Saturday, January 31, 2009

TED Talks

Back in December, one of my students recommended that I might start listening to a podcast called 'TED Talks'. I didn't think much of it at the time. There are Sooooo many podcasts out there to listen to.

But later while I was looking for something else I happened upon the TED Talks section on the iTunes store. Looking at a couple of the titles I found myself now interested. So I downloaded a couple to listen to on my iPhone is a moment of boredom.

I was VERY IMPRESSED with the breadth of speakers, each of the speakers with 'world-class' knowledge on a specific subject.

I know find that I've downloaded every single TED Talk available...and thats Gigabytes worth. Because the are a great fountain of knowledge. Knowledge and ideas I've never read or heard of before. Ideas that are interesting and broaden my view of the world.

I'm now trying to watch 2-3 of these per week... even so it will take years to enjoy them all.

You can check them out at Or just search for 'TED Talks' in iTunes (there is also an iPhone application that lets you watch them specifically and directly on your iPhone) but I tend to watch these all on my laptop instead.

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 200 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Kanye West

Ok, ok... I know you'll be thinking there is something wrong with me. But I really like listening to Kanye West.Earlier this year while in the far north of Canada - my rental car had a Satelite Radio. The preset station was to this Hip Hop/R&B Station... and while driving trying to find my way to the hotel I didn't want to stop to figure out this fancy schmancy radio... so I got to listen to Hip Hop. It was pretty good stuff, and then on the next morning on the way to teach class I got to hear some more.

I actually liked this one song... something called 'Love Lockdown' - it had a great beat, unexpectedly good vocals, a storyline, and intricate drumwork.
So later I went to iTunes and purchased this song and found the artist to be Kanye West.

Some of his other works started to sound good to me so I purchased an entire album and a couple of singles.

On the trip to Atlanta this week, while reading 'Scarpetta', I listened to Kanye West with the 'random-random' on my iPhone.

I really liked some of the songs. I think this guy has some great musicality to him. The story lines and percussion runs are quite enjoyable. (Love Lockdown, Swagga Like Us, and Pinocchio Story are my favorites)

Give it a try... It's not your normal Hip Hop!

Three Days in Atlanta

I spent three days in Atlanta teaching an Advanced Wireless Design course for AirMagnet. A group of three students who work on the Army Medical wireless solutions took me with them a couple of evenings to go out to dinner.
We had some wonderful food, good company, and a nice time was had by all. The first evening was 'The Melting Pot' - my son Ryan had mentioned wanting to go before... so I thought it would be a good thing to try out. It was a bit expensive, but the food, preparation, and friendly interactivity during the dinner was well worth it.Then on Wednesday evening we went out for seafood at 'Legal Seafood'. I've been to other 'Legal Seafood' restaurants in the past. But this one was a bit more modern, more open floor plan, and fantastic food. I had grilled shrimp and thoroughly enjoyed it.The book for the flight out was 'Scarpetta' by Patricia Cornwell. It was the latest in the series by the same author. I've read every one of her books (even the cookbooks) - and normally enjoy her 'thriller' type novels a bit more. In order to enjoy this one you would have had to have read all her previous works in the last little while. She didn't spend any time at all explaining the characters and their previous interactions... just continuing on as if you just finished reading the previous novel.

One Week to Go...

This afternoon we again headed up to Sandy (about 30 minutes north of here) to visit with our new puppy.

Just one week to go before she is weaned and ready to come live at our house!

Here are some pictures from our visit today.
Jill has been reading and planning on how to best train the new puppy "Rory Morgan" (and who said dogs needed two names anyway?)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Return to Sender...

After the phone call with my son Brent (Who is serving on a mission for the LDS Church in Sao Paulo Brazil) - I thought I'd 'take care of him' - and send him a care package with the things he mentioned on the call.

So I went shopping to get all the stuff the very next day, couldn't fit all the Mac&Cheese in the fixed price US Priority Mail box, and I figured he could always get macaroni in Sao Paulo, so I dumped boxes of noodles at the post office, and sent him just the 'cheese packs'.

20 - long 'Slim Jim' Beef Jerky Sticks
4 - Old Wisconsin Beef 'Summer Sausage'
4 - Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in a box
6 - Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - cheese packets
2 - Bags of Beefaroni Snack Bites
1 - Roll of Rolaids (for Brent after consuming all of the above)
Today the following box was returned with just the little sticker saying 'Return to Sender' affixed over Brent's name, and a big yellow and green piece of tape with something in Portuguese. So Brent didn't get his gift of goodies, I spent way too much money on the Priority Mail postage, and some Civil Servant in Brazil saved their country from 'Beef Stick' and 'Slim Jim'. The Brazilian beef industry can sleep better tonight knowing their Post Office protecting their interests!

Anyone want some beef jerky?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stimulus Proposal Facts

Total Cost of Stimulus Legislation: $825 billion

How does this compare?

• In 1993, the unemployment was virtually the same as the rate today (around 7%). Yet, President Clinton’s proposed stimulus legislation *only* contained $16 billion in spending

• The total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.

• This legislation nears a trillion dollars. President Reagan said the best way to understand a trillion dollars is to imagine a crisp, new stack of $1000 bills.

• If you had a stack four inches high, you’d be a millionaire. A trillion-dollar stack of $1000 bills would measure just over 63 miles high.

• In $20 bills, a trillion dollar stack would be 3150 miles high. That’s about the distance between DC and Trujillo, Peru.

• President-elect Obama has said that his proposed stimulus legislation will create or save 3 million jobs. This means that this legislation will spend about $275,000 per job. The average household income in the U.S. is $42,000 a year.

• This bill provides enough spending to give every man, woman, and child in America $2,700.

This bill will cost each and every household $6,700 in additional debt, paid for by our children and grandchildren.

• Although this legislation has been billed and described as a transportation and infrastructure investment package, but only three percent ($30 billion) of this package is for road and highway spending.

• Much of the funding within the proposed stimulus package will go to programs which already have large, unexpended balances.

• For example, the draft bill provides $1 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which already has $16 billion on hand.

• And, this year, Congress has plans to rescind $9 billion in highway funding that the states have not yet used.

• Deficit spending will not expand the economy. If that were true, then the current $1.2 trillion deficit -- the largest in history -- would already be rescuing the economy.

• $800 billion more will not change that.

• Trade groups state that every $1 billion in highway “stimulus” can be spent creating 34,779 new construction jobs.

• But Congress must first borrow that $1 billion out of the private sector.

• The private sector then loses or forgoes roughly the same number of jobs.

• Japan responded to a 1990 recession by passing 10 “stimulus” bills over 8 years (building the largest national debt in the industrialized world). Their economy remained stagnant and their per capita income went from the second highest in the world to the tenth highest.


You've got to love the un-biased media!

Headlines On This Date 4 Years Ago:
"Republicans spending $42 million on inauguration while troops Die in unarmored Humvees"

"Bush extravagance exceeds any reason during tough economic times"

"Fat cats get their $42 million inauguration party, Ordinary Americans get the shaft"

Headlines Today:
"Historic Obama Inauguration will cost only $120 million"

"Obama Spends $120 million on inauguration; America Needs A Big Party"

"Everyman Obama shows America how to celebrate"

"Citibank executives contribute $8 million to Obama Inauguration"

Nothing like fair & unbiased coverage of the news !!!

and here is the Urban Legend take on the same thing. (Thanks Laura)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rory - More Pictures

Here are a couple of new pictures of our new dog, Rory, the Golden Doodle puppy.

We'll be able to get her the weekend after Valentines Day after she is weaned.

Think we're an Internet Powerhouse...?

In the US we sometimes get a little 'US-Centric' in our view of the world. This map puts us in our place just a bit...

Each country has a unique two-letter country code on the Internet called 'Top Level Domains' - Below is a map of the world, using those country codes. Each country is displayed as it's corresponding country code in a font size relative to its population. So countries with big populations appear as bigger letters on the map, small countries look tiny.

It's a neat idea that really shows you the US's place in the online world, especially as China and India (.cn and .in) both look huge here, despite having been scaled down 30% to fit within their geography.

Kind of makes you think about the world in the next generation, eh?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Priest's Tale

I was bored on a flight... and so looked in the seat-back for the United magazine. I came across this article, and really enjoyed it. It has a good story line, and a little cultural history, and a bit of a surprise. So here it is to share.


The Priest's Tale
- By Frederick Waterman

Charlie West laughed.

“You know, this conversation sounds like the start of a joke: ‘So, a salesman and a priest are on a plane …’”

Father Barranca smiled. “And who would have guessed they were talking about gambling?” The priest’s accented words held the rhythm of another language.

Flight 137, the dawn flight out of Las Vegas, was chasing its shadow across the Nevada desert. The priest, sitting in 22A, wore a black clergy shirt; his hair was as white as his collar. The unshaven salesman, wearing a wrinkled red sports jacket, squinted as he looked at his fellow passenger.

“Father, would you mind sliding that shade down a bit? It’s a little brighter up here than in a casino.”

“Ah, but you were a winner,” the priest said, lowering the shade.

“In a manner of speaking,” Charlie replied. “Now, you told me that you stopped in Las Vegas on your way from Mexico City to LA because you wanted to see the casinos and the gambling. But you didn’t tell me why.”

“No, no, I didn’t,” said Father Barranca.

“Last night, I took off my collar—we are allowed to—and walked through the casinos to watch people play the card games, the wheel, and the machines. I must tell you that I felt right at home: so much prayer and so many bargains with God.”

Charlie laughed. “Well, when a player needs a little luck, where else can he go?”

“That is a good question,” the priest said. “Where else?” He thought for a moment, then said, “Do you know what a Spanish deck is?”


“It has only 40 cards—2 through 7, the face cards, and aces.” The priest’s eyes, though calm, were unflinchingly direct. “What do you know of Mexico?”

“Not much—Cortés arrived in the 1500s, we took Texas from you, and Pancho Villa and Zapata tried to start a revolution a hundred years ago.”

“When the Spanish settled Mexico,” the priest said, “they brought their culture with them. In Spain, there were two classes: the rich and the poor. In Mexico, for three centuries, 3 million acres were owned by a few hundred families. The péons and the peasants were given a choice: work on the great estates—the haciendas—or starve.

“The history of Mexico is the history of the land. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. That’s why our history is so violent, why so many of our leaders— Hidalgo, Morelos, Madero, and Carranza—have been killed.

“And then there is the greed and corruption. It’s been part of Mexico for so long that now we expect it. But, there are a few places, far from the cities and the biggest haciendas, where things have been different, where villages made their own laws, and farmers worked their own land.

“In the south of Mexico are the Osoro Mountains and, halfway up, cradled by the hills, there is a valley called Annarita. The mountains block the desert wind that would dry out the soil and blow it away, and the mountains protect the people, too, because there is only one narrow trail; a bandit, attacking or escaping, would be exposed to a shot from a rifle. Or 20 rifles.

“In Annarita, beans, corn, and rice all grow well, and for many years, life changed very little. Then, in the early 1900s, the valley added a new crop, and it, too, flourished. Men came across the desert to pay a high price for Annarita’s coffee beans. And, at the end of each growing season, on Día del Paseo—the Day of the Walk—every man, woman, and child would carry as heavy a bag as they could manage down the trail to where the coffee buyers waited. That night, there was always a fiesta.

“The coffee paid for doctors to visit Annarita and gave every family some money. In most ways, the modern world came slowly to Mexico’s farthest corners. It wasn’t until the 1950s that cars started to replace burros, and a road was built across the desert to the bottom of the Osoro Mountains. And that’s when the trouble began.

“In the spring of 1952, a man named Soltero drove to the end of the new road and walked up the trail to Annarita. He was a handsome man with a neat moustache who wore a suit and a tie, and polished shoes that were meant for city streets. He looked at the white adobe buildings and the fields, and said that he’d heard about the valley and might want to live there. No one believed him, of course; he wasn’t a farmer. But, four months later, Soltero returned.

“He had a dozen rough men with him, and, standing in the village square, he said he wanted the townspeople to gather there immediately. An old man said that wasn’t possible, that everyone who could work was out in the fields. Soltero turned to one of his men and said, ‘Torrez! Get them in!’ This man, who was bigger than all the others but was dressed in the coarsest clothes, took out a pistol and fired it in the air once, twice more, then three times, emptying the gun.

“In less than 20 minutes, everyone in Annarita was in the town square, many of them breathless. Soltero stood on the steps of the church, his men a few steps below him. ‘My name is Víctor Soltero,’ he said. Then, he held up a piece of paper. ‘And you are on my land.’

“There was a stunned silence, then shouts of ‘What is that?’ and ‘Give that here!’ The people moved toward Soltero, but his men pulled out their guns, and the farmers stepped back.

“‘I own this valley,’ he said. ‘If you want to leave, my men will help you out of your houses—which are on my land. If you want to stay—good, I need workers.’”

Charlie interrupted, “How could that happen?”

“In the 1940s,” said Father Barranca, “the Mexican government realized that revolutions always start with people who have nothing. The southern haciendas were expropriated by the government; then small pieces of land were sold or given away, usually to the farmers who had been working on them. No one in Annarita knew about this, but none of its land had been claimed—until Soltero, who paid off the bureaucrats.

“His deed was real: He owned everything in Annarita except one farm that he hadn’t dared claim. Mexico’s greatest president, Benito Juárez, was also from the mountains of southern Mexico, and descendants have relatives. Soltero wasn’t a fool; in a country where influence is everything, he wouldn’t challenge cousins of the Juárez family. Three brothers, Emilio, Diego, and Luis, lived on this farm, and, like Juárez himself, they were pure-blooded Indian. These young men didn’t look like farmers; they looked like the Aztec warriors who had fought against Cortés.

“Soltero announced that the percentage of farmland to be used for growing coffee beans would triple, from 20 to 60 percent. ‘Do anything you want with the rest,’ he told the villagers. ‘Plant flowers, if you wish—but I would recommend that you put the flowers in the cemetery, and plant enough food for yourselves.’

“Soltero took the best house in the valley for himself, and the closest houses for his men. The villagers watched helplessly as people were moved out of their homes. One old woman was helped from the house she was born in; she didn’t cry, but she touched it gently as she left.

“Neighbors took in neighbors, and, that night, the people of Annarita met in the church. Some argued that everyone should leave, that there must be another valley somewhere. For most, though, their tie to the land was too strong; it had been worked by their parents and grandparents, and ancestors back beyond memory.

“Emilio, the youngest of the three brothers, stood up and said, ‘Tomorrow, the sun will still rise on our valley and on our village. Soltero owns Annarita, but only by a piece of paper. In every other way, by history, by right, it is ours—and it will come back to us.’

“Before the villagers left the church that night, they prayed. But, the next day, they learned that in return for letting the rest of them stay in their houses and grow food on ‘his’ land, Soltero said they all must plant, grow, and harvest ‘his’ coffee beans. As one villager said, ‘Now we’re péons on our own land.’

“A few days later, a little boy went back to the house he had lived in, to get a small pouch of shiny stones that he had buried under a window. He was on his knees, digging with his hands, when Torrez stepped out the door. The boy screamed and ran away, and never went back.

“Two months after Soltero arrived, he sold that year’s coffee harvest, though it was grown by the people of Annarita. And he sold it for a good price. There was no fiesta on the night of Día del Paseo. Instead, for the first time, the farmers talked of how to kill Soltero.

“They would have done it that night if they could, but Soltero always had four guards with him. He knew that the people hated him; he may have enjoyed it, too, because it made him feel powerful. Some men are like that.

“A new coffee plant needs three years to produce beans, and that meant Soltero was staying,” said Father Barranca. “For the next year, Soltero and his men oversaw the planting and care of the new coffee plants. The farmers of Annarita were surprised at how much the guards knew about growing coffee, and that included Torrez, who never looked at the villagers when he spoke to them, and he made sure that the guards did not become too friendly. ‘You’re here to work,’ he told them, and the guards obeyed.

“More coffee plants meant less food— except on the farm owned by the three brothers, who pruned all their coffee plants from 10 feet down to just a few inches and planted these fields with other crops, so there would be more food for their neighbors. And, because they had the best-flowing spring in Annarita, they used it to help nearby farmers irrigate their food crops.

“If Soltero had dared, he would have taken the brothers’ water and their land. He offered to buy their farm, he doubled his price, then he tripled it, but the answer was always ‘No.’ Then, the brothers’ goats and sheep began to disappear, or were killed and left near the spring.

“None of the villagers ever saw Soltero working; he stayed indoors most days, and the people called him ‘Manos Blandos’—‘Soft Hands.’ On most nights, Soltero and his men would go to the village’s one cantina, where they would drink and play cards at one end of the room, while the farmers talked in low voices at the other.

“Eventually, of course, Annarita proved to be too quiet for Soltero, and he began to leave the valley for a week at a time. On the 23rd of each month, Soltero walked down the trail and drove across the desert to buy his pleasures. Several times, he returned with a woman—always a different one, always for hire; after a few days with Soltero, they always looked glad to leave.

“While he was gone, though, something began to happen. It is natural for people to come together, and the villagers and the guards started to talk. Names were learned, stories were told, and the villagers understood why Soltero’s guards knew so much about coffee: They weren’t bandits; they were the sons of farmers, but from families too big for everyone to remain on the land. These were just men who needed work.

“And, inevitably, some of the guards began to talk with the girls of Annarita. But Torrez worried everyone. The first words in any conversation between a guard and a villager were always the same: ‘Where is Torrez?’ And whenever he was present, the old silence returned.

“None of the guards knew Torrez’s background, but they did know that he would do whatever Soltero wanted. Once, one of the guards said it was Torrez who had killed the goats and sheep on the brothers’ farm. ‘It is ugly work,’ the guard said. ‘But, when those orders come, Torrez doesn’t ask anyone else; he does it himself.’

“In Soltero’s second year, there was less rain, and the food crops were smaller. When the valley’s families had less to eat, they began to whisper that God had abandoned Annarita.

“Soltero went away for the week before the harvest, and Emilio took his rifle up into the mountains. For six days, he practiced the smooth sweep of the gun sight and the calm squeeze of the trigger. For him, a rabbit a hundred yards away had no chance; shooting a man off a mountain trail would be easy.

“On the day of Soltero’s return, Emilio went to the mountain rim and waited through the morning and afternoon. Dusk distorts distance, and by the time the car’s headlights appeared, it was too late for a clean shot. Emilio could only watch as the flashlight swayed up the trail.

“Charlie, you asked where a gambler should go when he needs a little luck. That night, Emilio asked his brothers the same thing, and the three of them talked about what Soltero had done to Annarita, and how it would not change as long as he was there. And they came to an agreement, a gamble, that each of them could live with.

“The next night, Emilio, Diego, and Luis walked down to the cantina, with its low ceiling, the heavy wooden tables and chairs, and the two groups at opposite ends. When Emilio entered, he walked up to Soltero’s table and said, ‘Do you still want our land?’

“‘Yes, I do.’

“‘What price?’

“‘My last price. I’m not a greedy man.’

“‘Are you a gambling man, Soltero?’

“‘It all depends whether I like the odds.’

“By now,” said Father Barranca, “the villagers were all listening. Emilio said, ‘Is three to one good enough odds for you?’

“Soltero studied Emilio’s face. ‘And what is the bet?’

“‘It is a simple one: We will cut cards—you draw three, I draw one. If you have the high card, my brothers and I will leave Annarita, and our land is yours. If my card is high, you leave, and Annarita returns to the people.’

“Soltero started to shake his head, then paused, looked at his guards, and smiled at Emilio. ‘Yes.’

“From a table nearby, Emilio took a deck of cards, turned it over, and showed it to Soltero. ‘A Spanish deck,’ Emilio said. ‘Forty cards. Ace is high, yes?’

“‘Of course,’ said Soltero.

“Emilio sat down, facing Soltero. Behind him were his brothers; the people of Annarita moved in behind them, and the guards stood behind Soltero.

“Emilio shuffled the deck, then put it in the center of the table.

“‘Choose your cards,’ he said.

“Soltero took the top three, turning over 5, 7, and king. Emilio took the next card: king.

“‘Again,’ said Soltero.

“Emilio shuffled the cards and put them down. Soltero looked at Emilio, who turned over the first card: jack. Soltero turned the next three: 4, 4, jack.

“‘Again,’ said Soltero.

“Emilio shuffled the deck once more and put it down.

“Soltero took the top three cards: 2, 7, king.

“Emilio flipped the next card: ace.

“Diego and Luis and the people of Annarita yelled and shouted and slapped Emilio on the back, until one of them noticed that Soltero was smiling, and they went quiet again.

“‘That was great fun,’ said Soltero. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a card game more.’

“‘You have lost Annarita,’ Emilio said.

“‘No, I didn’t. It was just a game, my friend. You didn’t think I was serious, did you? I would never bet this valley against your little farm.’

“‘You made the bet,’ Emilio said.

“‘And who is going to enforce it?’ laughed Soltero. ‘Not you.’ He gestured toward the silent farmers. ‘And certainly not them.’

“Soltero stood up. ‘Next time, we must …’

“And that is when Torrez moved. He walked around the table and stood behind Emilio.

“Soltero looked at Torrez. ‘What are you doing?’

“‘You lost,’ the big man said.

“‘It was only a game; you know that,’ said Soltero. But then a second guard walked around the table and stood next to Torrez. ‘What is this?’ Soltero asked.

“‘You lost,’ the second guard repeated.

“A third man, then a fourth, a fifth, and, finally, all 12 of Soltero’s guards moved behind Emilio.

“‘You have all had too much to drink tonight,’ said Soltero, ‘but I forgive you. We will forget about this tomorrow.’

“No one moved,” said Father Barranca. “No one spoke. When many people are quiet together, it makes a different, deeper kind of silence.

“Then, Soltero, speaking to Torrez, said, ‘I own this valley!’

“‘Not anymore,’ Torrez replied.

“‘The government says I do.’

“Torrez looked at the cantina’s bartender and said, ‘Paper and pen.’ These were produced and put on the table before Soltero.

“‘Emilio,’ Torrez said, speaking a villager’s name for the first time, ‘tell this man what to write.’

