Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pride, Prejudice, and Prophets

The short version:

It was announced during General Conference that "We will be pleased to hear from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland."

I said, "We certainly will be," with a sidelong, smiling glance at my wife.

"Don't worry," she responded comfortingly. "You can like him. 'You've liked many a stupider person.' "*

For the longer version that makes this even more hilarious, look beneath the fold

Rock-Paper-Scissors at Home

I joked a couple years ago that our family was a good game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Toddler Prince could get Mommy to do anything he wanted, Mommy could get me to do anything she wanted, and I could get Prince to do anything I wanted. So I would enforce Joy's will on Prince and life was good. The thing is, while you could easily say "Rock beats scissors" it would be in very poor taste to say "Daddy beats his son."

With Princess, the dynamic has had to change. Now Joy is wrapped around Princess' finger and Prince is left out. This shows a very good reason that you need an odd number of choices for RPS to work (as in Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock).

Prince obeys Daddy, Daddy obeys Mommy, Mommy obeys Princess, and so by all rights Princess ought to obey Prince. Prince is certainly trying his hardest to get her to obey. "No! Princess no! You're not supposed to eat the shoe." She doesn't obey him yet though, which would make her a trump card that always wins, so the game gets uninteresting.

Then there's the problem of what to do when Daddy and Princess meet up, or Mommy and Prince. If one of us succeeds at winning the relationship, we get a different kind of imbalance: Mommy wins 2/3, for instance, and she becomes the trump. There might be some hope IF Prince can win Mommy and I can win Princess. Then we return to the three-node game: Mommy obeys children, Daddy obeys Mommy, children obey Daddy.

Let me emphasize, I'm being highly silly in all this and over-generalizing. On the other hand, when I shared it with Joy, she thought my last concept was a great idea. "Then we'd be working together as a team."

Otherwise, our only hope of restoring a Rock-Paper-Scissors harmony to the house is to have another kid. Or maybe a smart pet. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

New at AUN this week

The strange new work I showed you earlier turned out to be more shaded parking. They also extended the new line of saplings (right in front of me) and are starting on a shaded path to the cafeteria (the line of poles extending to the left). So much you can see. The new graduation building roof is growing rapidly by the day and the library is continuing it's slow progress.

From the fact that you cannot see the mountains, you also know the dust is still present this week. Every day. This week it's been all I can taste or smell. There is widespread agreement this is a much longer dusty season than normal. Even when I step on the green grass - watered daily - dust clouds billow at my feet. A little dust devil grew up and blew in my face yesterday.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

For the second time

[Princess] handed Joy a book to read to her. She hands mommy the book, then cries or talks until she starts reading.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Addis Ababa: Lucy's home

While in Addis Ababa [three weeks ago now], I visited the national museum. It has some interesting artifacts and paintings, but none of it is the Real Reason to go there. So I'm going to keep those pictures small. You can see more detail by clicking on them.

The brands on the top right were used in place of signet rings to mark who stuff belongs to. I think they look pretty cool. I could go for that. On the left, you see a teeny rendering of Gondar, once the capitol city and also known as the Camelot of Ethiopia. Of course, all I can think about is Gondor, and it's one more proof that life really did begin in this neighborhood.

On the right is a massive throne. The seat itself is about at my waist height and the chair is more than a story tall. They have some interesting ceremonial garb.

There was a group of school children there. That was fun because some of them wanted to see a little model city outline on a pedestal but couldn't reach. Using appropriate international sign language, I picked one of them up and let her see. The grin I got in response was precious.

Upstairs they have some pictures I rather enjoyed. Among the things that makes Ethiopia interesting to me is the history of Judaism and early Christianity there. (Did you know Ethiopia is mentioned in Isaiah?


A painting commemorating the 1984 famine.

The real reason to go to the museum is to meet Lucy. She's buried in the basement. But she isn't conveniently located at the beginning of the downstairs where the other 2-4 million year old skulls are. She's down a lot of corridors and turns to force you to see the rest of the saber toothed bunny rabbits and gorgons and whatnot you didn't come here to see are before you finally find....

Prince talks about his birthday

That's me with my new DS. Look at [Prince]!
I would like to talk about my birthday. You can say Happy Birthday now. I said Happy Birthday, and I wished myself "Happy Birthday to me!" and I ate my cake. I opened presents. And I played with my Christmas toys. And I played with my Mario plushes. I got Yoshi. Okay? Then I got another squeaky ball. What is next? Hmmmm. That's not about my birthday. Hmmmm. *lol* Hmmmm. *lol*

(DW - Prince appears to be enjoying watching as I write Hmmmmm every time he says Hmmmm. Much laughing and Hmmmmm-ing later....)

