Thursday, August 21, 2008


So after watching a total of probably one hour of diving since the Olympics started this year, I can honestly say I still have no clue what the judges are scoring on. Every single dive looks perfect to me.

So the girl jumps, spins around like 10 times, then straightens up perfectly just in time to stab straight into the water like an arrow.

My first reaction is to cheer -- and hey, everybody else is cheering. How in the world do you get the timing right on something like that?! Amazing! But I resist, because I know I'm going to feel like an idiot when the lady announcer comes on and says, "Oh, she's going to be very disappointed with that dive."


They need to have some sort of computer graphic that shows me how far twisted they on entry in degrees, how far apart their feet were and the pointing angle of their toes, and the volume of water that went up in the splash. "Oh, 0.5 degrees, 1/2 inch, 172 degrees, and 2.5 gallons? Not bad..." That's something an engineer/analyst can sink his teeth into!

I'm just going to start scoring them myself, and awarding gold medal flour cookies to the winners:

Hang in there, Guo, you still have a shot at the top cookie! Put a little more into the hair angle, lose the mysterious water, and you'll have it!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

7th gold was close

Everyone thought that Cavic won that 7th race, but SI came out with some pictures that finally convinced us that Phelps won.

Interestingly, Phelps' head was definitely in front of Cavic's:


(picture snagged from SI website linked above)

So although Cavic's arms were out in front, his body wasn't, so I don't think he deserved the win either way.

Hopefully now that I've typed Cavic's name 5 times, I'll remember it at the 2012 Olympics. =)

8 for 8

Anybody not catch Phelps' last race? Amazing performance.*

Interestingly, wikipedia updates faster than pretty much any news site -- so for the scoop, try there first.

It's also amazing to me that I just watched the race 10 minutes ago, and yet I already can't remember who the 2nd place swimmers were. Fractions of a second behind our racers, stunning performers, yet I already forgot even which country they're from.

Or as Jerry Seinfeld says of the medal winners, "Gold --- Silver. Greatest guy in the world --- Never heard of him."
* Did you catch the cool 3-d presentation on Michael's genetics that NBC was showing? In truth, Michael's a genetic anomaly when compared to average people -- his torso and arms are too long for his height, and his legs are too short, he's double jointed all over (including his ankles), and he wears size 14 shoes. I wonder how many hundredths of seconds advantage he gets from those things?

The EMP threat

Starfish_Prime_aurora_from_Honolulu_1.jpgRemember my post about doomsday scenarios? The one with the EMP pulse going off in your town?

Looks like Congress is thinking about it too.

Except their scenario is much worse -- replace "your city" with "the entire continental US", and you've got the scenario they're talking about.

We've seen how very tall buildings can demolish themselves with a single "disruption". We've also seen how very "tall" interconnected economic systems tend to crush weaker elements with only a small breeze*.

The EMP-above-the-US scenario is not a small breeze, it's a category 5 hurricane.**

"And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat up on that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." - Matt 7:27

How can we prepare? Work on your year's supply! It will keep you (and perhaps your neighbors) from starving while China and Japan ship us enough electronics to get back moving again.

And it protects you from a lot more than just EMPs -- we never run out of ketchup at barbeques anymore. =)

* First Magnus made $300M in 2003. When one entity stopped wanting to buy mortgage-backed securities, everyone stopped, and the mortgage crisis ensued. First Magnus was out of business in a single day.

** Check out what happened in Hawaii in 1962 after Operation Starfish Prime.

Segway good and bad

At least I think that's what this is about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Speaking of crazy...

Did you hear about the lady who cloned her pitbull?

Apparently, somebody recognized her.

Relaxing ride on the highway

For some reason, I just couldn't stop laughing after I saw this.

"He's texting!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Arches arch collapses

Wow, I wouldn't have expected a geographic event like this to have occurred in my lifetime. I wonder how long it's been there?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The "Keystone" of our religion

Walking through the library the other night a book called "Mormons in America" happened to catch my eye on the end of one of the aisles. I remembered hearing that it was relatively fair and unbiased, so I picked it up and started thumbing through it.

Polygamous family in the 1800s
One of the first sections I ran across was a description of all of Joseph Smith's reported polygamous activities. It had a seemingly endless sequence of women who had been coerced, pressured, and threatened with the loss of their eternal soul if they didn't acquiesce to his prurience. The message of that part of the book was pretty clear -- that inwardly Joseph Smith was a hedonist bent on getting around the 6th commandment via "marriage" loophole.

Is this the "fair and unbiased" view of Mormonism that people are getting?

We all know Joseph Smith had multiple wives -- he was called to be the prophet of the restoration, and to be the instrument by which God would restore the fulness of the gospel. God included in that calling the practice of having multiple wives just as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of the Old Testament. Contrary to what you might expect, it was not a popular teaching in the 1800s, and nobody seemed to want it taught, including Joseph -- but according to Lorenzo Snow, Joseph was told that he must either teach and practice the principle or be removed from his place. For a better overview, start here, and go to the article on "Plural Marriage".

That said, the apostles back then spoke of plural marriage in only the most reverent and sacred terms, so reports of coercion and pressure to me just sound wrong. Of course I'd love to be able to prove that those reports are distortions and lies, but as I've mentioned before, how do you prove that someone didn't do something that was supposedly done in secret and in a corner? Maybe Joseph did do those things, and I can't prove otherwise -- but I don't think so.

Dissenters often lie. Usually though, insinuation alone casts enough suspicion to keep people away, a cunning tactic for sure.

So now what? Jesus himself gave us the key: "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matt 7:16

Okay, so I have ancestors who practiced polygamy, so in a way I'm a "fruit" of Joseph's obedience. But Joseph gave us *much* more than polygamy.

