Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Heaven's Gate, Zune style

Wow, glad I didn't buy a Zune -- apparently last night all (?) 30GB models all simultaneously died at midnight.

I know there's a lot of pressure out there, but come on, Zunie, you've still got a lot to live for!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

25 Man Skills


Just for fun, in the spirit of the last list, here's another.

Popular Mechanics published a list of 25 skills every man should know. Here's what I've got, in bold:
  1. Patch a radiator hose (um... cut-up inner tube and radiator clamps, maybe?)
  2. Protect your computer (pretty easy on a Mac =) -- I think I can hold my own on a Windows box too)
  3. Rescue a boater who has capsized (somehow I don't think the answer is "throw him a rope", so I'll hold off on taking credit for this one)
  4. Frame a wall (never done one, but I'm still claiming credit because it's easy)
  5. Retouch digital photos
  6. Back up a trailer (oh yeah.)
  7. Build a campfire
  8. Fix a dead outlet (I don't know what's wrong with it, but the answer's still yes)
  9. Navigate with a map and compass
  10. Use a torque wrench
  11. Sharpen a knife
  12. Perform CPR (they taught us as boy scouts, does that count?)
  13. Fillet a fish
  14. Maneuver a car out of a skid (and have!)
  15. Get a car unstuck
  16. Back up data (in my sleep!)
  17. Paint a room
  18. Mix concrete
  19. Clean a bolt-action rifle (it's been awhile)
  20. Change oil and filter
  21. Hook up an HDTV (um, why is this on here?)
  22. Bleed brakes (I get the concept, at least)
  23. Paddle a canoe
  24. Fix a bike flat
  25. Extend your wireless network
Thanks, Dad, you get credit for teaching me most of this.

ps. Mom, you get credit for pretty much all the stuff I can do on the "25 skills every woman should know" list. =)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

(Not quite) tagged!

Stuff I've done in bold:
  1. Started your own blog (woohoo!)
  2. Slept under the stars
  3. Played in a band
  4. Visited Hawaii
  5. Watched a meteor shower (go Leonids!)
  6. Given more than you can afford to charity (sort-of)
  7. Been to Disneyland
  8. Climbed a mountain
  9. Held a praying mantis
  10. Sang a solo
  11. Bungee jumped
  12. Visited Paris
  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
  14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
  15. Adopted a child (doesn't having 3 of my own count?!)
  16. Had food poisoning
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (been there, but the top was closed!)
  18. Grown your own vegetables
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
  20. Slept on an overnight train
  21. Had a pillow fight (now ask me if I won =)
  22. Hitchhiked (all the time in Ecuador)
  23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (does sick-of-school count as ill?)
  24. Built a snow fort
  25. Held a lamb
  26. Gone skinny dipping
  27. Run a Marathon
  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
  29. Seen a total eclipse
  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
  31. Hit a home run
  32. Been on a cruise
  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
  34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (do my grandparents count as "ancestors"?)
  35. Seen an Amish community
  36. Taught yourself a new language (is this different from "being taught" a new language? or does perl count? =)
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (has anyone been "truly" satisfied ever? isn't that what heaven's for?)
  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
  39. Gone rock climbing
  40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
  41. Sung karaoke
  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
  44. Visited Africa
  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
  46. Been transported in an ambulance
  47. Had your portrait painted (does a crayon drawing by your daughter count?)
  48. Gone deep sea fishing (how deep does it have to be? 300 yards offshore? Did that...)
  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
  51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
  52. Kissed in the rain
  53. Played in the mud
  54. Gone to a drive-in theater
  55. Been in a movie (a real movie?)
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China
  57. Started a business (sort-of, but no license so I'm not taking credit)
  58. Taken a martial arts class
  59. Visited Russia
  60. Served at a soup kitchen
  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
  62. Gone whale watching
  63. Got flowers for no reason
  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (1/2 donation twice!)
  65. Gone sky diving
  66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
  67. Bounced a check
  68. Flown in a helicopter
  69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
  70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
  71. Eaten Caviar
  72. Pieced a quilt
  73. Stood in Times Square
  74. Toured the Everglades
  75. Been fired from a job (laid-off...)
  76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
  77. Broken a bone
  78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (30 in a 25, seriously)
  79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
  80. Published a book
  81. Visited the Vatican
  82. Bought a brand new car
  83. Walked in Jerusalem
  84. Had your picture in the newspaper
  85. Read the entire Bible (ouch -- but who gets through Deuteronomy and Numbers?!)
  86. Visited the White House (not inside)
  87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
  88. Had chickenpox
  89. Saved someone's life (umm... drove responsibly?)
  90. Sat on a jury (told them I was a religious engineer, and I was the first one kicked out)
  91. Met someone famous (are astronauts famous? that's the best I've got.)
  92. Joined a book club
  93. Lost a loved one
  94. Had a baby (in a way)
  95. Seen the Alamo in person
  96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (can you swim in it? didn't know that...)
  97. Been involved in a law suit (thank goodness)
  98. Owned a cell phone
  99. Been stung by a bee (I think -- or maybe that was Scott?)
That was kind-of fun, thanks Shells.

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 in Photographs -- wow.

2008 in Photographs.

Yea, [the Book of Mormon] shall come [forth] in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; and there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations...

- Mormon 8:29-31

"One weekend messing with perl"

From xkcd:

I'm slow, it took me a lot longer than just one weekend to figure out what was going on, but it was totally worth it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Apple, i.e. Steve Jobs, pulling out of Macworld Expo?

Yep, but if you're worried, read John Gruber's take.

Curiously Apple has never been in a stronger position than it is now. They have *tons* of cash, no debt, impressive sales numbers especially in this economy both of iPods and Macs, and they have an impressive iPhone platform that's just barely out of the gate (making some developers millions of dollars!). They are not idiots, I can't imagine they would pull out of Macworld unless they had something bigger/better planned.

(That or Charlie Greco threw his last straw at Steve Jobs, what do I know?)

It looks like their after hours stock price has lost a couple percent, might be a quick way to make a few percent on my money... =)

"Most beef is tough."

Jenkins Lloyd Jones:
Anyone who imagines bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.

Life is like an old time rail journey...delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts: interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Truth prevails, but when?

Picture 1.pngMax Planck, via wikiquote:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Portable HDD prices down

This is the lowest price I've ever seen on a drive like this: $79 for 320GB portable USB2 drive, free shipping. If you have a MacBook, this is a terrific Time Machine drive, especially one you can leave in your desk at work.

Protection in case your home gets burglarized (hmph!) or burns down.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Moses' disciples

The Pharisees interrogate a blind man who Jesus had just been healed:
blind.pngThen they reviled [the man who was healed], and said, Thou art [Jesus'] disciple; but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: [as for Jesus], we know not from whence he is.   John 9:28-29
Odd that the Pharisees' faith had become so centered around tradition and scripture that they couldn't recognize their God when he was standing right in front of them.

How funny that churches today preach heavily the New Testament, yet just exactly like the Pharisees they tie their faith so tightly around the scriptures that they refuse to acknowledge the prophets and apostles sent to us in our day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pretend to be carefree

When asked about the responsibility that comes with being someone who has changed the world, Steve Jobs offered this interesting sidenote:
... I tend to like to on occasion pretend I don't have any responsibilities. I try to remember the last day when I didn't have anything to do and didn't have anything to do the following day that I had to do and I had no responsibilities. It was decades ago. I pretend when I want to feel that way.
Basically, he just pretends to be free and carefree for a little while.

After reading this, I thought I'd try it, and have been doing it ever since -- especially when things start getting crazy or I'm under a big deadline. Sometimes walking into work I'll pretend that I have nothing to do but enjoy the sights and fresh air. It usually only lasts a minute or two, but it's really relaxing and in a way, kind-of fun.

More on prop. 8

LA Times commentary on the anti-Mormon backlash after Prop. 8 in California.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

iPhoto and your hard disk

iphototrash.pngIf you use iPhoto, and your disk space is running low, check its trash (from Macworld).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Joseph B. Wirthlin has passed away

One of the truly great men in the world, Apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin passed away last night.

My favorite talk by him is titled "Band of Brothers", a great tutorial on leadership.

(I probably need to read it again.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

AppleTV software update

We're on our third AppleTV remote. Apparently having a 2-year old chewing on it isn't within the expected "normal" wear and tear for it.

Software update to the rescue!

The latest update for the ATV seems to let you program almost any remote for it. There's a new option that lets you step through each of the common functions (left, right, select, play, fast-forward, etc.) -- for each one, it tells you to press the button on your remote that you want to perform that action. It couldn't have really been any easier, and now we get to use our TV remote to control our ATV.

Way to go, Apple!


Marriage defined?

A few questions on this whole thing:
  • Many claim that homosexuality is genetic, which would imply that it's hereditary. Really?*

  • So marrying any other person should be okay? How about one's brother? or daughter or son? Move the line, but only exactly this far...

  • Suppose a church said, "We will not perform nor honor marriages between hispanic people." What kinds of legal challenges might come to such a church?

  • The LDS church supports almost everything that same-sex couples are wanting. (Search for "hospital" on this page from What do these couples want that they don't already have? Marriage certificates?

  • Protesters are vandalizing church property (writing on walls, damaging fences, etc.), harassing members, and in some cases attacking them. Do these protesters know how those church members voted on Prop. 8? That kind of behavior doesn't sound like something those kinds of people would tolerate in other circumstances.

* I wonder what the strict-evolutionists think of this idea.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Head-lights: 2 years

I just realized that as of last Friday this blog has been going for 2 whole years! I've impressed myself, I didn't figure I'd submit more than a few posts when I wrote that first one. But I've had a great time and hopefully you have too.

Happy 2-year anniversary, readers. The future is looking brighter every day.

- Bryan

2-line Twilight review

  1. Pretty good depiction of a rather weak-story taken from a very cool premise.
  2. 75% of the movie-goers were teenage girls, only 3 other adult males in the room.

"You need only believe the truth."

Henry Eyring Sr.:
The significant thing about a scientist is this: he simply expects the truth to prevail because it is the truth. ...

A young man [once] asked [me], "In high school we are taught such things as pre-Adamic men, but we hear another thing in Church. What should I do about it?" I think I gave the right answer. I said, "In this Church you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!" ... This Church is not worried about that question or other similar questions, because the Church is committed only to the truth. ...
Fortunately there is a way to find the *real* truth, John 16:13, though often it takes more time than I'd like.
Some have asked me, "Is there any conflict between science and religion?" There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men. Through the eternities, we are going to get closer and closer to understanding the mind of God; then the conflicts will disappear.

