Monday, November 12, 2012

Movie Review/Recommendation

Today's movie recommendation goes back to 1993, to a touching movie called What's Eating Gilbert Grape.  This movie tells the story of people-pleaser Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp before he was big at all) who takes on the role of caretaker of his family.  He cares for his somewhat dysfunctional family, which includes the family's missing father, a mentally undeveloped 18-year-old brother Arnie (Leonardo Di Caprio before he was big too), an obese mother that hasn't left the house in 7 years, and a house that has some serious issues.  While the acting in the film is nothing short of phenomenal, I think the true brilliance of the film is its ability to connect to viewers, especially me. Most viewers will enjoy the family drama, the romantic intrigue, scenes of compassion and selflessness, family pride and unity themes, daredevil defiance of heights, and a house going up in complete flames. I liked the film for these reasons and because I saw in my growing up years a part of Gilbert Grape. I give it 4.5 stars. Check it out on Netflix instaview.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

My new question that Google refuses to answer

I've recently tried researching a topic that's hard to pose as a question to Google: which jobs pay the most per hour of work? For instance, many high paying jobs require ludicrous hours. Also, most high paying jobs require expensive training, which if you consider the opportunity cost of not working, that's really deductions factored in to the hourly rate. But for some jobs, all that training really pays off, for instance a surgeon can do one procedure and earn enough for a down payment on a house. On the other hand, some jobs allow for one time work that gives residual income requiring little or no further work or even marketing, like app development. Plus, some jobs may at first require ridiculous hours, like starting your own business, but then you can sell it for a boatload. So now I pose this question to you blogosphere and twitter sphere: which jobs provide the most pay for each hour worked.

Monday, September 03, 2012


I'm now a ward missionary. I go to the Gospel Essentials Sunday school class and participate in fundamental lessons about life. This is all very nice and all, but sometimes when you take part in basic lessons, where the instructor's goal is to distill truth into its simplest form, it leads to very dumbed-down answers to some of life's difficult questions. Take this past Sunday, for instance.  Everything seemed to go back to how all God wants for us is to be happy. Maybe this is true, maybe this is not true. I know that He wants us to learn and grow and to love Him and to love others. A natural by-product of all of these desires is happiness, I suppose.  I'm getting on my soapbox at this point, but I think that our society is a little too preoccupied with being happy. I can be doing interesting work, have good family relationships, good hobbies and good health, and still have down moments. There are sometimes no reason for me to be "unhappy" but it happens. We naturally go up and down. If you are always worried about the fact that you're not happy, I think that's kind of jacked up. You should expect to sometimes be happy and sometimes be sad. Embrace it all. Happiness is elusive and comes in the pursuit of it. It also comes when you don't worry about your own state and instead look to make other people happy.

You may be wondering what inspired this post? Jamaica, O&B, Little Broken Heart, President Obama, Virginia humidity, and grease.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

My critique of Paul Krugman

My blog used to contain a fair amount of political opinions and thoughts.  Recently, not so much.  But living in a swing state for what looks to be a very close presidential campaign has me at least thinking political thoughts very regularly.

Every once in a while, I read this blog (Conscience of a Liberal) by NY Times columnist and renowned economist Paul Krugman.  I like his witty and intelligent writing style.  I read his blog to get another perspective to the classical economists that free market conservatives tend to gravitate towards.  Paul Krugman very regularly posts scathing pieces on Romney, but it seems that ever since team Mitt tipped its hat to Paul Ryan, the Krug has been on a mission to rip the prospective VP and his fiscal hawkishness to pieces.  That's great, right, because when Paul Ryan was declared the Veep, both sides agreed that now it was going to be a battle of two distinct ideologies.  So let the debate begin.

Here is some logic that I wanted to pick apart (read the entire article here).  One of Krugman's biggest argument is that Ryan's plan will cut federal spending but at the same time cut many more trillions of dollars of revenue in the form of tax breaks.  This, he argues, translates into serious budget problems.  $4.3T in tax cuts with only $1.7T in federal government spending cuts = -$2.6T.  However, even assuming that these are true and not oversimplified facts of Ryan's plan, there is a very large assumption that is going on here.  Do you see it? When you cut the federal government's capacity to raise revenue (freeing up people to spend it) and you also cut the size of the federal government's role in people's lives, that is not going to have an effect on growing the economy.  This is a simplified example of a very complex tax system, but it's similar to saying that the taxpayer that goes from paying $100k to $80k because he has to pay less in taxes is going to stuff that extra $20k that isn't going to the government either in the mattress or shipping it to an overseas account.  Even if he shipped it to the overseas account, in this increasingly interdependent world, it's hard to say that money would not have an effect on economic growth.  Anyway, that is the assumption, and I don't know if it's a good assumption to make.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The post traumatic event diagnosis

You've gotta learn to listen to your body. It tells you what's going on, you just don't believe it a lot of times. Maybe sometimes there are multiple variables and you may not want to jump to a certain conclusion, but listen to your body man.

That was just a rant from my body. I would tend to agree with my body. The problem is that a lot about understanding what your body is playing it out. If you end up predicting something correctly, it's easy to get cocky about your skills. Much like it's easy to play the quarterback role Monday morning. Its much more feasible to diagnose yourself after processing all the different variables. But that communication from your body was there the whole time. You just had to be listening to it.

Here is my current diagnosis, get yourself and your thoughts as far away from work as possible this weekend!

Friday, April 20, 2012


I found out today that a peer of mine passed away last year. We had the same major in college. He was a really cool guy, who was doing cool things with his life. And now he is survived by his wife and child.

I don't know why, but finding out about his death and reading others' tributes to him had a really powerful effect on me. It made me realize how delicate life is. One moment you can be breathing, and performing other bodily functions and the next moment not.

Here's to life. Here's to living life to the fullest everyday. The only regret you should have each day is that it wasn't long enough.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why I prefer a Mac over a PC

When I bought my first MacBook in 2007, I drank the Apple Kool-Aid deeply. I was a big fan. But over the years, as the number of programs I installed increased, as the storage space decreased, and as the average complexity of software increased, I became somewhat less excited with Macs. Also, because I had the old 10.4 Tiger OS, there became a number of programs that I couldn't run or update. I thought about going back to a PC. Who knows, I thought, maybe the new Windows 7 made some significant strides in catching up with Macs. My chance came when I had to buy a PC for my job.

I went to Best Buy and bought a brand new Acer Aspire with 2.13 Ghz duo-core Pentium processor with 4 GB of ram and a 500 GB hard-drive for $300. I then sold my 5-year old, that had a Pentium processor duo-core 2.16 Ghz, 1GB of ram MacBook for $300. Even though the free market said that the deal was equivalent, I thought I got a better deal by buying the Acer because it was brand new. I would soon find out that even though 5 years had passed, my MacBook was the better deal. Here are four ways that illustrate this.

Superior DVD players - I don't really understand how DVD players work, and I don't know how much of the DVD experience is due to the software or the hardware, but this much I do know: MacBooks play DVDs a lot better than other products. I have some DVDs that I cannot play on my laptop or the standalone DVD player. But put that disc in a MacBook and there is no hesitation. My analysis may be biased because I have lower-end types of DVD players (i.e. Acer laptop, and a relatively cheap Sony DVD player), but the point is that Apple excels at video content.

Processing power and memory (efficient and strong and powerful) - I expected that since I had quadrupled my ram in my new purchase, that I would be able to have all sorts of programs open at the same time with little to no lag. I was disappointed when the first day I was waiting abnormally long for a couple tabs to run at the same time (one of which was a video playing). The fluidity and seamlessness of running programs on a new MacBook cannot be overstated. It's a magical experience.

Reboots - One thing that I have always hated about Windows is the number of reboots that are required. You ever have a problem and the first recommendation is to reboot. Install a new program? Reboot. System update? Reboot. I thought that some of this would change with Windows 7, but unfortunately that is not the case. Not only am I pestered with annoying popups on a regular basis that I need to restart my laptop for a security update, the longest I can delay the reminder is 4 hours. The other annoying thing is that if you are not attending to your computer when this notice appears, it will restart automatically closing the programs you were running. I hate this more than almost anything.

Quick reboot (turn on) - I was spoiled over the years by my MacBook by getting accustomed to opening up my laptop, and being able to immediately get to work. The PC is not very instantaneous at all. Windows 7 has made improvements since XP, but nowhere near where Apple has been for a long time.

There are other features that I like about Macs, but these are the main ones. In sum, Apple is way ahead of the curve. If you are debating about the two, and you want your computer to last a long time, go with your gut and choose an Apple product.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Angry Birds Space review

I have a secret love of playing video games. I don't get to indulge it that often anymore now that I'm all grown up, but over the past few months of my wife getting to use an iPad at work, I have beat all free Angry Birds levels for each variety, with relative ease. Along comes Angry Birds Space...

This variety of Angry Birds is like no other variety. There are different structures, different birds, and different gravities. In sum, it has a lot of interesting new features.

I found the dotted lines to project where your bird is going to fly a helpful, but perhaps unnecessary crutch. Maybe Roxio is aiming at a dumber audience.

I found the multiple gravities really well-played. My one gripe is from a Physics perspective. If an object like a planet has gravity, it will attract birds if it is flying barely outside the planet's gravity. This game made it seem like gravity only works once a predetermined threshold of distance has been met. Maybe this threshold does exist for noticeable degrees of gravitational pull, but to me if a planet can pull in an atmosphere at the threshold's limit, then it can at least alter a bird's flying trajectory when it passes very close.

I still beat the game quite quickly, but it was a lot more challenging than other Angry Birds varieties. In fact, there was a level that I literally could not beat for a while no matter what I did. I think with these levels sometimes you just have to get a lucky bounce.

Anyway, if you haven't downloaded the newest Angry Birds, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The feasibility of a plant-based diet

I have always been a fan of eating lots of fruits and vegetables. I can't even remember being a very picky eater, and growing up on tomato and corn fields certainly cemented the love of plants hard.

I've also been a hesitant meat eater the past few years. Don't get me wrong, I definitely have eaten a lot of meat but on the back of my mind it's been as if my conscience was calling out in resistance to my meat-eating. You see, my brother had a couple close calls with cancer and my dad embarked on a crusade to help him. Because the medical community doesn't have all the answers, he pursued knowledge in alternative medicine including nutrition. And like a good father, my dad has shared his knowledge with me over the course of the past 8 years.

Part of those findings is that your diet can greatly influence your health, even the big diseases that have strong genetic components such as cancer. After talking to medical professionals and "experts" in the nutritional field, I grew skeptical of my dad's claims that nutrition can do that much for cancer. According to my sources, there just wasn't enough data to support the claim. And because everyone is different, what works for one person may not work for another.

That being said, I have still kind of believed my dad's claim that nutrition can have a really big effect on a person's health and I've tried to watch what I eat. I just haven't taken it that seriously.

Last night, I watched the movie Forks over Knives. For those who haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. If you have Netflix, that's the easiest way to watch it. The movie is in documentary format and details two perspectives (clinical and research) to come to the same conclusion, that we humans get a lot more disease and suffering because of the animal products and processed foods we consume. Further, switching to a completely plant based diet stops the progression of many of these diseases and can even reverse them.

Because of my experiences, and because I am not a meat fanatic, the film resonated with me. A couple of the premises of the movie didn't sit too well with me. For instance, how our medical community wants us to stay sick so they can have good business. I've heard this argument with regards to cancer, that a cure to cancer is being withheld because then it's a big money-making industry for a lot of people. I can't believe that people in the medical field would consciously do this to people especially because they most likely have loved ones who are affected by it. I would hope that mankind has not devolved into something that bad.

I think more likely is that there has of yet been inconclusive data supporting alternative medicine and these researchers do not have an incentive to do the research. Yes, a cure to cancer would be an incentive, but to go outside the mainstream of thinking is difficult to do. There seems to be adequate incentives in place for researchers to do their thing.

The only thing stopping me from trying a plant based diet is cheese. I really don't think I could go without it. Assuming there's a decent substitute to cheese, it would be a challenge to come up with new food ideas. This takes time. It would also be more expensive. The pure unprocessed foods are traditionally more expensive in general. Plus, by eating a lot more fruits and vegetables instead of denser foods, I could see myself eating a lot more. I eat a ton of food. So maybe when I've got some more time and money, I'll give this thing a try.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooperation is a necessary evil?

It's great when you can learn about a particular topic, it's even more great when that same topic gets retaught in another medium. Yesterday included a couple big learning moments on cooperation. These moments included chimps, Jet Li, and the Tea Party. 

First, a program on NPR called RadioLabs featured chimps. The program looked at the way that humans behave based on very instinctual and primal evolutionary thought processes. So naturally, they started looking at one of our closest relatives. My favorite part of the program was when a delicious berry reed was dropped into a pack of chimps, specifically to the adolescents of the group. One of them picked it up, then others started fighting for it, and then squabbling. You could hear the chaos by the shrieking. Then there was a very abrupt silence to all the fighting. Apparently the alpha male had made an appearance and everyone knew what they were supposed to do. The alpha male continued to eat some of the reed, then it got passed on to the next highest male and on. According to this evolutionary system, the food always goes from the highest on the ladder downward. While one animal wouldn't get all he wanted, every animal in the pack would at least get something. The commentator remarked that evolution had favored this type of order because cooperation was necessary for survival. And there my first learning moment was, cooperation is a good thing for survival. 

Next, I watched the Jet Li movie Fearless while the Aimers did her school stuff. Here, a hotshot go-getter was out to show the world that he was a great fighter using the art of Wushu. Then a series of events fundamentally changed his perspective about his order. He realized what his father and many others had known all along: that his Wushu order was all about respecting others and cooperating. Without that, there was no purpose and only death. Thus, my second learning moment: cooperation is crucial for success. 

Finally, I started thinking about the GOP party right now. While everyone will have to admit that the Tea Party has been a very influential factor in politics the last couple years, it has also been known as a very "loud" and uncompromising voice. Maybe they have been loud because they have needed to get their voices heard. Maybe they have felt like their views and opinions had been ignored for too long. Maybe they have come across as uncompromising because their views have been more correct than the alternative. Because they felt like they were right, why should they cooperate? I think that in a GOP primary where candidates are increasingly being called on to proceed more and more to the right, it is sad that cooperation is being viewed as a thing of the past. Changes occur often times gradually and without cooperation, we will not win as a society. We will instead be denigrated to squabbling chimps. Like Jet Li, we need to respect, honor and cooperate with those around us.

Friday, February 03, 2012

An update to the shifting y

I found that the shifted y is only in the newest version of the scriptures. Think new maps edition or thin pages if you are referring to the book of mormon as a standalone. Since my wife recently gifted me a new quad, that's why I hadn't noticed any text anomalies because they weren't there. I have highlighted another verse that illustrates my point a little bit more clearly. The verse is mosiah 2:36. As you can see, starting with the fourth line, there is a divide with the left side of the verse subscripted and the right side regular. Line 4 is the most obvious because the fault line occurs in the middle of the word "ye." The second line "go contrary to" is left of the fault. This continues until the 9th line where the line contains no shifts.

My theory? I think this shift pattern is a result of either capitalizations or footnotes (notice how these make the line taller than usual) coupled with letters that go below the line (like p's or y's). If one line is abnormally tall in height and the line preceding it contains some low hanging characters, a predetermined line buffer may not be sufficient to avoid crowding. It appears that the new publication attempts to compress lines in sections rather than uniformly make a predetermined buffer for each line to solve this problem.

This theory does not clarify why in my original observation of Mosiah 2:31 the y is shifted. If you look to the very next line, there's a capital G which makes that line abnormally tall. The line with the shifted y has no reason to shift the y down to get even closer to the next line. To maintain the same buffer of space, if the publishers wanted to do any shifting here, it should have been up. This means that I am open to ideas for what is going on.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Mysteries of the Kingdom

I don't know how many times I've read the Book of Mormon (probably more than 30), but every time I read the book, I get new insights and perspectives. Last night as I was reading in the book of Mosiah, something caught my eye that I have never seen before, a mystery in my eyes. Mosiah 2 is King Benjamin addressing the people. Midway through verse 31, there is a my that has the "y" shifted down. I checked another Book of Mormon to make sure the shift was not just in my set and sure enough the same shifted "y" was there. I probably would never have noticed this, but for strange talents that you develop at law school.

The question remains, what is the purpose of this shifted y? How did it happen? And will my brother's digital Book of Mormon ipad app maintain the integrity of the printed version of the Book of Mormon by making sure the shifted y is preserved.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Syria in the news

If you're anything like me, you are fascinated by Middle East current events. I have had my eye on the so-called Arab Spring from day 1. It's interesting to see what the socially connected people are doing to throw off the shackles of repression.

As country after country has fallen to the mass demonstrations, one regime has maintained power for surprisingly long given how long the demonstrations have gone on. Not too long ago, I got a unique perspective that shed some light on this situation.

On our flight to California to see my dad get married, I sat next to an Iranian grad student. Unable to let this opportunity pass me by, I spoke with him about the Middle East. His philosophy on the happenings was surprisingly simple: if a country has the resources, it can resist revolutions.

I thought back to Iran in 2009. The Green revolution was close, but then it fizzled. Why? It turns out that Iran is in the top 25 highest GDP countries. They used their resources to effectively quash any meaningful opposition. Poorer countries not so much. Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, etc. I always thought of Egypt as a reasonably wealthy for one reason or another. Maybe it stems back to them having the pyramids. However, this guy on the plane explained that Egypt's GDP is 1/6 of Iran's. It's no wonder they couldn't do much to stop the protestations.

But Syria is not a very wealthy country. So how could they effectively stop the protests going on? Iran. I don't know what's going on in Syria, but it seems like it's one big mess. The latest estimates are that more than 6000 Syrians have been killed and the country seems to be edging closer to a civil war. But Al Assad has long maintained that he isn't to blame. He has contended that foreign militants are to blame. Everyone seemed to either think that the Syrian dictator was crazy or completely ignorant based on the happenings on the ground. But maybe it's true to the extent that the snipers taking out peaceful demonstrators come from Iran. Iran has the money, for one. They have the interest. Iran needs Syria. It needs the close influence to its neighbor to the West Israel. Iran needs Syria the way it is right now. It cannot afford for Syria to stage a revolution. So maybe the fighters inside Syria that have caused so much mayhem are paid foreigners trying to quash an uprising using whatever means possible. This is not unreasonable, considering there was evidence that when Iran's revolution was going on, Jordanian and other foreign fighters were found combating the protesters.

It's one thing to get your news from mainstream America outlets. It's another to get your news from an Iranian who by the way speaks Russian. Yes, I got to combine my flight with a little bit of Russian too, it was very nice. But it's interesting to me how Russia also needs Syria. and they are not about to let the UN do anything to encourage Syria undergo its "inevitable" change of power. Russia will lose out on selling weapons to Syria and in this economy you fight for every bit of economic leverage you can.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Stance on SOPA/PIPA -- I oppose

I am against the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act. I have long held views favoring a less regulated Internet (as noted here) because I feel like the Internet is a very unique invention that has already transformed all of our lives and will continue to only do so in the future. To regulate this developing infrastructure with 20th century paradigms will be detrimental for our society in more ways than one. Additionally, the Constitution provides for Congress with the authority to create a copyright law to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. However, if the copyright law is divorced from this basic premise, on the effect regulations have on promoting innovation, the law becomes unconstitutional. That is why in my opinion every copyright case should be looked at with a healthy dose of fair use. SOPA/PIPA seem to look at copyrighted content only from the perspective of the established, powerful content police, seeking to fix piracy with an overly broad measure that chills precisely what the Internet has done a marvelous job of promoting: fair use. There are less troubling means of stopping pirated content than by these proposed bills. I have already made my thoughts known to my Congress representative and if you similarly think that SOPA/PIPA is not the best approach, I urge you to do the same. There is a really cool website that allows you to easily find out who and how you can contact:

Monday, January 09, 2012

Help me with your extra sky miles!

Almost 23 years ago, my mother passed away. Now after raising all of us kids, my dad is finally getting married again. I'm so happy for him and his fiance; they go so well together. The only problem is that I won't be able to go without a financial miracle. At first, I wrote this off as an expense I could not handle. Money is really tight right now. Now 11 days away, I realize that my dad needs me there and I would love to be there. My wife would also love to go! If you have any extra miles, I am happy to provide any sort of services in return that I can such as web development or patent support. If you want to donate to my cause, please click here at WePay: