Monday, December 29, 2008

May The Lord Help Me So To Do

"When the Saints trickled into the Salt Lake Valley, all they owned, or could hope to get, was carried in a wagon, or they must make it themselves."They marked off the temple site before even the rudest log home was built."There was an architect in that first company, William Weeks, who had designed the Nauvoo temple. But the hopeless desolation was too much for him. When President Young went east in 1848, Brother Weeks left, saying, 'They will never build the temple without me' (see Thomas Bullock Journals, 1844-1850, 8 July 1848, Church Archives).

"Truman O. Angell, a carpenter, was appointed to replace him. He said:
'If the President and my brethren feel to sustain a poor worm of the dust like me to be Architect of the Church, let me . . . serve them and not disgrace myself. . . . May the Lord help me so to do'
(Truman O. Angell Journal, 1857-8 Apr. 1868, 28 May 1867, Church Archives)."
Boyd K. Packer, "The Temple, the Priesthood," Ensign, May 1993, 19

Saturday, December 27, 2008


"In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in the United States, when people were struggling to make ends meet, Elder John A. Widtsoe admonished the Saints to pay their tithing because of the spiritual blessings they would receive. He said: 'Obedience to the law of tithing . . . brings a deep, inward joy . . . that can be won in no other way. . . . The principles of truth become clearer. . . . Prayer becomes easier. . . . The spiritual sense is sharpened [and] . . . man becomes more like his Father in Heaven' ("Tithing Testimonies of Our Leaders," Deseret News, May 16, 1936, Church Section, 5)."

Sheldon F. Child, "The Best Investment," Ensign, May 2008, 80-81

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent Night

One of the all-time great Christams Carols is Silent Night. It was written in Austria by Joseph Mohr in 1816, with the music composed at Mohr's request by Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818. It was originally written with guitar accompaniment and the pair sung it at Midnight Mass that night.

Silent Night quickly gained in popularity, partly because it was sung by a traveling family singing troupe and eventually was even sung for royalty.

Silent night Holy night
All is calm all is bright
'Round yon virgin Mother and Child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia;
Christ the Savior is born;
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Yes Virginia There Is A Santa

From the New York Sun, via the Deseret News, comes this timeless editorial:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following editorial, among the most famous ever written, appeared in The New York Sun in 1897 and remains appropriate for this holiday season 111 years later.


We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor! I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun it's so.'' Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon.

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Follow the above link to read the rest. It really is great.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more

Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!” he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo!

“That’s a noise, “grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow …

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN‘T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

Layoffs - An Example

A real world example of the layoff discussion I recently wrote about:

My company let an employee go this week. As controller, I had a small part in that decision because I put together a productivity measurement for this particular division and it shows a fairly gloomy outlook for them at their current staffing level. This report measures each employee's productivity, aggregates them, and gives us a cost per unit number.

The cost per unit is too high, which necessitated the staff reduction. We looked at the employees with the worst productivity, factored in other performance issues, and selected someone to let go. This improved our cost per unit by 9%.

2008 was not a kind year to this division, and that's putting it gently. Our product is very labor dependent, so a 9% drop in labor cost per unit is significant. It allows us to keep our prices competitive in our market, as well as begin to improve our overall performance. Without this improvement, it's not unreasonable to expect our owners to contemplate shutting down the entire division. An action which obviously would affect the entire company.

But our former employee is without a job. She is now part of that unemployment rate statistic broadcast consistently in every media source. She likely doesn't know about the data used in the decision making process - nor is she likely to care. All she knows is that she was let go, and who knows what the job outlook is.

These are the dueling concerns every business faces. No one takes joy in staff reductions, but those with the data know that without reducing costs the business may not last as a going concern.

Keep That Christmas Spirit Year Round

Here's how.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Layoffs - Pros & Cons

From NPR's Planet Money program comes this segment on layoffs, including an interview with Don Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University who also blogs at Cafe Hayek.

Mr. Boudreaux explains that layoffs keep business and the economy flexible, which is a good thing. Of course, the two recently unemployed people interviewed don't share his view.

Of interest is the story told by one of the interviewers about the riots in France a couple of years ago. He said the young people rioting consistently told him they had nothing to do because they could not get jobs. French employers, on the other hand, said they would not hire young workers because they have no flexibility if the employee doesn't work out. Young people have no work history to report, and the lack of labor flexibility means they won't be hired.

It's an interesting story, particularly in light of the way this radio segment was presented. Mr. Boudreaux's view was treated as purely academic; a cold, libertarian, unconcerned-with-real-people view. However, the French riots illustrate quite well how dismissing cold theory can lead to "real person" suffering.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Iraqi Reporter Throws Shoe at President

Perhaps you've heard the story.

For context, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, from the archives:

It was dark when they brought a group of people (prisoners) in front of the vehicle. The drivers got out of our vehicles and turned on the headlights," he said.

Some prisoners tried to grab an automatic rifle from a guard, but failed because "we were so weak," he said.

Soldiers then opened fire. "I ran and fell into a ditch. It was full of bodies. I fell on a body. It was still alive. It was his last breath," said the witness. "It was really unbelievable, the number of people being killed like this."

Slightly wounded, he stripped off his clothes, thinking he was more likely to blend into the color of the sand if he were naked, the witness said. He then began running again.

"As I was running, I saw many pits, I saw many mounds, and I saw lots of people who had been shot," he said. "The desert was full of mounds that had people buried underneath."

The witness said he took refuge with Kurds living nearby, then traveled north. For the next 15 years he lived in hiding, moving frequently, until Saddam's ouster.

A Kurdish witness — Mutalib Mohammed Salman, 78 — told the court that his wife and 32 relatives disappeared in 1988 after troops overran his village in northern Iraq.

Salman said his wife's body and the remains of two other relatives were found in a mass grave after Saddam's regime was toppled in 2003.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Mother of All Home Christmas Light Music Displays: Wizard in Winter

From the youtube user who posted this:

Wow, this thing has really gone crazy with the viewers. Let me first start by saying that this is not my house. Regardless of what any of the comments read, this house really does exist, I have seen it with my own eyes and nothing you see in the video is trickery, it's all real.
This display was the work of Carson Williams, a Mason, Ohio, electrical engineer who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that controlled the 16,000 Christmas lights in his annual holiday lighting spectacular (from Christmas 2004). His 2005 display includes over 25,000 lights that he spent nearly two months and $10,000 to hook up. So that the Williams' neighbors aren't disturbed by constant noise, viewers driving by the house are informed by signs to tune in to a signal broadcast over a low-power FM radio station to hear the musical accompaniment.

The rough quality of the video has led some viewers to believe it was put together in stop-action form from still photographs, but that is an artifact of the high compression used in the clip circulated via e-mail. Mr. Williams has posted instructions for recreating his "Wizard in Winter" sequencing, and another of his choreographed Christmas light music shows can be viewed here.

Carson's Christmas display proved so popular that it was featured in a Miller Lite beer commercial in December 2005.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frisco Square Lights

Snow College's Top of the Mountains Bowl

Snow Bowl

I went to the Top of the Mountains Bowl last Saturday to watch Snow College play Butler in the Junior College football National Championship game. I have no personal link to Snow, other than them being in Utah, but it was a beautiful day to watch a championship game. Plus I got to check out the new Rio Tinto soccer stadium for the first time.

The game itself was really good. Snow struggled on offense for much of the game, as they could not seem to protect the quarterback and insisted on running a 5'9" 175lb guy at a stacked defensive line. But the game completely changed once the 4th quarter began. Snow forced a fumble on the 30 yard line or so, and threw for a touchdown. Butler's ensuing drive ended with a 3 and out, and Snow returned the punt deep into Butler territory. The good field position resulted in another quick touchdown and a tie game. Butler got the ball back with about 2 minutes left and had a pretty good drive going, which had all the Snow players' parents in the stands worried (that was actually one of the more entertaining aspects of the game - the mother of one of the players sat right behind us. She was a hoot). But that drive ended and Snow got the ball back with a little bit of time, making it seem like Snow was destined for a fantastic finish at Butler's expense. A long pass got them into Butler territory, about one good play away from field goal range, but the referees started the game clock up really quickly after the first down and no one on Snow's team realized it until only a few seconds were left. So they called a timeout and were forced to go for a touchdown. They pulled a Boise St. and tried the hook and ladder, but were unable to get into the endzone. So the game went into overtime.

