Thursday, December 31, 2009

I am Going to Usher in the New Decade with Happiness

This year (and this decade) has been great in a lot of ways. I've been surprised at some of the opportunities and successes that have come my way. But some of these successes have come with a price, especially this year. For instance, this year my level of happiness kind of crashed and burned. Now it's time for me to come around and get it back.

Happiness seems like such an elusive term, but there are some things I can do to ensure my happiness meter goes up. The first key is to not be overly busy. Having so much on my plate this year has frustrated both my ability and desire to serve people. You recall the story of the Good Samaritan? I never used to relate to the passersby in the parable. I used to think, "Who are these guys?? Why don't they just help the poor wounded traveler?" Now, I completely relate to them--they were probably really busy. I sometimes feel like I embody the Levite and priest quite well; wrapped up in my own affairs and not looking outside myself to help others in need. And when I do serve, I often times do it reluctantly--either checking the clock and preoccupied with what I need to do next. So I want to change that this year. I need simplify my life because the very last thing I want is to put a damper on my relationship to people around me.

The next key is to do some things that I don't want to do. This may seem counter-intuitive, but some of my happier moments in life (looking back) has involved me getting outside my comfort zone. I'm beginning to see that there are things that I naturally don't want to do, but when I do them anyways, it makes me happier. For example, if I wake up tired, and it's cold and dark outside, when I push away my natural tendencies and go for a run anyway, I feel great afterwards. But I am not so much referring to overcoming my physical comfort zone. Rather I am referring to my social and spiritual comfort zones. My body doesn't always correctly forecast what I want and need. Sometimes I need to do things that are counter-intuitive in the short-term, but very wise in the long-term.

Finally, there's a scripture in the book of Proverbs:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
I've become quite the independent person. But lately I have realized two things: I cannot do it all, and I don't want to do it all. My goal is to become more dependent on the Lord. I want to enter into more of a partnership with Him, rather than putting all of life's burdens on my shoulders.

So there you have it. 2010 is going to be one fetching good year. Good Samaritan, mind over matter, and Proverbs. Happy New Year's to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Brief Moment of Fame Following a Tragedy in Orem

Today was an interesting day and now I am famous all across Utah. Here is how it all went down.

My brother Graden came to visit with news that he had caught on camera the entire life cycle of a house catching on fire. While driving along, he saw firetrucks approaching so he pulled off to the side of the road. Then he noticed that the house across the street was smoking. He pulled out his camcorder and started filming. His video caught in high definition flames enveloping the house. It is a really sad story for the family, who lost their house. But Graden was in the right time and the right place to document this happening.

Being the entrepreneur that he is, Graden wanted to see if any of the news stations would like his footage. We started calling and we found instant interest. The news stations had arrived too late to the doused house to record anything interesting. They gladly agreed to accept the high quality video and credit my brother. The file was quite large (500 mb) so I had to work some magic to make it available for download on my server personal server.

A couple hours later, on the 6 o'clock news, KUTV and KSL both showed Graden's video. KUTV properly gave the credit to the video to Graden, but KSL, for some reason, credited the video to me. Later that night, the video was featured on the front page of KSL's website.

It is remarkable that my brother and I shaped the way that news was presented to Utah today. Without Graden's graphic footage and his willingness to share, the story might not have made such headlines. This is the direction that news will go in the future: citizen's media. The masses providing the masses with news. Sure, we will still need aggregators of news, but having a news agency gather all relevant news will soon be a thing of the past. News aggregators will have to inevitably rely on the masses to provide them with news. This will be only easier to accomplish with ubiquity in cell phones, cameras, and internet.

To see the video uncut, check it out on Youtube here. The flames get really big. Also, if you want to see me get credited on KSL for something I did not do, check it out on KSL's website.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Christmas in the USA

I am the oldest in my family, which means that growing up I was a trailblazer. I accomplished some good things and grew in areas that my brothers and sister would later follow. I am pretty sure, however, that my dad is most proud of me for one thing: my ability to sit down and enjoy a football game. Obviously it would be frustrating for an avid football fan such as my dad to have kids that don't share in his football appreciation. But my dad has told me on many occasions that is precisely his situation: kids for the most part who are apathetic to football. This may seem strange, but the ability to like watching football is something that my dad never fails to praise me on.

On that note, I was watching the last part of the Army v. Navy game last night. Navy, coming as little surprise, won the game. Following the post-game celebrations, Navy's coach was interviewed about what this game meant to him. He actually became really emotional at that point. He was proud of the players for both schools. He added that many of them would be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight in wars and risk their lives. He downplayed his victory that day as "only a football game." Then the interview concluded. It was a sobering response, and a topic that I probably don't think enough about! We have such brave men and women who are protecting our country. They are amazing and I hope that they feel it.

This Christmas season, many thousands of troops are overseas and unable to spend time with their family and friends. I ran across a great idea that Xerox is sponsoring. It's called LetsSayThanks.com. You create a card on this website and Xerox will actually print out and send the card to someone in the armed forces. Making the card can literally take 10 seconds and will most likely lift someone's spirits to know that the sacrifices they are going through are not going unnoticed.

Hope everyone has a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How we choose our friends

I was noticing the other day that my irate Bank of America post was still at the forefront of my blog. I knew that I had to change that or else someone might think that I am a bitter person. Besides, Bank of America has since changed their overdraft policy as I found out recently. I'm glad that I was a part of the backlash.

Have you ever thought about how you become friends with certain people? For instance, you can be in a big group setting and be able to interact with everyone, but you'll gravitate to certain types of people. Why is that? You can probably force yourself to be around other types that you don't naturally jive with, but in an ideal environment, you'll be attracted to certain people.

I think part of how you choose friends has to do with the early beginnings: the family and the people that surround you early on in life. I think you are attracted to characteristics and personality traits that these people find attractive. But family is only one part, in my humble opinion (Note: my opinion in this entire post is very humble because I have no formal experience with psychology or sociology so take this with a grain of salt). Next you might wonder about how you choose friends that are very much different from your family. Part of the answer may lie in who chooses you early on in life. You then get comfortable with these types of familiar personalities and they stick with you.

In sum, I believe it all boils down to a combination of environment and genetics. Isn't it interesting how the answer to almost everything in life is a combination of two extremes. That is why I think it is unwise to be either a full-fledged Republican or Democrat. You've got to have balance and realize that there are answers in both extremes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bank of America uses immoral practices to squeeze money out of the customer

Our world is now quite accustomed to fine print. Every company has to cover its back by countless clauses of legalese. Sometimes, though, companies can use the fact that no one reads fine print to literally take advantage of people. Such is the case with Bank of America's debit card policy.

Last week, I messed up and bounced a check. Ooops. No one is perfect with their finances. So I was in the negative. I didn't know that I was in the negative, however. Contrary to Bank of America's assumption, I don't check my account balance on a daily basis. Even though I am enrolled in the online banking, I received no email about the overdraft. The next day, I went to the Post Office and bought a stamped envelope on my debit card for 54¢. Bank of America charged the card even though I didn't have any money. The next day I did the exact thing. A total of $1.08. Then they charged me a fee of $35 for each day. Their policy with debit cards is that Bank of America assumes you are in an emergency and will charge the sum of money, and then ding you with a $35 overdraft fee. Am I the only one that thinks this default policy is ridiculous? When I don't have any money in my bank account, my assumption is that my debit card will be declined. I'm in an emergency far less frequently than not and if I was in an emergency, I'd want to call up the Bank to allow for an exception. The fine print, though, finds ways to jack the customer and give the giant bank corporation more profits. Should Bank of America really assume that spending one dollar was worth $70 to me? Pleading with the stone-cold representative and her supervisor did me no good, so I am now resorting to my only other forum to spread the word about this crappy policy.

The representative offered to change my account settings so that my card will be declined when there are no funds and I accepted. Why can't this be the case by default? It should be. Do any other banks engage in this shady practice?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Take on Net Neutrality

In case you haven't noticed, the internet is a huge passion in my life. I understand this may seem weird, but very few topics about the internet do not interest me. The latest news about the internet comes from Tim Berners, who yesterday declared that the web should be uncontrolled and unfettered by corporations and governments. The debate on the nature of the internet is not new. As the internet becomes increasingly relevant and vital to society, it is very apparent how much the internet has changed from its very independent and free-spirited beginnings. Here is an excerpt written by John Perry Barlow in 1996 entitled A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

This declaration embodies net neutrality better than anything else I've come across. I am not a fan of complete net neutrality. The internet has turned into something that is very similar to real life, and that reality necessitates real-life laws and regulations. For instance, breaking into someone else's computer is similar to theft: you have violated another's personal property without their permission. The internet is also a natural extension of human speech and should be subject to the tort actions of libel and slander. Intellectual property, like trademarks, copyrights, and patents, simply must be regulated or else needs to be protected online.

Having established that the internet should be regulated to some degree, I think we should resort to the law regulation as a last resort. Lawrence Lessig explains that there are 4 ways of regulating the internet: law, markets, social norms, and architecture. In my opinion, these other regulations should be used to a much greater extent than the law. From the perspective of a computer geek, it is amazing what kinds of things you can do to safeguard yourself or your property using the architecture of the internet. Behind everything on the internet is code. The internet should and most likely will continue to use that architecture to protect people and ensure them their rights. Social norms also play a vital role. If a certain behavior is highly frowned upon, there is a much greater chance the behavior won't be pursued. Also, maybe even most importantly, markets determine people's incentives for doing things online. If people out there can't make money doing bad things, they won't continue doing them.

In sum, I am more partial to net neutrality than I am to a completely regulated and interfered with internet. There is simply too much good that comes from the openness and flexibility of the internet. Governments should intrude only as absolutely needed.

The Road to Love is not Always Laced with Roses

Dating-relationships can be crappy. When you start to date someone, there are only two possible outcomes: it either works out, or it doesn't. If you're like me, it's hard for you to work out with someone. That means that you start something up, only to see it die time and time again. Each relationship death is a painful experience.

Does it have to be painful? My experience is yes. Throughout the course of one's lifetime, it is inevitable to have feelings for someone else. It is part of our human wiring. These feelings range from friendly, childhood affections to more mature, romantic feelings. It doesn't matter if you are seeking a casual friendship, a networking opportunity, or a significant other, you are bound to be turned down by someone else out there sometime in your life. Romantic love can be the most painful because you are tapping into your deepest feelings. It takes a while to learn that when you freely give away your love and affection, and putting your heart out there, your feelings are likely to not be reciprocated and your heart to get trampled on. If you don't feel this pain, you are most likely dishing it out to someone else.

Is having painful relationship deaths a bad thing? My experience is yes. Some act like breaking up is not a big deal, or that they have transcended getting hurt by dating. I think these individuals are either deceiving themselves or they are more robotic than human. I think that the more relationship deaths we experience, our hearts shrivel up a little bit. We become a little more apathetic and we are less apt to put our love out there for others. We act like we don't have feelings, act like we're above the game, and are less willing to love. A bad thing, in my opinion.

Is there an alternative to being poked by the barbs that are strewn along the road to love? I don't think there is an alternative. When someone is trying to find love, there is always a risk of disappointment and failure. Perhaps you could sit and do nothing, but we all know that inaction does not lead anywhere noteworthy. My bottom line is that notwithstanding the highly probable pain along the way, you've got to keep believing and having confidence that someone, someday will love you back when you show them your love.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Turn the other cheek

Yesterday I was reading a sermon where the Savior sets forth the higher law in regard to the law of Moses. Instead of "an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth," Jesus outlined that whoever smites you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone sues for your coat, give him your cloak too. And if anyone makes you go a mile with him, go two miles with him. Give to him that asketh thee, and give to him that would like to borrow from you.

Talk about a difficult set of scriptures! I wondered if anyone that lives a normal, everyday life really lives by these words? To me, this block of scripture meant pure selflessness to others, not thinking about your own interests at all. I at least could not claim to live by these teachings. But even thinking of how truly selfless Jesus was during his lifetime, I didn't picture him always doing what others wanted him to do. He always did what the Father did, but Christ was not a super-meek and submissive person to his fellow man. Needless to say, I was perplexed by the text and wanted to reconcile the teachings to everyday life.

Spencer and I were talking about this on our way up to Salt Lake land. His BYU religion professor Stephen L. Robison claimed that this scripture needed to be understood in the context of Jewish culture. When it said "whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also" it meant that you get back on your feet after someone takes you down. This answer didn't satisfy me though. I understand that you could rationalize Jesus' teachings by saying He wanted to stress a point of humility to others, so He fell down pretty hard on the side of selflessness. But when you are looking at the text of the scriptures (the New International Version is virtually identical to the King James version), I found some serious doctrines that are hard to rectify with real-world life.

Every once in a while, God sees what's happening in our lives and intervenes to teach a principle. I was supposed to take a right at the 1300 S exit, but instead got in the left lane. Once I realized my mistake, I sheepishly tried to inch back into the long line of cars also desiring to go right. The people in the right lane were livid mad that I was trying to cut in front of them. One grandma would net let me in one inch and the backseat 45-year-old man was shouting at me from behind the window. Three or four other drivers met me with similar contempt. I stared at these people with a calm and fixed demeanor. Then it struck me. This is what turning the other cheek meant. God was teaching me an eternal principle on I-15. These scriptures didn't mean letting bad people do bad things to you, but rather having a different mindset. When someone does something bad to you (like cutting in front of you [this is really bad guys, huh]), give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you'll get burned by someone who is really trying to maliciously do bad things to you (and cut in front of you on purpose). However, it may also be the case that they just missed a turn and need to get back into your lane. Why risk turning into an evil human being because this person might cost you 5 seconds of your day. Life is short, be nice to people. Maybe your example will help someone else be nice.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Global Warming is Happening, for Real

I have recently come across those who don't believe that global warming is happening, or that mankind is not directly causing it. I have nothing against such beliefs - I fully support people exercising their God-given rights to believe in whatever pleases them. However, when I hear the argument that the global warming phenomenon has no scientific data to support, it makes me want to rise up and condemn such an ignorant position. I don't know why, but this disregard for science literally boils my blood. My frustration is most likely due to climate change turning into a partisan debate. Because people are passionate about politics, it doesn't take very much evidence to persuade them that they are on the right side of the debate. However, yesterday the White House released its most strongly worded report about how climate change is unequivocally happening. This detailed report, which cost us Americans $15 billion to research, pulled together research spanning many years and multiple administrations. The report, which included many different types of models in a region-specific manner, painted a bleak and sobering picture of what's going on in our world. Dr. Jerry Melillo, said climate change is fact, not opinion.
"It is clear that climate change is happening now. The observed climate changes we report are not opinions to be debated. They are facts to be dealt with."
A brief overview of the science behind climate change. The greenhouse concept was discovered long ago (1824) and so accepted today that you could find the principle illustrated at any junior high science fair. When greenhouse gases are present, there is more potential to absorb heat, thus warming the surface and atmosphere of the planet. Right now, there are more greenhouse gases than ever. The concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane are higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. Geological evidence supports that the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere was 20 million years ago.

The principle that humans are contributing to global warming is well established in the scientific community. It's kind of like the principle "smoking causes cancer." Sure there will be some people even within the scientific community who claim this cannot be established as fact. They claim "other things cause cancer" or "some individual smoke and never develop cancer" but just like in global warming, these naysayers are looking at the exceptions and not at the established scientific data.

With so much data available in our world today, it should come as no surprise that there is evidence both for and against global warming. Statisticians can play with numbers and show anything they want. But in my quest to understand what is really going on, I have found more scientific literature which supports global warming hands-down. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific, intergovernmental organization that assesses the body of scientific literature. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature. The organization seeks to state only conclusive findings, rather than doomsday predictions or even highly probable, but not established theories. Because of this, what the IPCC establishes is very authoritative. While individual scientists have voiced disagreement with some findings of the IPCC, the overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC's main conclusions. These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least thirty scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. These conclusions are that the average temperature has increased and that most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in man-made greenhouse gas concentrations via an enhanced greenhouse effect. Three compelling points are worthy of emphasizing.

The temperature of the earth is increasing - In the last 50 years, the temperature of the earth has risen 2ยบ F. Before this, the temperature of the earth for the last couple thousand years has been relatively stable. The year 2005 was the hottest on record, based on estimates by NASA.




The glaciers are disappearing - A 2001 report by the IPCC suggests that glacier retreat, ice shelf disruption such as that of the Larsen Ice Shelf, and sea level rise are attributable in part to global warming. The consequences of this are frightening, but I will save this for another time. The key to this post is not the consequences of global warming, but that it is occurring.

The oceans are becoming acidic - Oceans are being greatly affected by climate change. Not only are the glaciers melting, as the temperatures of the oceans are increasing, the acidity of the ocean's waters are also increasing. Increased atmospheric CO2 increases the amount of CO2 dissolved in the oceans. CO2 dissolved in the ocean reacts with water to form carbonic acid, resulting in ocean acidification. Ocean surface pH is estimated to have decreased from 8.25 near the beginning of the industrial era to 8.14 by 2004, and is projected to decrease by a further 0.14 to 0.5 units by 2100 as the ocean absorbs more CO2.

Some of you reading this have the glossed look in your eyes, ready and excited to resort to your trusted global warming defenses. The first defense is other factors contribute to the temperature of the earth. The IPCC even remarks that natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward. Solar flares also contribute to the earth's temperature. The argument is kind of like saying, "My lifestyle does not cause me to be fat-it's my genetic predisposition. There's no point in exercising or eating healthily doing so would not in and of itself lead me to be skinny." Just because there are other factors (which are uncontrollable by us), does not mean that we shouldn't work on the controllable factors. It is interesting to note that in 2005 (the hottest year on record) the solar flares were at their lowest levels in 30 years.
The second defense is that the earth goes in cycles. We do go in cycles, but the recent trend is not natural. Even if the hockey stick graph is not conclusive, all major models project that the earth will continue to heat up for years to come.

There are other critiques and defenses to the global warming hypothesis, and I will address them in the comment section. But why do I bring up global warming on my blog? Recognition is the first step. My motive was not necessarily to inspire a decrease in greenhouse gas consumption (although if that were to happen, I would definitely be happy. I myself try to conserve energy when I can by recycling, driving fuel-efficiently, and conserving energy. The more people that go green the better!) Mostly I wanted to first establish a fact that sadly has not been established yet. Our planet needs us to look after it better. I want to go back to Alaska and see all the glaciers that I remember seeing as a boy. My hope is for each of us to be honest when talking about climate change. Instead of saying, “There isn't enough evidence that humans are contributing to global warming,” say “I don't care about the environment” or “I care more about making money than preserving something for future generations.”

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

To the financially weary, I salute you

I used to think I was an economic conservative. It was easy and logical to think that the world justly rewards according to one's own work. I used to view the poor as somehow deserving of their condition either by not working hard enough, or by poor decisions that should not be rewarded. I don't feel that way anymore. You hear stories of people who got that one lucky break or that chance to shine. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy. But for every success story, there are many more stories of good-intentioned, honest, hard-working people who fail. A lot of times, it is nothing more than the luck of the draw - Luck of skillsets, health, interests, upbringing, education, and networks. And what bugs me the most is corporations like banks, credit card companies, and insurance companies acting as the bully by taking advantage of these disadvantaged folk. To fight these big corporations and to get out of poverty, you need certain things like education, skills, good health and connections. But each of these costs valuable resources. Without any access to these resources, the poor remain entrenched in their dilapidated state. Maybe it's possible to rise out of the poverty cycle, but so many simply do not. I realize my generalizations may be a wee overly broad, but what I write of happens far too often to go unnoticed. Am I advocating socialism? Absolutely not. I just see the injustice of our society and I wish it could be better somehow. If I ever get rich, which is actually one of my biggest goals in life, I will not forget where I came from.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Conpiracy theories debunked

Have you ever heard a theory that sounds ridiculous at first? It doesn't make sense and requires lots of explanation for it to come together. Call me skeptical, but my experience has been that the vast majority of these "conspiracy theories" are bologna. Nine times out of ten, the simplest explanation is the correct explanation.

A few years ago, I watched a movie with my cousins about how 9/11 "really happened." It explained that the government had really ordered the attack to give it motivation to go after other countries. The hour-long film was pretty convincing and did a wonderful job of arousing an emotional response. I was confused. Then Google came to my rescue. After searching for a response to the 9/11 conspiracy theory, I found a very succinct and comprehensive rebuttal to all the arguments presented in the conspiracy theory. This experience opened my eyes to how I approach digesting theories that don't jive well with me.

A lot of the reason that people latch onto beliefs that seem kind of weird is because of an emotional response triggered and a failure to research the other side of the issue. Here is a list of other conspiracy theories that I hear people believing in.
  • There is a cure for cancer that is being suppressed by the medical community because they are making so much money off of cancer.
  • The US never landed on the moon.
  • Big oil businesses are suppressing technology that fuels cars with just water.
  • The government has secret UFO and alien materials, but won't release it to the public.
  • Global warming is not happening. The only reason for society's focus on global warming is because the media is liberal. Because the media popularizes global warming, representatives make it a big deal to get elected.
  • Elvis is still alive.
  • The US only invades Iraq for their oil.
Remember, you can find answers to any question using Google. It's amazing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is optimism-bias a good or bad thing?

I've been thinking a lot about risk-taking lately. For better or worse, I have always been someone who takes risks at a higher-than-is-normal rate. In my Contracts class last fall, I learned about the concept optimism-bias. This concept is interesting. Often times humans are overly optimistic in themselves to their detriment. The example we studied was signing away your rights to engage in a risky activity believing you are the exception and that no harm will come to you. For instance, a river rafting trip has a lot of risks. There might be a pretty compelling reason to forgo the trip, however, lots of people take the risk anyway. I looked up some other examples of optimism bias on wikipedia: Students overestimate their own test scores. Grad students overestimate the number of job offers and salary they eventually will get. Almost all newlyweds think their marriages will last for life, well aware of high divorce statistics. Those who smoke believe they are less at risk to suffer from smoking-related disease than others who smoke.

I think that it is fantastic that we have optimism-bias hard-wired into us. Sometimes I have been burned by my optimism-bias. I have plenty of scars, have gone into debt, and even worked for free as a direct result of risks. But I have also been rewarded. One obvious example is the huge amount of time I invested into learning HTML and PHP. I think I will capitalize on these skills for the rest of my life.

Living in America allows this optimism to shine. You listen to someone's rags to riches story and even though you may not have any similar skills or talents as this person, the story inspires you. You believe in yourself, and believe that you can achieve similar success. And then you strive for something that pushes you further than you would have gone had that distant target never been there. Without an impetus to propel me further, I would sit still and stagnate.

The key to risk-taking is for a healthy balance between the two extremes. In business, too much risk leads to epic financial crises. Not enough risk leads to stagnation. But risks are absolutely a good thing (in moderation of course [but not too much moderation {it needs to be a wise amount and level of riskiness}]).

Optimism-bias may be one magical factor that sets us apart as uniquely human. If we were completely logical, and we made decisions based on mathematical probabilities, we would be robots; robots that probably wouldn't achieve as much as we humans have and will achieve.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I've learned while on the East coast

Hello blogosphere. My second semester of law school is done. It was very difficult, but I think i did alright. Tomorrow I will be driving back to Utah for the summer and it got me thinking about my trip out east. Exactly 2 years ago I bid Utah farewell and embarked on my journey to Boston. It is unreal to think back on all the experiences, friendships, and opportunities I've had in such a short amount of time. What have I learned? Here is a short non-exhaustive list.

I like school when I don't have distractions - Learning is fun, hands down. I get turned off by the intense and competitive nature of learning at school. But when I don't have any distractions, school can be fun, even when it's law school.
Girl Power - I had always been under the traditional school of thought in regards to women before moving out east. Then I met amazing women who branched out my mind. I now wholeheartedly support women doing whatever they want with their lives. I acknowledge that may sound sexist because it may seem obvious to some, but I have recently learned this. I wanted to thank everyone who has helped me realize this: Heidi, Michelle, Kristie, Katrina, andmy con law professor who taught us about equal protection rights.
Buying the highest octane gas does not give you better gas mileage - In fact, if you buy higher octane fuel than your car's needs, it is counterproductive.
There is a disparity between English/British on Wikipedia - Have you ever been checking out a Wikipedia entry and noticed some funky spelling going on? That is because the English version of Wikipedia merges all flavors of English into one. This is trouble for a Wikipedian such as myself, who prides himself in regularly fixing spelling and grammar mistakes.
Eating apples fresh from the orchard is 100 times better than eating an apple from the grocery store. I was blown away when I tried this last fall.
Hairspray - I only recently discovered this amazing product. As much as people give hairspray a bad rap for killing the ozone layer, it fulfills a vital role for certain hair textures like mine.
I have a passion for education - If I ever have kids, I want them to be smart. There are so many advantages when you are smart.
Me? Smart? No way! - The past couple years have taught me about my own level of intelligence. This is not an attempt to practice being modest or humble: compared to people all around me, I am not very smart.
I work harder than others - I think this is a mechanism that I have that makes up for my lack of smarts: hard work. It's amazing what you can do when you work harder than almost everyone else around you.
I am so similar to my dad - It's crazy I would really figure this out by living 2000+ miles away from him.
I never knew that a guy and a girl could spend so much time together as my roommate and his gf do. At first, I was taken aback by it and thought that maybe I needed to work on getting close to people like them. But after thinking about it, I decided that just was not my style. Nope.
Pepperidge Farms bread is the best on the face of the planet - What am I going to do when I go back to Utah where there is none?
East coast hot dog buns are weird, and they are also slightly inferior.
Kissing someone for the first time doesn't mean anything - Actually, I take that back. You're not gonna kiss someone you are not attracted to or that you wouldn't mind stepping the relationship up a notch. So I guess, kissing denotes attraction and/or you wanna take it to the next level. That's all it means tho, at least to me.
Apples give you negative calories when you take into consideration the work needed to eat it
You can make home-made cheese - I found this out from a true food specialist. Her name is Lillian and she goes to law school with me. She is great.
I hate the word "mingle" - Some synonyms I found on dictionary.com: intermix, work the room, hobnob, and socialize. Any other suggestions?
I love making websites - Hit me up if you want to collaborate on a project. I'll be more than happy to chat. This summer I have no concrete plans for employment which means I'll have a lot of time to invest.
I've learned to relate to people better - Have you ever wanted to be liked by people more in your life? Well for just 15.95, click here to buy my book and I'll tell you all about it.
Social networking is where it's at - I have discovered Digg, Twitter, Youtube all to be wonderful tools for networking.
I am a better Othello player than most - Tina, you better get practicing because I won't back down from you.

Well that's it. Utah, here I come! Now I need to get back into Utah stuff. When in Rome do as the Romans do. I need to get my Utah vocab and accent back. Maybe I'll start watching Fox News. Maybe I'll cut my hair. Well, I better get back to packing up my crap. This summer is going to be so fetchin' FUN!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Behemoth Stirs

It was particularly dark in the forest. A settled, hazy fog penetrated everything with a damp and chilling cold. The Behemoth was fully within the fog's grasp. For months it had lain cold and dead.

As the dawn approached, something different was in the air. Sunlight cut through the trees and fog like a sharp knife cuts through flesh. A new life. The forest was not accustomed to it. It had been so long. The beast was in plain view now. Debris, which had long encumbered the lifeless, massive frame, had all but melted away. Now there was breathing. Up and down, the breathing became deeper, more rhythmic, returning the creature to full life.

The surroundings seemed the same as before, but something was definitely different. Suddenly, in an unexpected moment the Behemoth's eye flashed open. After looking around momentarily, the beast began to recognize familiarity.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Adventure is Over

After three weeks in Utah, I am back. As I sit in my room, I am wondering if my Utah trip could have been any better. The resounding answer is no. My trip deserves a perfect score of 10. Here's what made it so good:
Spending an inordinate amount of time with family. I love my family so much. I couldn't get enough of them! You see, last year I spent Christmas in Boston because I was too poor to fly home. After that experience, I no longer take for granted time with them. On Christmas eve, Jennica and I went to the tree lot to get ourselves a tree. Not contented with an average size tree, Jennica picked out a beast of a tree. We managed to somehow fit it in the trunk of the rather small Sebring convertible. We did not decorate the tree all fancy and cute afterwards, but most importantly, we got a real tree for only $9. With the whole family together, we discussed business ideas and other ways of earning money. It's something our family has done ever since I can remember. Our family played Acquire twice. I am not very good at that game, yet. However, I did beat anyone who opposed me in Othello and Chess. Lots of my relatives have new places of residence. I saw 5: Kristen and Erik's, Brooke and Stan's, Haley and Graden's, Lisa and Graden's, and Aunt Lark and Uncle Dennis. They all look really nice, especially Graden's. I got to know my brothers' wives a lot more over the break and I love them. They are great additions to the Ostler family.
Snowboarding in fresh powder. Mother nature has already smiled down upon Utah's slopes this winter. Few feelings in the world are better than carving down a freshly powdered mountain.
Weightlifting in good company. Scott, Nate and I started our "march-to-March" regimen. The goal is to work out so that when March comes around, and it's warm enough to take off your shirt, we can do so without shame. In fact, all eyes will be on us.
Spending quality time with old friends. Ray and I discussed website ideas over lunch. Rich and I watched the funniest Russian film together. Renny and I made caramel popcorn and watched Boston Legal.
Spending lots of time with SK. From holiday festivities to swing dancing in Sandy to the Harold B. Lee, I was glad I got to know SK better than I ever have.
No car problems. I drove the Sebring for three weeks. The tires were very much bald and the left headlight was out. I had a couple moments when I truly thought I would get in a wreck. One time, while approaching a red light at a more rapid-than-is-safe rate, I braked, slid, pumped the brakes, kept on sliding, then slammed on the brakes until I stopped 6 inches behind the car in front of us.
Working on personal website stuff. This involved working at the BYU library and also working from home late at night. In fact, on Thursday I found myself up until 5AM coding, which reminded me of my college days.
Meeting Lady Schwarz. The last night I was there, Ray set me up with his cousin. It turned out to be super FUN with her. I will need patience, however, as our geographic disparity is 2,343 miles.

In short, Utah is a great place. I've always been the type of kid who was totally "over" living in Utah, but my trip reminded me how cool Utah is. Now that I'm back East, I will enjoy sleeping in a large and spacious bed. I also need motivation for an even more difficult semester.