Sunday, October 30, 2011

First Time Repelling

I am surrounded by rocks. I live in a valley of the Rocky Mountains, just north of red rock desert.  A co-worker pointed out once that personality tests measuring impulsivity, based on questions like whether you had tried so-called “extreme sports” don’t work too well in Utah because everyone here does those things. With so many rocks and mountains around, almost everyone here has thrust themselves off of one or two in a few different ways.

But there are exceptions.  I have met people who have lived here their whole lives without ever even skiing. Fortunately, I have had many opportunities to ski.  Still, I had never tried repelling—at least, not on a real mountain instead of a gym climbing wall.

I recently remedied that. We went to Pete’s Rock, a 110 foot cliff located right where urban Salt Lake City meets Mount Olympus. Since I like to stay alive, we went with professional trainers.

It actually wasn’t too scary, because you repel down with your back toward the ground, so you can’t see exactly how high up you are. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kindergarten: The Year in Pictures

My daughter's kindergarten teacher sent all the parents a CD of pictures from class. How cool is that?

















Kind of flattering that she made a picture of me--most of the kids made toys and animals and flowers

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pioneer Theater Now Free (with the purchase of a few thousand dollars tuition)

Last year, my husband and I agreed that we would each plan a date about once a month, so we would have two dates a month.  Shortly after we made this agreement, he bought us season passes to Pioneer Theater, thus planning almost all of his monthly dates in one swoop.  Since I love theater, I didn't mind at all that he took such an easy route.

We considered buying season tickets again this year but we didn't have to!  My husband is still doing his dissertation and this year the University of Utah made a new policy making all university arts performances free to students, all Kingsbury Hall performances only $5 for students, and Pioneer Theater performances are free to students plus one guest!  Woo hoo!

The first play of the season was Next to Normal, a musical I had never seen before.  I've seen a lot of musicals, because I am a nerd that way, but even when I do see a musical I haven't seen before, I usually recognize a lot of the music because I am a nerd who listens to show tunes.  All of the music from Next to Normal was new to me.  That was kind of fun.  And it was a fascinating plot, too.  It is about a woman with bipolar disorder and the play was shown from her perspective, so you see what she is seeing.  Very cool.

Biking in a Skirt

Missionary Biking Attire
For about a year and a half, I regularly went mountain biking while wearing a skirt.  Why would I wear such an inappropriate costume for biking?  I was a Mormon missionary.

Modesty was a problem for me during my missionary days. Skirts flap around Marilyn Monroe-style on a bike.

Skirt damage was another issue. I shopped for skirts carefully: not so straight that I couldn’t pedal, but not so wide that the fabric would get caught in the gears—at least, not usually. Eventually, there would come the day when I would hit a pothole and my skirt would fly into the gears anyway, which would shred it to pieces or hopelessly stain it with oil.

To avoid exposing myself or destroying my clothes, sometimes I applied the adult diaper method to my skirts, wrapping them around my legs and pinning them. I’ll bet that was the dignified look Church Headquarters was going for when they set up the dress code. Anyhow, it wasn’t a full-proof solution.

I never wanted to give up my missionary bike. Bikes are good for missionary work; they get you from place to place faster than walking but keep you outdoors where you can meet people. As a bonus, biking creates a refreshing breeze that feels so good when the weather is hot.

However, bikes and skirts are clearly a bad combination, so what is a woman to do? Fortunately, just recently (in the late 1800′s), our foremothers discovered a brilliant new technology to address this problem: ladies’ pants.

Hurray! With pants, a woman can look modest, professional and even conservative, yet she can ride her bike with ease. We should get some of these wonder garments for our beloved sister missionaries.

As an added bonus, dressing sister missionaries in pants would help clear up the common misconception that Mormonism is a repressive fundamentalist sect that requires women to wear dresses all the time. We Mormons have plenty of real female repression issues; we don’t need to advertise others that don’t exist.
But isn’t there some sort of commandment about how missionaries must wear dresses? Wouldn’t it require a revelation from God to change the missionary dress code?

In Doctrine and Covenants 42:6 we read: “And ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, whilst wearing pretty skirts.”

Just kidding. There actually isn’t any doctrinal mandate that requires missionaries to wear skirts. (I bet you elders are relieved. Most of you wouldn’t look good in skirts.)

It appears that God decided to let us use some agency on this one…or common sense.

What would it take for common sense to prevail over the missionary dress code?  Perhaps Church Headquarters just needs an opportunity to walk a mile in a sister missionary’s shoes, or rather, bike a mile in a sister missionary’s skirt.  There are some beautiful biking trails in the foothills surrounding Church Headquarters.  I would invite everyone there, especially the brethren, to put on a skirt and go for a bike ride.

When you get back, let’s chat about the missionary dress code.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Utah Republican Leadership Hates Democracy

One might look at the title of my post and say, "That is just a resentful, whiny insult from a Utah Democrat."  Yes, it is both resentful and whiny, no doubt in reflection of my current mood. However, Utah Republicans themselves first declared their hatred for democracy.  Earlier this year, the Republican majority legislatively micromanaged Utah school curricula, requiring schools to indoctrinate children by teaching them that our country is a "republic," and not a "democracy." (In their defense, they did not go so far as forbidding former American presidents from using the D-word, so people like George W. Bush, whose rhetoric indicates that he is under the impression that we live in a democracy and that he believes that is a good thing, can feel free to continue to say so.)

Still, actions say more than words.  Are Utah Republicans doing anything now to demonstrate the disdain for democracy they bragged about while passing that ridiculous bill?  Merriam Webster defines democracy as, "government by the people, especially rule of the majority."

The majority of Utahns, about 3/4 of us, live in urban areas.  However, Utah Republican leadership has proposed a redistricting plan that makes urban Utah residents a minority in every district except one.  They say they are doing this to ensure that all Congresspersons consider rural issues.  "Rural" is simply code for "Republican," because rural Utah consistently votes Republican.  Only urban Salt Lake County, which is chopped into 3 different districts by the proposed map, has competitive races occasionally won by Democrats instead of Republicans.

In spite of all the talk about the importance of including rural areas in all districts, they did make one all-urban district.  It is dominated by Utah County, where Republicans are safe.

Are Republicans in Utah county really the only urban Utahns who deserve representation?  It is obvious that the need to keep rural Utahns dominant in all other districts is an effort to make sure urban Utahns, the majority of our state population, are ruled by rural, Republican Utahns. That is rule of the minority, which is clearly not democracy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shortest Trip Ever to D.C./Baltimore

I went to Maryland last week for one whole night. I spent many, many hours on airplanes and trains and about eight at a dull business meeting.
I had one evening for free time. I used it to meet up with some blogging friends in person.  We had dinner at a restaurant that had the best brussels sprouts in the world.  I was pretty skeptical about even ordering brussels sprouts. I told my friend that I had no idea how our hunter/gatherer ancestors ever recognized brussels sprouts as food, forgetting that she happens to be a medical anthropologist who knew many worse "foods" consumed by hunter/gatherers. So I tried the brussels sprouts and they were amazing. 

My daughter asked me to send her a picture from my trip.  It was so foggy that day that I couldn't capture anything with my phone camera but this stupid picture of the inside of my hotel room.  Outdoor photos came out all white. If any of you have ever seen the U.S. Capital Building, just picture what it looked like the last time you saw it, add a bunch of fog to your mental picture, and you'll be looking at what I saw. It still looks the same as every other time I have seen it.

I love the big, fluffy beds and the pretty lobbies at these fancy conference hotels but otherwise, I find this kind of hotel a bit exasperating.  I would never stay at one of these hotels for personal travel.  I don't understand why hotels with such higher-than-average room prices find it necessary to nickle and dime guests for every little thing. Outrageous fees for local phone calls and continental breakfasts and wi-fi annoy me.  That stuff is all included in the much lower price of a night's stay at an economy hotel.