Friday, May 29, 2009

I am David

I Am David I Am David by Anne Holm

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of the best short novels I have ever read.

View all my reviews.

Video on Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time

Here is a message for our difficult times.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Major discovery made in LDS Church's First Presidency Vault

In a Church News article dated May 22, 2009, Robert Woodford of the LDS Church History Department Joseph Smith Papers Project spoke to a plenary session of the Mormon History Association meeting in Springfield, Ill. and announced that among historical documents in possession of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) included the original manuscript of the Book of Commandments and Revelations (BCR). He said it proved to be "the manuscript collection of revelations that Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer took to Missouri in November 1831, from which to publish the Book of Commandments," forerunner to the Doctrine and Covenants."

Quoting from the article, "Additional revelations were entered into the volume as they were received, and the BCR was also used as one of the sources for the revelations printed in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants," Brother Woodford noted. "Hence, the BCR contains the earliest surviving manuscript versions of many of Joseph Smith's revelations, and the only pre-publication manuscript copies of some of them."

The manuscript is reported to contain seven revelations given to Joseph Smith which were never published as part of the scriptural canon of the Church.

It was further noted that some of the pages of the manuscript were missing, but that a portion of the missing pages was in the possession of the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church).

Grant Underwood, commented that "the manuscript "allows us to see that the bulk of all wording in the revelation texts remained unchanged from initial dictation to publication in the Doctrine and Covenants. Thus, while my presentation focuses on the revisions, perhaps the real story is that only a small part of most revelation texts were ever revised."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waze -- the future of GPS

A significant portion of the GPS market is aimed at day-to-day driving. An Israeli start-up company, Waze, is collecting real-time traffic and driving conditions data from its users. This appears to be the most useful of all of the traffic and mapping systems yet devised.

The service is presently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and Boston in the U.S. The Waze system is currently running on 80,000 smart phones in Israel. Quoting a news article on Cnet, "The service allows users to report accidents, speed traps, cops by the side of the road, and other traffic-related items. What's cool is that these items fade automatically over time, and there's also the possibility for the system to ping a driver as he or she passes a previously reported incident to see if it's still there."

CEO Noam Bardin is quoted as saying, "that in Israel, Waze doesn't even use commonly available street maps as its base layer of data. Instead, it tracks users (with their permission), and builds maps from those traces. Then it asks users to name the roads." Cnet.

I have had GPS on my iPhone for about a year now and we have used it extensively, not only to locate addresses and get directions, but to locate restaurants, stores and other businesses. It is also useful for planning freeway exits and deciding on routes. Recently while driving in northern Arizona near Kingman, we needed to stop for dinner, using an App on the iPhone we found a Subway restaurant right on the freeway at the next exit. Historically, we would have just followed signs or driven off the freeway and looked for possibilities. We have spent quite a bit of time wandering around shopping centers trying to locate a suitable restaurant or other business. The mapping functions, plus the business locating functions, plus the real-time GPS location function add up to a really helpful tool.

Adding the functions described in the news article would significantly increase the utility of an already useful GPS function.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Google's Android competition to iPhone?

As an iPhone user I am always interested to see what might end up being competition. Cnet ran an interview with Google's director of mobile platforms about the future of Google's Android. I circulate in a group of people that are always actively searching for newer and faster technology, especially if the innovations can increase productivity and make working easier. I wouldn't characterize myself as being on the cutting edge, for example, I did not wait in line to buy an iPhone, but I am interested to see if there is something better out there.

Google's Android, software for mobile devices, was introduced on November 5, 2007. At the time, the news announcements indicated that "Google hopes to do to the mobile market what it has helped do for the traditional Internet, which is bring people closer to content on the Web in a easy and organized way. At the most basic level this means making Web surfing on a cell phone look and feel a lot like it does on a PC at home."

Since I am a fan of Apple products, an announcement that Google wanted to make my mobile device into a Windows PC didn't thrill me too much. Having used PDA's and Smartphones for years, I have definite opinions about the devices and their software. I can say that the iPhone was an appreciable advancement in the usefulness of the technology. But like all hardware, the iPhone has its quirks and limitations. Some things about the iPhone almost drive me crazy, but not crazy enough to go back to a standard non-iPhone machine.

What makes the iPhone stand out, in large part, are the Apps. It would be really hard to go back to a phone without the added features and functionality. New Android products are being introduced regularly, but without the support of a huge App base, the product does not yet have a great appeal to an iPhone user.

This is a development that will bear watching, I have friends with Android products and I will be looking to them for feedback.

Legos go architectural -- Frank Lloyd Wright

Lego Architecture

(Credit: Lego)

If I were Frank Lloyd Wright, (which fortunately I am not, because I would be dead) I don't know if I would be honored or insulted by the latest development in children's toys. Lego has introduced a line of architectural construction sets and has begun with a Lego Guggenheim and Falling Water House. The release comes in conjunction with fiftieth anniversary of the realization of Frank Lloyd Wright’s renowned design, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and celebrates the golden anniversary of its landmark building with the exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward, co-organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. On view from May 15 through August 23, 2009.

If you are too old to know about Legos and you have no children or grandchildren, you may not be aware that Legos can be made into almost anything you can imagine. One of the problems is the Lego doesn't leave much to the imagination. They sell pre-designed set of blocks that go together to make whatever, from Star Wars figures to buildings to video games featuring Lego's figures. Legos are featured as educational toys and they certainly are. At least they give the parents and grand-parents an education in how much they can cost.

I would probably have loved Legos when I was younger. But now my ardor for the toys is tempered by visions of thousands of little blocks all over the floor in disarray.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Science Fiction -- more fiction than science

I have been rereading some of the older science fiction stories. It is always interesting to see how the authors got a little bit right and a lot wrong. Almost uniformly SF writers overestimate both the pace and extent to which technology will change in the future. Orville's 1984 is a prime example. George Orwell's so-called vision of the future was very, very far off the mark. But even such luminaries such as Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov missed the spaceship on most of their predictions of the future; think 2001 A Space Odyssey and the sequel, 2010. Well, here we are folks, and I still can't book passage to the Space Station. I think I mentioned before that no one seems to have predicted computers especially not the iPhone type.

We still have to wait a while for talking computers and robots that do more than sweep floors and set off bombs. What is even more striking is the conservative nature of real society as opposed to its portrayal in SF novels and films. People have not changed a lot in the last 100 years, at least not in terms of the way we were supposed to be living according to SF. For example, Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky paints a picture of people living next to the Grand Canyon in underground homes. Yeah, sure.

Reading a lot of old SF points out how really hard it is to second guess the future. It is remarkable how many stories continued the Cold War into the 21st Century and beyond and how many had a Third World War or even more. I have noticed that a major portion of the SF writers are truly pessimistic. Back to Tunnel in the Sky, when it turns out that the world is so heavily over populated that they are sending millions of people to the stars by way of Heinlein's Star Gates.

It is also notable how little place religion is given in the future worlds of SF. If religion is mentioned at all, it is usually portrayed as negative and evil rather than beneficial to anyone. Perhaps the writers believe people will be saved by technology. It is also interesting how both SF and Fantasy seem to have the "average person" as the main character, who just manages to save the World or the Universe. He or she is always being hunted or attacked by the evil ______ fill in the blank (government, underworld, monsters, religious leader etc.) and always seems to just survive due to superior cunning, luck or the fact that the person was really a superhero but didn't know it.

SF writers especially, do not tell stories about ordinary people in ordinary families. If there is a family, the family is usually non-traditional and none of them have more than two or at most, three children. I have seven children and I already know all about the prejudice of the world on this point. Often the family is missing, the hero is an orphan or his parents are killed or whatever. SF writers do not like to deal with families, they are too traditional.

Technology itself is almost always personified. There is always an evil machine gone amok or robots that want to take over the world from humans or some other evil purpose. Aliens are usually evil or have some ulterior purpose when they aren't overtly trying to kill off the human race. If there were alien civilizations, and if they knew about earth, why would we think that they were automatically antagonistic or even uncaring about humans? Why are most aliens pretty bad?

Probably continued.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy 30th Anniversary to the first commercial video game

As usual, Google give us insights into things we never knew we needed insights into. The first commercial video game was called Galaxy Game and was located in the Stanford Student Union. Here is the Wikipedia explanation of the game:

The Galaxy Game is the earliest known coin-operated computer or video game. It was installed at the Tresidder Union at Stanford University in September, 1971, two months before the release of Computer Space, the first mass-produced such game.[1] Only one unit was built initially, although the game later included several consoles allowing users to play against each other.

The game was programmed by Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck. Like Computer Space, it was a version of the existing Spacewar!, which had been created in the early 1960s on the PDP-1 and ported to a variety of platforms since then. The coin-operated game console incorporated a Digital PDP-11/20 with vector displays. The hardware cost around $20,000, and a game cost 10 cents or three games for 25 cents. In June 1972 the hardware was improved to allow the processor to power four to eight consoles. The game remained popular on campus, with wait times for players as much as one hour, until it was removed in May 1979 due to damaged screens.

