Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two Blind Golfers

Happy Halloween!!  ~Note: This post has very little to do with Halloween.

Some people have known who they are since they were very little.  Some people are firefighters; some people are engineers; some people are dancers; some people are counselors for struggling teenagers.  Some people go to college knowing exactly what field they will study.  I am not some people.

I tossed around the idea of being a movie director.  I wanted to create the kind of movies that families could all enjoy together (I feel like this kind of good movie is rare today).  I even took introductory film classes as a freshman, but after I got home from my two-year mission in Serbia, film directing just did not feel right.

I had spent two years studying ancient scripture and loving it.  Then it was not much of a surprise, maybe, when I turned to Ancient Near Eastern Studies as a major.  I started to learn Hebrew.  I still have a strong desire to learn more about the ancient Near East (and the ancient Far East), but I soon had to come to terms with the fact that there is not much money in studying hobbies.  In order to support the kind of family I want some day, I needed something else.

The CIA and NSA will pay top dollar for Arabic speakers, but that too was short lived.

Luckily, I had a friend suggest that I take a look at economics.  This friend knows a lot more about me than I knew about economics, that is for sure.  I took Econ 110 and soon discovered that I am, in fact, an economist (at least in embryo form).  Whenever I am faced with a problem, I always think, "Which of my choices will maximize my payoff?"  Further, I see every situation in life as a maximization problem that needs to be solved.  If only I knew about Lagrangians when I was younger, I may have spent less time deciding what to order in the fast-food line.

This matter was confirmed to me recently when I came home from class one day with an economics joke to tell to my wife.  The joke is about two blind golfers (perhaps you've heard it).  Three people react differently to the discomfort of having to play golf behind two men who are slow because they are blind.  The economist quickly realizes that everyone would be better off if the blind men were to golf at night.

When I told the joke to my wife, she did not react as I would have expected.  Instead of laughing because the joke was funny, she simply looked at me, smiled, and said, "Oh, hon.  You are an economist."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Fall Fun (and more pictures)

Kira and I love to have fun. We love to play games, to have friends over, and--most of all--to laugh.

Last night, we had a few friends over whom we have not seen in a while*.  We had actually been trying to meet up with a couple of these friends for quite some time, but were unable to previously because of work, traveling, illness, etc.  We made apple pie (straight from the apples!) and carved pumpkins.  Esta muy divertido . . . that is Spanish for fun =)

Carving pumpkins is actually a fairly new experience for me.  When we were young, we would get pumpkins for Halloween, but we could never carve them.   We were only allowed to decorate with sharpies and paint.  Last night I found out why.

Six of us made a collective four pumpkins.  Three of the pumpkins were made using stencils from a $4 kit.  We actually bought two kits because each kit came with only two pumpkin saws.  These little saws worked great for making intricate designs in pumpkin flesh...until they broke...which they did...quickly.  We tried to use steak knives instead, but found that to be more difficult than it was worth.  The larger blade greatly increased the risk of ruining our pumpkin pictures.

To overcome this barrier, I was luckily able to repair one of the saws by making a handle out of duct tape.  It worked well except that I had to hold the blade with my fingers to keep it stable.  By the end, my thumb and forefinger were feeling pretty raw.

Kira and my pumpkin was a ghost.  We almost cried when the majority of our design completely broke free from the rest of the pumpkin, leaving in its place a gaping mostly-ghost-shaped hole.  This time, paperclips came to our rescue.  The center of the ghost was spliced back into place quite nicely.
The other two stenciled gourdes are pictured here.  I think they turned out really well, too (with debatabley less drama--though Stephen may disagree with that statement).

I think our favorite pumpkin that night was carved by our friend, Kameron.  He is actually the most artistic among us, but unfortunately those skills did not transfer over to pumpkin carving as well as he would have liked.  The fact that he used no stencil and carved with the steak knife probably did not help.  I mean no offense to Kameron, of course, because we really did love his finished product.  And if anyone can figure out what that first number is--feel free to give him a call.  He's single.

*I apologize to any friends whom I have not seen in a while, who were not invited over this time.  We love and miss you, and we will hang out soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Autumn Leaves

What a fun season!

My wife loves summer.  Luckily for us, her next favorite season is fall.  She tells me that fall is God's way of bribing her to allow Him to take away summer.  I'm personally of the opinion that summer would end regardless of my opinion or desire, but I would not be surprised if God did occasionally take advice from one of His most pure and beautiful angels.

(This is us at the Orchestra at Temple Square concert last night.  It was great!)

In any case, a few weeks ago we went to Provo canyon and took pictures of the colored leaves.  I happen to be colorblind, so you will probably appreciate the majesty of these better than I can.