I think that I got a picture of Jesus. That's not on my birthday, though. And I got a hymnal. I played DS because I got a new DS game. I played MarioKart. Okay. That's it. Hmmmmmm. *lol*

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Opening the presents

Hi there. Prince here. I'm four years old!

I had a lot of fun opening my presents.

This was the first time I started guessing what my presents would be. I lined up all the packages that were small squares and guessed they were DS games. The rectangles were DVDs ... except the books. They didn't fit right, but they were rectangles and that confused me. The clothes and Toy Story bowls were a surprise. I couldn't guess them at all.
They were really hard to open
Woah cool! It's a DVD!

Mommy is very proud of me for eating
my cake with a fork. Perfect forkage.
Hunh? What wonderfulness is this?

Cake #1 was a Mario castle.
Cake #2 was a Super Star.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Really Bad Love Triangles

I've been cursed lately with an over-abundance of really bad, fictional love triangles. By really bad, I mean totally unconvincing: "This is not a triangle! It's a line segment and a disconnected point!" Instead of three people and three interesting relationships, we have three people and only one interesting relationship. There is no uncertainty about who will end up with whom. The "Deciding Point" is going to choose the "Winning Point". There's just this other character who would like to get in (the "Disconnected Point"), but has no realistic chance, so why is he there? Now, since my books lately have had female Deciding Points, I'm going to use "she" for the top point and "he" for the bottom two points, ok?

What made me realize this is the excellence of the love triangle in the Hunger Games. I devoured the trilogy in three days, despite working. At first, it was for interest, but by the end it was just so I could end the main character's agony - a clear sign I'm not planning on rereading those books.

The love triangle itself was fascinating because the main character was genuinely uncertain which guy she would choose. When she was with one of them, she felt guilty thinking about the other one, and vice versa. Each relationship in the triangle mattered, even if one got more air time than the other.

Reading Hunger Games made me realize how important that genuine uncertainty was so that I can believe in the triangle. When I'm reading a story where a lot of the tension is supposed to be about the romantic relationship and it's a foregone conclusion to me, I have a hard time believing in the tension or the plot.

Why would so many authors have a hard making a triangle that is convincing to me? I blame it on having the Winning Point being the main character so often. If the Winning Point is your main character and most of the conflict is about trying to show he's a Real Man and worthy of the Deciding Point's attention by beating the Jerk (Disconnected Point) who is considered to be the main rival, you can be sloppy. Because the Winning Point never gets up the courage to talk to the Deciding Point without blushing, babbling like an idiot, and being vulnerable, the relationships don't really matter. The whole purpose is to have the opportunity to create the relationship. And that uncertainty is fine by me. It's enough to keep the plot moving.

Unfortunately, this sets audiences and writers up to root for one part of the triangle over the other. That means when authors then try to write from the Deciding Point's point of view, they all-too-often have one romantic interest you can tell they are rooting for. I'm not picking on any author in particular because this really goes beyond one book or one author.

The thing is, she only thinks about one of them, is only guilty around one of them, and gives Very Clear signals she's really going to choose that one. Any pretense of indecision on her part is really nothing more than failing a self-awareness test. While that may be realistic, it kills my suspension of disbelief. It just bothers me when the Deciding Point tries to tell the Disconnected Point that, no, seriously, you had a shot at winning my affections. I only spent the entire book thinking about nothing but the Winning Point, but you totally had a chance.

What? Were you reading the same book I was?

Joy points out to me that I don't read love stories for the sake of reading love stories. I read them for the sake of character development. If the characters don't develop, I don't care about them. Among the reasons I love Disney's Beauty and the Beast (another non-triangle, but it doesn't pretend to be one, and here is a comic today about why it is so excellent) is that the characters change and grow. I think that would include all of Jane Austen's works ... the Deciding Point is uncertain and she changes and grows, and our understanding of the guys changes - sometimes a great deal. Yes, thank you, dear. Now I know more about me, too.

Ahhh, character development.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Keeping up with the Muhammeds (aka Birthdays in Nigeria)

We weren't worried if Prince's Valentines were as good as his classmates'. We weren't worried if his Halloween favors were as good as his classmates'. But birthdays are a bigger deal. So for the first time, we felt pressure to keep up with the neighbors, who in our case are more likely to have a last name of Muhammed/Mohammad than Jones.

