasn't as prepared as I should have been, and as a result was disorganized, and I didn't always know the subject as well as I should have (cells, again). And my class was probably a bit too easy.
I got better as time passed, and then life pulled me in a different direction.

Any other important attributes to consider?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why US car companies are dying and why we should let them die

Three reasons US car companies are failing:
A few years ago I bought a used car. I did a lot of research. I was only willing to spend $3500 or less, so my options were limited. Another limitation--I'm tall enough that I don't fit in a two-door car such as a Geo Metro.
I went to Consumer Reports.
Best compact cars in my price range? The ones that don't break down?
Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla, Geo Prizm. The last year for the Prizm was 1997; I had several people tell me it was basically a Corolla, just with a different name. I found one from that year and have been happy with it.
So where are Chrysler, Ford, and GM? The American car companies?
Well, they don't exactly have a history of making quality products. Go to Consumer Reports. It's pretty obvious that their cars are less reliable.
Sure, they have style. They look good. I worked for a rental car company and would sometimes drive a Dodge Intrepid. The 2001 model looked very cool, it drove smoothly, and it felt very comfortable. The 2001 Dodge Neon also looked and drove nice (although, being a compact car, it was less comfortable). But the reliability stinks. Some people go for style, for looks, or for brand name.
More people prefer reliability. So Americans buy Toyota and Honda.
Handling their money poorly. Plenty has already been said elsewhere about how they compensate their employees. The top executives showing up in private jets to beg Congress for relief money was more of a stupid image decision than a bad financial decision, but it seems to illustrate their wasteful ways.
Size and gas mileage.
American car companies have been big into size. Get a monster truck! One that can tow a house! Look! Our SUV is bigger!
What you end up with is a bunch of little ladies and guys with Napoleon complexes driving huge vehicles around. Most of these vehicles don't get used much for towing, hauling, or off-roading. They're mainly a status symbol.
Gas prices went way up, the economy went way down, and all of a sudden these big vehicles aren't selling. They never sold much internationally (people in other countries are either too poor to afford them, or laws are to stringent to allow gas guzzlers). Now they're not selling anywhere. The companies were struggling anyway, but gas prices and the economy were the last straw.

Now, what do we do? Do we go in and save these guys? Or are they too big to fail? If we let them fail, the economy goes down more. But if we use huge amounts of money to help them out, their problems, which I mentioned above, will probably continue. Poor reliability, poor money management, big size and poor gas mileage.
I think at least one of them needs to fail. Companies, especially big companies, need to realize that they are not too big to die. I hope Congress will hold off on any help until one of these guys goes under, and then step in with loans to help the others. Let them know that they're not too big to fail. Let them know that, like all other things in a changing environment, if they don't change and adapt, they will go extinct.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cincinnati sights

April and I went to the zoo a few weeks ago; normally, it's prohibitively expensive, but the law school offered $3 tickets for an evening visit, so I snatched them up. It's actually a pretty impressive zoo. I was a little bothered, however, by how much they sensationalized things. Most of their snakes were the poisonous types (whereas most snakes in the world are not dangerous). Same with their spiders. They had displays full of live cockroaches--solely for the gross-out effect.
I understand that the zoo needs to attract people, and this is one way of doing it. And the rest of the zoo was impressive enough that I didn't mind too much (although a few more amphibian displays would've been nice).
Yesterday, however, I discovered that the zoo had passed the line. They offered a combo-promotion ticket with a creation museum in Kentucky (only 15 miles from the zoo). This creation museum is top-notch. It's the biggest and best creation museum in the world. Admission is well over $20. It's big news.
What does a creation museum include? Well, it looks a bit like the Flintstones. People riding dinosaurs. Stuff like that. And it claims that it's science. In fact, as almost anyone with a degree in biology, geology, or anthropology will tell you, it's anti-science.
I'm a religious person. I have a degree in biology. I believe in being honest. And so I cannot support a museum that makes claims like the creation museum does.
As a former biology teacher, I can just imagine teaching here in Cincinnati. I'd teach the students something (the age of the earth, for example), and they'd reply, "But the museum says that's not true! The earth is only 6000 years old! And it's a museum, so it must be right!"
The zoo, on the other hand, is publicly funded. It exists to educate about science. Real science. Its goals are the exact opposite of the goals of the creation museum.
Imagine if the Catholic church teamed up with a bunch of devil-worshippers.
Yeah. It's kind of like that.
I emailed the zoo, complaining. Enough other people complained that they withdrew the offer. I have a feeling the PR side of the zoo had not been speaking with the educational side of the zoo--if they had, this problem never would have emerged. Anyone working for the zoo with a biology degree would've shot it down immediately.
It's nice to know that reason can trump ignorance.
There's a stellar aquarium nearby. An art museum, a natural history museum. Maybe next time the zoo can team up with one of these.