Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Hudsucker Proxy

Sherrie and I watched The Hudsucker Proxy a few weekends back and absolutely loved this film. It has a great message to it and plenty of good clean laughs. After watching it we knew it would be an instant family classic and immediately I put it on my Amazon wish list.

Tim Robbins plays a recent college graduate looking for a job and starts off at Hudsucker Industries in the mail room. As a result of the sudden death of the president from the 44th floor (or 45th including the mezzanine) he somehow becomes the next president of the company and unknowingly a part of a scheming plot to reclaim ownership of the company by the board of executives led by Paul Newman. Tim Robbins learns a lot of lessons the hard way, giving in eventually to fame and glory and puts aside those things that used to matter most in his life.

I won't give anything else away in the movie, you'll have to check it out for yourself!

It's rated PG for thematic elements (suicide) and some language (which we were able to avoid with the assistance of the TV Guardian).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Liberalism and King Men-ism II

The train of thought that got me to see the relationship between Liberalism and King Men-ism came from my father-in-law. I'm not trying to say that he's some right-wing, conservative extremist; he just made a very valid point in light of the Orson Scott Card article on which my focus was in the first episode of this post. To quote him:
"The Book of Mormon teaches us how to wage war against Gadianton robbers who were the terrorists back then and our enemies now. The Book of Mormon was written for our day and holds the key to peace and safety both physically and spiritually."
Let me give you a basic understanding of who the King Men were. From Alma chapter 46 in the Book of Mormon:
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.
5 And they had been led by the flatteries of Amalickiah, that if they would support him and establish him to be their king that he would make them rulers over the people.
The Kind Men were men who wanted to overthrow the judges (the current form of government) for a king. For more understanding of the reign of the judges refer to Mosiah 29. Helaman continues to write explaining how these kingmen were a threat to society:
And there were many in the church who believed in the flattering words of Amalickiah, therefore they dissented even from the church; and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi exceedingly precarious and dangerous, notwithstanding their great victory which they had had over the Lamanites [enemies to the people of Nephi (or Nephites), and their great rejoicings which they had had because of their deliverance by the hand of the Lord.
Now the Lamanites are the enemy, and in later chapters of the Book of Mormon those enemies become the Robbers of Gadianton (comparable to our modern day terrorists). Amalickiah had caused a division among the people of Nephi, and whenever there is a division among a people they are more prone to fail in the event of an adversarial attack. Moroni (captain of the Nephite armies--the good guys) now comes into play:
11 And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.
12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.
13 And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land—
Moroni used this "Title of Liberty" to stir up the hearts of the people to the cause of liberty so that they might "enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them."
28 And now it came to pass that when Moroni had said these words he went forth, and also sent forth in all the parts of the land where there were dissensions, and gathered together all the people who were desirous to maintain their liberty, to stand against Amalickiah and those who had dissented, who were called Amalickiahites.
29 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than the Amalickiahites—and he also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken—therefore, fearing that he should not gain the point, he took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi.
And here is where everything starts tying together. We see that the King Men (particularly Amalickiah) caused a division among the people so that they were less prepared for an assault by the Lamanites. Similarly today, the Liberals want us to pull out of Iraq and put us in danger of being attacked by terrorists. The cause of those who are rooting for us to win the war in Iraq is not much different from the "Title of Liberty." By helping to establish peace in Iraq, we are also showing Iran what we are able to do and will do to ensure that peace and safety are established in this world. Regardless of any mistakes made in the past, this is the way to succeed in the future.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Liberalism and King Men-ism I

I read a very good article the other day by Orson Scott Card. I asked some friends and family for their opinons on it, because I wasn't sure how true his opinion actually was with regards to the war in Iraq. My father-in-law drew a very good comparison to the wars being fought in the Book of Mormon, and you'll see this comparison as you continue to read. Mr. Card starts off his article saying:

"History does repeat itself. Never exactly -- there are always enough differences in the details that people who are determined not to learn anything from the past can find an excuse.

"But history shows patterns precisely because human beings don't change."

He then discusses many of the mistakes made by Great Britain (and the rest of Europe) with respect the rise of Nazi Germany and the start of World War II. He even goes further to explain the flaws of Winston Churchill, and talks about some of the real heroes of Great Britain. Orson Card does all this to bring us to what he feels are seven lessons we must learn from history:
  1. When the press has decided to report only one side of the story, the public is ill served.

  2. If you do not believe the threats of an insane enemy and destroy their war capacity early, when it can be cheaply done, you will pay for it in blood and horror.

  3. Only fools believe that an enemy cannot do what he threatens to do.

  4. Only fools allow their best allies to be neutralized before the war begins.

  5. Remember the big picture. However much you might want to achieve a short-term goal, you cannot let yourself be distracted from the primary objectives of the primary struggle.

  6. Everybody makes horrible mistakes; the side that learns from its mistakes and relentlessly moves forward is the one that will win.

  7. Without leadership, the cause of democracy cannot be won.

Mr. Card then discusses the mistakes that have been made in pursuing this war in Iraq, and they are not few, nor insignificant. But we cannot revel in the fact that mistakes were made, we have to move forward in the best way possible right now. The past is past, and we just need to learn from it and move on. In short, with regards to the war in Iraq, the steps we need to take now are:

1. Withdrawing from Iraq is not an option. Not to save face, not to save our honor (though those are actually not trivial goals), but because if we do not have our troops all over Iraq, we will not be in a position to deal with the main threat, which is and always has been Iran.

2. There is no way, by bombing alone, to neutralize Iran's nuclear threat. After all the lessons of air-war history, it is astonishing to me that anyone still believes that air power alone can ever be decisive against a determined enemy.

3. Since, like Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and 1864, President Bush has no reason to believe that his successor will pursue the war to victory, he has no choice, for the good of America and the world, but to defeat Iran before he leaves office. Time is running short, and I see no sign that he recognizes this.

If we elect appeasers in 2008, we deserve what will happen to us.

But do our children deserve to inherit that hideous world?

Fanatical Islam is not a religion. It is the lust for power and control over other people. It is a destructive, evil force that will sweep away all that is good and fine in this world.

And right now, if we only have the courage and will, we -- and only we -- can save the world from that dire future.

So the question remains: Are we too stupid to learn from history? Must we, on the verge of victory, turn our future over to the fools and appeasers?

That's what the polls are saying right now. Those polls will change. But, as with England in 1939, the polls will change too late. Without leadership, the people do not see the danger in time.

Americans just want to be left alone. Our enemies are determined not to leave us alone. But our media, our intellectuals, and the Democratic Party are trying to soothe us and assure us that we don't actually have to fight anybody. We can win just by sitting still and ... being America.

America didn't get to be America by sitting still."

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Security Tip: Personal Info Online

Two Sundays ago, Sherrie and I attended a fireside with Ken Thevenin (Director of LDS Family Services in Houston) who talked about ways to protect our families from abduction, abuse, internet and other technology misuse. He gave out two handouts on preventing abduction and abuse, please email me if you would like a copy of these handouts. I thought I'd talk a little bit about the internet security he talked about.

We need to be very careful with regards to what we put online (blogs, picture albums, etc.). Our family and friends aren't the only ones with access to these pages. We should probably look into limiting the viewing of our pictures to those who want to be updated on them (we can create an email list and send out album updates whenever we have new pictures.)

As far as blogs go, you can choose to make them public or limit them to only select people, it all depends on who you care about reading your blog.

I don't mean to scare anybody, I just think it's good that we're aware that there are bad people out there that can do bad things with the information we "give" them.

Other items to be cautious about disclosing:-location/address of either home or vacation-full names. This is especially important with regards to Facebook or MySpace accounts. These social networking sites are havens for sexual predators, and unless you want them to find you, I'd make extra careful you don't put any personal identification information on their, or contact people you don't know. If you don't believe me, start paying closer attention to the news.

Eventually (once we've got enough of us interested in doing more with our website) we could eventually move to a better type of website where we could have a password logon. Let me know what your thought or concerns are.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Security Tip: Backups

Security concepts in general are grossly overlooked by the majority of the population, but I would say one of the most common grievances are caused by infrequent or no backup of digital data.

We all have important documents we don't want to lose (whether in hard copy or digital format). It would probably be advisable to have all hard copy documents (i.e., Birth Certificates, Marriage Licenses, credit cards, etc.) in a digital format saved in a secured, encrypted format. Other items you may want to have a backup copy of are:
  • Music (CDs)
  • Movies (DVDs)
  • Pictures
  • Journals (I keep my journal online so that I can make backups of it)
The next question is to determine how and where you are going to back up your data. It is highly advisable that you store your digital data somewhere else (physically) in addition to your personal computer. If it's stored on an external hard drive in your house with another copy on your family computer and your house burns down, you're out of luck. Some places charge a reasonable price to securely store any data you want (particulary web hosting companies if you have your own website). The next best thing would be to set up a file server somewhere where members of your family can upload their important documents, or you could put those docs on a reliable medium and ask family member's to store it for you.

Once you've established how and what you will be backing up, you need to set up a schedule and STICK WITH IT. Full backups of a computer can take a long time, so you may only want to do those every once in a while, and inbetween do only incremental backups (maybe only back up your My Documents folder).

Currently this is what I have backed up:
  • Music: I condensed all of my music into mp3's so that I could have a more portable version of all my music; it's also all on an mp3 player and on an external hard drive...this maybe overkill, but I have a lot of music, and redundancy is the only protection, especially since it's all stored in one location (I'm working on a solution for that).

  • Movies: this is trickier, as movies take up tons of space, I can only think of making one-to-one DVD backups (and this can only be done on those that aren't protected)

  • Pictures and important docs: stored on an external hard drive,on a file server in a remote location, and on one of Google's servers (Picasaweb).

  • Journal is also on my computer, and a google doc so I can access it anywhere I go.
I try to have a regular full backup at least once a month, but I don't usually do that much to my computer, and the most important things I have are in a single folder, so I might as well just make sure I constantly copy that folder to a secure location.

Redundancy is also a security risk, make sure you have sensitive data encrypted or protected in some way.

Questions to comment on:
  1. What other things would you suggest making backups of?

  2. What suggestions do you have for backing up DVDs (assuming that it is legal)?

  3. Any methods of backing up data that have worked best for you?

Leaders versus Managers

One of my managers just started a blog and posed the question: "Management versus Leadership, what's the difference?"

A quote from a graduation commencement given by Hugh W. Nibley in the 80's came to mind when I read this topic. He states,
"Leaders are movers and shakers, original, inventive, unpredictable, imaginative, full of surprises that discomfit the enemy in war and the main office in peace. For the managers are safe, conservative, predictable, conforming organization men and team players, dedicated to the establishment."
This statement puts the two positions on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I do believe that we need both types, and that a mix of these qualities are necessary. It can be quite easy to slip into solely managing and forgetting to lead. Leaders historically are those who rally for the rights of the people, who fight for equality. Managers are those who seek for power, perks, and promotion.

George Washington was a God-sent leader for the independence our country. After the revolutionary war, the people naturally wanted him to become the leader of the country. He did not seek after this position, but humbly accepted it, and only for a time. He could have gone on as President for more than two terms, but he recognized the dangers of creating a position of power that was not restrained by time and would have given fewer people the opportunity to lead.

In the end I think that leaders need managerial skills; but if that leadership turns into a desire to be over other people for the sake of holding a higher position, something needs to change.

(For the full text of Bro. Nibley's talk visit here.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Security Tip: Eliminate Debit Card Use

The problem with debit cards is that they are a direct connection to your personal bank account. If somebody compromises that card, whether it is protected or not, you lose that money for a period of time. "Your loss is limited to $50 if you notify the [bank] within two business days after learning of loss or theft of your card or code.

"But you could lose as much as $500" if you don't do it within the 2 days. If you don't notice it within 60 days you can be accountable for all the money in your account plus your maximum overdraft line of credit.

When you use your debit card you have to enter a 4 digit PIN to complete the transaction. Anybody can see you enter your PIN! There are devices people can wear as a necklace or in their pocket that can duplicate the data on your debit card and then they only have to wait to watch you enter your PIN and they have direct access to your bank account.

Especially do not ever use a debit/credit card to pay for something where it leaves your sight (e.g., a restaurant). Using your debit card or even credit card at a restaurant allows the waiter/ess to do anything they want with the card behind your back and then watch you enter your PIN. Granted there are stricter laws protecting you from credit card fraud, and it isn't a direct link to your bank account, you still have to prove that the transaction was fraudulent, try to get the company to credit your account and then still have to pay $50.

Pay in CASH! Unless you don't mind assuming the risk.

Here's a little advice concerning online purchases. I would seriously consider using Virtual Credit Card Numbers. If your card company doesn't offer this service, another option is to only make purchases online with one card that has a low credit balance (e.g., $500). That way the amount of money you can lose is not too high.

Hopefully next time you will think twice before using plastic!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oneness in Marriage

Sherrie planned an excellent Family Home Evening last night. She focused it on the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 29 that says
47 Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;

48 For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers.

The part she emphasized is the second verse, "great things may be required at the hand of their fathers." Because little children cannot be tempted (until they're accountable) Satan is going to aim his efforts at the parents. It is so important that parents with children, under the age of 8 particularly, try extra hard to avoid temptation and to teach their children the gospel.

We went through the Family Home Evening lesson manual in the sections on Oneness in Marriage and Avoiding Conflicts in Marriage. As we went through these sections I remembered a bit of counsel Bro. Millet gives in his book Men of Valor. He said that he only has two pieces of advice to offer married couples (both newly-weds and oldly-weds)

  1. Choose to not take offense
  2. Always assume the best

These options exhibit humility and faith in your companion. These traits will allow you to have the Spirit with you and the guidance you need to improve your marriage in order to teach your children righteous principles. It's definitely not easy, but it is true.

We talked a little about what happens when both husband and wife have differing opinions regarding certain aspects of the gospel (e.g., Sunday activities, entertainment choices, etc.). We both had experiences in the mission field where we had companions who weren't willing to obey mission rules 100%. In those types of situations you can either choose to be the righteous one and condemn your companion or you can choose to achieve that oneness. Sometimes achieving oneness requires us to not be 100% obedient. This is a very sensitive topic (I'd like your feedback), you shouldn't compromise your values so that you do something you know is wrong (R-rated movies, shopping on Sunday, gambling, etc.). An example from my mission: my companion like to listen to Andrea Bocelli and other similar artists while we were at home. I didn't think it was appropriate and I chose to tell him, and so he put on headphones (something that shouldn't be done, but it was the other option). I think I would have been fine listening to the music he had, it was inspirational and it wouldn't have compromised our teaching ability, whereas what I had done could have created a riff in our oneness.

I guess it's such a sensitive issue it should be taken up with you and the Lord. If you feel something isn't right in your marriage, pray for guidance to achieve that oneness so that you can fully teach your little ones the gospel, so that the Lord work "great things" through you.

For a continued discussion go to Sherrie's blog.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Security Tip: Password Strength

I thought a little advice on creating passwords would be good. The statistics are incredible on how much a few extra characters can strengthen your password.

If your password is either all upper or lower case with no numbers or symbols and only 5 characters long it can be cracked instantaneously. If it's 8 characters it will take 35 minutes.

If you mix upper and lower case, a 5 character password can be cracked in under a minute. An 8 character password will take 6 days to crack.

Upper and lower case plus numbers
-5 characters - 9 seconds
-8 characters - 25 days

Upper and lower case alphabet and common symbols <>!@#$%^&* (no numbers)
-8 characters - 346 days

Throw numbers in there and it will take over two years!

(Data collected from here.)

But if you would rather keep your password simpler, you just have to change it more often and not let anyone have the time to be able to guess your password.

Sometimes if they're too complex they can be hard to remember, but here are some ideas on how to make your password more secure and easy to remember:
  • Throw in numbers or symbols that look like letters:
    P()tt3r&5nap3 (Potter & Snape)
  • Intersperse familiar numbers (an old address) in another word:
    E1a2s3y4St. (1234 Easy St.)
  • Use the first letter from each word from a favorite song, poem, or scripture:
    IHt8IaHt8IaIa (I'm Henry the 8th I am, Henry the 8 I am I am)

The top ten passwords used are:

  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. qwerty
  4. abc123
  5. letmein
  6. monkey
  7. myspace1
  8. password1
  9. link182
  10. (your first name)

If yours is on this list you might consider changing it immediately.

Instead of having one password for everything you use, consider having one password for your more sensitive information, a more simpler one for things not so sensitive, and an easy one for things that aren't sensitive.

Please comment if you have any methods for creating passwords that could help us simplify our lives without compromising our security.