I also noticed this quote, which sounds a lot like my "justified skepticism" entry from earlier.*

Finally, perhaps a believer never does more disservice to religion than to support the truth with bad arguments. The listener spots the obvious errors, becomes impatient, often "throws out the baby with the bath," and turns away, even from true religion.
The world is so full of "legacy" bad arguments I'm surprised there are still people who convert to the gospel these days.
* I find it fascinating how often I think I have original creative ideas, but really they're just me recalling something I read a long time ago and thinking it was my own. Hence I don't get to be very critical of Bill Swanson, whose book ended up doing the same thing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

College student tries to hug a panda

Aren't panda bears just so cute and huggable? Some college student in China thought so too, so he jumped in and tried it.

The guy's lucky he survived.

Now doesn't Obama strike you as the kind of guy who thinks the terrorists are simply misunderstood people who just need a hug?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Extension cord and a bag of chips

How to properly coil long cords so they don't tangle:

... and how to close a bag of chips without a tie/clip:

Friday, November 14, 2008

"'I cannot go to school today,' said little Peggy Ann McKay."

My attempt at Photoshop art

Regan's got an abscessed tooth that's going to get a crown Monday. Ouch.

I remember how bad it hurt when I had 4 dry-sockets after getting my wisdom teeth out. It's like each tooth individually pulling out a giant Taser and firing it through your eyeballs and into the inside of your skull -- and holding down the trigger.

So she's been on Tylenol (with Codeine?!) (whenever she'll take it), and anti-biotics.

(Any grade school kids actually like school?)

As a sidenote, Regan's not terribly fond of school at the moment. I don't remember *ever* being fond of school, but something about you hopes that your kids will like it. It's that same "something" that hopes maybe they'll get a college scholarship from the 1st grade.

(Most of our behaviors are a result of positive feedback, maybe we just need to give her more positive feedback on her work.)

(Generous, or "buying" friends?)

As another sidenote, last week I traded her all of her remaining Halloween candy for a $10 toy at Target. She then took it to school (without us knowing) and came home that night wanting us to take her to Target so she could buy herself another one, since she "left it" in her desk. After some prodding, though, she finally admitted that she'd given it away to one of her classmates.

Yeah, she took a credibility hit on that one.

School? My tooth hurts!

Whenever the topic of school is not being discussed, she seems in pretty good spirits.

So with all that in perspective, this morning she comes with a long face:
"Regan, get your shoes on, you've got school."

"Ohhh, my tooth hurts!"
Do I believe that?? Is that enough to stay home from school?

"Okay, if you're going to stay home, you have to stay in bed. As soon as you get out of bed, you have to go to school."
I figure if the tooth really does hurt, staying in bed is better than school. If it doesn't, going to school should be beter than staying in bed... Hope it works.

What do you think?

How do you decide when your kids get to stay home from school?

And when they do have to go, what do you do when they collapse on the floor and refuse to move?
I'm convinced one of the greatest skills a parent can have is the ability to motivate their kids to do stuff. I suppose "fear of punishment" is one way, but I've seen better ways...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

PAF on OS X instructions, improved

Although it looks like lots of folks have gotten PAF to run on OS X (intel Macs), the fonts are driving people crazy.

So I played with it for a few minutes. I thought it'd be tolerable, but after a few minutes with it, I have to agree it's a sanity bender.

It looks like a few folks smarter than me have figured out how to make it work, so here's the updated process that seems to get the fonts right. I also try to help out those whose first install didn't work so well:

  1. darwine.pngDownload Darwine (direct link). Darwine (homepage) is a project that tries to mimic the Windows OS for a Windows .exe program. It doesn't work terribly well for most stuff, but it does seem to work for PAF.

    (Different from my last instructions: this is a newer version of Darwine than the one you installed last time; if you installed it before, just quit Darwine if it's running and drag the Darwine folder out of your applications folder to the trash before continuing.)

  2. Install Darwine. Just like every other Mac app out there, double-click the .dmg file, open up the disk image that mounts, and drag the Darwine folder into your Applications folder

  3. Download PAF installer. This is a Windows application that installs the PAF5 application.

    (Different from my last instructions: this is the "all languages" version, which contains a unicode font that you need.)

  4. Install PAF. Open up the Darwine folder (/Applications/Darwine), and drag the PAF5 Setup .exe file you just downloaded onto the

    If you previously installed PAF using my earlier instructions, run this program once and click "Remove" when it asks you what you want to do. This will remove the app from the first time around. Then, you should run the PAF installer again, and continue from here.

    Select "English" for the language, then when it asks which "components" to install, select "English" and the "International Unicode Font".

    When the IntallShield asks you where to put PAF, press the "Browse" button, and browse to "Z:\Applications", then change it to read "Z:\Applications\PAF5.2". Don't worry if the PAF5.2 folder doesn't exist, the installer will create it.

    Continue with installation. Also, don't worry if it complains about not being able to find WordPad or NotePad.
  5. Run. To run PAF, go to /Applications/PAF5.2, and drag PAF5.exe to /Applications/Darwine/

Much better.
See how much nicer that looks?

