Friday, January 11, 2013

A New Project

I am participating in a new project that should be interesting.  The launching of a High Altitude Balloon.

You can see this blog at:

http://staypuftspaceproject.blogspot.com/

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Sad State Of Operating Systems

I have become somewhat despondent in regards to current operating systems.  I feel like everyone is messing it up so badly, that there is nothing worth having out there.

This had been brewing for a while, but here is what tipped me over the edge.

This Christmas, Santa brought my boys a couple of new laptops with Windows 8.  After spending numerous hours setting them up I finally have to agree with the pundits.  Windows 8 is a schizophrenic mess.  It is neither fish nor foul, and in not making its mind up, it is poor at both.

First, the not to be called "Metro" interface, which I can see would be beneficial on a tablet, stinks on a traditional notebook.  It just doesn't work well.  Things that I could easily do in one or two clicks before, I now have to think "is that on the desktop or in Metro?" go to the appropriate interface, and then work through the incoherent menus to get there.  I went into it thinking that it was just different, and would take time to get used to, but no, it is just really bad.  They have tried too hard to not be like Apple in core areas, and are now too much like Apple in the bad ones.

It reminds me a lot of Windows 3.1 where there was the Windows side, that had its issues, and the underlying DOS side, that didn't quite work like it used to.  It was a tough transition, but at least then it was a move that was necessary and there were tangible benefits.  I don't see any such benefits in this move.

Live tiles are neat and all, and when they get it all sorted out the Family Safety stuff is a miracle, but the bads just way outweigh the goods.

And that is the problem I am facing will all of the available operating systems right now.

The next obvious choice is OSX.  It is really pretty but drives me nuts.  Here is my number one gripe, let me choose the font size on the windows and operating system components!  Seriously, you are the ones pushing the whole "retina" thing, and even you have realized at full resolution your OS becomes an unusable mess, and have limited it to half resolution.  So what is the point of a retina display then?  Don't start me on trying to scroll on the side.  It is like playing wack-a-mole with a one pixel wide bar!

This problem first came to my attention setting up my Mac Mini as an entertainment center server on my HDTV.  At full resolution, which you want so your videos look their best, it is impossible to read the OS windows from the couch.  To do anything on the OS I have to sit on the ottoman 4 feet from the screen to be able to read anything, and I have better than 20/20 vision.  It is ridiculous.

Another issue I have is that it takes a doctorate in physics to add a network drive, but one errant click will delete it with no warning.

If you want to do anything but browse the web, or get email, you had better be prepared to delve into menus and technical stuff.  For the computer that "just works", it doesn't.  Couple that with the IOSification is is going through, and you are going to end up with something that is just too dumbed down to be what I want in an OS.

So what are the options?

Linux is interesting, and it has come a long way.  Better yet, it is free!  Unfortunately with free comes its own set of issues.  For instance, is the program you want to run compatible with your chosen build?  How often do you have to jump into the command line to get basic things done?  Not only are the builds available a bit on the quirky side, but major software isn't available for them.  Sure in many cases there are open source alternatives, but for a lot of things you need the real deal.

Where does this all leave me?  I really don't know.  I have always been a Windows guy.  I looked long and hard at OSX, and while it has its merits, it fails on too many key points for me.  Linux is still too much the realm of hackers, and I have quite frankly gotten too lazy to really want to mess with it on a daily basis.  I run a server with it, but I don't want to depend on it for personal computing.  So, sadly, I don't have a solution.

One thing I am clear on, and I seem to be at odds with the major OS and computer makers, mobile OS's and desktop OS's are very different beast with different needs, interfaces, and expectations.  I like IOS on a tablet.  It is great for consuming information.  Android is a very viable alternative.  Neither works on a desktop.

Mobile OS's are for consuming information, and light creation.  Think answering an email or text, perhaps a note written while on a bus.

Computers are for content creation.  That is why they are having such a hard time "Metro"ifying Office.  That is why when you are doing detailed or extensive creation, one migrates to a laptop or desktop PC.  Tablets are great for consumption.  That is why people read so much on tablets of all kinds.

The sooner those making the technology figure this out, the better off we all will be.

As I look back on my post from March, http://wonkonet.blogspot.com/2012/03/oss-and-going-forward.html, I am unfortunately realizing that things have gotten worse, not better.  That is not what technology is supposed to do.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Some of the Weirder Misconceptions About Mormons

OK, on this one we are going to have some fun!  Let the accusations begin!


Do Mormons have horns?

No, in fact we don't.  After many generations of converts and genetic selection, it is very rare for a Mormon to be born with horns.  Those that are, have them removed shortly after birth.

Seriously?  Ok, perhaps in the 1800's I could see people asking this, but anytime in the last 50 years is inexcusable.  No Mormons do not, nor have they ever had horns.  This was merely a contrivance of ministers who felt they were losing members to try and associate the LDS Church with Satan.  It was and is a flat out lie, and anyone who perpetuates it should be suspect as a source of any truth.



Do we have multiple wives? 

Are you kidding?  It is hard enough to keep one wife in line!

Now to the answer.  No.  Actually polygamy was done away with in 1890 via what is called the Manifesto, and is contained in our Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 1.  A good discussion about both the practice and abolishment of polygamy can be found on the FairLDS.org website here.

There were a small number of people who were married into polygamist marriages after this date, but from what I have seen the vast majority of cases were additional wives being added to already existing polygamist relationships, and none after about 1910.  I actually have a Great Great Aunt who was one of these last ones.  While she died in 1977, there is still a lot of lore that surrounds it.

Today's reality is that no one in the LDS Church currently practices it, and if they are found to be doing so, they are excommunicated.

The "Mormon" groups that still practice polygamy are all apostate offshoots of the LDS Church, and have little to nothing to do with it.

I could get into the whole discussion of the whys and explanations of the practice, but that is for another article.  The real point is that even among those who did within the LDS faith, I doubt any are still alive that participated as it was changed so long ago.



I heard the reason Mormon churches have steeples is that Satan will fall out of the sky and fall on it.  Is that true?

No.  It isn't true.   Not even a little bit.

Beyond that I'm really not sure where to go with this one.  I am not one to belittle these comments generally, as I wish to dispel them kindly, but this is pretty out there.  I had this one asked to me many years ago, and I was just astonished at it.  So, rather that mocking, I will link to an article I found that discusses LDS architecture, and in particular steeples, in some detail.

https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/089-39-48.pdf

This isn't a periodical I would normally link to, but this particular article seems sound, and worth the read.


Do Mormons dance?

Other than the fact I embarrass my wife so much she has forbidden me to dance, yes Mormons dance.  Quite frankly they do it a lot.

Girls almost all take some kind of dance class, and there are all kinds of dances set up as social activities for Mormon youth.  Growing up there was usually at least one dance at a LDS church in the area at on a monthly basis.

If you don't believe me, look at all the reality shows on TV these days.  On those dancing reality shows it is almost unusual to NOT have a Mormon in the group.

I believe this actually started more recently as Footloose was filmed in Utah, and implied the stodginess of Mormons in so doing.  It was bunk.

So yes.  We dance.  No always well, but we dance.



So many myths, so little time.  I'll stop here for the moment.  I'm betting there will be some followups though.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Grace and Works

In many conversations I have had about LDS beliefs, one of the most commonly believed and unchangeable accusations I have encountered is that Mormons "work" their way to heaven.

Let me put this as succinctly as I can.

It is only by the grace of God that we are able to return to Him, and not by anything we do.  Period.  End of statement.  Full stop.

Mormons do not do good works to earn their way to heaven.  There is no heavenly scoreboard keeping track of who has the highest score, and admitting those that have enough points.  To even suggest this is to completely misrepresent LDS beliefs.

Now, let's step back and see what the kernel of truth is that is used as the basis for this fabrication.

To clarify this let me quote a scripture from the Book of Mormon:

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
-- 2 Nephi 25:23
 "After all we can do"  does not mean that we can work our way to heaven.

I understand this to mean that Heavenly Father wants us to do everything in our ability to do the right things, and make our sins right.  Obviously we will fall short of perfection.  No one can attain that other than Christ.  But He expects us to put forth our best efforts.  In so doing, he makes up the difference through the atonement.  It doesn't matter if it is an inch or a mile, when we put forth our best effort it shows the faith necessary for the atonement to be applied.

Is this working your way to heaven?  No.  If it were, then we wouldn't need the atonement.  We would just do lots of good things, and there you go.  Done.

That isn't what we believe though.  We believe that no matter how hard you work, you will never get yourself to where you need to be.  It cannot be done.  It is a defining feature of this existence.  Thus the atonement of Christ is the only thing that can bridge that gap between us and God.

So when someone tells you "Mormons work their way to heaven", you can now confidently tell them that they are misinformed, and correct them.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Claim The Right to Define My Own Beliefs, Thank You Very Much!

This is the first in what will probably become a collection of articles that debunk some of the fallacies out there that are being perpetuated about LDS (Mormon) beliefs.

Let me explain:  Since the beginning of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (as it should properly be called) there has been a tension with other Christian sects.  In their zeal to castigate, isolate and drive the "Mormons" from their midst, salacious tales of fabricated acts and beliefs were commonly spread.  Some, were true.  Most were either taken so out of context as to be unrecognizable to those who believe, and many, many were outright lies.

Strangely, no matter how fervently members of the LDS faith denied these falsehoods, they were branded liars and charlatans and told how they really believe.

Think about that, told how and what they believe.   No matter how it is misrepresented, I know what I believe, and only I should have the right to define that.  You have every right to disagree with me, but you cannot define what I believe. 

Often obscure and isolated passages from talks by church leaders are used as justification for their pronouncements of falsehood.  This is often at best a misunderstanding, at worst a misrepresentation of how revelation and doctrine are promulgated in the LDS faith.  When these are debunked, often the response is to call those responding liars and to say they are misrepresenting what they believe, while quite the opposite is true.

To have a much better understanding of how any item becomes "official doctrine", I highly recommend you go to this article:

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng

In it Elder D. Todd Christopherson, an Apostle or member of the Quarum of the 12 Apostles, the second highest body in our church leadership, describes how doctrine is established.  There is a specific process, and when something is outside that process, it is not official doctrine.  As he states it, it is one's "well considered opinion".  The actual "doctrine" of the LDS church is very finite, and is very easily accessible on LDS.org.

In fact, one of the best summaries of LDS beliefs is contained in a manual for the Gospel Principles class taught every Sunday at almost every LDS meeting house.  You can find it here:

http://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles?lang=eng

Without that foundation, nothing else that is done in the LDS faith will make any sense, and in some cases can be quite foreign.

One other point that I think is worth noting.  Often LDS doctrine is left somewhat vague intentionally.  For instance, let's look at tithing.  Do you pay on the gross or net of your wages.  A strong argument can be made either way.  There are members who have a very strong belief that you should pay on the gross, and would never even consider otherwise.  "Do you want gross blessings, or net blessings" is their statement.  Others say as the commandment is to pay on your increase, and taxes are not part of your increase, to pay on the net is not only acceptable, but well in keeping with even the spirit of the law.

Both are right.  This is left to the individual to work out between themselves and God, and should not be interpreted by leadership in any further detail.

Another example would be drinking Coke.  Our Word of Wisdom forbids drinking coffee or tea.  Some people interpret this to mean that caffeine is bad, and thus include Coke in that category.  It is not expressly included though, and because some members have taken this interpretation too far, leaders have actually had to clarify this both privately and more rarely publicly.  Now, that doesn't mean that as an individual member you cannot continue to live by that belief, but it does mean that it is inappropriate to judge others either informally or more formally based upon that belief. 

Is it good to avoid caffeine?  Probably yes.  But it is not doctrine, despite the number of people who live by that standard.

As an aside, I drank Coke, and more specifically Dr. Pepper by the gallon for years.  I just decided it wasn't healthy and gave up all soda wholesale.  My choice, and one I don't impose on others.  I pretty much drink water and the occasional glass of milk.  Oh, and I do get a cranberry slush from Sonic with some regularity, but who wouldn't?

So with all that said, what I think I will be doing is taking some of the traditional complaints and misconceptions about Mormons, and give my take on it.  I cannot speak for the church as a whole, but as a 6th generation member, I have a pretty good idea what is going on and can speak for myself reasonably well.  I will try and distinguish between what I believe is "doctrine" and what is my "opinion", but I will attack them to the best of my ability.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Take on the Abortion Issue

Never let it be said I'm not willing to have an opinion on a controversial topic.

My opinions have run the gamut on abortion from keep government all the way out, to no abortions at all.  Sometimes the swings were pretty violent as new ideas or concepts were presented to me.

One that caught me by surprise was watching a show where Kathy Ireland for whatever reason was giving an opinion on abortion.  Her argument was very compelling, and made me begin to rethink some more liberal (or frankly, more libertarian) thought processes.  Her argument was pretty simple.  When you look at the genetics of the embryo are they generic? Are they chimpanzee?  Are they dolphin?  No.  In fact it is human DNA.  Not just human DNA, but DNA that is novel from both the father and mother.  In other words, while this life was still dependent on the mother to survive, it was still an independent human life.

Who would have thought Kathy Ireland would be the one to put that forward?

This really got me thinking and in the end I ended up someplace I think is somewhat different than most, but is relatively easy to explain.

I am pro-choice.

Not in the liberal sense of the phrase, rather, I believe we all have agency to make choices.  I believe that we have that right so long as it doesn't harm another, and that is where our choices solidify into consequences.

What?

Let me put it this way:

The main purpose of sex is not fun.  It is procreation.  I don't care if you are religious or a strict Darwinist, the purpose of sex is to make babies.  The fun, bonding and emotional gratification are all secondary to that point.  We all know this.  We also know that even the best birth control is not 100% effective.  So, there is a calculated risk we all take into consideration at some level when engaging in sex.  You have, by definition, made a choice.

Occasionally that choice brings unwanted consequences such as a pregnancy.  To suggest this is a surprise is to insult the intelligence of most people.  Most people know this is a real possibility, and they choose to take that chance.  They may be unhappy, but they cannot be truly surprised.

So now your choice has created a situation. The woman now has a wholly separate human life within her that is dependent on her for development and sustenance that was created by the choice of both partners.  In my opinion, generally, the decision was made at the time of intercourse, and you were willing to live with the consequence.  To abort this person at this point is to try and undo a choice made at the expense of another life.  Therefore one cannot morally abort the child under normal circumstances. 

There are exceptions to this though.  Rape, incest, or the health of the mother each bring in outside influences that are not of the mother's choice.  In the case of rape or incest, this was not the mother's choice.  She must be allowed that option, even at the expense of the life within her.  This is the time where the mother should have the option to make her choice.  She should not have to live with the concequences of someone forcing their choice on her.

Likewise when the mother's health is severely at risk, it does not necessarily make sense to have the mother sacrifice herself for the infant within her.  This one is more tricky, and certainly should not be used as a "loop hole" as it has at time in the past.  But to lose the mother risks losing the child as well, better to save the one and see if a different choice is needed going forward.

In each case above, the parents and specifically the woman have had an opportunity to make a choice that determined the outcome.  Once that choice is made, there really is no going back.

Anyway, it peeves me that the left has co-opted the "pro-choice" title, because it really is the "pro-change-your-mind-after-the-fact-at-anothers-expense" platform.  In the end it really comes down to us each just needing to be willing to accept the consequences of our actions, and morally work through them to the best of our ability.

Hopefully that makes some kind of sense to you.  It does to me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Defense of Apple's New Mapping App

Apparently the blogosphere is on a witch hunt about IOS6's new Maps app.  It looks like there are a lot of issues that people are having and some changes in functionality.

First, my impression so far is that it is actually MORE accurate than Google Maps.  When I type in my home address, the pin ends up somewhere down the street.  On my iPhone 5 it was dead on with the pin in the middle of my roof on the satellite view.  Sorry, but I see that as an improvement.

Same with my work.  Rather than being half a block away and in the middle of the street (before I corrected it on the business listing), the new Maps app was spot on.

In fact, the only issue I have has so far was not directly Maps fault.  Yelp had the local plumbing supply store listed as 300 East when in fact it is 300 West.  I submitted an error report, but just to confirm it, I looked on Yelp, and there it is in all its glory, on the wrong side of town.

Most of the errors I have seen have been perfectly understandable, and while they do need to be corrected, to get all huffy about them is a bit childish.

I propose the reason for all the hubub is not that the Maps App is SOOOO bad, but rather we have become SOOOO bad at navigating because we don't have to pay attention to where we are going anymore.  Type it in and drive.  Trust the machine.

Actually I was in California a few weeks ago using Google Maps, and not only did I keep going to places that were no longer there, but even things as simple as Disneyland were needlessly complicated and off.  So don't tell me Google is all perfect and everything.

I'm sorry, but learn to navigate people.  Have a general idea of where you are going so that when you are led astray, you can tell before you park you car in a lake.  Be smarter than the machine!