Archives for December 2008

Five 2009 Predictions


Seeing the Future by Cuppojoe.

Fear not for the future, weep not for the past (Shelley)

I am joining in the fun and releasing my predictions for 2009. See you back here at the end of 2009 to see how I fared. What do you predict for 2009?

1. The Dow will exceed 12,000 FAILED

In October 2006 the Dow Jones industrial average crossed over the 12,000 mark briefly for the first time in its 112-year history. The Dow crossed the threshold twice, before retreating slightly, closing just under 12,000. Yesterday the Dow ended the day at 8,668.

2. Gas will stay below $2 a gallon in Kaysville FAILED

The price of gas here in Kaysville, Utah is currently $1.29 a gallon.

3. Proposition 8 will be struck down FAILED

Sadly I am predicting the worst for Proposition 8. With the California judicial, executive, and legislative branches all bent on reversing the will of the people look for Proposition 8 to be no more in 2009.

4. Gold will pass $1,200 an ounce SUCCEEDED

Since 1968 the price of gold on the open market has ranged widely, from a low of $252.90 an ounce on 21 June 1999, to a high of $1,023.50 an ounce on 17 March 2008. Since April 2001 the gold price has more than tripled in value against the US dollar. Indexed for inflation, the 1980 high of $850 an ounce would equate to a price of around $2,400 in 2007 US dollars.

5. Unemployment will remain below 7.5% FAILED

The 2008 national unemployment rate was at 4.9% in January and by June had risen to 5.5%. November saw joblessness at 6.7%. I expect the rate to keep rising but then level off and remain below 7.5%.
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Rewards Checking at Deseret First Credit Union

Deseret First Credit Union
Regular readers of the Rickety blog know that I am a big fan of rewards checking accounts. They have a high interest rate, are FDIC or NCUA insured, and are very liquid. Lately I have been tracking accounts that pay 6% or more but today I will make an exception. One of the drawbacks of banks that offer rewards checking is that it is usually not straight-forward to get signed up, unless you live close enough to go to a branch in person.

For the convenience of having a bank or credit union that offers rewards checking and is also close to home I joined Deseret First Credit Union. The nearest branch is only eleven miles away, their rewards checking is at 5%, and of course it is a credit union, which I prefer. To be eligible to join, one has to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or be employed by the Church. To earn your 5% you have to do the usual monthly direct deposit or ACH, ten debit card transactions, and receive eStatements. You don’t have to access your account once a month as an additional requirement to earn your 5%.

In the Locations / Contact Us section is a list of over 2,000 basic transaction branches where you can use credit unions throughout the U.S. to make deposits, withdrawals, loan payments, etc. All you need is your account number and a government-issued photo identification. I haven’t heard about this service because my current credit union does not offer it.

As a bonus, the credit union does make humorous ads, though you might need to know a little about the LDS life-style to find them funny. The ad below is my favorite but also check out “The Weddings” and “Active“.

Updates

30 Mar 2009 Today I received this email:

…we would like to inform you that your Rewards Checking account rates will change as follows, beginning with the next monthly qualification cycle starting March 31, 2009:

$0 – $25,000.00 balance w/ minimum requirements    3.01% APY
$25,000.01  & higher balance w/ minimum requirements    0.70% APY
Balances w/o minimum requirements    0.20% APY

Unfortunately I will be drawing my account down to the minimum of $25. For 3% it is not worth the effort to get the required transactions. The account was no trouble to open and it will be even less trouble to pull out my money. There are a number of banks still at 5% and I will be looking at one of those.
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Bountiful Cheap Gas


Gasoline station in 1936, Tremont Avenue and Dock Street, Bronx.

Gas at 11 2/10 cents in 1936

I filled up my gas tank today with regular for $1.29 a gallon at an Exxon station in Bountiful, Utah. It looks like I filled up for 10 cents a gallon less than what the the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report lists as the average gas price for my area. I last filled the tank at the beginning of December. I used less gas this month because what little Christmas shopping I did was done over the Internet and I have been temporarily car-pooling the ten miles to work. Using use-or-lose vacation hours also cut down on my travel. Then President Bush kicked in another day off on the 26th with the signing of an executive order. If you are spending and traveling as little as I am, it’s going to be a long recession.

Out of curiosity, what did you pay for gas at your last fill up? Let me know in the comments how much you paid and where.
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Missionary Dan Email from the MTC #7


Daniel by the MTC Christmas tree.

Dan by the MTC Christmas tree

I interrupt the Christmas holidays to present portions of Elder Daniel Willoughby’s seventh email from the Missionary Training Center, received Christmas Day.

Dear Family,

Yesterday was awesome and again my preparation day is on a holiday so it is crazy. I thank Mark and Connie for sending me the card and I’m grateful they are my friends. :) Thanks Sarah, Derek, but more importantly Bryson for sending the bowling pins and card. Thank you Wards for the wonderful card and pictures of the family — they were great to see this morning. Also thanks to the Dixon family for sending me a card, I really enjoyed what they wrote. I appreciate what the Johnson family sent and I’m very thankful they spent the time to write some insightful things to me. I enjoyed the Santa hat card from the Langs as well. Thank you!!

I got your package Mom as well as one from Kelsey. The card was great too. I haven’t yet opened your package Mom but I will soon. I’ve opened the other packages awhile ago. :-) Thanks Steven for the pictures. You have a really nice camera, I really enjoy the pictures. Its like I’m living the moment, I really like how you try and capture the action and not just people smiling for the camera. Thank you Ada for your great email. I smiled when I read it. I am very happy you married my brother. I’m excited to see what the baby will look like.

So Christmas eve was really exciting. Our teachers all came the whole morning and spent a lot of time with us. We did a lot of activities like Christmas caroling, nativity re-enactment, and watched the nativity video. We shared our favorite scriptures and bore our testimonies of them. Mine was 2 Nephi 4:17. Its about how Nephi rejoices but then calls himself “wretched man that I am.” Later he says I know in whom I’ve trusted. Chapter 4 is so real to me. I want to be like Nephi, he is my hero and I love learning about him. I know I can trust the Lord. I know he loves his children so much and that he will allow me to help his children. I’ve felt of my Heavenly Father’s love so much it makes me so happy, I want others to feel what I have. I deeply love my Father in Heaven right back, I really don’t deserve the blessings he always gives me.

This email is quite long, but its Mom’s Christmas present. David A. Bednar came yesterday night. He brought his youngest son who is married. They all spoke to us. I enjoyed everything his daughter-in-law and son said. So much of what they shared answered my prayers. I am amazed at the time that is spent by Heavenly Father to answer my prayers. Elder Bednar shared a lot too — how to dig into the scriptures and really find things. He took us through step by step. His wife is really funny! Before the meeting starts they show a photo of the speaker. Sister Bednar, when she spoke said something like Elder Bednar is so young and good looking in that photo and totally photo-shopped. Elder Bednar got really red. He he. Then she said can I get a ride home from somebody else? Ha Ha Ha. It was funny.

Afterwards everyone got to shake his hand. Yep, every missionary one by one. I am so grateful that we have apostles that are special witnesses of Christ. I felt the spirit even before he entered the room. I was so happy to see him, I couldn’t stop watching every little thing he did. I really look up to him. I know we have a true prophet and that all apostles really do testify so powerfully of Christ, I know he lives and that he loves me.

Merry Christmas today! I love everyone and I wish the best. Have a great and happy day. Be nice to each other. :)

Love, Elder Willoughby.

Related Posts

List of Daniel’s missionary posts.

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Christmas Holidays


Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

This rickety blog is closed for the

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

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If you want something to read try Jill’s Christmas Letter.

Proposition 8 and the Mormon Church: The Aftermath

A couple outside the Salt Lake Temple

A couple outside the Salt Lake Temple

We all saw the demonstrations against the Church after the passage of Proposition 8. We read about the Church members who lost their livelihoods simply because they donated to a worthy cause. So was Proposition 8 involvement really a rickety P.R. fiascofor the Church? If we were to make our judgment based on popular news media reports and the Internet, where there is usually more noise than signal, we could conclude the Church’s involvement was just not worth it. However, it may be beneficial to step through five items of interest and then make our conclusions.

A Winner

Americans love a winner. The Church entered the Proposition 8 campaign at the eleventh hour by requesting its members to donate of their means and time. With a huge effort expended by many groups Proposition 8 was passed. To put it bluntly, they won. Hence some of the losers vented their anger on Mormons. But Americans also don’t like sore losers. So even though some see the Church’s efforts as negative, I don’t see it that way. Who do you want on your side in a moral battle? A proven winner or a sore loser? Consider also that the cause was just, somewhat like the fight the armies of Moroni were engaged in:

Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. (Alma 43:45)

Soon the negative publicity will pass. In fact, something that appears negative to the Church can in the end be helpful. For example, very few people like to see any sacred religious structure the target of demonstrations and deliberate vandalism. This type of action generates sympathy, not for the demonstrators, but for the members of Church. And we all know that if the Church wished it, hundreds of thousands of counter demonstrators could be summoned.

Impact on the Church: Small. In contrast, see this post for an example of high negative impact. Remember, real friends are friends still. New friends are gained.

Tax Exempt Status

Consider this statement by a disappointed No on 8 supporter:

The Mormon church overstepped its boundaries by being a tax-exempt organization. They clearly are not supposed to be involved in political activities. (San Francisco Chronicle, “Tax-exempt benefit disputed in Prop. 8 campaign,” 28 November 2008)

As is pointed out in the article, the church almost certainly has not violated its tax exemption. While the tax code has a zero tolerance for endorsements of candidates, the tax code gives wide latitude for churches to engage in discussions of policy matters and moral questions, including when posed as initiatives. This is one aspect of why some No on 8 supporters become so angry at the Church’s involvement — they do not understand this simple principle. However, it appears that the Church may have overlooked some minor non-monetary contributions. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I suspect it will come to nothing, or perhaps a small technical infraction will be found. This will be a good learning experience which can be utilized the next time marriage is threatened and the Church comes to its defense.

Impact on the Church: Zero to minimal.

Missionary Work

While missionary work may slow for a time in California it needs to be remembered that the missionary program is worldwide. Conversions rates were already slowing in Europe and the U.S. anyway. Resources are being redirected to nations where the field is white already to harvest. For example, my son Jake recently returned from the Mexico City North Mission where near the end of his mission convert baptisms averaged 500 a month. Because there are never enough resources to cover the world, when opposition grows too great in one area, over time efforts will be redirected elsewhere. For example, in January my son Daniel will arrive in Mongolia where prior to 1992 missionaries were not allowed to enter.

Impact on the Church: Minimal, newly called missionaries will be sent elsewhere if necessary.

The Wheat and the Chaff

This topic is more internal to the Church and its members though disaffected members provide a mountain of publicity from a molehill of fact. There are those members who actively campaigned against Proposition 8. Each would have his or her reasons, which I will respect. However, I believe that when the Church gets heavily involved in a cause a continuing sifting process is going on wherein the wheat and the tares are separated. There should be no need to explain further. Although losing members is not my idea of fun, ultimately the Church will be stronger. New opportunities and friendships for the Church will be generated from those who respect the members they worked with to pass Proposition 8.

Impact on the Church: Minimal, negative publicity from disaffected members fades quickly.

Boycott Utah

The Deseret News reported:

Utah’s growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay-rights activists and others seeking to punish the LDS Church for its aggressive promotion of California’s ban on gay marriage. (Deseret News, “Utah boycott likely after LDS Prop. 8 push“, 11 November 2008)

When I first read this I almost fell off my chair in hysterics. Consider for a moment the skiers who work at my office. They want to go skiing when the slopes are not busy. With a boycott and a few discounts you can make up the difference with local skiers. Turns out it was, as a Salt Lake Tribune article recently said, all just words. Gays just don’t have the economic clout they think they have.

But don’t give up now. Why not try boycotting Utah’s largest employer? 30,000 workers — now that would have an impact. But I don’t think Hill Air Force Base would take kindly to a boycott and gays are not on the best of terms with the military. Oh well.

Impact on the Church: Zero. With discounts others will fill any void.

Summary

If you lose your job or business is down because of support for Proposition 8 then the impact on you is major. However, my purpose is to examine the impact on the Church itself. My overall evaluation is that it is minimal. Some learning experiences now will enable the Church to be even more effective in the future.
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Ask Rickety: What is the Global Warming Petition Project?

East lake near Wuhan University

Global warming?

What is the Global Warming Petition Project?

It is a petition signed by 31,072 American scientists, including 9,021 with PhDs. It can be found at the Petition Project website.

What is the purpose of the petition?

The purpose of the Petition Project is to demonstrate that the claim of “settled science” and an overwhelming “consensus” in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climatological damage is wrong. No such consensus or settled science exists. As indicated by the petition text and signatory list, a very large number of American scientists reject this hypothesis.

What does the petition say?

The entire petition is as follows:

We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.

What are the qualifications of the signatories?

All of the listed signers have formal educations in fields of specialization that suitably qualify them to evaluate the research data related to the petition statement. Many of the signers currently work in climatological, meteorological, atmospheric, environmental, geophysical, astronomical, and biological fields directly involved in the climate change controversy.

Who finances the Petition Project?

The Petition Project is financed by non-tax deductible donations to the Petition Project from private individuals. The project has no financing whatever from industrial sources. Donations to the project are primarily used for printing and postage. Most of the labor for the project has been provided by scientist volunteers.

Are all the petition signatories scientists?

Opponents of the petition project sometimes submit forged signatures in efforts to discredit the project. Usually, these efforts are eliminated by our verification procedures. On one occasion, a forged signature appeared briefly on the signatory list. It was removed as soon as it was discovered.

Is there any evidence that global warming is not harmful?

A twelve page review article about the human-caused global warming hypothesis is circulated with the petition. The factual information cited in the article is referenced to the underlying research literature, in this case by 132 references listed at the end of the article. The article was submitted to many scientists for comments and suggestions before it was finalized and submitted for publication. It then underwent ordinary peer review by the publishing journal.

What does this review say?

The review is called Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and its abstract reads:

A review of the research literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the conclusion that increases during the 20th and early 21st centuries have produced no deleterious effects upon Earth’s weather and climate. Increased carbon dioxide has, however, markedly increased plant growth. Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in hydrocarbon use and minor greenhouse gases like CO2 do not conform to current experimental knowledge. The environmental effects of rapid expansion of the nuclear and hydrocarbon energy industries are discussed.

What do you make of all this, Rickety?

With over 30,000 signatories the petition deserves a decent review. Even if only a quarter of the signatories are bona fide scientists that is still an impressive number. This to me confirms what I have thought for years, that is, the jury is still out on the effect of hydrocarbon use on the environment. In the review, mention is made of the effect of the sun on temperature which one cannot easily dismiss.

Many people seem to have made their minds up based upon the popular fads of the day. I think it better to keep an open mind and to continue scientific research. Keep the politics out of the debate and examine all scientific research. See also the report of another 650 dissenting scientists.

Photo Credit: wumai on Flickr

Related Articles

Methods designed to reduce climate change questioned Address of a U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change member.
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Missionary Dan Email from the MTC #6


Mongolian landscape.

Mongolian Landscape

Presented here are portions of Elder Daniel Willoughby’s sixth email from the Missionary Training Center.

Hello Family,

I would send pictures often but I only have one chip and it takes forever to get the pictures developed here. If the machine worked I should have some to send tomorrow. I could burn them on CD but the machine charges 3 dollars.

Yes we are expected to leave January 13. I wasn’t sure on it so I didn’t tell you.

It is cold here in Provo, but we rarely are outside. My cold weather things are coming in handy. We’ve heard some cool stories about how cold Mongolia is. When you’re outside and you breathe your breath will freeze and turn into ice crystals. Then the sun shines through it and it sparkles. The sun is always up usually in the winter but its freezing. Very cold -30 degrees F. Its exciting though!

I don’t think I could ever get sick of the routine. I love the MTC. I really enjoy how much opportunity there is to learn here. I couldn’t number how many general authorities I’ve heard from. We get a member of the Seventy some times twice a week. Last Tuesday was Elder Pace.

My companions are great! We get along quite nicely. Last Sunday we were called as Zone Leaders. It’s been really good for our companionship, we’ve grown closer and its been a great incentive for us to continue to work hard. Its been a blessing because we get to meet all the new missionaries and help them. We get to serve them a lot. Its fun giving them tours and telling them all the little tips and tricks to the MTC.

My companion from Samoa, Elder Apo, was excited to see snow. It was his first time ever. He is freezing though coming from an island that was 100 degrees and 100% humidity. We all hope he won’t die in Mongolia.

I again had a wonderful experience in the RC. I talked to an old lady who had several trials. She’s had multiple surgeries and a couple of near death experiences. She had great faith in Christ and his atonement. She just wasn’t sure why she was still alive. She talked for 15 minutes about her trials and I listened. She is so prepared to hear the gospel. I told her about the Book of Mormon, bore my testimony of it and of Christ. She is going to meet with the missionaries and she wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. The spirit told her through me that the missionaries will bring her such joy and the thing she has been waiting for. She will be a great member of the church soon.

Thanks for the pictures Steven. I liked how Sarah’s birthday present was Bryson. He is getting big, he’ll be a good track runner, football, soccer, and basketball player.

I hope Christmas will be fun for everyone. I love you all and I am so happy right now. I am so blessed every day and the Lord always answers my prayers.

Merry Christmas!

Love,

Elder Willoughby

Related Posts

List of Daniel’s missionary posts.

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Credit Karma Checkup

Credit Report and Credit Score

When it comes to a checkup of our credit standing, most of us know we can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for our free credit reports. Every four months I check my rickety credit with one of the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, so that for example, Experian is acessed once a year. But if you want to see your FICO score you usually have to pay for it. Unless you use Credit Karma.

Free Credit Score

Credit Karma provides users with free credit scores and will track these scores for you. There are also tools to to help you learn about improving your credit scores. The scores range from 300 to 850 which corresponds to the same scale as the FICO Score. Credit Karma shows personalized offers based on your credit profile. This subsidizes the free credit score tracking. The site also has a very informative blog, for example, read about Planning an Emergency Fund.

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