Monday, April 19, 2010

What Shines Through

Funny how writing something down really gets you thinking about it. I think it was my teacher Mrs. Steadman that said writing something down makes you really think it through thoroughly. Well, when I wrote my post about all the books that I remembered reading as a kid, I couldn't get the Chronicles of Prydain out of my mind so I went and checked the books out and whiped through them again.

It was really interesting to look at these books with more of a critical perspective. They definitely aren't adult books, they just lack the complexity, but I was surprised at the themes and ideas the author presented. I don't think I've ever read a better description of the qualities of a great leader in any other book besides maybe the scriptures.

I realized that these books stuck with me because they helped me see what true character is like.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I started out this blog with the idea that I would like to share all the good ideas I hear about, read about, or think of. In part, I think the blog does this.

I discovered a couple things, as I've written this blog, that surprise me. The first is that the many of the best ideas haven't been thought of yet and it seems I'm more interested in these ideas than ones that have already been thought of. I find myself asking a lot of questions with good ideas as unfinished answers. Maybe I should have titled my blog "In search of good ideas."

I also found that life is more inspiring when you write about it. Putting something down on paper (or in HTML) helps me organize my thoughts about whatever I'm writing about and, many times, brings a smile to my face. Writing my thoughts and sharing good ideas has helped me enjoy life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the Eye of the Beholder

According to logic, I shouldn't be an English major. All my AP classes in high school were math oriented except for AP English, in which I did not excell. I've always had a mind for math, and my parents just assumed that I would follow in their footsteps.

This past week, for Easter, we went and saw grandparents and cousins on both sides of the family. When my mother's side found out I was an English major, they gave me some looks that said, "Are you sure?" I know they only say this because they love me. Interestingly enough, when my dad's side of the family found out, they were clapping me on the back and saying stuff like, "Wow I'm so excited for you."

One reaction was not necessarily better that the other but it intrigued me that there would be a difference. What are the factors that caused my mom's family to be so apprehensive? What made my dad's side so flamboyantly receptive?

Our Greatest Inheritance

In my Tagalog class today we read and discussed an essay entitled "Ang Ating Pinakadakilang Pamana" which means "Our Greatest Inheritance." The author talked about what he thought to be the greatest gift our forefathers have left us: literature.

He went on to say that all the other stuff like technology and art and culture are great gifts but the literature left behind by our ancestors is on a different level. His reason was that when we read literature, we can go with the author and experience what they experienced. We get to know them by their writings.

This makes me think of journal writing. I've read the journal of one of my ancestors and I can tell you that what this essay talked about is true. I really got to know my ancestor through his writing.

I'd agree that this is "our greatest inheritance."

Itchy Fingers

I love to play the piano. I'm not very good at it but I could play for hours and hours on end and I sometimes do.

I don't know if there is such thing as a musical paradigm but I think I grew up in one. Both my parents sing well and we've always had a piano (which we beat the crap out of over the years). Growing up, singing and fooling around on the piano has always been part of what we do to connect as a family.

Nowadays, if I go too long without the harmonious chords of a piano, I've noticed I start getting itchy fingers. When I get itchy fingers, I can hardly walk by a piano without giving into the urge to sit down and play.

Origin of the Species

We are going through a unit on evolution right now in my Biology class. It has been pretty crazy to see all the evidences there are for how life has and is evolving.

There's stuff like little leg-like structures in snakes, the diversity of dogs (who all have a common ancestor), fossils that show different links between species, and things like wisdom teeth and appendixes that don't have any specific function. All these things point to the fact that animals and humans have common ancestors which they evolved from.

Ok, so do I believe all of this? It's difficult to say because there is so much I read from the scriptures that contradicts this world view. I'll figure it out someday.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Life

The most memorable message of this Spring's General Conference for me was the testimony Pres. Monson bore about the Savior's Ressurection. Whew, what a talk!

