Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book of Mormon Project

I will be publishing less on this blog, seeing as I am not usually one to ramble about life's undertakings.

I started up a daily blog which I call the Book of Mormon Project. Feel free to follow along. I am reading a chapter a day, and so can you too.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mornings and writings

Today is Sunday Night, or rather Monday morning. It is 2:05AM, and I have been reading articles on the Origin of the Book of Mormon. There is nothing to convince me that any other origin of the Book of Mormon could possibly explain its appearance other than Joseph Smith’s testimony. Of all these Alternate explanations of the Book of Mormon’s origin my favorite theory is the “Automatic Writing theory.” Automatic Writing is when a person enters a Trans and starts writing without knowing what he or she will write. Thanks to advances in technology, unlike Joseph Smith I can write with my eyes shut because I have a keyboard. Right now I am typing whatever comes to the top of my head in a similar way. I am trying to enter a Trans, and when I done I expect a book as well-written as the Book of Mormon, or at least a publishable article. Yeah Right.

I tend to write really weird things when I am tired. However, I write weirder stuff on the other side of my sleep pattern. When I wake up in the morning, but have not fully waken up I write weird stuff. In college I would procrastinate writing assignments, get tired at night, and then say to myself, “I’ll just get some sleep and work on it right before class so that I can write it when I am not so tired.” The theory was that one hour of well rested writing is better than two hours of poorly rested writing. The theory sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t work for me. When I wake up early in the morning I write crazy things. Even crazier than anything I am writing right now. In the early morning to me in my mind, everything makes sense, but when I read it a couple hours later after breakfast, I always would find some weird stuff in there. Sometimes it was embarrassing. The worst is when I didn’t have time to correct it before turning it in. I just prayed that the Professor wouldn’t turn in my paper to the honor code office on allegations of drug use.

Years later I figured out my problem; I would have at least two sets of thoughts while writing that would contend with each other. The first was the topic of the paper, and the second was my dream from the night before. If I start writing too early in the morning, those two ideas and maybe some other ideas seemed to mix. Dreams by nature are pretty trippy. I am surprised I did so well in certain classes. Eventually I made it a point to do all of my writing the day before.

I blame the whole thing on my history teacher William Hamblin. He told me that his best writing came in the morning because that is when he was most honest with himself. He said mornings were times where he could write down thoughts, uninterrupted by the day’s experiences. While wrote and published great histories in the morning, I wrote Political Science/Alice in Wonderland hybrids. Maybe I should have taken creative writing. Oh, I don’t like mornings. C’est la vie. (Have I written anything as good as the Book of Mormon yet? I still haven't opened my eyes)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monopoly and Scrabble in Senegal

I recently came home from my trip to Italy and Senegal. I learned a lot about the culture in Senegal and Africa in general. One aspect specific to Dakar, the capital of Senegal is the number of salespeople on the street. During our normal rounds we would have 300-500 people every day come up to us offering their goods and services such as phone cards, mangoes and other fruit, groceries, taxi services, and even board games. Sometimes it even looked like someone had raided the houseware section of a store, and came out selling tissues and soap for a little more than what they paid for inside.

I noticed that downtown there were a lot of people that were selling board games. The two most popular were Monopoly and Scrabble. Knowing that Monopoly was a very popular game in the United States as well, and that were so many versions of it, I was thinking about buying a board game while I was there. Not too many people have the Senegalese/French version of Monopoly. I pondered to Farina hypothetically, "I wonder if there is any good place around here where I could get a good deal on Monopoly."

She said to me that she didn't know. I thought about it again, and felt kind of silly, because I already knew the answer. I told her, "No where of course."

Economics 101 and Celestial Law

I was talking with a friend of mine, Melinda Yerka, and she said something pretty profound. I wrote it down and am writing it on my blog because I don't want to forget it, and I want to throw the paper away.

"Although the Terrestrial Law is not a bad law, it is not as good as living the Celestial Law, and there is an opportunity cost when you choose to live the Terrestial Law."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Half Full or Half Empty?

Some say the glass is half-empty
Some say the glass of half-full
I say the waterline arrives at the half-way point
(I'll try to have a less lame post next week)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

America's Got Talent?

I do not watch that much TV right now because we do not have cable, and so most of the TV that we watch is actually through our computer. Our Internet provides us with basic TV Channels. I have watched very little recently, but I have watched America's Got Talent, and I find the show somewhat objectionable because it was not planned to represent fairly all of those who participate in their show. I enjoy watching it because it shows people with talents, but it is put together in a way that favors some acts over others, namely comedians and musicians.

The TV program, started in 2006, is an NBC production and spin off from Fox's American Idol, both created by Simon Cowell. It has not had the commercial success of American Idol, but has done very well. American Idol has averaged around 30 million viewers in the past three years just in its season finale, whereas America's Got Talent pulls in around 10 million viewers for its finale. America's Got Talent has also brought to the stage a number of highly skilled entertainers, and has made Susan Boyle a household name. The main difference between America's Got Talent, and American Idol is that American Idol limits its contestants to a specific age, and performers can only sing. America's Got Talent allows calls itself a talent show that whose contestants' talents include magicians, singers, dancers, gymnasts, and comedians. Both shows use a similar elimination system so that the competition can take place over a period of time, or a season series, instead of a one-event talent show night. This system works well for American Idol, because you are comparing apples to apples; however there are problems when you compare apples, to oranges, to bananas, and to every other fruit in the basket.

I am going to list the top 10 performers of the last three years and state what they did in their act, just to demonstrate what performers generally do well in the competition.


1. Neal E. Boyd - Singer 2. Eli Mattson - Singer 3. Nuttin' But Stringz - Music Group 4. Donald Braswell II - Singer 5. Queen Emily - Singer 6. Paul Salos - Impersonator 7. Kaitlyn Maher - Young Singer 8. Wright Kids - Young Musical Group 9. Jessica Price - Singer 10. Joseph Hall - Young Impersonator


1. Terry Fator - Ventriloquiest/Comedy/Singer 2. Cas Haley - Singer/Guitarist 3. Butterscotch - Beatboxer/singer 4. Julienne Irwin - Youth Singer 5. Jason Pritchett - Singer/Guitarist 6. The Glamazons - Choir 7. Robert Hatcher - Singer 8. Sideswipe - Martial Arts Group 9. Calypso Tumblers - Tumbling 10. Duttons - Music Group.


1. Bianca Ryan - Youth Singer 2. The Millers - Musical Group 3. All That - Clogging Ensemble 4. Taylor Ware - Youth Singer/Yodeler 5. Celtic Spring - Step Dancing/Fiddling 6. Realis - Acrobat Group 7. At Last - A Capella Group 8. Rappin' Granny - Rapper 9. The Passing Zone - Juggling 10. Quick Change - Magic

Red - Singer/Comedy, Blue - Other, Purple - Singer, but specialized enough to act more like an "other" act.

There they are. Those are all of the Top Ten Finalists on America's Got Talent. Tell me now, if you wanted to win America's Got Talent, what field would you work in? Music? Comedy? Tumbling? Magic? I hope it just hasn't occurred to me that Comedy and Music have made a complete sweep of the finalists, and a near sweep of the three top ten finalists. I will now list all of the acts that are not Music/Singer or Comedy-related.

2008 - no one really, but the closest will say is Number 10 - Joseph Hall

2007 - 8. Sideswipe - Martial Arts, 9. Calypso Tumblers - Tumbling

2006 - 3. All That - Clogging 4. Taylor Ware - Yodelling* 5. Celtic Spring - Step Dancing/Fiddling 6. Realis - Acrobat Group 9. The Passing Zone - Juggling 10. Quick Change - Magic

*(Yes she is a singer, but because yodelling is her showcase more so than her singing ability I don't mind putting her on this list or taking her off)

In the past two years two (or three) non comedy/music routines made it to the top 10. In 2006 the closest anyone got was number 3. All that, the Clogging Group. No one else really had much of a chance to win, not because of a question of talent, but because of the system.

America's Got Talent requires you to perform, come back, and perform again. If you do well, you perform, and then come back again. Whoever can come back and win until the others are eliminated is the winner. This system gives singers and comedians a distinct advantage. Imagine you are a singer, and you perform any given number. You then pass the round and have the chance to perform again. All you have to do is change up your song, and then you have a completely new act. A winning singer has to learn one new song and sing it well in order to win the competition. In comedy, the stage is not much different. With the right comedy writers you can write new jokes, and tell them the next week. However, this is NOT easily done for dancers, magicians, tumblers, and jugglers. A dancer must change songs, choreography, and then make it look different from the week before. After a couple months there is only so much you can do with the same kind of dance routine. The same goes with the other acts. How many times can you pull a bunny out of a hat and make people go "WOW," yet learning how to pull a bunny out of a hat takes years of developing. Sets and equipment take long periods of time to construct, so in a week by week competition these acts generally look more tiring, because people lose interest. I loved Taylor Ware, and thought that she was worthy enough to win a single competition. I incuded her on the list even though she is a singer, because her talent is so singular that it is really hard to replicate week after week. Coming up with a new yodel every week that will impress everyone all over again is nearly impossible.

This is why I feel there is an unlevel playing field in America's Got Talent in favor of comedians and musicians. Good luck to those with interesting or different acts. The grand prize for America's Got Talent is an opening act in Vegas. From my outlook there are going to be a lot of Musicians and Comedians performing at the Mirage.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


This is a picture of us picnicing on the fourth of July. We live in a beautiful garden area. This site was about a 15 minute walk from our house. I think we drove it in about 2 minutes though. We normally walk it, but we had a lot of things to carry.

Normally for the 4th of July you eat hamburgers and hotdogs. We ate bratwurst, because that is what you do in Wisconsin. Before the fireworks we also had hamburgers I wore a red t-shirt that says "Divided We Fail." I was given the t-shirt when I attended the viewing of the Obama/McCain attackfest they call debates. Divided We Fail is supposed to negatively demonstrate the importance of unity. That was my slightly cynical way of being patriotic during the 4th. The best part is that I almost completely matched Farina.

This is the turtle that we found as we were picnicing. I think this was a painted turtle. It looked pretty normal from on top, but underneath and around its head it was bright yellow and red.

There is a lot of wildlife here. Today we saw a heron that stood almost four feet tall. We were about 30 feet away from it. We also see wild turkeys around. It is also very common to see raccoons at night. If you look long enough, you will always find one. Other things we like looking for are possoms, swallows, goldfinches, chipmunks, hawks, vultures, owls, and other birds. We live next to the biggest community garden in Madison (maybe all of Wisconsin), so it is fun to walk and see what animals are eating our crops.