Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: The God Who Weeps, by 'Terryl' somebody

This seemed like an interesting premise to me. It was about how LDS people have this perspective of a very human God who mourns when we mourn and is happy when we're truly happy, and so on. Empathy and emotion and a personal relationship, not something distant or impersonal.

But the book-so odd. First, I don't know who it was written for. If it was written for non-members, it's extremely light on the LDS stuff. The 5 or 6 main premises that the author(s) state don't really have all that much to do with the church. One of them doesn't even have much to do with God (it was on 'original sin' - what this had to do with God's empathy, they don't really address).

And if the book was written for LDS people, rather than gospel citations such as scripture or general authorities, the book endlessly cites quotes from people from world history or literature. Every other page is a 'Dante said this' or 'Plato said that.' quote. Plus poems and song lyrics. Everywhere. 

The sort of redeeming thing about the book is that the authors' heart at least sort of seems to be in the right place? Their premise is kind of unclear or inconsistent throughout the book but they seem to want to make some watered down argument to non-believers that God exists and that the LDS faith has some interesting insights on all of that. Sort of. They're really, really light on all that. Mostly they just quote poetry. This makes it so it's not spiritual. 

One part I did like was where they made a practical appeal to the existence of God by listing all of the huge coincidences someone would have to accept to believe that this is all just some random accident. it went on and on about how our brains store memories and how we feel guilt and shame, which are not evolutionary or biological emotions, and how the earth is the exact right distance from the sun to be hospitable, and how just the exact right processes occur to keep the ocean from freezing from the bottom up. When it all adds up, it is a very tall order, the # of things you'd have to swallow to be able to firmly and without a doubt assert that there is no God. Fairly ridiculous, even. 

Of course, we know this, but it was nice to see it written down somewhere. Personally I'd have preferred them making a spiritual appeal to the reality of God rather than a philosophical or intellectual one, but I suppose this kind of approach could have an affect on someone. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a Spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe-a Spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.

(Co-drawn with Madeleine, age 3, who did almost all the coloring)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


"Fear is the true enemy, the only enemy."
-Cmdr. William T Riker, who somehow went almost 5 years without appearing on my blog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tripologue: Miami Beach (the city) & Naples (also the city)

We've recently been going to and fro in the state to check out a few places we'd heard about and to take quick little day trips. A few weeks ago, we headed up to Miami Beach, which is a fairly big city in the Miami Beach/Ft. Lauderdale/Miami strip of big cities that all run together here in South Florida. Of the 3, Miami Beach is by far the nicest (cleanest, richest, fanciest). But we weren't headed there for ritzy shops or even the beach. 

We were looking for 'reclaimed wood.' 

Reclaimed wood, if you haven't heard of it, is like this weathered kind of wood that has been used for something else that you take and turn into something like furniture or some kind of home decor. Everything today is reclaimed this, reclaimed that. And since Jan and I have kind of been on a DIY-furniture kick lately since everything worth having is too expensive, we decided to head up and check things out at a salvage-type yard called "Adam and Eve's" that specialized in aged wood and doors and furniture, etc.

We got there and found that few things were marked with prices. Then we looked closer and found that they were marked with prices. They were just really expensive prices that our brains apparently blocked out, because most of the stuff there was basically old and decaying. Neat, but decaying. Unfortunately, this place knew that seemingly crafty DIY'ers from Miami would come up there looking for some gullible dopey salvage yard guy to sell them cool old doors and stuff for a song, not knowing what he actually had. 

This weird thing? $750.
Weird, huh?

Cool cement knight. Wasn't as expensive but where would I put it?

A 90 year-old door. This was $1,500.
They had a lot of these. We loved them. I have no idea what they are.   
We really wanted this one but it was like $350 or so.

After striking out at Adam and Eve's the guy (assumedly Adam) told us that we should go to the 'green market' downtown, that they would have cool antiques and stuff we might like. I had no idea what 'green market' meant, but it was close by.

There was this very cool tree there downtown. It was cooler than this picture makes it look.

We stopped at an ice cream store and used the restrooms. The doors were completely glass see-through, until you went in and turned this little knob, which instantly made them fog over somehow. I have NO idea how this was accomplished.

Cool sink in the bathroom.

Allowed to drink "Mountain Dude" for some reason.
The downtown area

A movie theatre downtown

This place was cool looking. Notice the cow on the roof.

Day of the dead stuff!

Some palm trees. Because these are so rare in South Florida.

 OK, so that was the Miami Beach trip. We probably should have taken better pictures and gone to more exciting places and stuff, but, well, maybe next time. But today we went to Naples, which is this cool little retirement city on the opposite side of Florida from Miami. It's about 75 miles away or so and thus was an ideal day trip. I arranged the day off from work because January continues to still be going, and we headed over.

The first stop was The Original Pancake House, in Southwest Ranches, FL, which is about 2 miles south of us. We've driven by this place several times and there is always a line of about 20-30 people outside milling about, waiting to get in. We figured it had to be good based on that, and I vowed to take us there on a day off on a weekday, because weekends would be a very bad wait.

This proves that we made it there!

So does this!

The food was absolutely excellent, and not in ways that you would expect at all. The flavors were very strong and very unusual. I couldn't figure out what my pancakes tasted like, when Jan sat up and exclaimed "banana! banana!!" Indeed, it was banana, and it was REALLY GOOD. Her french toast? Massive almond flavor-it was also excellent. And the hot chocolate was one of the best I've ever had in a restaurant. A definite stop for any family members that visits us out here.

Next up was heading through I-75 to Naples, straight through the Everglades. The road is called 'Alligator Alley,' although as you can see there was fencing along the sides of the road the entire way, and most of it had barbed wire at the top, in case the alligators decided to scale the fence.

The first place we went to was called Tin City, and I'm not sure why. It's this eclectic shopping area on the waterfront. It was full of fun little stores with cool things in them.

She tolerated this, at least.

Tin City was built just 2 weeks after I was born.

They had these little things all over. Click on this to get a closer look. It was cool.
Happy girls

Enjoying some 'Superman/Superwoman" ice cream at the very PC ice cream place.
Checking out the pirate coconuts. She was a little wary of them.

Lots of fun wood carvings all around in Tin City.
Maddie ran away from this carving .0000001 seconds after this picture was taken.

Crazily, she actually requested this picture. Not like her.

Cool things like this were on the roof.
After Tin City, we went over to Naples Beach. It was the softest, whitest sand we've ever seen, and it was all very very nice. A great breeze to cool it off (it was about 78 degrees today) and 90% of the beach patrons were retired couples, so it's not the skank-a-palooza of the Miami beaches at all. Much more our speed. 

It was difficult to resist hopping in the water. We'll have to pack our beach stuff next time!

A view of the fishing pier.

After the beach we went to some antique stores but didn't find anything, and we stopped in at Trader Joe's to see what all the fuss was about. We left about 2 minutes later. If I want overpriced gerbil food I'll go to PetSmart. And we wrapped things up with a visit to World Market, which is not present in our neck of the woods. We bought a new dining room table, which was like 30% off on a year-end close-out. It's awesome! Too bad I didn't take a picture of it. But it's like 12 feet away and I'd have to get up and walk over there and you can see my dilemma.

Until the next trip...probably later. We'll likely stay put and be boring for a little while to at least catch our breath. Too much excitement, all this traveling around...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

What a great book. 10 years after I first read it, it's still just as funny and creative as ever.

If you haven't read it, I'll wait. Done? OK. It's a quick read at about 230 pages or so. The 'H2G2' has an interesting origin; it started out as a radio series and became a TV series and a book. It spawned 4 sequels, one short story, and a successful 2005 movie of the same name. It's likely the most beloved British book series outside of Harry Potter and/or Charles Dickens novels.

The book was adapted from the radio scripts, and in retrospect, it shows, in that has long scenes of dialogue, then connector chapters that catch up on the narration/story aspect, then long scenes of dialogue, and so on.

I used to think it was unfilmable, because about 50% of its charm is in the writing style. It's extremely clever and very creative and funny. It gets a little odd here and there, and it's definitely full-on sci-fi, complete with all manner of aliens, space adventures, and robots.

I say 'used to think' because they very successfully filmed the book in 2005, and kept in a very decent amount of the narration and the author's writing style. It also strongly improved on the story and added some additional scenes, settings, and characters that have the odd effect of expanding the narrative in a logical way. This causes it to have a much better emotional impact, deeper characters, and a more natural pace. It also has a better ending than the book. If you're familiar with the book, I really recommend the movie-they get everything right (especially the casting).

