Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Diamond in the Field

A young man once long ago claimed he had found a large diamond in his field as he was ploughing. He put the stone on display to the public free of charge, and everyone took sides. A psychologist showed, by citing some famous case studies, that the young man was suffering from a well-known form of delusion. An historian showed that other men have also claimed to have found diamonds in fields and been deceived. A geologist proved that there were no diamonds in the area but only quartz: the young man had been fooled by a quartz. When asked to inspect the stone itself, the geologist declined with a weary, tolerant smile and a kindly shake of the head. An English professor showed that the young man in describing his stone used the very same language that others had used in describing uncut diamonds: he was, therefore, simply speaking the common language of his time. A sociologist showed that only three out of 177 florists’ assistants in four major cities believed the stone was genuine. A clergyman wrote a book to show that it was not the young man but someone else who had found the stone.

Finally an indigent jeweler named Snite pointed out that since the stone was still available for examination the answer to the question of whether it was a diamond or not had absolutely nothing to do with who found it, or whether the finder was honest or sane, or who believed him, or whether he would know a diamond from a brick, or whether diamonds had ever been found in fields, or whether people had ever been fooled by quartz or glass, but was to be answered simply and solely by putting the stone to certain well-known tests for diamonds. Experts on diamonds were called in. Some of them declared it genuine. The others made nervous jokes about it and declared that they could not very well jeopardize their dignity and reputations by appearing to take the thing too seriously. To hide the bad impression thus made, someone came out with the theory that the stone was really a synthetic diamond, very skilfully made, but a fake just the same. The objection to this is that the production of a good synthetic diamond 120 years ago would have been an even more remarkable feat than the finding of a real one.

- Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 121–22.

This is what we have with The Book of Mormon. The young man is Joseph Smith, and the year is 1830. Most of the world rejects it without examination, relying on the rejection of others they presently trust, but who also have not seriously examined it.

It's perhaps easy to dismiss The Book of Mormon as the fabrication of one unusually gifted man. Except for two things: (1) nobody thought he was unusually gifted at the time -- quite the opposite; and (2) the pesky issue of 11 other men who signed testimony that they were shown the original metal plates, the ancient record the book was translated from.

Re. #1, maybe he had an amazing talent for narrative and ancient culture that he developed on a farm in rural New York that he kept hidden from his brothers, parents, and wife? And that he never used again? Maybe.

But #2? Some might suppose these men were friends of Joseph Smith -- they were. However, most of them later left the church and were angry with Joseph Smith for problems in Missouri, and many of them never returned. That would've been the perfect time for them to come clean with an exposé of the whole affair -- yet not a one did, despite many opportunities, and many people prodding them to do so.

Other explanations? All the remotely credible ones are documented in this recent BYU talk by Todd Callister, which is what prompted this post.

I love The Book of Mormon -- the many-years story of Nephi (Lehi's son) and his family that is a wonderful allegory for man's journey out of darkness, Isaiah's description of God's people and their interactions with those around them and what to expect from the Messiah, the sons of Mosiah's missionary experiences and the effect that a few good people can have on those around them, the "war" chapters that serve as an analogy of Satan's various strategies of attack on us, Nephi (Helaman's son) and his experience with miraculous events reminding us that they don't create faith, the visit of the Savior to other people as he promised and the types of interactions we can expect, and stunning rate and extent and mechanism of which evil overtakes a people when they stop trying to stay close to the Spirit of the Lord.

I wish sincere truth seekers would ignore the florists' opinions and just read it and see for themselves.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"I Have No Doubt God Sent You Here"

John Bel EdwardsLouisiana Governor John Bel Edwards recently attended a special sacrament meeting (Church service) to thank the Mormons for their service in helping with the flood-ravaged areas in the southern parts of the state.

The church members sang, "I Am a Child of God", with the next phrase being, "And He has sent me here." Governor Edwards told those in attendance, "I Have No Doubt God Sent You Here."

I always thought of that phrase referring to earth itself, but it was a thoughtful and clever turn of the phrase. Maybe God sent him there too.

That aside, I know a few people who will wonder to themselves: "Uh, that's nice that you think God sent you guys there, but couldn't he have just *not* sent the rains/floods? So much loss and suffering! And what a colossal waste!"

I think everyone should have an answer to this question in case it gets asked.

For those who don't have one yet, you're welcome to borrow mine till you do. =)

  1. A wise man* once told me, "If you wonder whether God sends the storms, or simply allows them to pass -- read the book of Job." Spoiler: God doesn't send the storms, they are part of living in a fallen world. God can, and sometimes does intervene, if the faith and prayers of the people qualify them for miracles, and they align with his purposes. But sometimes he has even greater things in store for us...
  2. We exist so we can have joy. (2 Ne 2:25) We think joy comes from ease, comfort, and pleasure -- but God knows joy comes from strength, and from being loved, trusted, understood and feeling that their work is appreciated. And how do we get that? From work, which often looks like service. Why catastrophes? So people can become strong, and have opportunities to serve others, "that the works of God should be made manifest" (John 9:3).

People who served in the Hurricane Katrina cleanup still talk about it as one of the greatest things they ever did.

Maybe this will be one of those experiences for the next generation of people.


* Thx Bro. Beard!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

General Conference Trends: 2000-2016

Something I've been curious about the past year or so are the trends of focus of LDS General Authorities in General Conference -- what topics are they focused on now, and how does that compare to the focus in those areas from years past?

So, I downloaded all the General Conference transcripts for the past 16 years, then took all the topics from the True to the Faith book, added a few of my own, and wrote a script to count the use of those keywords in each conference. You can see a list of the terms at the bottom of this post. Below are some of the interesting findings.

Caveat -- I'm just doing word-scans here, trying to catch synonyms and plurals, but I haven't done a detailed review of the texts. Take this for what it's worth.

Click on a graph to see it full size.

  1. What are the most common terms from this last conference?

    The top 10: Top 10 Jump This Conference I like that the data confirms that we focus a lot on families, love, the Priesthood and on our Savior.

  2. What topic saw the biggest jump in focus from past conferences?

    You see the biggest jump in the plot above -- "councils". This doesn't surprise me much, given the focus on Teacher and Family Councils.

    Top 10 Jump This Conference

    What else do we see here? Increased focus on family, ordinances, baptism, and temples. That means that this last conference saw more mentions of those terms than any previous conference.

    (Sidenote -- do you see "Birth Control" on there? Turns, out, that term has not been mentioned once in General Conference in the last 16 years -- not once. So its "increase" was -zero-, which landed it a spot at number 9.)

  3. Anything surprising?

    Curiosities

    I thought I hadn't heard much about gardens lately, but it seems pretty steady.

    Given the magnitude of problem that pornography is in our society, it's surprising to see that reference to it in General Conference peaked in 2005 and, stunningly, was not mentioned even once this past conference. I wonder if this reflects the guidance to "resist not evil" (don't focus on fighting evil...), but to keep "an eye single to the glory of God" (focus on our Savior and doing good).

    Seems like I heard a lot about journals growing up, but not much lately.

  4. Which topics have been the strongest over the years?

    Top 10 Keywords All Conferences

    Not too different from number 1 above -- but as always, I'm proud to be a member of a church where "Love" and "Jesus Christ", "Faith" and "Family" are at the top of our list.


  5. Here's the list of keywords I used (converted from regexes): Adversity, Agency, Alcohol, Apostasy, Apostle, Area Authority, Articles of Faith, Atonement, Baptism, Bible, Birth Control, Bishop, Body Piercing, Book of Mormon, Born Again, Celestial Kingdom, Charity, Chastity, Church Administration, Comforter, Confirmation, Conscience, Contributions, Conversion, Council, Covenant, Creation, Cross, Crucifixion, Deacon, Debt, Devil, Disciplinary or Discipline, Divorce, Doctrine and Covenants, Drugs, Education, Elder, Endowment, Eternal Life, Exaltation, Faith, Fall, Family, Family History, Family Home Evening, Family Prayer, Fast Offerings, Fasting, First Presidency, Foreordination, Forgiveness, Fornication, Gambling, Gardens, Garments, Genealogy, General Authorities, Gifts of the Holy Ghost, Gifts of the Spirit, God the Father, Godhead, Gospel, Government, Grace, Gratitude, Happiness, Heaven, Heavenly Father, Hell, Holy Ghost, Home Teaching, Honesty, Hope, Hot Drinks, Coffee, Tea, Humility, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Journals, Judging Others, Justice, Keys of the Priesthood, Kingdoms of Glory, Laying On of Hands, Light of Christ, Love, Marriage, Melchizedek Priesthood, Mercy, Millennium or millenial, Missionary Work, Modesty, Obedience, Ordinances, Original Sin, Paradise, Patriarchal Blessings, Peace, Pearl of Great Price, Personal Revelation, Physical Death, Plan of Salvation, Pornography, Prayer, Premortal Existence, Priest, Priesthood, Profanity, Prophecy, Prophets, Quorum, Quorum of the Twelve, Quorums of the Seventy, Relief Society, Repentance, Restoration, Resurrection, Revelation, Reverence, Sabbath, Sacrament, Sacrament Meeting, Sacrifice, Salvation, Same-sex, homosexuality, Satan, Saved, Scriptures, Second Coming, Service, Seventy, Sex, Sexual Immorality, Signs, Sin, Soul, Spirit, Spirit Prison, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of the Lord, Spiritual Death, Spiritual Gifts, Stake, Standard Works, Sunday, Swearing, Tattoo, Teaching the Gospel, Telestial Kingdom, Temples, Temptation, Ten Commandments, Terrestrial Kingdom, Testimony, Tithing, Tobacco, Unity, Visiting Teaching, War, Ward, Welfare, Word of Wisdom, Worship, Zion

