Whorled View

May 18, 2007

Oscar Peterson – Hardwired to the ethereal

Filed under: Miscellaneous,music — lullabyman @ 7:42 am

Over the past 15 years I’ve taken a real liking to the music of Oscar Peterson (b. 1925), the amazing jazz pianist from Canada. The man has produced some of the most inspirational inventive improvizations and contemplative music to me.

Oscar

Though I have found value in nearly all kinds of music, most of the stuff on the radio drives me nuts. What’s more, my tolerance for any kind of music is pretty fleeting. Even with great music I get sick of any genre within a couple songs, and my musical tastes are quite restless. Oscar Peterson’s work is the one exception. I can listen to his stuff at just about any time – it’s like an itch that I just can’t seem to scratch enough. Listening to his riffs convinces me that there are some people who’s brains are just hardwired to the ethereal. His brain is one of them.

That’s why when you look at all the amazon.com reviews out of his over 100 CDs every one gets nothing but a full 5 stars with very few exceptions. It’s an amazon.com track record that few if any other musicians can claim – at least those that have so many CDs.

Below I’ve hotlinked to some amazon.com samples of some of his renditions of songs you might already know to familiarize yourself with his style. Personally, I think his best stuff are his own compositions like his understated “A Little Jazz Exercise“. or his contemplative “Wheatland” from his Canadia symphony.

You might recognize these – after listening, do an amazon
search and listen to lesser known stuff – it’s all good!
CDs:
1) Dimensions: A Compendium of the Pablo Years [BOX SET]
2) Oscar In Paris: Oscar Peterson Live At The Salle Pleyel
3) We Get Requests
4) Exclusive for my freinds [BOX SET]

5) Oscar Peterson Plays The George Gershwin Songbook
6) The Will to Swing
7) Verve Jazz Masters 16

Enjoy!

May 9, 2007

An More Inconvenient Truth

Filed under: ecology,economics,energy,environment,Politics — lullabyman @ 12:58 pm

I watched Mr “used to be president” Al Gore (as he likes to call himself) last night, as he spent over 90 minutes proclaiming the woes of global warming.

Hear! Hear!

At least there is something he and I can agree on. Then again, I can say that for most politicians.

If you haven’t seen it, please do. At some points the documentary becomes too much about him (like when he wallows in sorrow over his lost presidential election – here’s an incovenient truth: we’re sick of him whining about that), but those moments only last a few minutes here and there, and are worth bearing through in order to get to the other stuff.

“… he did a diservice to himself by not
being more forthright with truths
which are inconvenient to the global
warming hypothesis.

Here’s some other warnings: far too often he throws up graphs without giving you the scale of the y-axis, and sometimes the x-axis does not appear to be linear. The validity of data sources are also often taken for granted. Also statistical noise and data ranges is only mentioned in one of the many graphs he gives. Then there were the projections that were based on what – linear interpolation of that last few data points (shudder)? Who knows, he didn’t say. Lastly his time frames are often way too short – but then this can be attributed to a lack of data – nevertheless the results should be considered in reference to the entire epoch of sapient life. In short if you know much about statistics you might find it painful.

That said, I think he did a diservice to himself by not being more forthright with truths which are inconvenient to the global warming hypothesis. He’s a politician and in politics it does well to overstate your case and conveniently ignore unsupporting data, assuming your opponent will cover those things. In science, however, that’s not a good practice – as it seems to indicate a bias in the mind of the scientist which makes the audience more skeptical. One of the last things you want to say is that you bought into a theory before there was even sufficient statistical data or before you were able to investigate it independently – but that is exactly what Gore said he did. Gore said he was an instant advocate the moment he saw just one graph covering just a handful of years that a professor showed a class. Lucky for Gore that the professors hypothesis was right, but it did Gore a diservice when he admitted he was sold on so little data, and it does little to endear the trust of his audience.

“The more inconvenient truth is that
alternative industry funds
are controlled by lobbyists.
That’s wrong, and it’s killing the planet.”

I’m a skeptic of everything though (which has been known to bug those around me to no end), and even being the skeptic that I am, and knowing the critics response, I have always felt that prudence is the best policy for the health of the planet.

And that’s where I think this film fails the audience: encouraging implementation of the best policies. Recently we’ve seen the scientific community plead with the world to curb greenhouse gases, and nothing good has resulted. On the contrary, we’ve seen every alternative energy enteprenuer / company vying for more and more money with little regard from the governments where the best, cheapest, and fastest implementations exist. I mentioned this in my last post, but I could go so much further. The alternative industry funds are controlled by lobbyists. That’s wrong, and it’s killing the world. The money is not going to the right places and merely implementing policies to force capitalism to fix the problem isn’t good enough or quick enough.

Gore also failed to tell people enough on how to conserve: Quit buying gas guzzlers. Carpool whever you can. Shop locally, or online. Take a vacation this summer closeby instead of far away. When you buy a house live close to work – I’m convinced that one thing could cut our emissions in half. If you’re driving an hour to work each way then you’re driving too far – carpool with 2-3 others, move, or get a different job.

“The most inconvenient truth though
is that massive restructuring of our
energy economy is needed to save
the environment.”

