Sunday, May 27, 2007

In the News

Here's a newspaper article talking about the project Alison has been working on for the past four years

As the article says, it's a book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Alison's main job has been to source check the stuff that the authors write and making sure that the foot notes are all correct. The project has been a long time in the making but it looks like it'll be out soon, which is good since we're having a baby next month. It'll be kind of sad when the book is done, it seems like it's taken over a very significant portion of our lives. What will we talk about if not a massacre of 120 people? I'm excited for the book to come out though, I haven't actually been able to read any of the text (apparently there's some type of author confidentiality thing that Alison always warns me about).


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ninja on Pirates

To get you ready for Pirates III, here's a ninja's take on Dead Man's Chest.

(How do you put a video up to watch?)


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Summer Meditations

As I was putting my books in a stack for DI, I found Summer Meditations by Vaclav Havel (President of Czechoslovakia 1989-1992 and President of the Czech Republic 1993-2003). He started his book with:

As ridiculous or quixotic as it may sound these days, one thing seems certain to me: that it is my responsibility to emphasize, again and again, the moral origin of all genuine politics, to stress the significance of moral vlaues and standards in all spheres of social life, including economics, and to explain that if we don't try, within ourselves, to discover or rediscover or cultivate what I call "higher responsibility", things will turn out very badly indeed for our country.

The "moral origin" of politics? Unfortunately, Havel doesn't go on to descrive his definition of genuine politics - but I suspect that genuine politics is more about genuine cooperation of trustworthy and honest parties for the betterment of all sides. Economic deals also work best when both parties involved in a transaction benefit from that transaction - then the parties will continue to deal with each other in the future and continue to benefit. OK, I know this may be a simplistic view of the world, but I found it interesting.

In a country where we have established the separation of church and state (another issue, I know), I just hope that we don't also separate morals and politics. Like Havel said, we are each responsible for making moral choices. And like we have heard many times from Church leaders, these are the values we learn first at home.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Who Dies in Harry Potter 7?

This post is for those of us who read Harry Potter. In a recent news article JK “Rowling has said two major characters will die in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’” Which leads to the speculation; which two?

Since they are “major” characters (whatever that means) I’m going to rule out Mad Eye Moody and Tonks. But from the members of the Order of the Phoenix I can see Mr. Weasley dieing. He is some sort of father figure to Harry and goes out to fight. I don’t see Fred and George dieing, and the other Weasley kids (except Ginny) aren’t major enough. Hagrid, Lupin and Professor McGonagall could be but I doubt it.

Between Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Harry I hope none of them die, but can see two of them dieing – either Ron and Hermione or Ginny and Harry as they were the couples at the end of Book 6.

That assumes that Voldemort doesn’t count as one of the two since it is expected that he dies. If Voldemort is one of the two, then the second could easily be Harry, although I would prefer if it were Mr. Weasley instead.

Snape, Draco and Lucius are also candidates, but if Voldemort is one of the two then I don’t see the two major characters that die as both bad (or good, maybe, in Snape’s case. Who knows.).

In the end I think that Voldemort will die, a different bad guy and a good guy. Some minor characters will snuff it as well such as lesser members of the Order of the Phoenix and some Death Eaters like Crabbe and Goyle’s fathers.

Of the two major characters I would like to think it would be Snape (if he's bad) and Weasley, but I wouldn’t put high odds on it.



Saturday, May 05, 2007

Campaign Update

For those not interested in presidential politics, here is a semi-amusing website(hat tip-> Eric Snider). As for the rest of us, it has turned out to be an interesting past few weeks in the presidential primary now in full swing. First up is the shear amount of money that was raised by everyone, and the shocking amount raised by Romney. Who really expected him to actually raise as much primary money as Hillary Clinton? Some in the media claim its all the rich Mormons giving to him, but come on guys, we all know what tight wads we all are. I'm willing to bet that he hasn't even scratched the surface of all the Mormon money he will get once everyone sees that he actually has a good chance now.

Also, for those who didn't hear because of finals or whatever, there was a republican debate a few nights ago. Now, I openly admit that I was biased to Romney going into the debate, but to be honest I only had a fools hope for him actually winning the republican nomination. Watching the debate and the reactions to it the next day changed that for me. He was really good. REALLY good- and 90% of everyone that wrote about it the next day proclaimed him the clear winner. In contrast to the other nine candidates, he smiled, didn't stutter, spoke very clearly, was composed, managed to weave a little humor into some responses, and came across as very "with it" and in control. Until the debate, I liked him only because of his record but was a little anxious that he wouldn't be able to hold his own in a vicious campaign with a Hillary, but now it is clear that he can, and probably will. Some of the new polls in some early states are starting to show that too: He's almost even with McCain in New Hampshire (I'd be surprised if he doesn't overtake him in the next poll because of his debate performance).

Did anyone else catch the debate? Does my characterization of it match yours?


Friday, May 04, 2007

PBS Special

I don’t know if any of you ended up seeing “The Mormons” on PBS earlier this week. I have a few comments about it that I want to mention.

