Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three Christmas Traditions that Would Make My Life Happy

So I'm thinking about Christmas traditions, both the ones I do with my fam right now and what I'd like to do when I have my own family. Here are three things I like:

1. St. Nicholas' Day Gift Re-Discovery.

I like celebrating St. Nicholas' Day; in my family, we usually get some nuts and candy in our shoes and a Christmas book to enjoy for the season. But I think that the day BEFORE St. Nicholas Day would be a good opportunity to appreciate all the cool presents we got last year. Here's how I think we would celebrate it: go through the closets and cupboards and see all the neat things you've already received. Then, play with them. We found my sister's old harmonica, my mom's guitar, and some old puzzles and had a great time with them, so why not have a whole day to enjoy all the old gifts? And if you show St. Nick how much you like the stuff he gave you in years past, he'd probably give you better stuff this year!

2. Kiva.

If you're on a 12-month pay-back schedule, you can redistribute your Kiva money. It might be nice to find some Nicaraguan music or Ukrainian movie or Ghanan food to check out while your family redistributes the microloans to nice people like Filipino rice farmers.

3. New Year's Clean-out.

So you've gotten a lot of cool stuff for Christmas. Now it's time to go through those closets (again, right?) and clean out any old stuff that you don't use anymore. Vast amounts of stuff to bring to DI/goodwill/whatever. You can get rid of the things that nice people gave you to show that they care, but you don't particularly need (I'm thinking endless copies of Richard Paul Evans gift books). You can clear out the old coat to replace with your new coat. And then there's sweet after-Christmas shopping for everyone who goes down to DI.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just so I don't have to answer again...

Me ->

1. UT Austin
2. Penn State
3. Arizona State
4. Carnegie Mellon
5. Maryland
6. UI at Chicago

Monday, December 14, 2009

Relief Society Relief

Yesterday I was released from my calling as Relief Society President and my roommate was was sustained. People keep asking me if I'm relieved or jubilant or sad or whatever. I guess it's the whatever. I know my secretary did a little dance in her seat when she was released from her calling (but I'm sure she learned a lot from it, right?), and I've heard of people having a hard time getting released, but I don't really feel that strongly.

Don't get me wrong: I loved many things about being RS President. I loved getting the burning inspiration of "Jane" over and over until I send Jane a note. I loved being able to look people in the eye in interviews as they recounted the miracles of their lives. I loved being able to ask, "What can I do to make your life easier?" knowing that I had the resources of that whole organization at my disposal, and the support of the Elders Quorum and Bishopric to boot. I loved being able to help sisters.

And I think I did a good job. Here's how I know: I was fasting and praying last week to know I did a good job and my roommate, not generally known for being overly cheerful, came up and gave me a hug and said, "You're a great Relief Society president." What more obvious sign do I need? I don't know that I had a huge influence in everyone's life, but I did my duty and prayed for inspiration and I feel good about what I did.

And now I'm going to be in the Spiritual and Temporal Welfare Council. For those of you not in a BYU student ward, that council picks up most of the duties that the other councils like Service and Temple and Family History don't really cover. We do safety and security (like safewalks or making sure that everyone can lock his or her windows). We do provident living (job placement, budgeting, etc.). We do emergency preparedness (first aid training and 72 hour kits). We do personal spiritual encouragement (scripture reminders, for example). In short, we do whatever the Bishop wants us to (and lately, he's asked us to prepare some dating firesides and activities).

So a lot of people think that this is a bit of a downgrade. Not so. Here's a story, maybe everyone already knows:

Eld. Eyring's dad was a high councilman in charge of the welfare farm, so he assigned himself to go pull weeds. He was almost eighty, and has bone cancer, I think, so he could only pull himself along on his elbows as he pulled weeds at this onion patch. At the end of the long day, someone says to him, "Wait, you didn't pull those weeds over there? Those ones had been sprayed--they were going to die in two days anyway." Brother Eyring thought that was funny and laughed and laughed. His son thought that was terrible and asked why he was laughing. "Hal," he responded. "I wasn't there for the weeds--I was there for the Lord."