I should mention that PAF's future isn't entirely certain. They may be building a web-based PAF, but that's not clear from the vague statements posted to wikipedia and here. If you have money $99 lying around, you might do better to go with Reunion 9 which does more, and which gets tremendous reviews.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Election maps

I love these maps of the election. This just proves that crowded people are liberal.

Spread out, everybody! =)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama wins.

obama.pngIn my mind Bush's greatest failure has been the creation of a climate that resulted in a far-left near-socialist candidate getting elected as the 44th president of this country.

So that said, I'll make a few reckless predictions:
  • Great speeches ahead. Obama has a shiny silver tongue, which will make for some stirring speeches. I like those, at least.
  • Real leadership? Far as I can tell, Obama's never really led anything, and I imagine that track record will lead to a lot of flutter in the press and in Washington, but very little real movement in this country's sails.
  • Mulligan stew. A few poor decisions early on and his credibility will start to slide. He'll revert to "safer" activities and fill a term with busy but rather lame doings.
  • Weak captain, strong sailors. When good sailors realize their captain isn't always up to the job, they then start to realize that if they're going to survive, they've got to be cautious and on the ball.

    Similarly I tend to think that under strong leadership, business leaders subconsciously think, "Oh, the president has got it under control, he'll take care of things -- we can relax." Under weak leadership, they think, "Uh, oh, we better be super careful and work really hard or we'll never make it!"
  • Who's tanking this thing? Did you notice the economy isn't doing so hot? Anybody want to bet how long it will take the short-minded US population to start assigning the blame to Obama? If that sticks, maybe in 4 years we can get back to business.
Don't forget, the president can get us into some real messes militarily, but I don't think Obama will do much of that. More likely he'll do too little.

His real focus is on social programs* -- the only problem he has is that he doesn't get to make laws, nor does he fund them. He only gets to make the budget for them and hope the Congress will pass it and send it back to him to sign.

Fingers crossed that process moves *very* slowly.
* I really hope he doesn't follow GW Bush's lead and try to fulfill all his campaign promises -- that was Bush's second-greatest failure.

Monday, November 3, 2008

My economic recovery platform

Today I had an epiphany on how either of the presidential candidates could pull the US out of this economic freeze we're in. Ready?

Gather and store

It starts by recommending that American individuals and families begin gathering and storing food and other household items.*

Why do I think that would that work?
  • Gets people buying. Economies are made simply of people producing things that other people want, getting paid, and then buying things that others have made. Initiating a nationwide program like this gets lots of people buying food and other goods, much of which is produced here in the US, therefore encouraging movement of money around in the US again.
  • It's stuff they need anyway. Encourage people to only buy things that they need, things they're going to need eventually anyway. It's insurance against future shortages, especially in times of plenty.
  • Leverage the fear. Economies spiral downward because people who are scared stop buying stuff and start holding onto their money. However, if fear can prompt people to buy goods, especially ones they will soon need anyway, we should use it to improve the economy, instead of letting their fear drag it down.
  • Real value. If the economy were to really go sour (which I doubt it will), people will be very glad for the things they had bought.
  • Real bargain. As people start to hold on to their money more, inventories will go up in the short-term, which will cause prices to drop. That's the time we should encourage people to buy, when prices are somewhat lowered. If not, the factories will begin to lower production rates and we'll end up with fewer (and pricier) goods, and fewer jobs.**
Note I said "begin" up there, if we induce panic there'll be a run on the stores and it'll just make a mess. It has to have a gentle kickoff, then persistent, steady pressure to continue.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow. We'd hate to find out that the goose that lays golden eggs just tastes like chicken.

* Just like a years supply.

** I'm not an economist, but I play one in my office sometimes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zimbabwe's inflation

You've probably heard about this, but check out Zimbabwe's inflation rate. Ever seen a $100,000,000,000 bill before?

If that ever happens here, my advice is to avoid cash money like the plague... It will quickly become worthless in your hands, like gold that turns into dirt overnight. If someone pays you in cash, go buy some canned food (or toilet paper or socks, etc.) with it *right then and there*.

The picture of the guy carrying two armfuls of money to pay for dinner is just crazy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Religion, mental health, and LDS folks

Daniel Judd's talk on religion, mental health, and Latter-day Saints managed to strike a few chords for me on my way to work this morning.

His talk is partly about the correlation between mental health, including depression, and the connection to religious observance, especially in LDS people. Remember the statistic that Utah prescribes more anti-depressant medicine per-capita than any other state? We all inferred that the LDS religion must be really depressing -- but it turns out that Utah also prescribes more anti-biotics and anti-inflammatory medications per capita too. Huh? Bro. Judd studied the issue and determined that it's much more likely that it's because of the facts that the average LDS Utahn has better education, access to healthcare, and understanding of symptoms, and is also less likely to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs.

That was all interesting, but then he goes on to talk about a couple of psychological tactics that Satan uses to trick people -- e.g. if he can't get you to be lax in your religious observance, he may try to get you to be overzealous and "look beyond the mark".

Not sure why I liked it so much, maybe it was just the right set of tidbits at the right time for me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The music upstairs...

Yesterday I was putting up a ceiling fan upstairs, and Kyla and the kids were listening to music downstairs. Reminded me of my time in college when I lived in a ground-level apartment beneath another apartment. When those neighbors would crank up the music it was overbearing, and it sounded terrible!