“Soltero turned toward the door, but Torrez pulled out his pistol and, pointing it at the ground, cocked the hammer. The click stopped Soltero. Then a second gun clicked, and another, and another.

“Sweat was now visible on Soltero’s face.

“‘Pick up the pen,’ Torrez ordered. And Soltero did.

“Emilio began to dictate, starting with the date and place; then he described the players, the bet, and its outcome.

“‘Sign it,’ Torrez said to Soltero, ‘and make your signature very clear.’ ‘Víctor Soltero’ was written in clean, legible letters.

“Then, Emilio took the pen and pointed at two men near the table. ‘Witness this.’ The men wrote their names in awkward but bold letters.

“‘Soltero, I know you,’ said Torrez. ‘You think that you can change this. But, if you come back, remember that men can be mistaken for bandits and shot, or they can fall off mountain trails and their bodies never be found. Do you understand?’

“Soltero nodded; then he walked out of the cantina. He was gone by morning,” said Father Barranca. “The signed paper was filed in Mexico City by Emilio, who stopped to see his cousins in the Juárez family. Soltero never returned to Annarita.”

“What happened to the guards?” Charlie asked.

“They stayed in Annarita, and became farmers again.”

“And Torrez?”

“The villagers learned that he wasn’t arrogant; he had never looked them in the eye because he was embarrassed by what he was doing. He was the son of a peasant who had never owned land.”

“Emilio was lucky,” Charlie said, “with the cards and with Torrez.”

“Maybe,” said Father Barranca, “but before Emilio and his brothers walked into the cantina that night, they knelt in the street and prayed to God. His brothers prayed that the right cards would appear, but Emilio prayed for Torrez. Then, Emilio made a final promise before the game began.”

“Did he keep his promise?” Charlie asked.

“Yes, he did.”

“And what did he do?”

“He became a priest.”

Hotel Rwanda

I never watched this movie when it came out in theaters... but I thought I might enjoy it on the flight home from Boston.

Hotel Rwanda is an important and carefully crafted film well worth seeing. Set in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, during the genocide of April and May 1994, Hotel Rwanda is a sensitively made film. Unlike many Hollywood films it is neither gory nor distasteful. This film focuses on the incredible true story of Paul Rusesabagina, the assistant manager of the Belgium-owned International Milles Collines Hotel. By ingenuity, good connections, bribes and bluff, Paul managed to save the lives of over 1200 Tutsis from the genocide.

This is an engrossing, gripping and ultimately uplifting film showing how one person can make a difference even amidst the worst conditions. Over 500 000 Tutsi Christians were systematically slaughtered in the Rwandan Genocide. More people were killed with machetes in Rwanda in 6 weeks than have died of atomic weapons in all of history!

I remember reading about these atrocities... but watching this film again brings up that evil still exists in the world today. And that we must all do something about it.

Again, we are so grateful to live in a free society where we have liberties and opportunities. Lets just keep it that way. Watch this movie as a reminder of why we work hard for our freedoms.


I enjoy reading while I eat my dinner while on the road. It's more enjoyable to me by far than going to dinner with the students. After presenting all day, the last thing I want to do is talk more... so I can unwind by reading a good book while eating my evening meal.

I've found reading on the Kindle is easy to do by propping it up on the salt-n-pepper shakers, or napkin holder, etc. I really like the fact when I come across a word I don't know, in just seconds I can have the kindle give me a full dictionary definition - then continue on with the story.

I've been reading Bernard Cromwell's books for years now. In fact, I've now read every book he has ever written, from the entire "Sharpe's" series, to the King Arthur, and all the others - even the "boat books".

So when I saw this new book "Agincourt" was now available I had to give it a read!

It did NOT disappoint! Again, Cromwell does a fantastic job of bringing history to life through the eyes of a few set of protagonists. In this case it is the life of a single Archer in King Henry's army that entered into France during the 100 years war to again try to claim France as part of his Kingdom.

Well written, enjoyable, and a nice review to the life and times of those who lived in that dreadful time. The deprivation, corrupt church, and utter lack of value of human life were brought to the fore. I'm sure glad I live in this time instead.

The story unfolds to the conclusion where a small army of 5,000 British take on a 30,000 French army. The British have a fantastic victory over a much much larger army. Mainly due to the technological advantage of England's Archers. (and the very muddy battlefield)
They were able to put over half a million arrows into the French knights - amazing!

Again - if you have a couple of hours, and want a great story, look no further than '

The Three Decievers

Last week before heading off to Boston, I heard and interview on the Glenn Beck show with Richard Eyre... about his new book The Three Deceivers... this actually took five sessions with Glenn Beck as they discussed the ideas in this book.

Previously Richard Eyre has run for the Governor of Utah, and I'd read a couple of his previous books. (One even cut to the shape of the State of Utah)

So I downloaded the book to my Kindle to read of the flights to Boston.
This would have been a great online read... the materials presented could have taken about a third of the space... but because of the multiple redundancies in repeating himself and repeating himself.

But the concepts he presents are very powerful! He takes on some of our most cherished ideas... ideas like the value of Control, Ownership and Independence.

I myself have commented many times on how the failures of some societies can be shown to be directly attributable to the loss of any of those rights and privileges. (in 'third-world' countries the corruption and lack of societal progress can be directly tied to the loss of any or all of those rights)

So I was a bit skeptical on the first read... but Richard Eyre does a good job of still allowing for those issues to have value... but moves away from the Control, Ownership and Independence being the end-all, be-all to our goals and spiritual human beings.

Of course I was all sucked in as he went through the logical support of why the 'spiritualism' in all these 'self-help' and 'Oprah-style' soft ideologies are false and lead us away from the Truth.

He then goes on to replace these with new words... new ways of thinking...

Replacing Control with Serendipity

Replacing Ownership with Stewardship

Replacing Independence with Synchronicity

(I would have used Interdependence, but he was trying to keep with the 'S'-words)

If you want to stop and think... this is a book for you to spend of couple of hours with. Though I still try to live my life by the immortal words "An Examined Life Isn't Worth Living" - I had a couple of good hours of thinking about the world.

(PS - I know I totally mis-quoted Socrates - I did that on purpose)

England is not a country?

Last night I had an opportunity to have to think a bit... My neighbor Sean Vest just returned home from an LDS Mission to Leeds England... and someone at his welcome home party asked a question about...

"What is the difference between England, Britain and the UK"?

It made me think... I thought I knew the answer - and answered accordingly. But this morning I wanted proof that I was correct, and so did a bit of research and here are the results.

By the way... my answer last night was correct, but it's so much easier to explain with pictures and maps.

First, the players -
England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland. Each of these is a distinct area on the map. England and Scotland were once Kingdoms, and Wales a Principality.

- an old Roman term describing the area of just Wales and England.

Great Britain
- Wales, England and ScotlandUnited Kingdom - Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (this is a country today)British Isles - all the above, plus the Republic of Ireland and all the little islandsBritish Empire - All of the British Isles, plus all of their past coloniesThe Flag of the United Kingdom is blue; the red cross of Saint George (England's patron saint) edged in white is superimposed on red cross of Saint Patrick (Ireland's patron) and white cross of Saint Andrew (Scotland's patron saint); properly called Union Flag. This is a combination of the England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland flags.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Because of Winn Dixie

On the flight out I watched a copy of the movie "Because of Winn Dixie" on my laptop. I don't know why this was panned by the critics. I liked it!

OK, it was a bit hokey, and predictive, but it told a good story, supported good over evil, and that we should look to the good in others.

I can easily recommend renting this!

Boston - Aruba and the Parker House Hotel

This week was spent in Boston teaching an Aruba Partner Technical Training class. When I was shopping to get a good deal on a Boston hotel... I ran across this great offer... so this week I stayed at the Omni Parker Hotel.The Parker Hotel, named after founder Harvey D. Parker, opened its doors in October of 1855, and is the longest continuously operating hotel in America.A luxurious place of which any Bostonian would approve. The hotel and its restaurants are credited with a slew of famous firsts, including Boston cream pie (the state's official dessert ), ParkerHouse rolls, and the term "scrod" (for whitefish).

There have been quite a few interesting people that have stopped by over the years. Ho Chi Minh was a busboy, and Malcolm X was a waiter, and Emeril Lagasse started in the kitchen. John Wilkes Booth stayed there a week before he shot Lincoln

What makes the hotel illustrious, though, is it's literary past. No less than British novelist Charles Dickens was impressed with the "hot and cold bath" in his room at the Parker House on his second visit to Boston in 1867. This was the first hotel in Boston to have hot-and-cold running water, and the first to have an elevator. The hotel's most famous group of patrons was certainly the members of the nineteenth century Saturday Club. Beginning in the mid 1850s, a exclusive group of talented people assembled in the old Parker House on the last Saturday afternoon of each month. Their notoriously rambunctious roundtables featured readings, intellectual exchanges, and endlessly flowing chatter, mirth, food and spirits. The Club's members included philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet and Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, poets John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes. But for my experience... I didn't see a single poet (not that I'd know one to see one) - nor did I even get a chance to eat 'Parker House Rolls' - I tried, but the restaurant didn't have them, nor the room service. But they did have 'sliders' on Parker House rolls... what is the world coming too? The room was recently renovated, and though it had 14' ceilings and crown moulding from a previous era, it also had a 42" flat-screen HD plasma TV... cool!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rory Morgan...

