Friday, December 17, 2010

Investment Strategy of Yukon Cornelius

I've recently been introduced to the concept of investing in precious metals (primarily gold and silver).  I've heard about it in the past, but never considered it seriously.  The two opposing arguments I've heard are

  1. Gold has historically been close to $300-$400 and is now at close to $1400.  There's no way that the cost to produce the gold has gone up, so the disparity here represents a bubble that cannot continue to expand.  So, if you were to invest in gold, now is not the time.
  2. Why is the price of gold so high?  With the government having printed so much money (and very likely to continue this practice), no other countries (e.g., China) want to own American dollars, and may even change the monetary standard ($) for buying oil, we are heading toward hyper-inflation which means that even though the price of gold is so high now, it's nothing in comparison to what it will be if our monetary system collapses.
When introduced to something new like this, I tend to gravitate to the side opposite of what my initial views were.  In this instance, I didn't put much stock in investing in precious metals at first, and so when I was shown some of the main arguments for it, I jumped ship and was a proponent for it.  Since then I've asked a lot of questions and have been able to make a more sound judgement as to what I think I need to do.  Any further arguments for or against this?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Bear

Another scouting favorite:

The other day,
(The other day)
I met a bear,
(I met a bear)
Away up there,
(Away up there)
A great big bear!
(A great big bear!)

The other day I met a bear,
A great big bear a way up there!

He looked at me
(He looked at me)
I looked at him
(I looked at him)
He sized up me
(He sized up me)
I sized up him
(I sized up him)

He looked at me, I looked at him,
He sized up me, I sized up him.

He said to me
(He said to me)
"Why don't you run?
("Why don't you run?)
I see you don't
(I see you don't)
Have an any gun"
(Have any gun")

He said to me, "Why don't you run?
I see you don't have any gun."

And so I ran
(And so I ran)
Away from there
(Away from there)
And right behind
(And right behind)
Me was that bear
(Me was that bear)

And so I ran away from there,
And right behind me was that bear.

Ahead of me
(Ahead of me)
I saw a tree
(I saw a tree)
A great big tree
(A great big tree)
Oh, golly gee!
(Oh, golly gee!)

Ahead of me there was a tree,
A great big tree, oh, golly gee!

The lowest branch
(The lowest branch)
Was ten feet up
(Was ten feet up)
I had to jump
(I had to jump)
And trust my luck
(And trust my luck)

The lowest branch was ten feet up,
I had to jump and trust my luck.

And so I jumped
(And so I jumped)
Into the air
(Into the air)
And missed that branch
(And missed that branch)
Away up there
(Away up there)

And so I jumped into the air,
And missed that branch away up there.

Now don't you fret
(Now don't you fret)
And don't you frown
(And don't you frown)
I caught that branch
(I caught that branch)
On the way back down
(On the way back down)

Now don't you fret and don't you frown,
I caught that branch on the way back down.

That's all there is
(That's all there is)
There is no more
(There is no more)
Until I meet
(Until I meet)
That bear once more
(That bear once more)

That's all there is, there is no more,
Until I meet that bear once more.

The end, the end
(The end, the end)
The end, the end
(The end, the end)
The end, the end
(The end, the end)
The end, the end!
(The end, the end!)

The end, the end, the end, the end,
This time it really is the end!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Music Review: Rod Stewart - The Great American Songbook V

This has to be a collection of some of my favorite standards (Black Magic, Beyond the Sea, Love Me or Leave Me, Sunny Side of the Street); though they're my favorites because of the singers I associate them with (Jane Monheit, Michael Buble, Louis Prima/Keely Smith, Frank Sinatra, Royal Crown Revue to name a few), none of which is Rod Stewart. I commend Rod Stewart for branching into this area of music, giving more people a chance to enjoy it, but his voice and arrangements don't work for me, on any of his Great American Songbook albums. If you really like Rod Stewart, you might like this. Check it out for free this week at AOL Music.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

State Capitals Pop Quiz!

Don't feel too bad, I got 60% right on the first go around. It took me 3 times to get 100%! (You can use the right arrow to display the answer and then the up arrow if you got it right, and the down arrow if you got it wrong - think thumbs up/down.)

US States and Capitial Cities flashcards from Gigglemonkey on FlashcardDB.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Arguments For Immigration

I stumbled upon a website, ldsliberty.com, that does a decent job discussing important political issues in light of the restored Gospel.  Some of their ideas are a bit radical, most are fundamentally libertarian (as far as I understand libertarianism), and I'm finding I'm agreeing more than disagreeing on a lot of issues.  Up until listening to their arguments against anti-immigration laws, I resolutely followed the conservative mindset that we need to ship all the "illegals" back and lock down our borders.  I think I'm starting to lean the opposite way now.  I'll present their arguments as best I can, but you may make more sense of it all if you listen to the 30 min. podcast.
  1. Borders exist for legal and sovereign purposes, the border between the US and Mexico should be as easy  and inviting to cross as the border between Utah and Nevada.  God is the sovereign of our country and it is ultimately he that has a say as to who stays and who doesn't (as evidenced with the Jaredites and Nephites).  When we take it upon us to eject people looking for a better life (you'll get criminals crossing either way you set the laws) we are acting more Nationalistic and less Christian.  This constitutional republic was established for the building up of Zion, not for the benefit of a limited group of people.
  2. What about immigrants coming over and stealing our jobs, working for lower rates than we would work? LDSLiberty.com said that this is the wrong question to be asked.  The fact that we label people who enter our country without the proper papers as "illegals" is the problem.  This label berates our brothers and sisters in other countries as lower class people, creating a type of class warfare.  We want productive people in this country, and the majority of those who cross come here to work.  Why put restrictions on businesses being able to hire whoever will work for them at a competitive rate?
  3. The immigrants are draining our resources, they're filling up our emergency rooms, overrunning our educational institutions, etc.!  Why not just encourage them to contribute more to society in order to take advantage of the benefits of living here?  Who's worse: those who enslave an uneducated people coming here for a better life or those actually put on the dole?  Isn't it more evil for us to be offering the dole in the first place?  Are we actually defending our socialistic programs in wanting to stop immigration?  Americans are as guilty or more guilty of living of the government dole.  Socialism seems to be the main reason we don't want immigrants here.
  4. Constitutional Article 4.4 states that we have the right to protect ourselves from invasion.  The only reason to consider immigrants invaders is that we label them as "illegals." 
  5. Helaman 6:8-9 Both the Nephites and Lamanites benefited from "free intercourse", they were able to enrich each others cultures/lives
  6. But they're trespassing!  Again, this is Nationalism, us vs. them.  We are just stewards over this land, it all really belongs to God.  Are we setting our country up as a light to the world by espousing Nationalism?  Patriotism is a good thing, Nationalism is a twisted offshoot of Patriotism and is wrong.
  7. But so many thousands/millions are entering each year!  Does the U.S. have a max # of people it can hold?  What would happen if we were to approach that "limit" on our own?  Would we have to put a cap on child bearing?
  8. Immigrants add to our economy too, they purchase products here, there is not a finite amount of resources.  The Lord declares that if we take care of the earth there will be "enough and to spare."
  9. Immigrants contribute to our culture and we contribute to theirs.  By pushing them out to the edge of society, labeling them "illegals", we force them to band together against us and retain their culture.  Our cultures could be enriched by theirs if we were more allowing of them.  Otherwise we create a culture of fear, separation, us vs. them.
  10. Some people in the church criticize the fact that the church does nothing to inquire about immigration status, and we'll even baptize them and accept them into our community.  This is particularly dangerous in that we are putting Nationalism above our Christianity.  The purpose of this life is to return to Heavenly Father, not defend a country that is temporary in nature.
Just to be clear, I don't support fully each of these ideas (at the time of this writing), I just found them interesting and very persuasive.  I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the topic.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Book Review: The Overton Window

    The Overton WindowThe Overton Window by Glenn Beck

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    A great read. A lot of it is historically accurate (events surrounding the current state of the US) and some of it is fictional, maybe even conspiratorial, but I found it very enlightening.

    Beck does a good job with the relationship between Molly and Noah, very believable. I was blown away by the power Beck puts behind the PR industry, I had no clue organizations like that existed.

    I listened to about 3/4 of the book on CD, and read the remainder. The audio book was narrated very well.

    View all my reviews here...

    As a side note, I'm not a Glenn Beck fanatic, but I do find myself agreeing with a lot of what he has to say. His Common Sense is very thought provoking, I'm in the process of finishing that now.  I'm finding it interesting how a lot of Libertarians (Ron Paul supporters) don't care fore Glenn Beck, though Beck tends to be leaning more their direction than that of a traditional conservative...

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Book Review: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

    The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1 by Alan Moore

    My rating: 1 of 5 stars

    I thought this book was rather dumb. Maybe I missed something, or maybe I need to read all the other volumes to like this one better, but that's not going to happen. The only person I was remotely familiar with was Henry Jekyll, all the other characters I had to look up to see who they really were. At least the movie had Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer in it, two more people I'm familiar with, but I don't remember it being that great either.

    Skip this one if you're looking for a good graphic novel to read.

    View all my reviews here...

    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Book Review: V for Vendetta

    V for Vendetta V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Much better than League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but not quite as good as Watchmen. I had a hard time following the leaders of the different organizations (Finger, Eyes, Nose, Mouth, and Head), the Scotsman was easy to follow because of his accent, but everyone else kept getting me confused. Being set in England also made it a little hard to relate with, but I think I got the gist of it and understood what V was trying to do.

    I read it rather quickly, so that probably added to my confusion, but despite it all, I liked the storyline. I'm really interested in watching the Wachowski brother's adaptation with Natalie Portman, and see what kind of American twist they put on it that Alan Moore didn't care for, but David Lloyd loved.

    View all my reviews here...

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Term Limits?

    I've been listening to Glenn Beck's Common Sense and he seems to be very adamant about limiting terms for everyone in government from Representatives and Senators to Judges.  He realizes that by doing this it would be a bit of a sacrifice to force good people out of office after a defined time period, but that would be nothing compared to the sacrifice of keeping imbeciles in office for long term.  Being a politician (i.e., Public Servant) shouldn't be a career.

    So, having said this, does it make sense to vote anyone out of office that's been in for longer than two terms (regardless of how good or bad they've been doing)?  I tend to think so, to get try to get the hint out that we don't want people making a career out of a government office (I also realize that I can't do this on my own, but that it would take convincing a heck of a lot of people considering that with a 15% approval rate Congress still manages to get 95% of it's reps re-elected).  I'm also beginning to see that there isn't a whole lot of difference between democrats and republicans in Washington, they all want to spend money we don't have.  Anyways, I would just like to hear some of your opinions.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Book Review: The Killing Joke

    Batman: The Killing Joke Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I may like this more down the road after thinking about it some more. If I were to have rated it right after I read it, it might have only received one star...but reading more opinions on it and understanding a little better the history surrounding it made me like it a little better.

    It's cool to see some of the aspects Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger used to create the Joker in The Dark Knight (including the Joker's mystery past, his desire to prove good people can go insane after a single bad day - like himself).

    The ending joke had me a bit perplexed. This was definitely a story about the Joker, but Batman should have had a bit of a stronger character. Maybe it's the fact that Moore made us see how close the Batman really is to the Joker that made me uncomfortable, but then again most enemies are pretty similar (love/hate, freedom/equality).

    The Joker's crippling and desecration of Barbara Gordon was rather disturbing and my main reason for initially not liking the book. But it was pointed out that the only reason he did it was to try to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. Not that that's a good reason to do what he did, but at least there's no reason to believe he raped her - which would have gone over the top for me.

    View all my reviews here...

    Friday, July 09, 2010

    Book Review: Superman For All Seasons

    Superman for All Seasons Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This is one of the best graphic novels I've read yet. It's much more uplifting than the Miller and Moore novels I've read. Granted Batman is meant to be more dark and gritty. This story deals with how Clark Kent came to terms with who he was and how he realized, that even as Superman he wasn't perfect, he couldn't do anything.

    If you have the desire to pick up a graphic novel to see what they have to offer, start here. I'll have to find out if this has a sequel.

    View all my reviews here...

    Wednesday, July 07, 2010

    Book Review: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

    The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Volume 1) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I really had no idea what to expect going into this graphic novel. My only experience with Neil Gaiman was watching Stardust (which I loved) and Coraline (which I hated).

    The beginning and end of the book were pretty cool. The story was intriguing, and I felt that it resolved well. Gaiman presented a pretty good message on power and the importance of understanding and being able to control that power, along with the destruction that occurs when power is misused.

    I think is depiction of Dee (Dr. Destiny) inciting all kinds of corruption was a bit too graphic and disturbing for me. I'm not familiar with his character in other comics, but I would have given this book a one of five if it hadn't resolved so well. Dee, one of the antagonists, is portrayed as extremely evil, but then all of a sudden he becomes so naive and harmless once he destroys the Dream's amulet. Is it possible that the naive can be so evil?

    I probably won't be reading the next 9 volumes any time soon, if ever.

    View all my reviews here...

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    The Civil War

    What caused the core issue behind the Civil War? (Please answer poll before reading on.)

    According to Loewen, 50% of Americans don't think that slavery was the real issue (25% for States rights, 12.5% for Economic issues, and 12.5% for Taxes and Tariffs).  Even the state of South Carolina has a monument at Fort Sumter claiming states rights as the issue.  The reason states rights keeps coming up was that the South was upset at all the free states not enforcing the slave articles in the Constitution.  That's what caused the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act (basically provided monetary incentives to judges to enslave all black people brought to court, free or not) and the result of the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision.

    Abraham Lincoln was most likely elected because the Northern and Southern Democrats split as a result of Stephen Douglas's (Democratic candidate for president) favoring the State's right to decide whether it was free or slave, instead of following the Missouri Compromise calling all states south of Missouri (including Missouri) slave states; the South wasn't very happy with this.

    And as far as Economic Issues and Taxes or Tariffs, those are the minority of people and I don't think much needs to be contended there.

    I thought that it was rather obvious that Slavery was the issue.
    ------
    Update:

    A few evidences that States Rights is not the true issue:
    • "Shortly before the war, in 1861, Jefferson Davis defended secession as an act of self-defense against the incoming Lincoln administration, whose policies of excluding slavery from the territories would 'make property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless, thereby annihilating, in effect, property worth thousands of millions of dollars.'
    • "Well after the war, in 1881, Davis changes tack and says, "The South fought solely for the inalienable right of a people to change their government, to withdraw from a Union into which they had entered and into which they had as sovereign communities voluntarily entered.  The existence of African servitude was in no ways the cause of the conflict but only an incident.'"
    So, one of these two statements is a lie.  Alexander Stephens (vice president of the Confederacy) made similar contradicting statements.  The fact that the South redefined what secession had been for is one of the ways in which Loewen says that the white neo-Confederate South came to "win" the war in 1890.  He referred to the reason for this change as a "lost cause resolution" (or something like that).  It was embarrassing to state that you fought for a lost cause (slavery) after the war, it sounded much better to say you were fighting for states' rights - a cause that couldn't be considered lost.

    The other two ways are that it renamed the war to "The War Between the States" (which lasted from 1890 to 1970) and that they won it on the ground ("In county after county, even in the North, Confederate monuments sprang up."  For example in Kentucky, a state that did not secede, you'll find 74 Civil war monuments, 72 of which honor the Confederacy!  "The effect of a Confederate landscape makes it easier to have a Confederate mind and heart.)

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    More Facts and Fiction in American History

    I agree the term "Lies" might be a little harsh in considering what is true and untrue in history.  But I think these untruths could very well be considered lies if they've been circulating for numerous years, decades, and centuries and there are facts disproving these myths and not very many people actually taking the time to verify what's being taught.  The Lamanites were living a lie that there fathers had told them that the Nephites usurped there power and stole there records.  I'm sure many of the Lamanites thought that was the truth and were possibly good, honest people; yet if they did not search for the truth and receive it like Lamoni and his people did, they were a part of the lie.

    Here are a few more interesting items I've picked up in the course I'm taking.

    Just so you don't think the Pilgrims are all that bad, they did actually meet for 3 days with the Indians and shared food and games with each other, which is what we commemorate at Thanksgiving.

    The Dutch did not purchase Manhattan Island for $24 worth of beads (though I was never taught this in grade school, apparently it is a pretty common story).  Back then that much money was probably closer to $2400 worth of our money (they don't seem to take inflation in to consideration when telling the story...it makes the white man look good and the Indians stupid; especially when they show this mostly naked primitive Indian in a statue with a fully clothed Dutchman in Manhattan).  Who, in their right minds, would sell there lands and home for a measly $24 worth of beads?  The most likely story was that the Canarsie Indians (sp?) sold the island (which belonged to the Wakyskik - sp? - Indians who were there enemies) to the Dutch and most likely received payment in tools and items made of steel.  Even if the first story has some truth in it, it should probably be discussed that it isn't the only possibility.

    The land in the Louisiana purchase was not France's to give, we basically bought the right to keep other Europeans off of it for $15 million.  We ended up paying well over $50 million for it and lots of blood to the Indians over the following years to actually claim that land as our own.

    The last time that the President actually consulted Congress about going to war was in WWII.  Since then we've been involved in multiple wars in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Iraq x2, etc., and the President has never gone through the process outlined in the Constitution by consulting Congress.

    The 10th amendment granting all rights not outlined in the Constitution to States and the people is widely overridden today.  States cannot perform any sociological experiments to determine what is best for the people of their state, they are compelled to follow what the federal government says.  States should be able to determine how to best educate its citizens (impeded by No Child Left Behind and other restrictions), should be able to determine the minimum drinking age, should be able to determine safest speeding limit on highways, etc., etc.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    A Rude Awakening: Shedding some light on "History"

    I'm ashamed to admit that until recently (maybe the last 5+ years) I've really come to the reality that history is not what we think it was.  I think I really thought that what the history books say has to be true, especially if they're textbooks meant to educate young Americans in public schools.  I picked up an audio course by a professor at the University of Vermont called, "Rethinking Our Past: Recognizing Facts, Fictions, and Lies" taught by James W. Loewen (author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong).  Loewen goes through American history and speaks to a lot of these untruths that are commonly believed and seems to have pretty strong evidence and even goes as far to discuss why these lies became popular belief, what was in it for those who created the fiction.

    History is nothing but our take on what we believe happened based on fragments of evidence we've come across.  Some of that evidence is pretty strong in some cases, but we can't know for sure if we didn't live and weren't actively involved in that piece of history.  Take for example Columbus.  We're taught that a lot of the people around that time believed that the earth was flat and that they might sail off the edge!  That belief didn't come around until 300+ years after Columbus and was first introduced in a fantasy book by Washington Irving (the guy who wrote the Legend of Sleepy Hollow) - The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.  Somehow people liked what he wrote and believed it (the book was a fictional biography of Christopher Columbus). One thing Loewen obviously doesn't address is the fact that Columbus was led to Americas by God for the purpose of establishing these continents again.  1492 was of no real significance because others had landed across the sea as well, it was his voyage in 1493 when he took over the island of Hispanola and the whole Columbian Exchange began that was probably the Lord's purpose in bringing him here.

    Loewen next discusses our beliefs surrounding Thanksgiving. With regards to the "Pilgrims," they weren't even called Pilgrims until after Pres. Lincoln instituted Thanksgiving as a Holiday and they only received that name to make their voyage sound much more pleasing to our ears.  They left from Holland (where they already enjoyed religious freedom), and their main goal was to reach Virginia to share in the economic wealth that they heard about existed, they just missed and ended up somewhere else (Plymouth Rock isn't where they landed either.)  I'm only a few minutes into this lecture, so I'm sure I will have more to share later.

    Obviously my telling you this information isn't going to change what you believe, some of you will want facts and proof.  If you care enough about knowing you'll find out for yourself, in the mean time I'll keep sharing.

    Friday, June 04, 2010

    The enemy of Freedom is....

    I used to think that enemies were naturally opposites.  But as I become more observant, I realize that that is rarely the case (I can't think of any off the top of my head).  Batman and the Joker are enemies, but aren't they almost mirror images of each other?  Both going off the deep end because of one very bad day and making a life's career based on that day? (This is a bit simplified given the ambiguity of the Joker's actual past.)  Love and hate are really just strong passions for a certain cause, object, or person.  Superman and Batman are probably more likely opposites, apathy is the opposite of love, and today I just read in a book by Will and Ariel Durant (The Lessons of History) that Equality is the enemy to Freedom.

    "Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias.  For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.  Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire.  To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917.  Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way."

    I've always thought of equality and freedom as almost one in the same, which, given the examples above they are rightfully very similar, if enemies.  Not a lot of people realize this when they want freedom to marry anyone they want because they think that homosexuals and heterosexuals should be equal.  Is it possible to think of the two like this?  Can you logically want freedom to do one thing, while demanding equality at the same time?  It seems like people want to make what ever choice they want and have control over the consequences...this sounds like a violation of the law of agency. 

    Consequences are natural and eternal, we cannot control them.  Equality can only exist when we freely choose to know and follow God's will.

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Book Review: Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

    Digital Fortress Digital Fortress by Dan Brown


    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is the first Dan Brown book I've read, and it sure won't be the last. I'd be curious to hear how any non-computer savvy people would get into this. The story itself isn't complex, but there is a lot of tech jargon thrown in, and I feel it was adequately explained.

    Some of the puzzles presented were a little weak and easy to figure out (e.g., "prime difference" was a total give away), though I wasn't actually there with all the explosions and meltdowns and under pressure to keep the world from accessing the governments most top secret data, so I guess I could see how that might be hard to realize in such a moment. Either way it was a fun read.

    There was quite a bit of language and some sexual encounters throughout the book. The language seemed to be appropriate for the situations it occurred in, though some of the sex dialog (particularly between Midge and Chad) could have easily been cut without damaging the story.

    I have a hard time with these books because I can't ever put them down. The first third of the book was manageable, but it just seemed to snowball after that. The story pretty much takes place over the course of a single day (which adds to the suspense); Angels and Demons (at least the movie) took place over one day too, which added to the suspense. Is this how most of Dan Brown's books are structured?

    View all my reviews here.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Book Review: Batman: Year One

    Batman: Year One Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I liked Year One better than the Dark Knight Returns, maybe because this was more about the start of his career (though quite a bit on Gordon as well) and not about how old and weak he's become. I've got to figure out what follows this (if anything), or at least figure out a good way to fill in the middle, now that I've got at least one version of the beginning and the end.

    The Watchmen is still my favorite of the few that I have read, but this one comes pretty close. The Watchmen was also 3 times as long, so had more of a filled-out story-line; but also self-contained. Batman has tons more background and story, it's just a matter of figuring out how to get to it all through the library...

    Are all comics eventually put into some form of graphic novel? Or are they more like self contained episodes, kind of like a TV show, whereas a graphic novel is more like a mini-series?

    View all my reviews here...

    Monday, April 05, 2010

    Biggest Loser!

    Well, I joined a biggest loser competition with some friends in our ward and we each pitched in $10 for the person who would lose the greatest percentage of body weight by the end of 12 weeks.  I held first place for a few weeks, but haven't been able to pull out of second place for the last couple of weeks.  Here's the progress I've made so far:


    I averaged losing 1.17 lbs. per week.  I feel pretty good about myself and am excited to switch back to eating a normal lunch (instead of a slim-fast or special K meal bar, though I do like the idea of quick meals.)   I plan to keep up my exercise routine (3-5 times to the gym), but maybe focus a little more on muscle building/toning than fat burning.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Is Obama Really the Devil's Associate?

    Many conservatives seem to think so, and that really bugs me.  I sometimes even find myself trying to figure out if there are some legitimate reasons to their thinking and that President Obama really is purposely trying undermine the great United States of America and impose his socialist agenda on us.  I was rescued from this thought by a very good man in our ward at church. 

    In a recent welfare meeting we were discussing the topic of our upcoming Ward Conference, which is using the Book of Mormon to recognize evil and combat it.  This good man stated that there are plenty of liars in our day that match some of the famous ones from the Book of Mormon (e.g., Korihor, Sherem, Amalickiah, etc.), and then he said something that caught me off guard, though probably not some of the others in the room.  This man clarified that he was not referring to President Obama, and then gave his opinion that he thinks that Pres. Obama really is doing what he thinks is best for America and just doesn't realize that by trying to give everything to everyone he is not allowing us to use our God-given agency to make decisions on our own and reap the consequences of those decisions (whether good or bad) as part of our learning experience here on earth.

    Sometimes it's too easy for us to jump on the bandwagon that points to everything that everyone is doing wrong instead of genuinely looking at the person and realizing that they could be genuinely trying to do their best.  I'm reminded of a quote by Robert Millet in the book Men of Valor.  In it he says that we should (primarily in marriage, but this works for other relationships too),
    1. Always assume the best
    2. Don't get offended
    If we follow this counsel we will be happier people because we will relinquish the hate that is easily stirred up by the media and other sources.  This doesn't mean that we should avoid recognizing evil, just that we should not be so quick to label people as evil.

    Just like the man in my ward, I may not support some of the things that have gone on in D.C., but I don't condemn the people behind the policies being passed.  As long as we make our voices heard by voting and being actively engaged in current events, we can expect the Lord to help influence our leaders.  There's no guarantee that they'll listen, but we can't let that diminish our faith in God.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World

    The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World The 5,000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World by W. Cleon Skousen


    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time. I finished it in less than a month, and most non-fictions I have a hard time ever getting through them (the few exceptions being The Return of the Prodigal Son and 1776, but even they took months to finish.)

    Skousen does an amazing job breaking down what makes America the "miracle that changed the world." In 200 years America progressed more than the world had previously over the last 500 years. Skousen picks 28 foundations of freedom that he believes helped us make such astounding progress. He does so by having studied a lot of the resources the Founders would have had as resources for framing the Constitution and the Government it establishes (including Locke, the Bible, Montesqieu, Adam Smith, and others)

    He starts off with an analysis of what freedom actually is, and that the left-right political spectrum isn't the one we should be going by (it's not much of a spectrum); the real spectrum is tyranny-anarchy with the ideal spot being right smack-dab in the middle.

    Towards the end of the book I felt he had lost a little of his, unbiased approach; and to be honest a lot of what he talks about (getting back to basics) sounds very close to what Ron Paul's platform was going into the 2008 elections (though I'm not terribly familiar with it, Skousen discusses the idea of separatism and foreign policy, monetary policy, etc.)

    I'd recommend this to anyone who would like to be refreshed on the principles our nation was founded on.

    View all my reviews here.

    Monday, February 08, 2010

    Is the 17th Amendment unconstitutional?

    In Skousen's The 5,000-Year Leap, he makes an interesting point on the importance of the balance between Federal Government and States.
    The federal government was supreme in all matters relating to its responsibility, but it was specifically restricted from invading the independence and sovereign authority reserved to the States.  The Founders felt that unless this principle of dual sovereignty was carefully perpetuated, the healthy independence of each would deteriorate and eventually one or the other would become totally dominant.
    Alexander Hamilton further explained,
    This balance between the national and state governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance.  It forms a double security to the people.  If one encroaches on their rights, they will find a powerful protection in the other.  Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits, by certain rivalship which will ever subsist between them. (Essays on Freedom and Power).
    Skousen then asks an important question,
    But would the states be able to protect themselves from the might of the federal government if the Congress began legislating against states' rights?  Originally, the states could protect themselves because U.S. Senators were appointed by the state legislatures, and the Senate could veto any legislation by the House of Representatives which they considered a threat to the rights of the individual states.
    Well, the 17th amendment pretty much abolished this right of the states.
    That amendment provided that Senators would thenceforth be elected by popular ballot rather than appointed by the state legislatures.  This meant the states as sovereign commonwealths had lost their representation on the federal level, and their Senators would be subject to the same popular pressures during an election campaign as those which confront the members of the House of Representatives. (Ibid., Skousen)
    I haven't done any research on the circumstances surrounding the ratification of the 17th amendment, but I'd be interested to find out the justifications for taking away this right of the States.  I've often wondered what is the real difference between a Senator and a Representative.  One has a longer term than the other, there's only two of one and the other is proportionate to the states population relative to other states.  It makes a lot more sense the way it was originally defined in the Constitution.

    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Law Should Be Understandable and Stable

    In the Federalist Papers, No. 62, James Madison states,
    "It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known and less fixed?"
    I don't think Mr. Madison would be very pleased with our government today, particularly with this 2000+ page Health Reform plan that keeps getting shot back and forth between the two houses of congress with earmarks added here and pork there. Our government should not be this obfuscated.

    Maybe this is how a lot of laws are, and for some reason the health bill got to be a little more transparent than others.  I don't believe it is alone on the docket.  If a bill has to be so complex and enumerated, I have a feeling that it probably is beyond the capability of our federal government to do anything about it.  The federal government is to provide for the general welfare of the U.S., and this is getting a little too specific; something that should be a concern of the states at most.

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010

    Stargirl

    Stargirl Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I probably would have given this 4 stars had it ended the way I would have liked it to end. I thought this was a great story on getting outside of yourself and learning to not let other people determine who you are going to be or who you want to be. You need to have courage and love to put other people before yourself.

    [Spoiler Alert:]

    I think that the ending was a little unfair to Leo. He was actually the one who gave Stargirl a chance to begin with, and even endured the shunning with her (though not for long). I agree he was weak to begin with and probably didn't deserve to be with Stargirl. The unfairness comes in when the whole school (minus Hillari and her boyfriend) ends up forgiving her at the Ocotillo dance. Leo had somewhat befriended her when hardly anyone else would have, and he's the one that's kind a hung out to dry at the end.

    Maybe Leo was more of the antagonist in that he's the one who let Stargirl down the most. He couldn't accept her for who she really was. The school couldn't either, but they eventually did. I think Leo may have actually been a little mentally handicapped, to be so dense. Or maybe it's just because he's a guy, and guys are no good at picking up clues.

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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    How to Tie Your Shoes the Right Way

    I've been tying my shoes wrong for my entire life!  Just a few days of tying them correctly and they haven't come untied yet, a personal record!  Actually they normally don't come untied, but that's because I end up having to tie a double-knot.  This explanation makes it very clear how to tie a single knot (a reef knot) that will only get tighter as it sits on your shoe, not looser. The video from the site is here below, but check out the actual explanation if it's knot quite clear.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Original NES Games on Wii - Black Screen?



    I downloaded Double Dragon from the original NES for my Wii (I had 500 points to use, and it didn't occur to me to use them towards something a little more entertaining...to bad you can't sell them.)  All I could get was a black screen and sometimes some cool DD music. 

    It turns out that the old NES games were made to only be displayed on TV's with 200 lines, and my LCD has a bit more.  So in order to magnify the 200 lines to 400 I had to enter into the operations guide for the game (from the game hit the home button on the Wii remote, then select Operations Guide), connect a nun-chuck and then simultaneously hit "Z" + "A" + "2".  The Wii made it's "ding" sound, and the game showed up.  Supposedly the Wii should remember these settings for any type of game like this.  Oddly I didn't have this problem with Super Mario Bros. 3.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    2 Nephi 20 - Thoughts on God's governing strategy and America's


    2 Nephi 20 starts off by talking about neglecting the poor and made me think of today's society. The democrats seem to think that everyone needs to have the same "things." I got to thinking, why does God have a special group of people that he seems to favor and promise things to (the House of Israel) and destroy other nonbelievers once they've served their purpose in making the House of Israel suffer for their wickedness? The scriptures tell us that He is no respecter of persons. So I thought back to the beginning. God revealed his will to Adam who then had the responsibility to teach his family. He taught them, but some chose to not listen and as a result many generations have been lost in unbelief. God will not force us to listen to him. He will make sure that everyone has a chance to accept the gospel, but that doesn't mean they have to.

    Now this isn't anything new to me. However, the connection I drew to our government was what made me really think (along with reading in the 5000 Year Leap by Skousen). The Declaration of Independence states that, "all men are created equal." We know that we are not literally equal (not in "physical strength, mental capacity, emotional stability, inherited social status, in their opportunities for self-fulfillment, etc." [Skousen]), Skousen says we can really only be equal in three ways:
    1. Treated as equals in the sight of God
    2. Treated as equals in the sight of the law
    3. Treated as equals in the protection of their rights.
    Skousen elaborates on number three by saying,
    "The Founders distinguished between equal rights and other areas where equality is impossible. They recognized that society should seek to provide equal oppportunity but not expect equal results; provide equal freedom but not expect equal capacity; provide equal rights but not equal possessions; provide equal protection but not equal status; provide equal educational opportunities but not equal grades.

    "They knew that even if governmental compulsion were used to force its citizens to appear equal in material circumstances, they would immediately become unequal the instant their freedom was restored to them. As Alexander Hamilton said: 'Inequality would exist as long as liberty existed.... It would unavoidably result from that very liberty itself.'"