Sunday, December 23, 2012

Justice and Mercy

The Universe is governed by law.  From a galaxy with its billions of stars to an atom with its quarks and leptons – all move, behave, and react in accordance with laws which we may or may not fully understand.  Justice is not only required, it is a given.  Without it everything would be chaos.

There is no inherent mercy in the Universe.  For mercy to exist, someone must take responsibility for every broken law and bear the consequences.  But not just any being can pay such a price or has the power to make right all that was put amiss by the transgression of justice.  It is only in the shelter and shadow of such an Infinite Intercessor that mercy, compassion, and forgiveness exist.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Studying Abroad

"Every day he writes me a letter, telling me how much he misses me and how he needs my help.  And every day I write him back, with words of comfort, encouragement, and advice" he explained, "but he does not read my letters."

"Does he not know who they're from?!"

"I think it's because he has a post office box, and he's so busy he doesn't get to check his mail very often.  And when he does, he doesn't have time to read what I've written, much less understand it."

"Why do you not go to him?"

"Oh, how I wish I could! But he left here to have his own experience, and I need to let him have it."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography

High Dynamic Range Imaging is the technique of taking multiple exposures of the same scene and then merging them into one image.  This allows for a much broader, more "dynamic" range of light, where with a single exposure either the bright areas would be washed out or the dark areas too dark.

Here are the three images I worked with:




And here is the final composite HDR image:


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Talefolk™ - Going to Heaven

"You can frighten, guilt, and threaten people out of Hell," he said, "but you cannot guilt or frighten them into Heaven.  One cannot work or worry oneself to Heaven (not to say that idleness or lack of responsibility will get you there, either).  People are loved into Heaven.  Of course, some are loved and still do not choose Heaven - Heaven would not be Heaven if you could force people there.  But as people are shown and feel the Love of God (most often through those that love like He does), they realize that nothing else in the world can compare with it.  And if they allow it to take root and nourish and follow it; and keep their eyes on it; and return to it despite all hazards, temptations, and distractions - they will find Heaven."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Talefolk™ - The Will of God

"Some people speak as if the will of God was like fate - predetermined, unchangeable," he explained.  "This is a false assumption based on the truth that God knows the future and what choices people will make before they make them.  But it is the opposite of faith for a woman or man to fail to importune God because they presume that He will not hear them or that doing so will not change anything.  It is the will of God to work miracles and bless His children, but often only if we seek and ask Him.  If we will not do this, then indeed the will of God is that miracles cease, we dwindle in despair, and become lost without knowing we are so." 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Talefolk™ - Self-flagellation

"Do not be deceived by those who seem so devout and zealous that they inflict pain upon themselves," he taught.  "I never cease to marvel at those who prefer to torture themselves rather than to face their fears and listen to what God is telling them.  God's yoke is easy if we do not kick against the pricks.  And we cannot atone for our own sins, no matter how much pain we suffer, though suffering can produce a false sense of nobility."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Talefolk™ - The Great Beast

"Why does the beast slumber so?"

"Legend has it that to be conscious and awake is searing pain for it.  The only relief it finds is in sleep."

"What is the cause of its anguish?"

"Some say the beast suffers agony for a great sin committed long ago.  Other say the beast cannot tolerate the chaos in the world.  It is possible that the beast just suffered a head wound in a past struggle."

"And we have to go wake it up..."

"The beast is not evil.  He will not hurt you if you do not threaten it.  That is why it is better to go in alone.  Too many people could be intimidating."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Talefolk™ - Wrinkle Reader

"You are not yet old," the old man said hoarsely, "but I can see the lines on your face."

"This is the line that taught you that if you did not finish something, it would still be there waiting for you later."

"This line is where you learned that no amount of effort can make life perfect."

"Here is where you learned that you were no better than a drunk on the street, and no worse than the richest nobleman."

"Ah, yes," he said satisfactorily. "It is faint but it is here.  The line that shows you are learning to forgive, and to be forgiven."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Talkfolk™ - Addictive Personalities

"It was then I realized that having an addictive personality was not necessarily a bad thing," she opined. "It's like a powerful current of water: if we can channel it we can accomplish things that 'normal' people only wish they could do.  All this time I thought there was something wrong with me, but not everyone has the ability to dive as deep as we can.  We just have to be really careful what we jump into (and be quick to pull out/seek help when we've jumped into something dark)!"