Then today, we wanted to get a picture of the leaves on the ground.  They have been crunchy and delicious all week, but today it rained.  We did not want to miss our opportunity, though, so we took pictures on the rainy leaves anyway (see slide-show at beginning).

The pictures turned out great.  Our backs turned out wet...

Friday, October 23, 2009 chat

--OztN Miller not an official spokesperson of the LDS Church or
Many people in the world have a skewed view of Mormon missionary work--including many Mormon missionaries.  This has not been clearer to me since I started to work at the MTC Referral Center a year ago.

The purpose of missionary work in the LDS Church is to invite others to come closer to Jesus Christ, and to help them to apply His Gospel in their lives.  Missionaries are not professional counselors or consultants; they can offer little advice on personal or intrapersonal issues.  Likewise, missionaries are not LDS apologists; they are not here to defend attacks on perceived fallacies in LDS doctrine or history.  Missionaries are simply teachers.

The two action words in the missionary purpose are "to invite" and "to help".  Missionaries are not here to force religion on anyone.  Rather, we know that millions of people in the world (quantity arbitrarily estimated) are trying to do what is right.  They may not necessarily be looking for Christ--or for religion at all--but we believe that if somebody's core desire is to discover what is right and true and to live by it, they will eventually recognize the Gospel of Jesus Christ when they come across it, and they will want to be a part of it.  These are the people whom Mormon missionaries are looking for.

I am grateful that the Referral Center (RC) exists.  Like most aspects of proselytizing missionary work, the RC is not perfect; however, this system does offer one more way for sincere seekers of knowledge and truth to come in contact with the LDS Church.  The vision and hope is that anyone in the world can, at any time, and in any language, talk to a Mormon missionary if they have questions about who we are and what we believe.  We are not there yet, but the RC--and especially the chat feature on bringing us one step closer to that goal.

One may ask, "If this is so important to the LDS Church, why do they allow meagerly trained young adults to do the majority of their missionary work?"  I have a few answers to this question.

The first answer is that the basic, core doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are not as complicated as many people believe.  Modern revelation has clarified what is important for us to know and understand.  Only a short time of devoted, prayerful study is really required to grasp the essential elements.  The LDS Church does not need to employ scholars or biblical experts to explain our beliefs.  In fact, the Lord has declared in modern scripture that He restored His Gospel through Joseph Smith in order "that [He] might show forth [His] wisdom through the weak things of the earth"
(D&C 124: 1; emphasis added).

The second answer is that missionary work is not the first priority of the LDS Church.  As I understand, the first priority is and should be family.  Young people who are not married do not have obligations to build or support a family.  They are thus able to devote their time and effort to teaching our core beliefs to those who want to know.

A third reason is that many young people in the LDS Church--especially if they have grown up with the church--do not always take the time or put in the effort required to gain their own conviction about the Gospel.  Preparing for and serving a full-time mission provides some incentive to these young people to do just that.  Young missionaries soon find that it is near impossible to teach as truth something that they do not yet wholeheartedly believe.

As a teacher in the RC, I have had wonderful opportunities to teach these things to new missionaries and to help missionaries to effectively teach other sincere seekers.  Occasionally, I have had time to actually take calls or chat with people on and it is an irreplaceable experience.  It is clear that much still needs to be done to help others understand who we are and what we are trying to accomplish, but I am excited by the steps that the LDS Church has taken.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Middle of the Night Projects

I feel like I have learned many important lessons in the past few years. One lesson that is particularly crucial for me is that I have gained a true thirst for knowledge and I have learned how to study. In the MTC, I had four to eight hours at a time devoted solely to study. At first, I would spend most of this time struggling to stay awake. Eventually though, I learned to love this study time and the hour of personal study I had every day for the next two years just never seemed like enough.

Unfortunately, I still have not perfected the art of doing projects early.  I have known about this project for several weeks now, and once again I am up in the middle of the night, putting together a powerpoint for my 9:30am class.  This follows the pattern that I established back in Vista Elementary School.  I remember, and my mom can verify, that I would stay up the night before something was due: pop-up books, science projects, college applications, etc.  I cannot count the number of nights at BYU that I slept less than an hour because of homework (over 3 this semester, I believe).

Tonight I am working on a group presentation about Judaism for my Media and World Religions class.  I know what you're thinking-- how can I afford to put off group projects in the same way that I put off personal assignments.  The answer is that I feel fairly confident in my powerpoint skills (more on this later) and I always offer to make the final presentation.  This means that the rest of my group can do their sections of research as early as they want as long as I have everything one night in advance of submission.

I generally try to start early, but something always comes up.  This time, I traded one night of sleep for a a weekend in Washington to visit family.  But really... can you blame a guy?

For your pleasure this morning, I have embeded a video that I will use tomorrow.  This is one example of how some Jews use the media for entertainment and motivation of youth.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cell post 1, It worked!

Sweet! I had to try several times, and as you can tell it took three separate text messages for Blogger to accept my semi-long message. Do you think my posts are too long?

Cell post 1, part III

I recently upgraded to a Sony Ericsson slider, and it is nice but i miss my Samsung Sync. It was a flip phone which i like, but mostly i miss the memory card.
Shortly after i got the sync, i bought a Micro SD card to store music on. I ended up storing more pictures than music and i got addicted to the ability. The Sony phones use a different kind of memory card and especially now that i have a blog on which to share pictures, i would love to be able to show y'all more of the things that i see from day to day (anyone know why y'all is not in t9?). Hopefully i will drop the extra shells soon so i can include you in things like the amazingly beautiful double rainbow we saw in Provo two days ago. Until then, what do you think of my text-only cell phone post(s)?

Cell post 1, part II

Don't worry though. The phone is fine.
Speaking again of cell phones--this appears to be the theme this week--it is amazing how much i rely on this little device. Everyone does it seems. And now that they come with gps technology, more and more science fiction is becoming reality. I have heard that department stores will detect when your phone is close to their store, and then they will send you coupons to use if you "come shop right now!" Who knew that the real-life version of Karl Capek's ''robot''s would fit in our pockets?

Cell post 1, part I

Blogger tells me that I can post from my phone. Since I am out of town this week, I figured I would give it a try.
...Apparently though my new phone does not like to auto-capitalize the word 'i'. i won't fix it now that i've warned you....
We made the ten-hour drive to Washington yesterday. Even though i have made the drive almost one hundred times, this time I got to use my newly acquired gps feature. That is until my phone started to overheat and my battery almost died. It turns out that gps-enabled cell phones are not meant to guide a ten-hour car trip.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I just came across this proposed mouse alternative called 10/GUI.  In incorporates touch-screen technology and the use of all 10 fingers... pretty amazing.

What do you think?

Facts & Firemen by Jonah Goldberg

Facts & Firemen, By Jonah Goldberg on National Review

Postmodernist ideals unintentionally yield "factual correctness". I thought this was some good satirical fun from a few years ago. My Game Theory professor shared it with us on our first day of class. It is not really related to Game Theory, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AT&T Spring

I was going to blog about staples today, because I think they are a genius invention.  Luckily for you, something better came up.

We had a lot of errands to run today to prepare for our upcoming road trip.  We changed our oil, got new windshield wipers, got a haircut, and did some miscellaneous shopping.  My phone has been acting a little funny, so we planned to stop by an AT&T store.  On our way, Kira's phone ironically died.  In the middle of a text, it went black...empty...dead.

We first went to one AT&T store at University mall (with entrance outside on the street).  After we explained our dilemma...they did squat.  The phone was past warranty so the best thing they suggested was to get a Go-phone from Wal*Mart to use until our upgrade date came around.  They did not even tell us when our upgrade date was.

By providence, they also suggested that we look for a new battery at one of the cell-phone-accessory stands inside the mall.  Three steps on this goose chase later, we found a different Spring AT&T store inside the same mall.  We found out later that this store was an authorized distributor of AT&T products, not a corporate-owned AT&T outlet like the first place.

The man at this store was extremely helpful.  We got a new phone for Kira at the upgrade price (with a rebate, and an extra $10 off); we changed our student discount from 15- to 20-percent off; and we were able to add internet and GPS capabilities to my phone for only $5 more on our monthly bill.

And to make things even better, I got a much higher score on my last Econ test than I expected.

Sorry, mom.  It looks like my bread always does land butter side up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to the Grindstone

I am so grateful that somebody wiser than I instructed me to have a day of rest every week. If not for what many call the Sabbath, I would continue to work restlessly every day of the week. Based on the work that I find myself doing Monday through Saturday, I am pretty convinced that if not for Sunday afternoons--when I literally will not allow myself to worry about homework and things--I am pretty sure I would die a year or two earlier than I hope to now. Yesterday, with my lovely wife I was able to enjoy a walk, a game of cribbage, and a viewing of Penelope.

That being said, Welcome to Monday!

As is tradition, I got up this morning shortly after my wife left for work. After showering and ensuring that I was ready to walk out the door any minute, I found myself with an hour or two of extra time--not abnormal on a weekday morning before school/work.

