Monday, November 22, 2010

By their fruits ye shall know them

A new sociological study just came out with much to say about the LDS church.

I can't imagine a better set of metrics for a church to score highly in.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How to "move" instead of "copy" a file into your iTunes Library

iT.pngHandbrake users, rejoice! This seems to work:
  1. Make a "temp" folder inside your Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder
  2. Whenever you get a new file you want iTunes to manage, e.g. from Handbrake, drag it to that temp folder
  3. Then drag it from there into iTunes
It should disappear from the temp folder almost immediately. Note, you need to have "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" in the Advanced Preferences pane.

If you do this a lot, try making an alias to that temp folder on your desktop.

If you *really* do this a lot, leave a comment and I can probably be persuaded to make a folder action script that will automatically send those files to iTunes when dropped there.

(Update, I wasn't the first to discover this.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crossing the line in new and surprising ways

A few weeks back I thought I heard offer this quote during a lesson, but nobody remembers it being said or saying it, and I can't find it anywhere on the internet (which knows everything, right?).

Still, worth sharing:
If you set the example to your kids that it's okay to cross the line, they'll cross it in ways that are new and surprising to you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On getting, learning, becoming

"They Shall Ask the Way to Zion", Shawn Miller:
Stuff beyond our basic needs does not liberate. Consider the overall investment of your time. You have to shop for stuff. You have to clean, maintain, and organize stuff. You lose stuff. You look for stuff. You polish stuff, secure it against theft, trip over it, recharge it, upgrade it, accessorize it, pack it, move it, unpack it, insure it, fix it, and eventually sell, trash, or bequeath it. Stuff has no use beyond this life, and it takes a lot from us.

Very much unlike stuff, knowledge has few such liabilities.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eder Patrick Kearon

Another excellent talk from last night.

I've never even heard of Elder Kearon before, but he's an excellent speaker. (He's from England, in case you're curious.)

Elder Uchtdorf on pride

These talks usually take days to get online, but this one's already on YouTube -- Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf to the priesthood brethren on pride:

Spreading "culture"?

Remember my post on culture?

Looks like the "stool donor" approach is getting some traction -- Dr. Gordon is Director of the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, talking to Terry Gross on Fresh Air a couple weeks back about doing exactly that:
Dr. GORDON: Well, in this particular case, a fecal community was transplanted into a diseased individual's gut and there was a beneficial effect observed over time, reflected in improvement of their symptoms. ...

GROSS: I guess one of the things I find so interesting about this fecal transplant is one, its a fecal transplant. It's so odd to think of using in this case, a spouse's feces or the community of microorganisms in those feces to transplant into the ill person's gut. Its a way of transplanting good guy bacteria instead of using antibiotics to just kill the bad guy bacteria and in the process, kill the good guy bacteria too.
I still think someday it will be more common for doctors to administer bacteria cultures than anti-biotics.

Also interesting from this interview is that 90 percent of the cells we carry around aren't actually human -- but bacterial and other non-human microbes. By count, we're ~10x more bacterial than human. Surprising, hard to believe, but also very interesting.

Having politicians kiss your babies? Maybe a good way to get healthy/successful peoples' bacteria on your kids.

Monday, September 20, 2010

iPad wall hangar

Sounds expensive, right? How about $2.98 + tax?

Via make. I love stuff like this.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

He can get anyone hanged.

Cardinal Richelieu:
If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.
I bet he's not the only one with this kind of skill.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

'98 Ford F-150 loose gear shift and gear indicator

The gear shifter in my truck was a mess. The whole mechanism was sloppy, and it was almost impossible to get it to go into the right gear without overshooting the one I wanted. And the indicator was always pointing half a gear to the right.


What gear is that? I was sure it'd be very expensive to fix.

But while I was in checking out the ignition switch problem I decided to see what I could do about this shifting problem.

Looking under the dash, here's what I saw:


Not the best picture, but see the brass-colored plate with the pin and two torx screws? Those two screws were horribly loose, by at least 1/2"! I tightened them back up, and the shifting now as tight as it was the day I bought it.


