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."

Post turtle

My uncle Jim just sent this out:pt.png
While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Obama and his bid to be our President.

The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Obama is a 'post turtle'." Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a "post turtle" was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a 'post turtle'."

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain. "You know he didn't get up there by himself, he doesn't belong up there, he doesn't know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a [dummy] put him up there to begin with."*
I must give Obama some credit: he does speak very well, and has an excellent presence on camera, as well as an impressive ability to respond to criticism. I suppose the stereotypical politician is known for smooth-talking, vague unfulfillable promises, and appeasement -- he seems to fit that mold almost perfectly.

That said, this is a man who, as far as I can tell, has never authored a bill in Congress nor lead anything substantial, and has used illegal drugs. Is this really the best our country can produce?

* Note, this is conveniently un-sourced, but a simple Google search points out that this is rather old and appears to have been first applied to G.W. Bush.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm glad somebody finally told him

jsnbg.pngMicrosoft's new ad campaign with Jerry Seinfeld is out now, and uh... I guess I'm not really sure what the point is -- I don't feel any more desire to go out and buy one of Microsoft's self-torture devices. I did think it was pretty funny though, almost like an old Seinfeld episode.

Best quote:
[Bill,] you're livin' in some kinda moon house hovering over Seattle like the mothership, and I got so many cars I get stuck in my own traffic.
Ha ha, somebody had to tell him -- glad it was Jerry.

I do find it somehow wrong that Bill Gates is the richest man on earth -- I guess I just thought that title should belong to someone with more... charisma, maybe?

"My life didn't smell like this before"

There aren't many things that make me laugh out loud every time I hear them, but this is one of them:

from Morning Sentinel
In July [2007], a tractor-trailer overturned on Walker Road in Norridgewock, Maine, and its contents of nitrogen-concentrated chicken manure spilled onto rusted cars and the rest of the property of junk dealer Richard White.

Days later, "There's stuff still 20 feet up the tree," he said. "It was like a tsunami wave of hot chicken [manure]," he told the Waterville Morning Sentinel. White grumbled that the truck company was slow on the cleanup, probably, he said, because his property is largely junk. "They think I'm a hick and don't matter.

But my life didn't smell like this before." "I hate flies."
Maybe I'm still a 7th grader at heart, but I just can't imagine a "tsunami wave" of hot chicken manure washing over a yard-full of junk without laughing.

"There's stuff still 20 feet up the tree"!
Original is here and full story here. Shelly, it's only 2 and a half hours drive from Bar Harbor, that'd be a fun road-trip! You gotta get a picture with this guy. =)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Medal Counts

medalcounts.pngHere's a fascinating look at Olympic medal counts over the years.

Just for fun, switch to the "by Ranking" tab, then step through the years from 1896 thru 1912 comparing the location of the games to who won the most medals. Coincidence? Also note who came out ahead in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, under Hitler's watchful eye (see number 5 here).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Acting "as we ought not act"

Robert H. Todd:
"When I was a boy I had a wonderful little cocker spaniel dog named Smokey. Smokey liked to play ball by having me throw the ball as far as I could behind the shop in our backyard, by the woodpile, among the fruit trees, or in the garden—wherever. Smokey would not give up until he found that ball and brought it back to me, only to repeat the cycle again and again. Smokey became my best friend, and I loved to play with him day after day.

"Smokey had only one fault. Not only was he obsessed with chasing and retrieving tennis balls, but he was also obsessed with climbing our front fence and chasing after loud trucks passing by on our side street.

"One day I heard a truck coming, and immediately I thought of Smokey. Before I could reach the front gate to stop him, he had climbed the gate and was already halfway across our front lawn, headed for the wheels of the truck at full speed. I called for him to stop as loud as I could, but it was no use. Within an instant he was nipping at one of the rear wheels of the truck, running to keep up. A few seconds later one of his rear legs somehow slipped and got caught under one of the wheels, also pulling his pelvis under the wheel. Smokey was left in the street crying and yelping in tremendous pain.

"I ran over to him and tried to comfort him. As I got close enough, he immediately bit my hand as hard as he could. I was astonished. Why would this wonderful dog I loved so much bite me? My mom came out of the house, and somehow we were able to get Smokey in a large burlap bag and into the car. At the vet’s office we were told that Smokey’s body had been so badly hurt that he would have to be put to sleep. I was devastated and confused.

"What happened was not an easy thing for a little boy to understand. It took me some years to learn the lesson from the experience. Those who are hurting often strike out and hurt those they love most, simply because they are hurting. Have you noticed that sometimes when we hurt, this is how we treat our Heavenly Father and others? This is not how our Savior acted when He was hurt—when He was despised and spit upon by others and when He was crucified.

"It is not easy, but, in the long run, learning to act like our Savior Jesus Christ and to love our fellow man and God no matter what hurt may come to us is easier than any other alternative. With God’s help I know we can overcome the natural man and become like Him. Elder Gene R. Cook explained it this way: 'As we increasingly think and act like Him, the attributes of the natural man will slip away to be replaced by the heart and the mind of Christ.'

"Many years ago I learned from a wonderful man who served as my mission president, Elder Glen L. Rudd, that all of us need four things in our lives:
  1. We need to be loved.
  2. We need to be trusted.
  3. We need to be understood.
  4. We need to feel that our work is appreciated.
"When any one or more of these four needs are missing in our lives, we often will act as we ought not to act. Understanding this can be a great help in learning to love others, no matter what they may do. It can also help us see why we are not acting at times as we ought to be acting. When you see a friend or loved one letting the natural man take over and not acting as they ought to, ask yourself which one or more of these four needs might be lacking in their lives—or, for that matter, we should ask this same question when we are not acting as we ought to act in our own lives.

"I want to make you a promise. If you see someone acting as they ought not to act, ask Heavenly Father if there is something you might do to help them feel more loved, more trusted, more understood, or more appreciated for their efforts. If you ask sincerely, really wanting to help because you love them-and God—the Holy Ghost will give you some inspiration—even revelation—concerning what you might do to be of help."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gmail users, do this.

Someone figured out how to get into a gmail account without permission. Sound scary? Welcome to the internet.

Before you get too excited, here's what I've gleaned from the article:
  • For it to work, someone has to send you a specially-crafted email with pictures in it
  • You had to open that email in a browser (not in an email client like Entourage or Outlook)
  • You had to "download" the pictures (by default gmail doesn't show non-embedded images in emails)
  • And you had to not be using a secure connection

This just came out today, so your chances of having your account compromised are slim.

And the fix is easy. Go to Gmail, click on "Settings" in the upper right, "General" tab, and click this setting:Always use https
Your email might be a little slower, but for people with broadband they're not likely to notice. Use Google Notifier? Looks like you'll have to upgrade it...

I recommend not downloading pictures in any email you don't *really* trust. Spammers embed your email address in the image requests in their emails, so they can tell that your email address is good just by you viewing the email.

Sorry, mom, I wish the internet world was a safer place for the innocent move about. But that's why you have me, right? =)

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008