The unit was restored in 1997 and now resides in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

I never was a fan of computer games, but I do appreciate the advances in graphics and processors engendered by the quest to have more and more realistic games.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Top ten books searched on WorldCat

WorldCat is the most extensive catalog of libraries in the world. It catalogs over 1 billion items in over 10,000 libraries. Each month they publish a list of the top twenty search items in the whole world. Here is the list of the top ten this month.

You may note that Stephenie Meyer has three of the top ten books! Maybe I should try again to read one? Nope, answered that question real fast. Obviously, I do not support or endorse any or all of the items listed. Neither would I look at or read some of the items.

The Mormon Channel

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new online radio service called the Mormon Channel.

The content for the Mormon Channel comes many different sources. First, many of the programs come from the vast archives of the Church. Second, working with the various departments of the Church, a large number of new programs and series have been developed for the Mormon Channel. Finally, some great partners- such as Bonneville, Deseret Book, and the campuses of Brigham Young University, have also provided content for the service. Frequently Asked Questions.

The site explains that the content will include live programming. To quote:

Yes. General Conference, CES firesides, devotionals, Christmas firesides, and other special broadcasts will be carried live on the Mormon Channel, and repeated across multiple time zones. It should be noted, however, that certain Church events, such as temple dedications, are intended to be viewed only in select locations because of the sacred nature of the event. Broadcasts not intended for a general audience will typically not air on the Mormon Channel.

Monday, May 11, 2009

No man has found pure space

Until the early 1900s, many people still believed that the earth, or at least the solar system was at the center of the universe. It wasn't until the time of Howard Shapley, in the 1920s and after, that the true size and arrangement of the universe was generally accepted. It is claimed that Shapley was the first to appreciate the size of the Milky Way Galaxy. The history of science is full of these startling inconsistencies, demonstrating that scientists should never be so sure they are correct.

Even though the true size and scope of the universe were debated into the 1920s, and still are the subject of a lot of theories and conjecture, it is more than interesting that a poet in the 1800s saw the full majesty and extent of the universe and realized how insignificant the world was in comparison.

William Wines Phelps, a prominent player in the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed his thoughts on the subject of the size of the universe in a poem, later put to music as a Mormon hymn. In verses of the hymn, If you could hie to Kolob, he poetically expressed the size of the creation by declaring that "there is no end to matter; there is no end to space." He questions whether the end of the universe could be found, even at a speed exceeding that of light itself.

Although the ideas expressed in this hymn are common enough today, the concept of a boundless universe was virtually unknown at the time. Phelps' inspiration came from the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. who spoke of the vastness of the creations in Book of Moses, where, beginning in the Pearl of Great Price: Moses: Chapter 1, we read:

7 And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.
8 And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.
9 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

This came from a man living in a world that still debated the size of the visible universe!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The name of this blog

The title of this blog comes from an old hymn called "If you could hie to Kolob."

1. If you could hie to Kolob In the twinkling of an eye, And then continue onward With that same speed to fly, Do you think that you could ever, Through all eternity, Find out the generation Where Gods began to be?

2. Or see the grand beginning, Where space did not extend? Or view the last creation, Where Gods and matter end? Me thinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space,' Nor seen the outside curtains, Where nothing has a place."

3. The works of God continue, And worlds and lives abound; Improvement and progression Have one eternal round. There is no end to matter; There is no end to space; There is no end to spirit; There is no end to race.

4. There is no end to virtue; There is no end to might; There is no end to wisdom; There is no end to light. There is no end to union; There is no end to youth; There is no end to priesthood; There is no end to truth.

5. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love; There is no end to being; There is no death above. There is no end to glory; There is no end to love; There is no end to being; There is no death above.

The reference to "Kolob" makes for one of the longer articles on Wikipedia. It also brings up a topic that is mostly ignored by the main stream members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. However, on July 20, 2007, President Boyd K. Packer gave an interview for the PBS documentary "The Mormons." Here is a portion of that interview, telling the importance of the reference in the context of the present day church:

HW: There’s a hymn that you mentioned that you love when talking about the plan of salvation to somebody. Something about “hie to” — I’d like to hear that from you.

BKP: “If I could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye, and then continue onward with that same speed to fly, do you think that I could ever, through all eternity, find out the generations where Gods began to be?”

