Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reaction to Kung Fu Panda 2

Inner peace is really what we are all looking for.  Everything else is, in the words of the soothsayer, "a cup that can never be filled."

Inner peace and power come from knowing who we are, a theme also present in the Lion King.  We come to know who we are as we 1) accept our past, 2) feel we are loved, and 3) choose who we will be.  Actually, I wish it were this simple.  But, in fact, I believe we come to know who we are by revelation.  It is a spiritual journey.  It cannot be forced, any more than you can force a seed to sprout and flower.  (But you can plant the seed, and nurture and protect it.)  It was such for Po in this movie.

And this is a weird one.  As I looked at the menacing wolves at the beginning of the film, bustling about in the foundry making cannons, I thought, What could sustain someone in such a dark and evil life?  What sustains any of us?  If we are more than just physical beings, then we need more than just physical nourishment.  Some pine away in a life of addiction, feasting on pleasures and escapes that increasingly do not last.  Some draw continual strength from prayer, fasting, the Word of God, and losing themselves in service to others.  Most of us lie somewhere in between these extremes, struggling each day to make our choice.  But I believe our power to choose is greatly affected by what we feed on, whether it be dreams and plans of comfort and security; schemes of lust and power; or entering into covenants with God, and walking in His ways.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How To Make a Trapezoid in Inkscape

Inkscape is a "free treasure," if there is such a thing.  My thanks to all who have spent countless hours bringing this powerful vector graphics editor to all of us freely.

I struggled to learn how to make a simple symmetrical trapezoid in Inkscape.  I found the answer here but it took some searching.

  1. Draw a rectangle.

  2. Convert it to a path (Path > Object to Path)

  3. Use the node select tool (F2) to select the two corners of the rectangle that you want to adjust to form a trapezoid (You have to hold down the shift key to select multiple nodes).

  4. Press the comma or period keys to move apart or bring together the nodes.

Step 4 doesn't seem to be well documented, but it sure is a handy trick!

"Draw Freely!"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

He Ceaseth Not To Be God

And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. (The Book of Mormon, Mormon 9:19)

For the past month I've been studying for my second exam in a series of five that I need to pass in order to gain a professional certification I'm seeking. When I arrived at the testing center this morning, for confirmation they asked me what exam I was there to take. It was then I discovered that I had inadvertently registered for the third exam in the series, not the second that I was prepared for.

I had already paid $150 to register for the test, and it was too late to cancel or change tests. The only choice I had was either to take the test I had registered for or not (and lose the money).

The first miracle is in my reaction to this. I was calm, relatively. I realized that freaking out or making a fuss wasn't going to help anything. I decided to go ahead and take the exam, since I would have to take it later and at least it would give me practice.

Of all five exams in the series, this third one is probably the one I have the most real experience with in my job. But I still encountered many concepts I was not familiar with. Thankfully the tests are multiple choice and I could rule out some choices and make educated guesses. For two and a half hours I went over the 75 questions, changing many of my initial answers.

I received a print-out of the results after finishing, and was delighted to see that I had passed (just barely)!

You might say that I had some lucky guesses. You could say that I'm a pretty good test taker. Maybe I was just familiar enough with the concepts and terminology because of my work. But to me, it was a miracle. A blessing from my Heavenly Father.

Why it strikes me as such is partly due to my situation. I have a full-time job and am trying to support my family of six on a single income in troubled economic times. I also spend many hours each week fulfilling my Church responsibilities. I am trying to spend quality time with my children, because I don't want to miss seeing them grow up. I am seeking this certification to advance my career and be a better provider. I have been prayerful in seeking the Lord's help in my life and trying to do His will.

I do not say these things to boast, but because I believe this is how I have shown my faith by my works (see James 2:18). In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we are taught that miracles are wrought by faith.

And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain (Moroni 7:35-37).

However, faith is not a way to manipulate God. The greatest faith of all was expressed by Him who prayed

Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done (Luke 22:42).