It could be that the music they were playing really was terrible; more likely, though, it was just a result of the fact that music doesn't travel well through walls -- you only get some of the frequencies, so there's a lot of "thump" and very little "twing".

I was reminded of the fact that everybody already knows: beautiful music can sound terrible when there is "stuff" between the listener and the source.

I then realized that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as played within the wall of church and our homes, really is a beautiful symphony -- but to those who happen by on the outside, it doesn't always sound that great. They might even wonder how anyone could stand to listen to that racket.

But as many can attest, it sounds much better inside.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Are you 18?

Since Iron Man doesn't come out to rent for another week on ATV, I did something I haven't done in a long time -- I went to a movie rental place last night.
"Any chance you have any copies of Iron Man left?"

"Yeah, we should have a few..."

"Great. Uh, I've never been here before, do I need to sign up to rent movies?"

"Yeah, you need to get a membership to rent movies. Are you 18?"

So I've been keeping track of the last time someone seemed to think there was a chance that I wasn't 18 yet. I thought last March would be the last time, but alas -- it's now at 10/24/08. I still can't believe that to this adult lady, there was a chance in her mind that I was 17, or younger!

(For those who don't know me very well, I'm 33.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Check out picture #16 here. Just thinking about being the lead swimmer in a narwhal pod makes me straighten a little. =)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cause and effect

Back in college, I remember hitting a mental logjam, and it wasn't clear to me what the problem was. It went something like this:

Say I have a headache. A roommate gives me a pair of aspirin. My headache doesn't go away when I swallow them, so I wait. After 10 minutes I feel a little better, but the headache's still there. What can I deduce? I didn't read the directions, maybe I should've taken three? Or do I need to just wait a little longer? Or is it cheap aspirin and doesn't work very well? Or was my headache going away on its own anyway? Or did my drinking water help because many headaches are caused by dehydration? Or did I take too many and this is a *new* headache? Come on, can I really not get any closer than that?!

I posed this question to a very wise friend, John Holman, and with a single sentence cleared up the whole thing for me. Without even thinking he said, "Yeah, it can be hard to separate cause and effect."

Ah, that was my problem -- it *is* hard to separate cause and effect. I just assumed it was easy, and that somehow aspirin just wasn't cooperating.
Kathy and LaVar Jones

Good people and religion

My Uncle LaVar and Aunt Kathy were some of the neatest people I have ever known. They were the epitome of kindness, warmheartedness, and industry -- and everybody seemed to love them. They were deeply religious and attended church and fulfilled church callings to the very end.

After they died, I was talking to one of my cousins who himself is a little more distant from religion, and he made a rather odd statement -- he said, "LaVar and Kathy were tremendous people -- the Mormon church had nothing to do with it, they would've been that way wherever they had ended up."

He was saying, in effect, they were great before they were members of the church, as opposed to believing they were great, at least in part, *because* they were members of the church.

Why were they great? I could never speak for them, but I have a hunch they would interpret the cause of their characters quite differently than my cousin.

If we don't understanding the correct relationship between cause and effect here, we won't be able to emulate well that greatness in ourselves.

Politics and the USA

This is the greatest nation in the world.

But why?

We like the effect of this greatness, but what are the causes of it?

A lot of people right now don't seem to know. Otherwise we wouldn't have two candidates with such disparate views within even a 20 point spread in the polls -- it'd be a landslide for the candidate who had it all figured out.

Since this is my blog, and I can say whatever I want =), let me volunteer a few of my favorite cause/effect pairs (note, these are not my original ideas, but mostly gleaned from great politicians):
  • Freedom. This country was built on the premise of freedom, *not* prosperity* -- yes, we like prosperity, but freedom is the cause, and prosperity generally is an effect. Again, generally speaking, you *cannot* increase prosperity by limiting freedom -- that's backwards.
  • Innovation and industry. We are prosperous because our nation is an incubator of innovation and industry. We have beds and toilets and refrigerators and cars because someone had the energy, knowledge, motivation and means to build them for us -- company makes stuff > jobs > salaries > buy more stuff > make more stuff. Take away any of those resources, and you cripple the cause of this prosperity. Higher taxes is an example of a "crippler".** So is most government regulation.
  • Infrastructure and protection. Government exists to provide infrastructure (roads, bridges, central banks, etc.), and to protect us from one another (police, military, fraud investigators, etc.). It does *not* exist to manage healthcare, bail out failing businesses, dole out welfare, or subsidize farming. All of those things are freedom-limiting, because freedom includes both choice *and* consequence.
  • Execution. Another way to state the above is that what prospers this nation is wise execution of great ideas. What's the incentive to execute well if the government stands ready to coddle you in failure? And do it with the dollars taken from those who had the drive to succeed? with dollars that would've been spent creating further industry?

This nation has lots of headaches, and our media and half our citizens have long-since forsaken aspirin for political heroin -- and when the headaches remain, they think the cause is that they just need more.
* Thanks Ryan Parker.

** My brother likes to quote Winston Churchill: "A nation trying to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to pull himself up by the handles."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cheap flash

Well, it finally happened: flash drives large enough to hold an entire DVD's worth of video at the cost of a new DVD release from Wal-Mart.

About a year back, someone figured out how to put all of Wikipedia on an iPhone, that the whole thing was something like 4 gigabytes. Can you believe that $20 will now buy you a device with enough storage to store the entire content of Wikipedia which holds a very significant portion of all human knowledge, and is yet small enough to slip into your coin pocket?