1) Katie and I have known this was in the works for a couple of years. Katie’s brother, Dan, was interviewed for it as was the Tillamen-Dick family who are friends of Katie’s family. Dan’s interview didn’t make the final cut, but the segment on the Tillamen-Dicks did. The family might look familiar to those of you who were at our wedding reception in Colorado.

2) Overall, I thought the program was pretty good. It was not overly unbalanced. I had a few complaints, detailed below, but overall it was better than I expected.

3) They had a few too many excommunicated members commenting on things other than their own excommunication. There were about 6 commentators that were either excommunicated, disfellowshipped, or self-distanced from the religion after being members. A couple of them were pretty obviously anti-mormon. They had a few members of the church that were quite eloquent and several general authorities including, President Hinckley, Elder Oaks, and Elder Marlin Jensen. I suppose you could say that’s balanced, but I think having the anti-mormons comment about Joseph Smith or polygamy is a bit like asking Hugo Chavez to comment on Bush’s foreign policy. There were several rather unbiased commentators including a history professor or two, an evangelical Christian scholar, and the well-known literary critic, Harold Bloom. I was grateful for that.

4) As far as the content goes, I had a problem with some of the things they said about Joseph Smith.
They emphasized his “treasure hunting” and the fact that he was tried at court for treasure hunting. They even said explicitly that he was good at it. The narrator said it as did an interviewee whose description said “Former Church Educator”. Neither of them mentioned that he was acquitted (as in every other trial) and neither justified the claim that he was good at treasure hunting. I think most people would say that the fact that he was always poor as somewhat credible evidence that he was ever “good at it” in any way we would think of.
They also emphasized his apparent thirst for power in Nauvoo. He was the political, military, judicial, and religious leader. They neglected to mention how popular he was and how the people he “ruled” wanted it to be that way. They also neglected to mention his time at Liberty Jail, his frequent arrests in Missouri for crimes of which he was never convicted. I guess my point is that they seemed to be very meticulous about reporting the strange or unusual things he did without being as meticulous in showing the strange or unusual things done to him. Though, to be fair, they didn’t mention anything about freemasons.

5) I thought they did a remarkably good job on the topics of polygamy, the mountain meadows massacre, temples, and missionary work. The coverage of the church’s opposition of the ERA was, however, wholly unsatisfactory. Comments by excommunicated feminists were rebutted by a member who bumbled his way to a rather sexist explanation.
Also, they spent some time on Reed Smoot. That part was very educational for me.

6) The filmmaker seemed to have a hard time getting her head around the fact that church leaders insisted there was no room for middle ground as far as the Joseph Smith story and the Book of Mormon goes. It seemed like she was always asking them why they couldn’t just admit that maybe there was no first vision, and that maybe the angel Moroni didn’t really appear to Joseph Smith, or maybe the Book of Mormon really came from somewhere else.

7) The film mentioned the time when Elder Packer said (I think to some sort of gathering of church leaders) that the three biggest threats to the church are feminists, homosexuals, and intellectuals. I hadn’t heard of this. But after discussing this with Katie, we think we know what he means. The word “feminist” is, of course, rather imprecise. But for certain definitions I agree with Elder Packer. As far as intellectuals go, that seemed really odd to me at first. But then I read some of the interviews on the PBS website and knew exactly what he meant. The excommunicated intellectuals interviewed had several things in common. First, they had a tendency to question and seek proof of everything. I would say that that’s pretty typical of all scholars and not necessarily bad. Second, they applied that standard of questioning and proving to church doctrines. Third, they questioned church doctrine and proposed different doctrine. Fourth, they advocated their proposals by publishing them or teaching them.
In some ways it’s sort of baffling. These people disagree with major church doctrines, don’t sustain local and/or general leaders, and try to persuade others to their point of views; yet many were surprised and upset when they are excommunicated.
I guess maybe it was best said by Nephi (or Jacob?) in the pair of verses, “When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God…” and “But to be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God.” (2nd Nephi 9).

Anyway, if you haven’t watched it, it’s worth seeing. I found it interesting and overall, pretty good.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

I like this one a lot too


I like this video a lot


Technical difficulties

Ok, so I had some technical difficulties posting the YouTube videos, but they finally got there. I obviously could not handle the intricacies involved in the Imogen Heap video (the first one posted under "I like this video a lot"). You really should watch that one. If you're interested, the second video's by Feist.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fact follows fiction

Did Boris Yeltsin suffer from Three Stooges Syndrome (video)? Former general and Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Lebed who served under Yeltsin had this to say about the recently deceased Russian leader:

He's been on the verge of death so many times...His doctors themselves are in shock that he's still alive. Half the blood vessels in his brain are about to burst after his strokes, his intestines are spotted all over with holes, he has giant ulcers in his stomach, his heart is in absolutely disgusting condition, he is literally rotting...He could die from any one of dozens of physical problems that he has, but contrary to all laws of nature -- he lives.