The most inconvenient truth though is that massive restructuring of our energy economy is needed to save the environment. And not just us, but all other nations must do the same (oh, they talk the talk, but UN talk is incredibly cheap). It means politicians making unpopular decisions while in office. It means serious and pain inflicting government mandates, not to just automakers, but to power companies, and that will disrupt the economy and will result in many lost jobs.

On the otherhand there will be lots of new jobs building efficient solar-thermal plants (not solar-PV) in Nevada and new jobs building windfarms across the country. Or we quite possibly experience hell on earth. Hmmmm … what will it be?

May 2, 2007

The most viable energy solution

Filed under: ecology,economics,energy,environment,Miscellaneous,Politics — lullabyman @ 3:13 pm

Pundits everywhere are screaming we need to spend more money on alternative energy solutions, with little regard to what’s viable.

“Most of the proposed solutions to global warming that get serious attention employ technologies that continue to warm the planet at an alarming rate. Politicians also talk about the Hydrogen economy as if it’s a solution! It takes enormous energy to create hydrogen fuel.”

Wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, nuclear, and tidal are the only potentially saving solutions – but they’re too expensive, too difficult, or too restrictive. Or are they? Depends on how they’re done. My biggest bets are on wind and solar thermal (not the more popular solar-PV). Solar thermal, done right, seems to be the most immediately scalable, the cheapest, and the least restrictive.

Get used to seeing this.  It's the future.
The Parabolic Trough – the future of electricity.

I used to work in the solar-PV (PV = photovoltaic – the kind that go on your roof) industry – and let me tell you … what a boondoggle. All the research money goes to PV solar cells (which I used to make), instead of going to solar-thermal. The problem is – PV costs so much to make and takes so much time and space to purify the needed silicon, and the energy required to do so comes at such a high price as to make a mass adoption of the technology absolutely impossible for the next 100 years.  That isn’t to say it will always be that way … in fact there’s good reason to believe that PV will be the solution in 10-20 years because costs are going down fast.  But we need solutions NOW, not in 10 to 20 years.

Electricity generated from Solar-Thermal power fits that profile, it’s cheap easy and can supply the worlds needs at a ridiculously faster and more economical rate than PV with no technological bottlenecks. It’s simple too:

1) Cheap way: A parabolic trough concentrates sunlight onto a black pipe with circulating oil. More expensive: Parabolic Dish to focus on a single point for sterling engine use or to generate H2 for the hydrogen economy.  There are other focusing mechanisms too like fresnel (pronounced: freh-nail’ ) lenses, fresnel mirrors, but regardless of what mechanism used, it’s very cheap.

2) Thermal fluid expansion converts the thermal energy into physical energy to spin an electric generator. You can incidentally also skip the electric portion and directly spin a rotor to pump water, grind wheat, etc, instead of spinning an electric generator.

How it generates electricity

The largest solar-PV plant in the world generates only 12MW but by comparison the largest solar-thermal plant in the world generates 354MW (SEGS in Mojave Desert – uses cheap parabolic trough design) and it was built 20 years ago! That 20 times more!

And how many people even know about solar-thermal electricity? Squat (relatively speaking of course). There is at least 10 to 100 times more money spent on relatively worthless PV solar than what is spent on Thermal solar which is 10 to 100 times more promising for power plants.The current cost of electricity with solar-thermal is comparable to grid – about $0.10/KWh, but it is expected within the next 15-20 years that cost will drop to 1/2 if not 1/3 of regularly produced electricity ($0.035 /KWh)! How many plants are being built with this technology? Practically zippo (relatively speaking). See http://www.parc.xerox.com/research/publications/files/5706.pdf

So what do the cost numbers tell us? Scalability. Technologies can only be scaled up if they are very profitable. Solar Thermal is far more profitable than any other alternative energy candidate and will be for dozens of years . It doesn’t require exotic or highly refined or technologically advanced materials, and maintenance per MW is comparable to any coal powered plant. It seems a slam dunk, but instead solar-PV gets all the money despite that it’s only advantage is portability and distributed integration (solar thermal is largely a power-plant technology only).

“Solar Thermal Electricity is 10X more viable to fix our environment than Solar PV, but it gets less than 1/10th the grant and development money that solar PV gets. It’s an upside down pyramid.”

Now don’t get me wrong about solar PV. It isn’t a completely worthless technology, and eventually it will probably replace Solar-Thermal in terms of cost, maintenance, and expandability but none of the best experts see that happening any time soon and we can’t wait that long, but PV development is critical, which is why I still strongly support PV subsidies (not to mention that it’s needed to compensate for fossil fuel subsidies).

Europe's Pnergy Plan

Europe is already sold on parabolic trough technology (see the CSP plants above, concentrated solar power = trough technology), expecting it to play largest role in their future. The US on the other-hand is far more ideal for the technology (see world map above) and despite amazing success from the 20 yr old Mohave Desert plant solar trough implementation has approached a relative standstill since then. Solar troughs plants however have the potential to supply our continents electricity all from Nevada, and ultimately cost less than what we’re paying right now per kWh.

May 1, 2007

No, that isn’t who we are either

Filed under: Politics,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 10:08 pm

I just watched the 2nd installment (see my last blog), and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by what I saw. Let me just say that none of the LDS people I know would intentionally plan to have another baby when the mother was 42 years of age and had gestational diabetes. The man who did that, I’m terribly sorry for his loss, but “another spirit waiting to come to our family” concept is not fully justified solely in LDS doctrine. The program presented many other similar stories where the questionable (if not downright wrong) actions of a few Mormons were once again misrepresented as being reflective of the Mormon religion and people as a whole.

All I can say is please know that the PBS “Frontline” documentary called “The Mormons” represented at best a very non-representative cross section of the body of the church, except for one family (out of dozens interviewed). If you want to know the truth then please get to know your Mormon neighbors and find out for yourselves. Personally I’m only further disappointed with the sensationalized focus the documentary placed on fringe members to have the audacity to call the documentary “The Mormons” and suggest that what they described was a fair cross-section of this religion and people.

No No, that wasn’t who they were!

Filed under: Mormonism,Politics,Religion,Sociology — lullabyman @ 3:54 am

I said in an earlier blog this was going to happen. As Mitt Romney’s chances of winning increase we’re going to see an increase portrayal of the Mormon church which will border anywhere from somewhat misleading, to filled with innuendo, to downright wrong. It’s already beginning.

I saw the first half of the public television special tonight “The Mormons” and I was appalled. Those were not my ancestors that they discussed so one-sidedly. One hour of instruction – footnotes given fanfare as minuscule as the short lived action-less Mormon Militia (but not the laudable and much larger Mormon Battalion), inordinate attention to portrayals of Joseph Smith wielding a sword as if he thought he was Napoleon every where he went, calling Smith our “Alpha” and “Omega” (could they get any more offensive?), the 1842 burning of the expositor, but no coverage on vandalized LDS property, a quarter of the time on early Polygamy, another quarter of the time drawing up an elaborate case to blame Brigham for Mountain Meadows massacre despite a complete lack of evidence that he ordered such a treacherous act, and another quarter covering recent polygamy which is outlawed by the LDS church and only practiced by less than 0.01% of Mormons (if you can call apostates Mormons). That’s who my ancestors were? That’s who the Mormons are? This program is called “The Mormons”, right?

Wow, talk about picking and choosing history. Why not discuss the Mormon battalion where 500 Mormon men marched 2000 miles on foot to fight for this country during the Mexican war, immediately after the government allowed Missouri to issue an extermination order allowing LDS people to be shot on site. Why not tell about the tremendous sacrifices made by 10,000’s selling all they had to come from Europe to “the promised land”? What’s with this “promised land” terminology? Why not tell about the multiple 1000’s (1 out of every 10) who died on the trek westward, or the Martin and Willie Handcart company alone wherein 220 people died? How about the unprecedented worldwide growth rate? How about telling what happened from 1900 to 1960, and the amazing welfare system that abolished poverty among the LDS during the depression … they completely skipped that period (1/3 of our history) … perhaps they couldn’t dredge up any scandals. Any scandals did happen afterward was with splinter groups who make up less than 1% of the “Mormon” population – but they still covered those right up until the program ended.

They gave whatever dirt on Joseph Smith they could find, so why not the many good reports given by non-LDS of Joseph Smith’s character and his good nature? What about all the early 1st hand accounts from non-Mormons of the time that admitted the Mormons were peace-loving and tried to be considerate as possible. How about a more detailed account of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and others who were there and the false charges he was held under, and the murders and raping of LDS people before the trek west, or the draining of the Nauvoo swamp and the 1000’s that died there from malaria? How about the method of church succession (Brigham Young didn’t just “take over” as PBS seemed to suggest), or how about the actual extermination from Kirtland and then Nauvoo and the massive burning of Nauvoo that followed? How about the massive splintering after the martyrdom? How about the surprise that most people followed Brigham to Mexico despite that he chose the most difficult trek of all the splinters? Or why not tell how all other splinters died off except those who inherited Nauvoo who have since struggled just to maintain their numbers. How about the building of the early temples, and the other temples, and what those early temples represent not just to Mormons, but to Americans?

Lastly they never got into the minds of those early converts. Why did Joseph’s church attract so many more dedicated followers than all the other upstarts in the “burned-over district”? Was it the Book of Mormon – or the unique concept of a priesthood restoration – or the 100% lay ministry – or the level of dedication that’s expected – Joseph’s mere magnetism – or the unique “plan of salvation” that he taught? Perhaps these things will be discussed in the second part of the series.

No, they didn’t cover those histories nor those events, but THOSE things were the substance of my ancestors. Not Mountain Meadows. Still, the Mountain Meadows massacre was a harrowing part of mormon history where a secluded group of members disregarded everything they were taught in order to commit so great a crime, and so I and all my Mormon freinds were taught about Mountain Meadows in our youth, and like all Mormons I will always be horrified and disturbed by it. The act was just as contrary to the LDS faith as it is to any other faith – a most important fact that PBS neglected to mention. Even worse, one of the PBS historians for unknown reasons then accused Mormons of not accepting the reality of Mountain Meadows and not having learned from it.  Note the unjustified subversive scare tactic they use that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it – we will?!  Well, if you’re LDS then that may well be just what your neighbors now think of you.