Talefolk™ - Happiness

"A lot of spiritual gurus will tell you that true happiness is found within and is not based on external cirsumstances," she said.  "But personally I think that a lot of our happiness is based on the choices made by those around us: our children, our neighbors, our bosses, our government leaders.  So it's pretty important to be doing all we can to influence and persuade those people to care, to be honest, and be socially responsible."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

SQL Database Table Rowcounts

How to get the rowcount of all tables in a SQL Server 2000 database:

select distinct convert(varchar(30),object_name( [Table Name], a.rows
from sysindexes a inner join sysobjects b on =

Thanks to:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Talkfolk™ - The Mountain

When he finally arrived at the foot of the mountain, he found a large village of people.  They welcomed him warmly.  He discovered that most of them had come just as he had, after careful searching and long journeying.  When he spoke of his intention to climb the mountain, everyone understood and was encouraging.  Some even said they wanted to go along with him, but at the agreed upon hour they didn't show up.  As he got to know them better, some of them shared their experiences of trying to climb the mountain. Some laughed, and some cried, but there was always pain and regret behind it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talefolk™ - Strength and Compassion

“Your care, compassion, and benevolence must increase in proportion to your strength, ability, and intelligence,” he said.  “Otherwise your power will hurt and destroy all the more in your careless and angry moments.”

Talefolk - Your Calling in Life

"Stop searching for your calling in life," she said. "Your life is your calling. Waking up each day and facing its challenges and loving those around you. You will find your calling as you stop looking for it."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


by Walter Malone

They do me wrong who say I come no more
When once I knock and fail to find you in,
For every day I stand outside your door
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.

Wail not for precious chances passed away,
Weep not for golden ages on the wane!
Each night I burn records of the day;
At sunrise every soul is born again.

Laugh like a boy at splendors that have sped,
To vanished joys be blind and deaf and dumb;
My judgments seal the dead past with its dead,
But never bind a moment yet to come.

Tho' deep in mire, wring not your hands and weep;
I lend my arm to all who say, "I can!"
No shamefaced outcast ever sank so deep
But yet might arise and be again a man.

Dost thou behold thy lost youth all aghast?
Dost reel from righteous retribution's blow?
Then turn from blotted archives of the past
And find the future's pages white as snow.

Art thou a mourner? Rouse thee from thy spell;
Art thou a sinner? Sins may be forgiven;
Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
Each night a star to guide thy feet to Heaven.

(I was introduced to this poem from a talk given by Vaughn J. Featherstone at a BYU devotional on 12 September 1995.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Talefolk™ - The Three Degrees of Glory

"I know, I know," he said rolling his eyes.  "Bad people go to the Telestial kingdom, good people go to the Terrestrial kingdom, and super-good people go to the Celestial kingdom."

"I think you're missing something," she replied.  "There may be a minimum standard, but no one earns their way into the Celestial kingdom.  You make covenants with God and you keep them.  God even helps you keep them.  I don't think it's possible to keep them without His help.  That's the secret.  The Celestial have learned how to ask for and receive God's help and grace.  They have come to trust Him, more than anything else."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Talefolk™ - Listening

“Some people don't hear things until you've told them many times,” she said.  “It used to drive me crazy, but now I find myself doing the same thing.  Life just throws too much at you; it's the patient repetition I've learned to listen to.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Talefolk™ - Faith

“The hardest thing about Faith,” he said, “is knowing whether it means to act or to wait.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012


The coach said, "I don't care if you can slam dunk the ball from the foul line.  I don't care about your fancy dribbling or your expensive shoes.  I don't want a hot shot that does his own thing.  I want players that play as hard in the fourth quarter as they do in the first.  I want players who execute our plays as a team with precision.  I want someone I can give the ball to with seconds left, and know they will drill that 3 pointer."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Your Inkscape Envelope (Arched Text) Tutorial

Dear SixThings,

Thank you for all your work on your tutorial about how to create arched text in inkscape.  It looks like comments are closed for this post, so I thought I would email you.
First of all, this tutorial is the premier tutorial on the web for using inkscape to envelope deform text.  We thank you heartily for it!!
Secondly, I notice a lot of people in the comments having trouble with the technique.  I have experimented with it, and here are some additional helpful suggestions I can make.
  1. Make sure both the object and the bounding box have been Path > Object to Path converted.
  2. As you have pointed out, the order you select things in before using "Extensions > Modify Path > Envelope" is important.   Select the object you want to deform first, then the bounding box (I'm using Inkscape version 0.48).
  3. A bounding box must have only four nodes.  Don't bother adding vector curving because envelope will ignore it.
  4. If you start having strange results with this process, double check these constraints.  Then press Ctrl-N and start trying these things on a new, blank document.
  5. If your artwork gets rotated during the envelope process, undo and then rotate your bounding box to compensate in anticipation of the rotation you think will happen. Adjust the rotated bounding box's nodes to match your original, then try again.
  6. You only need to do this envelope process one letter at a time if you need a curved look to your text. If you just want to envelope your text into a straight 4 node quadrilateral, first break apart and combine all your letters into one path, then do a bounding box for the whole thing. (Also try Modify Path > Perspective this way!)
Best regards,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~ Wendell Berry ~
(Collected Poems)

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Posting this so I can refer to it later.  Reference is here, or for the full PDF of the book, here.  Number 4 stings me the most.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, suggested the following reasons leaders sometimes fail to delegate:

“1. We would really rather do it ourselves.
“2. We are not really willing to use our time and talents in order to train others so they can help.
“3. We dislike asking others to help, forgetting that receiving help is as much a part of the gospel as giving help.
“4. We like to feel a bit harried because it gives us a false sense of being noble.
“5. We say we are concerned about ‘quality control’ if the task is delegated, and sometimes there is good reason for the concern; other times, however, we actually worry not about tasks being done poorly, but too well.”

