Friday, December 12, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the office . . .

Okay, it was actually after I got to the office, but I had to use the title. Anywho, this blog entry will be a little bleary-eyed today, since 8:00 is normally the time I get up to get ready for work and it's just barely that time now. So what am I doing up before my accustomed time? Lemme tell ya . . .

Last Monday, my Songwriting teacher told us that there would be a test review on Friday at 10:00 and another at 11. He also declared that, since we hadn't had time to give oral reports about our "model songs," (songs after which we patterned our original songs) we would instead turn in a short paper on them on Friday, thus making attendance at the review session somewhat obligatory.

10:00 is the time that I normally get to work (thus my normal 8:00 - 8:30 wake up time), so I realized that I had a problem. I couldn't even go to the one at 11:00 because I need to be at the place where I'm taking the GRE before 12:30. Thus, I asked my supervisor's permission to come to work early, and she agreed. I figured I could get my main job done in just a few hours (I usually spend an hour answering emails after I'm done with my reports), so I decided to come in at 7:00.

When I got here, the office downstairs where I usually collect my reports was locked. Turns out it doesn't open until 7:30. So I headed upstairs, booted up my computer and my assorted programs and answered the emails which were in my inbox. At 7:35, I had answered my emails and headed downstairs to get my reports. Which were not on the desk. Thankfully, the guy who prints and sorts them was there and was able to give tthem to me.

So I headed upstairs with my reports, ready to begin and a bit worried that I might not be able to finish in time. I looked over my reports and made a surprising realization. My reports contain all of the lessons which have been submitted to BYU Independent Study over 2 weeks ago. My job involves putting new lessons into the system and emailing instructors about them, which new lessons show up on my list 2 weeks and a day after they are submitted.

Guess what day it was 2 weeks and a day ago . . .
Guess how many people were in the office to process lessons 2 weeks and a day ago . . .
Guess how many lessons were officially submitted 2 weeks and a day ago. . .
Guess how many lessons I have to put into the system today . . .
Guess how many emails I have to send today . . .
Guess how much I can accomplish at work today now that my emails are done . . .
Guess how many hours of sleep I feel as though I got . . .

On a much more pleasant note, though, I took a practice test for the GRE last night and the results are quite favorable. To anybody our there who reads this, I ask for your prayers of support today so that my actual score can be even better.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wish me luck!

Just a quick one today. It's that time again, Finals Week (bum bum baaaaaaaaaaaaahm) I need all the prayers and good vibes you good folks can send my way. I've got the GRE tomorrow, a final on Monday and another next Friday. I'm doing my best to keep from being stressed, but it's turning into a very busy couple of weeks.
Thankfully, most of the things keeping me busy are pleasant things - the A Capella Jam last night was tons of fun and I think we gave a great performance - more on that to come! There are Christmas parties and plays to attend, trips to go on and families to visit. It will be good to have a break, but in the meantime, nose to the grindstone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we are instructed "to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39), as was stressed by Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles during our last General Conference. As my wife and I emerge somewhat from a period of hardship, I feel it appropriate today to take some time to express my thanks for my blessings.

I am thankful for my wife, for the warmth, peace and joy she brings to our home. Emilee, I thank you for your support, your tender care, your patience, your love, your gentle touch. I thank you for the hard work you do to make our home a happy p
lace where the Spirit of God may dwell. I thank you for your guidance when I feel lost and your fun-loving spirit when I feel down. For this and so much more, I thank you.

I am thankful for my parents, for the support and teachings they have given me. Mom and Dad, I thank you for raising me in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for teaching me correct principles and helping me to explore my talents. I thank you for supporting me financially and emotionally as I complete my schooling. I thank you for praying for me every night for as long as I can remember, praying that I would meet those critical spirit
ual goals. For more than I can possibly express, I thank you.

I am thankful for my brother, for the example he has given me. Derrill, while we are very different from each other, you have always been a firm defense and support to me. You were always the first to extend a hand of friendship and forgiveness after our quarrels. Your quiet spiritual leadership has helped to shape me, to make those critical decisions that have made me who I am. For the music and the joy that we have shared, I thank you.

I am thankful for the gift of music, for its power in my life. I thank God for the talents with which he has blessed me, for ears to hear and a voice with which to sing. I thank Him for the talent of composition which has allowed me to more fully express my devotion, as well as my feelings. My thanks go to Impact Vocal Band, the Santa Barbara Channel City Chorus, the BYU Men's 
Wild Pitch, The Honor Chord, Sing For Your Sweetheart and various other choirs in which I have participated and which I have directed. For the sweet resonance of the heart, I thank God.

I am thankful for our friends who enrich our lives and help us to extend 
our focus beyond ourselves and our personal needs. Without our friends, life would be a lot more boring. For your generosity, your patience, your eagerness to share, for laughs and love over good eats and weekend sleepovers, for helping us smile through our problems and our pain, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am thankful for my job, for the security it grants me. The power to pay my bills while maintaining my personal integrity is a tremendous gift, especially in this day and age where so much of business is based on trickery.

I am thankful for the opportunity I have to study at BYU. I am grateful for the chance to learn not only a vocation but also more of the doctrine of the gospel. The chance to associate with so many who are of my same faith and hold my same values is a priceless treasure.

I am thankful for Jesus Christ, for His love and His atoning sacrifice. I am thankful that He was willing to suffer and die so that I can be forgiven of my sins and live forever with my Heavenly Father. I am grateful for His gospel and the life with which I have been blessed through living according to His teachings. I am thankful to be a member of His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sants. I am thankful for the scriptures, the Bible and the Book of Mormon, written by ancient prophets who testify of Him. I am thankful for a modern prophet, Thomas S. Monson, for Apostles and other church leaders who lead God's church just as prohets did in ancient times. Within the framework of the restored gospel, I am especially thankful for the temple, for the opportunity to live with my family for all eternity. I am thankful for the power of the priesthood, through which I and my family may be blessed and eternally joined. I testify of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and I give my heartfelt thanks and devotion to Him for it.

Whenever I hear the song of a bird/
or look at the blue, blue sky/
Whenever I feel the rain on my face/
or the wind as it rushes by/
Whenever I touch a velvet rose/
or walk by a lilac tree/
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world/
Heavenly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see/
the color of butterfly wings/
He gave me my ears that I might hear/
the magical sound of things/
He gave me my life, my mind, my heart/
and I thank him reverently/
for all His creations, of which I'm a part/
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Waxing Nostalgic

Looking a little further forward, my family and I have planned a trip to Disney World in February. A lot of my greatest memories come from Disneyland/World: Losing a tooth on a frozen banana; A soggy trip to the airport followed by 2 weeks of illness; losing my Goofy hat in the Haunted Mansion; the day a friendly train conductor tried to convince me to take his job - the list goes on. But one of my most treasured memories is of the time I pulled the Sword from the Stone in Fantasyland.

Every day (in fact, several times a day), a large procession marches through Fantasyland toward the carousel. Merlin and a host of castle guards come to the sword to test the crowd and see if there is one among them with the heart of a king, one who can pull the sword from the stone.

This particular day, my brother had headed off by himself to hit some rides while I was with my parents. Derrill was late for our rendezvous, allowing us time to watch the Sword ceremony. I watched as Merlin called forth brawny, burly men to pull the sword while a royal band played a strength-inspiring tune. The large men with their bulging brawn pulled until their faces turned purple, but to no avail - the sword didn't budge.

I, being a somewhat impetuous lad (I believe I was somewhere in the vicinity of 8 years old at the time) began flexing my non-existent muscles to the guards who stood by the side. One of them called to Merlin that he should try this lad and I was summoned forth.

I stood before the stone with my beloved Donald Duck hat perched on my eager head as the band struck up their tune. I tugged and pulled and heaved . . . and nothing happened. As the band began to die away, Merlin announced that he still felt that I had the heart of a king and that all I needed was a bit of magic to help me find my courage. He waved his want and cast his spell, then told me to try again. I gripped the sword and gave a determined, white-knuckled heave on the magical blade's hilt as the band began again. After a moment, the sword rose - only a few inches, of course - and the band struck a triumphal note.

As I grinned proudly, Merlin bustled me to the front of the crowd declared that I was to be crowned King of the Late Afternoon. He opened a large chest and removed a shining crown, then removed my Donald Duck hat and tossed it casually into the chest. I shouted in protest that it was mine as tears washed my cheeks, thinking my hat would be locked away in that chest. Merlin quickly assured me that I would get it back and told me to smile for a waiting camera. My parents still have that momento of our trip, a picture of their tear-streaked little boy smiling sheepishly with a crown on his head.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Earliest Memories of Christmas

Whenever the holidays approach, I get nostalgic about Christmases gone by. One of my very earliest memories (Perhaps my earliest clear memory, in fact) is a Christmas Memory - catching Santa Claus when I was 5.

It's been over 20 years, but I can still remember what I asked Santa for in my letter that year - a big box with all the magic tricks in the world. I don't think I realized just what a tall order that was, but I knew that if anybody could pull it off, it would be Santa Claus.

I loved Santa Claus - I still do, in fact. I wanted, more than anything, to see him and tell him myself what I wanted for Christmas. Letters were nice and Mall Santas could bring him the message, but I really wanted to be a magician, so when Mom suggested that I try to catch him, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my Christmas wish.

Santa Claus has to fill all official Christmas stockings, wherever they may be, so we put a stocking with a jingle bell on it under my pillow on Christmas Eve. I awoke to the sound of that jingling bell (and a slight shaking of my bed - I guess Santa was having trouble reaching it or something) and opened my eyes to see the jolly man in red himself right beside my bed with a big smile on his bearded face. For some reason that I was too sleepy to question, Mom was there with the camera. When I said we should go get Dad, she told me he really needed his sleep and Santa couldn't stay long.

So then the moment came. After a big hug, Santa asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him that I wanted a big box with all the magic tricks in the world inside it. He laughed (bowl-full-of-jelly jiggle and all) and said that he had brought me something even better - a magical book!

Now, I know what all you kids are thinking right now . . . what a rip-off! You asked for cool magic tricks and you got a stupid book! I'll admit that I was disappointed at the time, but let me tell you something. It's been 20 years, and I still remember that book with a smile. Opt: An Illusionary Tale was a collection of optical illusions set in a fantasy kindgom. I cannot tell you how many times I flipped through that book and wondered how it all worked. It may not have changed my life, but it was still a lot of fun.

Would I have remembered a big box full of magic tricks? Probably. But what I really remember was the love of Santa Claus. Jolly Old St. Nicholas invites Santa to "Choose for me, dear Santa Claus, what you think is right." Santa Claus may not have given me exactly what I asked for, but he chose well anyway. Isn't it funny how life works out that way sometimes?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shattering the Fourth Wall - What is a hero?

Okay, I admit it - I'm not a superhero. I can't fly, I can't shoot radiation bursts from my fingertips and I would look horrible in blue spandex. Ever since Sapphire Sting left Paragon City, I've been losing touch with him. It's been several months now since I stopped playing City of Heroes - after 3 years, it was definitely an addiction. Sapphire Sting, Alba Caliente, Graham and Envinyatar, along with literally dozens of other lesser-used characters, are slowly slipping away. Perhaps more importantly, my friends like Nickarr, Kick Back and Trick Tracy are no longer a significant presence in my daily life. I miss them, but I cannot go back. The characters I created, the bases I designed, the friendships I forged - all are, sadly, part of the past now.

Yet part of it lives on in me - the ideals, the dream of saving the world, one day at a time. Most days, it's little things like going to work and school when I don't feel like it. Another day it may be a vote, or a blog entry supporting Proposition 8.

What makes a hero? Is it super powers and spandex, cool catch phrases and bullet-proof hair? The villains have those, too. How do we know the difference? Where does the shallow veneer end and true devotion begin? Where can we turn in such troubled times?

There is one source we can always trust, a perfect hero to us all: Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the surest and only true guide to happiness, safety and truth. Every day, if we strive to be as He is, we will become the heroes our world needs.

To help and to heal without hurting another.
To love and forgive your enemies no matter what.
To be both just and merciful in all your dealings.
To boldly stand for what's right, no matter the cost.
To gently guide all those who are lost and will follow.
To share the light of the gospel with all who will listen.
To be a brother to all even as they smite you.
To be true to your own divine heritage.

We are all sons and daughters of God, brothers of Christ, and are all eligible to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost if we will but listen. The days ahead - the last days, it seems - are times when we will all need to stand and be counted among the heroes who follow with faith the divine light of truth, even Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

The battle lines have been drawn. Let the last crusade for Christ begin - not a crusade of blood or of worldly conquest, but a crusade against the evils of this world. Let us defeat the villains, the destroyers, the haters, the hypocrites. Let us stand and wave the banner of truth!

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!
Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance?
Some will fall and some will live, will you stand up and take your chance?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mixed Feelings

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout . . .

Which, after everything is said and done, describes America, even if the election didn't go the way we each may have wanted.

Congratulations to everyone out there who likes Obama. I hope you continue to like him, since I hope he does a good enough job that we can get to like him. I recognize that he's in charge now (or will be once he hits office), and I plan to uphold him and pray for him so he can be the best leader he can be, the duty of any true American hero. While I don't expect much good out of him, I look forward to being proved wrong.

On what is, for me, a much more cheerful note, the votes are in from across the nation:

Arizona's proposition 102:
Yes 56% 1,039,606
No 44% 801,279

Florida's Proposition 2:
Yes 62% 4,662,558
No 38% 2,851,598

California's Proposition 8:
Yes 52% 5,163,908
No 48% 4,760,336

Ameican voters have chosen, once again, to defend the family, our rights as parents, our rights as voters and our religious rights. And, in small small measure, my faith in America is restored. God bless America, and may we continue to live so that He may continue to do so.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Props to my friend

For those of you interested in the Prop 8 debate, my buddy Stu Beck (the High Trail blog I've recently added to my list) has an excellent summary of the issues at hand. Check it out!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A frightening Proposition

I'm getting political again. You have been warned.

Anyone who knows me doubtless knows where I stand on California's Proposition 8, designed to place in the state constitution the definition of "marriage" as being between a man and a woman. Most of the pro-Prop 8 advertising I've seen focuses on the moral aspects of the issue. "Look at the consequences for our schools and our children," they proclaim. "We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets," warns The Family: A Proclamation to the World from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I agree with and support these statements, but there's another issue at hand here, one which will, perhaps, help those who are having trouble with their decision based solely on moral grounds.

On March 7, 2000, California citizens approved Proposition 22, the Knight Initiative or Defense of Marriage act, with 61.4% approval and 38.6% against, a truly significant margin. By the democratic system established by our forefathers and supposedly upheld by our public officials, the people voted to uphold the traditional definition of marriage.

The California Supreme Court ruled on May 15, 2008 that Proposition 22 violated the state Constitution and was therefore invalid. These seven people decided that their opinion was more important than the mandate of nearly 5,000,000 voters. This sets a terrible precedent, and robs the American People of what little power they have left in government.

I find myself frightened at the prospect, particularly as I read the scriptures and find many direct parallels. From Alma, chapter 46, we read the following account of stirring turmoil and rebellion:

3 Now the leader of those who were wroth against their brethren was a large and a strong man; and his name was Amalickiah.
4 And Amalickiah was desirous to be a king; and those people who were wroth were also desirous that he should be their king; and they were the greater part of them the lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power.
7. . . . and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi exceedingly precarious and dangerous . . .

So for any of you who are undecided about the moral aspects of the situation, for any who are trying to decide what is right, let me ask you this question: Who do you want to have holding power over the law? You and your fellow millions of Californians, or four out of these seven glorified lawyers? Now is the time to show them that we decide what our laws are, not a pack of power-hungry judges with an axe to grind. It's time to show Mayor Gavin Newsom that, "like it or not", this is America, a land where the law and the government are, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "of the people, by the people, for the people," and that it "shall not perish from the earth."

In closing, for all of you who cannot vote in this election, let me implore your aid for my fellow Californians in the words of the prophet Moroni (8:28)

Pray for them, my son, that repentance may come unto them. But behold, I fear lest the Spirit hath ceased striving with them; and in this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Poll!

Well, friends and family, Halloween is approaching. I decided that it might be fun to create a poll about something scary. After some consideration (and some inspiration from my Portuguese class), I realized that one of the biggest and scariest things for Americans today is the issue of Global Warming. Does it scare you, or do you believe it's nothing more substantial than Trick or Treat? Answer my poll (bottom of the blog) and let me know!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Demon Within

As we've seen before, power often has a dark side. Of late, I've found myself battling my inner demons with a different understanding than I have hitherto had. I'm coming to recognize the voice of my inner demon - the creature nestled in my soul that whispers all my imperfections. "You're not good enough" it states in a quiet voice which still pierces my heart. "You're not strong enough or smart enough. You're weak and unworthy," it states in a sibilant hiss that cuts to the core. It's the voice that weeps in the dark, that shuns the light of day and the joy of friends and family. It's the grasping hand that pulls me down into despair. The Hyde to my Jekyll, the Gollum to my Smeagol.
Of late, I've been trying to distance myself from the demon, to separate him from my own identity. I've been considering naming him Xander, after the dark persona of my past. Can I truly pluck him from my heart and end his torturous cries? Will the void in my heart ever be filled? Can I ever know true peace in this life? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So, we've got an interesting situation at work that's been puzzling everyone here, and I realized that we could use some input from the outside. Go to the following address: and tell me, in the comments or in an email, what you find there. If it's a sample exam for a physics class, it's right. If it's something else, please let me know about it in detail. Thanks!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Much as I hate to complain . . .

One of my instructors this year will be getting a really, really bad student rating from me. He is a master's student here at BYU and has been given the responsibility of teaching my Music Fundamentals course at 8:00 AM. This is his first experience teaching, so he is, understandably, nervous.

That's not my issue with him.

My issue is that he's on a power trip and seems to believe that he has already achieved his divine destiny of becoming a God. He has publicly declared that he does not have time for us, our problems are not worth taking his time, and he does not have office hours for precisely that reason.

The real icing on the cake is that this object of self-adoration is incompetent. Let me take you through a few typical moments in the few days I have bothered to attend of this course:

1st day of class: "Hi everyone, welcome to Music Fundamentals. We're going to be going over the syllabus today. Now (nervous cough), I haven't actually managed to get the syllabus out to everyone yet - I'll be sending an email with that later today - but we can still go over the basics." (Moves to his computer. Continues in dramatic tones) "So! The most important thing on your syllabus . . ." (Goes to board and slowly writes his name. Pauses for effect. Returns to computer) "The next most important thing on your syllabus . . ." (clears throat and reads directly from computer screen) " 'This syllabus is subject to change.' This is very important to remember." Class ended after 20 minutes

2nd day of class: "Welcome back everyone. I see you all brought your books, very good. Okay, so, you there in the corner, what's your name? Chelsae - is that with an A E, an I E . . . A E, okay. Chelsae with an A E, would you read for us number 1.1?" (she reads) "And the answer to the question in 1.1 everyone is?" (class speaks in bored unison) "Sound." "Right, sound! So, uhh, you in that corner over there, what's your name? Brian - is that with an I or a Y? Okay, Brian with an I, would you read for us number 1.2?" He spent the entire hour doing this.

3rd day of class: We've been discussing musical notation, clefs, etc. (David points at the board and speaks in a voice that one might find on Sesame Street) "So, THAT note is a *G.* Since we've established that THAT note is a *G*, using my remarkable ability to go backwards in the alphabet, we can determine what THIS note is!" (Slowly, pointing at each line and space as he goes) "*G*, *F*, *E*, *D*! THAT note is a *D*" The rest of the day was similar.

Quiz day: A note on the board reads: Quiz will begin at 8:10. 8:10 comes and passes. Several minutes later, the teacher strolls in without a word of explanation or apology and hands out the quiz, then proceeds to make stupid jokes and comments while we're trying to concentrate on our quiz.

Fortunately, attendance is optional in this course. I'm seriously considering getting together with some of my classmates and lodging a complaint with the Dean's office - this guy is getting paid WAY too much for the work he's doing (he's being paid to work 20 hours, including office hours and prep time - he's not even putting the full 3 he's supposed to into our class time!), and we're the ones paying it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And another thing . . .

Note: This is part two of a longer blog entry - the first half is here.

While we're on the subject, Senator Obama, Let's talk about your use of the word mistake. A mistake, when you boil it down, is something done in ignorance. If, for example, I write down a formula wrong on a math test and get the wrong answer, I made a mistake. The word "mistake" cannot be appropriately applied to pregnancy in our era - is it possible to grow up in America today without knowing that sex generally results in pregnancy? If I'm not too mistaken, it's that same leftist regime that's gotten that put into the school curriculum so strongly. And, of course, being a leftist invention, the main purpose of sex education is to teach kids ways to escape the consequences of having sex.

But I'm getting off topic. I believe, Senator, there is a word which far better applies to what Ms. Palin has done which fits quite well with your vocabulary. I believe the pro-abortion crowd is quite fond of it, in fact: she has made a choice. She and Levi chose to engage in sexual activity, knowing full well the consequences. Thus far, they appear to have chosen to accept the consequences of their choice. Your offer to pay for the murder their unborn child, in addition to being a slap in the face to her mother, is an offer to allow her to escape not only the consequences of her actions, but the price of it as well. I cannot, in good conscience, support anyone who believes that a government's duty - or that of its governing bodies - is to throw money to people so that they can escape the consequences of their choices. Who was it, in the great war in heaven, who offered a plan to escape all consequence which won the hearts of a third of the host of heaven? That's certainly not God's plan.

Since we're getting into details of vocabulary, let's discuss some more words which are applicable. A villain is defined as a "wicked or evil person." The definition of wicked simply states "Evil by nature and in practice." The applicable definition of evil states "Causing ruin, injury, or pain." Is not that an apt description of what would happen to Ms. Palin's unborn child if she took you up on your offer? The medically documented screams of the unborn as they die will tell you exactly the kind of ruin, injury and pain it causes. Congratulations, Senator - you've shown your true colors as a villain, and you have gained at least one enemy.

In defense of the defenseless

This is extremely out of character for me, but I'm about to get political. You have been warned.

As the tabloid mongers (by which I mean the mainstream media) have eaten up the scandal about Bristol Palin's teenage pregnancy, the true character of the media is clearly shown. But this is not the only revelation which has come out of this situation. Assuming that my source is accurate, Senator Obama, presumably in an attempt to show himself as nurturing and caring while, at the same time, slinging some mud at Governor Palin, said the following: “Governor Palin . . . you tried to teach your daughter about morals and values, but she made a mistake, and she shouldn’t be punished with a baby.” He then offered to pay for young Bristol's abortion “at any time between now and the scheduled moment of birth.”

As a defender of the defenseless, as any true hero should be, I find myself compelled to speak. This sums up everything I have ever seen from the political left: A refusal to recognize that there are certain things in life which have natural consequences. These consequences are not a punishment, something placed by a 3rd party as a penalty imposed for wrongdoing. A consequence is something which naturally arises from a situation. If a student fails to study for a test, a low grade is a consequence, not a punishment. If you choose not to go to college or otherwise fail to get a good education, difficulty in getting a high paying job is not a punishment, it is a natural consequence.

Who would be doing the punishing, Senator Obama? Who has decided that this fetus and future baby should be placed within Bristol Palin? 3 people are involved in such a choice - the mother, the father, and our Eternal Father, the father of the soul which she will bear. Do you propose, Senator Obama, that God is punishing her? Of course not - your implication is that her mother is punishing her by forcing her to accept the consequences of her actions and is an insult to Gov. Palin, Bristol and God. God has given us consequences as a system to learn from our mistakes and our poor choices, not as a penalty. If we ever hope to grow into the divine destiny we share as sons and daughters of God, we must be willing to accept, deal with and learn from consequences. This is, perhaps, one of the most important lessons about morality which her mother could teach, and certainly one which Senator Obama, as well as other Pro-Choice (choice-to-murder-the-unborn) have failed to learn: Consequences make us better people and better citizens. We must learn, as a nation, to face and deal with the consequences of our actions, rather than seeking ways to be bailed out of them, or we will lose the blessing of a "firm reliance on divine providence," that upon which the founding fathers built this nation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In loving memory . . .

At 10:30 PM last night, I made a saddening discovery. Our guppy, Little Ryan, had passed away. Now, any of you who have made a habit of keeping fish will be saying, "So what? Guppies have a life span of, like, 3 weeks, a couple of months if you're lucky. Of course it died!" We've had Little Ryan for nearly 2 years. Even the story of his birth is a strange one. His life is a story for which I feel the need to drop the 4th wall and face reality.

Emilee had gotten 10 guppies for an experiment for her biology class (observing fishy behavior and feeding patterns in different temperatures). She made certain that they were all female - we didn't want to have a huge tank full of little guppies, especially since we really aren't supposed to have pets, including fish, where we live. The experiment involved partitioning off part of our large tank to create a seperate feeding area, which we did with a small, flexible plastic grating, with tiny holes so the water still flows through.

The guppies slowly died off, as one expects, and no emotion accompanied their passing - they were a science experiment, nothing more, and we had only had them a short time. One day, my friend Ryan went in the back room to look at the fish. From the living room, he heard him exclaim, "Hey, guys! There's a baby fish in here!" I yelled back that that was impossible. He replied, "No, I'm serious, there's a little fish in here!" I wandered in to see what he was yelling about. I found that it was true, there was one little fish which had squeezed through the grating to the other side of the tank from the rest of the fish. This was either quite lucky or quite smart of him, since guppies have a tendency to eat their young.

We named him Little Ryan after his discoverer, and fed and took care of him while the other guppies died off. Since then, he's survived numerous vacations and moving to a new apartment, showing incredible resilience to changes in his environment (when we've left him in the care of a friend) and to lack of food while we've been away over two Christmases and assorted other trips. He was smart, strong, and had a gorgeous tail. We shall not soon see his like again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Joyous Return to Active Duty

There are times in life when one gets tired of doing the same thing day after day and wants a change of pace. When local officials asked for someone to help with a project they were working on "for a few days," I felt my opportunity had arrived to do just that. I happily volunteered and reported for duty. Little did I know that "a few days" was really 2 weeks.

There are times in life when one gets tired of having a change of pace and wants to get back to doing the same thing day after day. The project has been consuming my life and my soul for far too long (hence the absence of posts for the last 2 weeks), and it's good to be back.

I'm sure that many of you are curious as to what the project was. While I can't go into too much detail, a massive database was being compiled of super-criminals (super-criminal being defined as someone who uses abilities or powers beyond those of average criminals, which really isn't that hard when you think about it). The database itself was fairly straightforward - compile a list of current location, known contacts and security level of the penitentiary to which they were sent. I began with the ones who are currently incarcerated (approximately 1000 names), since we have somewhat more information on them (Current Headquarters: Algonquin penitentiary, Cell block D. Locations of known henchmen: Cell block C, etc.) This process took several days, but was completed without much incident.

Then they gave me the list of the supervillains who have escaped from imprisonment or are still at large. Not to alarm anyone, but this list contained no fewer than 2,000 names and, for obvious reasons, little was known about their current location and contacts. This part of the process involved over a week of painstaking, mind-numbing research. As the project neared completion, I asked the commissioner if he had any additional requirements. This was a mistake. He immediately gave me additional information to seek out. I finally finished with everything an hour before my deadline, 2 weeks after I began.

I used the word "mind-numbing" to describe this process. After the first 2 days on the project, I began falling asleep in front of the station computer. Realizing I needed something to keep me going, I discovered Pandora, a free online music site that lets you create your own online radio stations, using a "seed" of an artist or song, from which it derives certain stylistic points to create a station. I quickly created a station for musicals (using Alan Menken and Sir Arthur Sullivan as my main "seeds,"), another for stirring, dramatic orchestra music (using John Williams), and a station for slower, more haunting music (using Howard Shore).

These kept me going for about a week. But I soon found that, by the end of my shift going in to week 2, even the dramatic strains of the Star Wars theme were insufficient to keep me on my task. I finally resorted to something quite different. I realized that the only way I would be able to complete the project would be to shut out all thought and emotion beyond that needed to complete my task. With a trembling hand, I moved my mouse to the "genre" based station, seeking a numbing form of music and made a selection. Thus it was that for the last week of my task, I spent several hours each day listening to the whining, grinding beat of techno. Shutting out all thought, all feeling, I became a machine, my fingers moving in time with the droning sound. Selling a piece of my soul to the beat, I completed my task day by day. It's good to be back.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Going the distance

Time for an admission here. There's a reason why I love flying so much, even though I may not match the super-speeders' mph. My legs just can't handle it - after just a few minutes, they start to hurt, I start to lose my breath, it's not pretty.

For this reason, when I have to run, I prefer to do it alone - avoid the mockery, that sort of thing. So when my wife offered to go running with me, I was less than thrilled with the prospect. While she's seen me at my worst, I still try to avoid reaching new levels of worst. Her 20 minute jogging goal seemed to me a proposal to do exactly that, since the old hams start to hurt at about 5 minutes. But, between Alba's insistence and the fact that we'd be using the action simulator (positioned next to an air conditioner) to do it, rather than heading outside in the hot summer sun, I soon found myself jogging by her side.

Yes, it was painful. Yes, I had trouble keeping my balance when it was done. But Yes, I did it. And I did it again (once again by her side) a few days later. It's amazing the power that a beautiful young woman can have in her husband's life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

California Vacation

Having left Paragon City to attend to domestic responsibilities, we decided it was high time we took some time together away from those domestic responsibilities. (Makes sense to me . . .) So, we went to visit family in Santa Barbara, California. Good times, good food and wonderful weather were enjoyed by all.
One highlight of the trip was watching the 1991 film Oscar, with good ol' Sylvester Stallone as "Snaps" Provolone, a comical 1930's gangster trying to go straight. It features such great lines as "Of course I knew. I just had no idea!" and touching family scenes like this:

Lisa Provolone: ...I wanna lay on the beach in Honolulu!
Snaps: Do whatever you want, just don't leave this room!

Snaps: You're going to marry this bum. Just as soon as I get my hands on him... And after the wedding you'll move into a nice ground floor apartment.
Lisa Provolone: Why a ground floor apartment?
Snaps: Because after I break his legs, he's not gonna make it up any steps!

We also went to Santa Barbara's Museum of Natural History. I've always liked the Museum, especially their bird room. You step into the room and hear a symphony of bird calls as great, majestic birds look down on you from above. Imagine my annoyance at finding out that they were rebuilding/revamping their bird room! Thus, not only were we not able to enter it together, but the presentation (my favorite thing at the museum) is gone forever.
The museum's big draw is undergoing some changes, also. The SBMNH's claim to fame is the large blue whale skeleton prominently displayed in front of the museum which has, until now, been a favorite photo op spot for families and tourists. Someone at the museum realized that all this human contact (not to mention exposure to the elements) was deteriorating their skeleton (is this a surprise to anyone?), even with the protective coating they put on it. It is now in a tent-like shelter, safely chained away from would-be touchers.
No matter where a hero goes, his talents are called upon. My family was putting on a skit about the trevails of the LDS pioneers when they reached the Salt Lake Valley, in dealing with massive swarms of crickets who were devouring their crops. While these crops were eventually saved by flocks of seagulls who ate the crickets, the skit also detailed the efforts made by the early settlers of Utah before the seagulls arrived on the scene. The show was to begin in a few minutes and one of the actors hadn't shown up. While theatricality isn't one of my trademarked superpowers, it's certainly part of my personality, so I stepped in to save the day, donning a straw hat and a thick dialect to provide for our missing man: Boy #2 (a crucial part . . . really!).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gamestop Grievances

Even all this time after its development, the Wii is almost impossible to find in stores, unless you are either very determined or very lucky. So, when a "refurbished" Wii was made available at our local Gamestop store, we snapped it up, congratulating ourselves on saving a few dollars. My wife also picked up Spyro: The Eternal Night for said Wii, also used. This is when the trouble began.
My wife presented me with the Wii, the WiiFit and the game as an early birthday present and I eagerly popped in the game. The game began taking me through the tutorial, and everything was going fine until I was given the instruction to thrust the "nunchuck" attachment forward to whack an enemy in mid-air. I thrusted - nothing. I thrusted harder - still nothing. I threw my shoulder out of joint - ow. And still nothing. So, we took the nunchuck back to the store and replaced it with another used one. Minor inconvenience, nothing more.
We returned with the nunchuck, I restarted the tutorial and, before anything else, I tested the nunchuck. Worked like a charm. So I got through the beginning of the tutorial again, to the part where I needed to use the maneuver and thrust my nunchuck forward - nothing. I thrust, shook, tapped, jabbed and flicked the nunchuck - nothing.
I rebooted again and, through experimentation, discovered that the nunchuck thrust maneuver worked perfectly until I hit an enemy, at which point it gave up. Aha, I said to myself, it must be a software issue! So we took another trip to Gamestop and exchanged Spyro for another game, Mercury Meltdown Revolution. Avoiding the issue of the nunchuck entirely, this game uses the internal tilt sensor on the Wii to tilt a table as you guide a blob of mercury through a circuitous route, similar to the old game Marble Madness. I popped in the game with great anticipation (though somewhat less zeal than before) and started up the tutorial.
This time, the problem was more immediately evident - the table was stuck. It seemed to believe that the Wiimote was perpetually tilted down and to the right. Only if shaken VERY, VERY hard did the table do so much as twitch. Aha, I said to myself, It's a problem with the Wiimote this time! After trying Nintendo's online technical assistance (replace batteries, resynch Wiimote, reset Wiimote, hit Wiimote button-side down into the palm of your hand, etc.) we made another pilgrimage to Gamestop and returned the Wiimote, picking up another used one in its place.
With fingers crossed and a degree of consternation I started up MMR again - and the Wiimote worked. Everything finally worked, and it looks as though we will continue to have fun with MMR for quite some time.
Now, up until this point in the narrative, I can imagine what you're probably thinking. It's not Gamestop's fault, you just misdiagnosed the problem. But wait, there's more!
One of the options with the WiiFit is to run together, each person with a Wiimote in their pocket to track their running speed. My wife and I decided that it would be fun to do this together, so we used the last bit of the Fat Fund to buy another Wiimote (Used, of course - it's $5 less!). We brought it home, synched it up and ran together. The new Wiimote seemed to be responding sluggishly, since my wife quickly fell behind, for all that she pumped her legs like they had hyperactive hydraulics. We then tried using it for other purposes and discovered that neither the tilt sensor nor the light signal on the front were functioning up to spec. Oh, crud I thought to myself, not again! After trying all the available tips, it was back to gamestop *yet again* and got *another* Wiimote, this time a new one - we had seen enough of Gamestop for a while.

Moral of the story: Don't get used stuff at Gamestop. Just don't. You'll spend more on gas than you'll save getting it used.

Happy Birthday to Moi

It's been quite an exciting last few days for me - my birthday was on the 20th, but we've been celebrating since several days before.
A bit of explanation is required at this point. First of all, it must be known that I am NOT the svelte superhero I once was. The picture of me in the blue spandex is a few years old, and my wife and I realized that the time had come to take seriously our goal to drop a few pounds.
My father and I, to that end, had a weight-loss contest last year, which I won, losing 30 pounds (10 of which I have since gained back) and gaining $500. The question since then has been what to do with that money.
I considered putting it toward an upgrade on our computer at HQ, but my departure from Paragon City has made that a less crucial need. Discussing this, we decided that the money should go toward something which, while entertaining, would encourage further weight lossThus we come to the aforementioned Action Simulator - a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit.
In addition to being a lot of fun, this combination provides some powerful tools to help develop and maintain good health. This isn't technically a birthday present, since it was purchased with money from the "fat fund," but it's been a major feature of my birthday. (More on this in my next post)
The other big feature of my birthday is the Wheel of Time series (commented on before here). My parents bought me the Entire Series as a birthday present - I've got a lot of reading to do, as does my wife.
We're both looking forward to some time in sunny California, at my parents' invitation. It will be nice to see the family again, and see what they've done with the old homestead. Temperaturewise, the "high" for our trip is expected to be 72 degrees. Compared to the high 90s we've been getting here, it will be a sweet relief.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another book list

The 100 Favorite Novels of Librarians - - - they should know a thing or three:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Austen
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee
3. Jane Eyre by Bronte
4. Gone with the Wind by Mitchell
5. Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
6. The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
7. Little Women by Alcott
8. A Prayer of Owen Meany by Irving
9. The Stand by King
10. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
11. Mists of Avalon by Bradley
12. David Copperfield by Dickens
13. Kristen Lavransdotter by Undset
14. Beloved by Morrison
15. Age of Innocence by Wharton
16. The Shell Seekers by Pilcher
17. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Hardy
18. The World According to Garp by Irving
19. Catch 22 by Heller
20. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Auel
21. The Horse Whisperer by Evans
22. Pillars of the Earth by Follett
23. Prince of Tides by Conroy
24. Possession by Byatt
25. Rebecca by DuMaurier
26. Follow the River by Thom
27. My Antonia by Cather
28. The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
29. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne
30. Sophies Choice by Styron
31. Snow Falling on Cedars by Guterson
32. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez
33. Name of the Rose by Eco
34. The Giver by Lowry
35. Cold Mountain by Frazier
36. Cold Sassy Tree by Burns
37. Atlas Shrugged by Rand
38. Bridge to Terebithia by Paterson
39. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Tyler
40. The Hobbit by Tolkien
41. Les Miserables by Hugo
42. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by Lewis
43. Wuthering Heights by Bronte
44. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
45. Huckelberry Finn by Twain
46. Alice in Wonderland by Carroll
47. The Wind in the Willows by Grahame
48. The Bean Trees by Kingsolving
49. Ben Hur by Wallace
50. And Then There Were None by Christie
51. The Secret Garden by Burnett
52. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Taylor
53. Busman's Honeymoon by Sayers
54. Schindler's List by Keneally
55. Emma by Austen
56. The Color Purple by Walker
57. The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
58. Charlotte's Web by White
59. Anne of Green Gables by Montgomery
60. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Wells
61. Lady Chatterly's Lover by Lawrence
62. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith
63. East of Eden by Steinbeck
64. The Once and Future King by White
65. Enders Game by Card
66. The Fountainhead by Rand
67. A Patchwork Planet by Tyler
68. Gaudy Night by Sayers
69. Shogun by Clavell
70. Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck
71. Handmaid's Tale by Atwood
72. Lonesome Dove by McMurtry
73. Outlander by Gabaldon
74. Pigs in Heaven by Kingsolver
75. Slaughterhouse Five by Vonnegut
76. Jude the Obscure by Hardy
77. Time and Again by Finney
78. Misery by King
79. A Christmas Carol by Dickens
80. The Accidental Tourist by Tyler
81. Giants of the Earth by Rolvaag
82. Persuasion by Austen
83. Fried Green Tomatoes by Flagg
84. Tisha by Specht
85. The Thornbirds by McCullough
86. Christy by Marshall
87. Lost Horizon by Hilton
88. The Little Prince by St. Exupery
89. Fahrenheight 451 by Bradbury
90. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway
91. Frankenstein by Shelley
92. Bleak House by Dickens
93. Boy's Life by McCammon
94. Chesapeake by Michener
95. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Adams
96. How Green Was My Valley by Llewellyn
97. Howard's End by Forster
98. I, Robot by Asimov
99. Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck
100. A Passage to India by Forster

I've gotten 20 on this list, still have a ways to go. At this rate I'll have to start up another blog just for literary stuff.

Something a bit more uplifting

This one was written during my mission days, when I was first diagnosed with clinical depression. While it begins with a darker tone, the conclusion is a ray of hope.

From the Front Lines

My sleep is but a shadow of a dream, bringing no rest to my soul and mind.
My eyes seek to close in slumber, seeking rest, respite, refuge, but none are found.
The waves of opposing troops have taken their toll
and contine to suck the life force out of me.

What can I do to bring rest to my soul?
Where can I find succor in my times of anguish?
I call to the Lord, but the pain leaves no room in my heart
for the spirit's sweet softness to fill and caress me, to take away my pain.

I have witnessed the falling away of so many by the wayside.
We are a reduced band of poorly trained infantry on the front lines of a bloody battle,
with casualties on all sides,
against a foe which grows in strength day by day as our forces dwindle and perish.

I know our Commander will never fail us, but oh, how often we fail him!
So many who, when they begin to equip the armor of God,
decide it weighs too much
and leave it in a heap upon the ground.

Why am I weakened?
Why can I not summon the spirit of victory to rally the scattered troops?
Why must so many fall by the wayside?
Beloved friends and bretheren,

struck down by the shafts in the whirlwind,
the fiery darts of the adversary piercing their hearts such that they are consumed from within.
Arms and ammunition are running low, morale is failing,
and only meager reinforcements are on the way.

Every step of the journey is harder,
skeletal hands reaching from the debris to clutch my ankles and drag me under.
I refuse to go down,
but already my strength has failed me.

I lean upon the sword of the spirit
and watch it sink into the muck below.
My helmet is dented, my breastplate battered,
and even the truth girt about my loins has lost its golden shine.

My feet are shod with the blood of my allies,
the gospel's sole being worn out long ago.
I must continue, in hopes of slaying another foe,
winning another ally, but the battle grows long, and I am weary.

Yet the great Commander holds my shield on high,
a gleam of light on the crimson sky,
calling me to lift my sword again and sound the battle cry,
"Hosannah! Hosannah! To God and the Lamb!"

The forces rally and we march again,
in the strength of our commander and the light of the shield of faith.
With holy zeal, we join the fray,
the spirit's blade gleaming with celestial flame as every stroke disarms a foe.

With every prayer, the blade is cleansed and sharpened,
ready to conquer the enemy and his minions.
We battle not against armies of flesh and blood,
and the weapons which seek to strike us are made of far more subtle things than steel and iron,

But our commander gives us strength and power so that,
together, we can conquer the prince of darkness and his malign power.
We battle not for power nor dominion, but for the glory of our Commander,
and the freedom and welfare of our brethren, our country, and our families.

A bit of poetry

I'm going to break the 4th wall a bit today and reveal a bit about my mild mannered alter ego. Sometimes, at times of idleness, I indulge in a little poetry. The following is a bit of poetry I wrote before I started seeing my counselor. Life has gotten a lot more positive since then, but I thought I'd share.

Today, I bought some flowers
and a card, thinking of you.
Today, I bought some flowers,
blooms of every shade and hue.

Today, I bought some flowers,
roses, red and very bold,
Today, I bought some daisies
and I bought some marigolds.

Today, I bought some flowers
and I put them in a vase.
I bought some flowers, just to see
the look upon your face.

If only you had been here.
If only you could see.
Today, I bought some flowers.
I guess they were for me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

True story from the field

In addition to developing hobbies, personal anecdotes (more commonly referred to as "war stories") make for popular conversation around the water cooler. Since no one wants to hear about lost memories of childhood, I've come up with a few tales of my own to fill in holes. A friend at work recommended that I record some of them for posterity. Here's one of my favorites:

I was a young missionary in Guatemala, serving temporarily as an ecclesiastical leader (Branch President) to a small congregation on the coast. We were fairly recently established in the town of Sipacate and had a small chapel constructed of materials better designed for a temporary shelter. The interior walls didn't reach the ceiling (making private conferences difficult, if not impossible) and the ceiling was made out of something only slightly more durable than paper mache.

Serving with me was a young man from Honduras (I'll leave his name out of this account), who was slated to take my place as Branch President when I moved to another area. Our congregation's Christmas party was coming up, and in Guatemala that means fireworks - lots and lots of fireworks.

I put forth a few dozen Quetzales to buy an assortment of fireworks. My Honduranian companion picked up a few large, triangular packages wrapped in red paper. Being from California, my experience with explosive devices was nil, so I assumed that he was being helpful, which was my first mistake, and that he knew what he was doing, which was my second mistake.

That evening, we went to visit some members in the area to ask them for a huge favor. I needed every ounce of diplomacy and spiritual aid I could muster, as we were asking something extraordinary. As we crossed the large field leading toward their house, I heard a faint, repeated clicking noise behind me, followed by a rustling in the tall grass. I turned to my companion, who was hustling forward past me, and was about to ask if he had heard something when the first explosion erupted in the bushes behind us. He had decided that the best way to be diplomatic was to blow up their lawn!

I realize that this reaction was a very Gringo point of view, as Guatemalans are quite used to firecrackers going off near Christmas time, but I was unnerved, to say the least. But this was only the beginning. He set off two more explosions, over my protestations, as the children of the house came running out to see what was going on. It was dark, so I couldn't see if any actual damage had been done to the field. The family laughed it off, and we eventually (after regaining a measure of calm and composure) achieved our goal.

It was on the way home that my young companion truly proved himself Darwinian fodder. We passed by our little chapel on the way home. My companion fell behind a few steps and I heard that familiar clicking noise. I thought he had only purchased 3 of the miniature bombs, but it turned out that he had gotten a fourth, somewhat larger than the rest, which he was now lighting.

With a cry of "Watch this!" he lobbed his smoldering explosive . . . onto the roof of our chapel! I have to assume that he meant to throw it over the roof, but didn't quite have the strength. We watched in horror as a bright flash of light erupted atop our chapel roof and echoed hollowly from the structure. We could see nothing in the dark, but we returned in the morning to assess the damage.

When we entered, we saw a large pile of confetti strewn around the room and a hole in the roof slightly larger than my head. The reinforced paper mache ceiling pieces were also strewn across the room. I told my companion to clean up while I thought about what to tell my regional leader.

Incidentally, when I told my leader the situation, he assessed the situation and asked to speak with "Brother Pyro."

As another P.S., after numerous jokes from the congregation about air conditioning and umbrellas, we realized we had a few extra roof tiles and replaced the damaged one.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Equipment upgrades

With great power comes great responsibility. With great responsibility comes a need for a great HQ to coordinate that responsibility. With great new headquarters comes great new equipment, and with great new equipment comes great expense. While this chain could be continued further, this is sufficient for my purpose.

Alba and I have been considering the possibility of adding an action simulator to our headquarters in an effort to prepare us for any eventuality. We recently acquired an audio-visual data input converter from Alba's old mentors (wonderfully useful birthday gift) and realized that what we really needed to complete the package was a larger command screen. Our old one was, perhaps, a 10' screen and wasn't nearly sufficient for our needs. Last night, we found a great offer on a 30' screen. It's honestly a little large, but it's still much better than our old one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Greatest, not the Latest

Now, compare this with Eaton Press' list of the 100 Greatest Books Ever Written and see how you do:

1. A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
2. A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce
3. A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Twain
5. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle
6. Aesop's Fables
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Carroll

8. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
9. Billy Budd/Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
11. Candide by Voltaire
12. Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
13. David Copperfield by Dickens
14. Don Quixote by Cervantes
15. Euripedes by Euripedes
16. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
17. Faust by Goethe
18. Great Expectations by Dickens
19. Grimm's Fairy Tales by Grimm
20. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. The History of Early Rome by Livy
23. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
24. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
25. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
26. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
27. Little Women by Alcott
28. Lord Jim by Conrad
29. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
30. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
31. Oedipus the King by Sophocles
32. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
33. On the Origin of Species by Darwin
34. Paradise Lost by John Milton
35. Plato Dialogues on Love and Friendship by Plato
36. Poems of John Keats by Keats
37. Politics and Poetics by Aristotle
38. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
39. The Rights of Man by Paine
40. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
41. She Stoops To Conquer by Goldsmith
42. Short Stories by Oscar Wild
43. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson
44. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Poe
45. The Federalist by Hamilton
46. The Aeneid by Virgil
47. The Alhambra by Washington Irving
48. The Analects of Confucius by Confucius
49. The Arabian Nights by Burton
50. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Franklin
51. The Birds and the Frogs by Aristophanes
52. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
53. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
54. The Comedies by Shakespeare
55. The Confessions of Jean by Jacques Rousseau
56. The Confessions of St. Augustine by Augustine
57. The Decameron by Boccaccio
58. The Descent of Man by Darwin
59. The Divine Comedy by Dante
60. The Essayes by Francis Bacon
61. The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Emerson
62. The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
63. The Histories by Shakespeare
64. The Iliad of Homer by Homer
65. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
66. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
67. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Stern
68. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
69. The Odyssey of Homer by Homer
70. The Oresteia by Aeschylus
71. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
72. The Poems of John Donne by Donne
73. The Poems of Robert Browning by Browning
74. The Poems of W.B. Yeats by Yeats
75. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
76. The Prince by Machiavelli
77. The Red and the Black by Stendhal
78. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
79. The Republic by Plato
80. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
81. The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne
82. The Sea Wolf by Jack London
83. The Short Stories by Dickens
84. The Tales of Guy de Maupassant by De Maupassant
85. The Talisman by Scott
86. The Three Musketeers by Dumas
87. The Tragedies by Shakespeare
88. The Way of all Flesh by Butler
89. Three Plays by Henrik Ibsen
90. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
91. Treasure Island by Stevenson
92. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
93. Two Plays by Moliere
94. Two Plays for Puritans by George Bernard Shaw
95. Two Plays The Cherry Orchard/Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
96. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
97. Vanity Faire by William Makepeace Thackeray
98. Walden by Thoreau
99. War and Peace by Tolstoy
100. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

21 of 100. I've still got a lot of reading to do

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaving Paragon City

Heroes are not immortal, even the superpowered ones. While I have invested so much of my life into protecting the citizens of Paragon City, the time has come for more common adventures - those of domestic life. I bid farewell to my friends in Paragon City, and leave them my fondest hopes.
Nickarr, my dear old friend, may your sword shine bright forever. You've been my friend from the beginning, and we made an unstoppable pair. May the Spirit always guide you, and may the glory of the Lord rest upon you.
Kick Back, you've been a mentor and a friend to me. You helped me make my start in Paragon City and have always supported me. Any time, day or night, I could find you patrolling the streets, making Paragon City a better, cleaner place to live. Keep hope burning bright, and keep busting up the bad guys.
No matter where I go, no matter what I do in life, the spirit of Paragon City will live on in my heart. I will continue my battle against the forces of evil wherever I may be. Heroes of Paragon City, I salute you. Farewell.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just for fun

I realized that my posts had been a bit dark of late, so I decided to pay a visit to Dr. Blink (and when I say pay a visit, I mean pay a visit. His rates are kind of high, but he's the only one in town licensed to treat supers), and he gave me an interesting personality quiz. While I'll leave most of the personal details out of it, I've posted the basic results at the bottom of this blog. Feel free to take the quiz yourself!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Helpless Hero

There's an old idea that I first heard on Garfield and Friends, though I also found out that it's been said by Homer Simpson, among others. There's 2 kinds of problems in this world: Problems you can do something about, and problems you can't do anything about. So, there's never a need to worry. You don't need to worry about problems you can't do anything about, because you can't do anything about them anyway. And there's no sense worrying about things you can do something about because you can actually do something about them. Don't Worry, Be Happy, like the song goes.

Sometimes, though, much as you try not to worry, you find yourself in a situation where you feel completely helpless. Most of the time, superheroes don't feel that way for long, or else they don't live to tell the tale. Yet I find myself in a state of disquiet which can only be described as helplessness.

You've doubtless heard about the Gap Fire in California. It has come frighteningly close to my home town, where my family and friends still reside. I wish I could help them, but what help is radiation against a blazing inferno? I can only watch the smoke clouds on the radar map and hope and pray for the thousands upon thousands of firefighters gathered from across the nation who have come together to save them.

Even worse than the helplessness is the nagging fear. Will I hear that they've had to evacuate? Would they tell me if they had to? Would they wait to tell me they were in danger until the danger had passed? If worst comes to it, would I hear about their condition from someone else?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Further literary musings

While discussing literature with my friend, Mega Ray, she introduced me to this list and invited me to participate. While I find it interesting that there are some odd repititions in the list (Both Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are on the list, for example), I thought it worthwhile to examine.

The Big Read says that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Mark (in red, strikeout, etc) ones you would never read even if someone paid you.
3) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who've read only 6 or less and make them read.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now..... THE BIG READ TOP 100

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. The Harry Potter Series JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (okay, I may have missed a sonnet or two)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh .
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen .
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown Not gonna. Seriously.
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez My Spanish teachers would kill me for not having read this one yet.
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan .
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry .
87. Charlotte's Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery in French, no less.
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Read: 28. I'm glad I was raised to be a reader.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Flight of Fancy

It's amazing how much work and study going into maintaining the illusion of a mild-mannered alter ego. One must make time, for example, for "hobbies," if only to have something to chat about around the water cooler with "the guys." It's hard to mingle when your genuine interests have nothing to do with sports and the latest episode of "American Idol," but I've found something which both holds my interest and provides for good conversation at the office: Fantasy literature. Now, people may question why a superhero would have an interest in fantasy - aren't we living a fantastic life already? But heroes can learn from good fantasy novels. Chivalry, honor, love of one's fellow man and an endless dedication to fight for that which is right, to the death and beyond - these are all things for which a hero must strive. Alternatively, darker fantasy can provide useful insights into the villainous mind.
Recently, I've stumbled across an author who truly fires the imagination - Brandon Sanderson. Virtue, adventure and humor abound in his works, and I only wish he had more books already written. I was first introduced to his work with Elantris, a novel which simply can't be put down. Among my supergroup, we now refer to "pulling an Elantris," indicating staying up until the wee small hours of the morning finishing something. It's THAT good. The rest of his works are great, too. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is a wonderfully humorous book which shows us that evil and secret combinations can be literally anywhere.
He's now working on the final book of the famous "Wheel of Time" series, which is sufficient incentive for me to want to pick up all 10,000+ pages of the series. I'd read the first 7, but found that I didn't like what the characters had become - they no longer represented any sort of heroic ideal for me. Knowing what the conclusion is likely to be like, though, I'll plow through it all again.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Liberty and Justice for all!

Ah, the 4th of July. As you can see from the liberty bell on my costume, the freedom which America represents is very dear to me. July 4th is rich in tradition for me, the most important of which is the musical, 1776. While the historical accuracy is, at times, questionable, a great deal of it is deeply rooted in fact and history. For anyone who has ever had an ounce of pride in America, in its founding and in those who founded it, it is a marvelous play/film.
As good as Alba is with fire, fireworks are somthing else entirely, and we went to the show at Thanksgiving Point, a good half hour long program with a nice variety of fireworks. I'm a big fan of color changing and shaped fireworks, as well as screamers. Alba really likes the "wiggly ones" - the ones that look like swarms of fireflies or ants and take off in random directions in midair.
We knew we'd have to leave before traffic arrived in our area for the Stadium of Fire, so we also saw Wall-E at the Thanksgiving Point megaplex. Another Pixar winner - HIGHLY recommended to everyone. The trouble with Pixar is that their advertisements, while cute, never do the show justice. Half of Pixars trailers leave me scratching my head, then the films are fantastic. I think they need a new P.R. department or something.
In Wall-E's case, the trailers give you no idea of the plot - they just tell you there's a robot love story. It speaks nothing of the social issues addressed, nor of the eventual triumph of man over machine and, in the end, over himself as well. A truly heartwarming tale of sacrifice, friendship, devotion and the evils of sloth.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Birthday wishes

Alba's birthday was a great day. She received numerous games, assorted music, much beloved classic Mickey Mouse cartoons and a small, plush monkey. Yes, superheroes like Mickey Mouse - clean entertainment for today's youth will make for a better tomorrow. We had a lovley dinner at the Olive Garden and we received a surprise visit from her sister and her sister's husband. We couldn't make it to the theatre that day (fortunately, plans were flexible), but we went to the dollar theatre the next day and watched Nim's Island, a film which hasn't received much media attention here in Paragon City, but is a great family film. An agoraphobic/germaphobic writer who has an Indiana Jones clone as an imaginary friend sets out to save a little girl on a volcanic island - quite funny, but also touching. I recommend it to anyone looking for a good, clean laugh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vibroman's revenge!

[7 years ago, California . . .]

Vibroman and Sapphire Sting wrested on the edge of the San Andreas fault as the earth trembled beneath them. Vibroman's dastardly device was rapidly aggravating the motion of the tectonic plates, and would soon begin causing damage to nearby towns. Sapphire Sting shot a stunning cosmic blast of radiation from his fist into Vibroman's chest and flew to the device. Using every ounce of his strength within him, he released a miniature-scale equivalent of an atomic blast, destroying the device. The tremors began to slow as Sapphire Sting hovered above the gap, but the stunned Vibroman lost his balance and tumbled into the void. Sapphire Sting was weakened from his effort and could only watch helplessly as Vibroman vanished into the black of the abyss.

[Today, Provo, Utah]

An all-too familiar tremor shakes the building where Mild-Mannered Stephen Watson toils at BYU Independent Study. It seems that, somehow, Vibroman lives on. This time, though, he seems engaged in a secretive war of attrition to wear down Sapphire's nerves. Timing his work carefully, the ground shakes in unison with a nearby construction crew drilling into the earth. Everyone in the office claims that it's simply the work of construction proceeding, but Sapphire Sting's instincts tell him otherwise. To protect the innocent, however, persuit of Vibroman (or his successor) will have to wait until the construction crew has moved on, as they would be easy victim's to Vibroman's mad plot.

Which classic Superhero are you?

Your results:
You are Superman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz