Saturday, January 31, 2015

Natural Sportsmanship (Little Kids Playing Basketball)

At Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver, where we teach our jujitsu classes on Friday nights, they have youth basketball leagues. They're all fun to watch, from the very youngest, who look like they're only 4 or 5 years old, to the middle-school kids.

Last night I watched some of the youngest kids playing. They're so cute it just about melts your heart.  It was the end of the fourth quarter, and the score was still 0 - 0. It was not surprising that no one had scored. The kids can barely dribble the ball, and rarely do their attempts at field goals even get halfway up to the basket.

For these young kids, the coaches play with the them. While the coach of the team in possession of the ball dribbles down slowly, he/she also directs the kids on the team to their offensive positions. The defensive coach comes down, too, reminding his kids of where to stand and how to guard.

The offensive coach passes the ball to whichever kid is in position and actually paying attention. The kid runs a few steps with the ball before remembering to dribble, double-dribbles, dribbles with both hands, drops the ball, and so on, eventually, sometimes, shoots wildly, and sometimes even remembers to pass to a teammate who's in a better position to shoot. 

But here's the best thing ever, last night: When a little boy on the purple team fell down and dropped the ball, a little boy on the blue team picked it up and, instead of dribbling away with it or passing it to his coach to dribble back down to the other end of the court, he gave it back to the kid who had lost it. The first kid said, "Thanks." and the other kid went back to guarding him. The kid with the ball took a shot, which missed by a mile. The game went on.

And everybody --- the other little kids, the coaches, and the parents --- all smiled and clapped for both little boys as if that's the way it's supposed to go.

I'm not saying that's the way to play basketball, and I'm sure the blue coach will tell his kids at their next practice, "When someone on the other team loses the ball, give it to me!"

But it's definitely the way to play life, which of course is why we teach kids to play basketball.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Who Wants to Take Up Archery Now?

Lars Andersen shows that archery isn't that totally boring sport you thought it was from high school P.E. and Boy Scout summer camp:

Sunday, January 25, 2015

How to Make an Important Decision

Lately, Jason and I have been reading excerpts from books by church leaders. We do this just before bedtime every evening. Generally I am the one who reads aloud for both of us. We've found this to be a great way to get ready for bed, inspiring and uplifting.

Last night I read to him the account by Pres. Thomas S. Monson of how he enlisted in the navy toward the end of WWII. Actually, the point of the story is that he did NOT enlist in the navy, but in the navy reserves.  Here's the story, from the church's "Supplement to Presidents of the Church Teacher Manual":

“My mind goes back to a day when I was approaching my eighteenth birthday.

We were all very fearful. World War II was still being fought, and every young man knew that he had to make a choice. There was not much latitude to the choice: he could choose to go into the army or he could choose to go into the navy. I enlisted in the navy.

“As forty-four of us young men stood there in the recruiting office, I shall never forget the chief petty officers coming up to us and presenting a choice. They said, ‘Now, you young men must make an important choice. On one hand, you can be wise and choose to join the regular navy. You can enlist for four years. You will receive the finest schooling. You will be given every opportunity because the navy looks upon you as its own. If you choose not to follow this direction, you can go into the naval reserves. The navy does not have paramount interest in the naval reserves at this stage of the war. You will receive no schooling. You will be sent out to sea duty. No one knows what your future might be.’

“Then they asked us to sign on the dotted line. I turned to my father and said, ‘What should I do, Dad?’

“In a voice choked with emotion, he replied, ‘I don’t know anything about the navy.’

“That was the position of every father who was there that day.

“Forty-two of the forty-four enlisted in the regular navy for four years. The forty-third one could not pass the regular navy physical, so he had to enlist in the reserves. Then they came to me; and I confess that with all the faith I could muster I sent a prayer heavenward, earnestly hoping that the Lord would answer it. And he did. The thought came to me just as clearly as though I had heard a voice, ‘Ask those chief petty officers which they chose.’

“I asked each of those veteran petty officers: ‘Did you choose the regular navy, or did you choose the reserves?’

“Each of them had chosen the reserves.

“I turned and said, ‘With all the wisdom and experience that you have, I want to be on your side.’

“I chose the reserves, which meant that I enlisted for the duration of the war, plus six months. The war ended, and within a year I was honorably discharged from the service. I was able to continue my schooling. I had the privilege of serving in many Church capacities. Who knows how the course of my life might have been changed had I not taken that moment to call in faith upon my Heavenly Father for guidance and direction in what might appear to some to be a minor decision!”

Here's a story about standing alone during Navy Boot Camp and how when we choose to stand alone we are never really alone:

Finally (for now), here's a story about how Pres. Monson turned down a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserves which he had studied and worked hard to receive.

I'm sharing these stories here because they are such good examples of how to act when our faith is tested, when we're not sure how to stand alone, or how to make a decision that seems to put us in conflict with authority figures.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Trees in Wind

Driving along the south side of the river, with my phone camera

Monday, January 19, 2015

You're Finally Safe From Shia LaBoeuf

Just watch. I promise you'll get a huge kick out of it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Making of Portal: No Escape

A view of the kinds of special effects, without a lot of talking---actually, without any talking. As good as the short movie itself. Maybe better, because it increases my admiration of the people who did it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hazardous Materials in Cigarettes? Is This Some Kind of Joke?

