Saturday, May 28, 2011

Freestyle Rowing - New Olympic Sport?

Just imagine it. I want to see couples rowing, where each couple is in their own canoe.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Russian Profanity Part 1

I had a few people tell me how much they love the story of the missionary trying to say "Job" and inadvertently dropping the F-Bomb in a discussion. It reminded me of a certain lesson I taught for the language lesson in district meetings at the end of my mission. It was a lesson on profanity. I knew so many missionaries who had accidentally profaned on several occasions that it seemed a lesson dedicated to it would be useful. It pretty much amounted to me telling these stories.

A young missionary was trying to teach about prophets. He said: "God speaks to prophets and He says: 'Blah blah blah blah blah' and then the prophets say that to the people." He said this all in Russian except the "blah's." Everyone's eyes got really large. Turns out that blah sounds almost identical to profanity that is analogous to using the F-word as an interjection.

Another missionary friend was trying to say that we baptize people in water. In Russian water is 'voda' but to say 'in water' you say 'vo vodye.' The end of the word changes depending on the case and preposition. The missionary in attempting to say this added the incorrect ending and said 'vodu' or 'v adu' which means "in hell." Yes, he said 'we baptize people in hell.' (I guess as Mormons it's not too far off)

Often in Russian before people leave to go somewhere they say "we went." This once led to inadvertent profanity. In Russian there's no real syntax. Every word is "declined" much like verbs are conjugated. As a result, syntax is largely unnecessary. This means that you can speak like Yoda all the time and it's totally normal. If someone is leaving you might say "you went" to them. In russian that's ты пошел. If you decide to mix it up, it's still technically correct, but turns out that in russian that means F@$% you. Google translate actually does this translation correctly. Once when I gave this story in the profanity lesson one of the female missionaries got this shocked and offended look and said "That's what that guy said!" Apparently she'd been wondering why the guy slamming the door in her face told her that she'd left.

In Ukraine I picked up one of the Harry Potter books to read in Russian. In Russian he's known as "Garry Potter." This is because Harry is a bad word. It's an adjective form of a swear word for the male anatomy. It was always funny hearing new missionaries screw this one up.

Once after some people showed us some of their favorite cartoons growing up, we mentioned some of our favorite cartoons from our childhood. One missionary mentioned the names of the lovable cartoon ducks Huey Duey and Louie. Saying those names with a Russian accent is a bad idea. I don't believe Louie means anything. Duey sounds like saying "blow," (specifically saying 'blow' in command form). Huey is profanity meaning part of the male anatomy, but it's offensiveness is on par with our F-bomb.

This isn't even half of such stories, more to come later...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bill Maher on Christians

Bill Maher recently had a rant on his show about Christians. While I take exception to a couple things he said, I think his main point is on the mark. I'd urge all Christians to listen to what he said, take it to heart, and consider how we're individually doing. Be warned for some strong language (I !$%#-ify the language, but I thought I'd give the warning anyway) :
....And finally, new rule: If you're a Christian who supports killing your enemies and torture, you have to come up with a new name for yourself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why can't every Sunday be like this?

I'm guilty of complaining about how church meetings go. Obviously I feel justified (at least at the time) for doing so. It's a little depressing when during 3 hours of church I only hear Jesus mentioned once in a hymn before the sacrament (in mormon lingo sacrament = "the Lord's Supper," Communion, or the eucharist). Granted that is more rare, but frequently we talk about concepts and fail to show how it's related to Christ and/or his mortal ministry. Today was great. Christ and his message of loving and serving on another permeated the meetings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Junior and Senior companions (But mostly Senior)

I heard this song recently and it brought back several memories from my mission.  I thought I'd share the song and some funny mission stories.