I shudder to think that my non-member friends and neighbors saw that incredibly biased treatment of my heritage, and what they must think of my own ancestors now. What they must think of me that I might believe in that horrendous pick-n-choose history, and lastly that they might now consider something so hurtful and baffling as myself having a part of Mountain Meadows massacre in me. Way to go PBS … way to fuel the flames that one of your historians admitted were so unjustified.

April 20, 2007

Mitt, the quintessential dark horse

Filed under: Uncategorized — lullabyman @ 9:09 pm

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, and in the process read a lot of news magazines. NewsMax is becoming a fairly popular one, and they had an article about Mitt Romney called “The Reagan Candidate”. It was a very informative write up, with the thesis basically stating that Mitt, much like Reagan, appears to be the perfect candidate with a past that seems ideal for at least gaining the American vote. He also seems to share many of the same opinions and attitudes of that late president. Even politically active Michael Reagan, who historically has berated almost anyone who compares themselves to his father when they don’t measure up (and nobody does), more-less compared the two as being cut from the same cloth.

Wow.

Then there was the expected discussion of Mitt’s religion in that article. Again, what a surprise. Apparently late last fall one of Mitt’s friends was a big whig in the evangelical christianity movement and organized a get together between Mitt and all the big names in Evangelical Christianity including guys like Jerry Falwell. The upshot of that meeting was that they all didn’t think the “Mormon Factor” was a factor at all with Mitt – at least as far as they were concerned. One even seemed to suggest that “he’s the only viable social conservative in the mix” (see http://www.newsmax.com/romney/).

Still the most recent poll among the Republican Party gives him only 6% of the vote, so if he wants to be successful then he needs more face time with the public. The general feeling among most of the pundits is that if more people knew about him then his percentage would go up dramatically.

If he won the primaries he’d be a slam dunk for the general election and we’d be looking at President Romney, but as we all know, the ones who win the primaries are seldom the ones who were most likely to win the general election. For example, the democrats should have had the last election in the bag, but they nominated a candidate with the most liberal voting record in decades. Bush only won because Kerry was so rotten, and yet there were tons of democrat candidates that would have garnered a much higher republican vote than Kerry ever could have – but apparently they weren’t extreme enough for thier party to get nominated.

So Mitt has to convince the republicans that perhaps his ability to win among democrats (he is a very popular governor in one of the most liberal states in the country) should put him on top so long as his views are congruous with the party – and they are. His views represent Republicans more now than ever. More so now than even most of the other forerunners in the republican party.

One of the definitions of a “dark horse candidate” is an unknown candidate who surprisingly wins because his competition ends up being not what they seemed. Personally, I think McCain killed his chances for winning when he offered his little “bomb bomb bomb iran” joke. Rudy currently has the lead, but most pundits feel that’s just because he’s still riding the 9/11 wave which shot him into stardom and so few have really looked at his politics or real history. It’s unlikely that he’ll hold onto the lead he currently enjoys once people look beyond 9/11.

I don’t see the other candidates providing much competition to Mitt as he becomes better known. And here’s the kicker: He’s got the money. Way more than anyone else. He will become much better known with time, and that’s all he needs. His supporters can only hope that his face time with the public with increase fast enough for it to make the difference needed before the primaries. It doesn’t make sense to hold onto that money for the general election if he doesn’t win the primaries. Spend it now, and win the primaries. Like I said, if he wins the primaries then the general election will be a slam dunk for the republicans. I can’t say that for Guilliani who currently is in pole position.

February 15, 2007

Dealing with jerks.

Filed under: Communications,Sociology — lullabyman @ 11:18 am

When it came to jerks I used to think “just you wait … someday you’ll die and then see the video of your life and realize what a jerk you are – and then you’ll feel really bad”. No anymore. Maybe it’s cynicism, growing pragmatism, or maybe I just don’t care anymore, or perhaps justice just isn’t so important to me anymore. Regardless, I don’t think the after-life will provide any chances for smugness.

Chances are that if someone does get a complete overview of thier life after they die, they’ll still think they were in the right when they weren’t. Regardless of their eternal destination they will probably be self-satisfied wherever they are, as they would eventually feel uncomfortable spending eternity with people who were better than them. Besides, although justice may be met, those who plan on feeling smug about it probably will suffer justice for their unrighteous desire to be smug.

I’ve also gone through the pathetic “I know you’re a jerk, and knowing that is good enough for me” phase, and the spiteful “just you wait, what comes around goes around” phase. Both perspectives provide hollow solace though, and they’re both just a little despicable.

But we all observe this, right? You see the victims of henious crimes and they fall into one of two groups – those who seek revenge, and those who don’t. The second group, the “forgivers” who can let go of feelings for revenge, are a rarity because forgiveness for henious acts is so contrary to our nature as human beings. I don’t think any other species does that, although they may carry out vengeful acts out of anger I don’t think it is out of a need to implement justice in order to maintain a certain order or balance. That is a uniquely human need.

But those who master their desire for revenge seem to be the only ones who can carry-on without being consumed with anger. I don’t know if I could do that in some circumstances and I never want to find out if I could.