But I still love the book, and will likely keep going through the series after I read at least 5 or 6 of my books here at home that I need to get through. The thing I noticed this time around that I didn't at first is how much the author includes about evolution in it. It's the only knock I have against it, really. The author was a devoted Darwinist and an atheist and he spares few opportunities to talk up evolution or to 'good naturedly' knock religion a little bit. There's nothing malicious about it-the book is too fun and the tone far too light to get too worked up about it, but unfortunately in today's world, this is pretty much as mild as it gets when it comes to this kind of thing.

Content-rating would be somewhere between PG and PG-13. Almost no language but some slightly off-color remarks here and there. Very British kind of stuff, but if you're one of my brothers in law, you should put this book down and back away slowly.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Nathan: You wanna make this easy for me?
Duke: No, not particularly.

(From the extremely good SyFy TV Show, Haven.)

Friday, January 18, 2013


It was nice of Iron Man to stop in for a photo at the Kmart photo studio today.

Wow. Just...yikes.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Loved the book, hated the ending.

This was a fairly long (almost 600 pages, which I consider fairly long for something that's not Harry Potter) book about a young girl growing up during WW2 in Nazi Germany in which her foster family agrees to hide a Jewish guy in their basement. The book is narrated by Death (or the Grim Reaper, if you will) and, like almost all WW2 books, it's a mixture of hope, horror, and misery.

So not a very cheerful read.

There are many great characters along the way, but this being a WW2 book, you know they will almost entirely wind up brutally murdered. This reminded me a bit of the movie Saints and Soldiers, where there was a really good story and really good characters, and you spend a few hours watching them all get mowed down until there's only like one survivor.

The ending notwithstanding, the book was extremely well written. Some of the best writing I've seen in years. I disagreed with some of the editing choices, though. For example, there was a bit too much padding-a few scenes that didn't add much could have been removed. And in other places, the style of the book gets in the way a little bit. Death's narration will move forward in time and reveal key plot points, and then the book will shift back to the present time and will spend the next 5 pages talking about someone you don't care about. And you say, "Come on! Go back to that extremely important thing you just mentioned!" There are also a few plot holes wherein you never find out what happens to a few of the fairly prominent characters in the book. Some of them leave and don't get mentioned again.

While it wasn't nearly as brutal in its violence and wasn't at all formulaic, it stick packs an emotional punch. The characters are strong and it's a very interesting read. I almost wound up headed back on the wrong way on the train the other night because I was so into the book I didn't realize that we'd arrived at my stop and that the train was almost leaving to head back downtown.

If only it had a different ending.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Happy birthday Chace! Of all my brothers-in-law, you are definitely one of them.


Saturday, January 12, 2013


“When you find yourselves a little gloomy, look around you and find somebody that is in a worse plight than yourself; go to him and find out what the trouble is, then try to remove it with the wisdom which the Lord bestows upon you; and the first thing you know, your gloom is gone, you feel light, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and everything seems illuminated.” 

-Lorenzo Snow

Friday, January 11, 2013


I can't believe it's taken me 5 years to do this but I've finally added an RSS subscribe button to the blog so if you'd like, you can subscribe to posts and/or comments via your favorite RSS reader or App (I prefer and recommend Google Reader for both). You can also subscribe via email if you'd like.

I've been getting enough page views lately that I thought I'd give it a shot and monetize the blog, so there are some sidebar ads and such. We'll try it out for a month and see what it does. If it generates like $.17 cents, I'll do away with them as I can do without the clutter. But $17 dollars? Sure, why not? That will buy at least 3 bags of Pico-Ballas, my all-time favorite candy on the planet, and of course they have to be imported from Germany because nothing good is ever available easily...

Shown here, for the uninitiated.

Other than that, feel free to share the blog with friends and family if you think this would be something they would dig. As you all know by now, I typically keep things fairly general on this blog and don't get into too much personal family stuff, so it's at least 50% likely to not be boring for everyone. 