For 8 GB, we can just about round that $20 down to "free". Awesome.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"The Age of Turbulence"

At the recommendation of a good friend, Daniel Rovey, I'm reading The Age of Turbulence by Alan Greenspan.

I still have a lot more to read, but a few things have already started sink in. The first is that this truly is an age of "turbulence". Other things:

We've already tried that...

Hearing a lot of talk about regulating financial companies these days? Though I wasn't around, supposedly in the early 70's the country was facing double-digit inflation and high unemployment, which was supposedly a new phenomenon (which they labeled "stagflation").

Everyone (including President Ford) came to the conclusion that overregulation was *causing* the problems, and that the industries needed to be deregulated. They were, and it worked. The economy started growing again.

(It would've continued, except it was an election year, and the pundits and press claimed the steady growth had stalled [which it hadn't, according to Greenspan] and somehow blamed it on Ford, who then lost the election.)

Bottom line: We were already "regulated", and it caused bigger problems than we have now.

Stunning to me how often through history we have cycled from one extreme to the other on policy (corporate regulation, foreign interventions, farm policy, etc.), when reason simply encourages us to stay carefully in the "middle".

If businesses aren't failing, it's not capitalism

Mr. Greenspan brings up several times the concept of "creative destruction" -- that the strength and beauty of capitalism is that only the creative and successful succeed in business, and they're the ones who do things better and more efficiently than the other guys. Those who can't keep up or adapt are forced out, and their resources are redistributed so others can have a chance.

That process results in better products coming to us cheaper, and innovation being encouraged and rewarded.

If we bail out the losers with public tax-dollars, what are we rewarding then? Bloat and sloth.

Let them fail and open up the market so others can step in and do better.


Economies are like plants, growing too fast is a recipe for disaster. Just like my bradford pear trees that were originally planted because they grow fast, economies that grow too fast don't have the stability needed to weather the storms.

As a rule of thumb, Greenspan seems to point to mid-to-high single digits as a sustainable rate of growth for an economy.

(Maybe a good level to shoot for on your personal investments too? As an aside, I sold my Apple stock at the beginning of June -- check it out today. My 401k isn't faring as well, I'm down 20% in just the last few months.)

Doing the right things right.

In life, it's not enough just to do the right things. You have to do the right things right.

If I get a flat tire, changing it is the right thing to do. However if I forget to tighten the lug nuts, my day's going to get a lot worse. I did the right thing, but I did it *wrong*.

We don't always know what the right things are, though, so we look at the outcomes. If the outcome is bad, we often assume that we did the wrong thing -- but all too often we have done the *right* thing, but we have done it *wrong*.

Buying a new house for most people is a "right" choice. Buying a house that costs more than a third of their gross income is doing it wrong.

We need to bailout, but we need to do it right.

We need to regulate, but we need to do it right.

We need to change some things in Washington, but we need to change them right.

I certainly don't know how to do these things right -- one of many reasons I'm not running for President -- but I hope the guy who does has some pretty good ideas. At this point, though, I'm not convinced that either of our candidates knows how to do any of this stuff right.

But I am pretty sure the solutions of one will be much farther from *dead wrong* than the other's.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thee and thou

Ever wonder why we use the words "thee" and "thou" in prayers? Me too -- I just always figured it was a more respectful way of speaking.

Well, I'm not sure I have the whole story, but I just got a lot more of it yesterday...

Quick Spanish lesson

Let's start with Spanish. In Spanish, there are two different words for "you": tú and usted. "Tú" is informal/familiar, and is what you'd use when talking to a child (or someone obviously younger than you), or when talking to a close friend. "Usted" is a more formal term, and is used to show respect, deference, and manages to maintain a reasonable "distance" between you and the other person.

When learning how to pray in Spanish, I figured we'd use the "usted" when speaking to our Heavenly Father, but turns out the "tú" form is what's used. Why? As it was explained to me, our communication/communion with our Father should reflect a very close, loving, familiar relationship, which is what the form reflects.

Et tu, English?

So, back to English -- why "thou" and not "you"?

According to Grammar Girl, back in the 14th century English used to have formal and familiar forms of "you" too... But what surprised me is that when we went down to one, we dropped the familiar form! Yep, that's right, "thou" is the familiar/informal form, and "you" is the formal form.

So when you say "thee" and "thou", you're actually using the less-formal, familiar-relationship forms of you.

Learn something every day.
* Interesting sidenote, as GG points out, "you" is both a subject *and* object pronoun, e.g. "You are very kind.", and "I gave the books to you." But the familiar versions of you have different subjective and objective forms, e.g. "Thou art most kind." and "I trust thee."

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Ew, this tastes like medicine"

My kids are so funny -- last night Kyla made some Kool-aid, which turned out to be the first time my kids had ever had it. I guess I'm not really sure how that happened.

Anyway, our eldest (who wanted to remain nameless), said, "Ew, this tastes like medicine!"



Recap: kids are used to drinking water --> giant pitcher-man makes a fortune busting down walls and selling dry food coloring that you add to kids' water (along with a ton of sugar) --> kids like kool-aid better than water --> make yucky medicine taste like kool-aid so kids will take it.

Now my daughter who's had medicine but no kool-aid thinks the kool-aid is gross!