So why am I rambling on about this? Because it’s a constant daily struggle with me and I wish it wasn’t. I wish I was entirely selfless simply because those who are selfless seem to be the most at peace with the world. And yet that seems strange that my desire for selflessness stems from a selfish desire to be at peace with the world.

Somewhere in there I know that love plays a critical if not the central part. The scriptures certainly seem to indicate that and real life examples of peaceable people all seem to bear that out. And it’s hard to love a jerk, or a person who acts like a jerk. How do you do it?

I had a close freind who was at peace with the world and once he said to me that when dealing with jerks he’d look into their eyes and try to see them as a sibling and say in his heart “I love you”. He said that when he did that his composure changed, enough so that the “jerk” naturally responded in like manner and there were able to find common ground and the “jerk” wasn’t so much a jerk anymore. Of course you have to be in person for this technique to work – and with email, and phone calls, that technique just isn’t possible.

Indeed we’re all jerks about one thing or another, and in every case selfishness seems to be the root cause of it. Which of course makes sense since selfishness is the opposite of love-motivated selflessness.

Stephen Covey says the key to dealing with jerks (not in so many words) is to first seek to understand then seek to be understood. I’ve found that works almost always, but not if the other person doesn’t trust your sincerity. Covey then says to not expect a reciprocation and to even make it clear that you don’t expect any reciprocation on their part – only that you want to understand them, above all other things. Again, the principle enabling this whole technique is a disarming display of selflessness.

It never fails to amaze me how many salespeople are jerks. Apparently being a jerk produces results so for many of them it becomes the modus operandi. Same goes for many managers. Covey’s approach often seems to work with them, but when it doesn’t it’s time to move on.

The worst thing to do though is to lower yourself to their level and be a jerk yourself. It simply provides no useful long term results, even if the short term results are temporarily satisfying.

Okay enough of my rambling. Time to take my own medicine (I’m dealing with some jerks right now).

February 8, 2007

Energy conscious and cold cold cold!

Filed under: Politics — lullabyman @ 3:42 am

I saw a PBS special (or was it a CPAN thing? – can’t remember) recently called “Peak Oil”. If you get a chance watch it.

Let me repeat myself: If you get a chance watch it.

Apparently in about 5 years we (mankind) will reach a point in oil production called “Peak Oil”. That’s when we’ve tapped pretty much everything there is to tap. From then on oil production will decrease. It will be gradual, and over the next 30-50 years oil production will drop at about the same rate it has increased up until now. Of course all this is theoretical, but it was very convincing and based on as about solid evidence as anything that I’ve heard.

It sounded more believable than global warming – and I believe in global warming. I became a believer about 5 – 10 years ago. Even before then however I thought that prudence was the best policy and have disapproved of the negligent attitudes that our government has had toward the issue.

Anyway, Peak Oil is a very closely related topic to the global warming topic, but in my opinion it is far more frightening. Then there’s global dimming – which is apparently far more statistically significant, and perhaps more influential on the world’s weather patterns than gloabal warming. The upshot of global dimming is that it is likely easily purged from the atmosphere within a short time, greenhouse gases aren’t though. What’s worse, when Peak Oil is reached then global dimming will likely go down while greenhouse gases remain or increase.

It is now known that the phenomena known as global dimming has counteracted the effects of global warming to a very significant degree. The result is that when the global dimming decreases then the earth will become very very hot very quickly. And that seems to be right around the corner.

The economic impact of Peak Oil is even far more significant. I used to work in a PV Solar Cell factory as an engineer. I know the alternative energy market industry, and believe me when I tell you it sucks. Nothing comes close to petroleum when it comes to bang per buck. Coal is the closest thing – but it has such a long way to go. Bottom line: when petroleum becomes more scarce (only 5 years away) all hell will break loose.

It kind of puts the Iraq confict into a whole new light. I don’t know all the alterior motives that may have existed for going into Iraq, but if we’re in for what it sounds like Peak Oil will give us then we would have been stupid to not secure a large portion of the middle east for ourselves to keep from being financially utterly destroyed after Peak Oil production is reached. Maybe we really did go in there to secure for ourselves a little future. Maybe, however unpopular it is now, in 5-10 years we’ll be very glad that we did.

So here it is, unbelievably cold … what do I do? We’ve dressed our kids in thermals and thick clothing. I’m wearing 3 pairs of thermals, warm clothes and a turtleneck sweater. We keep the temperature in the mid 60’s and let it get real cold at night. We have a pellet stove hooked directly into our forced air system that I plan on using next year.

I’ve been doing a lot of programming lately. Thank heavens the orders for kiosks have slowed down, as my shop is freezing and I don’t want to fire it up. Too expensive to keep warm when it gets down to the sub-zero temps (F).

So sadly I’m incredibly reliant on heating oil, and there’s little I can do about it. At a minimum I do think an extra hefty gas guzzler tax should be waged on gas guzzlers. Yes, that’s coming from me, a Republican that hates big government and beauracratic red tape. I also think they should triple the incentives given to adopt non-fossil-fuel technologies. Don’t give the money directly to the energy companies to develop new enery technologies – instead give it to comsumers who will invest in them. It should be financed with the gas guzzler tax.