Elder Maxwell advised: “The sense we may have at times of being devoured by duty . . . is at least partially avoidable. . . . We could, if we chose more often, delegate, thus developing others, including our children, more and, finally, thereby reducing unnecessary burdens on ourselves” (Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward [1977], 99–100).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Prayer for the Day

Lord, help me do something today that will have made a difference 100 years from now.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Opposition In All Things

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. (2 Nephi 2:11)

If I want to get stronger, I need to go to the gym and lift weights.  Not just lift weights, but push myself to lift more than my muscles are used to lifting, to the point of exhaustion.  When strength training, what rep really matters the most?  The last one.  All the previous ones only served to wear your muscles down to the point of fatigue and exhaustion.  Then when your will makes your body keep going despite that, somehow your body gets programmed: I'm going to make these muscles stronger!

I am learning that these same principles of athletic training apply to spiritual growth as well.  How am I going to develop patience unless I am given situations when nothing I can do will make things immediately better?  How can I strengthen my faith in God unless I pray and do the best I can despite the temptation to feel overwhelmed and discouraged?  How can I come to love as God does, unless I forgive others, and bear with them in their shortcomings; as they do for me?

I could go on.  But these insights help me to acknowledge God's hand not just in the blessings and good things of life, but also in the trials and difficulties.  I know that God is my Father in Heaven, and that He loves me with a tenderness and care that far surpasses even my love and care for my own children.  He is not mean, indifferent, or distant.  Rather He feels our heartache, and cries with us our tears, and carries us when we have no strength.  Why does He not fix the problem, or remove the pain, you ask?  I can only suppose for the same reason why I do not solve all my children's problems, or give them everything they want; and why I make them do their chores and their homework before they play.  I have been where they are, and I know where they need to go in order to be happy and successful in life.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Understanding Isaiah

In this month's issue of the Ensign magazine, President Uchtdorf states, "The teachings of our Heavenly Father are not the ordinary, predictable, run-of-the-mill kind you can pick up in paperback at the local bookstore" (Ensign, March 2012, "Why Do We Need Prophets?").  I have often wondered why it is so much harder to read the scriptures than to read a popular novel.  Surely if God had so desired, He could have had the scriptures written in a more engaging format.

As if it wasn't hard enough, we have the writings of the prophet Isaiah, which are filled with obscure references to ancient cities and leaders; and where God often refers to Himself in the third person.  I never thought I would ever understand Isaiah, much less appreciate or even memorize his words.  It must be a sign that I am getting old because - for some reason - over the last several years Isaiah has started to "click" for me.

There are many articles about how to better understand Isaiah.  Here are the things I've done that I think have made a difference for me.

  1. I have "stuck with it."  I haven't given up.  I have continued to read Isaiah's words, not only out of determination and obedience but because little by little I have found a verse here or a phrase there that has stuck in my mind and heart.  So I guess you could say that if you stick with Isaiah, he will gradually stick to you.

  2. I bought a book to help me understand Isaiah. (The one I bought was Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, Poet by Victor Ludlow.)  I don't necessarily think you need to buy a book to understand Isaiah, but it helped me understand the historical references enough to not be distracted by them.

  3. I stopped trying to understand Isaiah in a linear fashion, and started to read him as poetry.  I hesitate to call Isaiah's words poetry, for they are much more than that.  As one called to speak for God, I suppose you could consider Isaiah as God's poetry - sonnets to His children - at times to warn, at times to comfort, but always to teach and inspire.

  4. Paul said that "the natural man receiveth not the things... of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."  On days when I am more of a "natural man," I would rather read a magazine or surf the internet than spend time in the scriptures.  But at some point when I was ready, the Holy Ghost touched my heart as I was reading Isaiah chapter 53, and I now regard it as one of the greatest chapters in all of holy writ.  I thought about quoting some of it here, but for those interested I would prefer that you open your Bible in a quiet place and savor it for yourself.

Was Jesus really bruised for my iniquities?  Am I really healed by the stripes he received as He was viciously flogged?  How long have I hid my face from Him, and esteemed Him not?  These things indeed seem to be foolish and irrelevant until we ask, seek, and knock; and they are opened unto us.