Hilarious, I guess we need potato-chip-flavored medicine now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alabama Plants I Don't Know.

Well, a sampling, anyway, there are very few Alabama plants I *do* know.

Know what any of these are? I'd love to find out, please use the comment section below.
Number 1


Okay, just kidding, I know this one -- it's poison ivy, and found all over the place here. Note the asymmetric leaf shape in the side-leaves. "Leaves of 3, leave them be." Except for, um, number 11...
Number 2


Japanese maple maybe?
Number 3

Number 4

Number 5 (Are those berries edible?? How do plants spread their seeds if their berries end up killing the animals that eat them?)

Number 6

Number 7

Number 8

This is a weed that grows in my yard and is particularly hard to pull -- I seem to recall having these in AZ too.

Number 9

I didn't plant this, but I might've if I'd seen it at Lowe's.

Number 10

This is another "weed" that sprung up on its own that's actually kind-of cute.

Number 11

Leaves of 3, except the serrated edges on the leaves (and thorns on the stem) distinguish it from poison ivy. Wild strawberry maybe? If so, where are the berries?!

Number 12

Number 13

Pretty sure this one's a dandelion, but I'm not totally sure -- don't dandelions have the white puff on top that the kids like to blow apart?

Number 14

This is a bad picture (it was getting dark), but maybe someone with a sharp eye can see enough detail to figure this one out.


And for those who like me have no clue, hope you at least enjoyed a few close-ups of the Alabama flora.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poll: Would you rather have global warming, or another "ice age"?

Before you decide, learn what "condition 1" means in Antarctica.

To participate in the poll, get out a sharpie marker*, and circle your preference below:
Global Warming
Ice age
Polls will be open for a week, then I'll start counting results -- though admittedly I've been having a little trouble with these new computerized polling machines.
* You might need some help when you're done. =)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Backup drive deal

To anyone with a Mac laptop, here's a great deal on a good Time Machine backup drive.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Which wolf will win?"

Another quote by Robert H. Todd:
wolves.pngSome years ago I heard of a parable told by an old Cherokee chief who was trying to teach his grandson this principle. 'A fight is going on inside me,' he said to the boy. 'It is a terrible fight at times, and the fight is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, jealousy, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you—and inside every other person too.'

The grandson thought about what his grandfather had said to him for a minute and then asked, 'Grandfather, which wolf will win?'

The old chief simply replied, 'The one you feed.'
Why do I get the feeling that when one wolf dies, so will you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

700 Billion dollars?

A bedtime story

Once upon a time, the US economy starts to improve a little, and people decide to take their money and invest in real-estate, "which has always been a very solid investment".

House prices start to rise. Others say, "Hey, house prices are starting to rise nicely, looks like a good investment." They buy another house or two.

Average Joe sees his equity go up, and says, "Hey, sweet, I've got equity now -- I'm selling here and buying a bigger house." Joe cashes in some equity on that house and drops it into a new house.

Mortgage banks see housing prices rising and say, "Wow, that's a terrific investment -- let's loosen the reins a little on these mortgages and sell more."

"Sweet, look at all the money we're making!"

Stockholders in other companies complain -- "Hey, how come they're making huge gains and we're just sitting here? We need to get into that action!"

House prices rise faster and faster, and sanity in the lending practices starts flying out the window. Real-estate never goes down in value, remember?

In late 2007, someone realizes -- "Hey, we've been building and buying houses like crazy, but um... who's going to live in them all?"

Uh, oh. Uh oh. "Maybe we don't want our money in mortgage backed securities right now..."

Others -- "Oh oh, neither do we." ("Um, let's slide out the side door before anyone else notices...")

Everyone else -- Huh? Nobody wants them??! They're dropping in value! Panic! Lots of people can't sell now, and they can't afford all these houses we've lent them money to buy! That means we foreclose, but they're dropping in value fast! What are we going to do with them?! Our books are full of depreciating assets, and we don't have enough cash to cover them!



Bottom line? Every market is driven by "fear and greed" (thanks, Larry) -- greed drove up the prices, and fear is going to rip the bottom out from under us.

We as a nation inflated the values of all our homes, bought a bunch of them, then watched them all deflate in value. The money evaporated.*

So all these huge companies (Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, etc.) that borrowed money to fund all this "action" are now gone.


Serves 'em right?

"Let 'em crash, serves them right!"

We're agonizing over high CEO pay and golden parachutes, but these are pennies compared to the big picture here. According to Alan Greenspan (so I've heard anyway), at one point in his tenure we were only 4 years from eradicating the national debt. Huh? I thought the national debt was the number with so many digits that people tried to remember what came after "trillion", would be what finally crushed my grandchildren's dreams and drove the nation into poverty...

But no, money was coming fast into the federal government's coffers -- fast. Where was all the money coming from? Prosperous US businesses producing stuff, and all the taxes rolling in from that activity.

americanstar.pngA rising tide raises all ships? That rising tide almost saved my grandkids from economic ruin. But if we let our biggest businesses die, the economic engines that supported and drove that kind of growth, our tide goes out -- way out. They are why our economy is the biggest and most stable in the world. If we let the tide go out, the big ships will end up wrecked on the rocks, but so will lots of others. ("Let 'em crash, serves them right...?") And wrecked ships don't magically float again when the tide comes back in.