This week, one of his classmates had a birthday. He handed out gift bags for all the classmates, as they all do. It included notebooks with the kid's picture printed on them! There was serious high-sugar swag. Prince is always excited when a classmate has a birthday and he gets to bring home the goodie bag. They bring cakes to school to share. His favorite, of course, is the juice box. ?? Odd duck.

We would be happy to make a cake for his class, but you're not allowed to do that anymore, even here. And the professionally made cakes in Yola are, in a word, nasty. One was so burnt, I joked that they had made it a layered cake with light chocolate and dark chocolate. We can't eat them and couldn't in good conscience give one to others. So that was out.

Joy put forward some serious last-minute effort to pull together an appropriate goodie bag that would at least not lower Prince's standing in the class, even if we weren't out to amaze anyone. Juice box, Hob Nobs, various sugary substances, and at Prince's request Tootsie Roll blow pops.

In the end, the thing that he was worried about was whether he got to share the bags with his friends. The teacher handed them out instead of him, so he was worried that he didn't get a chance to share. The bags were given to students only as they walked out the door with their parent, so the sugar high would NOT hit the kids during class.

I stopped by in the morning on my way to campus to drop off the bags and some pictures of Prince (Prince's prints?) so they can spotlight him next week. When I showed up, they stopped class to sing him Happy Birthday, recorded above. I got the video started after the first line of the song.

The new duds

We got ourselves a set of Nigerian clothes. It was a hassle and a half -- "It took a long time to get them." but we finally got them.

On campus, most people are quite complimentary. The funniest comment was the poli sci prof who said I look like a sociologist for trying to blend in.

We're both in green, though in the picture my green looks rather blue.

"After adjustments, I feel like the bodice doesn't fit me quite right. And it still slips off my shoulder. It's very pretty, though, and I really like the skirt. I will definitely keep the skirt.  I'm going to be more specific next time about having the collar right up here [points out her neck] because I have seen ladies who have dresses that are modest, and my pattern is obviously not what I would want. I'm going to try something with red in it next time. And a different tailor. But we're gratefully we finally got everything back."

I also have a cream set that doubles as pajamas.

Addis Ababa 2: Some views

 So what else is in Addis Ababa other than churches?

This is the view from the Hilton where I stayed. Driving there at night, Addis seemed to be an interesting mix of the US, Europe, and Nigeria, but clearly several notches ahead of Nigeria.

However, immediately next door to the hotel we see this.

Recently, a town of shacks like this was uprooted to make way for the Sheraton hotel being built. These people don't have any title to the land they live on. I was told it was not wise for Caucasians to be outside past 5pm, a caution Nigerians have not felt the need to give.

This is a memorial to the war with Italy.

There are numerous places where you are not allowed to take pictures. Guards are actually stationed specifically to deal with camera-wielders. Right behind me, for instance, is a military barracks. Yeah, that's a nice place to not take a picture!

The Hilton is near the Palace, which another place you don't take pictures.

Colorful shops on the main street. Off the main street, the shops look a lot more like the side stalls I'm accustomed to in Yola.

A public school.

My guide mentioned the problem they have with buses. The Dutch gave them these really nice buses, 20/25 years ago (above). They still run. They're good on the hills and mountains.

Recently, the Chinese are giving them buses (below). These buses he says are always breaking down and aren't very good.

After Addis, I was stuck in Abuja for several days. Spending time in our capitol, I had to revise my estimation. Addis and Abuja are pretty close to the same level developmentally. The only possible exception is that it costs million of Naira to live in even the smallest apartment in Abuja, while there are smaller shacks available for some people in Addis.

Stained glass at the UN conference center where we met. Oddly enough, the view was better from the outside than the inside -- stuff was in the way of appreciating it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Addis Ababa 1: Churches

I like churches. Here are a few of the churches I happened across during my 5 hour walking tour of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia a week and a half ago.
Sadly, the mausoleum was closed because they started their Lent fasting that week. Adults fast from 8am to 4pm daily until Easter. Youth fast from 8am to 1pm. Wiki tells me they fast 250 days a year, including 56 for Lent, 40 for Pentecost, and 40 before Christmas.

The largest part of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox (45%), and so are the churches. Another third are Islamic, but I didn't spy many mosques where I was.

This one isn't a church. It's a priest's palatial home. Sorry for the crooked angle - my guide told me there was a pickpocket coming up behind me.

The tomb of Menelik II. This will get its own post.

Drive-by camera work. Wonderful sunrise.

Right next to the airport: the FBI Church!