Huge incentives should be given to make homes better insulated. Public awareness campaigns should advocate dressing warmly and keeping home temperatures at a lower setting in the winter. Public transportation needs to be made more inviting and convenient. All these things need to happen, and most of them aren’t even being discussed.

And no more Hydrogen Economy flap. Where do you think the hydrogen comes from? It comes from either water that is split by fossil fuel technologies, or directly from fossil fuel itself. H2 Economy is a clap trap and the public has been all too engaging.

And on top of that we need to secure for ourselves a mutually beneficial relationship with the bulk of Middle East countries as we prepare for this transistion.

January 17, 2007

1st Vision Account Chronology

Filed under: Religion — lullabyman @ 5:26 pm

On Sunday I gave a talk on the first vision in Church (incidentally I’m a Mormon). In the process I thought I’d check out what was out there in cyberspace. I’ve known for dozens of years that there were different accounts, and each one seemed to reveal various things about the event. Critics of the church love to say that these variations constitute inconsistencies. I, of course, am a seeker of truth, while at the same time I choose to believe those things that bring about the most good since “by their fruits shall you know them”. And that logic combined with experiences that I’ve had give me license to explore just about anything without fear that my spiritual foundation is at risk.

With that in mind I set out to create a table showing what was revealed in these different accounts of the first vision, using only the 1st and 2nd hand accounts, with full confidence that I have nothing to hide or hide from. The “first vision” incidentally, lays the foundation for the LDS church, it being the very first (around 1820) vision that Joseph Smith had.

The table references those accounts that are mutually accepted by Mormons and Anti-mormons alike and shows the events that each account discussed. There already exists similar tables like this, but significant effort was made in this one to make it acceptable as an objective representation of the chronology that both Mormons and Anti-mormons could agree upon:1st Vision Account Chronology

Now this table is quite interesting for the simple reason that it shows everything that we know was revealed to Joseph in the first vision. That was the initial reason for creating it. This format also provides a nice birds-eye view of when different parts of it were revealed (whereas similar tables I’ve seen span many pages and seem worded to forward a particular agenda). Lastly, I wanted to use the most widely accepted sources and judging criteria to provide a starting point whereby the topic can be intelligently explored by critics, apologists, and everyone in between.

As I mentioned before, I don’t think mormons have nothing to hide nor do they have anything to hide from. To me much of the variation in the 1st vision can be explained by Joseph’s discretion with attention to his immediate audience and what he was instructed to reveal in each account (more on this below).

For example, it is rather easy to say an angel appeared to someone, as people frequently claim they spoke with a deceased loved one, while escaping any skepticism from even the most militant church-goers or ardent atheists. However, to publicly declare in printed word that God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, personally visited you is to invite persecution from all sides no matter who you are. I’m sure that dynamic hasn’t changed in the last 200 years, and surely it was something of which young Joseph (only 14 yrs old at the time) was fully cognizant. For the fear of a 14 yr old boy, for feelings of insecurity, or from a personal imperative to not allow the event to be mocked, surely he had to be careful what he revealed and when.

Same thing goes for when he told ministers that their church is false … surely Joseph observed this himself through scripture study after God revealed the fact of it in the vision. To tell a minister, however, that God personally revealed their falseness would be quite offensive to any minister – and historically Joseph was very friendly with multiple ministers and congregations in his younger years even though he openly challenged their teachings.

A quick glance of the chronology reveals that the most significant dynamic is that the later accounts revealed information that ministers would have found more explosive. It suddenly becomes clear that Joseph was practicing “milk before meat” the same way the original 12 Apostles taught (1 Corinthians 3:2,  John 16:12,  etc.).

And considering the original apostolic Church that Christ established, it seem people are so much more forgiving of them than they are of anyone who claims to have the same authority they did. Critics, and people in general, somehow expect a modern-day prophet of God to start out like the Son of God – pure, perfect, and undefiled. In contrast, Joseph as a youth was no less righteous and no more guilty of foolish pursuits as any other boy, and his boyhood character was well-regarded by all of his reputable critics. Still, being basically good wasn’t good enough for someone who would be God’s prophet – and so gaining a remission of sins was part of that process, as he claimed in his earlier accounts when that information was most vital.

And while considering his human side it’s only fair to also consider the state of mind of an insecure 14 yr old boy … one who has all the hopes and fears that any other 14 yrs old boy has. I’d be surprised if such a boy would even tell his parents the details of such an amazing event other than he learned for himself that Presbyterianism is false (which is precisely what he did say to his Presbyterian mother). Its foolhardy to think such a boy would gladly publicly declare that he personally experienced such a remarkable and religiously explosive experience. When he did mention the event privately to a minister who he respected, of course he was reprimanded. The “spiritualism” movement was underway and anything dealing with visions was repugnant to adherents of established churches.

I’m surprised with the notion that every account should be a full acount. In the 1838 account of the first vision, canonized by The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, he makes it very clear that there were more aspects of the vision that he could not yet reveal. In otherwords, he never intended to provide a complete accounting for the event at any time – but only intended to reveal those things he was able to reveal.

Lastly I’d like to suggest that nobody is an expert on visions except those who’ve had them. I’ve never had anything so great happen to me as happened to Joseph Smith, and I doubt I’ve met anyone who has, and so I don’t think I nor anyone that I know is qualified to understand how revelation is received and interpreted in a way that man understands. The scriptures however provide a clue – and in this clue there is a wealth of information about revelation that provides considerable latitude for Joseph Smith’s different accounts.

Let me explain … surely God speaks all dialects, but I think the Bible makes it clear that scriptural utterances of God the father are put into our language by prophets and not by God himself. For example, throughout the Old Testament each book is called “the word of [some prophet]”, and is not always called the word of God. A precise example is in the beginning of Jeremiah 1: 1-2 : “ The words of Jeremiah … To whom the word of the LORD came”, then in verse 3 ” Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” This is basically a translation into English of what Jeremiah heard from God. Now I’m certain that Jeremiah wouldn’t call it a translation, but I’m also convinced that Jeremiah perceived the word of God as a message that he understood without a need for words. And while I could be wrong I’ve never found anything to suggest that God would need to use the actual language of the person receiving the revelation.

Furthermore, after it is translated into men’s words by the original prophet it is then translated into other languages also BY MEN, and it is still considered scripture regardless what language it’s in (yes, Anglican’s I’m afraid English is not the official language of heaven, *wink*, but neither is the “vulgate”). So the word of God is given to us in the words of men – but this does not invalidate the Bible as being the word of God.

The point is that revelation is given as “the Holy Ghost teacheth”, and “not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13), and then put into words with man’s wisdom teacheth so we can understand it. With this in mind, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the Holy Ghost started teaching Joseph with this first vision, but he wasn’t an instant expert on what was provided in that vision. Let me be clear that there can only be one correct interpretation – but Spirit imparts knowlege line upon line and precept upon precept and in this way there very well may have been revelations that occured during that vision that took Joseph some time to understand through the Holy Ghost (see above reference). It would have taken even more time to put it into words which man’s wisdom teaches.

Okay, I beat this topic to death. Anyway, I hope the table I created will provide a nice common ground where people can discuss the topic without getting creative to make it seem more or less consistent or inconsistent to fit their agenda.

January 11, 2007

Captain Moroni’s Plan for a Victory in Iraq

Filed under: Politics — lullabyman @ 2:52 am

I watched Bush’s new plan for Iraq, followed by the critiques, and I have to say I was disappointed with what everybody said, including the critics. I’m afraid Bush is mistaken … sending more troops with the same old strategy is not enough. It will help, but rebuilding the infrastructure faster only works if the infrastructure stays in the hands of the Iraqi people. I wish it did work, but “if you think what you’ve always thought, you’ll get what you’ve always got”, and we’ve been losing.

Pelosi is wrong too … merely sending more money while trying to “bring our boys home” with a blind eye to the consequences … things will only get worse. You can NOT have all our boys all home and have a surviving Iraq at the same time. What’s worse: Iraq is the litmus for global terrorism. The world IS watching. Duh!? And many of those watching are budding terrorists.

In short, we need a BETTER strategy against terrorism. Especially against a terrorist network that seriously threatens the existence of democracy. One that’s worked before. One that will work again.

What if I told you that modern terrorism was foretold over 2000 years ago in a record that surfaced in the early 1800s? What if I told you that it also gave a detailed account how to effectively defeat terrorism by strategy? What if I told you that the record itself documented how a group of people did it (after years and years of doing it the wrong way, like us)? What if the record claimed that entire purpose of the record was to help out a freedom-loving-people in the “last days” (our time) who would experience the same things as they experienced?

Regardless what you think about the Book of Mormon there’s one thing that’s obvious: It’s contains remarkable parallels with our current situation and it provides stunningly insightful solutions, especially to this situation.

In the Book of Mormon the terrorists from 2000+ years ago are called Gadianton Robbers. They have a secret society, built up for the sole purpose of personal gain at the expense of others. They live double lives, appearing as law-abiding citizens in daylight, and thieving murders at night to forward their own selfish causes. In many cases their members were part of an old aristocracy that has suffered when the public embraces sound moral principles and adopts a system of accountable judges instead of untouchable kings (sound familiar?).   At one point during the blooming democracy the secret criminals call themselves the “Kingmen” and demand an end to democracy, while their foes are are called the “Freemen” and the public debate is fierce.  Does that sound familiar – a public debate on the value of democracy in Iraq?

This is when they cause an insurgency and a war – even a sectarian war of sorts with religion playing a major part (freedom of religion vs. no freedom of religion). The result of this brings the criminals out into the public eye and they unite themselves with unsavory characters outside the city walls and start spending more time away from the city to foster their plans of destruction than within the city. During this time Captain Moroni, a military officer, raises a title of liberty that says “for our children, for our wives, for our god and for nation” during which time most of the king-men are driven out away from the city and it is at this time they are called the “Gadianton Robbers” (led by a master-of-secrecy, named Gadianton).

The murderous robbers are a festering problem that just gets worse. They threaten the survival of the entire civilization, and at one point it appears their numbers are greater than that of the law abiding citizens – and they nearly succeed in destroying the city. Their tactics seem all too familiar with us today. For example, doing most of their damage by waiting for people to leave the city to get food, and then they attack them (similarly, 90% of Coalition troop deaths have also occurred by roadside bombs).

