Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Response to Greg Trimble

Below is my response to Greg Trimble's blog post: "Well... Maybe the Book of Mormon is true after all."

"Faith" would not be "faith" if it were obvious and apparent to everyone. One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 45:15: "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour."

There are many who will only believe in what they can readily see and observe, and who believe that humankind is on the verge of knowing, understanding, and explaining everything. It is indeed exciting to hear of new technologies, new research, and new discoveries that broaden our view of our world/history/galaxy/universe. But in my opinion, all the knowledge that we as humans currently have doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what we do not understand and know.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when we say, "I know the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that Thomas S. Monson is His living prophet today," the word "know" means that we know spiritually, rather than know because of undisputed evidence and scientifically proven facts. I suppose you could say we believe in a different kind of "knowing." This may sound like a cop-out, but we should remember that at one time people "knew" that the world was flat, "knew" that the Sun revolved around the Earth, and "knew" that our Galaxy was the only one in the universe.

I love these passages from the Book of Mormon. To me they are inspiring, and I do not believe they were made up by men, except a man inspired by a God who loves us as His children.

While God has hidden Himself, He does not leave us without strong evidences which must be dealt with, among which are the Testimony of Three Witnesses, and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Of course arguments can be made against these witnesses, but they do have to be made. (And it gets more interesting when you find out that every one of the Three Witnesses turned against Joseph Smith and left the Church, yet none of them ever dared deny their testimony of the Book of Mormon, even at risk of great personal humiliation.)

Also, the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning with Joseph Smith is similar to what Paul says to Agrippa in Acts 26:26 about Jesus' ministry, "This thing was not done in a corner." Much historical research has been done and will continue to be done surrounding the history of this church, and while some surprising things have been uncovered, nothing conclusive has come forward showing it clearly to be a fraud (the "Salamander Letter" in the 1980s purported to be such proof, but turned out to be fraudulent).

As for me, I choose to believe. I appreciate Greg's courage in sharing his thoughts and feelings.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Microsoft Word Mail Merge Tricks

I only do this once a year, and every year I have to re-learn how to do this. This year I'm using Microsoft Word 2010.
  1. To create a new mail merge document, don't try to create the new document by clicking 'New'... and selecting labels and choosing a template. Just create a new, generic blank document, then click the 'Mailings' tab, then 'Labels.' The dialog below will be shown.
  2. This isn't a basic tutorial on how to insert mail merge fields. You can search elsewhere for that. The screenshot below shows conditional code, which must be started by typing Ctrl-F9, which will insert the special curly code braces you will type your code in (those aren't just normal curly braces). For code braces nested inside code braces, you must type Ctrl-F9 again each time to insert them. The particular code shown below, looks at the value in field 'International,' and if it is not nothing ("") then it inserts a line break and then the value of the 'International' field, ELSE it inserts the value of field 'UnZip' without a line break. Note that to include the line break, we must enclose the 'true' portion of the IF statement in double quotes.
I can't take credit for figuring this out on my own, I'm just a persistent googler. One helpful YouTube video is here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Always Remember Him

“Remembering the Savior” doesn’t mean that you have to think about Him every minute of every day. What it does mean is that you think about His example and teachings in the choices you make and always try to do His will and keep His commandments—to live as He would (From July 2014 New Era magazine. Link to source).

Sunday, November 9, 2014

You Never Know

From President Gordon B. Hinckley's address "To The Women of the Church":

Many of you think you are failures. You feel you cannot do well, that with all of your effort it is not sufficient...

We all worry about our performance. We all wish we could do better. But unfortunately we do not realize, we do not often see the results that come of what we do.

I remember going to a stake conference in the East many years ago. On the plane coming home, I felt that I had been a total failure. I felt I had not touched anyone for good. I was miserable with a sense of inadequacy.

Then, some years later, I was at another conference in California. At the conclusion of the meeting a man came up to me and said, “You were at a conference a few years ago in such-and-such a place.”

“Yes,” I said, “I was there, and I remember the occasion.”

The man said: “You touched my heart. I came to that meeting out of curiosity. I really had no interest. I was on the verge of leaving the Church. But when it was announced that one of the Twelve Apostles would be there, I decided to go.

“You said something that started me to think. It touched me and stayed with me and stirred me. I decided to alter my course. I turned my life around. I am now living here in California. I have a good job, for which I am grateful. I hope I am a good husband and father. And I am now serving as a counselor in the bishopric of my ward. I am happier than I have ever been at any time in my life.”

I thanked him, and when I left him I said to myself, shaking my head: “You never know. You never know whether you do any good. You never know how much good you do.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Splitting strings in SQL

Came across a great resource on splitting strings in SQL today by Aaron Bertrand here. I'm using the split by numbers approach. I noticed that when the last character(s) of the string being split is a delimiter, i.e. the last element would be NULL, the function chops off that last element. If only the function would accept the following IF logic somewhere:
if substring(@List,len(@list)-(len(@Delimiter)-1),len(@Delimiter)) = @Delimiter
SET @List = @List + @Delimiter
OK, I think this will work. See change highlighted in yellow. Testers wanted!
CREATE FUNCTION dbo.SplitStrings_Numbers
@Delimiter NVARCHAR(255)
SELECT Item = SUBSTRING(@List, Number,
CHARINDEX(@Delimiter, @List + @Delimiter, Number) - Number)
FROM dbo.Numbers
WHERE Number <= CONVERT(INT, LEN(@List)) +1
AND SUBSTRING(@Delimiter + @List, Number, LEN(@Delimiter)) = @Delimiter

Thursday, August 28, 2014

John 13:8

He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded...
Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou has no part with me.
I take it from this passage that unless we allow Christ to cleanse us and to serve us, we have no part with Him, and are not His. To be a Christian is to be continually asking for and relying upon God's help, more commonly called grace. In effect, we have all gone overboard and are walking on the water to Him; we are not sustained by our own power, but by His, according to our faith in Him. If we forget this, or if we start to worry about the wind and the waves, we will sink. The Lord allows this so that we can remember and learn by what power we have been brought hither.

Friday, August 22, 2014

You Are What You Do

From commencement address given by Terry R. Seamons on 24 April 2014:
    You are what you do;
    You do what you choose.
    If you don’t like what you are,
    Then change what you do.

What do you think? Is it really this simple?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A True Story

This is a true story. I'm not just saying this because the video begins with "This is a true story..." It's because as I watched it, I saw and heard all the familiar patterns of life, adversity, disappointment, failure, faith, persistence, and an ongoing, flickering hope that was held onto long enough to bring about salvation, in God's own way and in His own time.

There are many great stories of people's conversion to God. But as Nephi says, that is really just the beginning. I have had a witness similar to the one described in this video. I do not want to disparage anyone who has not yet received it from seeking it, because it is every bit as real, powerful, and life changing as he says. But those of us who have received such a witness know that there are obligations which come with it, and a daily, continual bearing of the cross, or His yoke. Those who want to be free from all burdens and responsibilities will not last long on God's side - not that God will kick them out, but they will leave of themselves in search of something less demanding. I recall the sad words from the U2 song, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For:

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I'm still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Of my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven't found
What I'm looking for.

After wandering away from Him again and again ("prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love..."), hopefully we always feel our way back to Him. Because He is our Father, He lets us leave, and He does not remove the struggle to feel our way back to Him. He knows this is how we learn. And He welcomes us back like the father running out to embrace the returning prodigal.

Eventually, I pray that we will realize and understand - not with our minds but with our hearts and whole souls - that His yoke and His cross are a privilege to bear; that they are what join us to Him; that it is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to be king of all the world away from Him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Price of Precious Knowledge

“You’re right,” the old man said.  “All God would have to do is wave his arm and your request would be granted.  So why does he stay his hand?  I am just a silly old man, but you might be surprised at how much silly old men understand.

     “The knowledge you seek is precious above all else, and it has nothing to do with the intellect.  It has to be burned into every cell of your body until it becomes like breathing, like your heart beating.  And for some reason, God wants you to pay a price first, so that you never take lightly such a gift.  It is a price exacted as much in effort, work, and diligence as it is in patience, submission, and forbearance.  Who knows? perhaps paying the price and gaining the knowledge are part of the same process.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

There is a hole in my soul

“There is a hole in your soul, (Blaise) Pascal said, and it can't be filled by stuff. There is only one thing that fills that hole, and that's God. There is a God-sized hole in your soul. Some people try to throw stuff into the hole: bigger car, bigger house, bigger vacation, more debt associated with it. And it just doesn't work for them.”
-Dave Ramsey

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Be careful what you wish for

“Oh, my son,” he said wistfully, “the Universe is designed to give you what you want.  It sees what you love and what you want by how you spend your time, and what you sacrifice for.  After a time, it gives it to you, and then you find that what you wanted was not what you thought it would be.  So you set your heart on something else, and the process repeats itself – over and over – each time refining you, or perhaps revealing you.  Your destiny, whether dark or bright, is indeed inside you.”

