Tuesday, January 31, 2006

1-Click Blogrolling 101

I received a question from TigerSue on how to get the 1-Click Blogrolling feature from Blogrolling.com to work properly on her browser. She is running Windows XP, with IE (Internet Explorer) 6.0.

I tried to answer this question in comments, but to do it justice it required more space, so I will post my reply here.

Here is TigerSue's Original question:
Another technical question for you!

I'm adding blogroll to my LDS women's site, and I'm trying to get the 1-click to work. I can't drag the link to my link bar, and when I tried the option of adding it by right clicking to favorites and putting it in the links that way, nothing comes up when I click on it? Any idea's in how to get that to work. I have explorer.
Here is my response:

Let's add this quirk as reason #982 of why I hate Internet Explorer (IE). Personally I have been using Firefox now for the better part of a year, and it has been a good experience for me. However, the IE Vs. Firefox debate will have to wait for another day.

My older desktop computer (at home) runs on windows 2000. I was able to get the 1-click blogroll in IE to work on it (after jumping through a few of extraneous hoops.)

Then I realized that you are probably running on Windows XP. I was able to verify that you are on Windows XP, and are running IE Version 6.0.

As it so happens, the handy-dandy laptop that they supplied me from work (while I'm supposed to be home, sick in bed) is also on Windows XP, and runs IE 6.0. So then I tried it on the work laptop, and I got the same results you did.

Ah-Ha!, but then I found the trick, and was able to get it to work! So you may want to print out the following set of instructions:

1. Go to Blogrolling.com, and login.

2. Under The left column, you will see the link to "1-Click BlogRolling". Click on it.

3. Right-Click on the "Blogroll It" link.

4. Click on "Add to Favorites"

5. A warning message may pop up that this may not be safe - ignore it and click yes.

6. The "Add Favorite" window will come up. If the "Links" folder is not showing in the lower part of the window, click on the "Create in" button, and you will see Favorites (with a gold star next to it), with a folder called "Links" below it.

7. Click on the "Links" folder so that it is now highlighted.

8. You can rename the link, if you wish. The default from Blogrolling is "BlogRollIt" -- all one word. You could name it in a little less cryptic way, like, Oh how about "1-Click Blogrolling" or something like that. (Imagine that!)

9. Click OK on the "Add Favorite" screen. (You may get another silly message that this may not be safe. Ignore it and click OK.)

10. This will place the 1-Click Blogrolling link on your links bar.

If your links bar is showing, and the 1-Click Blogrolling button is now on it, then you are done! Good for you!


**Bring in the Darth Vader Theme Now!**

The Dark Lord (Bill Gates) doesn't always want to make things that easy, now does he?

If your "Links" toolbar is not showing (sometimes they're a bit shy, you know.) -- What do you do then? Never fear, I have more instructions for you!

Take the following Steps if your Links bar is not showing:

1. Click on the "View" menu in IE, and then highlight "Toolbars". Make sure that the "Links" toolbar has a check next to it. If it does not click on Links to make it appear.

2. Your links bar should now be visible. If you can see it, it should also show your new "1-Click Blogrolling" link. If so, then you are done!

Uh, it still doesn't show up what now!

What's that you say, it's still not showing? (Yes the Dark Side of the force is strong with Darth Bill!) But I have yet more instructions to follow!

But you just gotta love IE, don't ya! There still might be one more complication. You may see a "Links" bar, but only a little thumbnail of it may appear. If you click on it, you will see a dropdown list of what all is on your links bar (usually a bunch of gratuitous Microsoft links, unless you've already removed them) a long with your new trusty blogrolling link.

However, you want to have the 1-Click Blogroll link at the top of your screen, so anytime you come across a blog that you want to add to your blogroll, you can just click on it and be done.

If you have this problem, there is a way to rescue your Links Bar from the Dark Side. (Can you tell its getting late?):

1. Go back to the View Menu in IE, click on Toolbars, and make sure "Lock the toolbars" is un-checked.

2. Grab a-hold of that little thumbnail of a Links bar with your mouse, and drag it down below the address bar (were the URL addresses of the web page you are on is displayed). After you have wrestled that puppy into position, let go of your mouse, and you should now have a Links Bar that is both fully functional, and actually visible! Woo-hoo! Now you really are done. And the Dark Lord has been defeated yet again!

Actually, I really like Blogrolling, browser quirks aside. Once you get it set-up and working, it is so nice to be able to add (or remove) blogs, or even non-blog websites that you want to have appear in your blog's sidebar. You don't have to mess with the blog template everytime you want to make a change.

I know this was a little long and windy, but its not my fault -- Blame Darth Bill!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nanny McPhee

Saturday night, our family went to see Nanny McPhee, a movie about a nanny with magical powers. We had seen previews for the movie the last time we went to a show. The kids saw commercials that it was starting this weekend, and so they lobbied to go see the movie.

Everyone worked hard on their Saturday house cleaning chores, and it had been a few weeks since we had last seen a show, so going to a movie sounded like a good idea.

I looked up the review in the Deseret Morning News. The reviewer, Jeff Vice gave the movie only 1½ stars (out of four). I gave it three stars myself. I have learned that this reviewer is death on family/children's films. Most of the time if a show has anything sweet, endearing, or has a feel-good sense to it, he pooh-pooh's it as being saccharinely-sweet, and overly sentimental. I just don't think this guy cares much for family or kids movies. At least the those that are sweet and loving, and have a spark of light and truth to them! Maybe he's just a grump. Who knows?

Years ago, the Deseret News had a movie reviewer that I really respected. His name is Christopher Hicks. I found that my taste in movies, and that of Mr. Hicks were very similar. I found that I could base most of my movie viewing choices based upon his recommendations. I shared the same value set with him, and our tastes in films were similar enough that I was rarely disappointed. Mr. Hicks now writes a weekly column for the paper, but has retired from move reviewing. Its just not the same anymore. I really don't know of a movie reviewer in whose judgment I can place much faith. Too bad. I know that seldom do we find a movie reviewer that reflects our own tastes so well, but for a while there, it was a really nice to have a go-to guy when you were trying to decide whether or not a movie would be worthwhile.

As Saturday evening approached, the weather started going downhill. Amy and I made a quick trip to the grocery store for our weekly supplies. When we came out of the store it was snowing and blowing pretty hard. I like to call it "Wisconsin Cow Weather". With the bad movie reviews, and the bad weather outside, I figured there would be no problem getting seats in the movie theatre. Ha! I was sooooooo wrong! They had this movie playing on two screens. We got there 10 minutes before the interminable previews started, and still were unable to find 4 seats together (except on the front row -- which we will not do!) We ended up finding 4 single seats on 4 different rows. Fortunately they came in sets, so that two of the seats were directly in front of two other seats in the row below. So Dawn Ann sat behind Amy, and then 3 rows further back, I sat behind Bryan. It wasn't exactly the kind of family experience we are used to, but at least we got to see the film without breaking our necks on the front row!

The movie was actually quite good. The screenplay was written by Emma Thompson, who also stars as Nanny McPhee. The movie is based upon the "Nurse Matilda Tales". We found the movie to be quite entertaining as seven rude and spoiled children learn manners and decorum from the magical powers of Nanny McPhie. Her terms of agreement were this: "As long as you need me, but don't want me, I will stay. As soon as you want me to stay, but don't need me, then I must go." Nanny Mcphee has 5 lessons that she wants this family to learn before she goes.

The way she approaches solving the family's discipline problems is quite reminiscent of "Mary Poppins". There is also hints of "My Fair Lady" and "The Sound Of Music" too -- although this is not a musical. I found it to be great family fare, with lots of growth in the main characters, and lessons learned.

If you are looking for a nice family film, with lots of laughs, I would recommend Nanny McPhee.

Well, No Wonder!

I haven't been feeling too good lately. I got a head cold about 2-3 weeks ago. The head cold cleared, but then I started coughing, for about the last couple of weeks. Then about 10 days ago, I started getting fevers and chills. I would sit in my office, with a polar fleece, and a jacket on -- with the temperature turned up to about 75 degrees -- and still shiver with chills. Then, all of a sudden I would get hot, and sweat would be pouring off of me.

Later, I would develop a shortness of breath, and I found myself getting weaker. The coughing continued on (I should own stock in Halls Cough Drops!). Now all of my abominable abdominal muscles are strained from all the coughing. I found it increasingly more and more difficult to sleep. With the sore muscles, it was getting impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position. I tried 'em all: the bed, the couch, and 2 recliners, with various pillow arrangements. Still no luck.

Yesterday, I went to my early meetings, took the kids to sacrament meeting, ran a couple of errands with my calling, and came home to crash.

I tried the bed again, but I had a lot of abdominal/rib pain. I already had all the ibuprophen and tylenol in me that was safe to have on board, still, no much relief.

As I lie there, doing my best imitation of a pill bug (basically balled up into the fetal position to try to quell the pain), I came to the realization that I need to get some medical attention. Today! I also felt impressed to have my home teacher give me a priesthood blessing. I realized (Doh! Finally!) that this could be getting serious! I had just expected for things to improve, like they usually do. I thought I would be getting better. But I wasn't.

I still had several appointments left for the day. However, I decided to cancel them. My home teacher's family took the kids while my wife drove me to the friendly neighborhood instacare.
Just walking from the parking lot to the reception desk caused me to be winded. I eased myself down into a chair, and Dawn Ann filled out all the forms for me. They could see that I was a basket case, and took me right in (actually, I don't think they were too busy anyway). They took my blood pressure and temperature, and sure enough, I had a fever.

The Dr. at the instacare is one that we have seen before. He is really good (sometimes I wish he was my real doctor.) His name is Dr. Buzzard - kind of an ironic name for one who is dedicated to preserving life. While they were taking my blood pressure, I saw him walk by, and I said, "Uh-Oh! It looks like the Buzzards are circling!" (I've heard the staff at the instacare make comments like that before, so I knew no one would be offended.) Everyone, including the doc got a chuckle out of that.

The doctor examined me, and determined that a chest x-ray was in order. The results indicated that I had bronchitis, and that I was developing a spot of pneumonia in one lung. The doc said it was a good thing we came in! In a few more days, it would have been full-blown pneumonia. (It probably would have been better to go to the Dr. about a week ago, knowing what I know now.)

I got a big antibiotic shot in my fanny hip. I was prescribed a heavy-duty antibiotic by mouth, along with a decongestant. Finally, I was prescribed a wonderful narcotic cough syrup as well.

Later, my home teacher, who is 1st counselor in the bishopric, joined by the 2nd counselor came over to give me a blessing. Usually, it is me who is giving the priesthood blessings. It is different for me to be on the receiving end. My health is usually good, and NORMALLY, if I do get sick, it passes quickly. While I was having my pill bug inspiration, I knew that it was time to get both medical attention and a priesthood blessing, and I knew that I should ask my home teacher to administer to me. He gave me a very nice blessing, and I knew that I had done the right thing.

After the blessing, Dawn Ann went out to get the prescriptions. I took my first dose of everything. The decongestant has been working great! And I must say, the narcotic cough syrup did a great job too. I hardly coughed at all throughout the night. The cough syrup also has the effect of making you very drowsy - which for me right now is a very good thing! I was able to get more sleep last night than I have for several days. I'll probably get some more rest today too! I'll probably be taking the next couple of days off work to catch up on my rest, and to get better.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Prayers for the Prophet


In case you haven't heard, President Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, underwent surgery yesterday to remove a cancerous growth from his large intestine.

The tumor was removed using a laparoscopic procedure. President Hinckley is expected to remain in the hospital for about 3-5 days. He is expected to make a full recovery.

At age 95, President Hinckley has had remarkably good health. Up until now, he has often said that he has only spent one night in the hospital, and that was with a sick child. His only other health issues have been a pacemaker that was installed in 1991, and he has recently been diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes.

President Hinckley is the most well-traveled prophet in this dispensation. He has an appearance scheduled in Santiago, Chile on February 25th where 4,000 LDS Chilean youth have prepared a cultural celebration performance. The next day, on February 26th, President Hinckley is scheduled to re-dedicate the Santiago Temple. Let's hope that he will be recovered sufficiently by then that he can make that appointment. I'm sure he doesn't want to disappoint the youth of Chile.

You can read more about President Hinckley's surgery at The Deseret Morning News, and The Salt Lake Tribune.

Let's remember President Hinckley in our prayers.

Update: 01-27-07

President Hinckley is doing well in his recovery. Mike Wallace of CBS News, who has become a personal friend of President Hinkley's has offered get well wishes to the Prophet. (HT to Noelie.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Copper Hills Youth Center

Last Sunday, I spent the day at Copper Hills Youth Center, a local treatment center for youth ages 12-17. My assignment was to be the instructor of an interfaith Sunday School Class. I last visited this center back on Easter Sunday of 2005. We had a good turn-out back then, probably due to the holiday. I used some photos of desert wildflowers, that I found on Flickr, to draw the comparison of the newness of life found in the wildflowers and the newness of life offered by Jesus. I had some interesting correspondence with the photographer afterwords, which you can read about here if you wish.

I have learned some more about the youth center, since my last visit. It is privately owned, by Horizon Health Corporation. Youth are placed in the center by their parents, or they can be placed into the facility by the Juvenile Court System. Treatment options include: substance abuse rehabilitation, behavioral modification programs, and treatment for many forms of mental illness and learning disabilities. I learned that the average stay is something between 4 and 6 months. They also provide education as well, and are a fully accredited private high school, recognized by the State. Like most treatment centers, the success rate is unfortunately rather low. Only about 30% of the residents will be able to avoid getting into trouble again.

This is a "secure, residential" facility. That translates to: they live at the center, and are locked in. Typically youth enrolled at the center have tried other treatment programs, (such as outpatient programs) and have failed. They generally have become disruptive to the point that they can no longer function in the home environment. (That is if they have a home environment at all!) Here are some examples of the kinds of behaviors that are treated at Copper Hills Youth Center:
  • Lying, covert behavior, stealing
  • Extreme oppositional or defiant responses to peers and/or parents
  • Explosiveness or uncontrolled rages of anger
  • Evidence of substance abuse or dependency
  • Inability to control aggressiveness, cruelty, and physical acting out
  • Impulsive behavior resulting in self harm
  • Runaway behavior which gives evidence of self-destructive behaviors
  • Destruction of property
  • Evidence of ritualistic behaviors
Here are some of the treatment programs offered :
Our Stake has been assigned by the Church to provide a Branch Presidency at the Copper Hills Youth Center. The main contact the Branch Presidency has with the youth is during the Sunday Services. A patient (resident) may request to see a member of the Branch Presidency (a clergy visit, if you will) if they desire, outside of the Sunday Meetings, but that rarely happens. The center will only allow a non-denominational service. If they allowed the LDS church to have a regular branch there, then they would have to allow other church groups the same access. Having too many church groups would be disruptive to the very regimented programs at the youth center. I am told that those residents who participate in the Sunday services tend to have a much higher rate of success than average. That is encouraging to the Branch Presidency, and those of us who have the opportunity to assist them in their work. It's nice to know that the youth are being helped by bolstering their spiritual lives.

I recently spoke at the Utah Boys Ranch, where they have a fully functioning LDS branch. They have regular sacrament and priesthood meetings. The branch presidency can interview the boys and have week-night activities with them (even off-campus activities). They have full-time church service missionaries who spend all day at the boys ranch. At the Boys Ranch, the boys can still work on their scouting and Aaronic Priesthood goals as well. Of course, the whole environment is different at the Boys Ranch. Religious training and instruction is not just a Sunday offering, but is an integral part of the program.

As I see it, the Copper Hills Youth Center treats those who have previously failed other treatment programs. Those who fail at Copper Hills may find themselves going back to another lock-down treatment facility, or even to the Juvenile Corrections System (Youth Jail) if the situation is serious enough. For some at Copper Hills, their only alternatives were Copper Hills Youth Center -- or Jail.

For the Sunday services, it is necessary to teach the same lesson, 4 times. There are two reasons for this. Space is a problem. They only have a conference room in which to meet. It can comfortably hold about 20 people. The other reason for needing to teach 4 different sessions, is that the various groups are not allowed to inter-mix. Attendance at Sunday Services is completely voluntary. Since it is an inter-faith Christian Service, we only use scriptures from the Bible. However, it is OK to teach LDS interpretation of the Bible. I would say that about ½ of the attendees at the Sunday services were LDS. Many brought their own various versions of the Bible with them. I created a handout with the scriptures that we would use in the lesson pre-printed, and numbered. That way anyone could help with reading scriptures, whether the had a Bible or not.

It was interesting to see the various groups come through. Each group was a little different from the others. My lesson plan was flexible enough that we could fit the lesson to the needs of each group. We probably had a total of 30-40 residents in attendance on Sunday.

When you find yourself face-to-face with these young people, you have to suspend all your judgments of them. They all have serious problems in their lives. Some have committed some serious offenses (sex offenders), and have damaged the lives of others. Some I'm sure, have been victims of abuse themselves. However, I found that you have to take a non-judgmental approach when teaching them. I am not their Judge, the Savior is. How would He have me approach them -- with love and compassion, not condemnation. My job is to help them have a desire to come unto the Savior, that they can be strengthened, and find forgiveness. That they may gain a measure of peace, solace, and spiritual strength in their troubled lives. When you go in there, and think about having to give the same 30-minute lesson four times, it may seem like a daunting task. However, each session went by quickly. The time was up before I knew it. I felt like we did some good, and were able to offer some spiritual nurturance to these young people.

This assignment usually only comes up once a year for me, so I probably won't visit there again until at least a year from now. I consider it an endeavor well worth-while.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Baroque Is Best!

I read a post earlier this evening by Noelie over at Refugee's of the War in Heaven in which she describes how classical music from the Baroque period is among her favorite music.

I have found that for me, Baroque period music is the most accessible of all the periods of classical music. I have found that Baroque is great music to work by, or to study along with. I find that I enjoy listening to this kind of music when I am preparing talks or lessons for church. Of course, it makes for excellent Sabbath Day music listening as well.

What is the secret of Baroque music? What seems to make it stand out so much? For me, I find that the reason is that it invites the Spirit of the Lord into my heart and mind. It makes me feel good. My mind seems to work better when I am listening to it. I am less distracted, and better able to concentrate when I listen to Baroque music.

I have found that I am not alone in this opinion. Michael Ballam, a renowned opera singer, and professor of music at Utah State University has shared some of his research on the effects of music, particularly Baroque Music on the human mind and soul. Below are excerpts from his notes, which he delivered at the BYU Education Week in 2003. (You can download his education week notes here.)

Albert Einstein:

One of Einstein's favorite composers, was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who he characterized as probably the most orderly composer. Mozart and Bach were the two favorite composers of Einstein.
G.J. Withrow, in speaking of the power music had in helping [Einstein] with theories such as relativity said: "He often told me that one of the most important things in his life was music. Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or into a difficult situation in his work he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties. Einstein said: 'It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception.' "
Johannes Brahms:

In an interview with the author Arthur M. Abell, Brahms is reported to have said:
"I immediately feel vibrations that thrill my whole being. These are the Spirit illuminating the soul power within, and in this exalted sate, I see clearly what is obscure in my ordinary moods: Then I feel capable of drawing inspiration from above, as Beethoven did...Straightway the ideas flow in upon me, directly from God, and not only do I see distinct themes in my mind's eye but they are clothed in the right forms, harmonies and orchestration. Measure by measure, the finished product is revealed to me when I am in those rare, inspired moods." "The powers from which all truly great composers like Mozart, Schubert, Bach and Beethoven drew their inspiration is the same power that enabled Jesus to work his miracles. It is the power that created our earth and the whole universe." (from "Talks with Great Composers" by Arthur M. Abell, published by Philosophical Library, NYC, NY, 212-727-7870)
On George F. Handel

Michael Ballam relates the following about the experience Handel had while composing the Messiah:

Handel was a successful composer of opera, but felt a sense of guilt for not having paid the Lord back for the use of his gifts.

He decided to write Messiah. After determining to do it, he had a stroke, worked his way back, got the text worked out in 28 days, and did not eat or sleep. He was consumed by the Spirit. After writing Hallelujah, he said: "I have seen the hand of God". Handel attributes his genius to God and would not take credit for Messiah.

Ballam also indicates other Baroque composers also felt that they could not take credit for their works as well. These included : Beethoven who said that "No man could have written the 9th symphony". Others attributed their abilities to compose to God as well, including: Mozart and Franz Gruber (Silent Night). Bach said: "The final aim and reason of all music is nothing more than the glorification of God."

Music and the Mind

Michael Ballam also promotes the idea the classical music, especially Baroque music can foster enhanced learning and cognitive development. You can read more about music and the mind here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Here's To The Boys!

The Men
Originally uploaded by David B..
This is another photo from the "scanner series." I believe this photo was taken on Christmas Eve, 1997.

Introductions are in order: That's my dad in the rear. Next is my brother Doug (black sweater), me in the middle, and my brother Mark in the striped shirt.

I am holding my son Bryan. I believe Mark is holding Jennifer (Doug's #2 daughter), and that is Elizabeth (Doug's #1 daughter)in the foreground.

I think this is from Christmas Eve of 1997. My big clue to the year is the "Faith In Every Footstep" T-shirt that I am wearing, which I obtained while viewing the "trek" in the summer of 1997.

I love this photo, for many reasons. First of all is because it is such a nice picture of my dad. This is before his health problems set in (hearing loss, heart surgery, and now a mild stroke). This is how I want to best remember him, with his bright, warm, engaging smile.

I also love this photo because it has all three of "us boys" in the family together. Since Doug moved to Virginia a little over 10 years ago, we just don't get to be all in one place much very often.

Doug is the only one in the photo who still looks a lot like he does in this photo, now 8 years later. I mentioned dad's health problems, which have been hard on him.

As you can see, my dad has an "extra-high" forehead (we don't say "bald" - receding hairline is risqué enough for us!) He has been quite proud to display his perfect cranium for all to see - essentially ever since he came home from his mission. Dad went to Hawaii, of all places, on his mission! I wonder if the Tiki gods got to him, and blessed him with that head that was so perfect that it could no longer stand to be covered by a veil of hair?

Mark, in this photo had started to "grow-out" his forehead too. He has continued to make progress in displaying more of his head, which is nearing in a state of perfection. Mark is still a little shy about it displaying it in all its glory, like dad. - At least not yet!