I was ready to accept not passing my exam today. Faith is not faith if it is hinged on a certain outcome.

Verily, I say unto you, there are those among you who seek signs, and there have been such even from the beginning;

But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe.

Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God (Doctrine & Covenants 63:8-10).

Faith is doing the best we can, trusting that God knows, sees, and understands far more than we do; and He will take care of things according to His good will. He loves us. We are his children. He knows each of us by name, and somehow watches over each one of us, guiding our steps and customizing our individual curriculum.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15).

Friday, October 21, 2011

2001 Honda Odyssey - Programming Keyless Entry Remote Fob

Thanks to 98CoupeV6.  Modified slightly by what worked for me.

If you do this wrong, NONE of your keyless entry fobs will work!  Perform at your own risk!!

^ The system accepts up to three transmitters. The transmitter codes are stored in a stacking-type memory. If a fourth transmitter code is programmed, the code for the first transmitter is erased.

^ Entering the programming mode cancels all learned transmitter codes, so none of the previously programmed transmitters will work. You must reprogram all of the transmitters once you are in the programming mode.

You must complete steps 1-6 within 4 seconds of the previous step to keep the system from exiting the programming mode.

  1. Turn the ignition switch to ON (II).

  2. Press the "Lock" button on one of the transmitters. (An unprogrammed transmitter can be used.)

  3. Turn the ignition switch to LOCK (0) [Key all the way in the OFF position].

  4. Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 two more times using the same transmitter used in step 2.

  5. Turn the ignition switch to ON (II).

  6. Press the "Lock" button on the same transmitter. Make sure the power door locks cycle to confirm that the system is in programming mode.  (I think the lights on the dash dim and come back on).

  7. Don't mistake what happens in step 6 as registering a transmitter, you've only entered programming mode.  Wait a second, and press "Lock" again on the same transmitter pressed in step 6.  This registers that transmitter.  The door locks will sound (again) and the lights on the dash will blink once (again).

  8. Within 10 seconds, press the "Lock" button on the other transmitter(s). Again, door locks will sound and lights in the dash will blink to confirm the registration of each transmitter.

  9. Turn the ignition switch to LOCK (0) to exit the programming mode. 

  10. Confirm that transmitters work.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Implementing Network Security For Free

Today I came across a great resource for implementing the 20 Critical Controls for network security at a small business or company.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Blessings of Motherhood

This year, my church gave me the opportunity to speak to the congregation on Mother's Day.  As I prepared my remarks, I wanted to find some quotes that would appeal not just to mothers but to women who didn't have any children of their own.  I found some choice ones I'd like to share here:

The spiritual rewards of motherhood are available to all women. Nurturing the young, comforting the frightened, protecting the vulnerable, teaching and giving encouragement need not—and should not—be limited to our own children (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov 1987, 86).



Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and “where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood. “Whatever principle of intelligence [she] attain[s] unto in this life, it will rise with [her] in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through [her] diligence and obedience than another, [she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).
      In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that “all things must come to pass in their time” and that they “are laying the foundation of a great work” (D&C 64:32–33). As they keep their covenants, they are investing in a grand, prestigious future because they know that “they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abr. 3:26) (Julie B. Beck, “A ‘Mother Heart’,”Ensign, May 2004, 75).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hawking Says Heaven a 'Fairy Story'

Whenever there is a discussion about whether or not there is a God, I just love to contribute my two cents.  I like the medium of the internet, blogs, etc., because it allows me to think through my response before posting it.

Today, I couldn't help but respond to a report about the great British scientist Stephen Hawking saying that "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven of afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark."

I respect Dr. Hawking a lot for his courage in facing A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig's disease) for almost 50 years now.  I appreciate his willingness to explain the theory of relativity and other challenging concepts in his book, A Brief History of Time.

Here is my response:

If there is no God, what is the point of being good? Why not just get away with everything that we can? If there is no God, what is this feeling I get in my heart when I help a stranger, or hold my 3 week-old son?

Isaiah 45:15 says, "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel." If God appeared to everyone, and manifested His power to all, there would be no one who didn't believe in Him. God deliberately hides Himself behind a veil, waiting to reveal Himself to those that seek him "as a child," humbly and sincerely. It has always been so. This is God's plan, that we choose for ourselves.

But our freedom to choose does not give us the power to alter reality. Either there is a God, or religion is the biggest farce ever concocted. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31? After the rich man died, he looked up in torment at the beggar Lazarus in heaven, and begged God to send a miracle to his relatives still living, so that they might believe and repent, and avoid the suffering he was in. But God said, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them. If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

Point is, to those who seek Him, God will reveal Himself by the "still, small voice" (King James language. The NIV calls it a "gentle whisper." See 1 Kings 19:11-13). To do otherwise would remove the requirement of faith, the key component for our growth and development as His children.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Soul Surfer

I had the pleasure of watching the new movie Soul Surfer this evening, and I'd like to share some thoughts and reactions here.

Growing up, I loved dinosaurs, legos, and Star Wars toys.  I loved Transformers, video games, and Japanese animation.  Then when I was 18 years old, I had a decision to make about whether or not I was going to leave my university studies, my home, my CDs, and my video games to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Becoming a missionary for the Church is entirely a volunteer activity; there is no monetary compensation.  Young men are encouraged to earn and save money to be able to pay the costs associated with living and teaching the gospel for the term of their mission, which currently runs over $10,000 USD.  As a youth, I had no such foresight or even desire to serve a mission.  I spent my money on myself.

So it would seem like a no-brainer.  Why would I want to leave everything and go off somewhere (the Church leaders assign where you go; you don't get to pick), and knock on doors trying to convert people to Christianity?  And yet, it was something that weighed on my 18 year-old mind and heart.

I had several peers that went on missions before I did (they turned 19, the minimum mission age for men, before me), and their letters (from one friend in particular) were encouraging, even if they were a bit strange.  In 1 Corinthinas 13:12, Paul speaks of seeing through a "glass darkly."  This is a good description of the barrier that exists between someone involved in religion or faith-based living and someone who is not.  I'm not talking about a physical barrier, and it really goes beyond being even a mental or emotional barrier.  It's almost like a weird twist on the Tower of Babel story, but where two people are actually speaking the same language, but their views of "reality" (paradigms) are so different that they can't understand each other.  Or in the words of Pink Floyd, "your lips move, but I can't hear what you're saying."

One of my Japanese instructors was a member of the Church, and after asking about my plans to serve a mission and hearing my indeterminate response, he respectfully but strongly encouraged me to go, saying that my talents and abilities were needed in the missionfield.

At the time I lived close to my grandparents, and visited them regularly.  I asked them what they thought of going on a mission.  Both of my grandmothers responded that they thought it was a good thing.  One grandma had two sons that served missions (my father and my uncle) and she said that the experience really helped them a lot.  I think these remarks helped my mind and heart to be prepared for when I asked my Mom what she thought about serving a mission.

We were in the car, driving home from somewhere and were only a few minutes from our house.  She said that over the years she had seen many young men in our Church leave on their missions, and when they got back after two years, they were more mature, grown up, and likely to take a responsible place in society.  These were definitely not the words she used, but this is what I understood; and there are no words for the peace that "switched on" in my heart: that a mission was exactly what I needed.  At that point in my life, I was feeling "stuck in neutral," like Justin in this article.  I knew what kind of man I wanted to be and was expected to be, but had no idea how to get there.  I felt like a mission would help me "grow up" and out of the self-absorbed teenager that I was.

