Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Listening

Tonight on the Marriage Course the discussion was on listening. I realized that my listening skills are not so hot. Sila Lee said there are several common hindrances to effective listening. She listed these listener types:
  • Reassurer -- the one who says "never mind, it will all be okay."
  • Advice giver -- waits for the speaker to finish and then gives advice, whether wanted or no
  • Intellectualizer -- takes the discussion into esoterica
  • interrupter -- waits for a pause in the speaker's words and then says what is on the mind
  • Going off on a tangent -- changes the subject.
I am guilty of at least the first three, and I short circuit my communications with friends, children and wife by doing so.

Lord help me to change those patterns!

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on Learning Swedish

I wrote earlier about my process of learning Swedish. There have been interesting points of discovery along the way. Here are a few of them:
  • During conversation I find that the Swedish word for a thing sometimes comes to mind before the English word. That most recently happened when speaking to my parents. I was looking for a word describing "people I work with". The first word that popped up was arbetskamrat, which was a better match than colleague, which took a half second or so longer to find in my ordförråd (literally, word storage, or vocabulary). I suspect this is no big deal for people with multiple languages. It probably happens often enough to not even be noteworthy. The reverse of this is even more true, unfortunately. When I am conversing in Swedish, English words pop up with distressing frequency.
  • Sometimes Swedish words lodge in my head and ricochet around without any apparent reason. Fanjunkare, or senior petty officer, as we would say, was a word doing that last week for a couple of days. The word appeared in Red Rabbit, a Tom Clancy novel translated into Swedish that Linda purchased for me in Uppsala a year ago. This book is a result of my sister's suggestion that this would be a good way to pick up vocabulary (she's right). Su is fluent in English, French and Spanish, and understands bits of others, so I think she knows whereof she speaks.
  • Very early this morning, I awoke from a dream that I realized was in Swedish. It probably wasn't very literate Swedish, but I was having a conversation in Swedish.
Learning languages has always had some appeal to me, and putting serious effort into this one has been fascinating and rewarding.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Skiing

Life, fortunately, consists of more than work, as absorbing and entertaining as it may be. One of the pleasures of my youth pretty much unrelated to work was cross country skiing.

One of the trips that I especially remember was a solo trip where Linda dropped me off on the ridges above Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks and I followed an old road for miles downhill until I reached the valley itself. From there it was easy to get home. Another time Ken Klopf and I skied on a winter moose hunt in the Totatlanika River drainage near Fairbanks. It was great fun on a pair of Norwegian skis with bamboo poles that I bought in the early 1970's. We didn't even SEE a moose, but we had a pretty good time anyway.

I haven't skied much since the early 1990s, but today was my second day in a row. I'm going to have to get used to these new waxless skis, however.

Waxless skis are not exactly waxless. One must wax at least the glide surfaces. But as I found today, it's going to take more than that. Yesterday was like skiing on sandpaper. It was a bit better with waxed gliding surfaces, but still I was able to ski uphill....which suggests I don't have the glide part down yet.

This workout also made me realize how much heart pounding exercise I DON'T get. I like to walk, and do a lot of it, but skiing gets the heart really rolling. It feels good.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The breath of life

Pastor Barry Mulock has been part of the congregation at Anchorage City Church for months now. He is about to launch a Four Square Church here in Anchorage. His wife has strong connections in our church family, so it was natural for them to be among us while they are getting ready to launch their new church. Pastor Richard told us about the plan last week....and even suggested that those who feel led to do so should consider becoming part of this new church plant. I told Richard that was the first time I have ever heard a pastor say something like that.

But what I wanted to tell you was a point that Barry made in his message.

The book of Genesis records that God spoke creation into being. With one exception: man. Man, he made from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life.

While ultimately all life is made from the earth...and it is to earth that we return....only man has that unique God breath.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Invasion of the culture snatchers

I watched a chick flick last night with my wife. It is fun doing just about anything with Linda. But what was not fun was watching the culture snatchers at work. Hollywood has long been doing this, of course, it just hit me worse than usual this time.

Exhibit A: when the protagonists realize that it is love at (almost) first sight, their (almost) immediate reaction is to (almost- saved by lack of a condom) copulate.

Culture Snatch Messages:
1) Love is chemical. If you feel something, you have it, if you don't feel it, you don't.
Reality check: Love is a decision, an act of will.
2) Get into bed before marriage.
Reality check: Studies show that couples who don't live together first have better marriages, and by extension, better lives.
3) Condoms make casual sex safe.
Reality check: Condoms prevent neither pregnancy nor disease.

