Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I don't have a minute to compose my thoughts but I cannot let the death of Norman Borlaug go unmentioned here. The present political climate demonstrates to me how desperate our society is for modern heroes: men of peace, honor and action. Borlaug was one such man. His intelligence and passion changed the world. Literally. Here's a well-done obituary by Justin Gillis. Tell your kids about him.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Got Your Oedipus Complex Right Here

Like most little girls, my daughters went through the princess stage. They would dress up in fluffy gowns, drench themselves in costume jewelry, don long white gloves, brush glitter on their cheeks and prance around the house speaking to me in a surprisingly accurate British accent. I dutifully fetched them tea and ladyfingers, tossed the rubbish at party's end, formally announced ballroom entrances and fed the royal steed. Yet, I was never overly-charmed by this pretend play. (It's possible I never really embraced princess-play because, on it's face, it is not pretend. Keith and I cook, clean, entertain, transport and basically grant their every wish, so what is it about princess life that my children envy?) I was much more enthusiastic when the girls began dressing up and pretending to be veterinarians, teachers, cowgirls, pilots, even performers. It is clear to me that I prefer they dress up as someone with a skill or function, even if they are pretending to be Hannah-Swift-Pickler. And even today when I see little girls twirling down the aisle at the grocery store or skipping through the park wearing their pink princess dress-ups, I am not enchanted.

But my son! This is where my negative attitude regarding gender-stereotypical play turns on itself. Over the past few months Eli has amassed a collection of dress-up clothes including a knight, policeman, fireman, Batman, Superman, and cowboy. Whenever he dresses up and begins role-playing, I am overwhelmed with adoration. My heart leaps into my throat every time Eli, sword and shield in hand, marches in the room to announce he has come to save me from the dragon. I stop whatever I am doing and merrily let him whisk me away to safety (which is usually the cave under the kitchen table). I absolutely love it when the Dark Knight tells me he will "pwotect" me. And despite the fact that our Superman is scared to death of spiders, he will stand between any spider and me, repeating over and over that he is "super-super-strong" and I should not be frightened. I desperately want to freeze for eternity the vision of Eli darting through the house, black cape flowing, various tools tucked into his belt, announcing that he will protect us from villains old and new. Even as I write, the picture of him catches my breath in my throat. I adore this make-believe role playing. I love the heroic instinct and I relish every moment watching Eli pretend to be gallant, brave, and strong.

So, why is princess play tedious to me while knight-in-shining armor trips my heart? Perhaps because imagining princess characteristics in teens or adults is repulsive--elitist, entitled, spoiled. Even with a great British accent, it is unsavory. Yet, the heroic attributes of a knight or superhero are exactly what I want to teach my son about manhood--strength, loyalty, courage. These are appealing attributes not only in make-believe.

Then again, I might still be playing princess myself and simply enjoying the thought of being rescued by my little knight!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good Times at the Track

Inspired by Keith's phenomenal weekend performance (1:37:16 half-marathon, y'all!) I sashayed up to the USU track for my regular Monday speed workout. The field showed obvious remnants of a weekend track meet: fresh sand in the pits, neatly stacked hurdles, blue foam fingers littering the bleachers... and along the north end there was a uniform row of shiny port-a-lets conveniently placed for the collegiate athletes. I jogged a pleasant warm-up mile and could sense the lingering excitement and energy of a recent event. I also relished in the hot sun beating down on me. Happily I had the track all to myself. (Once I start the speed work, I feel much less conspicuous dry-heaving over the steeple-chase bar if no one else is around to witness.)

I was about half way through my workout when a large truck towing a flatbed trailer pulled into the gate and lumbered toward the northern end of the track. As I rounded the bend I read the signature: Nature's Call--We "go" wherever you "go." Due to intent focus on my watch and a lack of oxygen, it didn't dawn on me until the smell smacked me. I was sprinting my guts out and sucking wind while these port-a-lets were being hoisted up on the flatbed and their inner-contents vacuumed into a truck bed tank. The inner-contents being "nervous athlete output" that had stewed and baked in the ground for the last 72 hours. I didn't know what to do. I was already in the middle of my carefully-designed workout and I didn't want to cut it short. But I was sprinting through the most wretched, disgusting, foul, stench I had ever encountered. (And remember, I changed Eli's diapers for nearly two years!) So, I ran my remaining 1200, 800 and 400 meters in the fashion of a swimmer; I would take a gigantic, lung-filled-to-capacity, breath and haul it as hard and fast as I could without inhaling again. And wouldn't you know it, my times were actually my fastest yet. But that is not to say it was worth it. I have brushed my teeth twice, shampooed my hair three times and I may have to burn my running tank.