Then the other verse goes on, and you can read it: “There is no end to matter, there is no end to space; there is no end to wisdom; there is no end to race.” You’re testing an old man. That is a very profound song that you should read when you’re studying about what’s going on in the world today.

When you read that and talk and look into the eternities, you see the endlessness of it all — that’s caught up in the words of that song. President David O. McKay read that to one of the astronauts that came. There’s so many things that we don’t know, but it’s a wonderful world that we live in. There’s no end to what we can learn, but we only use about 15 percent of the room there. It’s a great, great revelation that came from William W. Phelps.

“If I could hie to Kolob” — now you have to know what Kolob is; the scriptures say it is the center place — “and then continue onward with that same speed to fly.”

I know a lot of hymns, and I know that one.

HW: But it does say something essential about Mormons.

BKP: It does; it shows a depth and a breadth and a power that is consistent with all that we know. All of the orbits of all the heavenly bodies follow that same thing — it’s an amazing world we live in. When you see color and life and all that life has to offer, we shouldn’t be bored.

More later

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Worry items seriously questioned

I spent a lot of time worrying about my last post and finally decided that I had really missed the essence of the the American psyche and its motivational worries. It was obvious to me, upon reflection that the list was way off. I had ignored the real causes of worry in our contemporary society. So after a sleepless fifteen or twenty minutes, I came up with an alternative list of the things people actually worry about. These are in order of their importance in our society:

1. Today I will worry about a certain male dysfunction. (This was easily number one by the amount of E-mail I receive each day).
2. Today I will worry about spots on clothing caused by dirt and spills. (No question that this is the most serious problem as shown by a random sample of TV ads over the past fifty years).
3. Today I will worry about my inability to get a close shave. (A really serious problem).
4. Today I will worry about my body odor.
5. Today I will worry about going bald. (although this is a visible male problem, it is really the greatest fear of women also).
6. Today I will worry about a generous overabundance of body.
7. Today I will worry about children being injured by air bags.
8. Today I will worry about removing the tags from new mattresses and pillows.
9. Today I will worry about memory loss.
10. Today I will worry about bad breath.
11. Today I will worry about germs on every surface I touch.
12. Today I will worry about using public restrooms.
13. Today I will worry about loss of data on my computer.
14. Today I will worry about computer viruses.
15. Today I will worry about water quality.
16. Today I will worry about things being taught or not taught in public schools.
17. Today I will worry about roughage in my diet.
18. Today I will worry about indoor air quality.
19. Today I will worry about poor lighting conditions.
20. Today I will worry about being out of shape.
21. Today I will worry about having my child fail kindergarten.
22. Today I will worry about social acceptance. (Usually limited to those with disgusting habits or conditions).
23. Today I will worry about inability to fall asleep.
24. Today I will worry about loss of civil rights.
25. Today I will worry about illegal aliens taking away my job.
26. Today I will worry about losing my rollover minutes on my cell phone.
27. Today I will worry about being lactose intolerant.
28. Today I will worry about identity theft.
29. Today I will worry about my inability to program my DVD player.
30. Today I will worry about my inability to operate my cell phone.
31. Today I will worry about electricity running out of the wall sockets.

Now, that is a more realistic list. I am sure you can think of a few more things, if you can just stay awake long enough to remember them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What me worry?

Look after a couple of weeks of Swine Flu, I thought we might need something else to worry about for a while. So I have compiled a little list of things to worry about. There are thirty one of them, one for each day of the month. Now when you wake up in the morning you don't have to think, "What will I worry about today?" I have a list. All you do is post the list in a conspicuous place, like the door of the fridge, and you can worry to your heart's content, each day on an entirely new and different worry.

1. Today I will worry about being hit by a giant meteorite from outer space.
2. Today I will worry about a resurgence of the bubonic plague killing all of mankind.
3. Today I will worry about global warming raising the level of the oceans until New York is under water.
4. Today I will worry about the build up of pesticides and chemicals poisoning all of the worlds water supply.
5. Today I will worry about a super storm freezing the entire Northern Hemisphere (or Southern Hemisphere depending on where you live).
6. Today I will worry about a monster lizard hatching out of the middle of the Pacific Ocean and invading my town (really only a worry in New York, but you can always hope).
7. Today I will worry about a break down of law and order creating the end of society as we know it (wait a minute, this has already happened).
8. Today I will worry about the destruction of the rain forest (ditto above).
9. Today I will worry about suddenly developing a fatal disease.
10. Today I will worry about aliens invading the earth and killing all of mankind (leaving the women).
11. Today I will worry about nuclear war.
12. Today I will worry about biological war (since we are on wars for a while).
13. Today I will worry about terrorists bombing my city.
14. Today I will worry about a giant _______ fill in the blank (suggestions: earthquake, flood, tsunami, hurricane, tornado or whatever).
15. Today I will worry about all of the cute fuzzy animals of the world going extinct.
16. Today I will worry about all of the rest of the not so cute and fuzzy animals going extinct.
17. Today I will worry about an increase in taxes.
18. Today I will worry about the end of civilization (oh dear, back to number 7).
19. Today I will worry about _______. This is another free choice day. I would suggest Bigfoot, Yetis, Loch Ness Monster, Area 51 or whatever you would like today.
20. Today I will worry about a complete collapse of the world economy.
21. Today I will worry about the alien skull found on Mars.
22. Today I will worry about the hollow earth theory.
23. Today I will worry about UFOs.
24. Today I will worry about a volcano erupting in my town (two extra points if you live in L.A.).
25. Today I will worry about the beginning of a new ice age.
26. Today I will worry about the New World Order and someone taking over the government.
27. Today I will worry about the Apocalypse and Armageddon (Another two for one day).
28. Today I will worry about the earth being hit by a black hole or whatever.
29. Today I will worry about the sun exploding in a supernova. (Do you realize how much work it is to keep this up for a whole month?).
30. Today I will worry about everything on the list for at least five minutes.
31. Today I will worry about all of the things on the TV ads.

Now, wasn't that refreshing?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lord of the Rings after forty-three years

I first read Lord of the Rings about forty-three years ago. This book has been called one of the most popular and influential books of the 20th-century. Some time later, while I was in Panama, I found a copy of The Hobbit and read that also. I wish I could say that reading the books was a watershed time in my life, but at that time I found the books interesting and fairly long. Some of the parts were less than exciting. By 1966, I had a poster of Middle Earth and had re-read the books at least once.

After reading the books a couple of times, I began to appreciate the character of the narrative. The books are written in a flowing style that sounds musical when read aloud. The entire book is definitely not written for children or anyone not willing to put forth the effort to absorb the world of Middle Earth. In a sense, by writing almost the ultimate fantasy novel, Tolkien ruined the genre for most of what follows. It is ironic that the creation of the genre and its destruction take place at the same time.

Although often included with such works as those by George MacDonald and C. S. Lewis, those authors' books are not really in the same category. Lewis' Narnia books can hardly be compared, either in scope or structure, to the Lord of the Rings. I would certainly recommend both MacDonald and Lewis to younger readers, but I would hesitate to discuss the Lord of the Rings with anyone who had not tackled longer novels like the Hunchback of Notre Dame or Les Miserables.
Like many other long time readers of the Lord of the Rings, I was skeptical of any efforts to cinematize the story with any success. Having seen most of the classic books I have read butchered by Hollywood renderings, I could not imagine anyone doing the story straight. I could see Bilbo dancing like a woodland elf or Frodo bursting into a song. I was pleasantly surprised when Peter Jackson was able to pull off a very good movie, not much like the book in some ways, but faithful to the ideas and concepts. Fortunately, they watered down the character of Gollum or the movie would have been a tiresome as the book.

After the release of the film, it is doubtful if anyone will be able to read the book again without visualizing the characters in the movie version. In that sense, the movie has ruined the book, which usually does not happen. Right now, I do not plan on reading the book again, unless I get an audio version and listen to it while I am driving across country or something like that. I may watch the movies again, for the entertainment value.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Red Planet and Tunnel in the Sky

As near as I can tell, I started reading science fiction in 1954 or so. As I look back at the lists of books from various authors, I realize that not much had happened before that time. Robert Heinlein published his first novel, Rocket Ship Galileo, in 1947. By 1955, he had written 12 books, including the Red Planet and Tunnel in the Sky.

If you thought that Star Gate was innovative, you probably haven't read Tunnel in the Sky. Many of Heinlein's books were social commentaries rather than space operas. I especially liked Methuselah's Children and The Door into Summer. Which I read shortly after they were published. There was no mechanism to publicize a new book written by an author, at least to a teenager living in a small town in Eastern Arizona all summer. I had no national radio stations and certainly no television. The only way I could find these books was if they showed up on the book racks in the drug stores or ended up in some library.

One thing about the future that none of the authors, including Heinlein, could foresee was the Internet and computers. Although there were some who envisioned modern forms of communication, no one could have predicted blogs and social networking. I find current life to be much more complicated and a lot less "modern" than depicted in the early scifi books.