Plus, not that I mind posting things for such a small audience, because I don't, but I really enjoy blog comments and a small audience means that usually doesn't happen. This blog is just a one-way conversation most of the time, but I'd love to get feedback or converse a little and get other perspectives and opinions. If you're a reader, you've already distinguished yourself as a person of taste and substance, so you're someone whose opinion I automatically respect. Given all that, feel free to chime in!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander

The afterlife is obviously a fascinating subject to most people, and I've read a few books on the subject of near-death-experiences (NDEs). This is the 3rd book I've read on the subject (the first two were Return from Tomorrow and Heaven is for Real).

I don't really take them too seriously. After all, no one but resurrected beings can say what's it's like to actually die. The people who write about NDEs haven't died, because they're here. If they're here, they're not dead. Now, that's not to say that what they experienced wasn't a glimpse of something divine or eternal-it very well could have been. After all, much of what they report squares very comfortably with gospel principles. It's the other stuff that becomes a little bit problematic.

Like what? Well, many people report seeing angels that had wings. Angels don't have wings, so that's wrong. Other people report seeing a movie of their entire life, which if not directly impossible just doesn't quite seem correct to me. In Return from Tomorrow, at one part the author described seeing a valley where people without bodies were furiously fighting each other (but doing no damage) and benevolent giants were towering over them, watching them and urging them to stop and be peaceful. Eh...probably not.

In Proof of Heaven, Dr. Alexander reported waking up in kind of a primordial ooze that felt like it was underground and was filled with scary animal faces that would periodically bubble up and say or chant wordless but frightening things at him. Though he described it basically as 'disconcerting but natural-feeling, as if I belonged there,' I feel this is flatly incorrect in terms of what people would experience with passing away.

His story is pretty interesting, but his afterlife experience wasn't all that cool relative to other accounts I've read. He eventually went into a paradisiacal land where his deceased sister flew around with him in the sky while surrounded by butterflies, and he passed over gorgeous countryside filled with happy people and their pets and all kinds of nice things. He then eventually went up to a giant space orb kind of thing that he felt was a 'portal' kind of thing where you could communicate with God, and he felt that it answered every question he could ever think of immediately and completely.

One thing it told him was something that John Groberg mentioned in The Other Side of Heaven after he almost died of starvation from no food after the hurricane hit his island; namely, that there are multiple universes. I tend to not believe things that aren't written in the scriptures or Ensign or are mentioned in general conference. I do tend to believe this, however. First, because John Groberg said it, and he's a general authority, and Second, because it sounds and feels correct to me. Mind-blowing, in some ways, but correct. So this book mentioned that, and I thought that was cool.

It's a good read. He's a neurosurgeon, so he's very well spoken and writes very ably. It's funny to see what he gets wrong and gets right, and to see him discover things that we've known have been true about existence forever. There was one part where he said God told him that there was evil on the Earth because it had to exist there for there to be free will, and that there was evil in 'trace amounts' sprinkled throughout the rest of creation for the same reason, but that relative to the good in the rest of creation, the evil was like 'a grain of sand.' That was cool too.

Ultimately, it was a good and interesting read but his time spent in the 'afterlife' was described extremely briefly relative to the rest of the book. Maybe only 5% of the book. If you're looking for a much more interesting, and potentially more accurate (in my opinion) experience, then go for Return from Tomorrow. Heaven is for Real was just brief little snippets but was also a nice and uplifting read.

There were two parts I wanted to quote:
"Like many other scientific skeptics, I refused to even review the data relevant to the questions concerning these phenomena. Those who assert that there is no evidence for phenomena indicative of extended consciousness, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, are willfully ignorant. They believe they know the truth without needing to look at the facts."
"If I had to summarize all this, I would say first, that the universe is much larger than it appears to be if we only look at its immediately visible parts. Second: We-each of us-are intricately, irremovably connected to the larger universe. It is our true home, and thinking that this physical world is all that matters is like shutting oneself up in a small closet and imagining that there is nothing else out beyond it."

Incidentally, one of the interesting things I read in the aforementioned Heaven is for Real book, which was about the NDE of a 4-year-old boy, was that the boy's father, after the experience in which his son said he met Jesus and sat on his lap, etc, showed him numerous paintings of Jesus to see if the boy could say which one was 'right.' The boy said they were all wrong. Then one day he was watching Glen Beck and saw an episode of a girl who basically had dreams and visions of the spirit world (or claimed to) and was also an extremely talented painter. She painted a picture of what she said was the accurate depiction of Jesus. The boy immediately said, "that's it." That picture is much different than typical depictions, and is this: