All Now Mysterious...

Friday, November 20, 2015

And Now, A Few Words from Professor C

A friend of mine on the Hero Games Discussion Boards is a professor of physics and astronomy.  He posted these two thoughts today:

Last lab of the quarter today,
Last lab of the quarter today,
Last lab of the quarter today,
Last lab of the quarter today!

Pardon me while I dance a little jig of grief. 

. . . and . . .

Hey, if I could make earth-shattering kabooms easily, I wouldn't waste them on students. I'd be using them on administrators. 

Yeah, he's clearly an educator, and has been for a long time.

To Receive or To Reject?

Like many of you, I’ve been following, at least a little bit, the ongoing Syrian refugee situation.  Refugees fleeing the so-called Islamic State will be arriving in the United States soon.  It’s been more controversial than I’d imagined.

I’ve heard and read the news reports. I’ve seen the internet memes.  I’ve read the claims that ISIL will use the refugee situation to sneak terrorists into the United States, although I’ve seen little in the way of hard evidence to support these claims.  I’ve read of state governors, in Texas and elsewhere, proclaiming that Syrian refugees will not be allowed into their states—although, Xth Amendment notwithstanding, I’m not convinced they have the Constitutional authority to make such decisions.  And, of course, I’ve seen all kinds of social media posts and polls asking the big question: Should Syrian refugees be allowed to enter the United States?

So, for those (if any) who care, here is my opinion: I am in favor of allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States.

Because I would want someone to do that for me and my family if the situations were reversed.

I can’t imagine what these people are going through—driven from their homes by threat of violence, forced to leave behind everything they’ve known and make a new start in a strange country.  There is nothing in my experience that even comes close to that.  I can’t relate.

But I have family who can.  Because I count among my ancestors some of the Mormon pioneers.

They were refugees, too.  Outsiders?  Foreigners?  Subversives?  Evil?  The Mormons were called all of these things, and worse.  They were expelled from their homes and their society, and traveled hundreds of miles to make a new start somewhere else.  A few welcomed them, but most treated them with suspicion and mistrust.  Persecution eventually began, and culminated with the expulsion of the Mormons under threat of violence—by their own government, in at least one case.  So they would leave, and the whole process would start all over again.

My wife, and therefore my children, are descendants of Brigham Young.  He was there when the Mormons were driven out of Ohio, driven out of Missouri, and driven out of Illinois into the Iowa Territory.  He led them, over the course of two years, across what is now Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming into what was then another country (Mexico) and into the valley of the Great Salt Lake.  He helped them settle there, in a desert valley that was available because nobody else wanted it.

I read the accounts of that migration and settlement, and I marvel.  I can’t take it all in.  I can’t conceive of how these pioneers endured all the hardships, all the persecution, all the threats to life and limb, and didn’t just give up.  I can’t understand the extent of their suffering.

It seems to me a shame and a waste for my ancestors to have suffered so much for me not to learn something from their experiences.

So yes, I can, at least by proxy, empathize with the plight of the refugees fleeing ISIL.  And I’m okay with them having a home here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

And Good Morning To You As Well

So, I got flipped off this morning for sitting across the aisle from a guy on the bus. I guess my seat choice constituted an invasion of his personal space.

My backpack fell on the floor between us as I was getting situated. He pushed it back toward me with the toe of his boot. I thanked him, at which point he showed me what I can only assume was his favorite finger and muttered something inaudibly. He scooted over two seats so that I was no longer directly across from him, and fifteen seconds later he got up and stood at the front of the bus for the remainder of his trip.

People are perplexing, and that's for sure and for certain.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Too Tired to Think of a Clever Title

I'm not sure what's so compelling about 4:45 in the morning, but Sophia seems to think it's the ideal time to wake up. She's done it three different times in the past week.

I got her a drink, changed her, and got her back in bed. Then I lay down next to her to keep her cozy until she fell back asleep. It took about an hour and a half.

In that time, Sam woke up. I got him a drink and changed him, and put him back in bed. It's even money whether he'll actually go back to sleep.

Daddy's tired.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Desert Island Albums (and Entrance Song)

Q: What are your five “desert island” albums, and what is your entrance song?

These questions were asked to a friend of mine as a ‘getting to know you’ exercise with a new job.  I’ve been thinking about them as well, and here are my answers.

1.  The Music of Cosmos by various artists
If I could access all the memory files in my brain, I believe that I would discover that A ) I’ve listened to this album more than any other, and B ) there’s not even a close candidate for second.  I love this album.  This amazing compilation of music accompanying Carl Sagan’s landmark television series Cosmos includes a wide variety of genres, styles, and moods.  This album introduced me to the music of Vangelis, Alan Hovhaness, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Isao Tomita, and others.  Of the literally hundreds of albums I own, this was the first to come to my mind when I read the question.

2.  Somewhere to Elsewhere by Kansas
Their final album of original material, this is a fitting capstone to a long and exemplary (though sometimes uneven) career.  The songs, which deal with topics as diverse as war, revelation, death and the afterlife, and the struggles of day-to-day life in the modern world, are performed with power, passion, and technical brilliance.  If there is such a thing as progressive Christian rock, this is it.

3.  Wicked Twisted Road by Reckless Kelly
I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of country music that I don’t care for—including most of what I hear on the radio.  It tends to be bland, formulaic, mass-produced twangpop that all sounds the same to me.  It has no heart and no guts.  That’s why I like bands like Reckless Kelly.  I think this album is their best.  The album is filled with relatable, expertly-crafted songs performed by a band that clearly loves performing.  The songs are straightforward and pack an emotional punch sadly lacking in much of contemporary country.

4.  Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
This is one of the first albums (on cassette tape, actually) that I ever bought, way back in high school.  It has stood the test of time.  I love the eclectic mix of jazz, blues, and rock that Dire Straits does so well.  The wide variety of moods, from joyful and exuberant to mournful and contemplative, is complemented perfectly my Mark Knopfler’s inspired guitar work and vocals.  On the whole this is Knopfler’s best work, with the guitar outro on the closing title track being particularly poignant.

5.  Messiah by G. F. Handel, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Some people consider this the definitive recording of Handel’s signature oratorio, and not without reason.  The performances are inspired, and inspiring.  I know the work was originally intended for a much smaller orchestra and choir, but hearing the power of these performances, I can’t help but think Handel would have approved.

So that’s my group of five “desert islands” albums.  As for my entrance song, there are a number of possible options.  But I’m going to go with “Earthshine” by Rush.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Who Am I? (Hint: Not 24601.)

It's a simple question: Who are you?* The challenge is to answer in ten simple, declarative sentences beginning with "I am....."

Challenge accepted.

1. I am a Latter-day Saint.

2. I am a father.

3. I am a husband.

4. I am a seeker of knowledge.

5. I am a teacher.

6. I am a scientist.

7. I am a music lover.

8. I am a superhero aficionado.

9. I am a reader.

10. I am a friend.

So, who are you?

*We're not going to address the question, "What do you want?" In fact, never ask that question.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Those Wacky Lawyers

Latter-day Saints are taught that the Book of Mormon is an inspired translation of an ancient record, an inspired compilation of, for the most part, about a thousand years’ worth of sacred and historical documents.  Furthermore, we are taught that Mormon, the prophet-historian who compiled the ancient records into a single book that would later bear his name, chose the contents by inspiration from Heaven.  He selected those things that would be of the greatest worth not to his own generation, but those living in the generations preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The more I read the Book of Mormon, the more I know this to be true.

I found an interesting incident in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Alma.  We get a glimpse into the Nephites’ legal system under the reign of the judges:

“Now it was in the law of Mosiah that every man who was a judge of the law, or those who were appointed to be judges, should receive wages according to the time which they labored to judge those who were brought before them to be judged….And the judge received for his wages according to his time”. (Alma 11:1, 3)

Seems like a fair system to me.  If you spend more time at work, especially working in a profession that’s in the public interest, it only makes sense you would be paid more for your time.

So after briefly explaining the Nephites’ monetary system, Mormon includes these words in verse 20:

“Now, it was for the sole purpose to get gain, because they received their wages according to their employ, therefore, they did stir up the people to riotings, and all manner of disturbances and wickedness, that they might have more employ, that they might get money according to the suits which were brought before them;”  (Alma 11:20)

In other words, the lawyers of the time actually encouraged contention, conflict, and civil unrest in their society.  Why?  Because it would create more lawsuits, and that would result in bigger paychecks.

One has to wonder why Mormon thought that little tidbit would be useful for our day….

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Party of Physicists

One day, a number of the world’s most famous physicists decided to get together for a party.  Fortunately, the doorman was a graduate student, and made some very interesting observations:

Everyone gravitated toward Newton, but he just kept moving around at constant velocity and showed no reaction.

Einstein thought it was a relatively good time.

Coulomb got a real charge out of the whole thing.

Cauchy, being the only mathematician there, still managed to integrate well with everyone.

Cavendish wasn’t actually invited, but had the balls to show up anyway.

Thomson enjoyed the plum pudding.

Pauli arrived late and was mostly excluded from things, so he split.

Pascal was under too much pressure to really enjoy himself.

Ohm spent most of the evening resisting Ampere’s opinions on current events.

Hamilton went to the buffet tables exactly once.

Volt thought the evening had a lot of potential.

Hilbert was pretty spaced out for most of it.

Heisenberg may or may not have been there.

The Curies were there and just glowed the whole time.

van der Waals forced himself to mingle.

Wein radiated a colorful personality.

Millikan dropped his oil and vinegar dressing.

de Broglie mostly just stood in the corner and waved.

Hollerith liked the hole idea.

Stefan and Boltzman got into a heated argument.

Everyone was attracted to Tesla’s magnetic personality.

Compton seemed a little scattered.

Bohr ate too much and got atomic ache.

Watt turned out to be a powerful speaker.

Hertz went back to the buffet table at regular intervals.

Faraday demonstrated an outstanding capacity for liquor.

Oppenheimer got bombed.