And the gear shift indicator? Check out what else I saw under the dash:


Turning that wheel adjusts the position of the gear shift indicator, left or right. A half-turn later and the indicator is in the perfect spot.

More success!

Total cost to me: $0, plus a few minutes finding a torx wrench, and several months of irritation not knowing the fix would be this easy.

Not everything is this easy to fix, but some things certainly are. Hope someone finds this useful someday.

'98 Ford F-150 won't start

Last Tuesday I went out to start my truck, turned the key and nothing. Lights all on on the dash, but no clicking or anything when I turned the key.

I learned a few things about how to troubleshoot the problem in the process, here's what I learned, i.e. what I'll do next time:
  1. Battery terminals? Battery terminals get corroded and end up with weak connections. If they look corroded, clean them (google is your friend here).
  2. Dead battery? Get your battery checked out. They go bad every few years, so this is a common problem.
In this case I learned that it wasn't the battery, so here's where it gets interesting.
  1. Bad starter? To check your starter, connect the two big terminals on the ignition solenoid with a screwdriver:
    (Watch out for sparks close to the battery.) If the starter turns over (acts like it wants to start), you know the starter's good.
  2. Bad ignition solenoid? To check the solenoid, disconnect the rubber coated solenoid wire off the solenoid (small wire attached in the center above the main terminals), then take a length of wire (#12 or bigger, maybe a coat hangar?) and connect the positive (+, red) post on the battery to that solenoid terminal. If it tries to start, your solenoid is good.
My solenoid was fine, so on to the ignition switch itself.
  1. Bad connection in the ignition switch? There's a hole underneath the ignition switch on the steering column that leads to the release pin.
    If you push that pin up (with a pen or coat hangar) while you turn the key to the "on" position the whole ignition mechanism will turn and then you can pull it out. Check the electric connections on the sides and make sure they're not loose/broken.
In my case, I pulled out the ignition switch then reseated it and the truck starts fine now. Loose connection in there I suppose.

I'm sure there are other things that can go wrong, but hopefully that'll help someone.

The value of a happy friend

happy-gubbs.jpgMental Floss this month cites a study* that found that if you add one "happy friend" to your life, that your probability of being happy yourself goes up by 9%, and that's worth about $45,000.

I still generally assert that happiness comes from keeping the commandments, but still, if those findings have any truth to them, I need to reassess my net worth.

I wonder if we should be actively trying to befriend happy people. If one happy person can make several new friends happy simultaneously, and they in turn, the world would obviously be a happier place.
* How Do I Put a Price on Friendship, Jul-Aug 2010, p21, citing a study in the British Medical Journal.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured

Elder Heber C. Kimball (via Conversations with Dr. Kelly and Marcia Ogden):
I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured Being.

Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Discovery Middle School shooting

The real story is starting to come out, and it lines up well with what the kids at the school have been saying (I know two of them).

What a sad story -- group of middle class, middle school kids join one of the LA gangs over the internet, one wants out, which necessitates a just-short-of-fatal pummeling, so when he's threatened with it he opts to take out the one making the threats.

I think just being part of one of those gangs should be a crime, and the whole group should be punished for that (maybe it already is, I don't know). But once you're in that situation -- where you're told you're going to be almost fatally pounded for getting out of the gang -- what should he have done?

With the mind of a 35-year old guy, I'd probably tell my parents and go to the police, change my name, and hope that we'd move out of state, then carry pepper spray (or an air horn or something) around in case they ever cornered me. I doubt they could, though, since I'd probably never leave the house.

But can we really expect a 14-year old to think like a 35-year old adult? Maybe that was really the result of his best thinking.

I have to go back to what John Holman told me years ago when we found out just how bad someone else's life had become, roughly quoted: "But it's never just one bad decision that ruins someone's life -- it's a series of bad decisions, every day going down those same lame paths instead of waking up and deciding, every day, to make today different and better."

This kid didn't wake up one morning and find himself a member of a gang -- I'm sure he lied awake in bed more than one night thinking about whether he should do it. And it's those times when we're all alone and deciding what to do that make all the difference.

Dyson's Air "multiplier"?

I wonder how well Dyson's new air "multiplier" fan thing actually works?

As an aside, did you know James Dyson is British? I thought he was Swedish for some reason.

Anyway, the air it's blowing is pulled up through the base, presumably with regular fan blades -- I mean, it can't be another "multiplier" in there, right? The multiplier doesn't actually get any air moving in the first place, it's just the way that air gets sucked into the flow-stream. So then the air has to get pushed up, and through that narrow opening and out. So I can't imagine it's any more efficient than a regular fan with the air having to turn all those corners, nor can I imagine it actually moving much air. And based on their drawings I'm pretty sure a regular fan does all that same "multiplication" stuff too.

Still, it does look pretty cool.

(And Shelly wouldn't have gotten her hair caught in one of those. =)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The problem with living in the YouTube era

... is that nothing I can do is cool anymore.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gators in north Alabama?

In case you were wondering (like I was), yes.

Mariano Rivera's pitches

Impressive clip about Mariano Rivera's pitching.

I especially love the "here are the nearly 1300 pitches Rivera threw in 2009" part. Do they actually have tracks of every single pitch every pitcher throws? How do they get those tracks, I wonder?

Via DF, of course.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

"Mormon" proposition?

Apparently there's a new movie on its way.

For folks who are so opposed to "hate", why do I have a feeling people will come out of that movie hating the Mormons?

I'm willing to bet of all the people yelling in the trailer, not a one is LDS. We're just not that kind of people.

I love that they pulled a quote from President Monson: "There can be nothing that can defeat us." Stirs up images of Stalinism, doesn't it?

They had to work hard to extract that one. Here's the full quote from his May 2009 talk, after just telling a story of a woman after World War II who had overcome great difficulty going from East Prussia to West Germany:
"I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us."

Other quotes from the trailer:

"This is how much you make, this is how much we think you can give -- or you might lose your membership."

The horrific implications in this statement are patently false.

"I can't believe that people could hate us this much, they don't even know us."

We don't hate gays. Please read this interview with Elders Oaks and Wickman about our feelings towards them. That's what we believe.

"If God puts in the scriptures that it's a sin to live that lifestyle, then he's not going to have them born this way."

So she's saying homosexuality is hereditary?

Are there any sins that we're not born wanting to commit? Lying, stealing, coveting, etc., are all things we're pretty much born wanting to do. This idea is broken on so many levels.

"Gays interrupt the Mormon plan for heaven."

There is nothing about this sentence that is true. Gays don't interrupt anything, governments do -- if refusing to honor gay marriages is labeled "discrimination", all kinds of bad things happen. The interview linked above has examples where that has already happened.

And "Mormon plan for heaven"? What does that even mean? If I got to plan it I'm pretty sure it would look like a bad copy of Disneyland.

"This is about making a stand for what is right."

Ah, finally some truth!
The story's not over. I'm sailing on a ship where people are happy and generally kind and loving, but we do have to work hard. And people on other ships make fun of us and even think our captain is a deluded dictator. We don't think that... They also think our ship is eventually going to be smashed on the rocks. Really? How do they know? How would I know?

Let's assume that the LDS doctrine is an elaborate series of fabrications created 180 years ago, and that good people filtered out the worst of it years ago and the rest is just normal christianity with some irrelevant stuff bolted to the side. How would you recommend I go about finding the true church, assuming you believe one exists? Or if not, the "right church for me"? How will I know when I've found it?

Public opinion of the Mormons

There's a new study out by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that reports a relatively high percentage of people have "unfavorable" views toward the Mormons. (via newsroom blog). I wonder why that is?

It looks like most people have focused their distaste on the polygamy practice of the 1800s.*

My first semester in college I was staying in the dorms at the University of Arizona. A few weeks into the semester, my roommate came home one night from a Baptist meeting where they had spent the entire evening talking about the Mormons. He wasn't shy, and proceeded to chew me out for belonging to a church that was "just pure evil".


I'm trying to remember the specific concerns, but they were along the lines of "Mormons aren't Christians", "Mormons have changed the Bible", "Mormons are polygamists", the church is "racist", the church requires "that new brides sleep with an apostle before marriage" -- and a few more.

Now, if any of those things had a half-scrap of truth I'd be out of there in a heartbeat.

But that's not the point. Somehow within the borders of an institution of higher learning, a young freshman had his mind filled with lies and distortions intended to create division, distrust, and hate. So I guess it doesn't surprise me that so many people have an unfavorable view of us.

It's just that everything people know about the church is wrong.

* How do they feel about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I wonder?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So, do people actually like the iPad?

See the results. Scroll down to see the charts. (Via

And no, I don't have one yet. The new Hulu Plus has promise, I'm excited to see where that goes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

One Maxwell

Now that we know our next baby is a boy =), we've been trying to select names. One name we both seem to like is "Maxwell", after Neal A. Maxwell. The talk reminded me of him, and I spent a few minutes thinking about the man today.

I found this quote from 1973:
Man can learn self-discipline without becoming ascetic; he can be wise without waiting to be old; he can be influential without waiting for status. Man can sharpen his ability to distinguish between matters of principle and matters of preference, but only if we have a wise interplay between time and truth, between minutes and morality.
Note the trademark alliteration -- he was very good with words.

I had to look up "ascetic" (which is a word suggestive of "severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons", New Oxford Dictionary). I'm so glad asceticism isn't a required trait.

I'll never forget the moment in April 1997 when Elder Maxwell stepped to the pulpit, having recently been diagnosed at age 70 with leukemia, suddenly bald and frail. I didn't know that only a few weeks earlier he had emerged from 1100 hours of chemotherapy and medical treatment. He joked:
"My thanks to the First Presidency for this opportunity, during which, as you can see, the lights combine with my cranium to bring some different 'illumination' to this pulpit."
Then, a little later:
"Those who emerge successfully from their varied and fiery furnaces have experienced the grace of the Lord, which He says is sufficient (see Ether 12:27). Even so . . . such emerging individuals do not rush to line up in front of another fiery furnace in order to get an extra turn!"
As an aside, the gospel isn't something that comes naturally to people -- I don't think it's supposed to.* For most of my youth the gospel to me had always been a dark fog, where only occasional sparks and flashes illuminated pieces here and there. They mostly made sense, so I was generally happy and interested in seeing more. Then one day (a couple years before), Elder Maxwell came along and sliced the curtain of fog wide open, and the sun shone in like broad daylight on the whole scene, gospel and world.** For me it was blinding, and amazing. Here finally was someone who spoke my language, and knew exactly what I needed to know for the gospel to finally make sense.

So sitting watching conference, I trembled a little to see him like this -- how would he respond to being pushed to the edge of death?
Brothers and sisters, if I have any entitlement to the blessings of God, it has long since been settled in the court of small claims by His generous bestowals over a lifetime. ...

Mortal experience points evermore to the Atonement of Jesus Christ as the central act of all human history. The more I learn and experience, the more unselfish, stunning, and encompassing His Atonement becomes!

When we take Jesus' yoke upon us, this admits us eventually to what Paul called the "fellowship of [Christ's] sufferings" (Philip. 3:10). Whether illness or aloneness, injustice or rejection, etc., our comparatively small-scale sufferings, if we are meek, will sink into the very marrow of the soul. We then better appreciate not only Jesus' sufferings for us, but also His matchless character, moving us to greater adoration and even emulation.
He spent the next 8 years battling leukemia, and yet he continued delivering powerful sermons and writing books, while still attending to all the duties of an apostle. President Hinckley said he "accomplished more in these last eight years than most men do in a lifetime." Most of us slow under drag -- this man accelerated.

One of my few heroes.

* "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned." - 1 Cor. 2:14

** Of course there are many things still well beyond view...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Camping joy, part 2: Pictures

I think these are rhododendron trees, I love all the character in the branches, and how bare the ground is underneath.
I'm standing right by the water taking this one, the roots make for a surreal landscape by the water.
The water here is clear and beautiful. It's also moving pretty fast, I love how the flow stays laminar (is that the right word?) for the first part of the drop here.
This is what that stream does another couple hundred yards down.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Camping joy

That title is admittedly part sarcasm.

For those who expected me to do other things Friday and Saturday, here's a quick rundown of what was supposed to be a simple overnight campout. The rest of you can skip to the end -- the middle is mostly complaining. =)

  • Review girls' packing job; Kennedy has packed 6 pairs of socks, and no pants.

  • Vacuum out the van, looks like a vending machine exploded in there.

  • Get the van loaded.

  • Discover the battery is dead (girls left the van dome light on)

  • Van won't shift out of park without battery power, so I have to pull the battery completely out of the truck to take it in and jumpstart the van.

  • Van radio requires you to enter a code after a power outage or it won't work; the code is filed away the basement.

  • Usual stops at Walmart, gas station, McDonalds...

  • GPS unit says my 2.5 hour trip will take 4 hours (?!); how does it know I have kids? Finally get on the road 3 hours late.

  • 15 minutes later, all 3 kids need to go to the bathroom "NOW!" (45 minutes later, they need to go again, unsurprisingly.)

  • Why does TomTom send me the wrong way in EVERY state park? Seriously, it's 0 for 3 so far.

  • Campground is nice, play for awhile, roast hot dogs and marshmallows, had a nice evening.

  • Getting cold, time for bed! Uh, oh, really cold...

  • Uh, oh again. Did we pack a binkie for Kennedy? Of course not.

  • Spend about 2 hours trying to keep Kennedy from waking the whole campground with her crying about being too cold (despite kicking off the covers) -- I'm pretty sure she mostly just wants her binkie.

  • It's getting colder, I can't move because I'll wake up Kennedy, and I can feel the cold pushing up through my hips. Not good.

  • About 1:30 am I give up -- cover the girls with the 2 adult sleeping bags to keep them warm, and get up.

  • What do I do? Go turn on the van and sit in there with the heater on for 6 hours? So I go and rouse the fire with little sticks (and a firestarter =).

  • 20 minutes later Eric comes out of his tent in the same boat, so we get the fire going. Eric: "Old indian saying, 'Indian stay warm tending little fire, white man stay warm finding wood for big fire.'"

  • An hour later, we hear rustling behind us -- "Something's over there," I whisper, but we don't have flashlights. I finally go get one, and shine it off toward the table. What do I see? A giant raccoon finishing off my lunch! "Hey, get outta here..." Ah, I forgot to put all the food away trying to keep Kennedy quieted down. He comes back a few times, but since we put the food away he didn't find much.

  • About 4 am Regan comes out and wants to sit by the fire too.

  • About an hour later, Kennedy's up and crying. Woken up, Scott and Jill offer to let her sleep in their tent by their space heater (!!), but after setting up a bag, her crying has woken up Scott and Jill's kids, yet she refuses to sleep there -- grr. She wants to come sit by the fire. Glad she woke everyone up.

  • Fortunately both Regan and Kennedy get to see Swiper the Raccoon poking around behind us a couple times.

  • About 7 am I finally fall asleep slouched back in the camp chair, sleep for maybe 45 minutes. McKinley appears around this time, she seems to have slept fine.

  • After a slow start, we finally head to Fall Creek Falls (pretty), then on to Piney Creek Falls, which were much more impressive.

Actually, the area under the suspension bridge at Piney Falls is one of the prettiest places I've seen out here. Fast and beautifully clear water near a pretty little rhododendron forest. (I'll post a picture here soon.)

