Archives for September 2008

The Economy Is A Fragile Thing

It is time to revisit President Hinckley’s October 1998 General Conference Priesthood Session Talk. The one entitled “To the Boys and to the Men.” He first speaks to the young men and then to the “older men.” To the brethren he first reads from Genesis 41, wherein Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams as seven years of plenty and seven of famine. There has been some speculation that this could mean a real seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in our day, and variations thereof. That is not my focus today.

With the Dow barely recovering off a twelve year low it will be profitable to hear what a prophet (though he was not prophesying) was saying back in 1998.

We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.

He had concerns about debt, bankruptcies, and advertising:

I repeat, I hope we will never again see such a depression. But I am troubled by the huge consumer installment debt which hangs over the people of the nation, including our own people….Everyone knows that every dollar borrowed carries with it the penalty of paying interest. When money cannot be repaid, then bankruptcy follows….We are beguiled by seductive advertising. Television carries the enticing invitation to borrow up to 125 percent of the value of one’s home. But no mention is made of interest.

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Proposition 8 Television Ad

Protect Marriage has produced their first television ad. According to the Protect Marriage Campaign:

For the past two months, California voters have been presented with twisted, inaccurate and false information about the same-sex marriage issue. Wealthy gay activists and Hollywood liberals like Brad Pitt have spent $5 million on an 8 week media buy airing an issue advertisement designed to create public support for gay marriage. They even got Attorney General Jerry Brown to rewrite the official description of Proposition 8 in order to bias voters against the measure. And last week our opponents began spending millions on their official campaign ads. It’s no wonder that some polls have reported a drop in support for Prop. 8.

Tomorrow, voters will begin to hear the rest of the story.

Which is where the television ad comes in. It appears that the purposes of the ad are threefold:

  1. To educate voters that redefining marriage has broad consequences for all Californians.
  2. To remind voters that gay marriage has been imposed on California, against the express will of over 4 million voters.
  3. To let voters see the arrogance of our opponents who expect voters to accept gay marriage, “whether we like it or not.”

Vote Yes on 8
I watched the video (no longer available) to see if the three purposes were communicated. It was easy to see “the arrogance” of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom right at the start of the video — you can’t really miss it.

The second purpose is communicated well in the scene with the judges. One point that I will make here is that 4 million does not sound like a lot of people when one considers the total number of voting age Californians. Perhaps it would be better to express the number as a percentage. That would make it clear that it is a majority of the people that voted.

Having law professor Richard Peterson with the backdrop of newspaper articles is a nice touch. It accomplishes the first purpose to educate voters. This is the strongest argument of the three because it informs, however briefly, that there are consequences involved.

Overall  I liked the ad. I wouldn’t have put Mr. Newsom in the video. I would have slipped in a family with children in that time slot. With a message similar to, “Children deserve to be raised by a father and a mother.” I am assuming that there are still traditional families in California. Still, very well done for the short time span.
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Thanksgiving In September

The family enjoying Thanksgiving in September.

Peeling the Potatoes

Daniel is leaving for the MTC in October and from there to Mongolia for two years. Jill decided to have a Thanksgiving meal for Daniel today because he won’t be with us in November. He’ll probably end up eating some unappetizing rickety meal on Thanksgiving Day.
Daniel carving the turkey.
My assignment in getting the meal ready was to peel the potatoes. Because I was in the Army my children naturally think that I should be good at peeling potatoes. It turns out that I am but I didn’t learn the skill from my time in the Army. My family in England ate a lot of potatoes and that is where I acquired my spud abilities. Anyway I got away light because I went to help with some church membership duties.

Thanksgiving Meal

Daniel’s married siblings and their spouses joined in the feast. In the photograph above we have (left to right) Sarah, who is due in a week, Derek, Steven, Adelaide, Paul, Jake, Daniel, Rick, and Jill. All four of Daniel’s siblings were present. The meal was really good and the turkey was just right. Later in the evening we had a choice of pumpkin pie or cheesecake for dessert. I mentioned to Sarah that now that we have had Thanksgiving we don’t need to celebrate in November. She said, “O no, this is just for practice.” I want to point out here that I always ask that the potatoes be left whole but every time someone brutally mashes them. What do my readers think. Mashed or unmashed?

We Will Miss Daniel

We will miss Daniel. He is always cheerful and runs like the wind. He carried a few trophies home from his track events to the delight of his parents. He was elected Student Body Officer and made this great video for his election campaign. He diligently attends to his priesthood duties. He went out and got himself a leadership scholarship at the University of Utah. This type of behavior is a favorite with me because it potentially saves me a lot of money. But most of all he will be missed because for the last five years he has done the dishes and mowed the lawn!
Daniel enjoying his turkey
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WordCamp Utah 2008

Derek, Matt Mullenweg, and Rick

WordCamp Utah

Today I attended WordCamp Utah 2008. I would have felt a little rickety going by myself so I asked my son-in-law Derek to come along. Rather than report what was said at WordCamp I will tell you my impressions. I will provide links to blogs that reported on the speakers.
Mandatory photograph time.

I didn’t know what to expect as this was my first time at a blog gathering. As I stood in line to register I felt a little out of place because everyone else had brought their laptops. We all tend to notice the financial aspects of attending events and in this I am like all of you. The cost was $20 which is a small sum for an all day event. But that bought lunch, a WordCamp tee shirt, a snack, and all the bottled water you cared to drink. I’m used to having to pay exorbitant prices for food at the events I attend, for example the movies. I’d better mention the free stickers though they didn’t do anything for me. The free Bluehost tee shirt was cool though.

Speakers

There were about 200 people attending. The speakers were interesting and kept to their topic. One of the co-founders of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, was the keynote speaker. I tracked him down later in the day and got his photograph that you see above.

The next speaker was Richard K. Miller from the More Good Foundation. He did especially well in interacting with the audience. I have communicated with Richard by email on various topics, mostly in conjunction with MormonWiki.com to which I have contributed several articles. Last year he invited me to be an administrator on the site which turned out to be a fun assignment, especially when vandals decided to attack late one night. I caught up with Richard and got my photograph taken with him which is at the end of this article.

Summary

Our fellow bloggers were friendly and listened attentively to the presentations. We didn’t stay to listen to the last speaker but I think all the presenters did very well to keep our attention all day. The building was comfortable and I was told that the bandwidth was huge, which I would have known all by myself if I hadn’t have left my laptop at home. I would definitely recommend that if you have the opportunity to go to a WordCamp that you do so. But don’t forget your laptop.

Links

Using WordPress as a CMS (also see related articles links).
SEO Tips Ash Buckles (also see his other posts).
UStream TV
Laura Moncur WordCamp Photos
WordCamp Utah Highlights

Richard K. Miller and Rick
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Epic Excerpts: Bjarne Stroustrup on Management

Bjarne Stroustrup.

Bjarne Stroustrup

Bjarne Stroustrup is a computer scientist and the College of Engineering Chair Professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University. He is most notable for developing the C++ programming language. Stroustrup also wrote what many consider to be the standard text for the language, The C++ Programming Language, which is now in its third edition.

Management

I came across the name Bjarne Stroustrup while I was learning to develop C++ and using his book The C++ Programming Language (Second Edition). One of the most interesting sections of the book is Chapter 11, Design and Development. The sub-section entitled Management was a real gem, filled with statements that are perfectly obvious once you think about it. Although his words are geared towards a programming environment, much of what he writes has general application.

In the following excerpts a few sentences have been altered slightly to maintain the original meaning.

Provided it makes some minimum of sense, most people do what they are encouraged to do. (page 382).

On re-use of code: Most organizations reward individuals and groups that choose to re-invent the wheel. (page 382).

An organization that treats its programmers as morons will soon have programmers that are willing and able to act like morons only. (page 382).

If an organization has no mechanism for promoting and rewarding cooperation and sharing, cooperation and sharing will be rare. (page 383).

Common sense can be the first victim of a genuine and often ardent desire to improve the way things are done. Unfortunately, once common sense is missing there is no limit to the damage that can unwittingly be done. (page 384).

Managers often forget that organizations consist of individuals. A popular notion is that programmers are equal and interchangeable. This is a fallacy that can destroy an organization by driving out many of the most effective individuals. Individuals are interchangeable only if they are not allowed to take advantage of skills that raise them above the absolute minimum required for the task in question. (page 385).

Quality is far harder to measure than quantity of output, yet individuals and groups must be rewarded based on the quality of their output rather than by crude quantity measures. (page 386).

It is essentially impossible to judge the performance of an individual on the basis of a single year’s work. (page 386).

Naturally, there is often a fear of change among individuals. This can lead to an overestimate of the problems involved in a change and a reluctance to acknowledge problems with the old ways of doing things. Equally naturally, people arguing for change tend to overestimate the beneficial effects of new ways of doing things and to underestimate the problems involved in the change. (page 387).

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She will be a Girl

Adelaide and Steven expecting a girl.
This afternoon I was in the basement and I heard a-whooping and a-hollerin’ from upstairs. It was my wife reacting to some great news from Adelaide. I sensed what it was and it was so — our second grandchild will be a girl, expected on Valentines day. So Grandpa Rickety now has, or will have, one of each. About time we had some more girls in the family. I might mention that Adelaide smiles beautifully for every photograph whereas Steven contorts his face as much as he can at just the right time to ruin the picture. So we are really lucky to have this photograph.
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Proposition 8: Politics and Religion

Protect Marriage bumper sticker.

Tax-exempt

Whenever The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a stand on a moral issue the n’er do wells crawl out of the woodwork. The cry rises, “The Church should lose its tax exempt status!” This time around it is Proposition 8 and though I haven’t heard any cries of protest here in Utah, I have read the usual, “Take away their tax-exempt status” in various blog comments.

So it was with interest I read on the Protect Marriage website Joint Statement To California Religious Leaders Regarding Proposition 8. This is a summary of the article.

A Right to Speak

Religious leaders have the right to educate members of their congregation about Proposition 8. Under the federal tax code, religious leaders may speak freely and forcefully on important issues of public policy, including Proposition 8. Pastors and other religious leaders have the right to discuss legislative issues, support or oppose legislation, encourage their members to support or oppose legislation, and offer facts and materials about important legislation as long as the information is educational and is not designed to support a particular political party or candidate. Tax exempt religious organizations may lawfully spend an “insubstantial” amount of their funds (less than 10%) yearly on issue lobbying for Proposition 8.

Voter Registration

Religious organizations have the right to conduct non-partisan voter registration drives. Such registration drives may also include a church setting up a voter registration table or petition signature gathering table in their lobby or mailing registration cards to their members.

Other Rights

Religious organizations cannot currently be forced to perform same-sex marriages. The California Supreme Court stated very clearly in its recent ruling that its opinion does not mean that same-sex couples can demand to be wed in churches across California.

In addition to state rights, churches and religious organizations have substantial protections under the federal constitution and federal law. Even the leading proponents for same-sex marriage agree with this principle.

As well as the Joint Statement there is another document on Protect Marriage called Churches and Politics by the Alliance Defense Fund that goes into much greater detail.

See also:

The Divine Institution of Marriage: A Summary
Protect Marriage Status
Protect Marriage Update
Protect Marriage Campaign
Protect Marriage News
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Stimulus or Bailout: Is There any Difference?

From the steps of the Federal Hall National Memorial is visible J. P. Morgan & Co. Building (left) and the New York Stock Exchange (right).
Debate continues in Congress on the proposed $700 billion bank bailout. The rickety stock market slumped again as investors awaited the outcome of the Senate bank rescue hearing. One informal internet poll with 143,046 respondents had 52% rejecting the whole plan. People are just not happy that the “fat cats” will be getting free money. Here are some comments from around the internet. I could find precious few that were in favor of the bailout:

  • “I don’t see any reason to give Henry Paulson $700 billion in taxpayer money.”
  • “With this bailout, Paulson has effectively legitimized financial fraud.”
  • “Let the chips land where they may.”
  • “I knew I should have just overspent like everyone else and then let someone else pay for it.”
  • “Write your local congressmen an email… say ‘NO!'”
  • “I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just let some of these companies fail?”
  • “We should let Wall Street crash and burn just the way ordinary Americans and small businesses have been treated.”

Now recall the stimulus checks where most of us received $600 from the government. Was there a great outcry against the borrowing of $152 billion to finance this election year bribe? Not that I can recall. All I could muster was, “I cannot think of a more stupider plan!” Except perhaps for a second round of stimulus checks. How totally silly, such incredulous bogosity. But I still put my $600 in the bank and said, “Thank you very much, Sir.”

Now consider if the rest of you, unlike me, had protested strenuously to your elected officials that you wanted no such stimulating. You would have explained to them the foolishness of borrowing billions only to have to pay every last $600 back with interest. Do you think that Congress then would even dare to debate $700 billion for bankers? Well, maybe they still would have.

Seems to me that one of the most prevalent comments is the best solution of all. Come November, “just vote the bums out.”
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FrontRunner versus Legacy

Legacy Parkway on a Sunday afternoon
With the opening of Legacy Parkway and FrontRunner now in service for a few months it is instructive to compare some numbers. Note that my rickety figures are approximate, if there is interest I will spend some time to produce more accurate numbers. However, there is such a large difference between both sets that the conclusions would still be the same.

Each project cost approximately the same amount to build. FrontRunner carries 7,800 passengers a day and Legacy Parkway around 30,000 vehicles a day. In addition, over 1,000 FrontRunner passengers previously rode buses. I don’t have any numbers for how many Legacy Parkway riders are in carpools.

FrontRunner made a slight dent in congestion by removing a small percentage of the traffic from the 140,000 daily car trips along I-15. Legacy Parkway cleared I-15 congestion on its first weekday in operation.

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