Sunday, January 27, 2013

From the Elder's quorum lesson: We have a work to do.

Because of the ice storm, church was cancelled this week.  I can't say I am too disappointed, because Becca has a cold and didn't sleep well last night, and so neither did Leila or I.  We haven't gotten her on a great schedule still.  She doesn't sleep well anywhere but her car seat and late at night I cave every time. But with this much cuteness it is hard to be too bitter, even at 2 AM.

 So anyway,  with Church cancelled I don't have to teach the lesson this week after all.  I was actually looking forward to it.  The lesson was based on Todd Christofferson's October 2012 conference talk: Brethren, We Have Work to Do.  He begins by citing statistics and examples where men seem to be slacking,

“Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school through graduate school. By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading. Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college. … It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016. Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys.”3

I believe it may be more complicated than that.  Although there are more women in graduate school than men, many fields, including my own, have very few women.  I definitely agree that
 "In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed."  

I loved "The Simpsons" when I was younger; my Mom hated it, and it was funny.  Bart and Lisa are great examples of this trend.

Bart and Homer are lovable buffoons with little drive or ambition.  Lisa on the other hand works hard, studies hard, and has big plans for herself.  As the father of 5 daughters, we need more women in media like Lisa, instead of the princess and beauty obsessiveness that is so common, but that is another topic for another day.

Just look at what magazines and entertainment are marketed to men.  What do you think of as a Men's magazine?  Maxim, maybe.  Sports Illustrated is focused on sports and a yearly swimsuit edition and is probably one of the better choices and that isn't saying a lot.  Elder Christoffersen calls for a rebellion from this shallow sex and fun obsessed view of masculinity:

"The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men who are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation. They are crying, “Rise up, O men of God!”10 God help us to do it. "

How do we do that?  My plan for the lesson was to discuss this as a class and use the suggestions from the talk when they matched comments or when the discussion waned.  Elder Christoffersen cites a short video he saw about a hard-working young man in India named Amar. An inspiring hard working kid.

I was also going to suggest searching out better media.

One of my recent internet guilty pleasures is the Art of Manliness website. It reminds me of the Boy's Life magazines that I read as a boy - but with even more retro view of style and art.  Check out the ode to the handkerchief  or this graphic on types of mustaches.  I loved their stocking stuffer list.  Each Sunday, they have a "Manvotional" - usually reprints of old essays or poems. Today's fit this lesson perfectly. From James Freeman Clarke,

"But, you may say, we cannot all be inspired apostles or great philosophers. No; but the motive, the principle which made their lives rich, we can have in ours. This principle is, to be interested in something good; to have an object, an aim, a purpose outside of ourselves.

In the great storms which have lately swept over the north Atlantic, a steamer from our shores discovered another, dismasted and rudderless, drifting before the gale, its decks swept by terrible seas. The sailors volunteered to man a boat, and go to save those on the wreck. The labor was appalling, the dangers frightful; but they succeeded, and saved the lives of their fellow-men. Which has made the noblest use of life, the self-indulgent epicurean, who amuses himself with a little art, a little literature, a little criticism and a little vapid social pleasure, or these rugged, brave hearts, who bade defiance to storm and sea, and brought salvation to those in despair? To forget yourself is the secret of life; to forget yourself in some worthy purpose outside of yourself.
The poor steamer foundered because it drifted; because its steering apparatus was lost. The man who has no aim higher than himself also drifts; he has nothing by which to steer, nothing toward which to direct his life. Do not drift, but steer; that is the second rule."
  The four rules of Clarke:
  1. Forget yourself in some interest outside of yourself.
  2. Do not drift, but steer.
  3. Do with your might what your hands finds to do.
  4. Trust in God, and your own soul.  
Wise words, I love the bit of Wadsworth he quotes also:

“The primal duties shine aloft like stars;
The charities which soothe and bless and save,
Are scattered at the feet of man like flowers.”

This is the type of manhood that builds a better world.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Getting the most out of business travel

I was listening today to NPR's Travel with Rick Steve and I realized what was missing from their discussion about travel. All travel they discussed was for vacation, not business. Over the years I have been to Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Hawaii, France, and all over the US, but almost always for work. All of our vacation travel is to visit family, which is nice, but it isn't the same as being a tourist, and even that is more and more difficult as our family grows. Seven plane tickets aren't cheap and I dread days in the car driving west and back.

There are positives and negatives of business travel. The great thing is that someone else pays for it. The bad is that I usually travel alone, without my family. Leila is left home and it just isn't as fun without her and the kids. Early in our marriage, Leila and Emily travelled with me to conferences sometimes and to Mexico and Bolivia. The Karmina Palace in Manzanillo, Mexico is such a fond memory for Leila and I to this day. We spent three weeks there at a very stressful time. It was awesome. They had a calm cove for playing in the waves, a quiet beach, a turtle nesting area, a kids club for Emily during the day, and we would go out to eat each night after pollinating. It was so fun to come home from pollinating, snorkel at the beach and then take Leila and Emily to dinner with Osman and Darryl Bowman. We never could have afforded to stay there on our graduate student stipend.

Here is how I think you can get the most out of business travel:

1. Get the work done. Work is paying for it and they deserve a return on that investment. I had a professor who focused his research on sea grasses in Samoa so he had an excuse to spend as much time as possible in Samoa. He quickly built a reputation for that. I can't see how it can be good for your career to get a reputation for milking the company travel budget.

2. Have a good time. Go out to eat with other employees and customers. It is work, but it is ok to enjoy it and the personal contact and friendships are important for getting things done.

3. Go running, walking, or rent a bicycle. It is amazing what you notice running or walking in a new place that would not be noticeable from a car window.

4. Don't eat at McDonald's or chain fast food. I was in Argentina once, it was late and we had been in the field in Sampacho all day. Or argentine colleague suggested going for a hamburger at McDonald's instead of eating out. We resisted and asked at the hotel restaurant instead what they could bring us quickly. They brought lasagna with fresh pasta and cups of sorbet for dessert. And cost only a few dollars more. If it is safe, there are often great street food available or local fast food options available. In Mexico my favorite are the small taco joints. It is usually a peso or two per small taco made from lomo, lengua, or al pastor. So good with salsa and picadillo. In Argentina we found that we could get steak sandwiches from most of the gas stations. Or empanadas. Or choripan. In Nicaragua you can get quesadillas made from fresh mozzarella like cheese with caramelized onions

5. It is ok to eat alone and to go plays, movies, museums by yourself. When I worked for Ag Alumni my colleagues would go drinking after meetings. I joined them at the bar for a few minutes, but since I don't drink once the evening turns from socializing to getting drunk I am out of there. In Chicago I went to see Wicked and got cheap tickets on the balcony. Sometimes I will go to the movies in the evening. In Kihei they have an open air roller skating rink in the park with 5 dollar inline skate rental till ten. In Memphis I escaped to listen to bluegrass bands.

6. Transportation. I often have a rental car, which is a lonely way to travel by yourself, but it is a great way to see the countryside between meetings. In France I was able to drive to The Basque Country with my basque colleagues.