This feeling turned out to be true.  On my mission I found out first-hand the truth of the verse that says "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."  And I can't help but quote the next verse:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

I found true joy and fulfillment in my life in serving and loving others, rather than being preoccupied with my own wants and desires.  I also felt fatigue, frustration, and depression at times in degrees I had never encountered before in my life.  But somehow, those lows are easily dismissed and forgotten.  I only say it here because people that endeavor to follow Christ should not feel betrayed or dismayed when they find thorns and thistles along the path He trod.

So back to Soul Surfer.  I am finding that as I get older, I am less and less interested in the thrilling blockbusters like Avatar and Harry Potter.  But films like Soul Surfer, based on true accounts of people such as Bethany Hamilton, that glorify God and encourage people to rise above focusing only on themselves, make me a better person for having watched.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Idea of Christ

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:

Every now and then a man's mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions. After looking at the Alps, I felt that my mind had been stretched beyond the limits of its elasticity, and fitted so loosely on my old ideas of space that I had to spread these to fit it. (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, Chapter XI)

This is how I feel after reading Elder Neal A. Maxwell's article "Enduring Well" in the April 1997 issue of the Ensign magazine.

Perhaps the most precious books we have are the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament.  As we study them and learn of this man/God Jesus Christ, and accept (on faith in abundant witnesses) Him as real and not just fiction; our conception of the world, how we view others in it, our purpose here, and our potential — is stretched in just the way Mr. Holmes describes seeing the Alps.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Many Things Can Wait. The Child Cannot.

From LDS Church News, Week Ending March 5, 2011:

In the early 1980s, before the three-hour block of meetings was instituted, a woman spent a Sunday afternoon preparing for a talk she was to give in sacrament meeting that evening. A single sister, she had two nieces whom she dearly loved. One of the little girls came to her house to show off a new dress. The aunt complimented the dress but the little girl hung around. It became obvious the child wanted to talk, but the aunt told her she was busy.

“For the life of me, I can't remember what I said in that sacrament meeting talk, but I cannot forget the look of disappointment on that child's face when I told her I was too busy to talk to her,” the aunt said. “Now I would give anything for the chance to spend some time with that little girl.”

Gabriela Mistral, Su Nombre es Hoy (His Name is Today):

    We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘tomorrow,’ his name is ‘today’.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Parents' Magic Spell

I believe that parents who love and sacrifice for their children cast a spell on them, so to speak.  Though those children may disobey and rebel, once they leave home their parents' words will haunt them.  When faced with challenges and responsibilities, their first - almost reflexive response - will be almost exactly as their parents' (whether good or bad).  Those children may spend years and years sorting through what they have received through their parents' "spell," versus what they choose for themselves.

I'm sure this is not the case with all families, but it's been true for my relationship with my parents.  I'm thankful for what my parents taught me, as much by their example as by the words they spoke.  They weren't perfect, but they truly loved me and sacrificed much for me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Decisions Determine Destiny

Today we did our Family Home Evening on the third item in the LDS Church's "My Gospel Standards" for children.  It reads: "I will choose the right. I know I can repent when I make a mistake."

We read in Joshua 24:15:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

I asked the children what choices they made each day, and how many choices they made each day.  We talked about which ones were important and which ones were of little consequence.

We talked about repentance, and how if Jesus has not atoned for our sins, once we made a mistake, we would never be able to fix it or make it better.

I then set out this maze.  I told them that what paths they chose to take in the maze would determine what ending they arrived at: star, moon, or sun (or get lost in a dead end).  I told them that once they had chosen a path in the maze, they couldn't go backwards, or cross over their path if they came to it again.  We put a plastic page protector down over the maze and let the kids use dry erase markers to find their way through the maze.


It's really a tough little maze.  At one point, my son went just an inch too far past where he needed to turn to get to the "Sun" ending.  When he realized he'd gone too far, he was disappointed, because he knew he couldn't go back.  But that is the perfect time to tell him, that because of our Savior, we can repent and change our course.  We can all make it back to His Presence.  He made it possible for every one of us, if we just choose to follow His gospel.

The title of this post comes from our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, in his talk "The Three Rs of Choice."