Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christian music of today and yesterday...

Growing up in the LDS church, we didn't have much in the way of alternative outlets in regards to music. It was Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the devil's music. Even when the conservative traditionalists conceded that there was probably a need for contemporary alternatives instead of just telling teenagers to avoid "bad music", the best we got was crap that was put out at annual Especially For Youth programs (for you non-LDS readers, think Jesus Camp for Mormons).

Best of EFY and other Mormon hits (get your barf bags ready):
Like a Lighthouse
Never a Better Hero
Win The Race
He's Just a Friend - Saturday's Warrior soundtrack
Mormon Rap was a failed attempt that has now reached "legendary" status in Mormon folklore.

Then during my church mission (1997-1999) it seemed like a change was on the horizon. A Mormon guitarist appeared and gave me hope. Here is a sampling of Greg Simpson:
Come As You Are
Seven Wonders
Faith Like That

That hope has long since died. Contemporary Christian rock has given me new hope. Let me be clear too. I don't want, or expect, this stuff to begin appearing in Sunday meetings. I just wish more stuff like this was encouraged as alternatives to the offerings of the world who do not profess to share the same moral compasses as those in the Christian communities.

Unfortunately, we Mormons are still in the pioneer days compared with current Christian rock music:

Jesus Freak by DC Talk

Whispers in the Dark by Skillet

Rebirth by Skiilet

For The Love Of The Game by Pillar

Breathe Into Me by Red
Alive by P.O.D.
Everything by Pillar
Youth of the Nation by P.O.D.
Say This Sooner by The Almost

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Science Geek Alert...

Okay, I know I'm not usually the guy who posts science stuff but I came across this and was completely fascinated.

The Corpus Clock was unveiled on 19 September by Prof Stephen Hawking, cosmologist and author of the global bestseller, A Brief History of Time.

The £1 million timepiece, known as The Corpus Clock, was commissioned and designed to honour the John Harrison, who was famously the pioneer of Longitude and inventor of the esoteric clock mechanism known as a grasshopper escapement.

The clock was designed by the inventor and horologist Dr John Taylor and makes ingenious use of the grasshopper escapement, moving it from the inside of the clock to the outside and refashioning it as a Chronophage, or time-eater, which literally devours time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Office - Webisode Clips

If you don't visit The Office online, you may have missed some hilarious webisode clips from The Office. Enjoy!

Customer Survey - Mr. Right

Customer Survey - Problem Salespeople

Business Trip - Wingman

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One of my favorite talks from recent LDS General Conference

Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship
Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

We have gathered together as one, we have taken upon us the name of Jesus Christ, and we are Christians. One of the questions we would ask: why then, if we have that love of the Savior, would someone want to be an antagonist or to attack us?
Recently a group of bright, faithful young Latter-day Saints wrote down some of the most pressing questions on their minds. One sister asked, “Why doesn’t the Church defend itself more actively when accusations are made against it?”

To her inquiry I would say that one of mortality’s great tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. In such moments, we may want to respond aggressively—to “put up our dukes.” But these are important opportunities to step back, pray, and follow the Savior’s example. Remember that Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by the world. And in Lehi’s dream, those coming to the Savior also endured “mocking and pointing . . . fingers” (1 Nephi 8:27). “The world hath hated [my disciples],” Jesus said, “because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). But when we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.

To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to “love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]” (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.

The Prophet Joseph Smith demonstrated this courage throughout his life. Though he “suffer[ed] severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious” (Joseph Smith—History 1:27), he did not retaliate or give in to hatred. Like all true disciples of Christ, he stood with the Savior by loving others in a tolerant and compassionate way. That is Christian courage.

When we do not retaliate—when we turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger—we too stand with the Savior. We show forth His love, which is the only power that can subdue the adversary and answer our accusers without accusing them in return. That is not weakness. That is Christian courage.

Through the years we learn that challenges to our faith are not new, and they aren’t likely to disappear soon. But true disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi was bound and brought before the evil King Noah. Although the king vigorously opposed Abinadi and eventually sentenced him to death, Abinadi boldly taught the gospel and bore his testimony anyway. Because Abinadi took advantage of that opportunity, a priest named Alma was converted to the gospel and brought many souls unto Christ. The courage of Abinadi and Alma was Christian courage.

Experience shows that seasons of negative publicity about the Church can help accomplish the Lord’s purposes. In 1983, the First Presidency wrote to Church leaders, “Opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is a lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create . . . interest in the Church. . . . This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us.”1

We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice—who are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action.

As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord. Paul reminded the Corinthians that his preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Because that power resides in the Spirit of the Lord, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. As almost every missionary learns, Bible bashing always drives the Spirit away. The Savior has said, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me” (3 Nephi 11:29). More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—”love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). To be meek, as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, is “manifesting patience and longsuffering: enduring injury without resentment.”2 Meekness is not weakness. It is a badge of Christian courage.

This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened—and the devil laughs—when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with our Christian neighbors.

This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. We cannot change the doctrines of the restored gospel, even if teaching and obeying them makes us unpopular in the eyes of the world. Yet even as we feel to speak the word of God with boldness, we must pray to be filled with the Holy Ghost (see Acts 4:29, 31). We should never confuse boldness with Satan’s counterfeit: overbearance (see Alma 38:12). True disciples speak with quiet confidence, not boastful pride.

As true disciples, our primary concern must be others’ welfare, not personal vindication. Questions and criticisms give us an opportunity to reach out to others and demonstrate that they matter to our Heavenly Father and to us. Our aim should be to help them understand the truth, not defend our egos or score points in a theological debate. Our heartfelt testimonies are the most powerful answer we can give our accusers. And such testimonies can only be born in love and meekness. We should be like Edward Partridge, of whom the Lord said, “His heart is pure before me, for he is like unto Nathanael of old, in whom there is no guile” (D&C 41:11). To be guileless is to have a childlike innocence, to be slow to take offense and quick to forgive.

These qualities are first learned in the home and family and can be practiced in all our relationships. To be guileless is to look for our own fault first. When accused, we should ask as the Savior’s Apostles did, “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22). If we listen to the answer given by the Spirit, we can, if needed, make corrections, apologize, seek forgiveness, and do better.

Without guile, true disciples avoid being unduly judgmental of others’ views. Many of us have cultivated strong friendships with those who are not members of our Church—schoolmates, colleagues at work, and friends and neighbors throughout the world. We need them, and they need us. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, “Let us learn respect for others. . . . None of us lives alone—in our city, our nation, or our world.”3

As the Savior demonstrated with Herod, sometimes true disciples must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all. Once when I was golfing, I barely brushed up against a large cholla cactus, which seems to shoot needles like a porcupine. Thorns from that plant stuck all over my clothing, even though I had barely touched the cactus plant. Some situations are like that plant: they can only injure us. In such instances, we are better off to keep our distance and simply walk away. As we do, some may try to provoke us and engage us in argument. In the Book of Mormon, we read about Lehonti and his men camped upon a mount. The traitorous Amalickiah urged Lehonti to “come down” and meet him in the valley. But when Lehonti left the high ground, he was poisoned “by degrees” until he died, and his army fell into Amalickiah’s hands (see Alma 47). By arguments and accusations, some people bait us to leave the high ground. The high ground is where the light is. It’s where we see the first light of morning and the last light in the evening. It is the safe ground. It is true and where knowledge is. Sometimes others want us to come down off the high ground and join them in a theological scrum in the mud. These few contentious individuals are set on picking religious fights, online or in person. We are always better staying on the higher ground of mutual respect and love.

In doing so, we follow the example of the prophet Nehemiah, who built a wall around Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies entreated him to meet them on the plain, where “they thought to do [him] mischief.” Unlike Lehonti, however, Nehemiah wisely refused their offer with this message: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:2–3). We too have a great work to do, which will not be accomplished if we allow ourselves to stop and argue and be distracted. Instead we should muster Christian courage and move on. As we read in Psalms, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1).

Evil will always be with us in this world. Part of mortality’s great test is to be in the world without becoming like the world. In His Intercessory Prayer, the Savior asked His Heavenly Father, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). But even as the Savior warned of persecution, He promised peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). I testify that with the mantle of His peace upon us, the First Presidency’s promise will be fulfilled: “The opposition which may seem hard to bear will be a blessing to the kingdom of God upon the earth.”4

To my inquiring sister and all who seek to know how we should respond to our accusers, I reply, we love them. Whatever their race, creed, religion, or political persuasion, if we follow Christ and show forth His courage, we must love them. We do not feel we are better than they are. Rather, we desire with our love to show them a better way—the way of Jesus Christ. His way leads to the gate of baptism, the strait and narrow path of righteous living, and the temple of God. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Only through Him can we and all our brothers and sisters inherit the greatest gift we can receive—eternal life and eternal happiness. To help them, to be an example for them, is not for the weak. It is for the strong. It is for you and me, Latter-day Saints who pay the price of discipleship by answering our accusers with Christian courage.

I conclude by making the testimony of Mormon my own: “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13). I bear my special witness of Him—that our lives can be everlasting because His love is everlasting. That we may share His eternal, unconditional love with our brothers and sisters everywhere, is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. First Presidency letter, Dec. 1, 1983.
2. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1976), "meek," 1403.
3. Thomas S. Monson, “In Quest of the Abundant Life,” Ensign, Mar. 1988, 3.
4. First Presidency letter, Dec. 1, 1983.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Fitzgerald Kennedy - 35th President of the United States of America

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America. It was a moment of historical infamy in which many of that generation to this day can still tell you where they were the moment they heard the news.

I assume that everyone is familiar enough with history to know the more popular sound bites and clips from President Kennedy. Today, I thought I would try and share something rare with you. The text below is one of the two speeches President Kennedy had prepared to give that fateful day.

Remarks Prepared for Delivery at the Trade Mart in Dallas
President John F. Kennedy
November 22, 1963

I am honored to have this invitation to address the annual meeting of the Dallas Citizens Council, joined by the members of the Dallas Assembly--and pleased to have this opportunity to salute the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest.

It is fitting that these two symbols of Dallas progress are united in the sponsorship of this meeting. For they represent the best qualities, I am told, of leadership and learning in this city--and leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. The advancement of learning depends on community leadership for financial and political support and the products of that learning, in turn, are essential to the leadership's hopes for continued progress and prosperity. It is not a coincidence that those communities possessing the best in research and graduate facilities--from MIT to Cal Tech--tend to attract the new and growing industries. I congratulate those of you here in Dallas who have recognized these basic facts through the creation of the unique and forward-looking Graduate Research Center.

This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.

There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.

But today other voices are heard in the land--voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest single threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.

We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will "talk sense to the American people." But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.

I want to discuss with you today the status of our strength and our security because this question clearly calls for the most responsible qualities of leadership and the most enlightened products of scholarship. For this Nation's strength and security are not easily or cheaply obtained, nor are they quickly and simply explained. There are many kinds of strength and no one kind will suffice. Overwhelming nuclear strength cannot stop a guerrilla war. Formal pacts of alliance cannot stop internal subversion. Displays of material wealth cannot stop the disillusionment of diplomats subjected to discrimination.

Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.

I realize that this Nation often tends to identify turning-points in world affairs with the major addresses which preceded them. But it was not the Monroe Doctrine that kept all Europe away from this hemisphere--it was the strength of the British fleet and the width of the Atlantic Ocean. It was not General Marshall's speech at Harvard which kept communism out of Western Europe--it was the strength and stability made possible by our military and economic assistance.

In this administration also it has been necessary at times to issue specific warnings--warnings that we could not stand by and watch the Communists conquer Laos by force, or intervene in the Congo, or swallow West Berlin, or maintain offensive missiles on Cuba. But while our goals were at least temporarily obtained in these and other instances, our successful defense of freedom was due not to the words we used, but to the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand ready to defend.

This strength is composed of many different elements, ranging from the most massive deterrents to the most subtle influences. And all types of strength are needed--no one kind could do the job alone. Let us take a moment, therefore, to review this Nation's progress in each major area of strength.

First, as Secretary McNamara made clear in his address last Monday, the strategic nuclear power of the United States has been so greatly modernized and expanded in the last 1,000 days, by the rapid production and deployment of the most modern missile systems, that any and all potential aggressors are clearly confronted now with the impossibility of strategic victory--and the certainty of total destruction--if by reckless attack they should ever force upon us the necessity of a strategic reply.

In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year, increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program, increased by more than 75 percent our Minuteman purchase program, increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on 15-minute alert, and increased by too percent the total number of nuclear weapons available in our strategic alert forces. Our security is further enhanced by the steps we have taken regarding these weapons to improve the speed and certainty of their response, their readiness at all times to respond, their ability to survive an attack, and their ability to be carefully controlled and directed through secure command operations.

But the lessons of the last decade have taught us that freedom cannot be defended by strategic nuclear power alone. We have, therefore, in the last 3 years accelerated the development and deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, and increased by 60 percent the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe.

Nor can Europe or any other continent rely on nuclear forces alone, whether they are strategic or tactical. We have radically improved the readiness of our conventional forces--increased by 45 percent the number of combat ready Army divisions, increased by 100 percent the procurement of modern Army weapons and equipment, increased by 100 percent our ship construction, conversion, and modernization program, increased by too percent our procurement of tactical aircraft, increased by 30 percent the number of tactical air squadrons, and increased the strength of the Marines. As last month's "Operation Big Lift"--which originated here in Texas--showed so clearly, this Nation is prepared as never before to move substantial numbers of men in surprisingly little time to advanced positions anywhere in the world. We have increased by 175 percent the procurement of airlift aircraft, and we have already achieved a 75 percent increase in our existing strategic airlift capability. Finally, moving beyond the traditional roles of our military forces, we have achieved an increase of nearly 600 percent in our special forces--those forces that are prepared to work with our allies and friends against the guerrillas, saboteurs, insurgents and assassins who threaten freedom in a less direct but equally dangerous manner.

But American military might should not and need not stand alone against the ambitions of international communism. Our security and strength, in the last analysis, directly depend on the security and strength of others, and that is why our military and economic assistance plays such a key role in enabling those who live on the periphery of the Communist world to maintain their independence of choice. Our assistance to these nations can be painful, risky and costly, as is true in Southeast Asia today. But we dare not weary of the task. For our assistance makes possible the stationing of 3-5 million allied troops along the Communist frontier at one-tenth the cost of maintaining a comparable number of American soldiers. A successful Communist breakthrough in these areas, necessitating direct United States intervention, would cost us several times as much as our entire foreign aid program, and might cost us heavily in American lives as well.

About 70 percent of our military assistance goes to nine key countries located on or near the borders of the Communist bloc--nine countries confronted directly or indirectly with the threat of Communist aggression--Viet-Nam, Free China, Korea, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Greece, Turkey, and Iran. No one of these countries possesses on its own the resources to maintain the forces which our own Chiefs of Staff think needed in the common interest. Reducing our efforts to train, equip, and assist their armies can only encourage Communist penetration and require in time the increased overseas deployment of American combat forces. And reducing the economic help needed to bolster these nations that undertake to help defend freedom can have the same disastrous result. In short, the $50 billion we spend each year on our own defense could well be ineffective without the $4 billion required for military and economic assistance.

