Friday, August 29, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin

Talk about getting perspective in unusual ways. Who would have thought that the Republican vice-presidential pick would help me understand of some of the Barack Obama phenomenon?

I've never been able to identify very closely with the personal histories of presidential candidates. I may agree or disagree with their policies, but the biographies have never really moved me to vote one way or another--or even consider it. I've never felt any connection with Hillary Clinton--a woman, a mother--perhaps because she was defined for me during the Clinton presidency, perhaps because she's older than my mother, perhaps because her daughter is older than me.

So I've often looked down on "identity" politics--the idea that because Hillary Clinton is a woman, or Barack Obama is black, then someone would give them a more favorable look in an election. I make my choices based on actual ideas, not superficial things.

Well. John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate has forced me to change my snooty attitude a bit. When I heard it was to be Governor Palin, I got all excited. (I haven't been excited for anything McCain-related for weeks and weeks.) A mom! Someone I can really relate to! Gov. Palin is older than me, but only by a decade or so. She has five children (I have three and three-quarters), her youngest is a baby (ditto me, see also three-quarters), and she is dealing with one child with a disability (ditto me too!). She's not rich (her husband is a commercial fisherman), and she's from a small (population and political) Western state like me (Alaska vs Nevada).

(Of course, she also is the governor, politically savvy, tough-as-nails (apparently), has teenage children, and a son ready to deploy to Iraq. So obviously we are not twins separated at birth.)

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in voting for issues, not for skin color or gender. And I'm voting for the top of the ticket, not the veep. But the excitement I feel over this selection has instructed me, a little, in the way so many have felt (and feel) about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A little humbling, to be sure (I'm not always right? What??), but good to learn.

Go Sarah!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What an awful place to live...

NPR had a portion of "Talk of the Nation" yesterday devoted to callers impressions of the Democratic National Convention. Although I couldn't call in (I didn't listen to it until last night), I thought of what I might say. (Please bear in mind that I (along with most of the country, apparently) have NOT been watching very much of the speeches. Mostly I've been reading and watching news summaries, with video clips of the "greatest hits".)

But my impression of the DNC? America is a terrible place to live! Everyone is worried about putting food on their tables. Stressed about paying for health care. Frightened and horrified by climate change. Concerned they can't pay the mortgage next month, or college for their kids. No one is happy, content, relaxed.

How completely, utterly depressing. And not my experience at all--I might live in Happy Valley, but I live in a lower-middle-class neighborhood where many of my friends do not own the houses in which they live. And most of us are pretty happy with life most of the time.

The Democratic view I'm getting doesn't jive with my reality at all (thank goodness!) I'm telling you, the Republicans better have a more uplifting message next week, or else I'm writing in my father-in-law for president.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Curse of Knowledge

In their book, Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath discuss the "curse of knowledge." We have a hard time explaining things to people if we know too much about the subject. Their example is a tapping game. Try to tap the rhythm of a popular song and see if other people can guess what song it is. You'll be amazed at how easy it will seem to you and how hard it will seem to others. You hear the song in your head; they just hear a bunch of tapping.

This is a principle for teachers to remember!

I saw a great illustration of this in a couple of comments over at Connor Boyack's blog. Cliff Lyon, a non-Mormon, was the first respondent. He started by quoting something Connor had written in the post.

The very fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan.

Thats pretty bad logic.

I am SURE there is NO God, and I’m alive? Are you SURE about that statement?

If you are Mormon, perhaps your first reaction was just to think that Cliff is being cantankerous. Allie, the next commenter responded this way:

Oh come on Cliff! :)

“According to Connor’s religion, the fact that we are alive today is an indication of our decision to accept God’s plan”.

Cliff replied:

Oh Come on Allie.:)

It’s illogical.

Allie replied:

Illogical to you.


You can see by the smilies, that each party seems to believe that the other party is being merely cheeky. They assume that their correspondent has the same information in mind and so they continue to rib each other. It wasn't until Jeff T. posted that everything snapped into focus for me.


Do you realize he is talking about before we are born? In our religion, we believe that no one is born without accepting God’s plan prior to birth, even if they subsequently reject it on earth. Thus, based on this premise (if you believe it to be true), it is perfectly logical to suppose that every person alive accepted God’s plan prior to birth, even if they do not believe it now.

Okay, Mormons. Now go back and read Cliff's original comment and you can see what he was really objecting to. Without that theological premise, Cliff was perfectly right to point our the logical absurdity of Connor's point. Allie was assuming that Cliff already had that information, so she came to the wrong concluion about Cliff's meaning.

Cliff ends this thread in the comments with a simple statement that shows he, too, just fit all the pieces together.

Ah. Got it.
Spotting fun little exchanges like these while reading blogs helps me justify the time I spend doing it since I'll be able to use them in training sessions at work. :)