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Signs of the True Church

When I was on my mission, there was a particular tract available to missionaries called "17 Points of the True Church". It has a really interesting story behind it as well.

However, I think that there are some much more compelling signs than those listed in those points.

1. The Book of Revelations

If you are a Latter-Day Saint, then say out loud the title of the last book in the New Testament. Unless you have already been asked this question before, you probably said "Revelations". Now, open the New Testament, and you will find that it is called "Revelation" with no "s" on the end. I have never heard a non-Mormon call it "Revelations", but I have heard many (including my Sunday School teacher last Sunday) repeatedly call it the book of "Revelations". I even received a book as a gift before my mission (2000-2002) that exhibited this problem. It was supposed to be a scripture quick reference, but everywhere it referenced a …

Letter to Douglas Hofstadter, author of "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"

Dear Mr. Hofstadter -

Thank you so much for an excellent book. I could spend a long time (for it was a long book read over a very long period of time) talking about the number of times where my view of self-awareness, consciousness, intelligence, etc. were all changed forever. I will simply let the above reference suffice to tell you how much I revere your work as the purpose of my letter is the discussion of a particular conclusion that you made.

In the hopes of furthering our mutual understanding of what it means to be intelligent or conscious, I'd like to offer and alternative conclusion to one that you made when you were talking about the symbols that our brain held together, particularly the self-symbol. This was one of my favorite points in the book, mostly because I had never considered the idea of self as a very sophisticated symbol inside the neural net that makes up our brain. The most intriguing part was that, while I had never before imagined such a concept, it see…

The Voucher Issue

I know; the gripping title has you welded to your seat.

Actually, if you live in Utah and happen to be reading this at about the time of it's authorship, the mention of the word voucher was probably enough to stop you. The issue of vouchers has been a red-hot topic in political discussions for a number of years and it seems to have come to a head in just the last few weeks. There was even one official that sent a memo to her staff saying that she felt that those people who were pro-vouchers were led by Satan. Wow.

The vote was tonight. The polls have already closed, but I wanted to give my two cents here before biasing my opinion with the final results. So, I have purposely refrained from looking at them.

Before I tell you my position I want to make a couple of things clear:

First, I am a registered Republican, and I am what one would consider a "values voter" to some extent. From this standpoint, I am a pretty average Utah citizen. Utah has often been stamped as the …

The Definitive 2007-2008 Catalog of Western United States Potties

So, I've figured it out. Remi is feverishly working on the definitive 2007-2008 Catalog of Western United States potties. I believe that we entered every bathroom at the ferry station, the aquarium, the marketplace, the restaurant, and basically everywhere else we visited today. Kristi and I really are happy to have the boy toilet-trained; now I just wish that his bladder was a little larger than a thimble.

Okay, enough potty humor.

We actually had a lovely trip to Seattle today by ferry. Although we forgot our camera (again), I think that the experience will remain memorable for a long time. The trip from Port Orchard to Seattle takes two ferries; one to Brewerton and then another to Seattle. Had I the camera, I would have taken a picture of the incredibly massive wake that the Brewerton-Seattle ferry leaves behind it. It was awesome. When we got off the ferry for the first time, I would have taken a picture of the largest hammer drill in the universe (of Josh) which was pu…

A 12-Hour Trip Stuffed Into 28

It's funny how kids can make a trip take longer. Actually, I have learned to multiply my travel time by 1.5 if I have my children in the car with me. For some reason, they need to stop to eat, go potty or just run around the car for 20 minutes straight, all at regular intervals of about 45 minutes. Interestingly, especially on long trips, they never feel the need to sleep.

Anyway, our trip to Seattle, Washington this week for a family vacation, while uniquely scenic outside the car, was no different inside the car. Zac figured out how to open water bottles, but not how gravity affects the situation when the water bottle is tipped over. Twice. Remi discovered that by drinking heavily from the water bottles, he could increase legitimate stop-offs by 30%.

However, Kristi and I did accomplish some goals that we set at the beginning of the trip. First, Remi never used a binki while in the car. Second, we only re-watched one movie. It was a VeggieTales movie, so I was okay with i…

The Jazz Pre-Season Begins!

The funny thing is that, being very nerdy, I naturally don't find a lot of point in a number of sports. I value athleticism, but not the warrior-like, adrenaline-induced behavior that certain sports seems to cultivate (i.e. football, hockey). On the other hand, I value skill and precision, but not watching it at a slow pace (i.e. baseball). Mostly, though, I think that I don't like being categorized with the stereotypical dad who does nothing but swig beer (or soda, in my case) all day, plopped on the couch watching his teams play.

A lot of this gets thrown out the window with basketball, though. While my wife has balanced me out quite a bit, since she usually goes to the Jazz games with me, I still classify myself as a fairly noisy fan in the crowds. I carefully follow the stats, analyze, and discuss ad nauseum with co-workers. I have trouble getting up to help my son with something (or leaving the house if it is on fire) if I'm watching a Jazz game. I exhibit sign…

A Thoelogical Offering

I am currently reading a fascinating book called, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. It is a long book, and I have finally broken the 600-page mark.

Anyway, the book starts out by referring to the Musical Offering that Bach composed based on a theme from Frederick II of Prussia. I have entitled this post, and the succeeding work implied by it, A Theological Offering for two reasons.

First, I refer myself to the following condition of English and its ability to make logical statements of truth or falsehood. Consider the statement "This statement is false." Is it true or false? From a logical sense, it is a paradox because, if it is true, then it is false, if it is false, then it speaks the truth. Somehow, our minds don't break though, because they operate on a higher plane that just language.

I showed this to a co-worker of mine, Chris, and he said that he felt that this wasn't a problem because you could just create a rule (thinking in the logical world…

General Conference Post-Game Show

This past weekend, the Church held its 177th Semi-Annual General Conference. This has become a major event in my life where I have the opportunity to listen to wise men and women on the subjects of family, spirituality, etc.. Their wisdom and devotion help me to learn lessons and grow closer to God much better than I could if I were just on my own.

Anyway, I'm out of time right now, but I'll devote an evening in the near future to beef up this post. The final word right now is that conference was wonderful, and I encourage any person seeking a relationship with God to participate, regardless of his or her religious persuasion.

A Call from Antonio, Part II

With Rosa's story in mind, I'd like to tell you about the day Antonio Santos was baptized.

It was March 3, 2002 in Castelo Branco, Portugal, which was my last Sunday serving in that city. My new appointment in the mission would be "Traveling Assistant," which means that I would have no area, but that I would stay with a different set of elders every week to train, etc.. I had three months left of my mission, so I knew that this new appointment would be my last. My personal proselyting mission, as I knew it, was ending in just a couple of days.

We were all so happy for Antonio because of his wonderful conversion story, which I'll not take the time to relate here. March 3 was the culmination of a dedicated conversion process on his part, including giving up smoking, etc., and devoting time to Church each Sunday.

The baptism was to immediately follow Fast and Testimony Meeting since some of our members traveled far to get to the meeting house, and it was better to …

A call from Antonio

In order to really appreciate this recent history, I'll need to relate a couple more stories beforehand.

First, one about an old missionary companion. He and I were companions in Santo Tirso, Portugal for the summer of 2001. It was very hot one Sunday afternoon in June, and we decided to stop for a break. We were a little down-trodden because we weren't having much success. Particularly, Elder H was more or less "fed up" with missionary work that day (it happens to every missionary some time during their mission).

We decided to take a minute to make a goal and ask the Lord to consecrate our efforts. Indeed, part of this was just to motivate Elder H, and helping him get out of his slump; however, I felt impressed to tell him that the Lord would hear this goal, answer our prayers, and lead us to a family that would be baptized before the end of July. We wrote down the goal, what we had to do to achieve it, and set out again.

The following Friday, we were thin on wor…

Scripture Study Plus

I can't tell you how excited I am right now about a new SourceForge project that I just found:

Scripture Study Plus

It is an open source development effort to provide an online scripture study tool where a person can highligh, cross-reference, tag, discuss, and share, all to enhance their personal scripture study! I can't tell you the number of times that I have looked for something like this (or started it myself), and found nothing. Now, this is something!

I've already sent my name in to be added to the project so that I can start pounding away at it immediately. Honestly, I'm almost giddy right now with anticipation to get started!

Today, I didn't really like my job...

I find myself in a slender demographic nowadays: I love my job, and I get paid well for it. As a computer programmer, I get to solve challenging problems everyday and they they thank me for doing what I would do with my spare time anyway by paying me for it!

However, today was not like that.

Each year, Kristi does a 5K in Boise, Idaho with her mom, aunt, grandma, and basically every female member of her family. It's for a good cause. Well, I guess it's for two good causes if you include Kristi's sanity. The run this year falls on this weekend.

About three weeks ago, when discussions about the 5K started, she mentioned that she didn't know what she was going to do with Isaac. Since the trip takes the whole weekend, she usually takes Remi. He has a cousin up there that is his age, so it works out nicely. However, Isaac presented a problem. So, I volunteered to take care of him for the weekend. For some reason that I will never understand, she was completely shocke…

Why Can't People Talk About Hurdles?

You know, I've observed something over the past while that baffles/intrigues me regarding human relationships. It's the fact that many people instinctively shy away from conflict, and, moreover, many of those same people avoid anticipated conflict, whether or not that would have been the outcome.

Take an example today with a business that I am working with to develop some candles for me. I need them developed right away for a conference at the beginning of November in California. Actually, I needed them for a conference in October, but that isn't going to happen anymore due to my conversation with the gal there today.

The situation began back in June when I emailed them to ask if they did custom candle molds. I didn't get a reply. I emailed again, stating that I was interested in a large quantity, etc., etc. to try and get a swifter reply. No reply. I decided that I must not sound serious enough, and so I called them directly. Finally, a person! They said that i…

Featured Article #4

As of September 24, 2007, all four of my geek articles on wikihow.com will be or will have been featured articles.

Check it out:
How to Find a Gift For a Self-Proclaimed Nerd or GeekHow to Celebrate Pi DayHow to Calculate Pi by Throwing Frozen Hot DogsHow to Double Your Salary Using an Algebraic LoopholeHonestly, I'm very happy. However, I'm not sure how this should affect my view of myself as a writer. Is it simply topical, or do I really have an eye-catching, thought-provoking fist? I think that I need to try something other than math or the gospel. I'm not sure what, though...

Living in the Spirit

There is a set of verses in Galatians that I really like. It is Galatians 5:22-24. These talk about the fruits of the Spirit, and encourage us to bring forth these fruits by "living in the Spirit".

This Sunday, I had the Sunday School lesson (I trade off with another gentleman, Gil Wilburn), and, to my delight, the topic was "Living in the Spirit". This meant that I would have the chance to talk about one of my favorite topics.

I'll give the overview, here, and I'll go into more detail later on of what we talked about.

First, I dropped a garbage bag in the middle of the room that was full of garbage. I did this before class began. After Brother Lunceford had given the opening prayer, I asked everyone if the room was clean. There are a couple of jokers in the classroom, but everyone understood. When might we decide that it was okay to leave the garbage there? "Oh, it's tied up, isn't it?" It will be fine for a while." "Oh, I&#…

Gross National Product and The Great Train Robbery

The other night, I had a uniquely vivid dream. I was at a train station with a co-worker of mine, Trent. We were walking beside a black coal train that was stopped on the track. We were musing about how the government calculates the Gross National Product and what it actually means.

At a certain point, it occurred to me, as it happens in a dream, that we could find out the answer to our question because attached to the train were two solid gold cylinders. We located the cylinders. Each was about the size of a thick pen, and each had an engraving along the side; one with the initials GNP and the other, GDP. We understood that upon investigation of these tubes (whose initials referred to Gross National Product and Gross Domestic Product), we would better understand the principle of the Gross National Product.

We looked at one another wondering whether or not the train needed them. We understood somehow that the solid gold cylinders were not essential to the running of the train, so…

If they build it

As you know, Remi and Zac have been sick with croup, which means that it took a little longer to get them to bed. They needed to take their medicine at 10:30, so, instead of putting them down at 8:30 and waking them up, we just kept them up.

What does one do for two hours with a 3- and 1-year old? Play-doh!

Here are some pictures of our endeavors:

This is Isaac's neo-classic apple in applesauce:


This is Kristi's practical, yet provocative donut:


This is Remi's experiment of Realism with Strawberry and Banana:


And this is a snake under a woven blanket by yours truly:


Here's the whole family's artistic endeavors for the evening:


Sadly, they were subsequently mashed into big balls of nothing and we had to put everything away. But the extended beauty of our dinner table lasted for a while...

Bo may know baseball...

But I discovered today that I don't. I played my first game on our Ward softball team, and though the pitches were coming at about the pace of a turtle walking through peanut butter, I still couldn't snag them. I managed to hit one that fouled, so I guess that's a start.

Anyway, I'm playing for the camaraderie, not the competition. I'm so bad at softball that, if I tried to play competitively, I'd just get frustrated and would probably make enemies instead of friends.

Sick kids...

Are probably the worst thing on the planet. That is, to have one of your own kids be sick is probably the worst thing on the planet. That is, to have one of your own kids be sick and seeing them so sad and not knowing what to do except give them the medicine that the doctor prescribed and pray that the Lord heals them quickly is probably the worst thing on the planet.

Remi and Zac are both sick tonight. Remi was diagnosed by the doctor today with croup due to the inflammation of his larynx, and it appears, at least for now, that Zac is demonstrating the same symptoms. Apparently, croup is very painful, but it usually peaks after the second day, and then drops off. That being the case, today is the second day of Remi showing symptoms. (Crossing fingers...)

An Ode to Football

For the sake of posterity, here is an email that I received from my sister just the other day:

I was bored in class last night. So, Brad and I each wrote song lyrics
for my new passion: Football. (For reals, his are really good. Mine,
below, are just plain hilarious)

Also, I had "Hey there, Delilah" in my head as I wrote them.

Good morning sunshine, have you got the remote ready
I know you and I are busy, but the game's on now

Oh, it aint just a game
No, It's a way of life.
And I know they'll lose if I don't watch

I'm actually not that lazy; my day's actually packed.
I gotta watch the quarterback get sacked.
The next twelve hours are really very busy
To see all thse games at once aint that easy

Oh, it aint just a game
No, It's a way of life.
And I know they'll lose if I don't watch

You never know when there will be an upset
There are reasons for Divisions, after all.
Oh, now that's a bull crap call.
Hey, come on, get that ball!

Oh, it aint just a game
No, I…

We Have Lift-Off

Remi got a new bike for his birthday (August 26th) this year. We just got around to purchasing the helmet today. I was very surprised at his selection. It was a nice blue helmet with a bear on the side. No problem. However, there was a really cool "Bob the Builder" helmet and another cool "Hot Wheels" that we also offered as choices. But, no; the blue bear helmet and Remi were obviously a match made in Heaven. It works out though because the generic helmet was something like 10 bucks cheaper. Phew!

We also got around to repairing the training wheel. Remi felt very official in his new helmet and with the socket wrench that we used.

He can't quite ride the bike, yet. However, he can't quite use a socket wrench, yet, either, so at least we're consistent.

Fountain of Youth Bed

We've decided that our bed is definitely not for old people. In fact, I believe that we have also ruled out middle-aged people. See, getting onto our bed is a little like getting into a semi-truck cab without he little step to help you out. With the semi-truck driver quietly chuckling at how much trouble you're having.

To exhibit the height of the bed, I employed (enslaved?...he wasn't really paid for it...well, except for the food, clothes, and free rent that we give him everyday...) my 3-year-old, Remi, to stand beside the bed.

Yes, feel free to guffaw for a moment at the poor photoshop job in the shorts. He just had his underpants on at the time of the picture, and I figure that he looks more appropriate in some shorts.

Anyway, you can clearly see that Remi is standing next to the bed, and that, being about 37" tall, his head still doesn't reach the top! In order to get onto the bed without resorting to standing on the window sill or something, I place my han…

Form Tag Library

So, I'm feeling pretty nerdy right now because, even though it is 11:30 PM on a Friday night, I am working on company code from my home computer for my salaried job. There really is no other benefit other than the geek factor of working on something right now that I think is pretty cool.

See, we have, over the past year, been developing a nice set of tag-libs and other form helpers to make it easier to draw up forms with appropriate validation, formatting, i18n, etc. We are currently using a utility powered by DWR for shared client/server validation, tag-libs for the formatting, and our market and locale-sensitive CMS for i18n. Put them together, and you get a whole lot of functionality for a form while keeping the form looking like what is finally generated on the page (as opposed to having a trillion scriptlets, javascript helpers, etc. scattered around until, from the jsp, you have no idea what the page will look like).

Right now, I'm working on some tag libs for higher-le…

Spiritual Things Can't Be Communicated Person-to-Person because God Wants to Tell Us Personally

Boyd K. Packer related a personal experience in his talk "Candle of the Lord." He described a conversation that he and a fellow flight passenger had about faith. The man insisted that because President Packer couldn't describe his spiritual feelings, then they weren't real. President Packer shrewdly asked the man whether or not he had ever tasted salt...

"Such an idea came into my mind and I said to the atheist, 'Let me ask if you know what salt tastes like.'
'Of course I do,' was his reply.'When did you taste salt last?''I just had dinner on the plane.''You just think you know what salt tastes like,' I said.He insisted, 'I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything.''If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?''Now you are getting juvenile,' was his reply. 'Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt…

The Atonement Is the Power to Strengthen As Well As the Power to Heal

I had an Institute teacher before my mission, named Brother Frogley, who stated that he felt we emphasized too often in the LDS church the healing power of the Atonement while forgetting the strengthening power that it also offers. Just like it has been said that it is better to have a railing at the top of the cliff than an ambulance ready at the bottom, I believe that it is also important to say that it is better for us to fortify ourselves against temptation than to repent for temptations to which we have succumbed.

There are a number of scriptures that talk about the strengthening power of the Atonement. My two favorites are found in Ether12:27 and D&C84:33. The first says that the Lord's grace (read: Atonement) is powerful unto "making the weak things strong unto them." The second says that he that is faithful unto the obtaining of the two Priesthoods is sanctified by the Spirit "even unto the renewing of their bodies." I'm sure that there are…

Proving that Pi Equals 3

...proves to be less of a pain than you might originally think. In fact, it's no problem at all to unravel millennia of careful mathematical postulation with just one simple trick. Can you spot it?

Given: a=b

(1) pi*a^2 = pi*a*b (multiplying pi*a)
(2) 3*a*b = 3*b^2 (multiplying by 3*b)
(3) pi*a^2 - 3*a*b = pi*a*b - 3*b^2 (subtracting (2) from (1))
(4) pi*a^2 - pi*a*b = 3*a*b - 3*b^2 (adding 3*a*b and subtracting pi*a*b on both sides)
(5) pi*a^2 - pi*a*b + a*b - b^2 = 4*a*b - 4*b^2 (adding a*b and subtracting b^2 on both sides)
(6) pi*a*(a-b) + b*(a-b) = 4b*(a-b) (factoring out common terms)
(7) pi*a + b = 4*b (removing common terms)
(8) pi*a = 3*b (subtracting b)
(9) pi*b = 3*b (substituting a for b since a = b)
(10) pi = 3 (removing common terms)

Therefore pi=3.

Spoiler ahead! If you want to figure it out yourself, then don't read on just yet!

T…

Gdata-Backed Applications

So, after a few trial runs, I am seriously considering Gdata as the Data-Access layer for my next project: An appointment booking and review site for my tutor students.

I first tried it out on this site. I didn't want to develop a database and an admin for this website, and I didn't want to just settle for blogger, which does labels, but doesn't seem to have the cool categorization functionality that I was really hoping for. None of the weblog alternatives were looking good either.

Enter Gdata. I learned of this nifty API that Google provides for query and CRUD operations for all of their applications, including Blogger. After poking around for a bit, I also learned that it is super-duper easy to use (if you are a programmer). As it's already feeling very late tonight, I'll just post the link, and you can see for yourself:

GData Blogger API Overview

Now, with very little programming, I was able to suck the blogger data onto these pages, quite seemlessly, and sepa…

NFD

The tag that I never thought I'd see on an article that I'd submitted: Nominated for Deletion.

To be really articulate: It sucked. I thought it was some of my finest work, and, hours after posting it to wikihow.com, it was nfd'd with the claim:

The inaccuracy reflects jocular intent.

Now, at the top of the article is a stark image of a piece of paper with a big red 'X' through it couched beside a paragraph indicating that, due to "Accuracy Issues," discussion would ensue and the article would be reviewed in a week or so.

The real irritation, I suppose, is not that the fellow tagged it, but the reason for which he tagged it. Of course there is jocular intent! Perhaps more accurately, the tongue-and-cheek is laid on pretty thick to make a pseudo-point regarding a fundamental principle of mathematics.

Anyway, despite the irritated tone of this post, I am open to suggestions that he or others would like to make if it truly is a little over-board.

Here is the wi…

Bad Temple Square Picture v3.0

In the twilight of yesteryear...which is to say yesterday at about 10:30 pm--Kristi, our kids, and I found ourselves once again taking a family picture in front of the Salt Lake City LDS Temple amongst the hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights that the LDS Church strings in honor of the season.

Try as we might, though, the picture always seems to turn out as unprofessional as they come--this lack of quality itself has nearly become part of the tradition. In the first year, Remi, our oldest, was only a few months old. We had been taking pictures of the lights and decided that one with the Temple in the background would be nice. We asked a passerby to do us the favor of pointing and clicking, and she obliged. Sadly, though her kindness is appreciated, she probably should have given the opportunity to someone else since the final product was a crooked, fuzzy mess.

We laughed about it and decided that we would try again next year. This time, we brought along a friend that we knew w…