Our foreign aid program is not growing in size, it is, on the contrary, smaller now than in previous years. It has had its weaknesses, but we have undertaken to correct them. And the proper way of treating weaknesses is to replace them with strength, not to increase those weaknesses by emasculating essential programs. Dollar for dollar, in or out of government, there is no better form of investment in our national security than our much-abused foreign aid program. We cannot afford to lose it. We can afford to maintain it. We can surely afford, for example, to do as much for our 19 needy neighbors of Latin America as the Communist bloc is sending to the island of Cuba alone.

I have spoken of strength largely in terms of the deterrence and resistance of aggression and attack. But, in today's world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in the world as well as our missiles--on a clearer recognition of the virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.

That is why our Information Agency has doubled the shortwave broadcasting power of the Voice of America and increased the number of broadcasting hours by 30 percent, increased Spanish language broadcasting to Cuba and Latin America from I to 9 hours a day, increased seven-fold to more than 3-5 million copies the number of American books being translated and published for Latin American readers, and taken a host of other steps to carry our message of truth and freedom to all the far corners of the earth.

And that is also why we have regained the initiative in the exploration of outer space, making an annual effort greater than the combined total of all space activities undertaken during the fifties, launching more than 130 vehicles into earth orbit, putting into actual operation valuable weather and communications satellites, and making it clear to all that the United States of America has no intention of finishing second in space.

This effort is expensive--but it pays its own way, for freedom and for America. For there is no longer any fear in the free world that a Communist lead in space will become a permanent assertion of supremacy and the basis of military superiority. There is no longer any doubt about the strength and skill of American science, American industry, American education, and the American free enterprise system. In short, our national space effort represents a great gain in, and a great resource of, our national strength--and both Texas and Texans are contributing greatly to this strength.

Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.

It is clear, therefore, that we are strengthening our security as well as our economy by our recent record increases in national income and output--by surging ahead of most of Western Europe in the rate of business expansion and the margin of corporate profits, by maintaining a more stable level of prices than almost any of our overseas competitors, and by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by some $ I I billion, as I have proposed, to assure this Nation of the longest and strongest expansion in our peacetime economic history.

This Nation's total output--which 3 years ago was at the $500 billion mark--will soon pass $600 billion, for a record rise of over $too billion in 3 years. For the first time in history we have 70 million men and women at work. For the first time in history average factory earnings have exceeded $100 a week. For the first time in history corporation profits after taxes--which have risen 43 percent in less than 3 years--have an annual level f $27.4 billion.

My friends and fellow citizens: I cite these facts and figures to make it clear that America today is stronger than ever before. Our adversaries have not abandoned their ambitions, our dangers have not diminished, our vigilance cannot be relaxed. But now we have the military, the scientific, and the economic strength to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom.

That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions--it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations--it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.

We in this country, in this generation, are--by destiny rather than choice--the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Television of my youth...

Did anyone else used to watch these, or was it just me and that's why they got cancelled?

Greatest American Hero:

V The Final Battle (and subsequent TV series):

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seven score and five years ago...

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln - November 19, 1863

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Divine Politics of the Wah-Wah Mormonhood

Consider this your warning. If you have EVER been offended by anything I have said regarding Proposition 8, you should stop reading now.

My brother-in-law posted a blog about the need for tolerance on both sides in the aftermath of the Prop 8 debate. I agree with him, in that I am personally against illegal forms of protest, (i.e. online hacking of LDS sites, white powdery substances sent to LDS Temples, etc.). I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with protesting in front of temples and churches, boycotting businesses that supported Prop 8, and any other forms of peaceful democratic protests exercised.

(Imagine your best whiny voice here) However, there are some who now feel singled out and they don’t think it’s fair. Boo hoo hoo. (Go back to narrative blog voice now…) From the local community to the 50+ of online blogs I peruse, I hear and read about these crybaby Mormons and their “poor-picked-on-us” mentality.

My feeling is that you can’t bully your way to a Constitutional amendment and then cry the role of the victim. If you want to know why Mormons are the ones being singled out, here is a very simple analysis.

1. Can anybody present a letter signed by the Pope encouraging Catholics to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman”? No, but the Mormons can.

2. Did the Catholic Church, or any other church, create a political machination that exposes loopholes to maintain their tax-exempt status while directly overlapping their current ecclesiastical programs and boundaries with voting districts in order to maximize votes on the issue they wanted passed? No, but the Mormons did.

3. Do Catholics have a history of American legislation directed at them regarding marriage definitions and, therefore, makes their participation in marriage discrimination legislation extremely hypocritical? No, but the Mormons do.

4. Did the Catholic governing leadership make congregational assignments to Catholics from out of state to participate in the political systems in California? No, but the Mormons did.

5. Which religion boasted of the most financial donations to the Yes on Prop 8 cause? Mormons are quick to point out that (at best) they only represent 2% of California’s population. True but that 2% raised (depending on the source) 40-50% of the funds for the Yes on Prop 8 campaign and the number may be higher because donators may not have indicated religious affiliation as LDS.

I fully support those who are protesting this injustice. I join with my brother-in-law in saying that I do NOT support the tactics used by the extremists within the protesting groups. However, I fear his message was lost, in that, we need tolerance on both sides and then to allow the democratic processes to work in our country. Just as I ask the world to not identify all Mormons as discriminating Zionist politicians, I also request that all gays not be lumped together with these extremist groups performing illegal activities.

There is an argument that if Prop 8 had not passed, the Yes on 8 campaigners would not be protesting to the same levels that are being done right now. Well, of course they wouldn’t. When all is said and done, it means nothing to them. Why should they protest? Now they just get the self-pat on the back and the “Yay, we stood up for Jesus.”

Contrast that now with homosexual citizens knowing that, day in and day out, they are expected to pay the same taxes as everyone else but not receive the same rights as the rest of the state. Consider now the number of lives and families that will hang in limbo for the next 12-24 months while they wait to find out if their marriages will remain intact or if they will face involuntary divorce forced by “the will of the people.”

The thoughts of “what-if-someone-tried-to-take-away-my-right-to-marry” didn't weight heavily enough upon the minds of 52% of the voters. Whatever happened to “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12)?

I guess the Golden Rule doesn’t apply to gay people…

I thought about trying to explain the historical role of violent opposition (or the fear of violent opposition) in bringing about social change but decided against it. Not because I doubt the necessity of it but only because it is so inflammatory I can dedicate an entire blog to it later, plus I didn’t want the Wah-Wah Mormonhood to have something else to cry about.

Maybe instead of whining and complaining so much you all should graciously welcome these unbearable amounts of persecution and rejoice “that (you) were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41). “These things remain to overcome through patience, that such may receive a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, otherwise, a greater condemnation. Amen” (D&C 63:66).

Or you can just shut the hell up…

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm the coolest dad ever...

I decided to give Adam a haircut prior to his pending visit to both sets of grandparents. He needed to look presentable as his hair was getting a little scraggily. I am sure they will appreciate my skills...

Prioritizing our moral compasses...

I came across this quote during a blog-bouncing session and thought I would share.

Tony Campolo is the associate pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia and an emeritus professor of sociology at Eastern University. On the Eastern campus is the Campolo School of Social Change.

Here's how Campolo often begins a speech:

"I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. [And third] What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night."

What do you all see as the misplacement of priorities in everyday life? Let's hear from the audience...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Final thoughts on Prop 8? Probably not...

I would like to put a final thought together on the whole fiasco that was California Proposition 8 but it looks like it is going to be a continuing issue. As such, you will continue to hear from me. Several lawsuits have begun over the legal merit of using ‘the will of the people’ to pass a discriminatory Constitutional amendment. I have yet to hear how an individual who voted Yes on Prop 8 can deny that it was discriminatory regardless why they voted yes. “It’s God’s law,” “It’s not Biblical,” “Since the beginning of time…”. Okay, fine. However, I can also separate what I choose to live versus what I choose to compel others to live.

California Proposition 8, Arizona Proposition 112, and Florida Proposition 2 were never about legislating the moral correctness of homosexual activity. I believe the majority of those voting Yes did so on merits directly unrelated to the actual propositions. The fears related to the numerous “What-If’s” deceived many away from the core issue of the amendment. The core issue being: How do you treat one set of citizens different from another? To do so is discrimination regardless of why you do it. That cannot be denied. A no vote on Prop 8 was an endorsement for equality, not homosexuality.

In reflection, between my two blog sites, a handful of you were quite upset at my alleged apostasy and inflammatory antics in my stance against Proposition 8. Even though most of us have reconciled, some of us haven’t, I think if we were 100% honest with each other, you would admit to still doubting my prayer frequency on the issue while I would still suspect blind obedience to perceived infallibility amongst idolized untouchables. That’s human nature. We all have human frailties and preconceived notions on both sides. I apologize for that, yet I know that it will probably still go on, just as you will continue to suspect me of lacking testimony for sometime yet to come.

We have basic scientific differences of opinion that overlap into our religious views. I believe there are people born with a homosexual orientation. Many of you do not share that same belief. Do I also believe there is choice in action? Yes. What I do not profess to understand is how or why God would allow certain of His children to a life of probation that would require celibacy until the afterlife. Even Job thinks that's cruel.

I have spoken with many of you who have casually dismissed homosexual orientation as a human tendency similar to an affinity for chocolate and not as an essential characteristic of who they are. I also do not profess to comprehend how I would feel to be a faithful believer in a religious community that implies that - how I was born - would be an affront to God.

Over the last few months, what kept me going forward in the face of attacks from family, friends and others, were the unbelievable numbers of you who quietly emailed to thank me for publicly voicing what you were privately thinking and feeling. I do not doubt that if we were to do an anonymous poll among all readers, it would probably be split very similarly to the California vote.

On a sore loser tangent, how the state of California can allow a state amendment to pass on a 50% +1 vote basis is ridiculous. This type of legislative strategy will have laws changed too often and doesn’t represent an overwhelming will of the people. Florida just passed their pro hetero-marriage amendment with 62% because in Florida, a constitutional amendment requires 60% majority passage.

Getting back to why this issue is so important to me. As someone who, in his teenage years, was on the wrong side of the bigotry debate and spread hatred with relative enjoyment; I found Christ during my senior year in high school. I put the hate behind me and allowed Christ's love into my heart. Having turned away from hate, I now find bigotry of any kind extremely offensive. Add to that my lifelong passion with American history, my heroic view of the founding fathers and my love of our Constitution as an evolving document fundamental to our success as an independent nation.

Then enter Proposition 8, which grew into a consorted religious effort, not to preserve the sanctity of marriage, but to reaffirm to the entire state the religious position of homosexuality as a sin - which had nothing to do with Proposition 8. With sin being the face of the movement and the "protect the children" motto as the engine, the religious groups used Prop 8 as a tool to deny a targeted group of citizens of their Constitutional rights to civil equality by amending a sacred document to legislate “separate but equal” and then to have the audacity to do it in the name of Christ. I found it shameful. It offended me on every possible sensitivity.

How can we, as Mormons, who have experienced religious bigotry on levels no religion in our American history has claim to, how can we endorse such an political amendment? How can we as Americans, who have such an embarrassing history with regards to our treatment of minority groups while patriotically professing that “All men are created equal…”, how can we embrace such a recycled faulty statute as “separate but equal?”

Unfortunately the Confused Winner Party (Mormons) are having a tough time understanding why the Sore Loser Party (the No on Prop 8 voters) are marching and protesting on LDS sites. They do not understand why they are suing to block the "will of the people" from legally discriminating against a group of citizens. I have heard, "They lost fair and square, why don't they just give up already?" I thought about trying to explain why but I don't think they really even care.

In reflection of Prop 8, where the two sides fundamentally differ is that while the Sore Loser Party may have to to apologize for some of their methods they see the need for 52% of their fellow Californians to repent of their position.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

October Hike - Chantry Flats

Recently upon a trip up to family in Ontario two hours north of San Diego, I decided to go on a hike. The plan was for me to begin hiking Thursday and then on Friday afternoon, two of my brothers-in-law would meet me up there to do another hike. Here are some photos of what we experienced.

This was my entry point in the San Gabriel Mountains. This point on the map is known as Red Box.

Here is the first of MANY switchbacks:

Long story short on this one...this is what I spent 1.5 hours hiking through because I got lost. I had the opportunity to put my orienteering skills to use and found my way back to the trail and continued on my hike.


Is it any wonder I got lost with the trails in this type of condition?

Or this?

Great Mountain Scenery:

This is Newcomb Pass. This was the 9 mile marker for my day thus far. The elevation gain is 1255 feet in 1.6 miles to the pass. I was so exhausted, I almost slept there instead of continuing on for the next 3 miles to Spruce Grove. Though I'm glad I did because in talking with a Ranger later he indicated about 10 days prior there had been two bears spotted at the pass.

I got to camp just as darkness was settling in. I ate my disgusting chili dinner and went to bed. I don't use a tent, I use what is called a bivy. Now for those of you who backpack, you probably know what a bivy is but for those who don't click here. I use it because it weighs 1 lb 8 ounces. The lightest one man tent at REI still weighs over 3 lbs. Anyhow, here is the view as I woke up in the morning still laying on my back:

Trail marker on the way to meet Robby and Scott:

En route to rendezvous at Chantry Flats:

Detour through Hoegees Camp, which has been refurbished by the forestry service and looks amazing!

Met a traveling companion along the way:

My hiking companions have arrived. Here's Scott:

And here's Robby:

A spot along the trail with a felled tree:

Steep section of the trail:

The next morning (in order of waking), Robby:


And sleepy-head Scott...aka Kielbasa:

Random shot of Nature:

And another:

Three Amigos? No. Three Musketeers? No. Three Stooges...Yes!!!

On the way to the falls for lunch:

Sturtevant Falls (I guess it hasn't been raining much...):

Us at the Falls:

Scenery nearing the end:

View coming up the final ascent on Heart Attack Hill:

And another:

And last but not least...This is my favorite marker on the trail:

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post Prop if there wasn't enough already said.

A few videos to show how ridiculous both sides got in their efforts. For the record, I find most of the videos funny.







Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can...

I report proudly that I voted for a Democrat for the first time in my life:
Barack Obama/Joseph Biden

I have hope in politics again where it has been non-existent for my entire adult life. Regardless of whether you label it as Obama's dialogue for "change" or his rhetoric of change...I want him to succeed. If he can operate as Commander-in-Chief half as well as he inspires through his oratory skills, he will do amazingly.

President Obama's acceptance speech:

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama and explains why...

Although Election Day is now upon us, I still don't know who I am voting for. I have long been a fan of McCain, but this process has chilled my enthusiasm. I was preparing a long pros and cons list of McCain vs Obama but once I saw Colin Powell's explanation...I figured I could just post his commentary and say: Ditto. While my vote is leaning towards Obama right now...I have not yet cast my vote. I just hope I decide before I enter the voting booth.

Here is Colin Powell's explanation...DITTO:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

An interview with TJ Shelby - My last Proposition 8 posting...

An interview with T.J. Shelby, the self-proclaimed Malcolm X of Prop 8.

Question: Why do you attack individuals who have differing views from you on Proposition 8?

Answer: My targets have, and will continue to be, only three main groups. ONE, the entire Yes on 8 campaign as a whole; TWO, the group who donated to the campaign; and THREE, Mormons voting yes on Prop 8. I can’t help it if some of you happen to fall into each category that I am attacking. I apologize if any who read this have felt personally attacked. Such was not the intention but I’m not going to withhold what I believe is my civil responsibility simply because people I know vote differently.

Question: Why do you continue to post disrespectful, distasteful, and demeaning blogs?

Answer: They may say that but they keep coming back for more of my literary crack cocaine. The simple answer is that I (and many others) find Proposition 8 so completely disrespectful to the Constitution and to citizens who are being discriminated against. An offense to one is an offense to all. Equality for one, equality for all. I do not believe my blog postings demean anyone for their beliefs. If the arguments of those who wish to amend the State constitution, and eventually our Federal Constitution, cannot withstand the slightest breeze of scrutiny and ethical criticism, then they can’t call my sarcastic satire demeaning. They demean themselves by continuing to support something they can’t even rationally explain.

Question: Yes, but isn’t it rude to rub it in faces of those who donated to see how their donations are being mishandled?

Answer: Yes, actually, I am a complete jerk because that was my entire point. I took no consideration to those I know who may have donated and frankly, I don’t think it’s relevant. And yes, I find it absolutely hilarious that those who donated money to try and legislate their moral code, entrusted their funds to those who would break commandments and use immoral actions to enforce morality. Sue me but that’s karma baby. I agree that the wicked-by-association argument was extreme but hey, it got reactions. For the record, I do not believe all of those who donated are wicked by association and I offer my apologies. However, that does not alleviate them from responsibility for what transpires with the funds they donated. This isn’t tithing, where we close our eyes and remind ourselves that it wasn’t our money anyway, it is the Lord’s, as we watch an appropriation of funds we do not agree with. You have a voice in this instance. Use it to uphold the integrity of your morality campaign.

Question: How do you mean?

Answer: The Yes on 8 Campaign stands on a platform, which they built themselves, of moral superiority and acts to legislate their moral code as social policy. They do not have the luxury of using immoral and unethical political practices in trying to force their agenda upon others. It’s laughable hypocrisy. The No on 8 Campaign is not held to the same standard because they do not profess a morality platform but for a universal law for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.

Question: Do you mock those who have come to decisions different from your stance?

Answer: I do not doubt that there are those who have come to an honest, analyzed, contemplated decision to support Proposition 8. Do I more readily believe that there is a little too much faith and not enough reason in their decision? Absolutely. To be fair, there are plenty who would say that I could use a little more faith with my reason in my decision.

Question: Yeah, but why be so extreme in your approach?

Answer: The reason I have become as extreme as I have been is because I do not believe that change will come from the soft voices of rational reasoning. Look at the history of the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. became most effective after white America became afraid of the alternative in Malcolm X. Within a relatively short amount of time, King came to realize Malcolm’s way would accomplish the goal of equality a whole lot faster. King started to become more like the in-your-face-styled Malcolm X. While it is true that King is treated more kindly by history than Malcolm...he wouldn't have accomplished what he did without Malcolm. I don't mind being seen as the angry, militant voice of Prop 8.

Question: You see yourself as the Malcolm X of Proposition 8?

Answer: No I don’t presume to inherit those large shoes. Malcolm X is a hero of mine and while I don't see myself as the California face of the No on Prop 8 campaign, for those within my sphere of influence, I am. I happen to relate more with Malcolm's style than King's style. I spent the last few months trying King's style and for the last few weeks before the election, I decided that is was time for a more aggressive approach. I embraced Malcolm’s motto: “Our objective is complete freedom, justice and equality by any means necessary.”

Question: How were your actions received?

Answer: I voiced my concerns, gave my opinions and got patted on the head. Then the head patting stopped and the snickering started. In some eyes, I already have a pre-paid ticket for an eternal cruise on the river of fire and brimstone. Sunday meetings began to focus more on Prop 8 and less on the gospel of Christ. Propaganda and lies were consistently allowed to slip into talks, lessons, and announcements without being corrected by presiding authorities, and sometimes propagated by said authorities. Temple and missionary work were not only put on the back-burner, but encouragement to do so was lauded as acceptable and faithful, in order to prioritize for Prop 8 activities. People weren’t hearing the message. I had to become as just as extreme as them but on the other side of the spectrum. That’s where we stand now.

Question: Is that why you specifically target Mormons who vote Yes on Prop 8, as part of your three groups?

Answer: In part. First, and foremost, because I can’t understand those who cannot separate their moral code from social policy. I believe certain things religiously and morally but I don’t feel compelled to force an entire state or nation to my way of thinking. I find it funny that we send missionaries to convert people to the gospel through methodology of love, teaching and inviting individuals to pray to find out for themselves but in matters of social policy we decide that forced compliance of our religious interpretation of morality upon all citizens should be the law of the land.

Question: Anything else?

Answer: It wasn’t much more than a century ago and Mormons were telling the government to butt out of defining marriage. It was a religious institution ordained of God and they wanted to worship how they may, including their interpretation of plural marriage, or polygamy. Now we find ourselves years later and we are begging the government to create a universal definition of marriage which is entirely different from the definition we had when we wanted them to leave us alone.

Question: But what of those who believe that the Prophet has revealed the will of God regarding Proposition 8?

Answer: They cannot claim revelation, when Thomas Monson, who we look to as a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, has not said that this is the mind and will of God. Recently the LDS spokesman was asked if counsel from the leadership on social policies was to be considered “doctrine” and he said: “The LDS Church spokesman Dale Bills replied to that by saying: "Church statements on public policy issues reflect the united voice of church leaders. While such statements often reflect church teachings and practices, positions on matters of public policy do not rise to the level of doctrinal declarations." (,5143,605154969,00.html?pg=2)

Question: What of those that say you just need to pray about this and you’ll understand?

Answer: Then they assume that because they side with the majority they must be right. All I can do is analyze the situation, review the impact on society, determine if any citizens are in danger, and see how this can be constitutionally upheld. I came to a decision after much thought, reflection, prayer, and temple pondering. The answers I received are for me. Yes on 8 people have got theirs, I am left to assume, using similar processes.

Question: Do you really believe that?

Answer: I’ll give some of them the benefit of the doubt.

Question: Do you consider yourself a faithful Mormon?

Answer: Absolutely. I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored church and I love the calling I have right now working with the youth.

Question: So how do you reconcile the difference between moral code and social policy?

Answer: In matters of doctrine, I follow my priesthood leaders. They will help instruct me and my family in what I need to be doing to return to my Father in Heaven as an eternal family unit. In matters of politics and social policies, I follow my heart and mind as influenced by my understanding of the Constitutions of the state and country in which I live.

Question: So what would you do if the Prophet did come out and say “Thus sayeth the Lord – Vote Yes on Prop 8?”

Answer: I learned long ago there are no good answers to hypothetical questions. You want my sarcastic answer? I would argue my point right up until they threaten me with excommunication and then I'd line up with all the other sheep. See, I answered and pissed people off…

Question: What about the argument about teaching homosexuality in schools?

Answer: Nice segway from hypothetical questions there. Your question is inherently flawed. The schools will not teach homosexuality any more than they teach heterosexuality, as though they are behaviors to be learned through study like becoming a doctor or lawyer. It’s ridiculous.

Question: Let me rephrase, What would you say to those who oppose homosexual marriage being taught in our schools as equal to traditional heterosexual marriage?

Answer: First off, let’s ignore every education official in the State of California and assume that somehow, we begin having big gay marriage festivals for our kindergarten classes across America. And let's reference history and see what they taught about inter-racial marriages vs. traditional same-race marriages. This is an evolution in social policy not the end of the world.

Question: What if it were your kids?
Answer: It will be my kids. I have a daughter and two sons. I believe there is a difference between protecting my children and shielding my children. If my children will now learn in school that, in addition to the marriage they see at home between a man and woman, they learn that boys marry boys and girls marry girls, will that knowledge somehow poison my daughter and sons into a life of homosexuality? I suppose not any more than a study of our Mormon ancestors will lead them into a life of polygamy.

Question: Will what they learn in school cause conflict between what they learn at church?

Answer: I send my children to school to learn about the world in which we live to learn their civil responsibilities and acquire secular knowledge in the arts and sciences. I send my children to church to have them learn who they are, where they came from, why they are here, and where we are going. I teach them in my home how to recognize the truth from both sources and help them learn how to reconcile the differences while maintaining the faith.

Question: What do you believe in relation to the Church/State argument?

Answer: Without a doubt, I am in favor of small government and as little interaction as possible. I have a scripture passage which sums up my position. As Mormons, we use four books of scripture. The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. In the Doctrine and Covenants 134:8, we read: “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.”

Question: What do you believe about marriage?

Answer: I do not believe the government should be in the business of licensing marriage. I believe all social contracts should go by the same phraseology. Domestic partnerships, or civil unions, should be available for any two citizens wishing to enter into a contract of commitment, man and woman, man and man, woman and woman. Morally, or as a matter of religion, I accept the Biblical view of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Question: You believe marriage is between a man and a woman but you are voting No on Prop 8?

Answer: Yes, I can separate what I believe morally from what I believe a free country should allow. I know what marriage means to me and what others choose to make it for themselves takes nothing away from me. I believe you cannot treat one set of citizens different from another.

Question: Any last words?

Answer: If people can’t see the difference between a proposition largely supported by the Christian right trying to legislate their moral beliefs upon ALL the citizens of a state and the rest of the state who believes that social policies must accommodate all citizens equally regardless of whose holy book they read…then nothing I say from now to election day will mean anything but rhetoric to them.

Question: Why is this issue so important to you?

Answer: I want my children to know by my example that they have responsibilites to humanity. My greatest fear is that someone in my posterity will have to make excuses for my ignorance by using the phrases we use for our great-grandparents such as "they were products of their time" or "everyone felt that way back then." I hope they will see me as a Christian voice of reason in a sea of religious intolerance and social ignorance.