I don't know what I'll be asked to for for God through the course of my life. After all, I've been a RS teacher, a Service Council member, a Mia Maid class secretary, a Family History instructor, a missionary, a Friendship Council Chair, a sacrament meeting pianist (somehow...), a senior Primary teacher, a ward newsletter carrier, a RS aesthetic coordinator (that means I brought the tablecloth and centerpiece) and, since I was seventeen, always a visiting teacher. I don't know what callings I'll have in the future--except for visiting teacher--but I do know that as long as I do my duty and pray for inspiration, I'll be able to be there for the Lord.

So I guess it's not a big deal for me to be released from this calling, because it's not like it's the end of my service to my sisters--now I'll just be serving them (and now the brethern as well), in a different capacity. I'm still open to divine direction, just as much in my last calling, and I hope that I'll be able to do whatever the Lord wants me to do. Even if that means just pulling weeds.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How I React to Cold Weather

Step 1: Hop and say "Eeeeee!" in Matt-Meese-esque form.

Step 2: Breath in and out through my clenched teeth, like a woman in labor, in-and-out.

Step 3: Hunker into coat/hat/scarf muttering, "it's so cold, it's so cold, it's so cold."

Step 4: Begin to enjoy the cheek-pinching weather and wonder how I went 8 months without something like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

98% Questions

What does a discipline generally agree on? Almost every field has some knowledge that almost all of the members of the community, no matter their differences, find fundamental. Liberal economist Alan Blinder wrote this great book where he talked about the several principles (growth from free trade, damage from rent controls) that almost every economist, liberal or conservative, tend to agree on. The National Center for Science Education has compiled a list of scientists named "Steve" who believe in evolution (the idea being that people named Steve are a minority of the total population). Essentially every Renaissance scholar believes that Shakespeare really did write Shakespeare, even calling the controversy a "non-issue." So what are the great points of expert aggregation for composition studies?

I don't know. No one's done much reproduced, incontrovertible research. But what do we, as practitioners and occasional researchers, generally agree on? I'd love to be able to do a survey at the Conference on College Composition Communication this spring, if I could get IRB-approval (to say nothing of C's approval). Here are the statements I'd like to get a Likert-scale reading on (stacked, of course, because I suspect I'd be able to get a 98% on "agree," "strongly agree," and "very strongly agree"):

1. Creating multiple drafts of assignments improves writing.
2. Peer-review is an effective learning exercise.
3. Direct grammar drills are ineffective for making students better writers.
4. Straight "talk-and-chalk" lectures should not be the only form of writing instruction.
5. Students should be taught to write for discourse communities.
6. Requiring students to reflect on their writing experience improves writing.
7. Collaborative assignments improve student writing.
8. Short, frequent in-class writing (ie, "prompts") improve student writing.
9. Marginal or end-of-paper comments are more effective teaching tools than just assigning a letter or number grade.
10. Pre-writing activities (eg: brainstorming, discussion, lists, clustering, etc.) result in better writing.
11. Students need to write many pages of polished writing to improve: at least 10 pages a semester.
12. Students write better when they read examples of good writing.
13. Students who learn to write well in one genre do not necessarily write well in others.
14. Students need to learn "bottom-up": they must first learn to write sentence before they can write paragraph, paragraphs before pages, etc. [I actually think this will be 90% disagree, but I didn't want it to be an easy survey.]
15. An important element of good writing is good content.
16. Students need more positive responses to their writing than negative to improve.
17. Teachers should show students how writing skills apply lives outside of the class.
18. Writing can be taught.
19. Writing develops critical thinking skills.
20. Composition classes should teach more skills than writing (eg: speech, visual rhetoric, etc.)
21. Plagiarism is morally wrong.

Any other suggestions?