Monday, April 30, 2007

The Mormons

In Ward conference yesterday several references were made similar to this one. "You've probably heard a lot of things in the press lately about the church. And you're gonna hear a lot more. some of it will be true and a lot of it will not be." Besides the occasional reference to the church as a result of Mitt Romney's presidential bid I really hadn't heard much. It was later on in Priesthood meeting that I found out the source of the Stake's anguish. As it turns out PBS is airing a 4 hour special focusing on the LDS Church. The program is called simply The Mormons. From what I have seen on and from the trailer it looks like a very well done history and documentary on the LDS church.
As I've stated in other posts most of the histories that I've seen or read about the church fall into two main categories. First, the church produced, sanitized versions of history that completely remove all the warts and blemishes of the characters. The end result is a very two-dimensional representation of one side of the history. This is what I think the Stake is hoping the program to turn out to be.
Second, the anti-Mormon propaganda and histories that go out of their way to show nothing but the blemishes of the characters. These too simply create a bunch of two dimensional characters. They just paint them as demons with no redeeming qualities. This is what I think the Stake is afraid the program will turn out like.
Sure there are a few resources that show the truth as being somewhere in between, in the grey area where most real, multi-dimensional stories exist. Here's a review I wrote of one such book. I'm looking forward to watching this program tonight. I'd really like to see the history of the church treated with a scholarly approach yet also show how the church has evolved out of some of its earlier problems and into the source of faith and inspiration for millions around the globe. I'm not afraid of the warts on the church's history. I believe that we have removed most of them and are moving on. And the few that we still have will not go away if we just sweep the under the rug and refuse to admit the problem.
I'll follow up tomorrow and Wednesday and voice my opinions on the program.

In Atlanta the show is airing at 9:00pm to 11:00pm Monday and Tuesday night. If you miss it will have it on streaming video after the show airs.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Carl Sagan

In my teens I remember watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on PBS and I even went out and bought the companion book. I was amazed at this funny looking man with the turtle neck and corduroy jacket’s ability to teach. It wasn’t just his knowledge but there was something in the mannerisms and his voice that made him sound like a little kid that had just figured out something really cool. Carl’s enthusiasm for science was infectious. Just by listening to him talk and narrate his program it made me want to go out and try to discover something. Although he was deeply rooted in it he never lost the awe and reverence of the natural world.

As I’ve stated in the past, I have a tendency to read a book and if I like it I will read everything I can find by that author. I read Contact when I was in my early twenties but in the last six months I have been trying to read everything I can find by Carl Sagan. I have just finished reading The Demon Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark and Billions and Billions Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium.

To put it bluntly, The Demon Haunted World is Skepticism 101. Carl establishes how so many claims that purport to be science are actually not even close. Holding fast to Occam’s razor he shows how all of the so called paranormal experiences that litter Oprah, Montel and X-files can be better explained with much more rational, and scientific causes. Some have claimed that by attempting to find logical rational explanations Carl has taken a lot of the mystery out of the universe. I think he would disagree. By refusing to get side tracked on the little illusions created by our pattern seeking mind Carl’s strategies of detecting and avoiding boloney allow us to move forward and work on the truly awe inspiring questions that surround us.

Billions and Billions is without a doubt the most personal of Carl’s books. Literally on his deathbed suffering from a rare blood disease Carl seemed to be driven to get his last thought down onto paper. Chapter after chapter seemed to remind the read of just how fragile this pale blue speck we live on really is. He does get a little preachy about certain thing but I suppose I would too if I felt like no one had been listening to my advice for decades and now I was having to hand the torch to the next generation.

After his fourth bone marrow transplant Carl died before Billions and Billions could make it to the publisher. His wife Ann Druyan who helped Carl edit most of his books had to write the epilogue for this one. The last chapter and Ann’s epilogue had me in tears for the hour that it took me to read them.

I personally would like to thank Carl’s sister, Cari for the four donations of bone marrow that she gave to Carl in those last few years of his life. Without her gift these books would not have been possible. Carl’s doctor once commented to Ann Druyan that most bone marrow transplant patients can’t find the strength to even read a book while going through treatment. Carl wrote two.

I’m currently reading The Varieties of Scientific Experiences a Personal View of the Search for God. Unlike his other books, this is a compilation of essays and speeches that Carl gave while he was teaching. Ann Druyan compiled and edited them so we all could benefit, not just the few who happened to be in the Cornell lecture hall those day. I am enjoying it as well.

Friday, April 27, 2007


"If you smile at me I will understand. cuz that is something everyone in the world does in the same language."
-Crosby Stills and Nash-
Michael Taylor
AT&T Engineering

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, April 21, 2007


I found this quote after I had posted Thursday's post. I just wanted to add it considering the similar theme.
"Curiosity in children, is but an appetite for knowledge. ne great reason why children abandon themselves wholly to silly pursuits and trifle away their time insipidly is, because they find their curiosity balked, and their inquiries neglected."

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Noah loves to experiment. Typically his experiments involve letting the water run in the bathroom sink until mom or dad yells, "Hey what are you doing?" Today after school Noah and I were reading a Magic School Bus book about the senses. When we got to the section on taste Noah told me about how the tounge has different areas tha can taste different things. I remember seeing this diagram when I was in middle school. It didn't seem right to me so I decided to test it. I took a small pile of sugar and a small pile of salt. I would then lick my finger and put the salt on the different areas of my toungue. I could taste salt everywhere. Then I tried the sugar. Same result. I could tell it was sugar no matter where I put it.
This little experiment confused me. I felt like I had to have been doing something wrong since I wasn't getting the result my textbook said I should. It was over a decade later that I found out that the map of the toungue was a complete myth.
Today while reading the book with Noah also mentioned that he had seen the map of the toungue. I didn't want Noah to have to wait until he was in his 30s to find out that this was just bunk so we went and did the same little experiment. Noah was pleasantly suprised to see that he could tell the difference between salt and sugar on any part of his toungue.
It amazes me that so many people continue to claim this myth is fact without ever doing this simple test. I sure hope Noah keeps his inquisitive nature and keeps wanting to experiment and test what he's told.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mormon Cinema update

Several months ago I wrote a little essay/ vent about the current condition of Mormon Cinema. Please take a few minutes to read it if you haven’t already. Church Ball and the Death of Mormon Cinema

Well now it seems that the very director I was quoting as the only one with any vision at all for the genre’ has decided to leave the very genre’ that he essentially founded. Please read Richard Dutcher’s “parting words to Mormon Cinema."

If I were a more cynical man it would be easy for me to jump up on a soapbox and say, “See I told you so.” However I’m far too saddened by these events to do that. The truth is I was hoping that somebody would rescue the genre’ and prove my musings to be too pessimistic.

Dutcher phrased it much better than I could. However we both identified the root of the problem as film makers relying on LDS members to support the films simply because they were LDS films. As long as these film makers continue to rely on the charity of members for their support they are no better than the government funded artists who sell painters drop cloths as art and make million of dollars for something that blownotherwise would have gone to the garbage bin.

I will continue to hold out hope for the eventual survival of Mormon cinema. I‘m just not sure where to look now that its brightest candle has been extinguished by mediocrity and ambivalence.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Right by Accident.

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you do something right completely by accident? You know like deciding to take a different way home from work only to later hear on the radio that there was a bad accident along your normal route, that kind of stuff. Well I had two of those experience this week that I’d like to share.

Yesterday I was getting ready for a bike ride with the scouts on Saturday. I put new tire on my mountain bike. Since we’ll be riding on the road I was taking my "knobby" bike tires off and mounting road tires, or “slicks”. I was just finishing up and I saw a little marking on the tire that indicated the recommended rotation of the tires. Knobbies typically don’t have this since they are designed for dirt. However street tire are designed to push the water away from the middle of the tire. If I had installed these backwards they would actually impede the water from moving away from the tires. I had forgotten this little fact about slicks. So I braced myself for Murphy’s Law and was prepared to reverse both tires, or at least one of them. But Murphy must have been off and preparing for Friday the 13th. Against the 4 to 1 odds I had actually mounted both tires with the correct rotation. Woo Hoo!

Earlier this week Victoria had just returned from the dentist office. See her blog for a detailed account of our recent dental adventures. She was informing the family about this new “Top Secret” way to brush your teeth that she had been reading about in the lobby. The secret is to dry brush you teeth before you put any toothpaste on. This breaks the bonds of the plaque better than simply brushing with paste. Then when you come back with the paste it does a better job of removing all the nasty bits. I was really stunned when she told me this, because I always do this. I wasn’t intentionally doing it because I knew it was good for me. It‘s just a silly habit of mine. I have a tooth brush at work, one in my car and another in my laptop “man-purse”. Typically throughout the day I’ll just take a toothbrush out and dry brush my teeth just ‘cuz I don’t like that furry texture they get after a couple hours. I had no idea that I was a trend setter.

So with this in mind I’m going to make a prediction and see if I can go three for three this week. I’m going to take the 8-track player out of my ‘76v VW bus and install it in my 2003’ Toyota Tundra. I think 8-track technology is going to come back in full swing for the rest of the 21st Century. That may be pushing my luck. Just a little…

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

Every now and then I find something on television that is very profound. Very rarely does this wisdom come in the form of a commercial. However, there is one commercial that I have seen a few times that is very uplifting and moving. Far too much of the news is focused on the negative aspects of our society. Liberty Mutual has been airing a commercial that has people just helping each other throughout what appears to be a rainy day in a busy downtown area.
Take a minute and watch this link: Liberty Mutual Commercial
This 60 second work of art reminds me of the bumper sticker, “Commit Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty”.
I like the very last deed where the whole cycle comes full circle. Buddhists would call this "karma". No matter what your theology decides to call it I believe that the principle taught in this short ad is something to which we should all aspire. I have a long way to go. However, thanks to the imagery of this ad these lessons will not be far from my mind.

“Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Day Off

We had a nice relaxing day today. I took the day off to spend with the family while they have it off for Spring Break. We went up to Chattanooga and went to the aquarium and then went down into Ruby Falls. The kids were very well behaved and just had a great time.

This photo reminded me of the following quote.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.

Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Okay I can bear it no longer. I’m breaking my self imposed hiatus on posting book reviews. In the past few weeks I’ve finished a few that I would like to share. Here is the first:

My review of E=mc2 A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis

Mr. Bodanis intentionally did not sit down to write a science book. There are countless books detailing the science and theory behind E=mc2. Instead, as the subtitle indicates he wanted this book to be a history of the equation. He did a very good job and unlike many science books on the equivalency of matter and energy at no time did the story get boring or hard to follow. Although a detailed explanation of the science was not his goal, in a few instances his analogies helped to bring the science down to a more understandable level. His explanation of how light can be both electricity and magnetism is the best I have ever heard and made it clearer to my why the speed of light will always be the same relative to the observer.

Bodanis takes the Equation on symbol at a time and explains the history of discovery and research behind each. A whole chapter is devoted to E, =, m, c, and 2. Then he details the many attempts to link the whole equation together. Beginning with E=mv2. then Ultimately to Einstein’s final form of the Equation.

Each chapter chronically the scientific advances by such figures as Newton, Leibnitz, Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet. His account of the incredible spirit and insight of Émilie du Châtelet has me now looking for a biography of her.

After the eventual discovery of the equation Bodanis details the development of the atomic bomb its eventual wartime use. He dedicates one chapter to the allied actions to make sure that the Germans did not develop the bomb first. Then complete with the politics and personal problems of Oppenheimer he details the bomb’s development in the Manhattan project.

Rather than leave the book on such a negative tone, Bodanis then explains the many astronomical revelations and breakthroughs that we have achieved thanks to E=mc2. Not only does this equation explain the processes going on in our sun but it also gives mathematical support for the existence of black holes and ultimately the processes that have created every element in the universe. No other equation in history has done as much to explain the inner workings of our universe.

I enjoyed this scientific romp through history. My oldest son is home-schooled and he loves history. He needs a little bit more focus on science in his studies. I would like him to read this book in hopes that it will bridge some gaps between his love of history and his understanding of science.

Monday, April 02, 2007


During a talk at the LDS general conference yeasterday one of the Genereal Authorities of the Church told a personal story of dealing with the loss of a loved one. The story reminded me very much of a personal story that I had posted on another site a few years ago. Below I have reposted that same entry so that readers of this blog will also have access to it.

"I’ve just finished reading book that was recommended to me by my father. I read it once in High School but it didn’t have much meaning to me then. Like a Bibllical parable the book took on a deeper, more personal meaning this time. Since High School I have gone to Japan on a mission for two years, gotten married, had four children and said “goodbye” to the man who taught me to love books in the first place.

The book in question was previously read by my father. I don’t just mean that we read the same book, I mean it literally. This copy was owned by him and he loaned it to me. For those of you who knew Rog’ you know exactly what that means. That’s right. It has highlighted passages on nearly every single page. So in reading this book I was not only able to learn about the story described but I was able to learn about my father. What parts he liked. What passages he thought were important.

Near the end of the book a main character has died and the author is dealing with the loss of this character, his son. Rog had underlined the following passage;

….before it could be asked “Where did he go?” it must be asked “what is the ‘he’ that is gone?”

He then goes on to explain that what he missed about his son was not the molecules that made up his body but the pattern that made up his soul. It is natural, he says, to cling to things that resemble his pattern but in actuality are far from who he really was.

For a couple days after Rog’ died I too felt this need to cling to his pattern. I didn’t want to go home. I stayed by his body as much as possible. I was looking for him in places that I knew he wasn’t anymore. It made me sad.

A few days later I realized that Rog’ had left us vast volumes of his pattern to cling to. His journals. His photographs. His book collection complete with highlights and footnotes. But more important than all of this is the mark of his pattern that he left on everyone he ever met. This last year it has been a considerable source of comfort to see the evidences of Rog’s “pattern” on my life and those that I love.

Rog used to tell a story about ripples in a pond. He said, “When you throw a stone into a pond it will create ripples in the water. These ripples extend outward slowly from the splash. Scientists have proven that even though those ripples grow smaller that they never quite disappear and they will extend out to infinity.”

I see ripples that Rog has left on everyone of our lives. It is my prayer that we will all learn from the ripples and patterns left by Rog and create our own ripples as well.

with apologies to Robert Pirsig"

Originally posted on