Friday, July 31, 2015

FaceTime calls via URL

This is another one with a very narrow audience (welcome Googlers!) -- To do FaceTime calls using your iPhone from the command line or from a script (on the Mac), use this URL: tel:%28<number> e.g. tel:%285555555555 At the command line, you can do it with: open 'tel:%285555555555' From AppleScript, you can actually tell FaceTime to initiate the call:
  open location "tel:%285555555555"
  delay 2
  tell application "System Events" to click button "Call" of window 1 of application process "FaceTime"
For everyone else, if you have calling from your Mac set up, just for fun, go to the Safari address bar and type "tel:%28" (no quotes) (UPDATE:  I was missing the ":") and then a phone number. It should bring up FaceTime and offer to call the number. Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

So you're thinking about getting shoulder surgery

My story:

It's early spring of 2013, still cold outside, but supposedly the right time for trimming my crape myrtles. The more tired I am, the lazier I get, and not wanting to move the ladder again, reached too far out to the right and tugging on the loppers, felt a stinging pain shoot up through the middle of my shoulder.

Fast forward 18 months, and the stinging pain came and left and came and left, and ended up worse than at the start. Any kind of backhand, tennis, racquetball, ping-pong -- all hurt and made it worse. Time to do something.

Options: (1) Do nothing, (2) Physical therapy, (3) Surgery.

Tried PT exercises for a month or so but didn't change much, so I went in for a consult with the orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. says, "Do nothing isn't a good option, you probably have bone spurs that are tearing on your rotator cuff. Physical therapy at this point might help, but surgery is the fix."

So, I get signed up for:
  1. SAD (sub-acromial decompression), and
  2. ACJR (AC joint resection)


... with no rotator cuff repair required.

Great! What does recovery look like? "Oh, you'll be able to type the next day. But I wouldn't swing a golf club for 4-6 weeks."

Surgery was done on Dec. 12, 2014. No muscles or ligaments needed repair, but there was indeed a bone spur starting to tear at my rotator cuff, so the surgery was timely.




Arthroscopic surgery sounds amazing, tiny holes to allow thin tubes in with cameras and tools. But here's what I didn't know, and he didn't tell me:
  • Seeing around in your shoulder is cool, but there's no space in there, you know, to look around -- so, they end up pumping your shoulder full of saline, which blows it up like a balloon. Your rotator cuff muscles really don't like that.
  • I went in thinking that it wasn't going to be too painful. In fact I told the anesthesiologist, "So, when I wake up I'm going to feel like somebody punched me in the shoulder, right?" He turned, "Uh -- well, it'll be worse. Much worse." He was right. In fact, for the first week or so it felt like I'd gotten hit with one of these:Bat and nails
  • I had to have 3-4 weeks of physical therapy, 2 to 3 times a week. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a lot if you're not expecting any. And 4 times 3 times $40 copays is almost $500, plus a lot of time.
  • The nerve block was creepy, a gigantic needle stuck down through my neck. I don't really remember it much, though, because they put something in my IV that really knocked me "out of it". I remember when they tried to move me I thought my arm was on my side, but someone was holding it up in the air, and I was stunned to see my arm being held up in the air. It stayed numb for a day or two.
  • If you've had surgery before, you know what to expect, but I didn't. Coming out of anesthesia I was really nauseous, and had to stay for a few hours with them trying different anti-nausea medicines. Yuck. Anesthesia is weird, time flies quickly, and I was really dizzy -- for about a day I could barely move around without feeling like I was going to fall down.
  • I was given oxycodone, and a strong anti-inflammatory. I don't know why oxycodone is considered addictive, it was horrible -- I'd start itching like crazy, get super dizzy, and crash asleep. Then I'd wake up a few hours later with horrible shoulder pain. Maybe that's how it works, but I wasn't a fan.
  • They also gave me an anti-biotic. I started taking it, but stopped after a day because I was getting stomachaches, and I've grown attached to my micro-biome and didn't want to mess with it if I didn't have to. At my follow up with the Dr., I admitted I stopped taking everything about 36 hours after surgery and he said it was fine. He had told me that he does 600 of these surgeries a year, and said, "I've never had an infection in any of my patients -- there's too much fluid being pumped through there for any bacteria to get in and stay." I may have suffered a little more than I needed to, though.
  • Mattress stitches are weird and itchy. Ignore the blood, that was just from pulling off the bandages.IMG 7693
  • I was able to go to work the next Monday, but it's best if your boss/coworkers let you take it easy for a few days.
  • Dr. said I needed to move my arm through its range of motion, and I had my kids help me with that. Going very slow at first, that really helped keep my mobility up.