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Butler got the ball first and Snow's defense held. After already having blocked an extra point and a punt, I think everyone in the stadium could sense another block coming, and that's exactly what happened. It was pandemonium in the stands. Until, that is, Butler's players starting jumping around and the referees signaled a touchdown. Apparently, after the kick was blocked, the ball was touched by a Snow player, rolled into the end zone, and was recovered by a Butler player - resulting in a most improbable and gut wrenching touchdown. Even worse, on Snow's very next play, the receiver bobbled a pass and had it intercepted to end the game. Two quick plays, one right after the other, and the game was over. The nature of the ending, particularly after a fourth quarter that had the momentum entirely in Snow's favor, had everyone in shock.

All in all, it was a great game, and a fun way to spend an afternoon. I got to see two good teams play for a championship in a brand new stadium, and I even got to chat about Boise St football with a stadium usher (I was wearing a BSU hat and he came over to shake my hand because of it).

One final note however. Immediately after the interception that ended the game, there were a handful of Butler players that rather than celebrate with their teammates, chose to sprint all the way across the field and point and taunt the Snow sideline. One player even did a backflip. It was truly classless. On the bright side, the U now knows where to look for its future stars...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Tree Facts from National Christmas Tree Association

  • There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.
  • There are close to half a billion Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers. Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms
  • North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent (80%) of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
  • Real Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • There are more than 4,000 Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
  • For every Real Christmas Tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • There are about 500,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
  • There are about 21,000 Christmas Tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 - 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.
  • The top Christmas Tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. (See a complete list of all 50 states ranked by several variables.)
  • The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine.

    USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) and your local Christmas Tree professional.

FDR's Pearl Harbor Speech

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Siberian Sleigh Ride Lights

I think the best part about this one are the comments at youtube about how this would make an awesome song on guitar hero or rock band.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Salt Lake City, Temple Square Lights

One of the best Christmas traditions is going to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the lights.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

O Holy Night

O Holy Night was written in 1847 in France by a poet named Placide Cappeau, who was asked by the parish priest to write a poem for Christmas Mass. December 3, while on a trip to Paris, Cappeau pondered Luke 2 and pictured himself there on the night of the Savior's birth. Using that imagry as inspiration, he wrote "Cantique de Noel". Cappeau felt it should have music, so upon arriving in Paris he asked his friend Adolphe Adam to compose a tune.

The song quickly became a Christmas favorite, though it suffered through some persecution as it was banned by the Church because its author's subsequent vocal anti-slavery views, and it's composer was accused of being a Jew. But the song could not be kept down, and continued to be sung and loved by the masses.

It made it's way to America in 1855 when it was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister and journalist who was drawn to the implied abolitionist tone of the song. It was Dwight that translated Cappeau's words to say,
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
O Holy Night quickly became a favorite in the US.

Of note is that on Christmas Eve 1906 a Canadian inventor in Massachusetts, Reginald Fessenden, played O Holy Night on a violin for the first ever AM radio broadcast. He also read from Luke 2 and played Handel's "Largo" on a phonograph.

O Holy Night is one of my favorite Christmas songs. I often prefer instrument-only versions to those that are sung. I enjoy listening to the power of the music, and silently supplying the words on my own.

The Amazing Story of O Holy Night

Poorly Run Organizations...

Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

He shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God

The time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent...shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay....He shall suffer temptations, and pain....And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mosiah 3:5, 7-8

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Christmas Spirit

I am the Christmas Spirit.
I enter the home of poverty, causing pale-faced children to open their eyes wide in pleased wonder.
I cause the miser's clutched hand to relax and thus paint a bright spot on his soul.
I cause the aged to renew their youth and to laugh in the glad old way.
I keep romance alive in the heart of childhood and brighten sleep with dreams woven of magic.
I cause eager feet to climb dark stairways with filled baskets, leaving behind them hearts amazed at the goodness of the world.
I cause the prodigal to pause a moment on his wild, wasteful way, and send to anxious love some little token that releases glad tears-tears which wash away the hard lines of sorrow.
I enter dark prison cells, reminding scarred manhood of what might have been, and pointing forward to good days yet to come.
I come softly into the still, white home of pain; and lips that are too weak to speak just tremble in silent, eloquent gratitude.
In a thousand ways I cause the weary world to look up into the face of God, and for a little moment forget the things that are small and wretched.
I am the Christmas Spirit.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson