Friday, May 25, 2007

A Banner Is Unfurled

My dad introduced me to a new LDS book series entitled "A Banner Is Unfurled." To many it may look like another Work and the Glory, but it is so much more. It is based on the real life stories of the Johnson family and their struggles during the time of the restoration of the church of Jesus Christ. What makes this so much more enthralling is that my family is directly related to the Johnson family. The father, Ezekiel Johnson is my fifth great-grandfather, and Benjamin F. Johnson is my fourth great-grandfather.

Joel Johnson, Ezekiel's oldest son, wrote the words to the hymn, "High on the Mountain Top," giving the series it's title. All the accounts were pulled from their journals, and the authors (who are also related to them) fill in the gaps with what they've studied about church history and what they know of the characters in the Johnson family.

It has definitely been a testimony strengthener for me to feel so much more tied into the history of the church, to get to know my great-grandparents and see what sacrifices they made to follow the prophet Joseph Smith. It is incredible to read about their faith that kept their family together and the struggles that threatened to tear their family apart.

Even if you don't have any ties to the characters, this is an excellent series. Currently there are two books out, and I'm almost done with the second one.

For more info check out the book's website and an article from Meridian Magazine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Card Game: Golden Ten

I learned this game back on a 50 miler in northern New Mexico in 1998. I then honed my Golden Ten skills in Mr. Hicks' Physics class my Junior year in high school.

This game is related to Hearts, but is adapted to use with Rook cards for those who choose not to play with poker cards. A Rook deck consists of 57 cards, with four colors: Red, Green, Yellow, and Black. In each color, cards are numbered from 1 to 14, and then there is the Rook. For this game we will put the Rook card out of play.

Number of Players: 3-7

Object: Avoid winning tricks containing red cards, while trying to win the trick containing the Golden (yellow) 10.

The Deal: Deal cards one at a time as far as the deck will go, with each player receiving an equal number of cards. With 3, 5, or 6 players there wil be one or two cards left over, these are set aside and will be awarded to the winner of the first trick.

The Play: The player to the dealer's left starts by playing a card for the first trick. Play continues clock-wise in like manner. When playing to a trick you must, if possible, play a card of the same color as the lead card. If you have no cards of that color in your hand, you may play any card. The person who played the highest card of the color that led wins the trick and leads the next.

Winning: When all the cards have been played, each player counts the value of the cards in their tricks. Each red card counts 1 point against you, with exception to the red 5 and 10 which count against you with their full face value. The Golden (yellow) 10 counts as negative 10 points. Play to a predetermined score. Some variations have the Golden 10 only negating red points (max of 10), and if a player has less than 10 red points, the score is simply reduced to 0.

Source: http://www.pagat.com/reverse/golden10.html

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fun ways to save money

Sherrie and I have tried to put together a budget. We were successful for a month or two, and then we got lazy and haven't done anything for the last few months. Our spending habits haven't changed, but it was nice to know where our money was going in advance, and I think it did help us save more. The method we chose to use is the infamous envelope method. This required us to cash in part of our pay checks and put the cash in its respective envelope (Medical, Gas, Food, Entertainment, Eating out, Fun, etc.). I think it will still work, but I ran into a website called savemoneygames.com. It has a ton of games you can play to help make saving fun. Not all of them are going to help you be a millionaire, but they help you to be more prepared for little emergencies.

For example, one is called the Pay to Use Game. You start off with one appliance, let's say your washing machine. Every time you use your washing machine you deposit $1.00 (a standard price to use a washer in a laundromat). The money that is saved here can then be used for washer repairs, or to purchase a new washer in the future with cash. It will also help you to make sure you use your washer more efficiently. Once you get one appliance down, then you move to others. Some of the other ideas are:
  • $.50 every time the refrigerator is open
  • $1 for every degree you raise the temperature of your heater in the winter
  • $2 every time you get in your car to go somewhere
This is just one of the numerous ideas on this website. I highly recommend giving it a look. If anything it will make money a much less stressful issue in your home and add a little more fun to your life :) .

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bleachers: On Perfection, Forgiveness, and Fame

I just finished a great book by John Grisham, the second one of his that I've read and that has nothing to do with lawyers. A Painted House was the first I read and loved and I just finished Bleachers. Bleachers took me a few hours to read and had me reeled in from the beginning. To not give away too much of what happens in the book I thought I'd discuss a few of the themes that are present throughout the book: Perfection, Forgiveness, and Fame. I suggest reading the book before reading on, unless you don't mind some of the plot being exposed by my own potentially skewed perception.

Eddie Rake is a star of a coach; I drew many parallels to Coach Herman Boone, Denzel Washington's role in Remember the Titans. His players all either loved him or hated him. Most who hated him come to realize later in life that that passion that they felt toward him wasn't hate but actually love. (It's amazing how closely related those two terms are. A passionate feeling you feel towards something. The true opposite to love, in my opinion is apathy or indifference.)

The apathetic and the indifferent were the true losers in the eyes of Eddie Rake. When he first arrived in Messina as coach in 1958 the team thought they had had a pretty good year the previous year having a record of 3 and 7 (or something similar) and having beat a particular school. Rake, hearing this, proclaimed them losers. I thought that was kind of harsh, but when you come to think of it, they were happy with something much less than perfection. They were indifferent or apathetic to the thought of reaching perfection. Eddie Rake spent the next 34 years trying to teach every player that anything less than perfection was failure. This is a hard concept, but I don't think he believed it 100%. He knew that if they weren't striving for perfection they were then failures, not if they weren't perfected.

Many of the players later in life found that their lives were being governed on the thought of whether or not Rake would be pleased with what they were doing in that instance. Their coach became somewhat of a second conscience to them, someone they lived to please and feared to disappoint. In this light, I drew many parallels to God and his love for us. We should know his love for us so well that we crave his appraisal and shrink at his disappointment. He wants us to strive for perfection, knowing that in this life we will always fall short of it.

Eddie Rake was no saint, he made some pretty bad mistakes that he regretted to the end of his life. He tried hard to make amends, but forgiveness didn't come easy. Forgiveness requires two parts. The first (though not a requirement for the second) is that the perpetrator must show some form of repentance and desire to be forgiven. The second requires the victim to accept the apology on the grounds that the Savior's atonement will take care of the rest, and that justice belongs to God. If one or the other is not fulfilled, the person responsible (victim or perpetrator) is at greater fault.

However, just because one is forgiven doesn't mean that life starts again as if nothing had ever happened. Trust is not required in the act of forgiving, but must be regained by the perpetrator at great cost.

One other theme I find interesting is that when young people become so famous at such a young age, rarely do they amount to anything. Neely Crenshaw comments, "When you're famous at eighteen, you spend the rest of your life fading away." They expect the fame and glory they gained as kids to be sustained throughout life, and when it doesn't they literally fade away. Look at the lives of Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, the Olsen twins, etc. These are just movie/television stars that naturally get more media coverage, but the fame is the same no matter the profession, and I imagine the effects don't change either. I'd like to finish with one of my favorite poems by Percy Shelley that resonates with the same thoughts on fame and glory:
OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Annalee Update

You'd think that once school is out I'd have all the time in the world to keep my blog up-to-date. It's a lot harder to be disciplined when there aren't any grades hanging in the balance. On to the main reason most people come to my blog...

Annalee had her two month appointment this last Friday and is doing great. She now weighs a total of 12 pounds (71%) and is in the mid-40th percentile for height and head circumference. She didn't take to the immunizations all that well. From what I was told she cried most of the day and must have worn herself out. Every night since then she's slept at least 8 hours and a whopping 10 hours Saturday night! She's smiling a whole lot more and she'll even laugh once in a while!

I've been thinking of co-authoring a recipe blog with Sherrie. I haven't brought it up to her, but I thought it might be a good place to share recipes (for anyone else who's interested) and other helpful cooking hints. I'm no Emeril, I just like good food.

Maybe I should make a separate blog for my technical musings, anyone opposed to that idea? Gimme some feedback.