Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reading in 2017: Kids Edition

2017 was a good year for reading and listening audiobooks and I thought I'd share some of what we've been enjoying in the next few posts, the first of which focuses on what I've read to our kids.

My Side of the Mountain and its sequels On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Our oldest is an avid fan of peregrine falcons so he thoroughly enjoyed these stories. I find the original story the most interesting and compelling, but the sequels hold up on their own.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Admittedly, I bowdlerized these two a wee bit since I don’t feel like my kids are old enough for the more mature themes of sexual assault (Julie of the Wolves) or adultery and divorce (Hatchet). Both works are good enough to be reread in full when the kids are older, so I didn’t lose any sleep over my emendations.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. After living his whole life in comfort and ease, Bilbo Baggins is recruited against his will to accompany a company of dwarves as they set out to reclaim their ancestral home--and treasure--from an ancient dragon. Bilbo learns a lot about the wider world and its varied denizens but even more about himself by the time he--spoiler alert--returns to his hobbit hole at Bag End just in time to save it from the auctioneers and those dreadful relatives of his, the Sackville-Bagginses.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of my all time favorites as a child and one of the few books I reread on a regular basis. Somehow I made it into adulthood thinking that the boy’s name was Alonzo, however. It’s definitely Almanzo.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This was a new one to me and I found it delightful. Filled with wordplay and much subtle humor while delivering timely lessons on the importance of learning and education.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. Our oldest loves to read and to be read to, but this book literally had him squealing with delight as Ralph rips through the hotel on his human friend’s toy motorcycle. We’re looking forward to the sequels.

Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All by Donald J. Sobol. A veritable Sherlock Holmes in tennis shoes. I loved these books as a kid and look forward to reading more of them to my kids in the years to come.

The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Earlier this year we finished reading aloud the full text of the Book of Mormon to our children (which probably took about a couple or so years of nightly reading), so we read through the Gospels, being the narrative account of Jesus’ mortal ministry. We’re currently working on the Acts of the Apostles. The King James Version deserves to be read aloud, its language is so rich and moving.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"Five reasons to visit Samoa with a teenager"

I never got to experience the author's reason number 4 . . .

But, heck, why not just send that teenager to the Samoan islands by himself as my parents did?

Here are three more reasons why teens + Samoa = Awesomeness:

6: Food

No visit the Samoan islands would be complete without Samoan food: koko, talo, ufi, fa'ausi, ma le fe'e, as the missionaries of yesteryear used to sing about. Based on root and tree crop staples, fish and shellfish, a few terrestrial animals -- primarily pigs and chickens, with a heavy use of coconut milk, Samoan food can't be beat for its healthfulness. The modern inclusion of refined flour and sugar, rice, and tinned and fried meats into the Samoan diet, though delicious, has taken its toll on Samoans' health and should be enjoyed with moderation. Can't make it to Samoa? Try your hand and making some Samoan food at home.

7: Language

As the Italian of the Pacific, as I once heard it called, Samoan proffers its learners a simpler grammar than that of English or any of the Romance languages (Italian included) but a depth and richness of cultural use requiring a lifetime of study and mastery. Want to win your way into the hearts of Samoans anywhere in the world? Learn their language!

8: Culture

Fa'asamoa, or the traditional Samoan way of life, is founded on the vafealoa'i, or relationships between members of society. Every Samoan has many relationships: family relationships, relationships within the village or ex-pat community, relationships within the Church, and so forth. And with any given relationship each member has rights and obligations to maintain the status of the relationship. Additionally, the way a Samoan comports himself or herself within his or her relationships will not only reflect on the individual Samoan but on the family, village, Church congregation, etc. The maintenance of each kind of relationship requires every Samoan to behave respectfully (fa'aaloalo) according to traditional etiquette and protocol, norms and mores. Thus, it has been observed that Samoans are a lot less individualistic and self-centered than Westerners tend to be, a lesson, no doubt, that many Western teenagers could benefit from learning.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Witnessing a traditional Pe'a (tattoo) done in Samoa"

The Huffington Post recently published a very interesting story of a Westerner who had the chance to watch the process of receiving a traditional Samoan tattoo.

Make sure to watch the video. Western tattoos are downright wimpy in comparison.

"Proverbial Expressions of the Samoans"

It was brought to my attention that the links to Schultz's Proverbial Expressions of the Samoans in a previous post weren't working.

My sincerest apologies! Ia lafo i nu'u le aina!

So I'm going to include the entire url for each of the entries in the Journal of the Polynesian Society so that at the very least you can copy and paste them into your web browser.

1949, Volume 58, No. 4, pp. 139-184

1950, Volume 59, No. 1, pp. 35-62

1950, Volume 59, No. 2, pp. 112-134

1950, Volume 59, No. 3, pp. 207-231

1951, Volume 60, No. 1, pp. 1-21

Let's hope these links endure. Aua e pala le ma'a, ae le pala le upu! Is that also true of the Internet?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book: Ecclesiastical History in Samoan

For a while there I was frequently searching through the books archived on Google Books for free full-text Samoan books. I found quite a few in Samoan and even more written about the islands from a variety of perspectives. Eventually, I hope to post links to all of them here. A number of them I've already posted in the Samoana II page which you can find at the top of the page.

But then I figured that I'd pretty much found them all. Not all that had ever been printed, of course -- there is a translation of Wallace's Ben Hur into Samoan that I'd like to get my hands on -- but all that Google had made available.

Just for old times' sake I decided to go on the search once again and my efforts were not in vain.

My latest find: O le Tala Saasaa i le Ekalesia a le Mesia (my translation: A Brief Account of the Church of the Messiah) by Rev. C. G. Barth, D.D. The translator or translators decided to remain anonymous.

It was printed at the LMS headquarters in Malua on the island of Upolu in 1860.

I haven't read beyond the first few pages, but judging by the table of contents it looks like an ecclesiastical history of the Christian faith.

I just can't say enough good things about the old LMS translators and printers. They produced so many quality works that I very much enjoy reading, the most important of all being, of course, their translation of the Samoan Bible.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Some meandering before I get to the point

Antonin Scalia, d. 13 February 2016

It's been a while since I last posted, the reasons for which I won't mention now but may in some future post or posts.

And I don't know how frequently I will post in the future, but hope to make it a more regular thing. We'll see. I can already say that with this post I'm doing better than I did in the entire year of 2015. Upward and onward!

Just a few thoughts for today:

I do not very much enjoy politics, though I do feel duty bound to try and keep up with at least some of the national political scene. It's nasty. It leaves a taste in my mouth worse than the skunk scent Jelly Belly jelly bean mixed with the rotten egg jelly bean (yes I've tasted both, though not at the exact same time, but in fairly rapid succession). I am not looking forward to this year's presidential campaign at all.

Is it coincidence that leap year and the summer Olympic games and the US presidential election all happen in the same year?

Speaking of the Olympics, and sports performance more generally: I recently listened to Mark McClusky's Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn From Them. As a student of the exercise sciences I'm sort of biased, but I really enjoyed it. I hope to have more to say about it in a future post. But if you like sports and science then you'll likely enjoy it too. It's a great companion to another book I've briefly reviewed here, The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein. Read them both.

Which brings me to my next point: We need more books like that.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying the following titles most recently and will likely make mention of others from the past year or so that deserve special mention:

Mere Humanity: G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition by Donald T. Williams. I've read some of all three authors' works, though admittedly I'm the least familiar with Chesterton apart from some of his Father Brown stories and his novel The Man Who Was Thursday. In Mere Humanity, Williams uses the works of Chesterton, Lewis, and Tolkien to answer the age-old questions What is Man? and What is the purpose of life on this Earth? He also addresses the challenges of modernism and post-modernism. Definitely worth checking out.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. I just finished reading this one for the first time to our older son and he loved it. I had piqued his interest by telling him it was one of my favorites when I was a boy -- I'm especially fond of the new Narnian soil's ability to grow a tree from anything planted in it: a lamp post from a piece of lamp, a toffee tree from a piece of toffee, and gold and silver trees from coins of the same metals -- and I sweetened the deal for him by promising to eat toffee with him  -- up till now I don't think he's ever had toffee -- when we got to the chapter with the toffee tree. Turns out both chapters 12 and 13 mention the toffee tree, in case you wanted to try the same approach with your own children.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg. It's one of the tragedies of my life that I stopped taking math classes after my junior year in high school, unless you count my two biostatistics courses in graduate school. But fortunately one needn't be a math whiz to understand -- and enjoy -- this book. (Admittedly, though, I was a little lost in the part where Ellenberg discusses the relationship between prime numbers and the natural logarithm. I don't know if it was because it was late at night when I was reading it and I was tired, or if it indeed went over my head.) Ellenberg's wit and humor and liberal use of real-word examples and interesting anecdotes bring his subject to life. It's well worth your time just to find out why you should ignore just about every news article discussing the latest study of diet and disease risks.

But let's get on to the real reason why I decided to write this post. And I hope that you're still with me.

I'm talking about the recent passing of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Antonin Scalia (May he rest in peace).

I'm definitely not going to get into any reasons why President Obama should or shouldn't make a nomination, or whether the Republican-dominated Senate should or shouldn't confirm the President's nomination should he make one.

What I will say is that if President Obama does decide to go ahead and nominate a new justice, which I believe is his constitutional right to do so as the chief executive (I don't think there's any confusion on that point, is there?), that he should nominate Thomas B. Griffith, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Here's the perfect opportunity for the President to show the nation -- and especially politicians -- that he retains a genuine interest in reaching across the aisle, so to speak, and play an active role in reducing the political polarization and incivility he recently spoke about.

The Supreme Court just lost its foremost conservative justice. Why not replace Justice Scalia with another conservative rather than jumping at the chance at tipping the balance toward the left just because the President can (assuming, of course, that the Senate went along with it). Admittedly, I'm assuming here that Judge Griffith leans conservative because of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the American membership of which, at least, is strongly conservative.

But assuming I'm right, that Judge Griffith is a conservative, then President Obama can actually have a two-for-one by simultaneously appointing a Mormon to the Supreme Court. It's never been done before (How historic! What a legacy!! What bipartisanshipfulness!!!) and Obama could make an important demonstration that he does indeed support members of minority religions who have faced significant persecution in the past in America and not just in a rhetorical sense.

It also doesn't hurt that back in 2005 then Senators Obama and Biden -- not to mention Senator Harry Reid (a Mormon Democrat from Nevada, yes they exist, and not just in Nevada) -- all voted to confirm Judge Griffith at his confirmation to his current post.

If you're wondering what kind of a Supreme Court Justice Griffith would be, you ought to read what he had to say to the Brigham Young University student body back in 2012. I think it's safe to say that he will be, like Justice Scalia, a close reader of the US Constitution and bring much honor to the Supreme Court.

Anyway, if any of you can forward this post to the President, I'd be much obliged. Vote Judge Griffith for the Supreme Court vacancy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"LDS General Conference Summaries & Videos"

Larry Richman, over at LDS Media Talk, has posted a thorough list of links to summaries and videos of all the General Conference talks that we listened to over this past weekend.

Even better, the full text, with video and audio, of every talk given is now available (in English, at least) online.