Monday, December 31, 2007

Good-bye to a good year

Since turning in my paper for my stats class (last thing to do until January 22nd! Hurray!), I've been partying like it is 2007. Which it still is. And I've been enjoying these last days of the year with the family. Coming home, i found these two kids on my doorstep, fresh off the plane from Salt Lake City.

Jarom was determined to document every moment.

Since these were my first family visitors to new York, i felt obliged to introduce them to Max. max Brenner, the bald man who makes chocolates.

We had a good time, shopping for THE BABY and the PREGNANT LADY. Can you see the baby bump?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Eating lots of food, petting Liina's belly to feel the baby kicking, avoiding Vilja because she has TB, eating more, watching movies, reading books, sitting at the airport, looking at Jane's Chinese model shots, hearing about Meri's "ailments", talking to little Elder Hynynen in Texas... And of course celebrating the birth of the Savior. What a wonderful season of peace! Christmas is wonderful. Toronto is fun.

p.s. There are too many doctors in our house. Will write more when I have time to think (too many books to read and girlie conversations to have)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Finals: When bad ideas seem so good.

Melinda and I had a complete texting conversation the other night about getting it on with Financial Management. It was ridiculous. It was hilarious.

The library has become soul sucking and so some of us studied in the Puck building last week. for a break, we did a photo scavenger hunt of professor's offices. Photos to come shortly.

You know what is the best thing to do after a long week of studying your feeble little brain out? Celebrating Elly's birthday with karaoke. I fully intended to go home to work on my stats paper, but peer pressure won out and I went to Japas with a few other stoic wagnerites who were playing hooky from studying. It was the right decision. Karaoke always seems like such a bad idea, but baby, how can it be wrong when it feels so right when you are doing it? Seriously, nothing like singing your little heart out to some Celine Dion. Happy birthday Elly! You totally channeled Celine!

you know, I thought grad school was such a good idea. And now I realize that I am just a masochist. There is a secret part of me that gets a thrill from saying, yeah, I was at the library until 11 last night. Nope, can't do fun things, too busy studying. What am I doing now? Oh... yeah, also really easy to get distracted. But come on, 12 hours of studying is enough. And really, I plan on doing at least a few stats practice problems to help me fall asleep.

Wish me luck on finals. Hopefully I survive. And if I don't, Emily can have my Mexican blanket to keep her company until 1 am every night.

Friday, December 14, 2007

the library won....

when Ira Glass-boy called again last night. We were possibly going to meet up but instead I opted to study some microeconomics. it was a good move. I'm getting nervous to see him again. What if he doesn't tell amazing stories? I'll be so disappointed. But, even if he isn't just like Ira Glass, it is impressive that he has called when he said he would. I'm sure that is what the real one would do (if he weren't married).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ira Glass look-alike boy called last night...

just so you know. He left a message and I called him back and left him a message, so no *actual* conversation took place. But he still called.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Religion and Politics

Judging form the comments of late, I see no one is reading my blog. Which means this is as good a time as any to bring up something controversial on my mind. Religion and Politics. And this has, of course, been on my mind since the Romney speech on faith last week. If you missed it, you can go here.

I have never claimed to be a Romney supporter, and I don't plan to suddenly start fawning over him. But, I was for the most past impressed with this speech. As a Mormon, I have waivered between wishing Romney wasn't running so people wouldn't be constantly brining up his religion and indignation that simply because Romney is a Mormon people might not vote for him and gratitude that this has opened the door to a somewhat greater understanding of the Latter-day Saint faith.

A few comments on what he said:
"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." I know that there are people out there who are concerned that because Romney is a Mormon and we believe in latter-day prohpets, that he will be directed by the prophet. I know that President Hinckley, the current prophet, loves liberty, and has an incredibly strong devotion to a seperation of religion and politics. It would be stepping beyond his authority as president of the church and a prophet of God to tell the presidnet what to do. He has not done so with prior presidents, and he would not abuse a president's personal beliefs to gain power. That would only damage the image of the church. The church leaders encourage us to fulfil our civic responsibilities and vote and be responsible citizens, but they will not tell us how to vote (although, there have been certain moral issues that they have very strongly encouraged members to look at and vote on). Besides, I've heard that President Hinckley is a Democrat.

"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs." A paragraph earlier he said that if elected as president, his highest covenant to God would be that oath of office. I don't know if I could do that, but hey, I'm not even a citizen so that will never be an issue. In any case, I am glad that he mentioned his religion and his commitment to it, and that he would not be swayed from it. I am sure it would be so easy to disavow it and hard to defend it-- unless he really had a testimony of the truthfulness of it.

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people." I like that he focused on moral principles, rather than theological doctrine, bringing people together to bring about positive change. I really think that, at least for me, that is what religion is-- it has brought to me a greater awareness of my fellow humans and the desire for everyone to be treated equal, and my own potential to do something about it. However, while this speech focuses so much on the postive, unifying aspect of religion, I think that he glossed over the many times when religion has been used as a justification for those exact social ills mentioned in the speech. Religion and God, or the practices of people, have not been moral. There is truth and beuty in religion and it is meant to bring us heaven-ward. But all too often, instead of raising people up to become like Christ, people raise themselves up above others. People used the excuse, and still do, that God makes some people better than otheres because of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, social class. It is used as a justification for hate and terror and close-mindedness. No wonder when a candidate declares him/herself as a person of faith, people of intelligence and a knowledge of history shudder. I wish it weren't like that. But unfortunately, it is.

"In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith." Again, the unity. I like that he places the burden of the responsibility on the people, the voters, to look at themselves and see their own prejudices against a particular religion. I hope that it does make people realize, hey now, maybe I should look a little bit deeper at the person (and could we say that maybe this could also open the eyese of peopel to look past their prejudices against the gener or race of a particual candidate as well?). But, this is also my major sticking point with this speech-- what about those who don't believe? I know his audience was evangelical Christians in Texas, but this goes to the whole country-- I read this in the New York Times. There are so many people of faith in this country, more than we sometimes think, but ther are also people who don't believe in a God or organized religion. For whom the term "prayer" is something unfamiliar but meditation to center their lives and simply a desire to do no harm leads them to live lives of great contribution and kindness towards others and the earth.

These were jsut a few of the things that I was thinking about when I read the speech. My opinion isn't worth a hill of beans amongst all of the political pundits on the left and right and middle who are analyzing every inch of it. But, though Romney might not be the frontrunner in my book, I am deeply interested in how he conducts himself in his campaign and how it will go and why. Personally, when I think about religion and politics, in the same sphere, I find that they are nearly impossible for me to seperate. Religion plays such a role in who I am. On this foundation I am building the person that I will become. This underscores the work that I do every day. I think that is how it is for so many people. It isn't something seperate inside of us to be turned on on Sunday, nor is it a flag to be waved constantly. It is simply something that motivates me to do well on my exams coming up next week, soemthing that lets me see my potential in a career, and helps me to see the small role that I play on this life to simply lead a good life and to do good.

Whatever the case, let's remember that while Romney is a Mormon, so is Harry Reid. And those two think very, very differently. And with that, I should probably get motivated to go finish my MPSO reading.

Prospect Park

prospect, noun. anticipation; expectation; looking forward. A view, esp. of scenery.

Every time I talk about living in Brooklyn, I rave about Prospect Park. It is my sanctuary from the city, the place that brings peace like only green space can. So now that it has turned gray, I'm posting some fall pictures of the park.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ira Glass Look-Alike

So, i was at a Hanukkah party last night, enjoying latkes and learning what the signs on the dreidle mean. And then I saw him, across the room. Did my eyes deceive me? Perhaps a little, but I didn't care. A young, skinny, Jewish guy with glasses and s nice blazer, who looked just like Ira Glass. Take 20 years. Can I just say dreamy? If you read my blog regularly, i don't need to remind you of my obsession. Using all of my feminine charms, I managed to enter into a conversation with the said fellow, and we talked about how he was a rock star in a movie once, which is way better than being a rock star in real life because you don't have to have talent or work hard but can instead jump right into attitude and funky clothing and self-absorption. Upon discovering that we both live in Brooklyn, he boldly suggested that we go out sometime, and requested my number. How could I resist? Now, how to get him to tell stories about life in America softly into my ear...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A letter from my missionary sister vilja.

Note: to those of you who don't know, I have a little sister who is serving a mission for the Church of Jesus christ of Latter-day Saints in Estonia. She has been there for a while. And she is a little bit crazy.

"I have decided that I am slowly but surely turning more and more into a cat. I always loved the sunshine and sleeping (neither of which I get very much ofhere in Eesti), I love to eat fish (not allowed in the Baltics), I like to have people pet my hair (DEFINITELY not allowed) and I even had to get rabies shots. I thought that was a prety good list, but I have a new addition that pretty much takes the cake: fleas. Yeah, somehow I got fleas in my bed and woke up one day with over 40 bites EVERYWHERE. I doused my bed and bedclothes with permetherein, so I haven't gotten any new bites, but these things last a week at least and they itch like CRAZY. I have tried every single type of cream and medication and home remedy available (note: All vinegar does is make you smell suspiciously like a salad.), and NOTHING works. My companions got so sick of being on scratch patrol to keep me from taking off all of my skin that I have simply resorted to wearing mittens all the time. I study in mittens, I sweep the apartment in mittens, and I even have to sleep in mittens. I kind of feel like one of those dogs with the gigantic collar to keep them from biting themselves, only I have some opposeable thumbs, which is a plus.

Itchiness aside, missionary life is fantastic. I love talking to people. I love teaching peole. I love testifying of the Savior. I love the Spirit. The most painful, heartwrenching second of missionary life is worth wearing mittens for the rest of my life. The gospel has the power to work miracles. I love that. I have seen that happen. I just don't even know what to say. I love everything about it. So I guess that's all I have to say for today. Have a lovely week!"

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

It's good to know where some of my issues come from

I am just too darn perfect. Check out this article on perfectionism and depression in the New York Times.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

An externality of Genocide

I'm in an economics class. I think about externalities, it is just the way things are right now. But for those of you who haven't taken an economics class recently, an externality is an unintended byproduct of whatever is produced or consumed that is not accounted for by the market (my definition). As you know (at least I hope you know this about me), I am against genocide. killing people in large numbers (and, I would just like to add here, small numbers as well) = bad. I'm glad we have that cleared up. And because I think it is so bad, i went to a lecture last night at the NY Public Library (= beautiful) to hear Nicholas Kristof (= amazing and passionate) speak about the genocide in Darfur. He is a New York Times Columnist who has traveled to the Sudan eight times int he last four years, and considering that it is a country closed to journalists, that is pretty impressive (he likes to legally enter with dignitaries and "accidentally" get left behind. Kind of like in the "Left Behind" books. Or not really at all). Anyway, I went with a group of Wangerites interested in International stuff, and found the lecture incredibly. Sad, of course, but I was really impressed with the passion and motivation that Kristof has to speak out about Darfur and offer solutions-- such as putting pressure on our government to put pressure on the Sudanese government and on the Chinese government. I know, I know, what good has government done lately, but I still am a believer that we can use our power for good. If you want to learn more about Darfur and what you can do, go here.

So, the purpose of the evening was to attend a lecture on genocide with Nicholas Kristof and learn about the genocide and be motivated to do something about it. The externality of the evening came when I ended up meeting an incredibly person passionate about the cause and talking to him for hours about genocide. Genocide isn't really a topic that brings people together and that people want to talk about (I know, i've tried), and here I was, sitting in Chipotle eating a burrito and chatting about genocidal regimes, and having a lovely time. Now, I'm not saying that meeting Ben in any way, shape, or form makes genocide remotely acceptable, or even less bad. Just that sometimes, good things come from really bad things. Kristof talked about that too. So I'll take that marginal social benefit of meeting a really amazing person, having a good conversation and going ice skating at Bryant Park (hey, we discovered other common interests aside from genocide-- like we are both Finnish! crazy!). Take that you Sudanese government, I'm sure this was a completely unintended consequence of your horrible, murderous policies.