Jill and the kids have been looking, and looking, and looking - then researching some more... and finally came up with a new dog for the house.

So Saturday we drove up to Sandy to visit and pick out the new puppy - kind of like an adoption visit. Alysha fell in love with a specific little one of the litter and so we put a deposit down on the latest member of our family. (I'm not supposed to say pet)

Rory is a Golden Doodle - first generation mix between a standard poodle (cream colored) and a nice Golden Retriever named Zoe. She is smallest of the litter of 7 puppies.
Ryan's been searching for a long time, and even has made a list of names... so Rory is what she'll be called.We won't be able to get her until she's weaned in another month or so.

But here's a picture of the family with the new dog.
Notice my wonderful haircut! - I went to the same place I've been going to for years, said the same 'finger-length' instructions... but was shocked when I opened my eyes and saw my 'buzz'. The first thing Jill said when I came home and took off my 'work out' hat... "Well, at least your hair grows fast..."

Frigid week in Chicago

I was able to cross off another 'State Visited' from my list. My flight to Chicago last Sunday was SLC --> Denver, Denver --> Rapid City, SD, the Rapid City --> Chicago. Down to the final three States left to go - North Dakota, West Virginia and Alaska.

I can drive by West Virginia pretty easily next time I'm out in DC... and Jill has always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise... but North Dakota.... brrrrr.

The week in Chicago was spent teaching the new updated AirMagnet class called AM-115. It has been long in coming and I think I put too much stuff into the five days. The folks at AirMagnet wanted it to cover ALL their products, so we added VoFi Analyzer to the mix as well as a section on designing and troubleshooting the new 802.11 n protocol. Based on the student feedback it was a bit too much like taking a drink from a fire hose.

I'll have to adjust and adapt before the next session.

Chicago was cold! - You know I like to wear my Scott eVest with all my pockets filled with 'my' stuff. I always wait until the weather gets cold enough in the autumn to start wearing it again. Let me tell you, a small lightweight vest is no match for a Chicago winter!

I had a chance to go to the Chicago Temple one night, I've been there before on visits to Chicago. Last time I was there with Jill we had a chance to go together. While waiting for a session Jill and I found a nice little deli nearby to have a sandwich. It was a very cold night, but I thought I really need to go to the Temple, but when I got their it was all closed up (because of the cold) - but I did have a consolation prize, in that I had a great pannini sandwich back at the deli and it reminded me of the time spent their with my lovely wife.
Another night was spent with the three students from Denmark - they wanted a STEAK! So they took me to a place called 'Gibson's' - and were astonished by the size of the meat available. This was one of those places where they bring the steaks wrapped in clear plastic right to the table. I ordered the smallest possible steak, and even had them 'butterfly' it so it wouldn't be so thick. But they had an opportunity to eat what they called 'a Sunday roast' back in Denmark.Then on Friday night about half the class wanted to try one of those 'Brazilian Steakhouse' places recomended by another local Chicago student. So we packed up in a couple of cars, and braved the weather to go to Texas de Brazil. I thought good of the Danish folks for wanting to have new and varied culinary experiences! I think they had protein overkill for those two days.On the way out to warm up the car for the other students - I heard on the radio the temperature was -17 and with the Chicago wind the wind-chill was down to -47! Now that was cold, cold, cold! The book for the week was from PD James - her latest Adam Daglish novel - and it looks like the last, called the Private Patient. A nice good mystery for the trip!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Snow in Utah...

Here's an 'advisory' from the National Weather Service... a bit late wouldn't you say? I shoveled the driveway and sidewalks four times today trying to keep the snow at bay. (And Ryan once) The roads were pretty bad last night and all day today.

Here are some photos from the back yard... note the depth of the snow path to the Hot Tub and the amount of snow still on the Trampoline.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Holidays are over...

Yep, the holidays are finally over. Boo Hoo...

I feel a bit like the song "I Cry The Day I Take The Tree Down" By Michael McLean. The house that once was so festive and cheerful is now just a bit too quiet, too clean, too sparse, and too January Cold...

This morning Joe, Karrissa, and the two little girls McKinley and Kylie left to go back to Las Vegas.

It was a nice three weeks having them home with us.

Tomorrow is Jill's major surgery and I'll be home working on Course Development work helping in her recovery.