As for me, I have to admit that my forehead has started to grow out a little too, although I'm much more modest about showing off my head than my dad and brother.

Doug, on the other-hand, is the shyest of all. He keeps his forehead covered at all times with his thick, lustrous, hair. You'd think that having 4 kids would have taken more of a toll on him by now!

Of course 8 years makes a lot of difference with the kids. You would hardly recognize them today from this photo. Bryan is now a deacon. Elizabeth just turned 11. Jennifer now has blonde hair, instead of that patch of red hair seen in the photo.

Oh, and in the background, can you see those nicely knit Christmas stockings hung on the wall? Those were knitted by my sister, Jeannette, who always does great work!

Monday, January 16, 2006

In The Beginning

For Christmas I was fortunate to get one of those all-in-one units for my computer -- you know, the kind that is a combination printer, scanner, and copier. I have used the printer portion of it for various things since Christmas. I have tried out the copier, and it works great! However, with the holiday today (I was lucky enough to have the day off!) I was able to take a little time set up the scanner portion of it, and try it out.

So, I opened up one of the family photo albums and scanned this photo of Dawn Ann and me on the day that we were engaged (July 25, 1991). The picture is taken by my Sister, Jeannette, who accompanied us on our trip. This photo was taken near Yellowstone Falls, at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I had not yet popped the question when this photo was taken. That moment would come little later in the day, along about sunset.

With the scanner I hope to capture many of our family photos, most of which I will post on Flickr. I will post a few of the best ones here as well from time to time.

I was pleased with the performance of the scanner. I have many of photos to go through. I have noticed that some of the older color photos (25-30 years old) are now beginning to fade and spoil. I hope to preserve them, and the memories they carry with them by digitizing them. It will also provide me a better way to share my photos with family and friends.

An added benefit of digital photos, whether taken by a digital camera or by scanning, is that you can post them on a web hosting site, such as Flickr (there are many other photo hosting sites as well - and many of them are free!) The advantage to posting your photos on the Internet is that if something were to happen to your photos, or computer at home (flood, fire, blue screen of death, etc.) that you now have a back-up copy off-premises, located on the Internet, where your precious photos can be preserved and retrieved. Many of these photo hosting services will allow you to choose whether or not you want others to view your photos. I know with Flickr, you can set the privacy level on your photos so that only you can see them, or only a few selected people, such as family or friends can view them. Alternatively, you can choose to allow your photos to be viewed by anyone -- its up to you.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Helping Youth Prepare For Missionary Service

I was assigned to give a talk today on what parents can do to help their youth prepare for missionary service. The full text of the talk is located here.

Here are a few excerpts:

Gospel Knowledge
Our minds are wonderful things. All the studying we do, both before and during our missions is indelibly recorded in our brains. The power Heavenly Father has given our brains to absorb and retain information is one of the reasons that we must be careful about the kinds of words and images we view. Sometimes as mortals – especially when we get older – we have a hard time recalling all the information that has been stored in our minds.

However, the Holy Ghost has a key to unlock our minds. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, all that we have previously studied and learned can become available to us as we teach the gospel. One of the special functions of the Holy Ghost is to bring all these things to our remembrance. (See John 14:26)

If we have diligently studied and learned the gospel beforehand, the Spirit will bring the things we learned back to our remembrance, just in the moment they are needed in teaching situations. I know this was the case with me when I was on my mission. A scripture, or a concept would just pop into my head at the most opportune moments. I learned that this was Spirit prompting me to teach the things that the person I was teaching needed to hear – at that very moment.

On the other hand, if we have not sufficiently prepared ourselves, the Spirit will have less within us to work with, and we will not be as effective of a teacher as we might have otherwise have been.

Recognizing The Spirit
As parents, one of the greatest things we can do is to help our children learn to recognize the presence of the Holy ghost. Take the time when you have your family scripture study, or home evenings to point out moments when the presence of the Spirit can be felt. In fact, helping children and youth learn to feel the promptings and impressions of the spirit may be even more important than the subject matter that you are teaching at the time. Because once a person learns how to receive light and knowledge from the Holy Spirit, the key to the knowledge of all things is then opened up to them.

Practical Living Skills
Practical living skills are also important for a young man, or young woman as they enter the mission field. Things like basic cooking skills, how to do laundry and household cleaning, and even a little bit of basic sewing – like how to sew on a button or basic mending. Other practical skills like budgeting, time management, and goal setting are also great preparation for a mission. Many of these skills can be learned throughout their lives from daily chores and responsibilities around the house.

So kids -- when your parents ask you to do the dishes, or clean up your room, they are not only wanting you to do your chores, but they are also trying to help you prepare for your mission as well. While its true, parents could do these chores themselves, they are actually unselfishly *grin* trying to help you prepare for your mission, and for your life later on after you leave home! You will one-day thank them for teaching you these valuable skills! (Yeah, right.)

Physical and Mental Preparedness
Spiritual preparedness, and the ability to take care of oneself on your own are important ways to prepare for a mission. However, we also need to prepare ourselves physically and mentally as well.

One thing you will find, is that missionary work is hard, strenuous work – both physically and mentally! A missionary’s day begins early in the morning, at 6:30 am, and their whole day is filled with scheduled activities until 10:30 pm. It takes a lot of energy to be a missionary. Being in good physical condition is important to be being able to keep up with what is expected of you.

Likewise, good mental health is also important for effective missionary service. One problem many missionaries struggle with is homesickness. It is good for youth to occasionally spend some time away from home. This can come in the form of scout or young women’s camps. Spending a few days away from home with grandma and grandpa, or an aunt or uncle when school is not in session is another way to learn about being away from home. Time spent away from home, while going to college also his an excellent way to learn how to function on one’s own, while still being able to call mom or dad on a regular basis, or come home for the weekend if you are close enough to home.

When a young man or woman enters the mission field, it is time to leave the thoughts of home, school, and girlfriends behind. Time serving on a full-time mission is consecrated time. When we agree to missionary service, we are asked to serve with all our hearts, might, mind, and strength. If a part of us is still so wrapped up in life back home, we cannot fully focus on our missionary responsibilities, and we are not able to give the full measure of service that is required.

Teaching our children how to deal with discouragement is also another way in which parents can prepare their children for the mission field, and for life in general. Missionary work is filled with many ups and downs. There are many great and marvelous experiences to be had. However, we know that there is opposition in all things, and along with those highs, will be some low moments as well. We cannot expect every moment of our mission, or of our live to be one continuous high. Young people need to learn how to deal with discouragement, and how to continue pressing forward, with faith, even in the face of adversity.

Discouragement comes to all missionaries at one time or another. It is not the same thing as depression. Individuals who are prone to serious states of depression or mental illness, who have previously required counseling and medication should consult with their priesthood leaders prior to submitting an application for missionary service. The application must include an honest history. If medication has been prescribed, it should be continued while serving in the mission field. (See: S. Brent Scharman, “Preparing Your Future Missionary,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 17)

Be Missionaries Now!
All of the things we have talked about thus far, are important, excellent ways in which to prepare our youth to serve missions. All of these things are quite useful and necessary.

However, if I were to choose one single way, that you can best prepare a child for a mission, it would be to become missionaries right now! You don't have to wait until your are 19 (or 21) to be a missionary. Likewise, we shouldn't quit being missionaries after being released from full-time missionary service.

If you, as a family are actively seeking out missionary opportunities, and inviting your friends and neighbors to be taught the gospel in your own home, you will provide the opportunity for your children to see real missionaries in action!

Having the full-missionaries frequently in your home, as they teach a neighbor or friend brings a powerful spirit into your home. What better preparation for a mission is there than actually seeing the change of conversion come over a friend or loved-one as they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. What a powerful influence it will be on your children as they see investigators enter the waters of baptism, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Let your own children study and pray, and gain their own testimonies of the gospel, right along with the investigators who are being taught in your home.

The spirit and the example of the full-time missionaries will also rub-off on your whole family as well. If your home is filled with the spirit of missionary work, your children will be also. They will have tasted of that sweet spirit the gospel brings, and have a desire to share it with others. And when the time comes, it will be their desire to serve a full-time mission, and declare the glad tidings of the gospel to all who will hear.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So . . . What's YOUR Major?

Sometime way back in the last century, I attended BYU. Back in those olden days, I remember three questions that always seemed to come up when meeting someone new:
  • What's your name?
  • Where Are You From?
  • What is your Major?
For some reason, my most prominent memory of having this conversation seems to have occurred on the dance floor, more than anywhere else. -- What else do you have to talk about at a BYU dance anyway? I'm sure I asked these same questions in other settings as well. However, when I set the time on the Wayback Machine to go back to my BYU days, I can see myself conversing with a dance partner in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom, swaying to the music, and asking these very questions.

I recently visited Mark Hansen's blog, Mo Boy, the other day, and found this quiz. It's supposed to help you decide what would be perfect college major for you. After taking the quiz, these were the results I received:

You are an aspiring journalist, and you should major in journalism!
You are passionate about writing and expressing yourself, and you
want the world to understand your beliefs through writing.





























What is your Perfect Major?
created with QuizFarm.com

For me, the results of this quiz are quite accurate. In fact, when I first started college, I was really was a journalism major for my first year! After I came home from my mission, I switched to Business, which is what I eventually graduated in. Of course, now, I work in neither business nor journalism -- I'm a computer programmer of all things!

How the heck did that happen? (I suppose that that's where the "mathematics" and logic part of me comes out.)

I've always loved the written word. I see writing as a true craft -- even an art form. I love to find just the right words to communicate the point I am trying to get across. I also find writing as a way to express the feelings of my heart. So that explains why journalism and English are at the top of my list of "perfect" majors. Because I am a religious person, in nearly any of these kinds of tests, I usually get a high score in philosophy or I am advised to seek a career in the clergy. Well, since I am LDS, becoming a professional clergyman is just not an option. The closest thing to a professional clergyman would be a religion professor at BYU, or to be a chaplain in the military -- neither of which appeals to me very much. As for philosophy, there is just not much of a market for it. They don't have a Mars Hill anymore, where you can sit atop the hill and philosophize and pontificate all day long, and have people put tips in the hat, as they sit enraptured at your feet. Once again, academia seems to be the only place you can get away with something like that!

I've always thought that my favorite career would be that of a high school English teacher. However, being able to read (my English skills) and understand salary scales (my math skills) I could see that supporting a family in Utah solely on a teacher's salary would be a tall order, indeed. Most likely, my wife would have to work too, in order to make ends meet. So, I chose other opportunities as they came to me, which would better help me achieve my family goals.

I found that I had a talent with computers, and programming. When I saw that a programmer was about to retire from his position, I took classes and prepared myself for that position as best I could. When the time came, the way was opened up for me to make the transition from working in public safety to computer programming. I thank the Lord for opening these doors for me, and showing me the way to move forward. Sometimes it took a leap of faith to make the jump. More faith may yet be required of me before I enter retirement. (I still have young children, and am probably looking at working another 20 years before I can retire.) Thankfully, over time, we have been blessed with the means that allows my wife is able to stay home with our children. We're not rich, but we have sufficient for our needs. Currently she is homeschooling our oldest son. None of this would be possible without these great blessings that the Lord has given us.

I have been working in the full time work-force for a little over 22 years now. During that time, I have had 5 different jobs, and 3 different careers. I understand that this is not unusual. Most people nowadays will have up to 6 different "careers" in their lifetime. More likely than not, I will probably have to learn, grow and adapt more in the future.

One thing I found was that music was missing in the quiz above. Although my musical talents are pretty ordinary (not professional level) music is still very important to me. Even though "Art" is shown at the bottom of the scale, if you included music and writing as "arts", then it would be at near the top of the scale.

So . . . How does a writer, who normally writes computer code "gobbeldy-gook" and helps people with computer problems all day long have the chance to express himself in writing? --- Why he gets a BLOG, of course! For me, blogging has been a way to keep up on my writing skills, as well as to provide a form of self expression.

Now, back to the original question of this post -- What's YOUR major? Take the quiz above, and see if it matches your personality. Leave a comment, and tell me what the quiz suggested as your perfect major, and how close it came what you actually studied or what you have ended up doing in real life.

And I promise, you won't even have to come onto the dance floor to tell me either!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

And They Shall Rise Up And Bless Thee, As Their Father

Abraham received many blessings of the Lord. Because of his faithfulness, he was promised an innumerable posterity. Through the descendants of Abraham, the rights to the Priesthood, and the blessings of the Gospel would go forth unto all mankind. It was promised that those who would benefit from these blessings would one day rise up, and bless Abraham as their father. (See Abraham 2: 8-11)

This past week, my dad was diagnosed as having suffered a mild stroke. His symptoms include some mental confusion, and some memory loss as a result. Common, everday things which had been quite easy for him to do in the past, now have become difficult, or impossible for him to do.

Last week he underwent several tests, including an MRI that confirmed the presence of stroke damage. Tomorrow, he goes in for additional testing to determine if there is any blood clotting activity in his heart. Blood clots formed in the the heart, and later transferred to the brain are a frequent cause of stroke. You can learn more about strokes from the Mayo Clinic here.

Dad requested that my brother and I give him a priesthood blessing tonight prior to the tests that he will undergo tomorrow.

With today being Fast Sunday, our family chose to make dad's health, and the tests that he will undergo this coming week as the focus of our fast. My brother and his family, who live in Virginia also joined in our fast today as well. We have been remembering dad in all of our family and personal prayers as well.

Tonight my brother (who lives here locally) and I administered to our father. It was our privilege to rise up and bless our father, with that same priesthood that he once bestowed upon us. He who helped bring us mortal life. He who taught us the gospel. He who has been a great example for goodness in our lives. He who has blessed and sustained us in our own lives, during in our own times of need. Tonight was our opportunity to love and bless him in return.

Just as we inherit the rights to the priesthood, and the blessings of the gospel through Abraham, my brother and I also have inherited the rights to the priesthood, and the blessings of the gospel through our own father as well.

I felt a sweet spirit as I pronounced the words of the blessing. I felt directed by the Spirit in what I said. After the blessing was over, I gave my dad a big hug, and told him that I loved him. My brother did the same. I felt the sweet reassurance of the spirit that what had been said and done was in harmony with Heavenly Father's will.

As an heir to the covenant of Abraham, dad too, has been given the same promise as Abraham, that one day his sons shall rise up, and bless him as their father. Today, in some small measure, we saw that promise fulfilled.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Cowboy Days

Grandpa's Ranch


The following is a series of posts about my grandpa's ranch in Randolph, Utah. I spent much of my youth there. Much of who I am today comes from those days.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Best of 2005

Since I now have a full year's worth of posts, I thought I'd do a little recap of what I think are the best posts of the past year. The posts listed below are in chronological order, rather than any kind of ranking order. Some of these posts will be new to more recent vistors to The Whole Note.

- Wally World. This post gives a little history and background into the 10 years I spent working as a 9-1-1 police/fire dispatcher.

- Deluge in Dixie. This post is my account of the floods that hit Southern Utah in January 2005.

- Letter From Tina. This is a poignant first-hand account of the Santa Clara floods from my Sister-in-law, Tina who lives in Santa Clara.

- W-2's. Believe it or not, this post about filing income taxes and handling W-2 forms may have received more hits than any other post on my blog during the past year. It also gives some insight as to the kind of work I do.

- LDS Jews. This is a post about an LDS-Jewish group called B'nai Shalom. It also talks about some of my thoughts and experiences with Jewish people.

- The Case of the Missing Mudder (Mother). This is the story of how I rescued my wife from the friendly neighborhood mud bog.

- This Is Not Fun! Mama's response to going 4-wheeling in our 4x4 truck.

- Too Tired Day. Our harrowing account of nearly getting stranded in the Utah desert with two flat tires.

- Stop Growing Up! - Or how I explained the "Birds and the Bees" to my 12-year old son.

- Piano Lessons. The role of music study in cognitive development.

- Homeschool for Bryan? Our rationale for considering homeschooling for our eldest son.

- Schoolyard Fights for Grownups. This is a post by my wife, Dawn Ann on her blog about our battles with school administrators.

- Ai Chihuahua Mama! - Or how we spent an afternoon in the ER at the hospital in Filmore, Utah.

- David Lewis - Pioneer Forefather. This is a post on our Family History blog about one of our ancestors, who survived the Haun's Mill Massacre.

- Grandpa's Ranch
The following is a series of posts about my grandpa's ranch in Randolph, Utah. I spent much of my youth there. Much of who I am today comes from those days.- What Would You Do? A post about learning wisdom from our mistakes.

- The Biggest Hole On Earth. This post about our visit to the Kennecott Copper Mine has been one of the top three posts all year for page visits.

- Jailbirds. Our family adventure of being "trapped" inside the Bear River Waterfowl Refuge. Also, here are some photos from our "Jailbird" experience.

- Good Samaritians. Story of how our family was helped one-day by perfect strangers.

- California Trip. Story of our September, 2005 Trip to Southern California.

