Monday, August 17, 2009

Hey This Makes Sense, Islam Extremists and Terrorism

So I just finished reading a book called “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman. I have had a bookmark in it for two years but have just recently actually been reading it. For those who are not familiar with the book, the claim that the world is flat has little to do with physical shape of the earth, but with how technology and free-trade have enabled various peoples to play on a level playing ground.

Anyways toward of the book the author acknowledging that the world is not totally “flat”. That there are parts of the world that are somewhat disconnected and are “un-flat”. One of these is within the Islamic-Arab nations. I have never understood exactly why there are Muslim terrorists, and I suppose it had always caused some confusion. Why would these people what to cause terror? I had heard that they did not agree with our lifestyle and this was their way to fight against it. At the same time there are a lot of people whom I come in disagreement with their lifestyle, and my last thought would be it causes them to experience terror as an alternative. Why is it that the radical extremists of Islam would actually go against the charitable, loving aspects of their religion to terrorize others?

Thomas Friedman explains that it is because of a “cognitive dissonance” that takes place. I guess a cognitive dissonance is what happens when someone holds to two contradictory views. In my world religions class I was taught that many Muslims believe that Islam is the correct and best way of life and that following it correctly will lead to not only to spiritual well-being but also temporal prosperity. I understand they believe that Islam is the way this should be done and that eventually everyone will follow Islamic principles. The contradiction comes into play when young Muslims visit western culture and see prosperity and contrasts that to the poverty of those whom they just came from.

Mr. Friedman writes of Arab-Muslim young people:

“They have been raised to believe that Islam is the most Perfect and complete expression of God’s Monotheistic message and that the Prophet Muhammad is God’s last and most perfect messenger. This is not a criticism. This is Islam’s self identity. Yet in a flat world, these youth, particularly those living in Europe, can and do look around and see that the Arab-Muslim world, in too many cases, has fallen behind the rest of the planet. It is not living as prosperously or democratically as other civilizations. How can that be? These young Arabs and Muslims must ask themselves. If we have the superior faith, and if our faith is all encompassing of religion, politics, and economics, why are others living so much better”?

He continued: “Indeed, talk to Arabs and Muslims anywhere, and this cognitive dissonance and the word ‘humiliation’ always comes up very quickly in conversation…It has always been my view that terrorism is not spawned by the poverty of money. It is spawned by the poverty of dignity. Humiliation is the most underestimated force in international relations and human relations. It is when people or nations are humiliated that they really lash out and engage in extreme violence. When you take the economic and political backwardness of much of the Arab Muslim world today, add its past grandeur and self-image of religious superiority and combine it with discrimination and alienation these Arab-Muslim males face when they leave home and move to Europe, or when they grow up in Europe, you have one powerful cocktail of rage.”

Obviously nobody knows what exactly makes terrorists do what they do, but this is an explanation that at least made sense to me. Who knows if it is correct.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Better Way

When I got my personality it included a desire to analyze everything. My mom has told of how when I was younger I would sit and play with a single toy for hours on end. I am sure the time I spent seemed much longer around my older brother who at the time never sat still. This analytical perspective of mine translated in a less pleasant way later in my life. I have often analyzed the imperfect details of someone’s actions or words only to lose sight of the broader picture. This has in past lead to prolonged arguments that did not produce the desired results of any participant.

As time has passed I have found a much more effective way to come to conclusions includes paying attention more to the other persons motives and desires than what they are actually saying. I often see conflicts arise around me where all parties are making arguments that really just distract from the issue. I recently read of one example of this.

With the advent of Napster, and the following of many other file sharing applications, budget conscious music listeners turned to this new alternative to get music. The only problem was that those who where sharing their music had not been given permission to do so by the intellectual property owners. Naturally many of those property owners went to the courts to penalize those sharing the content. This turned into a publicity nightmare for the music industry with stories spreading such as that of a young girl who had made her music available on her computer and was fined millions of dollars. Even with the many legal battles that sought to make example a handful of those sharing their files there was little affect on the illegal distribution of music.

Moving forward a few years we have the New York Times reporting the trend finally reversing and the reason has little to do with legalities:

In June, two British research agencies, MusicAlly and The Leading Question, generated a wave of headlines in the tech press after reporting that the percentage of 14- to 18-year-olds using file-sharing services at least once a month dropped to 26 percent in January 2009 from 42 percent in December 2007.

Similarly, a survey by the NPD Group in the United States this spring found that teenagers aged 13 to 17 illegally downloaded 6 percent fewer tracks in 2008 than in 2007, while more than half said they were now listening to legal online radio services like Pandora, up from 34 percent the year before.

The reason is that now there are alternatives that meet what the consumers wanted in the first place. We now have ad supported online music services like Pandora and slacker radio that let you tell them exactly what you do and do not want to hear. These services often provide what people want better than the download networks and they are legal.

What the music companies were hearing before from downloader’s was “I am taking your music, because I can” but if they would have listened a little more carefully they would have heard “I want to get music quick and free over the internet and I really don’t mind ads on web pages if that is what it takes.” My point here is that the music industry could have simply listened to what the consumers actual desires were and come to a solution in a much less painful way.

This is similar to what I eventually realized as a missionary about what some people were saying to me. We would often me dismissed for reasons that defied all sensible thinking. After some experience I found what they actually were saying was often “I have gone to the same church my entire life, I may not agree with everything that goes on there but all of my family and friends go there and that is all I care about.” This certainly elicited a different response on my behalf.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I want to be a waiter

So I can’t sleep, I need to sleep because I have to wake up in 5.5 hours, but my body just does not seem to get that. As a result I am going to write a blog post instead of lying in bed wishing my roommates would stop singing in the living room (oh yes my roommates do sing, they are actually generally good at it, they just need to do it during the day).

So I think being a waiter would be a blast. Like the type that bring you drinks and food at a restaurant. It would be fun to manage a few tables and make sure everyone is happy. I think I would get very good at reading people for how much I should interact with them. I would love to keep straight all the meals. It would be exciting to deal with the problems that arise from messed up orders. Having a lot of things to coordinate just sounds so fun to me.

Now I am torn because while that sounds so fun to be it does not really fit in with what I want to do with my life. My plans consist of school and internships. I sort of feel like any time not spent doing those things is simply delaying the start of my career, and thus delaying a major increase in earning capacity. For example the only scenario in which I see a chance in me getting to be a waiter is if I were to get an internship where my parents live that only allows me to work 40 hours a week. I could see myself working during the day as an engineering intern and then waiting tables at night. Here's the problems with this plan. Instead of being a waiter I could take online classes and be that much closer to graduating (closer to that whole career thing I was talking about). Also working 60 hours a week would likely negate part of the purpose of getting an internship near home, which would be to spend time with my little brothers (not so little anymore) that I have not seen much in the last few years.

So it just does not seem like being a waiter will ever really fit into my plans. I am just too practical and focused. Maybe the economy will get even worse I won’t be able to get a job as an engineer, a waiter or even the other job that sounds really fun to me, being a salesman at bestbuy . I suppose I should simply be grateful for the opportunities I do receive.

Oh did I mention I think I would be a good waiter?

Monday, November 3, 2008


So tomorrow is the big day. I’ve sent in my absentee ballot. I’ve made a ton of phone calls. Now I am writing on my blog.

My favorite phone calls about Prop 8 were the ones where when I asked them how they were voting they would say, “Oh I am definitely voting yes, my granddaughter is a lesbian and we support her in all that we do.” Then I would respond “well that is great!”  There were those other ones. I would politely ask if they were going to vote yes on prop 8 and they would get really mad. As they talked about rights I would get all excited and would want to tell them why they were wrong, but what I eventually learned on my mission would kick in and I would simply respond, “Well have a nice day”.

It seems to me the most common reason given against Prop 8 is to allow equal rights. This frustrates me because I don’t see this having anything to do with allowing rights to homosexual couples. Every homosexual couple has access to any and all rights afforded to those who are married under a civil union. This is about forcing social acceptance.

Rights is a word that is just thrown around way to often for me. I don’t know how many people this is common knowledge for but, the Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the constitution. Meaning they were not in the original constitution but were added after the the document was complete. The reason why they were not originally included was not because the founders had forgotten about them, preserving rights was at the forefront of there mind. They did not want to include a list of rights because they were afraid that if they were to enumerate (specify) rights then it would be assumed that rights would be constrained to those listed. On the other hand they wanted to limit the government itself. From this bit of history we understand that there is no finite list of rights afforded to persons as far as the founders were concerned. So then the question arises were do ones rights end, for surely people do not have the right to do certain things(i.e. killing, stealing, ect…).  From phrases in the constitution like that which says we have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness “, I come to the following conclusion. That my rights end were someone else’s begin. For example: I may have the right to free speech, but I do not have the right to an audience.

It may appear that what I have just written would be against Prop 8, but it is just the contrary. Let’s examine this “right to marry”. As far as the government is concerned marriage is a legal contract between two individuals that awards them certain benefits and places certain obligations upon those two individuals. Some of these benefits are only applicable to those who are able to independently bear children. What has already happened is that the government in California has awarded all those same contractual obligations and benefits to civil unions despite the lack of applicability of many of those rights and obligations, opposed to hand picking what is applicable and what is not. As a result as far as those two individuals are concerned they have the same rights. So why does it appear in some instances that these unions are not equally regarded? Because organizations independent of the actual contract choose to regard these contracts differently, by choice. By including homosexual unions under the umbrella of marriage this no longer permits organizations the right to treat these two different contracts as different, when they technically are. So whose rights are under attack?

As a disclaimer I would like to note that all day I study, physics, math, structural analysis, and other things, but never political science. As a result the statements and claims previously mentioned are not cited and supported the way in which I would prefer. It also is not an exhaustive discussion of why I feel prop 8 needs to pass it is just part of one aspect of how I see things.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


So I wanted to say something about Prop 8, but I suppose I have to at least address why I haven’t  followed up on what I said last time. I had no idea agreeing with Barak Obama on one issue would bring so much familial controversy. I was afraid of what would happen if I actually said what I agreed with him on.  So just to set the record straight I would like to say why I support John McCain. It actually has more to do with fundamentally disagreeing with Barak Obama than really liking John McCain.

Obama is liberal, very liberal. He believes in big government and lots of government spending, I don’t. I believe government’s role is to perform tasks for the people that could not be performed individually as effectively. For example, I want the road to my home to be maintained. Certainly not badly enough to rent a machine and crew to resurface the pavement myself. Thus it is the government’s responsibility to see to it that the road is improved so that all that benefit from it can contribute to its improvement. It is similar in items such as law enforcement and national security. Then comes the problem. Individuals in the government do not own that which they care for.  As a result some become careless and are not concerned for the performance of what they are responsible for, rather their own personal convenience and comfort(Note: I said some not all). In contrast when an individual who owns a business they are deeply concerned with the performance of that business, because it is their performance that determines there quality of life. If they perform they make money, if they don’t, well then they don’t make money. So I want government to only perform the essentials, and leave the rest to private owners.

Now it is the government’s responsibility to regulate commerce, which is a fine line to walk. Too much regulation and it’s tough for people to get their business done and too little  regulation and you get our current financial crisis.

Barak Obama has said that he wants to “invest in Americas families”, this is actually a code for he wants to increase government spending. He doesn’t want to invest his money he wants to invest my money( I can actually say that now that I have seen a good chunk of my check going to taxes).  And you now I would rather keep more of my check and invest it myself. John McCain has said he will balance the budget. I don’t think he will (especially with a congress like the one we have now) but at least he wants to. Obama doesn’t even want to try. So with increased government spending that requires that money to come from somewhere eventually. If it is not in increased taxes now it will be in the future, so that means we are only taking a loan out from future generations, which sounds rather irresponsible to me.

Wow am I exhausted… and that was just one issue. I know there is a lot more to that issue than can be said in a couple paragraphs and there are a lot more issues than government spending. Maybe I will talk about other issues later, we will see what the reaction is to this. Please remember I may insinuate something unintentionally, so don’t get to excited if I say something you don’t agree with.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Most of you wont like this post, sorry

Well it is my bedtime pretty soon but I just wanted to say a few things before I forget them and go another couple of months without updating my blog. Firstly, I would like to explain why I haven’t been updating my blog very often. It is most certainly rooted in the fact that I don’t exactly lead the life that inspires interesting things to write about, or that provides much extra time. I work at an engineering firm and I tend to plan on working about 11 hours a day. Some days like today and yesterday I get busy and lose track of time and end up working closer to 13 hours. I really need to work less and work on my independent study class, but oddly enough I don’t make very much money studying statistics so it is hard to make time for that. Actually I just got a threat from the Civil Engineering department that if I don’t finish that class by Aug 14th then they will drop me from my class that I am registered for that requires statistics.

Well anyways, one thing that I would enjoy writing about is the upcoming presidential election. I can’t say I can think of any readers of my blog that are terribly interested in my political opinions, I think most of them are just reading with the thought that if actually do go on a date, I may mention it here (ie Mom, Maria, Katie, Whitney). So with the risk of loosing my entire readership, I am planning on writing about the one area that I actually agree with Barak Obama nearly 100 percent on, and I am pretty excited about it to be perfectly honest.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

So what do you do for fun? - Fly Kites

I have been so envious lately of the people I see flying kites. My dad always had a hobby or two that he would get really into, one of which was kite flying. Now I am not talking about your typical kite that you buy at Wal-mart. My Dad has hundreds of two and four string kites. At first I wasn't that interested in kite flying myself, I was perfectly content getting my little one string parachute kite in the air and then watch my dad with all his tricks. I eventually graduated to the two string kites. Figuring out how to control the kite was really hard for a long while. My Dad would get those kites in the air with ease, but for me it was a different story. When I would finally get the kite in the air I wanted to do all the cool tricks my dad could do. And I did some pretty cool tricks myself only after the kite would flip around really cool the trick would end by the kite zooming to the ground. My dad got pretty good a fixing kites.
My Freshman year of college I brought some kites to school with me. The couple of times it wasn't freezing cold and I was able to tear myself away from the library I had a lot of fun flying those kites. When I went on my mission those kites rejoined my fathers collection, and in the 30 seconds I have been at my house since I haven't thought to grab some kites. The absence of having kites has made me so sad the couple of windy days that I had some spare time. I am ashamed to admit even a one string kite has caused me to experience jealous. But the jealousy is soon to be reversed
I just asked my mom do bring me some kites with her when she comes up for Women's Conference and I cant wait for a windy Saturday to come, it is going to be great.
Then when people ask me (like my new roommates just did) “what do you do for fun”? I can answer “fly kites”, of course with a subsequent explanation of the difference between one and two string kites.