You and Me (But Mostly Me)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Poop: A Russian Fairy Tale

We're working on potty training our 3-year-old. She has informed us that unlike people, animals and princesses don't poop. We thought the classic Everyone Poops could help. This reminded me of one of my favorite Russian Fairy tales. Pooping plays a very critical part in the plot. So today I'd like to share it with you. So take an intriguing gaze into the Russian psyche and enjoy the random craziness of a favorite:

King Bear

Monday, May 16, 2011

Charity: Atheists can go to heaven?

I recently was talking to someone about the 12-step recovery program. They mentioned that the Mormon church now offers a 12-step program specifically designed for its members. I'm glad for that. The 12-step program has adapted over time to try and accomodate people from a variety of backgrounds. While I'm glad it's so inclusive, sometimes it's better to get help within a setting which is better catered or customized to you. I mentioned that I had a good friend, Thom, who is an atheist who was seeking a good recovery program. The 12-step program doesn't work for an atheist given that the core idea is relying on God/gods/higher-power to aid you in your recovery. He has found a group (SMART) which offers such aid. It's a recovery program built on science-based, proven methods and is open to everyone (believers and non-believers). The person I was talking to about this then immediately proceeded to tell a stupid joke about atheists. It really annoyed me and reminded me of a lesson I recently taught in church about Charity and I thought I'd toss out some thoughts and insights I had while preparing for it. While the lesson was primarily drawing from the teachings of Christ, I hope that in sharing I can find areas which everyone from Mormons to Buddhists, Muslims to Evangelicals, Jews to Secular Humanists can find as common ground.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Who gives more?

Last week I had a progressive friend bring up Arthur Brooks book Who Really Cares to show that conservatives actually give more than liberals. This work had a lot of coverage with people from the left and right sides of the aisle simply accepting Brooks implications that conservatives give more than liberals and that it's because of the inherent difference in ideologies. I wanted to see the details of his stats because I wasn't buying it at face value. A little digging brought up this important information:

Conservatives don't give more than Liberals

...well, at least that's not how it should be described. It's actually a divide between religious people and non-religious. Currently the right is comprised of more religious people than the left, so for that reason alone conservatives give more than liberals. Brooks came clean about this in a long article with Heritage Foundation.  Brooks himself said:
Is that because of politics? The answer is no. I have found no evidence that conservatives are inherently more generous than liberals.
He probably should have told his publicist this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Epic quest for political tolerance in the Mormon Church

This post is going to be epic. As far as blogs go, it will be epic in length at least. 

I've been barraged by political posts and comments the past week and I was reminded of the importance of political understanding and tolerance especially within the church. A friend posted a talk from President Brown in which he said:
"Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.”
This all reminded me of an email correspondence I had with a friend. The healthcare issue was hot at the time and he was very much against "Obamacare." After he was in a long debate with someone over it on a church outing, I tried to mediate in part by noting that in some ways the interface of my religious/political beliefs were articulated by President John Taylor. His stance was basically that all governments fall short and are sub-par compared to the Kingdom of God and we just need to make due. I sent him these links (here and here) to show him what I was talking about. What follows is the correspondence that developed as I sought to develop more political tolerance within a mormon theological framework:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Richard Bushman

Tonight my wife and I were able to listen to Richard Bushman speak about Joseph and Emma. It was a good fireside and so I thought I'd share. I edited out a couple questions because you couldn't hear the person asking the question at all. Bushman repeated the question for the first one I cut, so you don't miss it; the second however was more of a 3-minute speech that most people couldn't hear and that Bushman didn't even bother trying to repeat or address. Enjoy:

Bushman-fireside-5-6-11 by user1465434

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Missionary Discussions

Last week was pretty crazy. In 3 days we had a funeral, graduation, wedding, birthday, and Easter. The funeral was for my grandfather. It was in many ways a happy event. His health had been so poor for so long that death was a sweet relief.

While reflecting on my grandfather's life, I was looking at some books he had given me a few years ago. Inside I found a treasure trove of little notes and booklets.

From fam history

That's a letter he received while on his mission. He served in the "Western States Mission." I like the $0.03 stamp, and the fact that in the town of Fruita a name is sufficient to send someone a letter.