Tuesday, July 30, 2013

With or Without You

In case the whole world didn't already think U2's With or Without You was the most romantic song on the planet, the makers of "Friends" decided to tip the scales by playing it during what is generally considered the most romantic episode: the one in which Ross and Rachel kiss.  So every time this song is played, a bajillion women who religiously watched the popular 90's sitcom turn up the volume and wish Bono was singing the song about themselves.  To be sure, who wouldn't want someone to say "I can't live without you?"

Except.  Bono doesn't just say "I can't live without you."  He also essentially says "I can't live with you, either."  So how is that romantic?  Sure, sure -- the music is great . . . touching, even.  But I can't get past the lyrics.  I don't ever want to hear these words out of a man's mouth:  "Hey -- look, babe.  I can't live with or without you!"  I mean, not only does this guy get irritated enough to want to not live with me, he also can't make a decision about us!  Frustrating!!!

Perhaps because of the music itself, though, the lyrics seem to lean on the I-can't-live-without-you side.  What do you think, readers?

While I was pondering this ever-complex and eternal contradiction on Saturday evening, I heard another great love song, this time by Led Zeppelin.  Since I've Been Loving You highlights a similar situation.  That is, a man loves a woman, but he's losing his mind over her.  We definitely get the sense that she makes him extremely frustrated and sad -- to the point of tears, actually.  Yet in the end, there's no resolution.  All we know is that he simultaneously loves and cries over her.

The tone of the music itself, though, is decidedly unromantic.  I wonder if we matched each song up to corresponding tones in a relationship, "With or Without You" would be the song playing as the relationship was dying, and "Since I've Been Loving You" would play right at the bitter end.  Or maybe "Since I've Been Loving You" plays during the breakup, and "With or Without You" plays after it's all over, when you're remembering the good parts and wondering whether you made the right decision to call it quits.

Ha.  I dunno why I'm even blogging about this, except I think these are both similar love songs, but neither of them are what I would call romantic.  But I could be swayed.  Does anyone have an opinion on the matter?

Thing I'm thankful for: perfectly ripe peaches.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Case for Integration

A handful of researchers at Harvard University and UC Berkeley published an interesting white paper this week (1).  In summary, they found that economic mobility is dependent on geography.  In particular, children who grow up in areas with varying levels of income have a better chance of climbing up the economic ladder.  Let me illustrate this with Kid A and Kid B:

Kid A comes from a low-income family and lives in a mixed-income area in Salt Lake City.  Other low-income families, middle-income families, and affluent families all live in Kid A's part of the city.

Kid B comes from a low-income family and lives in a low-income area of Atlanta.  All families in his neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods are low-income.  Affluent families live miles and miles away (most certainly in the Atlanta suburb of Dunwoody).

So who has a better chance of improving their economic mobility in the future?  That's right; it's Kid A.

Why?  Because integration is good!  In fact, it's crucial.  And integration matters for all kinds of disparities.  For example, an economist at Dartmouth College found that when students with low grade-point averages roomed with higher-scoring students, their grades improved (2).  Similarly, the lead author on the economic mobility paper said this on NPR's Marketplace (3):
"Take for example the quality of schools. If you’re living in an area with several affluent people as well as lower-income people, it’s conceivable that the quality of schools might remain quite high, whereas if the lower-income people are completely segregated, it’s plausible that the quality of the schools is just not as high in low-income areas because of a lack of funding and that might set people back." 

When I read about this paper and then listened to Kai Ryssdal talk about it, I thought, "Great!  This is just another reason to support public school education!"  At least, it's another reason to support education that integrates students of varying backgrounds.  (In my opinion, costly private schools are for the birds.)  And it's another reason to work on integration on many levels -- not only in regard to race, but in regard to gender, economy, culture, etc., etc.

1) The Economic Impacts of Tax Expenditures: Evidence from Spatial Variation Across the U.S.
2) Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates
3) When it comes to economic mobility, place matters

Thing I'm thankful for: naps

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Sometimes you just gotta eat a burger -- a burger that looks like this:

It's a Phil's Ice House burger.  Lots of people in Austin like Hopdoddy Burger Bar (a.k.a., Hopdoddy's), but I think it's overpriced and maybe a little too upscale.  What I like about Phil's is that it's unpretentious.  They don't go on and on about an "organic" philosophy; they just make food.  Here's how I see it:  If the two restaurants were siblings, Hopdoddy's would be the snobby older brother who went to Yale and was on the rowing team,* and Phil's would be the devil-may-care youngest brother who went to State and played guitar in a couple of bands.