- Joshua Moments. My account of a pivotal moment, when I had to make a choice.

- Texas Schoolbook Depository. My impressions of visiting Dealy Plaza, where the Kennedy Assassination took place.

- Baby What You Goin' To Be. A post about the Natalie Sleeth Christmas song, and how it has affected me. This has been one of the top three posts, based on visits of the entire year. I included a little player that allows you to play the song. To date, it has been played 104 times.

- A New Kind of Magic. How I kept the magic in Christmas, even after the kids were told about Santa Claus.

- Joseph Smith, The Prophet. How I gained my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

- The Year In Photos. Finally, you can view our photos from the last year here.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Utah Boys Ranch

I spoke at the Utah Boys Ranch Today (Recently Re-named Westridge Academy). For those of you not familiar with the Boys Ranch, it is an early intervention, residential, Christian Based treatment center for boys (and now girls too!). It is located in West Jordan, Utah, and is not too far away from my home. Our Stake is responsible for sponsoring two LDS Church Branches at the academy (one branch for the boys, and another branch for the girls). I am usually assigned to speak at their church services twice each year. I was originally scheduled to give today's talk last week (Christmas Day), however they had a special program they wanted to do last week, and asked me to come this week instead.

Here are some of the kinds of treatment options offered at Westridge Academy:
  • Drug and Alcohol Use
  • Depression
  • Bipolar
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Divorce and Family Conflict Issues
  • Adoption Issues
  • School Problems
  • Poor Peer Choices
  • Runaway and Curfew
  • Minimal Legal Issues
  • Accountability and Responsibility Issues
  • Integrity
  • Self Esteem and Emotional Issues
Westridge Academy is a charitable organization, and is funded by donations, along with tuition charged to the families of youth who are entrolled there. The academy is not affiliated directly with the LDS church. However I believe the church's charitable arm, the LDS Foundation is a major donor to the facility.

Spiritual Growth is an integral part of the program at the Boys Ranch. Here is an excerpt from their web site:
"We are committed to helping our students grow spiritually. We seek constantly for ways to help our boys fulfill their spiritual potential. The spiritual principle approach does not just integrate truth into subject content or give it a Christian appearance, it approaches subject matter assuming that God is all knowing and knowledge is given through him We firmly believe that as a student gains knowledge he gains a closer relationship with his Father in Heaven. . . . By helping students understand the world about them, we give them knowledge of the Creator. The spiritual principle approach brings a child to logic and faith whether it is in algebra, language arts, sports, or study hall. Our curricula and methods of teaching and learning cultivate our youth unto full spiritual potentials."
Part of that spiritual program is provided by the LDS Church Branch. For those who are not LDS, there are non-denominational church services available as well.

When I entered the chapel at the academy this morning, there was a line of about 10 "church service" missionaries there. These are generally retired couples who live in the Salt Lake area who volunteer 40 hours + per week. They do a great work there. They are the ones who help provide spiritual guidance to the young men and women throughout the week. The church service missionaries work closely with the Branch Presidency. It was my privilege to contribute to those efforts, in my own small way on this New Year's Day. I have posted my talk over on my Gospel Study blog, if you are interested.

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!

For new years eve, we spent the evening at my parents' house for our traditional gathering. Mom made a nice homemade Leek Potato Soup with herbed, pull-apart bread rolls. We had a nice dinner together. Unfortunately, my wife, Dawn Ann had come down with a nasty cold. She decided to stayed home and rest up. (She also didn't want to pass along her cold to the rest of the family).

Tradition in our family has it that we all gather together, and play all the board and card games we can stand until at least midnight. However, due to the fact that New Year's day fell on a Sunday this year, we had to abbreviate our celebrations. Our ward rotated to the 9:00 am bloc for this year, and I had to give a talk at the Utah Boys Ranch at 10:00. We decided that we would watch the ball drop from Times Square (10:00 pm our time) and call it a night.

This year, we tried a new game called Apples to Apples. It is a game of comparisons. One person will draw a card with a certain quality or attribute (a green card). The other players are dealt several a (red) cards with various nouns that may or may not go along with the green card. Each player plays a red card (face-down). Then the person who drew the green card gets to judge which card is the best match. The red cards are all mixed up, so that the judge doesn't know who played which card, and can't play favorites. Lobbying the jugde, however is allowed. Each person in the game takes turns being the judge.

Here's an example:

Green Card:
  • Manly
Red Cards:
  • The Dallas Cowboys
  • Bruce Willis
  • Body Odor
  • Giving a Hug
  • Camping Trips
The judge then chooses which card he or she thinks is the best match. Whoever played the card selected by the judge, wins that round. The first person to win 7 rounds, wins the game.

The nice thing about this game is that it is really low key. No great tumults and contentions like monopoly. You can still try to win, but without having to destroy your opponent. The game also doesn't take forever to complete (45 min to an hour at most). Younger people have just as good of a chance to win as adults. During the process of the game, you get to know people getter, by what kinds of cards they tend to play. Sometimes the results can be quite funny too. The genius part of this game is that on a more basic level, people are actually learning English grammar and vocabulary to boot! All in all we found that it was a pleasant way to spend some time together with friends and family.

For me, New Years Eve has always just been a fun time to get together with the family. When I was a kid it was the only night of the year that I didn't have a bedtime curfew. I could stay up as late as I wanted. Being the natural night-owl that I am, I often would stay up until dawn - playing games with my dad and brothers. (Mom and sis usually went to bed shortly after midnight -- sensible folk that they are!) I never did understand the appeal of drunken reveling, and I still don't. It got me wondering why we, as a society have so many revelers going crazy as they ring in the new year. Is it just an excuse for a party -- or am I just getting so old that the point has passed me by completely?