“Youth rarely heed the mumblings of the old, but we mumble nonetheless: those whose seek to give, to build, to nurture, and to heal become glorious.  Those who seek to take, to excel, and to conquer become terrifying, lonely, and ultimately impotent.”

Date Range Overlap

The best way to figure out if two date ranges overlap is explained in this stackoverflow answer. However, there is additional information below on calculating the actual amount of overlap, if any.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Crucial Conversations

I was struck by something I read in the book Crucial Conversations:
Let’s try another example. You share a cubicle with a four-star slob and you’re a bit of a neat freak. Your coworker has left you notes written in grease pencil on your file cabinet, in catsup on the back of a french-fry bag, and in permanent marker on your desk blotter. You, in contrast, leave him typed Post-it notes. Typed.

At first you sort of tolerated each other. Then you began to get on each other’s nerves. You started nagging him about cleaning up. He started nagging you about your nagging. Now you’re beginning to react to each other. Every time you nag, he becomes upset, and, well, let’s say that he doesn’t exactly clean up. Every time he calls you an “anal-retentive nanny,” you vow not to give in to his vile and filthy ways.

What has come from all this bickering? Now you’re neater than ever, and your cubicle partner’s half of the work area is about to be condemned by the health department. You’re caught in a self-defeating loop. The more the two of you push each other, the more you create the very behaviors you both despise.
Some points to consider:
  1. How many obsessive behaviors stem from the inability or unwillingness to address and resolve conflict in healthy ways?
  2. How much of OCD is about conjuring the illusion of control in reaction to circumstances/forces that elude our control?
  3. Has anyone yet coined the term 'Spiteful Excellence'?
  4. How many of us have a false sense of superiority or righteousness because we obsessively excel at things that - in the larger scheme of things - don't really matter?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

Just finished re-reading G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare.
I remember this being an entertaining book, but recent events in my life prompted me to go back and re-read it, especially for the last chapter.
This book defies genre classification. My best attempt would be to describe this book as a farcical spy novel, but it is well-crafted enough to be "literature" and still hold my interest. Wikipedia calls it a "metaphysical thriller" (although if you even plan to read this book, do NOT look it up on Wikipedia as the plot summary may spoil the entire experience for you).
I hope that I do not spoil anything by saying that - in the closing chapters - this book unexpectedly ends up touching on the deepest questions about (the Christian) God, the Purpose of Life, and the Problem of Human Suffering.  In no way does it attempt to answer these questions, which is as it should be.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Talefolk - Good Enough

With faltering steps, the old prophet drew near, reached out, and put a bony hand on his shoulder.

"In the name of God for Whom I speak," he called out, "your past, present, and future efforts are accepted of Him. Be free now to serve without worry or anxiety. This does not mean that you are perfect, that you will not have sore trials, or that you will not make mistakes. But God trusts your heart to learn from and correct your mistakes, and to ask for the help and strength you need. Go now. Your choices, plans, and actions will continue to fall short of the world's (and even your own) approval at times, but you will remember this moment and be comforted that God works His secret Will through all those who love and strive as you do."

Monday, February 3, 2014

We Are Broken

I am cracked and chipped.
I leak.
There are so many vessels that hold more water than me.

Oh. I see you are cracked too.
Wow! How'd you do that?
That is a weird break.
(Glad I'm not broken like that.)
(At least I can hold a little water.)
(Did I just say that out loud?)
(No. Whew! Good.)

WHOA! AAAGH! *Crash!*
Oh great! Just look at me now!
This is worse than that cup I saw the other day!
I am completely useless now!

I see you.
Don't worry about that.
It's just a scratch.
You wouldn't believe it to see me now
but I once was shattered into a thousand pieces.
I hope you never have to go through
what I went through.
(But you do.)
(Everyone does.)
(Did I just say that out loud?)
(No. Whew! Good.)
(I couldn't have handled it either.)