Monday, January 28, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley

I was going to note other things, but I'm going to stop to take note of the death of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. I suppose I'm dating myself to remember David O. McKay as the Church president in his declining years, then Joseph Fielding Smith, and the unexpectedly early death of Harold B. Lee, and the dynamic leadership of Spencer W. Kimball. As President Kimball's health, and then those of his counselors declined, Gordon B. Hinckley was called on to act as the first Presidency's Executive. The same thing happened with Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter.

I had long been impressed with President Hinkley's manner: his unflinching denunciation of abuse of family, pornography, and other modern ills; his good humor, and his optimism. I remember thinking and even saying that if there was such thing as a man of God, he was one.

That impression never changed. He encouraged LDS to be less clannish and more welcoming of those who believe differently, he encouraged members to be just a little bit better on a daily basis, he initiated a widespread program of temple-building in corners of the earth which otherwise would have had no temples, he initiated the Perpetual Education Fund for the education of returned missionaries (and other youth) in developing countries, encouraged Humanitarian efforts on a wide scale, and in countless other ways, in both word and deed, set examples for all.

I must confess that I don't have the same feeling for President Monson, whom I expect to occupy the office of President of the Church. I know that a great many church members already love him and I will certainly sustain him. In a different way, he also is a godly man. But he hasn't yet touched my heart in the same way. President Hinckly articulated and confirmed many of the teachings and truths I hold nearest and dearest. I will miss him.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Republican debates

I haven't commented much on the recent Republican debate in Florida. I didn't see it, although I switched back and forth between various blogs that were liveblogging it and have some idea what was said. It appeared to be the majority opinion that Romney did best, which should help his chances in Florida's primary election next Tuesday. McCain isn't helping himself with endorsements from liberals and Democrats, or by making false accusations against Romney, either. But we'll see what voters think in a few days.
The Democratic process hasn't entirely escaped my notice, either. I notice that Clinton and Obama seem to be getting into a rather nasty personal fight, and even liberal Democrats are starting to get disgusted with Hillary and Bill's campaign tactics.

I don't know what it is that causes some blogs to take 3 and 5 minutes to load sometimes. It's a royal pain.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Sometime about 1999 I started paying attention to what was going on in reusable launch vehicles instead of the expendable rockets that have been used since the 1950s. I was interested in the X-prize and the various competitors for it. Bert Rutan's Scaled Composites was one of the few companies that was actually building hardware, and I saw them take an early lead, and eventually with the prize with the combination of WhiteKnight One and Spaceship One. I also noticed that they had contracted with Virgin Galactic to design a larger version that would actually take paying passengers into suborbital flight. I also noted the White Knight Two and Space Ship Two were scheduled to be unveiled today, so I was watching for it, and a first look is now available.
It's less of a ride than a trip on the ISS; only suborbital, but at a tenth the price ($200, 000 for a Virgin Galactic flight), so it's within range of a lot more people: There is a waiting list of prepaid customers. The word is that the White Knight carrier craft is about 80% built, and flight tests set to begin later this year. The SpaceShip Two craft is supposed to begin drop tests, but there's a bit of a delay on developing the rocket engines due an accident at Scaled Composites last year.
Scaled Composites has contracted to build several more vehicles.
This is how it ought to be done. Design the vehicles, build them, fly them, test them, and repeat. In the meantime, run a profitable enterprise. The more you do this, the more experience you get, and the next cycle of development is cheaper and more profitable. You build a market and the infrastructure to support it. I'm watching for more developments in this field: Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic aren't the only players: they are, at present, the pioneers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catching up

I had intended to take note of Mitt Romney's results in the Republican primary elections in South Carolina and the caucuses in Nevada, but by now this is old news.
I noted before the election that, at least among conservatively oriented bloggers, Fred Thompson had a majority of support, but his campaign had no legs. This was indeed the case, and most of his supporters seem to be looking at Romney as their next best choice. Also, Mike Huckabee's campaign is running out of money. He's been appealing to conservative evangelicals, but is only getting about half of them, and hardly anyone else. He may continue to do fairly well in the so-called Bible Belt, but that's not enough to get him elected. John McCain's campaign is also short on cash. Rudy Giuliani focused his strategy on ignoring the early contests and concentrating on the big states, but at least in the polls, this strategy doesn't seem to be working. Amazingly, Romney could come out ahead in Florida. If he does so, he will have a commanding lead in delegates, which will put him in excellent position in the various elections on Feb 5.

