Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Google Searches

I love seeing the range of ways people find this blog.

Often it is only the "next blog" button at the top of the page. Other times it comes from links on other pages.

Then there are the Google search term arrivals. These are usually relevant terms in some vague way. Others are pure insanity. Like the one I found today.

"katy perry naked"

Now I know I have never talked about Katy Perry on this blog, let alone Katy Perry in a state of undress, until this very post. The fact that Google somehow pulled up this blog with those search terms is in itself is a bit troubling.

Then once they found my blog they searched for those terms again. Who is that desperate? That is also troubling.

But do you want to know the worst part? Five hits from that search originated between 10:41 a.m. and 10:42 a.m. California time, from Fresno, California....

...from the Kings County Office Of Education.

Ponder THAT one for a while, oh ye lovers of public education.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Constructive Thoughts: Dad, Part 2

I wish today to celebrate with my family and friends the life of my father: our brother, granddad, and friend. I tried desperately to find a quotation from Dad’s favorite author, Louis L’Amour, but nothing seemed to fit–everything was filled with flying lead and oats. So I went to one of his other favorite authors, Victor Hugo, who wrote that “There are times that no matter the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” The past few weeks have been full of those times for me and my family. On behalf of my mother and all of our family let me again express our gratitude for the love you had for our father and for the outpouring of love and respect we have seen.

Father’s Day was difficult for me, my brothers, and my mother this year. But what better time to be able to remember what Dad meant to us? What a fitting time to celebrate his life and memory? And what a great time to consider the fact that he has gone ahead to prepare the way for us, and the fact that we will see him again? That our separation will be, in the grand scheme of things, only a little while. How wonderful is the thought that my children can embrace him once again, that we can sit at his feet and listen to his stories? That we can be together, forever, as a famliy?

And this is possible because nearly a millennium ago, an individual knelt in a garden and prayed to his Father. He was known as the “Carpenter’s son,” yet he was the Son of God. It was there, in that garden, that he took upon himself the sins of all mankind, the sins of all the world, both past, present, and future. It was an event that had been foretold by prophets throughout history.

It was there in that garden that night, as he bled from every pore, that Christ, “The Son of Man . . . descended below . . . all.” [D&C 122:8]
This was “the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” [Leviticus 17:11]
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29]
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . and with his stripes we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:4-5]
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” [Isaiah 53:3]
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]

The agony he suffered in that garden is unfathomable to us, both in intensity and in cause. But the gift that he gave us through that suffering is also marvelous, magnificent. On that night, Jesus shouldered the burdens of all of our transgressions -— my transgressions and your transgressions. I added to his anguish that night, as did each one of us. But he picked up that burden and took it upon himself so that a price would be paid. That price was paid so that I might escape, and so that you might escape, the required punishments that correspond to our sins. The scriptures tell us that the gift is ours if we but believe in him, accept his gift, repent and be baptized, receive the gift of the holy ghost, and to continue faithfully to observe and keep the commandments all the days of our lives. Christ gifted us with salvation from spiritual death, which grants us eternal life with our heavenly father.

Many years ago, a newspaper writer was asked, “What would be the most important news story the world could receive?” Think about how you would answer that question: would it be the development of the atomic bomb? Man walking on the moon? The death of a (fill in the blank) celebrity? The assassination of a president? After some thought the reporter finally answered that the most important story he could report would be that a man that had lived and died had come back to life; and specifically that Jesus Christ was truly resurrected and lives today.

No event in all history compares to the importance of the resurrection of Christ. Because of this gift all mankind will come forth, each in his own order. We will live eternally. We will be resurrected and overcome physical death.

Isn’t this a joyous, glorious message? It means that we will one day be reunited with Dad. I bear you my testimony that this Gospel principle is true; the Atonement is real — Christ has given us gifts that will liberate our spirit and our body from the bonds of death and allow us to live in God’s presence forever.

We are understandably sad. We have lost a loved one. I should restate that; I do not like that phrase. We have not “lost” Dad —- We know exactly where he is. He is with his loving parents, grandparents, and in-laws, his brothers and his close friends that preceded him from this earth. The list goes on and on. To paraphrase David O. McKay, a former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “[Our father] closed [his] eyes in peaceful slumber, and awakened with loved ones.” While no one mortal was with him when he passed from this life, the speed with which the event happened, and how he looked afterwards attests to the fact that his last minutes were indeed peaceful; it was indeed as if he was only sleeping when his spirit left this world. His pain and suffering were removed from him.

It has been written that “Death is the liberator of him whom freedom cannot release; the physician of him whom medicine cannot cure; the comforter of him whom time cannot console.” [Charles Caleb Colton] Dad has been liberated. He is happy. He is youthful, and joyful once again, just as he was before the travails of mortal life began to take him away from us. We know where he is and we rejoice in who he is once more.

Yet we are filled with sorrow. Our sorrow is understandable, it is human: it is sorrow for us, not for him. Speaking for myself, as I have elsewhere here, it is a sorrow born of selfishness. In spite of knowing where he is and who he is with, I still want him back as a part of my everyday life. Dad is no longer physically present to talk to, to listen to our stories and concerns. We can no longer hear his stories, get his advice, or see or hear, except in our hearts and minds, his smile and his laugh. We can no longer go to him for advice and we can no longer learn from him skills such as woodworking. I cannot call him during a college football game and complain about a referee’s call or rave about an amazing play. These are the things that I am sorrowful for — the things that I have lost.

When I consider this, and think about the precepts of Christ’s gospel and turn my thoughts from an inward focus to an outward focus, when I consider these things and think about where dad is and who he is with, not to mention the fact that we will see him again in time, then my sorrow is lessened and the pain eases. He has graduated from the test of mortality to an institution of higher learning.

It is a change of attitude that is required. Anyone that knew Dad well knew that attitude was an important concept to him. It was something that he tried with his sons at an early age to instill: “ATTITUDE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE.” He was forever reminding us of this principle. Growing up, one of the most oft-heard phrases in the home was my father telling one us to “CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE!” It was his way of telling us to shape up. Eventually it got to just simply “CHECK IT!” That was one of those times you knew you were in trouble.

In my scriptures I still carry a laminated card that I made on my mission that reads “AMTD” — an acronym that Dad used when even “Check it!” didn’t work. “Attitude makes the difference.” My friends, to all who knew Dad: “Check your attitude.” Do not dwell on the sorrow, do not dwell on the pain. Negative attitudes are of the Adversary. Remember instead a man who very patiently, hour after hour, threw a baseball to his youngest son in the front yard -— a son who was somehow completely incompetent and inept in the handling of a baseball glove. Remember a man who learned to fly a plane, who flew around the world, while sitting with his brother on a log in a meadow in Southern Idaho. Remember a man who never failed to bring home from a business trip some treat for his youngest son, whether it be a Matchbox car or a bag of airline peanuts, even though that son fairly quickly realized that -— more than likely -— most of those treats were sent with him by my mother. Remember a man who always came home. Remember a man who did all he could to find work to support his family, while not allowing his family to suffer or, at least in my case, to even know that the family was struggling. Remember a man who grabbed every task set before him and performed it to the utmost of his ability, whether it was working, woodworking, whether it was supporting the University, or whether it was teaching the Gospel and sharing his testimony of the Lord. Remember a man who labored faithfully in the Temple of the Lord each week, even when his own physical health was declining, who begged to be allowed to serve the Lord, even when he physically could no longer do it. Remember a man who freely shared his testimony of the Savior to anyone that would hear it. Remember a man who walked ready and unafraid to the veil which separates this world from the next.

Most importantly, remember a man that is now free from pain and free forever from the specter of Death. The poet John Donne penned these fitting words, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die!” Because of our Savior’s gifts to us, our beloved father, brother, granddad, and friend yet lives, in a higher place. Because of our Savior’s gifts, we can be assured of seeing him again one day; we can embrace him as he one day meets us on the other side of mortality.

I want to leave you today with the words of Norman Macleod:

We picture death as coming to destroy; let us rather picture Christ as coming to save.
We think of death as ending; let us rather think of life as beginning, and that more abundantly.
We think of losing; let us think of gaining.
We think of parting, let us think of meeting.
We think of going away; let us think of arriving.
As the voice of Death whispers “You must go from Earth,” let us hear the voice of Christ saying, “You are but coming to me!”
“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John 8:12] “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” [John 14:27]

Dad still lives and we shall see him once again, in a better place. I know this for a fact. May we, each one of us, feel within us the peace that the Savior promised, and may our attitudes reflect joy and peace. This is my prayer for all of us who knew Dad. I leave this with all of you -- whether you knew Dad or not -- along with my testimony of these things, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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NPR's Top 100 Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books

I found this in a round-about way through the blogosphere as I think I would bleed out through the eyes if I were forced to listen to NPR for more than 35 seconds. You can find a printable version of the list here. Apparently 60,000+ voted on this list; it's an interesting list.
NPR's Top 100 Fantasy/SF books
1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien - Read over and over.
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams - Read over and over.s times; love it.
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card - Read over and over.
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert - I read Dune and simply could not go any further with the series.
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin - Reading now.
6. 1984, by George Orwell - Read over and over.
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury - Read over and over.
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov - Read the series twice.
9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley - I have always intended to read this, but have never gotten around to it.
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman - Read, but did not enjoy overmuch.
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman - Read over and over.
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan - Read up to book 9 twice, but cannot seem to get any further.
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell - Read it.
14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson - Read it.
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore - Read it.
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov - Read it.
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein - Read several times.
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss - Read the first one twice; found it quite enjoyable.
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut - No interest in reading it.
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley - Read over and over.
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick - Read it.
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood - No interest in reading it.
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King - Could not make it through book #3.
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke - Read it.
25. The Stand, by Stephen King - Read over and over.
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson - Never read it.
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury - Read it several times.
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut - No interest in reading it.
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman - Never read it.
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess - Forced to watch the movie in college; no interest in reading it.
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein - Read over and over.
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams - Read it.
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey - Read it.
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein - Read it several times.
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller - Never read it.
36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells - Read it several times.
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne - Read it several times.
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys - Read it several times.
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells - Read it several times.
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny - Never read it, but want to read it.
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings - Read it; not his best work, in my opinion.
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Never read it.
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson - Read it twice (so far).
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven - Read it several times.
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin - Never read it.
46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien - Never read it. (If I want to read something that reads like the Scriptures, I will read the Scriptures.)
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White - Read it.
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman - Never read it.
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke - Never read it.
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan - Read it.
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons - Read it.
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman - Never read it.
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson - Never read it.
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks - Never read it.
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle - Read it.
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman - Never read it.
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett - Never read it.
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson - No interest in reading it.
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold - Never read it.
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett - Never read it.
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - Read it.
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind - Read several of the first books.
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy - No interest in reading it.
64. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke - Never read it.
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson - Never read it.
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist - Read the first one.
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks - Read it.
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard - Read several of the books.
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb - Read once. Ugh. Never again.
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger - Never read it.
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson - Never read it, but plan to do so.
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne - Read it.
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore - Read the first dozen; that is enough for me.
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi - Read it.
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson - Never read it.
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke - Read it several times.
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey - Never read it.
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin - Never read it.
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury - Read it several times.
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire - No interest in reading it.
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson - Read Book #1; no interest in going further.
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde - Never read it.
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks - Never read it.
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart - Read it several times.
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson - Never read it.
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher - Read Books #1 and #2.
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe - Never read it.
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn - Read over and over.
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan - Never read it.
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock - Read a couple of them.
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury - Read it.
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley - Never read it.
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge - Never read it.
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov - Read it.
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson - Read Books #1 and #2.
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle - Read it several times. Took this book with me on my honeymoon, in fact.
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis - Never ead it.
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville - Read it once. Barely. Never again.
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony - Read the first sixteen.
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis - Read it.

It looks like I am at about 65%, give or take. There are some titles on there that probably should not be there, and there are some titles/authors that I think they missed. All told, however, it is an intriguing list; maybe one of these days I will take a weekend, sit down, and make my own list.

Yeah, in all my spare time.

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