Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've Been Missing Out ...

I can't believe what a schmuck I've been. For the past several years now, the Church has been holding annual General Relief Society Meetings ... and I, being the non-RS male that I am, completely ignored them. Until today.

This morning while deciding what Conference talks to listen to on my way into work (nothing inspires a better day than listening to the words of the prophets and leaders of the Church), I stopped on the talk by Sister Beck given at the last GRSM.

It was phenomenal. I've always considered Sister Beck rather astounding, but this was particularly excellent.

Two points from that superb talk:

Point 1: Sister Beck quotes a talk by Pres. Uchtdorf where, as Sister Beck recounts, Pres. Uchtdorf told BYU students:

'A wise man once distinguished between "the noble art of getting things done" and "a nobler art of leaving things undone." True "wisdom in life," he taught, consists of "the elimination of non-essentials."' President Uchtdorf then asked: 'What are the nonessential things that clutter your days and steal your time? What are the habits you may have developed that do not serve a useful purpose? What are the unfinished or unstarted things that could add vigor, meaning, and joy to your life?'

Ok ... so I don't have an answer for that one yet. But I'm going to. How amazing will it be to cut out those non-essential activities that do, in fact, clutter my life? I mean, how much time have I been wasting on things that in the grand scheme (or even just in this earthly scheme) don't matter a two-pence or a hey-nonny-nonny?

Answer: Far, far too much. Fortunately, thanks to Sister Beck, I now have a new goal.

Point 2: Actually, this is more of a question. Part-way through the talk, Sister Beck mentioned certain RS meetings formerly known as "home, family, and personal enrichment" meetings. I know I am admitting far more of my daftness than I should, but I nevertheless must ask, what are/were these meetings? Are they just the RS "enrichment" meetings that I hear about from time to time?

I can't believe I haven't been listening to the GRSM until now. Purposefully depriving myself of amazingly spiritual and uplifting talks inspiring me to a better life? Silly Matt ...

Kids Say the Darndest Things ...

Several weeks ago, my sister-in-law Dede posted a story about my little niece Mayli (who is three years old and a spitball of fire and fury . . . independent and amazing). I thought it was too good not to share:

Mayli fell down and scraped her knees today. While I was cleaning her up, she said, "Mom, I'm missing a piece of my leg! We need to fix it! Where is the glue?"

I laughed and said, "the glue?"

She responded, "Yes mom, the glue that you put on Kay's stiches!"

I said, "oh, the Neosporin?"

Mayli replied, "Yes mom, the evil-sporin; I need the evil-sporin to fix my leg."

Without question, one of the funniest conversations of the year.


Note: Mayli and Katelyn (her older sister) also happen to be ridiculously cute when they do just about anything . . . including playing Wii Fit. Click here for pictures.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The New Invisible Man ...


No, really ... it will blow your mind.

And all I can say is Waldo better watch out ... Liu is on the rise.

Liu Boilin, a young photographer and artist from Beijing, received the ridiculously awesome moniker "The Invisible Man" for his artistic ability to blend his body into his surroundings. A true-life human chameleon (not to be confused with The Chameleon, a notable entry in the pantheon of Spiderman super-villians), Liu blends in with almost any surrounding.

I was so astounded by the work that I just couldn't help but post a few of the pictures I've been able to find:

What makes this interesting to me, though, is the reason behind Liu's work. As he stated to the telegraph, a British newspaper:

Some people call me the invisible man, but for me it's what is not seen in a picture which really tells the story. I experienced the dark side of society, without social relations, and had a feeling that no one cared about me, I felt myself unnecessary in this world.

Reading that, I have the greatest desire to expand my efforts, caring about people more and (what's crucial) showing my love so that far fewer people will have to feel the way Liu felt.

Mucho thanks to Josh Law for his electronic tip-off to this phenomenal talent.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Those wacky bankers ...

I recently came across a whiz-bag-guffaw-a-minute-gem of financial comedy written by British funny-man and "Hottie from History" designator extraordinaire, Andy Zaltzman.

(actual photo ... he really looks like this ... I mean, fire shoots out of the back of his head)

The book is titled, intriguingly enough, "Does Anything Eat Bankers?: And 53 Other Indispensable Questions for the Credit Crunched." As far as I can tell from the short snippets Amazon lets me view free of charge (never enough ... NEVER enough), it looks to be ... wait for it ... tear-inducingly hilarious. My favorite quote (thus far) is included below:

High street banks began behaving increasingly tittishly towards their customers, offering their savers lower rates of interest than a 50-volume encyclopedia of socks, and fining them for being financially unsuccessful – when Muddy Waters bluesily mused that “you can’t lose what you never had,” he had clearly never been £1 over his overdraft limit for twenty minutes

In a further blot on Waters’s already minimal reputation as a financial adviser, the Credit Crunch has now proved conclusively that: (a) you quite clearly can lose what you never had; (b) you can also lose what no-one every had; and (c) the time has come to try to stop losing stuff as a general rule. Waters may have been the ‘Father of Chicago Blues,’ and to listen to a single wordless murmur of his voice may be to imbibe liquefied elemental truth, but the time has come to reassess the economic reliability of his lyrics.

That Zaltzman is such a kidder. Golly bob howdy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Jumps the Shark ...

President Obama was sworn in as the 44th president on Jan. 20, 2009. The list of Nobel Peace Prize contenders was compiled February 1, 2009.

Despite doing nothing more than a one-term junior senator from Chicago or week and a half president could do to bring peace in his limited sphere, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning.

In the words of one news report:

Obama was selected not for substantive accomplishments, but for his "vision" and inspiring "hope" at the beginning of his presidency.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman," the committee said, explaining its decision.

All right. Stop. Say that again?

So apparently, what won Obama the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was ... wait for it ... A SLOGAN! After all, "Change We Can Believe In" shouldn't just be enough to win a presidency. Oh, no. It should bring with it all the treasures of the earth and honors we can think of (Grammy anyone? We'll see if Kanye can introduce the award for "Best Presidential iTunes Playlist").

It's official, the Nobel Peace Prize just jumped the shark ... and now has the reputational impact of Time's Person of the Year.

Next year's winner? Well, let's just say that now that the preemptive precedent has been set, I'm throwing my hat in the ring.

NOTE: I like Obama. Really, I do (even though I may not agree with a number of his policies or approaches to government). The above is more a slip-slap, jib-jab at the prize givers than anything else. I actually like what Obama said when he found out (probably more shocked than any of us) that he had won the Prize:

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

Let's just hope the award does spark the peace and prosperity it was meant to honor.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lost Souls ...

While reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" (TGL&PPS) as part of my book club - the Far-Flung Bibliophiles - I came across a rather interesting quote by Thomas Carlyle on man's relation to the Soul. As quoted in the book, Carlyle writes:

Does it never give thee pause, that men used to have a soul — not by hearsay alone, or as a figure of speech: but as a truth that they knew, and acted upon! Verily it was another world then … but yet it is a pity we have lost the tidings of our souls ... we shall have to go in search of them again, or worse in all ways shall befall us.

The author of TGL&PPPS then suggests a profound follow-up:

Did any of you ever think that along about the time the notion of a SOUL gave out, Freud popped up with the EGO to take its place? ... It is my belief that men must spout this twaddle about egos, because they fear they have no soul.

Nearly all of the traits society has neglected in its swaggle through modernity - including virtue, sobriety, civility, and love - find the beginning of loss in a refusal to believe in or tend to the soul. Society, as Elder D. Todd Cristofferson said last Sunday, has exchanged the once inviolate internal controls that, based largely on religious thought and civil upbringing, used to ensure proper behaviour for a mess of external ones. Instead of an inner moral compass - that derives automatically from recognizing the reality of the soul - society now relies on ever-changing, pliable "regulations" to keep us in check.*

But no matter how many rules are written, unless humanity again learns to recognize the soul (not as hearsay or naive mythology, but as eternal truth) and act accordingly, we will never be able to prevent the nearly inevitable slog away from decency and toward degenerative degradation.

* Interesting Side Note: E. Christofferson seems to suggest that the effectiveness of a free market model depends not on an unbreakable tome of rules and regulations (as many in Washington seem to believe), but instead on a system of internal ethical and moral controls that must be imbued into the very nature of the people who work within the market.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Too. Many. (Brilliant). Lawyers.

During Supreme Court week last June, each of the sitting Supreme Court Justices participated in interviews on C-SPAN. Though the transcripts aren't available yet, thanks to the WSJ, we have a snippet from that easily-mocked, neocon originalist, J. Scalia:

Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

Too many lawyers ... that I've heard. But too many BRILLIANT lawyers wasting their significant talents in the law, when they could be using their genius to produce things?

What say ye, my friends, should I go back for my engineering degree ... or just start writing a book?

I wonder what he thinks of Investment Bankers ...