A Bad Week for Poetry


I’m not an expert on poetry or anything, but I do like poetry. I even took a poetry class in high school (that I’ve mostly forgotten). I just want it understood that I’m not a poetry-hater before I say what needs to be said.

About that poetry after Obama’s speech on Tuesday: it sucked.
Ok, I don’t really know if the poem itself sucked, because it was so boring that I have no idea what the heck the poem was even about. It might be a perfectly good and thought-provoking poem when read on paper. I don’t really know. Either the poem sucked, or the delivery sucked, but something definitely sucked.
Wouldn’t you be trying to get some kind of message across in a political poem? Well what good is your message if no one can stand listening to you read it? Did the author really need to give a two-second-long pause between every word of the poem? She should have just had Captain Kirk read it. At least his uncomfortably-long-pauses are spaced out enough to make it seem dramatic. Seriously, I couldn’t even pay attention to her long enough to hear a whole sentence, let alone to understand what the poem was about. If they really needed that poem to be read after Obama’s speech then they should have just typed it into a Speak & Spell and I think it’d be easier to understand.


Sorry about my last post. I’ve been informed that it doesn’t make any sense. I still like it, though, so I’m not changing it. Instead, I’ll just offer my apologies to anyone whose IQ was lowered because of reading it, and I’ll try to give you a serious related post to try and make up some of those lost brain cells.

I’m not very far into Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time”, but I have noticed something about the way he explains some of the more controversial scientific ideas (such as the big bang). He never insults or discredits religious ideas because of scientific discovery. He is especially courteous and careful about it, trying to be clear that science does not discredit religion, but just adds new understanding.

Take the following excerpt for instance. Hawking has just explained that we can observe that the universe is expanding. From that we know that the universe was once closer together than it is now, and from that we can deduce that there was once a time when the universe was “all at exactly the same place”. Now the big bang (when the universe started expanding from being all in exactly the same place) is often treated as being at odds with the idea of divine creation, but Hawking doesn’t explain it that way at all.

One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!

I’m very impressed that Hawking doesn’t try to say that the big bang discredits the creation, and even offers an explanation of how they can both be true.

One of the reasons that this is so thought-provoking to me is because I realize that the scientific community seems to be much more considerate of the religious community than we are of them. Hawking (himself an atheist) is very careful not to discredit the religious views of his readers, but it seems common to me that religious people are eager to discredit science as “just a theory” and to disbelieve the whole of scientific discovery rather than figure out how to reconcile their beliefs with the new knowledge that mankind is developing.

Science is bunk


I’ve started reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. In the first chapter he describes the goals of science and scientific theory. Unfortunately, I think he’s wrong about a crucial assumption. Here’s (a misrepresentation of) an excerpt from the book:

The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the [construction on I-80]. However, the approach most scientists actually follow is to separate the problem into two parts. First, there are the laws that tell us how [the construction on I-80] changes with time. (If we know what [I-80] is like at any one time, these physical laws tell us how it will look at any later time.) Second, there is the question of the initial state of [I-80]. Some people feel that science should be concerned only with the first part; they regard the question of the initial [creation of I-80] as a matter for metaphysics or religion. They would say that [the government], being omnipotent, could have started the [I-80] any way that [they] wanted. That may be so, but in that case [they] also could have made [the construction] develop in a completely arbitrary way. Yet it appears that [they] chose to make [the construction move along] in a very regular way according to certain laws. It therefore seems equally reasonable to suppose that there are also laws governing the initial state [of I-80].

See? Sure, he starts off reasonable enough, but did you see how he thinks that the construction moves along in some way that actually makes sense? Sorry, Stephen, but if the construction is really done “in a completely arbitrary way”, then science can’t hope to discover any laws to understand it nor to predict when (if ever) it will be completed.

Ok, maybe Stephen Hawking wasn’t really talking about the construction on I-80, but if science can’t even make sense of the construction, there’s no way it can describe the whole universe.

This whole post is a lie


For starters, it’s not a mobile post. I’m at home sitting at my desk. I’m just sticking the post here because I’m going to put a picture on it.

So Loyd tagged me a while ago and I’m finally tagging back. The challenge of this particular tag is to post the fourth photo of your fourth photo album. This is harder that it might sound because I’m not exactly sure what my fourth photo album is. I’ve had digital photographs pretty much since there was such a thing, so my fourth album ever would be pretty old. The only problem is that my really old pictures aren’t really organized into albums at all. All of my pictures from before my mission are basically just lumped together into one folder of old photos. So I kind of had some subjectivity in deciding what I would consider my fourth album. I might come up with a different answer the next time I’m asked to count a certain number of albums from the beginning.

So, this is the fourth picture from (what might be) my fourth photo album ever:

That is my brother Troy (in the foreground) and me (in the background) looking at his VW Jetta. I think the picture is from August 2002, and we’re at an auto show in Denver. I don’t remember the details, but somehow Troy got his car put on display at the show. It looks like I’m either arranging or disarranging the flyers in the window. I don’t know what they are flyers for.

As a bonus (or another lie, depending on how you look at it), here’s another photo from that same event:

That’s Troy and me in an inflatable boxing ring carrying on our eternal struggle for dominance and awesomeness.

Jane Austen's lingo


Kelly and I watched Emma the other day (because we like Clueless and we knew that it was a modern day take on the same Jane Austen book). I don’t understand the way these people talk. Several times during the movie I had to pause it so that Kelly could explain to me what a character had just said. Once as she was translating she realized that she didn’t understand what they had said, either, so we had to rewind and try again. It was still fun to watch the movie, but mostly because we liked trying to figure out how all of the characters from the two movies matched up. I missed Murray, though.

What's wrong with this picture?


Texas Toast from New York with an Italian flag on it? Yeah, that must be the original.

Holy War

Several weeks ago our Sunday School class broke out into one of its frequent arguments between the kids that support BYU and those that support U of U. (It might actually be the kids whose parents support those schools, but I guess it’s normal for loyalty to span generations.) One of our students claimed that BYU shouldn’t even be allowed to have that name because Brigham Young founded the University of Utah and not BYU.
I did some research on his claim and thought I’d share it since we’re rapidly approaching the climax of Rivalry Week. I discovered not only that Brigham Young had founded both schools, but that they were once part of the same school: the University of Deseret.
In 1850 Brigham Young founded a school called the University of Deseret. I guess he didn’t do so well managing it because it only lasted two years before going out of business. Meanwhile other schools were being established in the territory, including a school that was built in Provo in 1862.
In 1867 the University of Deseret reopened, though I assume Brigham was no longer in charge because he was promoting his own goals to open a new school in Draper. The school in Draper didn’t pan out, but the University of Deseret did well enough to start expanding, and in 1869 it bought the Provo school and made it part of the University.
Brigham Young continued with his own goal to open a school, and in 1875 he succeeded by purchasing the Provo campus from the University of Deseret. Brigham himself (not the Church) owned the newly purchased school, and named it the Brigham Young Academy.
In 1896 (some years after Brigham’s death) the LDS Church acquired Brigham Young Academy, and in 1903 it was split into two separate schools: Brigham Young High School and Brigham Young University. Meanwhile the University of Deseret changed its name to the University of Utah in 1894 (paralleling the change in the name of the territory that was on the brink of becoming a state).
According to legend the rivalry between the two schools started at their very first sporting competition. It was a baseball game in 1895. It was a tie game and there was a brawl after it was over. The rest is history.

New Xbox Experience


Microsoft released a pretty big update for the Xbox this week. It’s basically the Xbox’s equivalent of Windows Vista: no new functionality, but everything looks shinier.

The most obvious change is the addition of avatars. They let you create little digital characters for your profile. Basically the same thing as the Nintendo Mii, except that the Xbox versions don’t look as much like Lego toys. I’d be a little worried that the introduction of these characters would cheese-up my otherwise adult gaming console, but it doesn’t really change anything. There are no changes to existing games and only a few games can use the avatars, and only one of those can do anything with the avatar besides display it. So, really, while the avatar is fun to create, the only functional change that it offers is to give more personality to the old gamer profile icons.

The other noticeable change is the menu system. It’s all shiny and bright, and after seeing the avatars you might think that the lighter feel of the menus is another Wii rip-off, but I think it’s more similar to the Cover Flow interface that Apple has been putting on their new i-products (tunes and pods and phones). Basically the menu looks like a bunch of individual pages that you flip through. Besides the look of the menu, the menu system has gotten a lot bigger. It scrolls horizontally and vertically, so basically there’s just tons of menu options. There are a couple places where the new navigation makes it easier to find things (like that there’s finally a separation of full games from trials and demos in the Arcade menu). For the most part, though, the menu options are the same the new layout just gives Microsoft more real estate to throw in advertisements.

Something that actually does upset me about the new interface is that the skins for the dashboard are basically useless now. The old skins still exist, but the new interface just uses them for a background image instead of skinning all of the menus. I probably wouldn’t care about that if it weren’t for the fact that I had a special edition theme that came with my special edition Halo Xbox. So now I just have a special edition desktop image that anyone could probably get just by downloading a screenshot off the Internet and using that for their background image. It kind of takes the “special” out of the edition.

So, while the update is mostly just visual, there actually are two features that I’m excited about. One is that Netflix now has their own Xbox app, so you can watch the streamable portion of the Netflix library right on your Xbox. If that ends up as nice as I’m hoping then it might make me switch teams away from Blockbuster.

The second new feature that I’m excited about is the Community Games section. It’s pretty empty right now, but basically this is a new area that will let individuals share their homebrew games with the rest of the Xbox world. Even if no good games surface out of the community, I think it’s awesome and encouraging that it’s even an option now.

If you’re not an Xbox player you probably don’t care about most of this (and if you are then you’ve probably already drawn your own conclusions), but I just thought I’d share my review while the system is still new enough for a fresh perspective. Even though the avatars are the most prominent change, don’t be fooled and think that the Xbox has turned into the Nintendo Wii. Most of the changes are just cosmetic, and probably more ripped off from Apple than Nintendo anyway. If you don’t like the cosmetic changes then you can find comfort in the fact that once you pop your game disk in the console is just the same as it always was.



Ok, I understand that it’s a pretty cool technology to be able to have these wireless devices. I even think a wireless hands-free headset is a good idea. But that’s not really the problem is it? If you’re on the phone, fine, but if you’re not actually talking on the phone, take the stupid thing out of your ear. Don’t you know that you look like a moron? I don’t walk around holding a phone up to my ear all day long just in case I get a phone call, so take your stupid phone out of your ear when you’re not using it.

Where did this tradition come from anyway? Did the inventor of these headsets tell everyone that it would be cool if they just wore them all day long? Because that was a lie. It’s not cool. You don’t look cool and we’re not impressed by you. It’s not like driving around in your Porsche to show off that you’re successful. It’s more like wearing a high-tech pocket protector. So seriously. Just stop it.

Unique Experiences and Circumstances


The Church made a press release about Proposition 8 the day after the election, mostly in defense of itself and attacks made against it for getting involved politically. This paragraph towards the end struck me:

Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.

What impresses me most is that the Church gives its members flexibility about this issue. It acknowledges that not all members would support the amendment and it seems to be fine with that. Instead of demanding that Church members support the amendment, it grants Church members their varying influences on their votes, and only asks mutual understanding and acceptance, not conformity.

While it would have been nice to have this kind of statement before the election while the debates were actually going on, I’m really glad for it now. Although (as the article states) the debate on the issue is not over, I hope that moving forward this will allow Latter-Day Saints to discuss the topic more openly and respectfully, without accusing each other of wrong doing simply because their politics “are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances.”

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