Sunday, May 11, 2008

Movie: Martian Child

If you want to see a touching movie, pick up the new DVD release of Martian Child.

A single man (played by John Cusack) decides he's ready to become a father. The social worker decides that a 7-year-old who thinks he's from Mars would be a perfect match; after all, the adoptive father-to-be is a science fiction writer. But not everyone is so sure. When his sister, a mother herself, learns about the match, her response is, "A kid who sits in a box all day is a GIANT RED FLAG."

Yet despite worries and frustrations that he might not be the best parent for this child, the father says,
"I don't want to bring another kid into this world...but how do you argue against loving one who's already here?"

If you watch the movie, don't miss the interview with the real father & son upon whom the movie is based. The love between the two is palpable.

Warning: if you haven't adopted already, this movie might just make you want to consider it.

Here's a link to the movie trailer.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

No, I'm not a polygamist's wife and I don't have shattered dreams. But I just read a book by that title and highly recommend it. I finished it in three days because I couldn't put it down.

With all the current news about the polygamist sect in Texas, it was fascinating to read one woman's account of what the lifestyle is like from the inside. 1 man + 10 wives + 56 children = abject poverty, constant moving, a life of instability and unhappiness. Without question, the women are miserable. And given the circumstances, I can't imagine that the man's life would have been much better. He is rarely home, forced to travel to find work. Yet sacrifices are made again and again with the idea of earning spots in Heaven. Despite living hell on earth.

Fascinating read.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

On a friend's recommendation, I read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The principle behind the book is very simple, but the book jacket sums it up nicely:

...everyone has one of two basic mindsets. If you have the fixed mindset, you believe that your talents and abilities are set in stone--either you have them or you don't. You must prove yourself over and over, trying to look smart and talented at all costs. This is the path of stagnation. If you have a growth mindset, however, you know that talents can be developed and that great abilities are build over time. This is the path of opportunity--and success.
The author, Carol Dweck, is a PhD researcher in psychology from Stanford. While I agree with the Amazon reviewers who said that the book could have been summarized in a small pamphlet (because the premise is so simple), I read the whole book because I found the examples so fascinating...and because I had a hard time figuring out which mindset I have.

In many ways, I have the fixed mindset. I look at myself and think I have X amount of smarts. Therefore, I will work at X level. I won't work harder than level X because it wouldn't do any good. And I make excuses... If s/he is doing better than I am, it's only because she's smarter than I am. In other words, her success is directly related to her brains. It's so easy to take effort out of the equation.

But then I stop to think about it. If I worked harder, could I achieve more? Yes, I probably could. I've had quite a bit of success in the work world without (to me) a lot of effort. So it makes it feel like I got where I am on smarts, not on effort. But then I look at an author I admire and think, "Man, she got all the breaks..." when in reality, she probably just worked harder. I remember listening to one author speak. She said, "I figured that if I was going to be a doctor, it would take ten years of hard work, learning what I needed to know to do my craft. I was willing to put that ten years in, learning what I needed to be a skilled writer. If after ten years I still hadn't arrived, I figured I could reconsider then."

But the principle applies in so many areas of life. According to Dweck, those with a fixed mindset are quick to write off those who see things differently. So, for example, if I post my opinion on a public forum and people disagree with me, I'll say things to myself like, "Well, they just aren't as smart or as knowledgeable as I am," or "They're just jealous," or "They don't know what they're talking about." In contrast, someone in a growth mindset is able to consider the opinions of others, reflect, and use the information for further growth...all without taking it personally.

The principle also applies to parenting and education. Fixed mindset parents tell their kids, "You're smart." If a child is told "you're smart" too often, they develop the fixed mindset...believing that they have X amount of smarts and should never let anyone see their weaknesses. Therefore, they do exactly what they need to do to show X amount...and not an ounce more. It reminds me of all my years in school. I'd do what it took to get an "A." But not an ounce more.

In contrast, growth mindset parents say, "Wow, you worked really hard on that project." Children learn that people who succeed are people who put in the effort.

I see areas of both fixed and growth mindset in my life. The good news is that Dweck says people can change their fixed mindset. I'm working on it. ;)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Unclean, Unclean!!!!!

I picture it from something like a Monty Python movie. Characters swarming the streets chanting, "Unclean, unclean!!!!!!"

So how do you feel about the beef you eat? Apparently, folks in South Korea are so opposed to eating beef imported from the United States that they are ready to impeach their president over the concern. President Lee Myung-bak has been challenged to eat U.S. beef in front of a television audience in an effort to allay concerns. So far, he hasn't agreed. From one of the news articles:

A Washington-based NGO ― Public Citizen ― has found, via requests to the USDA, that at least 131 slaughterhouses in 34 U.S. states had violated the rules on the removal of specified risk material (SRM) between 2004 and 2005.

The civic group said, ``A common situation described in these noncompliance records is when over and under 30 month aged cattle are processed simultaneously, without adequate rinsing or sanitation of equipment.''

Yikes. Not sure if I'd want to import the stuff either.

Oh, wait. I live here....

Which brings to mind a video I watched last week. Fast Food Nation is a fictionalized account of the non-fiction book by Eric Schlosser. It really forces you to consider the question, "Where does my food come from?" The movie depicts everything from the extreme hardships of illegal immigrants who work in the blood bath of meat processing plants to the corrupt fast food marketers who will do anything--including risking lives--to make the big bucks. Warning: at the end of the movie I literally felt sick.
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