(If you think this post is even remotely funny, which I do not, you will enjoy this witty British film. I'm looking at you, Sherri!)

And although I do not like to use my blog as a medium for publicly expressing my love or for bragging about my family (well, flagrant bragging), I simply cannot miss this opportunity to tell Keith how proud I am of him. You spanked the Ogden half and I couldn't be more awed by your hard work, your resolute mind, and your gorgeous legs. Bien fait, mon cheri!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Meeting John Calvin's Approval

Driving home from church meeting today Eli said, "May I go play with Khyson?" I said, "No, not today." Eli proudly acknowledged, "Oh yea, Sundays are not for fun."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Video Is Worth A Million Bajillion Words

I'll let the innumeracy thing rest after this but you have got to see these two clips. They are much clearer than anything I wrote below.


How Many Millions are in a Trillion? from Econ4U on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Power to the Proletariat

Oh, Keith is not going to like that title.

I just listened to a university statistics professor give a brilliant lecture on innumeracy in the United States and now I’m all fired up. He talked about Americans inability to comprehend large numbers, even in ordinary life settings. One of his examples was salary discrepancies. We all know some careers make a lot of money and we understand other job choices reap smaller financial reward. Yet, have you ever crunched the numbers and considered how far apart these numbers really are? Take professional athletes for example. According to Sports Illustrated “The Fortunate 50”,Tiger Woods earned $128,000,000 in 2008. Contrast that with numbers from the Chronicle of Higher Education which reports that the average associate professor at a baccalaureate university earns $87,000 per year. What do those few extra zeros really mean? It means that the average college professor would have to work 1,471 years to earn what Tiger Woods earned in one year. One thousand, four hundred, seventy-one years! Now I concede that Tiger Woods is a unique situation in professional sports. He earns more than twice that of the #2 ranked top-earning athlete (Phil Mickelson, by the way). So, let’s drop down a few notches to the #6 earning athlete, Alex Rodriguez. A Rod earned $35,000,000 in 2008. Your average medical oncologist earnings max out at an average of $455,000 per year. So today, in this country, A Rod will earn in one year what it takes a doctor fighting cancer 77 years to earn. It is feasible that an oncologist would work his entire life and not earn what Rodriguez earned in 2008 alone. And how about public school teachers? In Utah, the average school teacher with a master’s degree earns $32,000 per year (let's all groan together). Dale Earnhardt Jr earned $27,000,000. A Utah school teacher would have to work 844 years to earn Junior’s 2008 paycheck. To review:

Tiger Woods 1 year earning = University professor 1,471 years work
Alex Rodriguez 1 year earning = Medical oncologist 77 years work
Dale Earnhardt Jr 1 year earning = Utah school teacher 844 years work

Happily pro-athletes are not the only benefactors of our pay-scale lunacy. ranks highest paid CEOs. Mark Papa of EOG Resources was compensated $90,000,000 in 2008. It would take your average lawyer 796 years to achieve that single amount, an oncologist, 198 years.

Now I fully support the concept of giving the people what they want and charging what you can for it. I understand that NASCAR, the Superbowl, and the World Series are part of what makes America great. But I wonder if the dude screaming insults at Jeff Gordon realizes just how much more money that boy pulls than the local EMT or cancer researcher. Do we really think that Ben Roethlisberger should earn $25,000,000 in one year when your city fireman, who would risk his life for you, earns roughly $50,000. (It will take the fireman 500 years to earn $25,000,000.) As a people, we gotta get our priorities back in order.

Another example of innumeracy involves wealthy philanthropists.

Take the Walton family (founders and owners of Walmart) for example. They have received accolades for contributing over $1,400,000,000 (that's 1.4 billion dollars!) to various educational charities between 2003-2007. This sounds impressive, worthy of salutations, glory, laud and honor until you consider their actual net worth of $82,500,000,000 (that's 82.5 billion dollars!). In reality, their donation of 1.4 million dollars is less than 2% of their net worth. That is equivalent to the city fireman donating $825 to charity over the course of 4 years, or $206 per year. Not sure a parade is warranted at 2% contribution levels.

Next time I hear sports commentators gushing over a charitable act by LeBron James ($40,000,000 per annum) or some CNN reporter praising Ray Irani of Occidental Petroleum ($223,000,000 in 2009) for building a school in Beirut, I’m going to throw my shoe at the television set. Numerically speaking, they are being applauded for dropping a nickel in the March of Dimes canister.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Standards of Measurement

This afternoon Eli and I were playing doctor. (I received a number of "shocks" for my bandaged foot. He simply cannot retain the term "shot.") But the most insightful part was when Eli took my temperature and announced, "Your temperature is eight miles per week."

It's possible Keith and I are officially runners.