seeing change, or fruit and dirt

The LDS "bloggernacle" is full of common complaints, like with any community.  I sympathize with most issues raised, but reading them rehashed over over again is exhausting.  Many approaches are very negative, and I decided to find some semblance of progress, to add to the positive (but still problem-acknowledging) voices.

Except I couldn't really find any.  I wanted to scour the young women's manuals to find something that had changed since I went through the program, but I don't think the manuals have been majorly updated since then.  I wanted to point out that the perpetuation of the feeling of being "dirty" was cultural to the point of not being in the manuals.  And then I looked at my sharing time lesson for the week and laughed.

The title was I should read, listen to, and look at things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father.  Not so bad, though I would have preferred an approach like I should read, listen to, and look at things that are uplifting, with the approach that we should seek for a good spirit in our lives.  It's not that I inherently object to using Heavenly Father in this way, but I think we shouldn't be teaching the appreciation of beauty and personal growth from an obedience perspective.

Anyway, I looked at the lesson and saw a big bowl of fruit and big bowl of (absurdly clean-looking) dirt.  The corresponding text: Show the children a bowl filled with fruit and a bowl filled with dirt. Ask the children which would be good to eat and why. Explain that Heavenly Father wants us to fill our minds with things that are good for us rather than things that are harmful.  Hm.

I don't like dirt metaphors.  They imply that if someone makes a choice that is contrary to Church teachings, they are dirty and should feel guilty.  While I feel that certain social pressures can be good for societies, helping to maintain order, some are not healthy.  While personal change and improvement is good, as are some level of social standards, excess guilt can drive people away from communities and prevent much-needed personal or community change.  This metaphor was better than others, seeing as it was about eating dirt rather than being dirty, but it still didn't work for me.

I also don't like the black-and-white aspect of the fruit-vs.-dirt metaphor.  As is, the kids might come away feeling like they need to read scriptures and near nothing else, which obviously wasn't the intent of the lesson.  (The obvious intention was to prep kids for anti-pornography and anti-R-rated-movies lessons in their teenage years.  Okay, there was more to it than that, but I couldn't help feeling that it was laying that foundation.  I mean, what kind of "dirt" can six year olds read?)

So I went for a "balanced diet" metaphor instead.  I brought in a bunch of food, and I also brought a book of fairy tales, a robotics textbook, a cookbook, and a book on Jesus Christ.  I brought a picture of family, the sacred grove, and an impressionistic painting.  We talked about how each of these was good in their own way, and that how Heavenly Father wanted us to fill our bodies, minds, and spaces with things that are good and uplifting. (And what I mean by uplifting isn't makes-you-feel-happy.  You can be "uplifted" by a really sad movie because it helps you understand the world better.  Is there a better word for this?  Enlightening?)  We talked about listening to the spirit, how you can get sick if you eat too much candy, and how everyone will have a different diet, literally and metaphorically.  Instead of focusing on the dirt, we focused on the fruit.

I don't want to be blind to problems, but I think that we need more fruit-focus in our lives, in the traditional church setting, in the bloggernacle, and in all areas of life.  Even when we're trying to change things, we need to acknowledge the changes that have already been made, and work towards a better community.  People don't like to be unhappy; if we reframe some desired changes into the good that can come of it, rather then the bad things that are happening now, more people will stick with it because it builds them up.  And then change might actually happen.


bigger than our apartment

This summer, I've been playing a game called "find things that are bigger than our apartment."  Our apartment is about 530 square feet, so the rules are to find things with equal or bigger square footage than that.  Maybe one day I'll upgrade the three dimensions, but I like working in two for now.  These are my three personal favorites thus far:

  • Train cars: about 800 sq ft
  • Any given intersection in NYC (or at least most of them), excluding crosswalks: (4 lanes w/ room for parking on both sides = 50 ft) x (two lanes w/ one lane of parking = 25) = 1250 sq ft
  • Those HUGE American flags you see occasionally: 30 ft x 50 ft = 1500 sq ft (which incidentally cost more than our monthly rent)


garlic, sort-of

I got permission from the coordinator of our community garden to plant garlic this year. Permission is required because they usually rototill the entire garden in spring, but garlic needs to overwinter and be harvested in the spring.  Thus, it needs to be in a spot that won't be rototilled.