It's now been a little over two weeks, and aside from a little stiffness and pain when I move it through certain positions, it's a lot better. There are some motions that I can do now that I just couldn't do before the surgery, so that's awesome.IMG 7711

All said, as long as you know what you're getting into, I recommend the surgery. If you're in North Alabama and looking for a surgeon, Dr. John Greco is very efficient and patient, and knows exactly what he's doing.

I'll post an update in a couple months.



UPDATE: It's now been 6 months since the surgery, and I almost never notice my shoulder. There are a few ways I can move it that seem a little off, but I think it's finally back to good. =)

If you're curious, it hurt pretty badly for about 4 months after surgery. I thought it would be 90% better in 3 weeks, but it was more like 25% in 3 weeks, 50% in 2 months. 60% at 3 months, 70% at 4 months, 80% at 5 months, and then seemed to stop hurting almost overnight at 5-1/2 months.

Sleeping was the worst, by the way. I ended up sleeping on a 4" foam pad on the floor, on a mountain of hard, decorative pillows. They seemed to support me just the right way... I'd sleep on my right side (affected shoulder down), with pillows under my torso and under my neck, and another under my right forearm which kept it from hanging down and pulling on my shoulder.

The doctor said as long as I could move my arm from a raised position (right arm equivalent of the bicycle "right turn" signal), down to the lowered position (right arm equivalent of the bicycle "stop" signal), things would be okay. So I had my daughters move my arm through that rotation. The first rep. always hurt pretty bad, but loosened up as we went through the reps.

I felt like the physical therapy exercises were the key. I hung hooks in my closet at shoulder and waist height, and hung the stretch bands from them. It hurt to do the exercises, but not doing them was worse. So I shot for about a "2" or "3" out of 10 on the pain scale when doing them. Sometimes that meant just moving my arm through the motion without pulling the stretch band. But it helped.

Hope that helps someone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Problem installing Office 2011 updates

Grr, Microsoft -- Office 2011 won't update because it says I have to quit the "Sync Services Agent" and "Microsoft Database Daemon".

Solution: Open the terminal (use spotlight to find it quickly), and paste these two commands in, one at a time, hitting return after each:

  • killall "Microsoft Database Daemon"

  • launchctl unload ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.microsoft.LaunchAgent.SyncServicesAgent.plist


... then go back to the installer and try again.

For those who care, the problem here is that even if you go into Activity Monitor and quit the Sync Services Agent process, our good friend "launchd" notices that it died and restarts it.

I'm a little soft on whether unloading it actually quits the Sync Services Agent process -- it seemed to, but I don't know why. I'm also not sure whether I should be re-"load"-ing the job with launchctl -- after the Office update installed, the Sync Services Agent was relaunched somehow, so maybe Office just launched it.

Anyway hope that helps someone.
ps. Having worked in a big company, my guess is that the last person who truly understood the entire design of the Office suite from install to test is long gone, and we're left with myriads of people who only understand pieces of it. As they work on the parts, those parts grow increasingly incompatible with the other parts, and we're left with something that starts looking like a Frankenstein product. That's my theory, anyway.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ebola and skin

Two quick things I learned this week:

  1. Here's a good overview from the CDC on how Ebola is spread. Note the caveat that "droplets of respiratory secretions [from coughs/sneezes] ... could be infectious".
  2. Lotions and other skin-care products break down the natural protective layer of keratin in your skin so they can penetrate. But then if you handle slightly toxic substances (like BPA on thermal receipts from stores) those substances end up in your blood. (Yikes! via Science Friday)


So, lotions allow things on your skin to penetrate into your blood -- like maybe droplets from sneezes, etc.?

I'm not sure either of these points give us the whole story here, but I do plan on being more cautious with lotions.


And what about hand sanitizers? I suspect the problem is suspending the alcohol in a lotion... I wonder if we shouldn't just use straight rubbing alcohol for cleaning hands? Like an alcohol dispenser at the sink by the soap?

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008