I recently found an article in my Sunday paper from the NY Times News Service with the headline, "Hazardous materials found in Chinese-made e-cigarettes," which made me laugh.

Your lungs on cigarettes                                                                      Your lungs on e-cigarettes

Here's a related NY Times News Serivce article about safety problems with e-cigarettes  (I can't find the original online). The problem --- well, one problem --- is apparently that "... Chinese companies were the first to develop e-cigarettes, and that happened in a regulatory void." And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't quite gotten around to regulating e-cigarettes.

One of the toxins in the e-cigarettes is diethylene glycol --- antifreeze. More from the article: 
“We’ve found on the order of 25 or 26 different elements, including metals, in the e-cigarette aerosols,” says Prue Talbot, a professor of cell biology at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of several of the studies. “Some of the metal particles are less than 100 nanometers in diameter, and those are a concern because they can penetrate deep into the lungs.”

Health advocates say they are troubled by a history of food and drug safety scandals in China, such as when manufacturers substituted diethylene glycol, an industrial solvent, for the sweetener glycerin when making toothpastes and cough medicine. That led to reports of more than 350 deaths in Panama, China and other countries in 2006 alone.

And here's what the American Cancer Society says about e-cigarettes, among other things:

A study done by the FDA found cancer-causing substances in half the e-cigarette samples tested. Other impurities were also found, including one sample with diethylene glycol, a toxic ingredient found in antifreeze.

Studies have shown that e-cigarettes can cause short-term lung changes that are much like those caused by regular cigarettes. But long-term health effects are still unclear. This is an active area of research, but the safety of these products is currently unknown.
Did you catch that additional reference to diethylene glycol? Hmmm.

Here's my suggestion for how to solve this problem, at least on the personal level:

Stop smoking any and every kind of cigarette....

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bird Die-off Along Pacific Coast --- Why?

When we were at Cannon Beach last week, Jason and I found more than 30 dead sea-birds along the beach. It was heart-breaking. Most of them were Cassin's auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus). I took some photos but I'm not posting them, because they're so sad.

Cassin's Auklet (Feet are beautiful blue, which doesn't show well in this picture)
We had a hard time figuring out what these birds were. For one thing, they have blue feet (which unfortunately don't show up well in any of the photos I found online). For another thing, they're usually not found on Washington and Oregon beaches, because they are pelagic---they spend most of their lives way off shore, coming to shore only during breeding season, when they build their nests in holes and burrows on offshore islands.

The ones we saw on our 1-mile stretch of beach are part of a huge die-off of seabirds this year. 

This article explains why so many of these birds are dying and being washed up to shore, and it's related to global warming. Another article explains more about this bird's natural history and the recent die-offs.

Here are some of the details: The Pacific Ocean off of North America's coast has warmed to historic levels because of changes in wind patterns last fall (2014). Thus, in October, when temperatures would ordinarily have been in the high 50s or low 60s along Monterey and the Farallons, they were 65 degrees off the Farallon Islands.

The winds aren't pushing away warm surface water so cold water can rise up, so krill and other zooplankton (the only food the auklets eat while at sea) aren't coming up where these sea birds can eat them. This is not just a hypothesis: research tests in September detected fewer zooplankton than in past years.

For more about the life cycle of the Cassin's auklet, check the Wikipedia page. Here are some bits from that page: 

The Cassin's auklet is a small (25 cm, 200 g) nondescript auk. Its plumage is generally dark above and pale below, with a small white mark above the eye. Its bill is overall dark with a pale spot, and its feet are blue. Unlike many other auks the Cassin's auklet lacks dramatic breeding plumage, remaining the same over most of the year. At sea it is usually identified by its flight, which is described as looking like a flying tennis ball. The Cassin's auklet ranges from midway up the Baja California peninsula to Alaska's Aleutian Islands, off North America. It nests on offshore islands, with the main population stronghold being Triangle Island off Vancouver Island's Cape Scott, where the population is estimated to be around 550,000 pairs. It is not known to be migratory, however northern birds may move farther south during the winter.

The Cassin's auklet nests in burrows on small islands, and in the southern area of its range may be found in the breeding colony year round. It either digs holes in the soil or uses natural cracks and crevices to nest in, also readily using man-made structures. Pairs will show a strong loyalty towards each other and to a nesting site for many years. Both the parents incubate the single white egg, returning to swap shifts at night (usually after 2300 h) to avoid being taken by predators such as the western gull or peregrine falcon. They also depart from the colony before dawn. The egg is incubated for 40 days, the small chick is then fed nightly for 35 days by both parents, who regurgitate partially digested food (euphausiids and other small crustaceans) carried in a special gular pouch, often referred to in the literature as a sublingual pouch. The chick fledges alone and makes its way to the sea. The Cassin's auklet is unusual amongst seabirds in occasionally laying a second clutch after a successful first clutch (it is the only northern hemisphere seabird to do so).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Portal: No Escape

Another fascinating short live-action film:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Making of the "Miss Peregrine" Book Trailer

Fascinating to see how the author made the "book trailer" to get the word out about his novel:

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (Book Trailer)

The author of the novel made this "book trailer" himself, to promote the book. It seems to have worked! --- because now the movie is being made (or has been made? --- it's due to be released in the U.S. on 4 March 2015.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Porcelain Unicorn

Great viewing for a Sunday morning!