Does any of this sound familiar? Then read on.

Moroni tries all kinds of things. One thing he learns won’t work is to fight them on their territory – the loss of life on his side is too great. Sound familiar? So he changes his tactics (novel concept – changing tactics if they fail). Essentially he commands his people to gather all the food they possibly can and store it into their main city, and then he builds a wall around the city (now I’m kind of blurring the time-line here, but that’s not important). Nobody goes in or out of the city – neither should they need to because they are up to thier gills in food.

Funny thing about terrorists … they’re ecologically stupid. They don’t know how to farm. Moroni’s people pretty much gleaned the foliage anyway of all it’s sustenance and stored it in the city, enough to subsist for years. So what do you think happened to the terrorists? They starved. Moroni would then bait and hook them – sending small battalions outside the city walls for a gander, after-which the ex-pulsed resurgents would attempt to attack. Of course, they were starving, and in no shape to fight, and were easy fodder for Moroni’s men. This went on until the Gadianton robbers pretty much dwindled to nothing.

Now, it didn’t stop there. Moroni exercises a twist to the starvation tactic -and a very significant one. Many robbers then united with another nation and inspired the other nation to go to war against Moroni’s people (sound familiar?). It was bloody, and the terrorists were so deft at war that they were made captains in the armies of the other nations (can you say Al Quaeda officers?). As a result, with their knowledge of Moroni’s tactics, and using the strength of the other nation they were successful at overtaking many cities leaving an amazing path of wonton destruction wherever they go. In response, Moroni started building great walls around the cities to make a safe havens. Now here’s the clever tactic: when a city is taken by the enemy (in some cases Moroni freely gave it up for this purpose) Moroni simply surrounds the city until they run out of food. He doesn’t fight them – he just picks them off as they try to leave to get food. Either the enemy gives up from starvation, or they try to fight their way out to food. Either way, it works. Even terrorists need food and water to survive.

Give up an empty city, let the terrorists invade it. Let the terrorists die of starvation. Go back and re-inhabit the city.

Okay now, back to today. There are other strategies Moroni provided us, but the one with food, and these sealed off safety zones are very significant and aren’t being adequately used in Iraq. I’m sure such things have been discussed, and have been exercised to a limited degree, but severe implementation has been dismissed for one reason or another – most likely because it would be inconvenient and the Iraqi people wouldn’t like it. Therein lies one of our biggest mistakes: the mistake of pretending life in a war zone can be and should be convenient. We are trying too hard to maintain a standard of normalcy in the free areas, and that is allowing the enemy to mix in among the Iraqi citizens. Those aren’t safe areas! They aren’t safe. Quit pretending that they are – or you’re aiding the enemy.

Let’s call a spade a spade and realize that if we want to destroy the enemy then we have to isolate them, like Moroni did. That means making some sacrifices in the coalition controlled areas. It means doing as Moroni did to drive the insurgents into the public view by demanding that everyone raise a title of liberty. Those who don’t raise the title must be driven out. Then resources can be controlled to weaken the enemy and strengthen the coalition.

The use of walls is very significant. We know Fallujah is the #1 stronghold. Seal it off (think West Berlin but in reverse: don’t go inside). Give the insurgents their own medicine: don’t let anyone enter or leave. People need food to survive. These are bomb-makers, not farmers. They will die eventually. It may take years, but if we keep them in Fallujah then they won’t be bothering anyone in the meantime.

In short, we’ve seen that the tightening of security in the states has been successful. We’ve successfully battled the war on terror in the homeland by making it a safe-zone. We need to do this same thing in Iraq, and that will require some drastic changes to the existing free citizens, but this is war. They’ll be safe and right now that’s what’s most important. It will mean the city declaring certain existing areas as being safety zones – and sealing off those parts of the city. This will result in a total evacuation of some cities, and crowded (however well supplied) other cities. The off-limit cities will be left alone, except that no food will be allowed in them. None. Period. People need food and water to survive.

If they want food – they must make an oath, and will be placed in a special safety zone where they cannot mix with the bulk of the people until the war is over.

Lastly – the Title of Liberty: Raise it for the Iraqi people. This war will either be won or lost in the battle of the air waves and it’s ridiculous that we’ve been loosing the airwaves. This is war, and in war “right-to-arms” doesn’t apply to the enemy – and what stronger weapon is there than the airwaves?! Since when did freedom of speech apply to the enemy who is trying to kill that freedom? Jam their signals. Raise among the Iraqi’s a radio-based title of liberty “for our children, for our wives, for our nation, for our right to worship according to our own dictates”. We have the technology. We can air drop millions of radios that tune only to a certain station, and jam certain Al Jezeer programs or any other station that promotes terrorism.

You don’t have to be LDS, or even subscribe to it’s doctrines to see the wisdom of Moroni’s strategies. Whether you think he was real or that he and his parallels with today were just an amazingly lucky guess on Joseph Smith’s part, you have to admit – he knew how to fight terrorists. Now, let’s fight. For we have a better cause: “Our wives, our children, our country, and our freedoms”. Raise the title among the Iraqi’s. Nothing could be more viral.

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