Traveling to the Highlands above Cuzco, Peru

We had agreed to install playground equipment at a very rural school in the highlands (14,000 feet above sea level) located above Cuzco, Peru (10,000 feet).  It is the ancestral village of the mother of our hosts, the Cardenas-Torres family.  The long journey to the installation site was made in a very small car.  There were 2 of us (my grandson and I), 4 from the C-T family, plus the driver.  All 7 of us were packed into a compact car about the size of the Mini-Cooper.

High Mountain Lake Above Cuzco

The trip to the village included multiple stops.  At the first, we waited for the truck carrying the playground equipment to catch up with us.  At the second, we stopped at a scenic location to check out a high mountain lake.  And at the third, and most interesting, we walked across a reconstruction of an Inca hanging footbridge.

Reconstructed Inca Footbridge

Crossing the Inca Footbridge

For the latter, we stopped at a small parking lot located above the bridge and hiked down to one of the abutments.  We took turns taking pictures as each of us crossed the ravine on the bridge.  It was a fun experience at a beautiful location.  My grandson had a great time on his crossing.

Past the footbridge, the road devolved from pavement to gravel.  Travel slowed.

Our last stop was the village.  As we arrived, the villagers started to congregate.  The elders had selected the site for the playground equipment and the village work crew set about assembling the swing set and digging holes for the legs of the playground equipment.  We ended up with a large crew.  It was gratifying to see so many villagers turn out to help.

Installing Playground Equipment in Highlands of Peru

We installed monkey bars, a climbing tower, and a 4-seat swing set.  As the beer started to flow, the work slowed a little, but the installation was eventually completed.  And then it was time to celebrate.

Posing After the Playground Installation Was Complete

Lots of short speeches, exchanges of gifts, and refreshments.  My grandson and I ended up with a large felt hat, a heavy coat, and a colorful sash.  I took a lot of photographs.  As it began to darken, I began to worry about the trip back.

After the Exchange of Hats

Our trip back to Cuzco occurred in the dark.  For the first few hours, we were on a different road.  I’m sure the scenery was gorgeous, but it was difficult to see.  I need to go back during daylight hours.  We didn’t get back to Cuzco until midnight.

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To Elder Bednar: It’s the Message not the Delivery Method

In a recent press release, the LDS Church leadership (or at least its PR staff) acknowledges the growing problem of Millenials dropping away from organized religion.  Not necessarily from spirituality, but from the formal institutions.

The release proposed one possible solution to this exodus.  Extensive use social media.

The press release quotes Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from a speech he gave at Brigham Young University in August 2014.

I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth — messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy — and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.

I disagree with the emphasis of Elder Bednars message.  Simply spamming the social media world isn’t really a useful solution.  What is a viable solutions is developing a message that resonates with existing and future members.  I would suggest that it is the message not the method of delivery.

Elder David A. Bednar Speaks to Young Adults.

Social media is obviously an important technology to broadcast the message, but it is more important to have a message that’s relevant to the 21st century.  The current emphasis on the following is misplaced:

  • Obsession with LBGTQ issues.  Continuing to hammer on them is driving young members away in droves and making missionary work more difficult in areas like western Europe.
  • Concentration on the trivialities of the Word of Wisdom.  Consideration should be given to a message like “moderation in all things.”
  • Emphasizing the dead over the living.  Soon over half of the membership will be living in developing countries.  Let’s figure out how to do more for member living in difficult situations around the world.
  • Not emphasizing the true message of Christ enough:  helping your neighbor.

The LDS Church needs younger leaders who understand the issues that burn in the hearts of younger (and older) members.  Until that happens, youthful members will continue to gravitate toward the “nones.”

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Installing Playground Equipment in Mozambique

During July 2017 at the invitation of the Carr Foundation, Bret Berger and I traveled to Gorongosa National Park in west-central Mozambique.  Our primary goal was to assist with the construction of a small playground at a primary school in Vinho, a small community located near the Park.

We brought the hard to find swing set parts with us from Utah.  In advance of our arrival, personnel purchased the steel pipe needed to complete the swing set installation.  The Park is in a very isolated location, so these advanced preparations were critical.

The actual assembly, construction, and installation of the playground equipment was accomplished by the metal shop at the National Park.  The swing set was, for the most part, assembled on site.  To get to Vinho, the parts were transported to a nearby river by John Deere tractor and wagon, taken across the river on a small boat (which functions as a ferry), and manhandled to the schoolyard.

Loading the Swing Parts on the Small Boat

At the school, park employees assembled the swing set, dug the holes for the legs, and placed the concrete.  Unfortunately we couldn’t let the children swing until the concrete hardened. So we returned the next day and attached the 4 swing seats.  The swing set was an instant hit with the local children.

Enjoying the Swing Set at Vinho

We provided the shop with plans for a climbing tower (with a fire pole down the center).  This they worked on for a couple of days but weren’t able to complete before we left.  But it was later installed by Park employees.

Welding on the Climbing Tower for Vinho

During the periods when we weren’t needed to assist on playground equipment, we went on game drives.  Gorongosa National Park has a nice variety of animals.  All four excursions we went on were enjoyable, with entertaining and knowledgeable guides.

Rogue Male Elephant in Gorongosa N.P.

Mozambique is the 7th country where my family, friends, and I have installed playground equipment, and the 3rd country in Africa.  The other African countries are Ethiopia and Uganda.

Posted in Africa, Environment, other animals, Playground, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Denver Snuffer Jr and Leaderless Organizations

Denver Snuffer‘s apostasy from the LDS Church has generated a lot of heat.  A recent major story in the sltrib.com about Snuffer and his movement has been wildly popular.  His books generate a lot of discussion and his presentations are well attended.  His doctrinal perspectives are mainly popular among conservative Mormons, zealots if you will.  Insisting that the LDS Church has departed from Joseph Smith’s preachings and practices, Snuffer and his Remnant movement (Snuffer prefers it not be called a church) focus on issues like:

  • the Second Coming
  • extreme food storage and prepping
  • dissecting the Holy Writ
  • importance of personal revelation
  • need for additional scriptures
  • less of a corporate organization

While these issues don’t resonate with me, the eventual evolution of Snuffer’s organization does.  According to Peggy Fletcher Stack:

Before long, hundreds of like-minded seekers traveled to hear him speak — in St. George, Phoenix and Boise — and poured out of their respective LDS pews to form “fellowships,” or small groups, usually gathering in houses and yearning for, well, something more.

Home Churching in the Remnant Church

The Remnant, as some began to call themselves, would be radically democratic, a “federation of fellowships” with no clear leader, no rigid rules, no prescribed offices, no formal organization — setting themselves apart from what they see as the ultra-controlled and controlling LDS administration operating out of a grand old building and a skyscraper in downtown Salt Lake City.

And they emphasize the need for local control of funds:

Tithing monies remain in local fellowships, used for the poor in their midst, and are not sent to any central headquarters. There isn’t one.

This Remnant organizational experiment is interesting and bears watching.  Although I don’t understand how a movement can have a prophet with a charismatic personality and still pretend to be leaderless.  Snuffer, for example, believes that he has had direct conversations with Jesus Christ.  How can he help but be considered the titular head of the movement?

I am interested in seeing how the movement evolves.  Can it remain democratic and somewhat leaderless?  Will the home churching model for religious services survive?  Will the movement survive?

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Nobel Prize Laureate Comments on Current State of Climate Change Modeling

At the recent Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting for the Economic Sciences, Lars Peter Hansen my younger brother, commented on the current state of climate change modeling:

Discussions of climate change and economics can be challenging. There is nervousness in many quarters when I remind people of the limits to our knowledge of the transmission mechanism from carbon emissions to climate and economic impacts. There is a concern that this acknowledgement just feeds the appetite of the climate change deniers or provides an excuse for delayed action. But jumping to such conclusion like this fails to recognize a basic insight from decision theory. The possibility of bad consequences in the future could easily be sufficient for a call to action to immediate action. Moreover, it should be a part of a scientific approach to research in this area, as well as in other areas, to acknowledge the quality of the pertinent evidence. In my talk, I described what I consider to be a productive research agenda to promote the provision of quantitative tools to guide climate policy while respecting the fact that our knowledge is incomplete.

At the end of his presentation, Lars quotes Steven E. Koonin, former undersecretary for science at the U.S. Department of Energy:

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future.  Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies.

Posted in Environment, geoengineering, lars peter hansen, Science, Simulations | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Brief Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

This most recent installment (Apes III) of the reborn Planet of the Apes movie series is a mess.  As much as I would like to recommend it, I can’t.

Through the years, I’ve observed three of the four varieties of great apes in the wild (the exception being the bonobos).  And I was awed with each encounter, particularly the gorillas.  This drew me to Planet of the Apes I, which I enjoyed immensely.  Planet of Apes II, not so much.

III is a simian adaption of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness.  And it doesn’t come close to measuring up to either.  There are also scenes in Apes III that are reminiscent of the fifth installment in the original series Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

The movie’s score is over-the-top melodramatic–overwrought–and unnecessarily distracting.  The casting of Woody Harrelson as the heavy (think Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse) is an embarrassing and needlessly distracting faux pas.  When Woody delivers his soliloquy during the heart of the movie, it is hard not to laugh.  He is a poor comparison to Marlon Brando.

Years ago in the Barcelona Zoo, I observed Snowflake the white albino gorilla.  At the time, he was the main attraction at the zoo.  It was eerie watching him (while he observed us).  In the movie there is white gorilla named Winter.  He turns out to be a traitor.  From a personal point of view, this was a major disappointment.  Snowflake deserves better; he served the zoo well.

Speaking of gorillas, they get a bad rap in this movie.  They are the militant, dough-headed enforcers.  And all too frequently the traitors.  In the wild, gorillas are anything but militant.  They are herbivores (they do eat insects) and rather docile animals, they spend most of their waking hours eating leaves, nuts, and berries.  I spent an hour in close proximity to a group of 14 in the wilds of Uganda.  Their size is intimidating but not their demeanor.

In Apes III, Caesar, the chimp leader of the great ape menage, heads out on his own to seek revenge.  He is soon joined by an orangutan, a bonobo, and a gorilla.  And to add to the mix, they soon pick up a mute young girl; she functions as their muse.  This all seems a little like a forced effort at diversity.

A Diverse Group of Apes

Caesar and His Muse

A “successful” movie must have a cutesy animal or cartoon character.  In Apes III, it’s an elderly balding chimp, who’s been living like a hermit.  He is dragged into the war and provides the required cutesy moments.  As far as the script/plot goes, he is half chimp and half ET.  By being old, the chimp is made to look more like ET.

Balding Elderly Ape in Apes III

ET, All He Needs Is Ears to Look Like an Aging Chimp

The simulated apes in the movie are quite impressive, particularly when in close up.  They appear so realistic that at times I almost felt they were real.  This is do the incredible work of costumers, makeup artist, and the actors, particularly Andy Serkis.  And much of the cinematograhy is gorgeous and many of the special affects are impressive, particularly the avalanche.  Too bad the dialogue, direction, and editing aren’t up to the technical support.

Unfortunately, scene after scene of Apes III is overdrawn and much of the dialogue is far too wordy.  We get it already:  Apes are good, humans are bad.  And the movie in its present form is far too long.  Re-watch Apes I, it is good entertainment, and not nearly so ponderous and pretentious.

And please commit to help saving the few great apes that still exist on the earth.  Their habitat is rapid disappearing.

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“Power to the Crackpots” Really?

I used to have the following political cartoon by Charles Barsotti prominently displayed on a wall in my home.

However, with the election of Donald Trump (whom I didn’t vote for) to be PROTUS, I’m rethinking my political philosophy.  And I have temporarily retired the Barsotti cartoon.

Clearly being a crackpot isn’t nearly enough of a qualification to be President.  A candidate also needs attributes like:

  • having empathy,
  • being a uniter not a divider,
  • not being a racist,
  • having the capacity to recognize and tell the truth,
  • respecting all genders,
  • exhibiting charity,
  • being able to communicate clearly,
  • having a coherent and noble vision for America, etc.

All these attributes are missing from our current “crackpot” President.

Posted in anarchism, Organizational Dynamics, Personal Essays | Tagged , | 2 Comments