You can see why this short film won the grand prize at the 2010 Philips Parallel Lines 'Tell It Your Way" international competition (out of more than 2,000 submissions). And you can see why it has had 708,970 views, and counting, on YouTube.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NASA Commercial

....and an ad for the movie "Interstellar":

Friday, January 9, 2015

Highlining as a Metaphor for Living

Yesterday as I was waiting in my car somewhere, I heard a BBC World Service interview with an amazing Brazilian, Caio Salomao, who is a highliner: He walks on 2.5-cm-wide webbing across chasms like those in these photos. If you go here, you can listen to the interview yourself.

It's all completely fascinating --- the man, the sport, and his philosophy. He started with slack-lining, and eventually moved on to highlining, which is like slack-lining, but instead of a couple of feet above the ground, it's way high up.

My favorite part, the metaphor part, is when the interviewer says, "It looks absolutely terrifying. What on earth is the attraction? It seems as though you might be really frightened doing something like that."

And Mr. Salomao* replies:

"Yes, it is terrifying, and I feel very much afraid. But it's a mental exercise. You train a lot on the ground, and when you go to high altitudes, it's no different. And I do have great fear of heights. But there are tricks to help you control yourself. I look ahead. I focus on some specific point. I never look down...."

I'm thinking the name "Salomao" must be the Portuguese of Solomon, and this man seems to be as wise as that great king.

(And if you'd like to start this yourself, here's where you can find out more about it, and here's where you can buy some webbing. I'm not quite ready yet even for the slacklining. But I did get a unicycle for Christmas, which I'll be practicing on as soon as possible.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cannon Beach

Finally, yesterday we had a chance to go to the beach: Cannon Beach, of course:

An amazingly beautiful day!
(Yes, Ellen, you guessed right about little Samuel. I promise I'll send an email to the family about all that, soon. Meanwhile, I'm posting more at Madame L's blog lately: usually slightly less personal items, more about science and religion, etc.)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Two Babies, Two Fates: What's Fair About That?

Little Samuel joined the rest of his excited and loving family last Saturday, December 27. In this early photo, it looks like he's saying, "Hey, can't you turn off those bright lights and let me go back so sleep? I've just been doing some really hard work, and I'm tired." Samuel's parents are providing the very best care for him. He can be tired, get hungry, cry, smile, and laugh, and eventually grow up to be an amazing person because of the love and care that surround him.

Meanwhile, a couple about 765 miles to the west of Samuel's birthplace was in court trying to explain why they shouldn't go to jail for the rest of their lives for letting their own newborn baby die.

Both parents are meth addicts, the mother so addicted that the baby was born addicted. The mother and father delivered the baby themselves so they wouldn't have to go to the hospital, afraid the baby would be taken from them if they went there. The parents used ".... a clip from a bag of chips to cut the umbilical cord and later a metal hair clip to hold the baby's bellybutton in place," according to news accounts. 

In her short (12-hour-long) life, the baby girl was carried around a Portland neighborhood by her parents while they stopped by a couple of convenience stores, a Dollar Store (where they bought a baby bottle), and a Safeway, before they went to a friend's house. When the parents realized the baby was in distress, the mother put the baby's head under water "to try to revive it" and the father wandered around looking for a mirror so he could see if the baby was breathing. Finally someone called 911.

The parents were correct to be worried that the state would take their baby away from them. This baby was the mother's sixth child; all her previous children had been taken from her because of her long-term drug use.

I'm writing about this not to work anyone up into tears for this poor baby or outrage toward her unfit parents (though if you feel that way, join the crowd), but to discuss the question of God's fairness.

Some people seem to think the fact that there are incompetent parents, abused children, bullies at school, banks that cheat their customers in order to make big bucks for themselves, countries that mistreat their own people and start conflicts with other countries, and in fact any kind of unfairness or suffering in the world means that there is no God, or that there is something "wrong" with Him.

But clearly our Heavenly Father lets people do the horrible things they/we often do, hurting ourselves and the people around us, even killing each other, not because He is insufficient as a God, or incompetent, or uncaring.

God lets us make these mistakes, and do the many good and kind things we do, because He wants us to learn from our own experiences. If He made everything perfect and easy, how would we advance in knowledge? 

So I cried when I read the newspaper account of the little baby, sixth child born to a meth-addicted mom, who died because her drug-addled parents were incapable of caring for her. But I didn't blame God.

(That's all for now. I'll be writing more about this soon.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015