Personal Online Journal

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

But I'll be danged if I ain't just as good!

I love line from Oklahoma, "I don't say I'm better than anybody else,: But I'll be danged if I ain't just as good!" ("The Farmer and the Cowman")

We have to stop putting women on a pedestal or in the gutter. Women are humans. Men are humans. One is not better than the other. One is not worse than the other.

Women are not more spiritual than men. Men are not more capable than women. It has been posited as self-evident that all humans start out as equals. Perhaps a better way to say it is that all humans have an equal capacity to improve. And really isn't that what brings meaning to life; that I can be a better husband, father, provider, etcetera etcetera?

So let's stop it. Stop comparing ourselves to others, men women or children. Let's be willing to be vulnerable and begin improving in non-trivial ways.

Monday, March 30, 2015

5 Love Languages

If love is the greatest force in the Universe then it would benefit us to express it in a way that the receiver is tuned into. Here are 5 love languages that can help us in our practice.

Words of Affirmation

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

More detail at "Understanding the Five Love Languages"

If you know better, do better

I found out that my good friend Sam Meacham took his life Thursday morning Mar 19. At the time I was taking time off to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary. I was checking into work so as to not have a bajillion emails to sort through when I came back. My friend and workmate Jerry messaged me on Skype and then called me up to tell me. It was a total shock to me and from what I have gathered from everyone else near him too.

I have worked with Sam for at least 7 years. We had more than a casual business relationship. I remember clearly how he was hired. I had been hired in July 2005.  A couple of years later we convinced management to hire another programmer. We went through several people. Then we came to Sam. At the time, I was the only formally trained programmer at the Mapping Center. Gene and Jerry were trained GIS professionals that had started up programming out of their interest and the needs there.

After our first interview with Sam, I told Gene, Jerry and Cliff (our boss) that our second interview was not so much to convince ourselves that Sam was qualified. It was to convince Sam that he wanted to come and work with us.

I remember that one of the concepts that peaked his interest was Object Relational Mapping (ORM). It was something that I had been studying at the time and was trying to find a good solution for. For the first several years, that was something he worked on. He eventually wrote his own code because of the lack of adequate solutions out there. NOEF is his creation and what we have used as our DB to Code mapping solution for every new project for many years.

He also had a hard time finding a solution for connecting server side code in C# in ASP.NET to client-side javascript data structures. So was born another solution, restcake.

These are only the most public software tools he created. There are dozens of other ones he created. He created software to generate a Visual Studio project so that Natalie and Matt could more easily start a new, custom solution for a customer. He created an error logging system that is used in all our projects. He created a user system that all of the internal customers of the Mapping Center, now Location Analytics and Mapping Center (LAM). He figured out how to get a bigger extent in the Google Maps API so we could generate high resolution output fit for printing. I could go on...

He was, without exaggeration, ten times as productive as me and had much more maintainable and extensible code. Joel Spolsky was right
The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce. ("Hitting the High Notes", Joel Spolsky, July 25, 2005)

But it wasn't his amazing intellect and work ethic that impressed me the most. He was fearless.

I am a practicing Mormon. Sam was born in a home of practicing Mormons. The details of his early life with the LDS faith and his family are not mine to tell, but to summarize, a few years ago, when he moved to Seattle. He started a journey that led him to agnosticism and then atheism. He fearlessly followed his conscience wherever it took him. He searched out evidence but also was introspective, thoughtful and listened to his heart.

He seemed to settle into a life without a formal religious component. But he didn't seem to have the nihlism. He seemed to have meaningful relationships with his wife and children. We both work from home. And we sometimes will be on Skype calls. I remember often his wife bring him a delicious lunch and how he would thank her warmly. Or when one of his kids came in his office, he would ask them how things were going or answer their questions no matter how juvenile they might seem to others. He cared what others thought.

He was genuine. I heard and saw from the Memorial service last Saturday, how he reached out to his sister in law and sat down with her when she felt lost settling into a new home in Seattle. He talked and listened until they worked it out. Or how he, without hesitation let his best friend live with them for an extended time. He never hinted at when his friend might leave. There was only patience and love.

One of my favorite stories was from another friend who said that he got an empty box as a birthday present from Sam. Sam told him to not open it, because it was filled with love. His friend admitted that he was a little disappointed because he wanted something more materialistic. He later realized that Sam really did not have the means to give him that. And what he did give was worth more than any traditional gift.

He gave his son several tons of dirt for his birthday present. Sam was generous. At work and at home. I was pleasantly surprised to see Jerry get up before me at the memorial service and share how Sam always was willing to help other programmers. He was patient and thorough. I do laugh at the times that he would tell me that Jerry was asking him something. Sam said that he would purposely not answer Jerry because a lot of times, Jerry would figure it out by himself. I am sure he did the same for me. I often would ask him something only to figure it out myself after a few minutes or a few hours.

I now no longer have the luxury of asking him.

I learned from Sam that it matters more who you are rather what religion or belief you have. Who you are is the sum result of your thoughts, words, actions, habits and character. It is your essence. Sam was a good man. I have no doubt that God will see that. I expect Sam to recognize the new information that he has now. That he has not stopped existing. He will act accordingly.

Several people at the memorial repeated something Sam would share, "If you know better, do better". That is the essence of the call “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13)  Repentance includes turning away from things that are unhealthy. To do better when you know better. What Sam said reminds me of what Abraham Lincoln said, "When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion."

I was so glad to go to the memorial service on Saturday. It seemed that I had been privileged to know several of the pieces of Sam's puzzle. On Saturday, I saw so many more that I had never seen. They were wonderful and they fit into the character I knew Sam to have.

I recognize that funerals bring out the rosiest of pictures about those passed on. Sam certainly was not perfect. He had his faults. But he was an exceptional person. He was authentic. He was kind. These are two of the attributes I heard a lot on Saturday.

I will miss Sam terribly. I will have to figure out the rest of my career. I had hitched my wagon to his. I am ten years older than he. I figured he would help me and inspire me and be with me for the rest of it. He will not.

I am not sure what it was that led him to take his own life. I only hope that he is finding peace now. I know that God will be merciful to those who give mercy. It seems Sam fits that very well.

Fare well my friend, until we meet again.

Monday, March 23, 2015

"ontological realities, not only in religion but also in science"

Therefore, if we embrace any reality as "objective," existing independently of human invention, of the kind claimed in religions like Catholicism or Mormonism, then we do so on faith, as a matter of choice. Operationally speaking, the only reality we "know" is that which has been constructed by our families and passed along to us as part of our cultural heritage. In this way of looking at reality, it is easy to see how different claims to truth are embraced as ontological realities, not only in religion but also in science, in politics, and in many other fields of human knowledge. Where religion was concerned, at least in my case, it became increasingly obvious that if I were to continue as an active believer in the LDS faith, it would be mainly a matter of choosing to embrace a certain construction of reality, not the result of a meticulous process of testing and proving incontrovertible claims about the supernatural... (Armand Mauss, quoted by Clean Cut)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Power of Personal Stories When Giving Talks

From "The Power of Personal Stories When Giving Talks"
Too often when we begin a talk, we feel the need to dance around for a bit. We tell stories of how we received the assignment, we try to be self-deprecating about our (very limited) abilities as a public speaker, we try to frame the topic by reading from the dictionary, and on and on and on. What I loved about the talks today was that there was none of this dancing around–they went straight into the stories they were going to use to frame their talks.

Love is the Answer

My son wrote a touching letter last week. Love is the answer. It really does not matter what the question is, love is usually the answer whether we answer in words or service or prayer.

Love is the reason why I trusted my parents when they taught me about Jesus. So that I would be willing to test his words in my life and develop my own testimony independent from them.

Love was the answer in my darkest hours. The love of God I felt when I prayed. The love of my wife and family. It was a reflection of the love of God.

God wants to mold us like clay. If we allow him to, he will shape us into what we cannot yet imagine. But the analogy is lacking. We are not objects to be acted upon. We are agents to act for ourselves. If we are willing, we will partner with God to forge our own path with Him. A path of service and love and ministering. Full of meaning and joy.

We just have to be willing to work hand in hand with our Father.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I Do not Give Up

“Sometimes I say to God—as I strive for perfection—…’Father, don’t give up on me. I’m trying. Don’t let me fail. Please don’t get discouraged.’ I’m always directed by the Spirit to the words of Isaiah when he wrote, ‘[God] shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth’ (Isaiah 42:4). Then I hear the Lord say, ‘Michael, if I’m not going to be discouraged until the whole world is a place of righteousness and judgment, do you think I’m going to be discouraged with you, when you want so badly to please me and to conquer yourself? I don’t get discouraged, Discouragement is not part of my character, I am not impatient. I am never anxious. I do not give up. Keep trying.'” (Walking on Water, Michael Wilcox, quoted in "It’s Not Wise to Think of Heavenly Father as a Mortal, Fallen Man, Like We Are")

An Emerging Group, a Subset

Hugh Hewitt: does the United States stack up in terms of the climate of openness to religious flourishing and freedom, of all sorts?

Jeffrey Holland: Yeah, well that’s a good question, Hugh, because I think in some ways, as secularism prevails and the 21st Century unfolds, in some ways, we’re less reverent, we’re less spiritual, maybe less religiously affiliated as a nation. But within that, there is an emerging group, a subset, if you will, that I think is more interested, are more willing to listen to the missionaries. Maybe a little harder to find, but when you find them, these are people that probably are more interested now in a way than they were 20 years ago. Maybe it’s the issue of the day, maybe it’s the kind of political and social phenomenon you’ve already referred to, but something is getting their attention that say maybe we ought to have more faith, maybe there ought to be more religion, maybe there ought to be more devotion. So maybe it’s a kind of a polarization. I wouldn’t say sheep or goats or wheat and tares. That sounds too ominous. I’m not an apocalyptic guy.
("A Conversation with LDS Elder Jeffrey Holland", Hugh Hewitt, Feb 27, 2015)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Simple Defined by Something We Cannot Know

"How can something so simple as a circle — the most simple shape in the universe — how can it be defined by something we cannot know?"
("Why Math geeks are so excited about March 14, 2015, at 9:26:53", David Blatner, author of “The Joy of Pi”, Mar 13, 2015, PBS Newshour)

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Balance of Nothing and Everything

My friend Randy brought up a good point in our discussion of faith and works in our online discussion
It would not be good to have such great feelings of self-loathing that our only worth comes from a sense of “grace.” Such feelings could easily enslave us to the whims of others. In contrast if we claim we are without defect and never in need of understanding and forgiveness we might eventually find ourselves rather lonely. While whatever we call “faith” could embrace some forms of ritual that may give us a sense of structure and comfort – it probably is better if our faith prompts us to practical works that help others.
I agree that we need to avoid self-loathing as well as the claim that we have some sort of special privilege that whatever we do is OK. I like the balance King Benjamin describes in his last address to his people coupled with the promises God has made us.
  22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
 25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
 26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust. And ye behold that I am old, and am about to yield up this mortal frame to its mother earth. (Mosiah 2:22-26)
Why are we less than the dust? Because the dust will always yield to the will of God. We are always going to be indebted to God because of the reasons King Benjamin outlines. In spite of this, God promises to give us all that he has.
 35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
 36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
 37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
 38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. (D&C 84:33-40)
What is required to receive such an infinite gift? The same as what is offered, all that we have, all that we will ever receive.

From a humanistic or atheistic point of view, we can recognize that everything we have comes from those before us. That we have inherited the results of eons of evolution. We are the result of someone caring for us when we were an infant and child. How do you repay such a gift? By paying it forward.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Imagine if You Find a Map

The Map
by Jessica DeGraw

Imagine if
You are a child.
You find a map;
A pirate's treasure map.
You search.

Everyone searches.
For their keys,
For their shoes,
For their dreams.
They search.

When you are searching,
What are you searching for?
Something nonessential?
Something worthwhile?
Searching for change?

And how do you search?
Do you agonize over it?
Are you annoyed by it?
Do you feel anxious about it?
Are you diligent?

When do you find it?
After an hour?
After twenty-four?
After one-hundred and sixty-eight?
After you've given up?

What if you never find it?
What if you never stop searching?
What if the map is infinite?
What if that's the point?
Imagine if.


This follow up cartoon is worth it.

The LDS Church Doesn't Claim to Have all Truth or Goodness

It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion (Discourses of Brigham Young, 248, quoted in "Chapter 2: The Gospel Defined", Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 14–20)
Freedom is based on truth, and no man is completely free as long as any part of his belief is based on error, for the chains of error bind his mind. This is why it is so important for us to learn all the truth we can from all the sources we can. We need particularly to search the scriptures, for in them are the words which, if accepted and lived, will lead us to eternal life. (“Ye Shall Know the Truth”, N. Eldon Tanner, Apr 1978)
We do not claim that others have no truth. The Lord described them as having “a form of godliness.” Converts to the Church may bring with them all the truth they possess and have it added upon. ("The Only True Church", Boyd K. Packer, Oct 1985)
Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essence of our missionary service (meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 Feb. 1998, Quoted in "Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley", Ensign Aug 1998).
Is it possible to find truth? 
The purpose of my remarks is to proclaim the joyful message that God Himself—the Lord of Hosts who knows all truth—has given His children the promise that they can know truth for themselves. 
My dear friends, here is a fairly straightforward experiment, with a guarantee from God, found in a book of ancient scripture available to every man, woman, and child willing to put it to the test: 
First, you must search the word of God. That means reading the scriptures and studying the words of the ancient as well as modern prophets regarding the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—not with an intent to doubt or criticize but with a sincere desire to discover truth. Ponder upon the things you will feel, and prepare your minds to receive the truth. “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you … that ye can give place for [the word of God].” 
Second, you must consider, ponder, fearlessly strive to believe, and be grateful for how merciful the Lord has been to His children from the time of Adam to our day by providing prophets, seers, and revelators to lead His Church and help us find the way back to Him. 
Third, you must ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unto you. Ask with a sincere heart and with real intent, having faith in Christ. 
There is also a fourth step, given to us by the Savior: “If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In other words, when you are trying to verify the truth of gospel principles, you must first live them. Put gospel doctrine and Church teachings to the test in your own life. Do it with real intent and enduring faith in God.
("Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth", Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct 2014)
As community members work together unselfishly in a common cause, for the common good, they find that whatever their backgrounds, convictions, or experience, there is much more which unites them than which draws them apart. They come to understand that no group in society has a monopoly on goodness, wisdom, talent, knowledge, or energy. (“No More Strangers” Alexander B. Morrison, Ensign Sep 2000)
We do not have a monopoly on goodness. There are God-fearing men and women in all nations who influence for good those with whom they associate. ("You Make a Difference", Thomas S. Monson, Apr 1988)
No group has a monopoly on virtue or an immunity from the commandment to change. ("Repentance and Change", Dallin H. Oaks, Oct 2003)
our Church does not have a monopoly on good people, but we have a remarkable concentration of them. My associations in the organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have given me the basis to recognize, appreciate, and enlarge my associations with people of quality in other churches and organizations ("The Gospel in Our Lives", Dallin H. Oaks, Apr 2002)

Diluting the Purity of Divine Truth

How Do We Become True Disciples of Jesus Christ?

The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.

But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”

This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.
("The Love of God", Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Oct 2009)


We are considering "Immovable" as a scout camp theme. This is my favorite

Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
(D&C 88:133)

And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
(3 Ne 6:14)

Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.
(Mosiah 5:15)

Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.
(Alma 1:25)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Each of My Children Has Made Me a Better Man

I recently posted "KIDS AREN’T EXPENSIVE, BUT THAT OTHER THING SURE IS"on Facebook. I later saw this.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has 5 children; here's how he answers the "Why so many?!" question:
“Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy."
Kids do cost money. There is food, shelter, extra curricular activities, doctors, accidents, etcetera, etcetera... But there are many things we can do without.

My dad once told me about a conversation we had with co-workers. After hearing about their hobbies, he thought to himself that his children are his. Though that word does not capture the investment and time and love.

It reminds me of "this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) God puts his work and heart and soul into us, his children. How could I not be a part of that great work and bring children into this world and help them achieve the kind of life God lives? Through the grace and power of his Son.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Now Get Up

There are times in my life that I think that I am able to do what the Lord says I can do. To be what he says I can become.

I love the part in the New Testament where Peter goes out onto the water to meet Jesus. When they saw him on the water Jesus said, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid". Peter replied, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water." Peter demonstrated his faith. Because he did, he was able to do incredible things.

More than stopping bullets and walking on water, if we have faith we can do greater works. To be able to persuade other independent agents to experiment on the word of God. We can love them. We can demonstrate the power and life and joy of living according to the carpenter of Nazareth. That is more powerful than walking on water because we are able to inspire an individual will to decide to change their heart. To allow the Lord to enter into them and make them a changed creature.

But in order for me to do that, I have to remain in the Lord. The longer I remain steadfast and immovable I can be a sharper tool for the Lord. I have to live in balance. I have to do the urgent and important things that keep me nourished and sane. Able to see things for what they really are. I ask the Lord to help me remember the plain road. The simple and easy things that I can do every day to keep me in His path. That open my possibilities to do all He has asked me to do and to be.