The drive back? TomTom messes up getting us out of the park ("so we're supposed to ram the gate into the youth camp?"), and if Regan hadn't specifically prayed for me to not crash, I'm pretty sure I would've. At one point I'm sure I would've failed a sobriety test, so I pulled over and took a nap. Why don't they make the seats in cars more sleep-friendly?

So, apologies for being MIA over the weekend. Hope your weekend yielded more sleep than mine. =)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Part of the test.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004):
Why should it surprise us, by the way, that life's most demanding tests as well as the most significant opportunities for growth in life usually occur within marriage and the family? How can revolving door relationships, by contrast, be as real a test of our capacity to love? Is being courteous, one time, to the stranger on the bus as difficult as being courteous to a family member who is competing for the bathroom morning after morning? Does fleeting disappointment with a fellow office worker compare to the betrayal of a spouse? Does a raise in pay even approach the lift we receive from rich family life?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fixed-schedule productivity

I practiced this in college, I just didn't have a name for it.

Every college student should read it.

(Thanks, Eddie.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Think chainsaws are scary when they're running? How about when they're *not* running?

[ UPDATE: Just heard back from him and got a different story than the one he told that day -- not quite as surprising if it was running. ]

At a community service project, our HOA president (an older fellow) was cutting down brush with a chainsaw. At one point he shut the saw off let go of the trigger which stopped the blade, then in swinging it down happened to bounce the bar/chain across the front of his thigh and the blade jerked forward:
For those who are wondering how it turned out for my leg, after the job I cleaned up and went to the ER where they had to put in 7 stitches to close up the wound. I’m Ok but little sore now, that will learn me to leave off my chain saw leggings.
He was bleeding pretty bad, looked about as bad as most sword-slash wounds in the movies. And he was wearing jeans!

Watch out for chainsaws.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weather radio fatigue

I really don't like my weather radio.

I got it for the tornado warnings, but it seems to be going off all the time. Thunderstorms, tornado watches, etc. Even if we snooze it, if something changes in the warning they reissue it and the thing is blaring again. The worst part is that if any part of the county is affected, all of the county is warned, both with the radios and the sirens.

Thanks to our visit to the WAAY TV station with the scouts the other night, I learned that their station has a $7/yr service called "weathercall" that will call your phone or send you a text message* whenever your address is actually threatened by one of those storms.

I love it, no more guilty feelings at 2am when the sirens go off and I go back to sleep, instead of getting up and going downstairs to turn on the TV.

And no, I'm not connected to them at all, I just think it's cool. Hopefully someday they'll have the same thing but keyed off the location of my cellphone...
* Actually it will call/email up to 3 numbers and 3 email addresses.

UPDATE: It's not just an AL thing, it works for any address across the country.

UPDATE 2: I just got an email from the weatherguy saying that the iPhone app is on its way -- I wonder how it'll know where I am if background apps aren't allowed?

Friday, January 8, 2010

MiniDV loses its voice

I have some bad news for those of you with miniDV camcorders -- our camcorder was stolen back when we lived in Tucson, so this week I'm finally getting around to borrowing one from a friend so i can get the video off the tapes and onto the computer.

Now the bad news-- much of the audio is trashed on some of the tapes, and even the video in a few places. So much for miniDV being a durable format.

It could be dirty heads, though I tried a cleaning tape and it didn't seem to help, and newer tapes worked fine. It could be that this camera is a Panasonic where mine was a Canon, but that's not much consolation if you're looking for a format that will survive companies going out of business or halting production of a particular piece of hardware. It could be that the tapes weren't well cared for, but they've been stored in the camera case, inside the house since the camera was stolen -- not overly humid or hot.

So what format lasts forever? Stone carvings? Engraving on metal plates? I think the lesson we learn is that all of our precious data needs to be maintained -- moved from old media and formats to new ones as the old ones go obsolete.

I wish it weren't so.

Does anyone read this thing?

views since Feb. 9, 2008