Today, I vacuumed the windows and straightened up the house a little; I did an online quiz for one of my classes; and I wrote a blog post before beginning my daily, half-hour walk to school.

Much of my daily routine has changed over the years:

1) I am much more apt to miss a social gathering today, than I would have a few years ago.  I think that a) my workload has increased, and b) I now better realize the importance of being studious and sacrificing what is appealing now for something that is more beneficial in the long run.

2) I now read books in my spare time.  I have always wanted to be a reader of books, but have never allowed myself to get started.  This year, I have started reading (re-reading of sorts) the Lord of the Rings trilogy and have also started on a Tom Clancy novel.  I have a bookshelf full of books about languages, religion, and space creatures--not to mention a world full of books that I do not have--that I can finally start chipping away at.

3) I do household chores a lot sooner.  I used to put vacuuming and straightening off for days or weeks.  Now I do it whenever I have time.  This is not because I value cleanliness a lot more than I used to, but mostly because I know that if I do not do it then my wife will.  She already works hard enough that I need to stay ahead of her a little in order to give her time to rest.

The reasons for these changes are various.  But a lot of them are centered around growing up and having more constraints on my time.  You are probably asking yourself, "if that is the case, how does Austin have time to blog?"

I do not yet know the answer to that question.

Do you have any ideas?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Weekend

I mentioned in my welcome post that I have been exceptionally busy these past couple weeks.  My beautiful wife can attest to this.  Luckily today, I finally had some free time.  Granted,  I worked today from 8 to 3, and I did have some church duties to attend to-- but I actually had time to relax with my wife.  We got to go shopping for clothes that we need for family pictures next week, and we watched the preseason Suns' game that was broadcast on TNT (sorry BYU fans:  Suns trump in this family).

This week I had two Econ tests (one faring better than the other- once I was able to relax and convince myself to slow down and stop making dumb mistakes), and I lost a lot of sleep.  It was nice today to take a breath, if only for a few hours.

Here is our funny anecdote for the day:

As we were looking for shirts of a certain color (green, brown, or something called "burgundy"), we found ourselves in the Aeropostale.  I quickly found a green sweater that I like, but we had a hard time finding something for Kira.

Eventually we found a brown sweater that she likes.  Kira tried it on and it fit great, but it was missing the tie that wrapped around the middle.  Naturally, the employees at the store found another sweater in the same size with the tie--bless their hearts.  Kira bought it (1).

Then we realized that we forgot to get the sweater for me.  So we bought it on a second purchase (2).  Unfortunately, after we swiped the card the second time we saw that the green sweater did not ring up at the sale price.  They ran our card again to give us the discount (3).

I think the Aeropostalians were glad to be rid of us at this point.  If this is the case... I am sorry for them.

After leaving the store, Kira tried on the brown sweater to find that it did not fit near as well as the sweater without the tie.  We returned to the store, much to the chagrin of the 4 employees on duty.

"I know we had you find this other sweater, and we're grateful, " we said. "But we can we have the first one again?"....  They made the exchange (4).

You might think we were done, but to make a longer story even shorter--after looking at PacSun's jackets, we realized that a coat that Kira was eying at Aero was actually a really great deal.  And Kira's been looking for a new coat...

We debated for a minute, and eventually decided to get the coat (5).

I don't know if this is normal for any of you who spend a lot of time at the mall- but 5 transactions at the same store within an hour just seems a little excessive.

I give my love to Jill, Tommy, Kevin, and Allyse-- thanks for your help and patience, Aeropostalians.

Welcome to 7!

So I decided to try my hand at this whole online captain's log.  I have so far spent a grand total of some-odd days and several hours creating the basic design for this web page.  And not only did I come up with this fairly sweet look, I also learned quite a bit about HTML in the process.

This blog is kind of an experiment for me.  My intent is to be able to use this as kind of a journal of my experiences, funny things I notice, and epiphanies I have along the way.  My hope is that I can preserve these things for myself and also share my thoughts with those of you who may care.  I suspect at least my parents will be interested in the things that I am learning and accomplishing.

I want to give you a lot of background on my life, but I will probably have to explain things as I go.  For tonight--as it is actually 2 am as you can from the timestamp--I will just give you some basics.  I have been quite busy lately as I hope only a college student can be.  I say "I hope" not because I do not wish to be busy the rest of my life, but because I hope to be busy with things other than homework and studying for tests.  Someday I hope to be able to study things just for the sake of knowing things.  In the meantime, I am content to study for the sake of earning a degree so that I can get a decent job to support my family.

In future posts I will give you more details about school, work, my family, my aspirations, my introspections, and my phone.

Until then, how about an 80's movie quote:

Where we're going...we don't need roads.