Monday, December 20, 2010

I have an awesome wife

This is what my wife got me:

Ready to hitchhike across the galaxy

She also took me to see Tron Legacy.

Need a towel? Check out Thinkgeek.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Philosophies of men

I have lately found myself thinking about LDS theology's intersection with politics. I am a practicing Mormon, so it makes sense that LDS theology would affect my political views. The reason I have been thinking about it so much lately is mostly due to two LDS friends. These friends hold political views I do not agree with. They choose to share those views in such a way that it is clear that they think anyone not sharing their views is ignorant or stupid or (more likely) both. They also choose to share those views often. In general, I admire the conviction of these two friends and think I could learn a bit from that conviction.

This past week one of them emailed me a ridiculous powerpoint presentation. I read a good portion of it and skimmed through the rest. It consisted of pictures of political, historical, and LDS figures and quotes they made. It basically talked about how there are Gadianton robbers in our day and that we need to fight them. I'll get back to my thoughts on this later, but I responded to my friend by saying "That's pretty special" and questioning the emphasis on politics in the Book of Mormon. He caught my sarcasm and responded with some more content I will talk about later. I told him I would explain myself a bit more. This blog post is that explanation. It will not be concise. It will not be short.

I took the required History of Civilization course at BYU from the Political Science department. I had Dr. Matthew Holland for my instructor (son of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and current president of UVU). I should mention here that this entire post is my personal opinion and is in no way endorsed or acknowledged by Dr. Holland, the LDS church, or anybody other than myself. In his class, Dr. Holland had one lecture where he tied what we had been studying that semester (Plato, Socrates, Machiavelli, etc.) to LDS theology. I found it extremely interesting to see all the parallels in the scriptures to Plato's Forms. He also said that during the semester we had learned about "the philosophies of men." He continued to state that although that phrase has a negative connotation in LDS theology, there are many good, important, and true things to learn from those philosophies.

The one idea from Dr Holland's lecture that I want to highlight comes from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 3). At this point in their history, Jerusalem has been sacked by the Babylonians and what then remained of the Lord's covenant people carried off into captivity. The Babylonian king took some of the young Israelite men to serve in his court. I will note for the overall point of this blog post that they actually served these captor-kings. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, they refuse to worship a golden image, so the king gets mad and is ready to throw them into a furnace. Dr. Holland's point is in how they respond in verses 16-18:
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
The point is to trust in God's will and acknowledge He is in control. These three men did not know if they would be saved, but they did know that God had the power to save them if it was His will. They also knew that God was in control of their nation, including putting them under the control of king Nebuchadnezzar.

There is a counterpoint to this. LDS theology teaches that We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. However, we also believe the men of the American Revolution were inspired by God. There are times in LDS history when, living on the western frontier, Mormons showed some of that revolutionary spirit and frontier justice. There is an interesting and delicate balance to walk there (if any of you are deciding to start a revolution sometime soon).

Remember that the Jews of Christ's time were manipulated by the Sanhedrin into demanding His crucifixion because they were expecting a political savior instead of a spiritual savior. Even in the face of the farce that was His so-called trial, Christ recognized the authority of the high priest. Then there is the explicit example of Christ's teaching on taxes:
19 ¶And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them.
20 And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
21 And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:
22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Cæsar, or no?
23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?
24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Cæsar’s.
25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which be Cæsar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.
Paul shows similar behavior to Christ in his interaction with the high priest (although with a bit less self control): "Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." Peter speaks along the same lines, putting those who despise government as the unjust who will be punished. A handful of references is not concrete evidence, but I feel that it is enough to show that the question cannot be settled by latching on to certain quotes or scriptures.

While we are wresting the scriptures, let us consider the most political chapter of the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 29. In that chapter, Mosiah sets up laws to transition his kingdom into a republic. On my mission, I had a very strange district meeting where some rebellious missionaries used verse 29 to attack their district leader. My response to that argument is to look at all the wars which occur from that point until the end of the book: they are all started by men of high birth or lesser judges looking for power. It is also unclear from this chapter how they implemented the "voice of the people." It is nice to think that is a democracy, but how does that work in such a large kingdom? No TVs, no radio, no cars, no trains. I think it must have been more of a republic with elected officials called upon to represent the voice of the people. Kind of like the United States Constitution originally sets up our leaders to not be dumb products of a popularity contest. Moving on.

The biggest problem I had with the powerpoint presentation my friend sent was that it didn't have any quotes from President Hinckley. The presentation was put together in 2007, so the living prophet at the time would have been President Hinckley. Why is this important? Well let's go to last October's General Conference and review Elder Costa's talk and Elder Duncan's talk. They both review President Benson's 14 fundamentals in following the prophet, and I would like to highlight the third one: "The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet." While I am pointing out conference talks, I should mention that Elder Cook's talk from this past conference and Elder Oak's talk from a year ago both provide good guidance on theology and politics.

All this most recent discussion started because I tweeted my support of the DREAM act. The DREAM act looks to be voted on in the senate tomorrow (Saturday). It will probably fail due to the racism and fear-mongering in the country and the spineless politicians in congress. One of my friends is a loyal follower of Glenn Beck. I was first exposed to Mr. Beck in 2007, when my Elders Quorum presidency counselor and I were driving back from service cleaning church trucks in Salt Lake. He turned on Beck's radio program and talked about how awesome it was. I had a hard time keeping a straight face with what I was hearing. He and Palin are the face of the TEA party? When the TEA party first started I thought they had some good points. Now I think they are mostly a bunch of nutters. Their leaders and pundits use an annoying and disingenuous strategy of inserting gross falsehoods in with a bunch of truths, and then repeating that over and over again. Exposed to something enough, anybody believes.

Even the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Online profiles

I played around with my online profiles a bit.

To begin with, I created a "profile graveyard" on this site and moved a bunch of links from my Google Profile. My Google Profile had gotten fairly ridiculous. Alright, fine. It started out ridiculous and it still is ridiculous, but it is less ridiculous than it was a few days ago. All my rarely/never used profiles are now linked from the graveyard and not from the profile.

Once I got going, I then moved on to my LinkedIn profile. My resume and my LinkedIn profile are a bit stale. They still are a bit stale, but my LinkedIn profile is less stale than it was a few days ago. I added a few sections and noted some volunteer work I am doing with the PDMA-CDMA Educational Foundation.

Please go check out my profile graveyard, Google profile, and updated LinkedIn profile. Feedback is welcome, more or less.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I took my family to see Tangled today. It was awesome. My kids were a little bit aware of it, but my wife prepped them good this past week with YouTube previews. They were very excited. I love Disney, and I loved The Princess and the Frog, but their animation studio still has a ways to go before it regains my complete trust in their quality. Pixar has it still, Disney Animation does not. Rapunzel Tangled, however, helps.

I was also a little worried about the movie because of its name. I had first heard about it and seen a clip back in 2004. Back then it was still going by "Rapunzel," which is what it really should be called. However, Disney was apparently disappointed with the reception by boys of The Princess and the Frog, so they tried to fix that with this movie. I am not sure what was wrong with Princess and the Frog. Maybe they made the prince too weak/negative. I don't know. I was worried that they would compromise in order to appeal to young boys. No need to worry. Still a great story, and still should be called Rapunzel.

I was a little worried about my kids "freaking out" at the scary parts, which is what they have done with any modern movie they've watched that has a decent plot. Surprisingly, my eldest managed to not freak out. I do not know if this is because she is maturing or if it is because the movie is not that scary. There is really only one scary part, and it is pretty low-key. That didn't stop my youngest from spazzing, but at least the oldest one did fine.

The villain in Tangled, Mother Gothel, may not rise to the upper echelon of Disney villains, but I did find her compelling. She is interesting for two, slightly related reasons. The over-arching quality is immense selfishness. She has found the proverbial fountain of youth and wants to keep it for herself. Part of that is keeping Rapunzel locked in a tower as her "daughter." However, since Gothel is selfish she is also abusive. The abuse comes as emotional abuse, which is a bit unique among Disney villains. I like it, and it made me think a bit about the things I say when I am "joking."

The songs were short but great. I liked the animation style and thought the story was compelling. The characters were also great, with Rapunzel and Flynn both being a great balance. Rapunzel is young and naive, but part of the film's journey is her learning she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Flynn is a self-absorbed thief, but he shows depth in the end and is not a shallow and helpless pansy (like Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog). The favorite line from my kids: "They can't get my nose right!"

In keeping with the lame posts of this week, here are the three trailers for Tangled to finish this one off:
Trailer 1

Trailer 2
Trailer 3

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I find that this series of videos embodies most of what is great about the internet. It's right up there with

Gotta love Charlie

Monday, December 6, 2010


My wife just purchased opening-day tickets for Tron Legacy on IMAX 3D. I have an awesome wife. I realize that some of you may not be familiar with Tron (hint: light cycles), so I have gathered some of the trailers in this post for you. Some are a bit redundant. All are awesome. Okay, fine, this first one is a cheesy product of the 80s:
The original movie is like that as well. However, it was the first movie to use CGI and it talks about computers and video games. It is right up my alley, even if it is a bit dated. This next trailer is what the trailer would be like, should they have edited it today:
So that is the original Tron. The big deal is that they are releasing a new Tron movie in two weeks. It will be awesome. Here is the trailer:
Didn't catch all that? Try the second trailer:
Doesn't that look awesome? Here is the third one:
Needless to say, I am very excited. The new movie should be great. It should have great special effects, great acting (Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award last year), and great geekiness. But that is not all. There are a few flavors of video games coming out at the same time which cover the story between the two movies:
I like this short trailer for the games (introducing the virus antagonist):
I am excited for Tron. Putting together this post makes me want to go play GLtron.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Guild

This weekend the big new World of Warcraft expansion comes out: Cataclysm. I know somebody who is taking time off work next week to play. I am sure he will not be the only one doing this. I am intrigued by World of Warcraft (WoW). I played a fair amount of Starcraft in college and also went through Warcraft III. I enjoy the Warcraft mythology. However, I stay away from MMORPGs like WoW for reasons I discussed in my last post.

Even though I do not play, I have friends and co-workers that do. I also keep track of what is going on with the game in terms of storyline. Plus I'm a geek. All those reasons enable me to appreciate The Guild. It's an on-line show about a guild playing an unspecified MMORPG. The show isn't for everybody, but I think it is hilarious. They produced a couple of music videos to go with the last two seasons:
Do You Want To Date My Avatar
Game On

Check out The Guild or you can even purchase the DVDs (Seasons 1&2 or 3). Watching The Guild helps me stay strong in my resolve to not play MMORPGs

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My escape from video game addiction

My guess is that half of you are saying "when were you ever a video game addict?" while the other half are saying "what do you mean 'escape?'" I like video games. I grew up on King's Quest and Space Quest from Sierra. My favorite games were/are the Final Fantasy series. In college I picked up Half-life and Starcraft. I eventually broke down and got a Wii in graduate school. The game flavor I currently enjoy is that of tower defense games such as Plants vs. Zombies.

One type of game I have religiously stayed away from is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Strangely enough, I actually played the first one of these to come to the market: The Realm. Well, "first" depends on your definitions, but it was definitely groundbreaking and one of the first in the genre as we recognize it today. It was put out by Sierra. Since I enjoyed Kings Quest I decided to install the demo and see what it was all about. I played it for a while and then never played another MMORPG again. That was my escape from video game addiction.

At the time I did not think much of it. In fact, I think the decision was mostly financial (I didn't want to pay the subscription fee). I do remember noting that the game would be dangerous for me since it did not have a clear end point. The newest Final Fantasy game may take a while to beat, but eventually you have done pretty much everything. There are even a finite number of side quests. Those games also do not have any of the social compulsion found in MMORPGs. I have a personality that would get sucked into these MMORPGs and have a hard time coming out.

This is not to say that I do not play video games. I do play video games. However, I mostly play off-line. During my freshman year of college I played a bit of Starcraft and Half-life on-line, but I stunk. Although there can be some concept of teams in those games, that is primarily individual play so there are not the social pressures normally associated with MMORPGs. Not to say that those pressures do not exist outside MMORPGs. Counter Strike wasn't really big yet (Half-life had just barely come out), but I had a roommate during my senior year that played Ghost Recon nearly 24/7 as part of an elite team.

A "gaming" addiction can also form from much more benign "games." I have given up all fantasy sports other than Tournament Challenge for March Madness. I found that reading the stats, forming a team, and hands-off battles games felt very similar to a role-playing game. Although each season had an end, during the season there is no end to how often you can tweak your team. This meant I could endlessly crunch numbers and sink time into it. Not good, so I decided to stop playing. The difference with March Madness is that players just pick the brackets once and then the rest is hands-off.

Why bring all this up? I was listening to The Internet Safety Podcast a few weeks ago and the host, BYU's Dr. Knutson, interviewed Brad Dorrance of Brad's website has been down, but he is also affiliated with online gamers anonymous. They talked about game addiction and made a number of great points. I like Dr. Knutson's podcasts in general, although he sometimes interviews in order to solidify his positions instead of in order to gather information. You can get some idea about his positions from the Ensign article he co-wrote, Just a Game?. I find myself agreeing with him most/all of the time, and when I think I don't agree I often realize he's right when I think about it later. He seems to be in line with Elder Bednar's counsel. Can't go wrong with that.

Subscribe to The Internet Safety Podcast. Read about gaming addiction in social science, psychology, and theology. Chances are very good that you will have to deal with this at some time to some degree, either directly or indirectly. Now please excuse me while I try to get to some deeper dungeons in MAngband. j/k