Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Snapshots of Eternity


Looking at something like this, it's easy to feel what the Psalmist felt.







Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea....Come, behold the works of the Lord....Be still, and know that I am God....
(Psalms 46: 2,8,10)


Or this:

All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
(Alma 30:44)

Looking at something like this, how can you question it?

He is an artist.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hooray! The Olympics are over!

Hooray! The Olympics are over!

Oh. Wait.

You say there are still a few more days left?

Dang.

Don't get me wrong; I have actually enjoyed the events I have watched so far. It even sucked in the LW and the Horde. (I've even managed to keep my thoughts on mainland Chinese politics fairly quiet.)

But really, what's left?


OK, OK. I'll give you Track and Field. And Diving. Neither of which I can watch. Which is odd--my father was all-state in Track in high school. And I can watch Swimming.

But not Track. I don't know why. And not Diving. (I will confess this one is largely due to my own lack of knowledge about the sport. All I see are the twists and the splashes. The nuances are lost on me; one splash looks pretty much like another....)

I heard Glenn Beck ranting about this a couple days ago. Now, granted, a lot of what he said was tongue-in-cheek, but it got me thinking.

Trampolines.

Really, a sport?

I remember at the Athens games, I believe it was, watching the first events on Trampoline and thinking the same thing. My LW had never heard of it so the broadcast this past weekend shocked her.

Her first response was, "This is a sport? Really? Give me a break."

I think that's the general consensus. Please. Tell me I am wrong.

The IOC is dumping Baseball and Softball but keeping Trampoline and "Dancing around with a ribbon on a stick" A.K.A. "Rhythmic Gymnastics."

(Aside: For those of you who don't know, Rhythmic Gymnastics is "a sport in which single competitors or pairs, trios or even more (generally five) manipulate one or two apparatuses: rope, hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Rhythmic Gymnastics is a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, theatrical dance, and apparatus manipulation." Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Come on. It's hard for me to watch softball and baseball unless I am really bored (or the Red Sox are playing) but at least there is no argument that they are true sports.

Trampolines? Hoops and ribbon-sticks? Sports? Really? You think there may be a reason that the Rhythmic Gymnastics events on NBC are on Friday in the middle of the day instead of prime-time?

So I have an idea: what if we incorporate and merge some of these sports together? The "trampoliner" could begin the routine armed with a javelin, with which she targets the swimmers. "Outrun my Javelin of Doom, Communist Curs!"

What about letting the shot-putters and hammer-throwers have targets of their own: rather than just heaving for distance, we can put the rhythmic gymnasts out there holding out their hoops, dancing around. Then we get distance AND accuracy from -putters and -throwers.

Think about the ratings that would bring in.

Or even this: mounting the firearms competitors on the horses? We can have shooting from horseback; what's more American than that? (Aside: Except, apparently, ogling the beach volleyballers in their non-existent "uniforms." Don't even get me started on that, though.)

Think of the thrills, the spills! Then we'd have these competitors truly EARNING their medals.

Instead of bouncing around, fifteen feet in the air, twirling their stick-ribbons. Not that we could merge these two sports. Who would watch?

Now, if they were on trampolines straddling shark-infested pools.... That would bring in viewers.

Now, if we could just get mainland Chinese crooks liars murderous thugs evil Communist hate-mongers [ahem] government officials to participate in it. Then I would pay to watch. Big money.

Whoops.

Guess I was just banned in China.

But never fear, our intrepid American journalists will surely report on my plight if I were to be "disappeared" by the Chinese government, right?

Right.

Just like they're all falling over themselves to report on the continuing repression of speech and assembly. Just like they're racing each other to print the first story about how all the promises China made to the IOC in return for the Olympics (Tibet, civil rights, etc.) have been broken. Just like they're eagerly researching the truth behind the falsified passports for the pre-pubescent "sixteen year old" gymnasts or the inconsistent and inaccurate judging of the male and female gymnastic teams. Just like they cannot resist telling us what strange food they have eaten today.

Oh wait. They've actually done that one.

Several times.

All hail the Mighty Olympics.

One world, One dream.

So long as we're all speaking Chinese.

Guess I'm a step ahead of the rest of you on that one. See you all at the finish line.

It's almost over.

It's almost ALL over.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Font Geek

I am a font-collecting geek. I will freely admit it.

I have disk upon disk of fonts. Stacks of them. I've maxed out a couple of old hard drives simply with fonts.

I even tried once to install WordPerfect with all the fonts available on the install drive. (Just don't tell anyone....)

Yeah...not a good idea unless you want your computer to run really really slow. I haven't tried it in a while, so I do not know if it was just the speed of my old machine.

Anyway, I got all geeked out when I saw this test.

Here are my results:



You Are Courier New
You have a deep appreciation for tradition and history.

You don't eschew modernity, but you do have a deep reverence for the past.

You are very literate. It's likely you enjoy writing and reading.

Some people may feel you're a bit cold, but you just have high standards for who you hang out with.



I'm a little surprised at how accurately it pegged me. However, I wish to state for the record how I feel about Courier New: I only use it to prepare my Sunday School lesson notes, because it's easily legible from a distance. It's not my least favorite font, but it's not on my list of favorites either. In fact, I'm leaning toward "dislike" of the font in general.

The rest of it though is amazingly spot-on.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wildlife

This has to be--truly--some of the most incredible footage I have ever seen! It even puts television nature programs to shame.

Take eight minutes or so and give it a look! You won't be sorry!



Hat tip to the Hedgehog for this one.

(Aside: Incidentally, this attack apparently took place at Kruger Park, which I had the pleasure of visiting several years ago. Absolutely beautiful place and spectacular wildlife (although I did not see anything as amazing as this, to be sure). I would strongly recommend the trip for anyone.)

There's a message here for us and our youth, I believe. Several of them even. There are a lot of lions out there, and a few crocodiles. Our youth need to be protected from both, but if they're taken by one, we cannot--must not--give up hope. Sometimes we can save them ourselves. Other times, it takes the whole family. Occasionally we need to get our ecclesiastical leaders involved, who may stop by with seemingly one-half the Ward to help out. But rescue is possible.

Even more important is that our children see this video. They need to understand that rescue is possible. Even when they're pulled at in two directions by lions and crocodiles, rescue is still possible. They just need to keep fighting, keep breathing, and keep hope and faith alive.

The Horde is going to see this just as soon as I get home from the office.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Religious Freedom

In 1779, Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This document is one of only three accomplishments he directed to be placed in his epitaph. Within this Act are the words: "No man... shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor... otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief...." I can imagine similar words being spoken nearly two millenia earlier.

It was at the beginning of the last century preceeding the birth of Christ. A king has heard the message brought by servants of God (Ammon, Aaron, and their brethren). He has heard the message and has been converted. He has had a mighty change of heart and has received the image of the Lord in his countenance. (See Alma 5:12-14.)

How great was this change of heart?

1 BEHOLD, now it came to pass that the king of the Lamanites sent a proclamation among all his people, that they should not lay their hands on Ammon, or Aaron, or Omner, or Himni, nor either of their brethren who should go forth preaching the word of God, in whatsoever place they should be, in any part of their land.
2 Yea, he sent a decree among them, that they should not lay their hands on them to bind them, or to cast them into prison; neither should they spit upon them, nor smite them, nor cast them out of their synagogues, nor scourge them; neither should they cast stones at them, but that they should have free access to their houses, and also their temples, and their sanctuaries.
3 And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness.
--Alma 23:1-3

I can hear Jefferson's words--or something extraordinarily similar--echoing forth from the king.

Because the king was not only willing to allow these missionaries to preach in his country, he was an active proponent of religious freedom. This proclamation protected the missionaries in their work and travels. More importantly, the atmosphere in which the missionaries taught propelled their work, advanced it to the point that their work seemed to have no bounds.
4 And now it came to pass that when the king had sent forth this proclamation, that Aaron and his brethren went forth from city to city, and from one house of worship to another, establishing churches, and consecrating priests and teachers throughout the land among the Lamanites, to preach and to teach the word of God among them; and thus they began to have great success.
5 And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord, yea, thousands were brought to believe in the traditions of the Nephites; and they were taught the records and prophecies which were handed down even to the present time.
6 And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.
7 For they became a righteous people; they did lay down the weapons of their rebellion, that they did not fight against God any more, neither against any of their brethren.
8 Now, these are they who were converted unto the Lord:
9 The people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Ishmael;
10 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Middoni;
11 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the city of Nephi;
12 And also of the people of the Lamanites who were in the land of Shilom, and who were in the land of Shemlon, and in the city of Lemuel, and in the city of Shimnilom.
--Alma 23:4-12

Thousands upon thousands were converted. The majority of the citizens of seven lands and cities were converted. Churches were established. Priests and teachers were consecrated.

Religious freedom is an essential part of a country's Liberty. Webster's 1828 Dictionary states that "The body is at liberty, when not confined; the will or mind is at liberty, when not checked or controlled. A man enjoys liberty, when no physical force operates to restrain his actions or volitions." We could then add one more part to that definition, saying the soul is at liberty by obedience to the law of Christ, and "One who enjoys such liberty is, in the words of Jesus, ‘free indeed.' He is possessed of perfect liberty." (Marion G. Romney, "The Perfect Law of Liberty," Ensign, Nov. 1981 at 43 (quoting John 8:36).) The best way to obtain liberty for the soul is in an atmosphere of religious freedom. It is not the only way, as the growing conversion rates in Communist China will attest, but the works of the Lord take on greater power where the people enjoy freedom of religion.

Where are we today?

Elder M. Russell Ballard, in a talk sixteen years ago, opined that we live in "a time when citizens are forbidden to pray in public meetings; when people claim that 'you can’t legislate morality,' as if any law ever passed did not have at its heart some notion of right and wrong; when churches are called intruders when they speak out against public policy that is contrary to the commandments of God; when many people reject the correcting influence of churches if it infringes on daily living; when religion is accepted as a social organization but not as an integral part of national culture; when people bristle if representatives of churches speak in any forum except from the pulpit." {M. Russell Ballard, "Religion in a Free Society," Ensign, Oct. 1992 at 64.}

When he first gave this talk there were many who raised an eyebrow when he suggested that we now have, in all actuality, an American, state-sponsored religion: amorality. He pointed to the fact that freedom in America largely comes from the ideas and laws of man, rather than the laws of God. He points out that "Many people adhere to this concept of morality with religious zeal and fervor, and courts and legislatures tend to support it." {Id.}

He also uses the examples or pornography, drugs, illicit sex, gambling, and all forms of wickedness that are defended by invocation of constitutional privilege when, at the same time, the same constitutional privileges are denied to people of faith.

These privileges are denied out of fear: fear of lawsuits, fear of ridicule, fear of persecution.

We commonly read in an accused wrongdoer's newspaper biography about his history as a Boy Scout, a missionary, a former Sunday School teacher, active church member, or former bishop or minister.

But seldom, if ever, do we read about the wrongdoer's athiesm or the fact that he either belongs to no religious denomination or has not been an active member of his church for decades?

Religion is under attack.

It's sad that such a statement can be made in this, the shining beacon of Freedom to the world.

Religion is under attack on all sides. Witness the current Presidential race: several candidates have had their religious views questioned and broadcast to the world. Their views--whether you believe the same as they do--have been held up to scrutiny and derision. If you doubt this, take a look at this. If you still doubt, well... I'm afraid I cannot help you there.

The fact that these candidates are active in their religion and hold strong religious beliefs has been cited as criteria under which they should be disqualified from holding national office. All this despite the fact that Article VI of the Constitution of the United States guarantees that "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." But apparently there's an entire segment of the American population that cannot look forward with any hope that they would be taken seriously as a candidate for public office.

Rather than shrinking from this fight, people of faith need to stand up and be counted. They have a responsibility to ensure our God-gifted religious freedom is not taken away from us by Man. They should ignore the fear, cast aside the ridicule, and open their mouths.

They should.

We should.

We who should enjoy Religious Freedom, should uphold our right to Religious Freedom, and should spread the concept of Religious Freedom to the world.

For ourselves. For our brothers and sisters. For God. For Liberty.

**UPDATE**
I found something interesting watching the Olympic coverage tonight. Whatever you may think of him, President George W. Bush made an interesting comment. He said that he went to Church in Beijing, and spoke several times with President Hu Jin Tao. He said that he told President Hu, "Religion won't hurt you" and pressed, "Why don't you register the underground churches?"

Then there was this very deep comment: "Once religion takes hold in a society, there's no stopping it."

Amen, Mr. President.

Amen.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Daddy Magic

My LW accuses me of having what she calls "Daddy Magic." (and yes, you CAN hear the initial capitals when she says it.)

Ever since our eldest was born, I have been able to soothe each of the Horde to sleep when all else fails. All it takes is a little time held in Daddy's arms and *ZONK*--out they go. It doesn't seem to matter what flavor of chaos is raging around us or how worked up the Hordeling is...Just a little taste of Daddy Magic and it's off to sleepy land.

Last night I attained an entirely new level of Paternal Wizardry.

Please, do not get me wrong. I do not want my blog to degenerate into a "what cute things my Hordelings did today"-type blog. THIS one was so funny, however, it has to be shared.

My LW had been struggling all night with our youngest Hordeling, trying to get her to sleep. We're talking one o'clock in the morning by this time. Every time my LW tries to take the little one to bed, the Hordeling's eyes pop open and she wants to get up and play.

We had reached the point in the process (this Hordeling does not go to sleep easily or early) when I reached my fatigue point, so I stood to leave the living room. Yes, that simple motion caused the Hordeling's eyes to pop open. My LW looked up at me with despair in her eyes, but said, "Go ahead and go to bed. You need to go to work tomorrow." I leaned over to give her a kiss and the Hordeling grinned up at me from her mother's arms.

So I bent over and kissed her gently on the forehead once.

When I stood up, she had closed her eyes and her breathing slowed...but as I moved, she stirred and woke.

Well, my LW thought it was funny enough that I leaned over and kissed the Hordeling again. Once. Twice. And a Third time, just for good measure. In a straight line across her forehead.

She was asleep.

Just like that.

She slept all through the night, too--something that is extraordinarily unusual for her.

Heh. Sometimes my powers amaze even me. It is a good thing I have decided to use my powers (should that be Powers?) for Good and not for Evil!

(Aside: I was tempted to title this post "Magic Lips" but upon second thought it scared me to consider the kinds of searches on which this title would get hits. Something tells me it would not be pretty.)

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If "stupid" was illegal...

What is wrong with people?!?

Are there that many people who simply do not grasp the reason behind the "9-1-1" service?

First we have the guy last week who calls 9-1-1 because his Subway sandwich wasn't made correctly; they left off the sauce, apparently.

Yeah. Then he calls 9-1-1 back to complain that the officers were not showing up quickly enough for his liking.

Then we have this story.

47-year-old Carlos Gutierrez was at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino early Monday and called 911 to say the slot machine stole his money. The report says Gutierrez left the casino to place a second 911 call to say the same thing.
Two phone calls. Two. And all because that evil thieving slot machine stole his money.

Can you say "Unclear on the concept"?

Y'know...there's a reason that casinos do not subject patrons to an intelligence test before allowing them to give away their money gamble.
He was arrested and charged with making a false 911 call. He's being held with no bail set.
It was a good thing he was held without bail.

That slot machine stole all his money, after all.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Fatherhood, Pt. 2

I think I am a hero to my boys today.

I cannot quite get them to articulate it, but I'm getting the feeling of increased adoration.

You see, I took them camping this weekend. Just the Boys. None of those icky girl-folk around. Just Men, both aging and pre-pubescent.

I am still suffering for it, but it was definitely worth it to see the sparkle in their eyes.

I was doing some more thinking last week about my father. There will be some regrets when he passes, unfortunately. Hopefully not as many as there could have been, because I am trying to rectify some of the lost time. There are some things, however, that time has effectively stolen from me.

I will look back and see times when I was too "busy" or too "proud" (or too "bored") to do things with my father. I will also look back and see a few times when he was too "busy" to do something. Not many, but a few.

Camping is one of those things.

I never got to do a lot of real tent-camping with my father. Most of what I learned about tent-camping was as a Boy Scout. The sad thing is that my father has a lot he could have shared with me. He underwent rigorous survival training when he was in the Service. He grew up around some of the best Scouts I've ever known in my Grandfather and uncles.

I have never really benefitted from any of that knowledge.

You'll remember as I wrote last week that the one time he went to Scout Camp with me I was embarrassed by how he lectured us all on the finer points of something-or-other. Yeah, as I said, not one of my prouder moments.

Anyway, as I was sitting and thinking all these wonderfully depressing thoughts last week, I remembered a Church magazine article I read just before I graduated from high school. It may have been the Ensign or the New Era, I cannot remember exactly. I wish I could remember the author. What I remember is the image: the author said something to the effect of "picture a man and his sons as they walk to their tents, sharing feelings and memories." I remember the gist of it, because I remember being a senior in high school and thinking: That's something I've never experienced with Father.

Even "Fathers and Sons" outings were missed, as they were always held "too far away." I've never been to one. Not one.

Don't get me wrong: I clearly own a good portion of the blame, maybe even most of the blame. When I was younger, I was an ungrateful snot at times. I lacked the vision I have now and didn't realize what I would miss when he was gone. I am not proud of any of it and I will reap the whirlwind some day.

All that being said, I decided last week that I was going to surprise my boys. I used that surprise as leverage to buy their good attitudes and behavior for their poor mother all week long. When Friday's lunchtime rolled around, there was some doubt as to whether my oldest son would be joining us. Let's just say he wasn't honoring his mother or siblings to the level that I would expect him to do.

I overruled his mother, however, and raced home from the office to throw the bare necessities into the van. The small tent went in. Duffel bags for the boys. A few books for bedtime reading for Dad. The Coleman lantern and a couple flashlights. The food I took was already prepared and wouldn't take much time to get ready to eat.

That was it.

My LW and the rest of the Horde were jealous, but it was Just The Boys. I loaded them up and we headed to a nearby park that allows camping along some backwoods jogging trails.

And my boys got to experience what I never did. Walking at sunset from the restrooms the quarter-mile or so back to our tents, all of us with our arms around each other. We talked about the sunset, the burgeoning dark and slowly-appearing stars. As we sat in the small tent on the slowly leaking queen-size mattress we spoke of the day's experiences and ended with a prayer to our Heavenly Father.

Of course, Dad couldn't sleep: I tried to do some writing, but from the lantern-light my youngest inferred that it was now playtime. Reading was out for the same reason. So there I lay, playing a stupid game on my cell-phone in the dark, listening to my boys snoring. Laying in an over-crowded tent on an unseasonably warm summer night with my boys' random limbs draped over my legs, back, and head. There was no breeze to relieve and all the day's heat was trapped in the tent. I was miserable.

But I was happy.

And so were they.

In the August 2008 Ensign President Thomas S. Monson prays, "May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business...." As I read the Ensign on Sunday that line jumped out at me. Good, timely counsel from the Prophet.

Ours wasn't a long camping trip. We weren't even that far from home. We did some walking, but otherwise just killed some time sitting and talking. It wasn't anything fancy.

I am afraid that I will have some regrets. But after this weekend, I am hoping there will be fewer regrets than there could have been.

It wasn't a long camping trip. But it was a good one, a special one.

Just the kind I wish I could share with my Father.

Just once more.

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NEA's ABCs

Last week I discussed the National Education Association's annual declaration of deals with the devil positions and resolutions. At the time, I mentioned that the NEA has their own "A-B-C-Ds."

That got me thinking.

I went through their 2008 list of resolutions and have been able to cull out an almost-complete representative list of their ABCs.

Now, I should point out up front that on some of these items, I do not necessarily disagree with the stance in general. Where I have a problem is that none of these things need to be taught to our Elementary age students in school. With me it all comes back to "the 3 Rs." Should not teachers and educators be more focused on teaching the basics rather than pushing "social" agendas? These resolutions become the authorized issues for which NEA members can lobby Congress and state legislatures.

Aside: I had difficulty with a few of these and I'll admit to having to stretch for a couple of these. All in all, though, I'm happy with what's here.

Drop me a post in the Comments if you have any suggested changes. If you want to read the resolutions for yourself, here is the link. Be forewarned: it's a hefty document.

A is for Abortion
B is for Birth control
C is for Care of the mentally ill
D is for Diversity
E is for Equal rights amendment
F is for Firearm control
G is for Global warming
H is for Homosexual agenda
I is for International courts
J is for Judgment over dispensing prescribed medications
K is for Kindergarten, pre-school, and pre-pre-school (mandatory)
L is for Land use and preservation
M is for Medicare
N is for National energy policy
O is for One world government
P is for Progressive socialism
Q is for Qur'an=good; Bible=bad
R is for Reparations for descendants of slavery
S is for State-licensed, state-approved homeschooling
T is for Traffic safety
U is for Unionization
V is for Verifiable freeze of nuclear weapons
W is for Washington, DC statehood
X is for X-rated sex education
Y is for Youth education regarding world hunger
Z is for Zero tolerance for alternative schooling
(One last aside: 'progressive socialism' may be somewhat redundant, but I hope you'll forgive me.)

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