Interestingly, in 1830 at age 24, just one month before he organized the LDS church, the uneducated Joseph Smith published a 500+ page book claiming to be the religious record of a group of native American people from 600 BC to 400 AD.

His story of how the book came about is incredible, but assuming that you do not believe his story, how would you explain it? Here is a book with no obvious historical errors*, dealing with a people that a young man like Joseph would have had very little knowledge about. But even more impressive are the quantity and force of new** religious tenets that it lays down, that unbelieving scholars even today struggle to contradict using only the Bible. And he never took credit for it.

en_bookofmormon_lg.gifI have a college degree, got A's in all my writing classes (and got the highest possible score on the English Proficiency Exam in college), and have been reading and writing for most of my 33 years. But I'll be the first to admit that I couldn't produce a single page of text that could be wedged into that book without my next door neighbor being able to punch a dozen holes in it. The book is really remarkable. I've read it probably a dozen times, and each time through I've been more amazed at the breadth and depth of its messages.

So what's different about it? Come and see.

* Look at the list of historical concerns raised by archeologists listed on wikipedia -- note that it is almost entirely based on absence of evidence, not contrary evidence, which is what you'd get if I tried to write something like that.

** ... to almost everybody living at that time, anyway ...

*** I've never seen this before: A baptist minister's take on the Book of Mormon.

Church today

I love Fast and Testimony meetings in Alabama. We are right in the bible belt, and I'm surprised at how many converts we have considering the bitter campaigns some other churches put on against us.

Today a visitor stood up to share his testimony, and talked about how he had been searching for the truth since he was a boy. He'd been a member of another church, but when he read the Book of Mormon he knew it was true, and after much prayer he joined the LDS church. He went on to talk about all the positive changes that had come to his life.

He also mentioned how wonderful it was to visit our ward/congregation, and how he felt right at home just walking through the door -- that the members were as open and welcoming as those in his own ward.

It's always good to have those reminders of the blessings we already enjoy.


To me there always seemed to be two sides of faith. The first is believing that God exists without physical evidence. The second, the "principle of action" part, is believing that something good will come of your righteous efforts without having seen the results beforehand.

The first side is still hard to explain to non-believers, and I don't understand why God requires it*. But there's a lot of "why" questions I still don't understand.

sprout.jpgThe second side, however, makes much more sense to me. Discussing Alma 32 in Sunday School today, we talked about how seeds are planted, what they take to grow, how they grow, and how our faith starts out just like a seed.

Indeed it does take faith to take something that looks almost like a rock, press it down into prepared dirt mixed with dung, and water it until it sprouts. We believe that it will grow if we do those things, even though we've never seen that seed sprout before. Once we've seen it, our faith turns to knowledge.

But our faith in the Lord is like a seed that is planted. We're not sure if we believe or not, but we'd like to believe, so we put a little work into it. Prepare the ground and plant the seed, and see if it starts to grow into something good.

This works for almost everything in life -- put some effort in and try it out. Give it some time to see if it grows, and remember that although the plant is growing, the fruit almost never comes right away.

Also interesting is that seeds grow the best when planted in well-dunged soil -- the poor little seed must push through a relatively long stretch of dung before it ever sees the light. Drop a seed on rock gravel and it won't grow well.

I love fruit.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Doh! Apparently Google Reader doesn't honor the "caption align="bottom"" part (unlike Firefox and webkit) and stuck the captions on top of the pictures (yuck) -- go to my blogspot page to see how it was supposed to look...

Since a lot of people use Google Reader (including me!), I'll have to try again.

A test, let's see what GR does with this:

A weird moth we saw on our Varsity/Venture High Adventure Campout

Blogspot image captions

Why is it so hard to do image captions on blogs?

Apparently because it's strangely hard to do image captions in HTML*.

Google it and you get "hems" and "hahs" and "TIMTOWTDI" responses.

This site recommends tables or CSS. Unfortunately CSS is awkward with blogs since the blog usually already has a bunch of styles defined, and some HTML (like "<br clear="all" />") gets stripped by blogspot as soon as it's posted. Grr.

So here's their recommendation, tweaked by me:
<table align="center">
<caption align="bottom"> caption text </caption>
<tr><td> <img ...> </td></tr>
And it looks like this:

A weird moth we saw on our Varsity/Venture High Adventure Campout

"What is that mess? Code?!" - Love, Mom.

Okay, mom, I'll admit us computer types haven't made it perfectly easy for you yet...

Yes, that's a simple table in HTML code, which is the way we make web pages look better than just a bunch of words strung together. To use it in Blogspot, just insert your image like you always do (with no alignment), then switch to "Edit HTML" mode and copy/paste my code up there into your blog. Then replace the <img ...> tag in my code with the mess that blogspot entered in there for you (probably starting with "<a onblur...." and ending with "</a>").*

Change the caption and you're set.

This guy is just a little bigger than a quarter...

Other tips

When you're in HTML editing mode, you'll probably want to enter a word or two in front of the <table> tag, and also after the </table> tag. This will make it easier when you switch back to "Compose" mode to just click on the text and continue typing.

Also, if you change that align="center" to align="right" in the table tag, you can push it off to the right (or left) of the flowed text.

Hope that helps -- enjoy!
* 10 second HTML tutorial: HTML is mostly just plain text with "tags" mixed in to change the formatting. Tags start with "<" and end with ">", and usually come in pairs, e.g. to bold some "text", you'd enter this in html: <b>text</b> (that's how I bolded my image caption). The closing tag is differentiated with a "/" in front of the tag name.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008