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. (Isaiah 45:15)

And he has hidden Himself in the words of Isaiah.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

13th Article of Faith Puzzles

Here is a link to a word search that includes all words in the 13th article of faith.  Or, here are some words from the 13th article of faith to unscramble.  There's also a crossword puzzle.  When you're done, try to find your way through this maze!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wonders of Nature: Needle Ice

Found some needle ice in our yard the other day.  Amazing!  I had never seen this phenomenon before.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Plan of Salvation

When I was 10 or 11 years old, I remember a Sunday School lesson on "the Plan of Salvation."  It was the first time I saw a visual representation of this unique doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It looked something like this:


Although I encourage you to take the time to study this doctrine more carefully from official sources, the basic idea is that before we were born, we lived with our Heavenly Father as His spirit children.  He presented a plan to us, whereby we would have the opportunity to gain a body and to progress and become more like Him.  It involved being born – forgetting our Father and our life together with Him – and experience the challenges and joys of mortality, and make choices for ourselves in a realm outside of the powerful influence of our good and perfect Father.  After death, our spirits would go to a "spirit world," to await a judgment of our choices and desires relative to the knowledge and opportunities we had in life.  This judgment would determine which of three kingdoms we would enter for eternity: the celestial, terrestrial, or telestial.  Not shown above, but illustrated in the lesson I remember, was that the celestial kingdom was portrayed as a sun; the terrestrial, a moon; and the telestial as stars.  There was also a destination called "outer darkness," where only the worst of the worst would go.

This plan was very intriguing to my 10-year old mind.  In fact, as I have learned more about its intricacies over the years since, it has only become more so.  It is much more than just a simplistic heaven or hell, but an intelligent and fair explanation for who we are, why we are here, and what happens after death.  If this is the first time you are hearing about these ideas, I'm not sure what your reaction is, but my initial reaction was one of wonder and amazement.  I believe that the Holy Ghost gave my young heart a testimony of the truth and goodness of this doctrine, and I have never come across any theology that equals the beauty and simplicity of it.

If there is a flaw in this diagram, it is that is glosses over the central role of Jesus Christ in making this plan possible.  You see, in allowing us to come to an environment away from Himself where we would be subject to both good and evil influences, God knew we would make mistakes and wrong choices.  He knew that we had to have this freedom – or agency as it is called – to choose for ourselves or we would not be able to develop our character and become more like He is.  The problem is, that even one wrong act would render us imperfect and unworthy to return to the holy presence of God.  So our Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be born just like we were, to experience the trials and vicissitudes of mortality just like us, to suffer temptation like we do, but never to yeild to it, always honoring His Father.  When the time came, "the Lord ... laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6), whereby "God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also" (Alma 42:15).

Jesus explained what we must do to receive His grace and the gift of forgiveness:

      And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
      Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

This is the gospel, the "good news."  This is what I believe, and looking back I can see how God has been re-teaching me some of the many things I once knew when I sat at His knee.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Helping Children Learn the Gospel

I believe that there are "tricks" to success in life.  By "tricks," I mean secrets—but they're not really secrets, they're just ways of doing things that yeild the greatest effect for the effort put forth.

What I want most for my children is for them to understand the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and come to know that God is their literal Heavenly Father and feel His profound love and care for them.  Modern-day prophets urge us to teach our children the gospel in weekly family home evenings.

As a trained educator, I used to feel that in order for teaching to be effective, children had to behave, sit still, and listen while I presented a well-prepared lesson on a gospel topic.  This would be great if it were always possible, but as parents inevitably come to know, most children don't/can't sit still and listen very long unless they're interested in a TV show or a video game.

Today I helped my eight-year old son prepare a lesson on "how to know that the Book of Mormon is true."  (The idea for this topic came to me yesterday as I was reading this article out of the Friend magazine to my daughter yesterday.)  I read with him from the Introduction of the Book of Mormon that there are basically three steps: 1) read the Book of Mormon, 2) ponder its message, and 3) ask God in faith if it is true. “Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5).”

We wrote the three steps on word strips and had other members of the family stick them up on a board when they identified the step.  I wrote a basic outline of the lesson on an index card for my son to follow so he could be in charge of the lesson himself. He did a great job.

In reflecting on this afterwards, I realized that children learn much better and more thoroughly when they are actively engaged and when basic principles are presented clearly and simply with periodic revisiting and repetition, rather than by trying to get them to sit still, listen, and give me the answers I'm looking for while I present my elaborately prepared lesson.

There.  That's the "trick" I learned today.  I don't mean that we shouldn't or don't need to prepare lessons, but perhaps we should prepare differently, with a focus on learners learning, rather than teachers teaching.

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6).