The thing is . . . I like the youngest brother better.  I like his style of being.  Let's take it back to Phil's, the restaurant.  At Phil's, the paint doesn't necessarily match the decor, and there's a photo booth in the corner, next to the bathrooms, which are basically just two closets.  Food is served in baskets, and the ketchup comes in red squeeze-bottles.  The music is a pretty rockin,' and the fries are greasy.  Next door to Phil's is an ice cream place, which tells me two things about this illusory Phil: 1) He knows that sometimes people need fat in their lives, and 2) He's not afraid to share the consumer wealth (even though he sells his own milkshakes).

I'll put it one more way:  While Hopdoddy's is a burger "bar," Phil's is what I would call a burger "joint."  I guess I like joints better than bars???  Hm.

At any rate, that burger today was good.  When I eat burgers (which seems to be a lot lately!), I feel good about life, and that's good.

*Although I love rowing more than many, many things in this world, I'm aware that it has a preppy, pretentious tone.  I'm okay with that.  But I'll still make fun of it, if I want to.

Thing I'm thankful for: rowing

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Open Letter to Nabisco

Dear Nabisco,

I had a hankering for some of your honey graham crackers while I was at the grocery store tonight.  When I found them in the cracker aisle, I thought, "Wait a second . . .  These don't look right.  Are these the Nabisco graham crackers I know so well and love?"  They indeed were.  But you changed the look of the box.  The note on the corner assured me that such was the case: "New look, same great taste!"  Phew!

May I offer a suggestion to you, though, Nabisco?  The box didn't need a new look at all.  The thing that needs updating are the wrappers inside!  Why do you insist on making it so difficult to unwrap those suckers???  Even more importantly, why don't you make them resealable?

I'm thinking that perhaps you're saving on plastic, which is great, but I think everyone would be a lot happier if you would just rethink the user experience.  I have an inkling that I would buy more graham crackers, if I knew the packaging wouldn't give me such a headache.  I'm extremely serious about that.


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

A House of God

Mormons go to places called temples to worship and to learn about God and to pray about big decisions.  They also go to the temple to find peace in a world full of chaos.

Something I've been thinking about for a long time, though, is . . .  Should the temple be my go-to place when I need to meditate?  When I need an answer to a question?  When I need to find peace?  For many people, it is, but for many others, it's just not practical.  There are 141 operating temples serving the entire world at the moment, and even though there are about a dozen under construction and another dozen planned, it's still not enough.  For the last two years I lived in Atlanta, the temple was being renovated, and I had to drive an hour and a half to the Birmingham temple.  That's child's play for a lot of mormons in the world, though; it takes many people days -- and a significant amount of money -- to travel to temples.  In America, we have it pretty easy, but on some continents, there are only a few such holy buildings.  Don't take my word for it, though; look at this map!  LDS Temples World Map

There are certain gospel ordinance, of course, that must be performed in temples, which is why they're such an important and even necessary part of the mormon faith.  But about that peace I was talking about . . .  I think I need to focus more on bringing that peace to my home, instead of traveling to find it.  My own home should be the place I turn to for peace and comfort and revelation.

Here's what Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve Apostles recently said about the ideal place for peace:
Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures. The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece. (For Peace at Home)

The ideal place for peace is in the home!  My home, your home, our homes!  This makes me feel good about life -- that I can have daily access to peace, so long as my home is in order.  It also makes me feel a little stressed about all the things I have to do to get my home to that orderly place.  (It's kinda messy right now . . .)  Thank goodness for a verse of scripture that kinda lays out a framework for me:
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God [.] (D+C 88:119)

Thing I'm thankful for: meeting friends for lunch

Monday, July 01, 2013

Happy Birthday, Blake!

I used to write posts for my family members' birthdays, but for some reason, I stopped.  Well, today, I'm starting it again because I like to talk about them.  After all, they are the people who made me who I am.

So here's something about Blake and just one reason why I like him: He's a family man.  He loves his kids, and he loves his wife.  And he talks about it.  See?
Then I told Lindsey about the exchange. She smiled and said, “Good for you, Blake. Now will you watch your son?” Translation: She doesn’t care what I do so long as I continue to shelter, clothe, feed, and provide experiences for our family. It’s difficult to express how liberating that kind of support is, but I’ll try with this: I love my wife.  (Taken from Remember the time I turned down that job at Google?)
I'm not one for large public displays of affection, but public displays of affection in writing are a little different.  Those, I like.

But anyway, about Blake . . .  I like that he makes time for his family and professes his love for them.  It's pretty cool.

So with that . . .  Happy birthday, Blake!

Thing I'm thankful for: hoodies and jackets and cardigans and clothing with sleeves.