I wanted to do a soft-neck garlic, so I can make braids and hang them, but I was drooling over the various hard neck varieties at SSE as well.  But then, as I plotted and ployed, I read a notification on SSE that midwestern garlics had been effected by a blight and that, while there would be heads of garlic for sale, their number would be greatly reduced.  There is also no guarantee that the garlic you bought wouldn't be infected without showing symptoms.

My imagination concocted the following scenario: I beat back five-foot tall weeds, till a small area in the corner of the garden, lovingly plant various species of heirloom garlic, and protect them with a substantial layer of compost.  They sprout their fall shoots, and everything's going well.  Then, in spring, they sprout and whither as expected.  After much anticipation, I dig them up to find decaying heads of garlic unfit for consumption or replanting in the fall, resulting in about an hour of crying.

New Plan!  I've ordered only elephant garlic this year.  It's technically a kind of leek, so it wasn't effected by the blight.  As far as I can tell, they have soft necks, so they're braidable. If all goes well, I can replant from the harvested heads and will never need to buy garlic again!  (Hint: "all goes well" never happens.)  I'm hoping that I'll at least have enough left over to replant some of them, and then I can buy species of real garlic as my skills, time, and access to land permit.

Edit: After looking into it a little bit more, my hunch is that elephant garlic is not braidable. And it's probably for the best: they're huge.  One clove can be as big as a whole head of regular garlic.  Huge.


some more daydreams

Growing up, dad was always drawing floor-plans--It's possible he still does that, but I'm just not at home to witness it.  Anyway, he taught me to dream about interior spaces, and I'd thought I'd highlight some architecture and interior design-type stuff that's inspiring to me. First, I really like this porch:

And then here are some clever staircase ideas:

A space for four, providing each with a bit of privacy and ownership.

Can you tell I like maximizing the use of a given space?  Everything should have a place.  But then, there shouldn't be too many things in the first place.  Part of the architectural design game for me is balancing luxury and minimalism: you want to get exactly what you need to be comfortable, but no more, and certainly not enough to make upkeep a chore.


LOTR lego

I just saw an ad for the new LOTR lego sets (warning, there's sound), and I'm furious. Well, as furious as I can be about Legos. Lego bends over backwards to say it wants to attract more girls, and the result is the grossly overfeminine Friends sets. But now, when they have a easy way to create something that everyone would love, they totally miss it.

How? No Galadriel. No Arwen. No Rivendell. No Lothorian. No Shire. No Grey Havens. Nothing remotely green. Instead of bringing in beautiful architecture and lush settings, they opt to focus on the war bits. Remind me, why is middle earth worth saving? Oh right. Because it's beautiful.

Recall Sam's quotes in the ROTK movie: Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?

And TTT:
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

So why don't they reflect that in their sets? Is it because it's hard?  C'mon Lego.  Give us a huge Lothlorian with buildings in trees and fountains.  You could make a whole series out of that alone.


how (and when) to start a startup?

Over the past year or so, I've had about five startup ideas, with lots of spinoff and sub-ideas. I dutifully log them, mentally putting them in an "ideas for later" bin.  I want to finish my graduate program, since several of the ideas are related to my research, and my advisor has said that founding a startup wouldn't be totally incompatible with graduate school.  I'm lucky that I have that kind of flexibility.  At the same time, though, that seems like a tricky line to walk, and my program is destined to take about another four years.

So it becomes a game of risk evaluation.  What are the best ways to go about founding startups?  What are the greatest risks and most common mistakes?  How do you find good, dedicated, and trustworthy teammates?  How do you evaluate your ideas?  (I love you Mom, but you think that almost everything I come up with is a good idea.)  How likely is it for a given idea to succeed?  How do you decide when the time is right?  How far do you jump in?


a thought

We shouldn't be asking if we, women or otherwise, can have it all.  Instead, we should be asking: do we have enough?

tall corn

The corn, it is tall.