We can complain about golden parachutes and try to bring the more buoyant ships down to the same level as ours, but who really cares if the water's receding and our own keels are already bouncing off the reefs?

So greed inflates value and "creates" capital; and fear destroys it. Anybody seeing any more fear? Yes -- the tide goes out faster.

What to do? "We need greed back! We need the real economic engines to keep running." Can it really be as simple as throwing in a bunch of money and rescuing those engines and giving the "greedy" cash to be greedy for?

$700 billion.

* Well not exactly -- some, like me, happened to sell at a half-decent time and pull out a few tens of thousands of dollars in equity that since would have disappeared had I not grabbed it. Lucky move.

Why didn't anyone see this coming? Brandon Carpenter can attest that *I* saw it coming -- I complained in 2006 that this was "totally ridiculous", and that it was completely unsustainable, and that we were in for a huge mess. Yet nobody at the Fed. listened to me. =)

Hmm... I thought being right about that would have felt more satisfying than it does.

By the way, $700B is about $2300 for every man, woman, and child in America, and is almost what we've spent so far in the Iraq war ($845B).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Skepticism justified

This quote on making websites accessible has stuck with me ever since I read it:
"Since [most web developers'] world consists largely of able-bodied 26-year-olds, it's very hard for them to believe that a large percentage of the population actually needs help accessing the Web. They're willing to write it off as the kind of exaggeration that people make when they're advocating for a worthy cause, but there's also a natural inclination to think, "If I can poke a hole in one of their arguments, I'm entitled to be skeptical about the rest."

"They're also skeptical about the idea that making things more accessible benefits everyone. Some adaptations do, like the classic example, closed captioning, which does often come in handy for people who can hear. But since this always seems to be the only example cited, it feels a little like arguing that the space program was worthwhile because it gave us Tang. It's much easier for developers and designers to imagine cases where accessibility adaptations are likely to make things worse for "everyone else."

- Steve Krug, "Don't Make Me Think" (emphasis added)
It's a great point. I love this concept of justified skepticism, and have been seeing opportunities to use it ever since.

For example, see this story about some religious "compound" in Arkansas raided under suspicion of child abuse. For those disinclined to religion for some reason or another, it's one more reason to feel "entitled to be skeptical" of religion altogether -- "If that's what religion makes of people, even in rare cases, keep me out of it!"

I have a feeling the Devil knows that's how people's minds work, and works hard to keep the connection between the bad apples and "religion".

When I think about religious leaders in other churches, I tend to believe that what principles we held in this life will matter far less than how well we lived the principles we had. And as long as one of our principles is to seek for and accept truth wherever we find it, God will continue to teach us.

And if the allegations are true, I'd bet the folks in that compound were not trying very hard to live their principles. Sad.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Saved by grace or works?

"Are you going to heaven?"

"Uh," I turned around, the noise of the fair behind me. "I plan on it."

The kid looked about 22, wearing a t-shirt and holding a paper-covered box that said something like "What you need to know about heaven".

"So you've accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?"

"Absolutely," I said without hesitating -- understanding that was probably the fastest way out of that interchange, given that I didn't have much confidence that the answers I was seeking at that point in my life were going to be found in his cardboard box.

For some reason he didn't seem satisfied with my response, but I smiled politely and kept walking. I bet if I'd stopped and told him I was Mormon I bet he would've had a lot more to say, but our kids' fuses were already short and we were almost out the gates.

I do find it odd how aggressively some churches hold to this doctrine of "accepting Jesus" as the only criteria for salvation (from Romans 10:9), and discard all the references to "works", even those from Paul himself, including in the next verse where he says "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" -- can you be righteous without doing anything good? (another example from Paul)

Do they really mean to imply that with a simple vocalized "acceptance", I can be assured of salvation and then live as sinfully as I like? It's certainly an attractive teaching, understandably popular.

I only bring this up because I found this today:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. - Matthew 16:27

There are dozens of scriptures on this (that I'll happily share if anyone cares), but for those confused by it, perhaps consider this approach:
Jesus Christ took upon himself the punishment for all of our sins, and all that He requires is that we turn to him and repent of our sins and do our very best as long as we live -- then his grace makes up the rest.
From that perspective, all the scriptures seem to make sense to me and be consistent with each other.

Hopefully one of the 2 people who actually read my blog will benefit from that. =)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Another classic line

mckinley.pngTomorrow McKinley is giving a talk in Primary (the church class for the little ones), so in preparing I usually sit down with them and write down what they say when I ask them questions about the subject. Her talk tomorrow is about Heavenly Father hearing and answering our prayers.

McKinley is hilarious:
Me: "What does it sound like when Heavenly Father talks to us?" (hoping I'd get a better answer than I got the other day)

McKinley: "Sometimes, you can hear birds -- because birds are up in heaven -- except they’re nice, and they don’t peck us."
Ever feel like you're not getting through to your kids?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ike's legacy

Some stunning pictures here.

Coconut, right?

DSCF3584.JPGKinney today, pointing at her teeth:
"The stuff between your teeth is called coconut, right Dad?"
Last week:
Me: "Hey girls, how do we know when the Spirit is talking to us?"

Regan: "We feel good inside -- and happy."

Me: "Kinney?"

Kinney: "Um -- we hear beeping."

Does anyone read this thing?

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