25 May 2007

Not much time for blogging. We went to an IKEA grand opening yesterday (swarms of employees), ate out twice (I'm lucky to eat out once a month, not twice a day), husband was sworn into the state bar (please, no more bar exams), read lots (I have 3 books to review), locked the keys in the car for the first time in 14 years (some friends took us home), and walked a lot (tired feet today).

And now I'm getting ready for a jaunt that will look a lot like the one we did last October. Except the lilacs will be blooming instead of the trees changing colors. But we'll visit lots of little towns like St. Charles (the sculptor of Mount Rushmore was born there, but we care more about the ancestors who were buried there), Hyrum (lots and lots of ancestors here), and Grover (they have a great little cemetery- maybe I'll be buried there instead of Swanlake).

I'll try to get the book reviews done before I go.

21 May 2007

So Who Knows? The Easy Way to Teach History

I was checking into the myth of Underground Railroad quilts when I came on this quote about history:

But women like Anna Lopez, the education coordinator at the Plymouth Historical Museum, see no reason why the story of quilt codes can't be fact. "What I tell kids is, who writes history? Men do. Mostly white men. Then I ask, who made quilts? Women did, and a lot of black women made quilts and passed on their oral history. No one wrote down their history, so who knows?"

There is no doubt that it can be significantly more difficult to research women's history, especially black women's history, than the more traditional history we usually read. But this quote, from someone who has some influence on how children will interpret the history they see in the Plymouth Historical Museum, seems dangerously close to advocating making up, or at least not worrying about, the details of history. This does women's history and black history a huge disservice and teaches children that written records are the only reliable source of historical research.

If you're writing about history, you've got to be able to verify your stories to be credible, especially if your stories are far-fetched. The burden of proof is on the historians promoting the stories. I'll write more about the Underground Railroad quilts later on.

20 May 2007

18 May 2007

Central Asia Posts

I'm still linking to interesting posts on the sidebar. Nathan's Nazarbaev Forever! is good reading for anyone, whether you're interested in Central Asia or not. Kazakhstan is considering amending the constitution to remove term limits for the president (this may just be a formality; Nazarbaev already ignored his term limit to run in the last election). Nathan cuts to the real issue though:

As far as I am concerned, institutional arrangements are far more important than things like specific human rights cases because they are a much more meaningful indicator of a regime’s trajectory...

Western policymakers should, however, be sending the message that we are not just concerned about behavior, but also about how institutions constrain and/or encourage behaviors conducive to democracy.

I've also been very pleased with Bonnie Boyd's Central Asia on the foreign policy blogs.
So since I'm still wiped out with gardening (I'm almost done!), I'm doing Melissa's 8 random things. I'm not tagging anyone, so I'm not putting up the rules. You're welcome to leave some interesting things about yourself in the comments though, if you'd like.

I've never read Gone with the Wind and I certainly don't plan to any time soon.

I've never been to Europe except in a handful of airports (Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin, London, and Istanbul, depending on your point of view).

I've never lived by the ocean, and I'd like to. Any ocean would do, like the Pacific Ocean around Kamchatka.

I'm not impressed with most American or Kyrgyz food. Luckily it's easy to find other food in both the US and Kyrgyzstan.

I think plain homemade yogurt or Arby's sauce can fix almost any American or Kyrgyz food. Even hamburgers are edible with enough Arby's sauce.

I don't like fresh tomatoes. (So why did I plant so many tomatoes? Salsa.)

I wish I lived in the mountains in Asia.

I wish I could travel around Central Asia (taking a broader view of the area) and document bone games. I honestly think this would be about the coolest thing ever to do.

16 May 2007


I've been working on the garden. 11 tomato plants, 3 cucumber mounds, 3 zucchini, 2 pumpkin plants, 5 hot peppers, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, sage, carrots, and corn. And various flowers. The raspberries are covered with bees, the peas are thinking about blossoming (maybe they won't). The corn and carrots aren't in yet. They'll get tucked around the trees. I'll see how they like it. I wish I'd planted garlic in the fall because it would be almost ready now. Nothing tastes quite as good as fresh garlic.

13 May 2007

Help the Children of Baghdad

The son of a friend of mine working in Iraq needs help with an Eagle Scout project. He is arranging to send school supplies to two primary schools in a village near Baghdad. The local military unit will help deliver the supplies to the schools. There are about 300 children in the two schools.

You can mail the supplies directly to Iraq using the APO below. It should cost about a dollar per pound to mail a package to the APO (this is amazingly inexpensive). Email Matt Wehle to let him know what you send to the APO: wehlematt@hughes.net

Washington Group International
c/o Mark Wehle- Al-Quds Power Plant
Humanitarian Aid Project
APO AE 09348

A few other guidelines:

Ship the supplies in boxes no larger than 12x12x12
Do not send white paper- they have plenty of white paper
The supplies need to be sent before June 5th

Do send:

Scissors, especially small round-tipped ones
Lined writing pads
Colored pencils and sharpeners (non-electric)
Finger paint
Colored construction paper
Math manipulatives
Staplers, staples, paper clips, rubber bands
Paintbrushes and paints
Metric rulers
Simple coloring books
Picture books
Manila folders

If you have other ideas, email Matt at the above address to confirm it with him.

Even if you can only send a little, this is a worthwhile project, especially since the shipping is so convenient.

12 May 2007

Ten years ago this week I was at Petra. I have never drunk so much water in a single day as I did that day.

It was interesting going there that second time because I could read Arabic. The admission for locals was quite a bit less than for anyone outside Jordan. But they didn't announce that in Hebrew or English.

It really is as cool as Indiana Jones made it look.

10 May 2007

I rather enjoyed Jana's post yesterday on books and blogging. I've always loved to read, but it's been even better since starting this blog. There are always new books to find and readers to talk to.

If I didn't have the internet, there would be literally no one with whom I could discuss Central Asia books. I might never have found Anything Can Happen or Ancestor Stones or even The Thirteenth Tale (because I rarely pick up contemporary fiction without a recommendation). Now I can rely on recommendations from people whose opinions I trust.

I often think about how much so many people's lives have changed because of the internet. We can call friends in Kyrgyzstan for next to nothing. I can chat with my mother and sisters all at once no matter where we are in the world. I can read General Conference talks anywhere in the world. I can find flushable diapers. I can hear what has happened to some of the babies I knew in the baby house. I've learned a lot more about Protestant Christianity. I can find the perfect Latin book.

What in the world did I do before the internet? And what new thing will appear someday soon that will make me feel the same way?

09 May 2007

I Need Help

I need some book recommendations. Fiction preferably (although it doesn't have to be). And since my brain's still fuzzy, 200 pages or less. I have some good books on my TBR list, but they're in the 400 page range and I don't think I can do that right now. Or at least not very many.


My brain's been working in slow motion, so an easy post today. Melissa sent me some questions (but first the rules):

Want some questions of your own? Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me!" and I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (if your email is not on your profile, email me your desire to be interviewed so I know your address). I get to pick them, and you have to answer them all. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. If others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1. Out of all the places you've lived, which was your favorite? Least favorite?
I don't know, I've liked all the places we lived for different reasons. I liked Boise because we had a house and a yard, and I liked Rexburg because it was close to Yellowstone. I liked Jerusalem and Bishkek because they're interesting, etc. I don't have a least favorite either. But there are a few American cities I'm not interested in moving to.

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I've thought about this a lot, and there are lots and lots of places I want to live. But if I could just choose one, it might be Toronto. Or Cairo. Or Xi'an. Or West Yellowstone.

3. How did you become interested in Islam, and what interests you most about the religion?
I first started learning about Islam almost 20 years ago when one of my sisters lived in Jerusalem and started writing home about the people she was meeting. It just sort of grew from there. The thing that interests me the most is the diversity of the religion.

4. What's the deal with the geysers?
Beats me. I didn't care about them till I lived close to Yellowstone, and then I got totally hooked on them. There's something about the waiting and the beauty and the danger that makes them exciting. And they're always changing. That's why Old Faithful is boring. It's not much fun to watch a geyser that doesn't change and that's predictable to within 20 minutes. A geyser you've been waiting for for hours is lots better. Or one that doesn't have crowds of people.

5. What's your pet peeve?
Depends on the day. Today I don't have on. I guess my general one would be when people make assumptions. Muslims are violent. Don't tell a woman who has miscarried that you're going to have a baby. Boys are wilder than girls. Homeschoolers are wacko. Public schoolers are wacko. You're not a Christian if you teach evolution. Religious people are deceived and naive. Of course these are all true sometimes, but not always.

04 May 2007

Introduction to Islam After Communism Updated

I won't finish a book today so I have to think of something else to write about. The one I was planning on finishing turned out to be rather boring (it looked good- about two professors travelling around Siberia, but they tended to document every single thing they did whether it was interesting or not, so I quit after 40 pages) and I won't finish the next- Islam After Communism- for several days probably.

Khalid's introduction to the book is excellent. In just a few pages he clearly refutes a variety of misconceptions about Islam and the various courses different Muslims are taking today. He begins by explaining why history matters in Islam- particularly the 70 years of Soviet rule in Muslim Central Asia. The Soviet period shaped Islam in Central Asia and cannot be ignored despite the common misperception that "Islam is inherently political and naturally leads to anti-Western militancy" (pg 2).

He also neatly describes the conflicting views today of whether Islam is "bad" or "good." Khalid believes, and I thoroughly agree, that the problem with this division "is that too often, the yardstick for measuring moderation is agreement with US geopolitical goals" (pg 5). Exactly. So Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabis unquestionably have a rather harsh interpretation of Islam, is "moderate" or "good" and many secular Muslim countries are "bad" because they disagree with US foreign policy.

Khalid then discusses the diversity within Islam; this argument is getting old, but it has to keep being made since it's not sinking in. Islam is not homogeneous, particularly in its approach to law. He also differentiates between the different terms we use for Muslims, such as Islamist and Jihadist- particularly the US' role in the creation of the Jihadists- and discusses the differences between various groups.

This brief 18-page introduction is one of the best explanations of current thinking in Islam and how it is misinterpreted. Required reading.

Update- I forgot to add this quote from David Reeves' review of Islam After Communism on Registan a couple of months ago that nicely sums up the "Islamic threat" in Central Asia (especially worth noting if you've fallen prey to Jihad:

He [Khalid] stated that in Central Asia “the states are a bigger threat to Muslims than Muslims are to the state.” The book says that “Indeed, although Islamic militancy might pose some danger to the regimes, the danger the regimes pose to ordinary pious Muslims is far greater.” (191) Either way, this is the main message of the book.

03 May 2007

Anything Can Happen

I picked this book up on languagehat's suggestion last week and am very pleased I did (I found a first edition 1945 copy also- it hadn't been checked out in the last 10 years though). Anything Can Happen by George and Helen Papashvily is a thoroughly delightful little book. George is an emigrant from Georgia to the US. As languagehat says, it's a bit hokey in places, but you just can't help liking it. Highly recommended- and it's even available at Amazon despite being over 60 years old.

02 May 2007

The Tulip Revolution

I stumbled on Erica Marat's The Tulip Revolution: Kyrgyzstan One Year After at the library a week or two ago and sat down today to read it. It's only 123 pages long, plus about 25 pages of notes and indexing and a handy chronology. She covers everything in the first year after the March 25, 2005 revolution that brought Bakiev to power in Kyrgyzstan. The final page or two summarizing the aftermath of the revolution was spot on.

Obviously this isn't a book that will appeal to lots of people. It could also be fairly confusing if you're not already familiar with the people in Kyrgyz politics. And I particularly liked it because I was in Kyrgyzstan during most of the time the book covers. It's an excellent little book and definitely the one to turn to for a concise summary of Kyrgyzstan during 2005 and early 2006.


I've just finished the final book in Lois Lowry's trilogy that started with The Giver. Messenger is an excellent completion of Kira's and Matty's and Jonas' stories (Gathering Blue is the second book.) I thought it was a thoroughly satisfying and meaningful book in every way. I didn't think it could possibly top The Giver, and it doesn't, but at least Messenger comes close.

Messenger followed the same theme as The Giver and Gathering Blue- that we all choose how our societies run. Jonas' community decided that they were afraid of choices and so they removed almost any opportunity to make choices. Kira's society decided that they can't afford to keep anyone who doesn't fit in. And Matty's Village chooses selfishness. Lowry has a knack for telling a good story but making you think.

If you haven't read any of these books, they really are worth reading. I'm looking forward to reading them with my own children in a few years.