Afterwards, I just thought to myself that I could have sat through 8 hours of static if I knew I would be able to hear his message at the end. Luckily, I didn't have to do that and all the other talks were great as well but I think I'll not forget the prophet's testimony.

I was struck by the fact that we will all die. That seemed to be a focus of his message. We will all die and go to heaven (or elswhere *gulp*) someday. I guess if you try to live with the end in mind, you'd probably make better choices with the time you have left.

Overshadowing our imminent death is the fact that we get to live again!

What Inspires

General Conference is something that I always look forward to because I can't get the last one out of my mind. I've heard a lot of inspiring stuff in my life, but hearing Jeffery R. Holland denounce evil makes me want to go take a swipe at Satan. There is power in speaking the truth.

I find that most of my most inspiring experiences have come when I was in the right place at the right time. That's something I decided to make a point of doing: when there is a place I should be, I should be there when I'm supposed to be. As I've tried to do this, I find it really does make a difference what I'm surrounding myself with; making time for conference was definitely worth it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"The Best of You"

So in my Biology 100 class the other day, we were discussing genetics and genetic mutations and our teacher showed us a clip from a movie I am sure I have seen but I can't remember the title.

The scene shows a couple sit down with a guy in a labcoat who tells them that they have 4 fertilized embryos, 2 boys and 2 girls, in incubation that the couple can decide between. He said that these human embryos were orginally combinations of the two parents gametes but had since been genetically modified to determine things like skin color, balding rate, height, intelligence, and a bunch of other stuff.

The potential parents protested and said they wanted to leave some things up to chance. The doctor replied, "Don't worry. It's still you, just the best of you."

This was a little creepy, and I thought the idea was an interesting one: babies made to order. I kind of brushed it off as science fiction until I saw another clip (also in my Biology class) that really brought things home. It was about Carlos Boozer, the Jazz player, and how his first born son was born with sickle cell anemia. In order to give their son a chance at  a normal life, they decided to give him bone marrow transplants. An operation like this requires a very specific genetic match, the best being a sibling. So they decided to have another kid in order to get a donor for their first son.

This is the eye opener: they didn't want to role the dice again, so they went to a lab so that they could pick their next child. They got 24 embryos from mom and dad and then they genetically tested them to see which ones would be a bone-marrow match for the Boozer's son. Two embryos were chosen, the rest discarded, and 9 months later, twins were born. These twins were guaranteed to be sickle cell anemia free and to be perfect matches to their older brother's bone marrow.

Where am I going with all this? Well, what if the Boozers (or anyone) had wanted to change something less life-threatening, like crooked teeth? What if this procedure was advanced enough and cheap enough for anyone to afford? Within the next few decades we could easily have a choice to have a disease free, straight toothed, smart child. Guaranteed.

What would you do if you had the choice? Would you leave it up to chance or would you go for the 'best of you'?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Making Time

The other day, my little brother, who is 9, asked me if I knew of any books that he could read. I answered that I could probably point him to some good stuff. So I asked him what he had already read and what he recently finished, and I ended up recommending A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle.

He seemed a bit skeptical of such an 'old' book and asked me what sort of stuff was good about it. After thinking for a few minutes I answered, "You've read all the Harry Potter books right? Well I can say hands down that the bad guy in this book is way scarier than Voldemort."

After finishing the book (he reads really fast!), he agreed with me.

This experience has made me think back on all the great books that got me into reading in the first place. Stuff like Matilda, The Mouse and the Motorcyle, The Blue Sword, The Chronicles of Prydain, Johnny Tremain, The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Phantom Toll Booth and many, many others.

I wish I had the time to go back and read them all. Now that I'm reading all this 'grown-up literature' I can't help but feel a certain longing for those books I read just because they were great stories, told in memorable ways.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Moral Majority

So I've been assigned a issues paper in my English 150 class about something to do with religions in America.


So I did some research on book banning in public schools. Especially back around 1999, there was a big push by a bunch of religious fundamentalists to ban textbooks or literature in public schools that was offensive to their religious beliefs. Catcher in the Rye was one mentioned often, which made me laugh.

I was thinking about it and I propose that we allow whatever books to be available, maybe even in school libraries. As to which literature is used for public school curriculum, I say the public votes on it. If they don't think the books are appropriate for their children to read, and the majority is with them, then why not? Put it on the shelf but not on the syllabus. I think this would help parents have more control over their childrens education and exposure, while not favoring any one loud minority.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Government Reform

My parents and I often get into very long discussions about different topics. A popular one recently has been Obama's push for health care reform.

My dad said he read in the paper yesterday that after using 'reconciliation' to get the bill passed in the Senate Obama is now planning to not send the revised bill back through the House. It's all possible because of some House rule.

My dad brought up a really interesting concern about the implications of such a forced approach to lawmaking. He said that if the bill passes and then (by some miracle) healthcare tanks, everyone is going to come back to this instance, where there was some question about the legitimacy of whether the bill passed or not.

If that did happen, if healthcare was passed on such a slim margin, what effect would it have on the government if things don't work out? Could it possibly hurt the credibility of our government?

This is obviously worst case senario stuff, but I think its worth thinking about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Questioning the Classics

I'm right in the middle of researching for my issues paper, the climactic assignment of English 150. Our class's topic is about religion in America. I decided to do my paper on censorship, especially book banning.

So I've been reading all this literature criticizing christian fundementalists in the South for trying to ban a whole bunch of classic literature based on how it contraticts their interpretation of the Bible.

What I thought was funny is how this wasn't even an issue 100 years ago; at least I don't think it was. But as the times change, so has the diversity of our literature.

I don't blame the book banning activists but I also think as long as there are people who want to read certain books, they should be allowed to read them. That's the American way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Liberating Prose

Right now I'm in a Tagalog language class. Thats the language they speak in the Philippines. So for my final project I have to present something about Philippine history or culture that maybe my classmates don't already know about.

I decided to do my project on a book written by the Philippines' most famous hero: Jose Rizal. He was an educated filipino in the Spanish-colonialized Philippines. He had the chance to go to France and study, and while he was there, he saw the difference between Europe and his home country. He saw how the Spanish treated his people unfairly, especially with the dominance of the Catholic church. He wanted to help his fellow countrymen realize this, so he wrote a book.

This book, Noli Me Tangere (the title is latin and means "touch me not," taken from what Christ said after he lived again), seemed nothing more than a well written love story but hidden in the prose were direct jabs at the Spanish ruling his country.

His book, and the sequel, sparked a revolution.

When the Americans arrived in the 1930s, the Spanish were already losing ground. As for the Filipino's beloved hero, he was captured, unjustly charged and put to death by a firing squad.

I'm reading the book right now and I was surprised. It's not just eye-opening, it's also great writing!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Death of My Brain

I was reading that article in Falling Into Theory called "Death of the Author" and maybe it was that it was translated from French to English, but I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

From what I could gather, he said that nobody every has any original ideas, that our brains are just giant dictionaries full of everything we've ever heard or read or whatever. This made me think, "Well than where did the first ideas come from?" His answer was that they come from God.

He said that when we read a book we just go to that dictionary in our head and then we "write" the book based on the stuff we already know. Thats what he meant by the death of the author, I think. He says that authors don't create ideas and stuff they just put words on a page and that we, the readers, are the ones who write the book.

Kind of cool, but man it hurts my head.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Making a Conscience

I had a really interesting experience reading "Night". I kind of knew what to expect but I still was affected by the graphic nature of his novel. Not that I haven't read or seen worse stuff, just that this time I had to analyze it. I decided to read the book with the intent to show the moral implications of his writing. At about halfway through the book I was feeling very confused.

How did his writing make me feel? What kind of moral concepts was I being asked to accept? What was he saying about human nature?

I still haven't completely decided how I feel about these questions but I'm afraid that I might come up with answers against the norm.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Truth and Rhetoric

I was reading some of the General Conference talks and I decided to apply the things I'm learning about English to them.
In some of my favorite talks, I noticed that there were some elements of rhetoric that were really strong and others that seemed almost nonexistent.
I think obviously the General Authorities rely heavily on appeals of ethos in their talks. Their audience trusts them because God trusts them. But it couldn't all be focused on that because why would any skeptic take their words on face value?
I looked at logical appeals, and there were some but nothing that was going to convince anyone who didn't already believe.
Elder Holland definitely invoked emotion in his audience but even he relied on his audiences acceptance of what he was going to say. And then, instead of aknowledging opposing views, he defied them, which once again made me ask why someone would believe them in the first place. Then it hit me: the truth.
There is something in each of us that knows what is true(right) and what is false(wrong). We have it at birth; some people call it a conscience.
I think that truth can probably be more powerful than any form of rhetoric to the people looking for it.
Maybe that is the true purpose of rhetoric in the first place: to find out the truth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sonnet #1

Since I spent ridiculous amounts of time coming up with this, I thought I'd record my sonnet here. I always start poetry as kind of trivial but it always ends up being serious. Or at least more serious than I had originally planned.

Oh what a laugh that one should dare to trust
A Word, expressed, so oft in times of love.
For petty difference and selfish rust
Will break the Word despite the strength thereof.
A Word may seem, in dire times of need,
A promise spoken in sincerity.
But wiser men will wisely pay no heed
To words that make of kindness, mockery.
The call of common nature dictates thus:
The fox will always lie to get his way.
And so the cunning have their way with us
If we would prove so gullible a prey.
             Then to the fool who thus would speak I cry:
             In trusting there is hope; in lies we die!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Separation or Domination?

For my ENG 150 class we are required to study an article out of the "Perspectives on Religion in America" composition book. Then we are supposed to write a rhetorical analysis on said article. We were given a choice between 4 different articles and I chose one called "A Government in Thrall to Religion" by Frank R. Zindler, an atheist.

I obviously approached this article with some trepidation, not knowing what to expect. As I read through it, I couldn't help but question if what he was saying was true. His main arguments are as follows:

1. The Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.

2. George Bush(the president at the time) is not supporting this separation but is bringing religious bias into the White House.

3. Evidences of this bias: His entire cabinet was made up of religious politicians; He largly ignored the warnings of ecologists and other scientists; He did not believe in global warming; He pulled funding from a U.N. fund that helps mothers in third world countries get abortions; His administration to some reproduction-education stuff off the nation health websites; He allowed more waste dumping by manufacturers and miners.

The author calls for a separation of church and state and makes it clear that the nation should base it's decisions on science, not religious values, in order remain non-secular.

Do you agree or disagree with this? Do I agree or disagree with this?

On second thought, I'd have to say I disagree.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Poetry Perspiration

I will have to admit that I have little (meaning absolutely none) experience with critical analysis so bear with me.
The poem from our reading that most caught my attention was "God's Grandeur" by Gerard Hopkins. It caught my attention because I am having a terrible time deciding what it is he is trying to say. Here are some thoughts:

He first uses the word "charged" which could mean many things like electrically charged or charged with an accusation. He says the grandeur of God "gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed." For me, just evaluating the word choice I cannot make out any decisive meaning. There is something about recking his rod which follows. I am confused by the "not" in this statement which seems to give the opposite meaning of what was intended. Hopkins then goes on to explain how the earth has become tainted by the mark of man. Man can't feel it either because their feet are shod.
The poet then goes on to speak of a "freshness" that survives deep down. He makes the point that morning always follows the night, bringing hope. He then makes a reference to the Holy Ghost which I am familiar with and which is mentioned in the Bible. I was confused the most reading this part for the first time because I could not see where he was coming from.

I read up on Gerard Hopkins and found out that he was a 19th century Victorian poet who converted to Catholicism and became a Jesuit Priest. Things in the poem like the reference to the Holy Ghost started to make sense. Also, many critics mentioned that the oozing oil was the oil of an olive, an interpretation that makes the most sense to me. They also said that the word "charged" was referring to electricity because electricity was under a scientific spotlight at the time. All of this stuff I never would have picked up if it hadn't been for studying his historical background.

This analysis was probably the most obvious to me from the get go because he uses prolific alliteration and diction throughout the entire piece. I immediately noticed the vivid word choice in words like "charged" and "flame out" which give an untamed, bright feeling. He contrasts this with words like "ooze of oil" which describes a slow, rich concentrating. The repetition of trod in the next line creates the sound of trodding which is pretty cool. He also rhymes the words "seared", "bleared" and "smeared" int he next line which continues the idea that every thing we do to the earth is all the same and all disgusting. I could go on with all the other examples of diction and alliteration. I think in this poem he uses these devices to evoke emotion in his readers and also to create memorable phrases that will stick in their heads.

Holy cow, that was long. Oops.

Honestly, at first I didn't really see the value in this poem but after giving it some time, I can see why it would be considered worthwhile literature. I found that I had to make the effort to overcome the time gap between me and Hopkins: about 130 years.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hemmingway Revisited

Ok, so I've been thinking alot about the short story by Ernest Hemmingway, "Hills Like White Elephants" and just for the fun of it i decided to do my own version. The subject material is different and so is the setting but the principle is basically the same.

Night was well under way when the Grangers sat down to eat. Winter made the dark come early and all homeowners in Cobble Creek Subdivision were hiding in the heat of their look-alike houses. Father, mother, and son sat around a small, circular cherrywood table.

"How do you like the broccoli?", the mother broke the silence.

"Its good.", her husband replied while chewing.

"You know they say one piece of broccoli has more calcium in it than a whole glass of milk."

"Yeah, but milk tastes better, which is why people drink it. They just want a reason to think milk is good for you."

She changed the subject, "Craig, how did things go today?"

"Its all finished. They gave me this.", the boy mumbled as he drew a slightly crumpled letter from the pocket of his hooded sweater.

His mother seemed to freeze for a second.

"Lets see it then.", his father held out a hand for the letter without looking up from his plate. Taking the letter, he read it. Silence reigned until he finished. "Sounds good to me.", he said at last and tossed the letter onto the table in his wife's direction.

She read a few lines and then looked up at Craig, "Son, could you go make sure Ralphie has his food? Grab desert while you're at it. Its on the kitchen table."

The boy dropped his fork loudly on his plate and stood up, leaving his chair at an angle, and headed into the kitchen.

"Are you really going to make him do this?", his mother said.

Her husband ignored the exasperation in her voice, "Yes, I am, Lily. If all of this is really going to end, there needs to be proper closure."

"Proper closure? And what has the last 6 months been, fun and games?"

"No, but I really think we need to see this out."

"He has completely turned around, Stan. You've seen it. Once they got the stuff out of him, he has done better and now you're ready to pour salt on the wound."

"And what would you have me do? Go talk to Judge Parker?"

"Yes!", she interrupted.

"And what would that solve?", he continued, "Sure, he's come a long way, but I can't just bail him out like that. I'm not going to enable."

"This isn't just about justice, Stan. You know the kind of people who work down there. He'll probably just fall right back into it again."

"Maybe", he sighed, "But he needs to make his own decision. We're just his guardians here and we only have him for a short time. I just don't want to let him down. Sometime, at some point he needs to choose."

Craig had been standing in the kitchen doorway for a couple minutes now. He entered the room and gently placed the cookies on the table. "Its okay, I'll do it. Its only a couple months anyway."

He finished his broccoli before starting desert.

It was kind of a fun exercise seeing what I could do.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The first

So this is my blog about good ideas. These good ideas won't necessarily come from me. In fact, most of the stuff here will probably be stuff I learned from other people, books etc.

Good Ideas could also come from anyone else who is reading this.