Exhibit B: the female protagonist has two male homosexual friends with a long term committed relationship.

Culture Snatch Messages:
1) Homosexuals are nice people with committed long term relationships.
Reality check: Many homosexuals probably are nice people. But much of male homosexuality is more about multiple sexual experiences than relationships.
2) Homosexual behavior is harmless and kind of cute.
Reality check: Sexual expression outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is harmful to families, societies and nations. It spreads disease. I'm not sure I get the cute part.

Hollywood may entertain and educate at times, but it comes with the cost of having to put up with its agenda of social change.

Hijacking environmental concern

A colleague who runs an ecotourism business here in Alaska sent me a note from a potential customer who sniffily told him that she wasn't coming to Alaska until state government quit shooting wolves. She is "boycotting" Alaska.

On one level, the boycott is painful for Alaska ecotourism businesses, many of which are opposed to the state's wolf control programs anyway.

But on a deeper level, it seems to me as if "crying wolf" as Friends of Animals, etc. are doing may be doing more harm than good. The world is facing really serious environmental issues today: overfishing, desertification, global warming, ozone depletion, reduction of species diversity in many areas, and more. Some of these issues are causing irreversible damage to our planetary home.

The issue of wolf control is a matter of emotional concern, but under the laws and wildlife conservation practices of the United States is scarcely a matter of biological concern. Emotional harm is harm in any case, but when measured against overfishing, for example, seems pretty weak.

We as a people have only so much capacity for reacting to issues. I believe Friends of Animals and others like them are drawing away needed capacity for public pressure to deal with issues that have long term or irreversible consequences.

If this is accurate, then I propose that they are actually doing more environmental harm than good.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More on the cartoon controversy

The Christian Science Monitor has suggested an interesting perspective on the Islamic cartoon controversy: it is, at least in part, an effort by Islamic leaders to look more like defenders of the faith than the jihadists.

While this doesn't seem unlikely, it also seems clear enough to me that the jihadists are working to make all the world dar al Islam, (house of submission), and the cartoon controversy fits their ends nicely. It fans the flames of interchangeability hatred among the umma (Muslims worldwide), and it will certainly result in a self-imposed contraction of western freedoms.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cartoon hypocrisy

The now deadly row over cartoons, of all things, demonstrates a number of things. Perhaps the most important is the gathering clash of civilizations.

But it also demonstrates real hypocrisy. Extremist Muslims are quick to rush to protect the honor of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, although it is Islamic tradition, not the Qur'an that opposes his portrayal. Jihadists are quick to whip up the frenzy of mobs over what is really just a trifle.

But when equally insensitive cartoons are published about Israel by the Arab press -- like a cartoon in an Arab newspaper that depicted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon drinking Palestinian children's blood. Or the continuing canard the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. What happens? Almost nothing happens, that's what.

What will come out of this? The West will give ground, that's what. We will give up some of our freedoms to avoid Jihadist tantrums. That has already started.

As I said earlier, we're going to see more of this kind of tactic. The Jihadists see us wringing our hands, and they will attack on this front again.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's not just about cartoons anymore

Publication in Jyllands-Posten of cartoons depicting Mohammed as a terrorist was an innocent act in the eyes of the editors, no doubt. After all, for them to have posted a cartoon of Jesus in that way would have raised few eyebrows in that secular part of the world.

Muslims were offended, and now all hell has broken loose. Literally.

This may have started out as righteous (in the eyes of the imman who started the hooraw) indignation but it is turning into a learning exercise for Islamists. The lesson: the west can be controlled not just with murder bombers, IEDs, and airplanes flying into trade centers -- the west can be controlled to the point that it will give up its freedoms to prevent their tantrums.

Exhibit A: "Muslims consider it sacrilegious to produce a likeness of the Prophet Mohammad. CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam." (CNN, emphasis added)

I don't see any valuable purpose to be served in taunting the Muslims. But their goal is to make the world dar al-Islam (the house of submission = Islam), and if they can do it by this kind of jihad, that does suit their purposes.

This battle is not over. We're going to see this again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blogging from bed

It works. I'm sitting on my bed with my PDA blogging away. Slowly blogging away, that is. It's not exactly fast entering each key with a stylus. But - it works.