Summer Books

I read surprisingly little this summer, perhaps because the outdoors was too tempting with continuously mild weather.

The Cruelest Month ★★
The third volume in the Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series.  My tree hugger self was agitated that the Ginkgo tree was supposed to be in the same "family" as Ephedra genus, which produces Ephedra.  Yes, both of them are from China, but the Ginkgo has no living relatives.  Gah!  Aside from these botanical issues, it was a light, fun read, with the dual mystery of the murder and police politics.

The Wrinkle in Time Quintet ★★
A classic series of children's books that blend science fiction with a touch of religious mysticism.  It's been a while since I read them, and I had never finished the last two (Many Waters and An Acceptable Time).  Light, fun reads.

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling ★★
A biography of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith.  I started this ages ago, but finally dug into it this summer.  Bushman balanced respect for faith with historical facts, often citing contemporary believers for their perspectives on events.  Not much was surprising, but it was nice to absorb the details.  I'd recommend it for folks outside Mormonism if they're interested in the origins of the church.


forever learning

Last week I was a leader for my church's summer girls' camp.  In addition to getting to know the girls better, I felt that I learned a few lessons myself.

As a leader, I needed to ask the girls to do lots of stuff, from cleaning latrines to going on hikes, practicing our skit to heading to dinner. There were times that I dealt out tough love and there were times that I was a softie.  It's a spectrum, of course, and each situation needed to be handled in its own particular way. I usually didn't give it much thought and just went with my gut.

Oblivious me: braiding clover
instead of paying attention.
It was reinforced—and it might be an obvious lesson to other people—that not only is every situation different, but every individual is unique as well.  I'm not just talking about people having a variety of personalities (I'm not that obtuse), but that every person has their own history of experiences and circumstances that shapes them. People might react differently due to physical or mental illness, or traumatic experiences that they have had in their lives.  These are obviously extreme examples, but even a relatively common situation, like a break-up with a boyfriend or bad grades in school, can cause a shift in a person's mind and attitude.

A difficult thing with teenagers is that they're starting to be affected by longer-term problems pretty consistently—it seems like they carry their emotions and memories for longer periods of time. Additionally, teenagers are mature enough to keep bigger secrets, and so leaders don't necessarily know what's going on in their lives behind-the-scenes. These things wouldn't be an issue for me if I wasn't expected to keep them on track in various ways. They aren't mature enough to take care of themselves and their responsibilities completely.

Even when I'm not coaxing people to do things, I often judge them without knowing their situation.  She's buying that for her kids?  Did he really just say that?  I know it's not right, but I try not to let it show.  I also try not to be judgmental in the first place, but not letting it show is the first step.  It's harder when you need to take action in conjunction with your judgements.  For guiding people to action, it's about finding the right set point between sympathetic and severe, and it's rarely in the same place twice, even for the same person.

I didn't make any horrific mistakes at camp, but I felt like I made lots of small ones. I can't imagine what it's like to be a parent. Thankfully, the girls were incredibly forgiving, and taught me to be a little bit better all around.


I don't need data

We got a mailer from T-mobile this month saying that our plan was going to be upgraded and giving us a broken link to info about the upgrade.  Very helpful.  NWC is also on the market for a new phone; he wants "anything without a big screen," a.k.a. not a smartphone.  Thus, I've been looking at cell provider websites lately and I've been really sad that there are basically no plans without data.

So far this month, I've talked for 12 minutes and used 8 text messages; NWC is beating me at 48 minutes and 46 text messages.  1000 minutes is the minimum we can get with T-mobile; it used to be 500, but all we really need is 200.  Our monthly bill for this pittance of use?  $73.13.  It's a complete rip off, but I haven't been able to find anything cheaper with the main providers.  Cell phone plans are increasingly including things that I don't want or need as part of their cheapest plans, raising their rates on the low-end products and forcing people into using smartphones.  You have to hunt for alternatives.

I'm seriously considering changing to Consumer Cellular, where our monthly bill would be reduced to $35 for 600 minutes and 1000 text messages.  There are other obscure phone plan providers, but theirs seems to be a good match for us.  I'm also amused that their target demographic is elderly and retired persons.  We won't get in-network benefits, but we weren't really using them anyway as we make our long calls via Google Hangouts.

Do you know anyone that uses a non-mainstream cellular provider?  How are they?