I also wanted to note the passing of Bobby Fischer. He used to write a column on chess for Boy's Life, which I used to read as I was learning the game, and I was delighted to see him win the World Championship. However, I also noted the controversy he caused by picky and unreasonable demands. Then, after the championship, he disappeared and practically gave up competitive chess. When he did surface, his actions were bizarre and bordered on the irrational. I was sorry to see his decline: he was a genius at what he did, for a time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blogging the Book of Mormn 1 Ne 4

Nephi persuaded his reluctant older brothers to accompany him as far as the wall of Jerusalem and went into the city, alone at night. He said that he was "led by the Spirit", not knowing in advance what he would do. As he approached Laban's house, he found Laban himself, armed and armored, passed out drunken in the street. He drew Laban's magnificent steel sword, and as he did so, the Spirit of the Lord told Nephi to kill him. Nephi was reluctant to do so, since he had never killed anyone, but the Spirit repeated the command, informing him that the Lord had delivered Laban into his hands. Nephi considered the cause, that Laban was a wicked man and had robbed them, and a third time, the Spirit explained "Behold, the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief". The purpose was not riches, but to preserve the religious heritage of the Jews for Lehi's entire future lineage. Nephi then did as he was instructed and killed Laban with his own sword. He then dressed himself in Laban's clothing and armor, and in this disguise went to Laban's treasury. There, he encountered Laban's servant who had the keys. Posing as Laban, he ordered the brass plates containing the record he wanted to be brought to be taken to his brothers outside the walls. The servant mistook Laban for his master until they got outside the walls, when his brothers, also supposing Nephi to be Laban, started to run. When Nephi identified himself, Laban's servant also started to run, but Nephi held him long enough to offer him his freedom if he would come with them. The servant, named Zoram, agreed to do so, and he returned with the brothers to Lehi's wilderness camp.

I might reference Exodus 21:13 as well as numerous others Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 kings, as evidence of that the concept of the Lord delivering enemies into the hands of the Israelites, (or vice versa) was accepted, as were commands to kill them if that should occur. This is a view rather foreign to modern Western culture where God is viewed as distant and not actively involved in determining the outcome of battles or conflicts.
I also note that these brass plates could have been lost and destroyed along with the rest of Jerusalem had they remained there.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Average day

I didn't see much new that I wanted to take note of on the political blogs, and nothing in space or with the authors whose blogs I follow. But I did pick up a couple of tidbits from the bloggernacle.
I noted that there is a study from Vanderbilt University which backs up a suspicion that I have had, that some of the charges that Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper come from conservative evangelicals who use them as a cover, but whose basic dislike comes from their dislike of Mormonism. How big that effect is I don't know.
But the one that tickled me is the advice to Have an Average Day. There's a lot to be said for that approach. Sometimes steady, regular, average daily performance at something really does add up, over time, to extraordinary results.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Baptist missionaries

I wrote a post yesterday, and put it on the wrong blog. I moved it, which is why I have two posts today.

I really don't see much to comment on in the political arena; lots more talk, no new results; more or less the same in the reusable launch vehicle industry, and about the same in the bloggernacle (the community of Mormon bloggers).

I had a pair of Baptists come tracting at my door today, and basically told them I had my own religion and wasn't interested in theirs. They asked whether, if I died today, whether I could be sure I was going to heaven: I said I'd leave that up to God. They tried to offer me a tract, andI said no thanks, I have a Bible and read it whenever I feel like it.

There once was a time when I would have been happy to get into a religious discussion with them. But then I actually had such a discussion. There are too many Baptist ministers who claim that because I'm a Mormon, I'm not even Christian. There are too many of them who are all too convinced that Mormons are ignorant, or deluded, or dishonest, if they say they believe in Christ, and I didn't want to risk getting into that kind of argument. I also didn't feel like getting into an argument over whether I'm saved or not, or whether I ought to be sure that I am, While I'm sure it would be good for me if I felt like reading the Bible a little more often, or even if I read it when I don't much feel like it, I didn't feel like arguing about that, either.

Romney wins Michigan

So Romney took first place in the primary election in Michigan, doing slightly better than the polling suggested. Good for him. I'm pleased. I think it's going to be a long race for the Republican nomination. Most of the conservative political commentators I've been reading prefer Thompson, but I don't think his campaign has the legs for it. I'm not sure Huckabee's does, either. When this race started last year, I was afraid Hillary Clinton was going to be unstoppable, and that's definitely who I didn't wan. Now, I'm not quite so concerned. Nothing outstanding on any of the other topics I've been watching.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Monday

Although I'm interested in politics, I have little detailed knowledge of the subject and less influence. Rather than join the pundits trying to predict or handicap the race for the US Presidency, I'm mostly going to watch. I understand the Michigan primaries are coming up soon, so we'll see what happens.
I notice that Brandon Sanderson is having the same kind of difficulties with sleep I'm been having. At least I don't have a family to complicate matters.
Over the weekend, I posted a few entries over at Mormon Matters on What's wrong with the creeds of Christendom. And, by way of Mormon Mommy Wars, I learned that if I were a dog, I'd probably be a German Shepherd.
And, over at my other blog, Independent Learning, I have a summary of the day's work on my knowledge base: principally I've been looking at ancient history most recently.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


In my personal studies and work on my knowledge base, from time to time I go back to the prehistoric period and wondering at how little we really know of what went on before the keeping of written records. In my recent studies, I've run across an essay on the antiquity of man that discusses, among other things, how the world-view of the archaeologist, or the historian, influences what is selected and seen as important. That sets me to wondering how much of prehistoric archaeology is influenced by modern biases. I found some particularly notable, (and contradictory) claims in a timeline of ancient history, ssome details of which appear to contradict yet another timeline. All I can tell for certain is that from the scattered clues, it's hard for anyone to say with confidence what was going on.

In my review of stuff I look at on the internet, I didn't see anything that really stood out as notworthy, although I can't say what will happen if I let it stew a while.

I did stay up a bit late trying to trach down the answer to a technical question in astronomy. I learned a lot about the subject, but didn't find the answer I was looking for.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Belated New Year

I've already broken one of my informal New Year's resolutions, which was to write regularly on this blog. Well, it's one I can always mend.

Over the past few weeks, I've been more or less following the campaign for the US Presidency, mostly on the Republican side. I have a preference for Mitt Romney, but that hasn't translated to active support. I can't stand any of the Democrat candidates.

There are about four authors (SF) who blog or write other stuff about what's going on in their lives that I follow.

I've recently picked up something I was interested a few years ago, the concept of a private-sector space industry based on reusable vehicles. It's come a bit further, but still hasn't quite materialized. Not quite like the concept of fusion reactors, which have stayed about 30 years in the future for the past 50, there are now half a dozen companies that are actually building, flying, and testing hardware, where there used to be only one or two.

Also, I've started checking out LDS (Mormon) blogs.

I seem to recall that one of my new year's resolutions was going to be keeping track of the books I've read. So, for the new year, (thanks to a Chrismas gift) I've picked up "Cyteen" by C. J. Cherryh, an old favorite. She was writing a sequel to it last year, but I don't recall the title and I haven't seen it on the to be published list yet. I also picked up "The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon, something I've been wanting to read for some time. In my self-directed study, I picked up a couple of Wiley self-teaching guides, one on Chemistry, and one on Physical geography. I also picked up "World-Building" by Stephen Gillett, one of a science fiction writing series. That one I'm actively using for yet another project: a spreadsheet that does astronomical calculations.