Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blog traffic, history, themes and posts

That is the history of how my blog traffic has gone. Some things draw a lot of attention (e.g. the Shangri-la Diet) and some things draw very little attention or readership (e.g. grief). You would think I would blog more on dieting and less on grief, but anyone can write or blog on dieting. There is a method, it is free, easy and it works.

On the other hand, there aren't that many people blogging about grief, and when someone is in need, it is worth blogging to be there for them.

On a related topic, life, grief and reality, I've been thinking about what it means that we are eternal. I've even been thinking what it would mean if we were only as old as the last ice age.

I meet people in their 80s and 90s who look at changing the sheets as something that happens every half hour. In November they are planning for next year's Christmas. Yet, I remember what it was like to be a young child and to have Halloween coming up and to think Christmas was forever away.

I can imagine someone who is a thousand years old, who sees Christmas coming so fast that it is the same as I think of sleeping tonight. How fast must even sixty or seventy years seem to someone who is ten thousand years old?

At that point, no matter how intense emotion seems now, no matter how long it seems to last (and it seems like forever sometimes), how intense is loss, how long does it really last if it is temporary?

I can see someone who is ten thousand years old saying that everything terrible anyone can experience in this life "is but a little moment" and that while it is significant to those who experience it, we perhaps over rate the importance of whatever sorrow, loss or mishaps we have in our brief lives.

I look at the standard of living I have now, and I look at the Sun King of France, and I prefer my life to his. Were things unfair then? Yes, but I suspect that anyone in the Kingdom of Heaven will prefer their life to the life I lead now. They will probably see as much difference between my life and the lives of others in this era as I see between the lice on the Sun King and the lice on one of his peasants.

Less, perhaps, if they look at life the way many game players look at game experiences and choices. For a game, for experience, for learning and perspective, people prefer vastly different lives for their characters than any of us would choose for ourselves. Yet, to our eternal selves, we are the characters that they lead or play in order to learn, have experience and gain perspective.

Which blends religious retrospective with grief themes, something that draws the least attention of anything I write, yet is what I find the most meaningful.

day labor, 60 pound jackhammer, thoughts

ultrasonic ringtones are neat because most people can't hear them. Two years ago, I could still hear tones in the 14K+ range. Now, I'm fifty, and I've discovered I cut off around 8K. That means that ultrasonics used to run teenagers off of spaces in the mall don't work on me (but they aren't aimed at me anyway), but it also means that instead of putting her cell phone on silent, my daughter can just use an ultrasonic ringtone and I won't hear it or be bothered. The same is true of most of the people who teach her in school. A 22K ringtone is one she can hear and none of the "adults" can.

Ok, on to the topic I was going to blog about.

As my parents continue to work on their house, we had to take out all the flowerbeds. One, they were already pretty much out (except for the bottom layer of bricks and the concrete footer), Two, the dirt had to be lowered to keep the termites from coming back.

I'm not sure who it was that decided that a 16" footer was necessary. But that means a jackhammer and a wheelbarrow.

After a day of that, someone at church mentioned the day labor station in town. Legal workers, at $8.00 an hour, who work very, very hard. We paid them more, and a tip, and fed them, and felt they earned all of their pay. They also ran that jackhammer faster than I had.

I appreciate that illegal labor gets talked about a lot, but it made me feel very humbled to meet such hardworking legal workers, two of many lined up for work, eager to work very hard for not very much.

This weekend I just moved a lot of bricks and other trash to the trash pile. Win mudded walls, installed cabinets and laid tile. A friend said I'd better watch out or a fiery chariot would be showing up to take her to heaven while we all stayed behind. My parents are grateful for her efforts and I'm impressed.

I'll blog more later, just have been very busy.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Some useful or interesting links

I need to blog about responsible communities vs. communities of whim, but I've been busy with kids and life and my parents moving in three houses down. Learned how to use a sixty pound jackhammer, have been practicing maintenance (i.e. how to not lose or gain any more weight for a while as my body gets used to missing about half of its current mass), lots of work going on at work.

I was also going to write a post about how my dad evacuated a burning barracks in Vietnam, he got a medal for that, which was taken away (bottom line: it was the "colored" barracks and he is white and therefor had violated an unofficial segregation order by doing something when the morter round that hit next door started that barracks wing on fire). Of course my dad is the real hero to me in my life. I just couldn't think of more to say than what I've said.

I'm also nearing the one year point on my diet experience, and getting much too close to Christmas. Mentally, I know that a child getting ready to turn seven and Christmas are unrelated to disaster, but there is so much emotional resonance going on that it is difficult.

Last time the world seemed so happy is when it all fell apart. A summer of windsurfing, warmth into the late season, so many days with my girls and the first year my law practice really seemed to have come together, I'd never been happier or more secure feeling, as if the entire world was on track. Last time I felt at all physically fit or together too.

At least I feel more sympathy for people who engage in superstitions. Emotion is a hard master to escape some times.

I'll blog again when I'm freer from it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hometeacher, hero, life saver ...

Some time after the Tet offensive, in Da Nang, a "home teacher" whom I'll call "Bob" (a "home teacher" is an LDS lay member who visits with other members, Bob was a military guy just trying to cheer up other guys in the service) was in "the swamp" with the air force guys there. All day there had been so-called pressure on the perimeter. South Vietnamese soldiers had responsibility for guarding the perimter at that point, with the U.S. Marines responsible for responding to any serious threat.

The Air Force's MMS was there, with a light colonel in charge. That light colonel and all of the officers and master sergeants had been "redeployed" (i.e. they had evacuated), but everyone else had been left behind. The marines were not taking any action or moving in to reinforce the perimeter guards, and the colonel's last order had been for all the general enlisted guys to stay put, or else.

As things got bad, Bob could have left, but he felt responsible and he was a shooter, so he moved into one of the two machine gun nests and started laying down suppressing fire. It wasn't long before Bob realized he was the only person firing back at North Vietnamese who were getting much closer . The perimeter guards had all faded away, the U.S. Marine Corps was not responding to calls, claiming they would not move until and unless they had orders or were under attack themselves, and the Air Force guys, bless their hearts, lacked combat skills or training.

At this point, the perimeter was overrun. The breech was serious where the MMS (missile maintenance squadron) was concerned, though easily contained to that area, almost as if it was intentional (easily contained breaches are good for medal counts in the counter-attack as it makes everyone look like a hero who drives the enemy out). If Bob got out now, the rest of the guys would probably be in the casualty count. If he stayed, he expected that most of them would be able to get out before he was, err, neutralized, but he couldn't expect the marines to help or to relieve him. He stayed put and kept up a steady rate of fire.

As I said, Bob was a shooter. He was also lucky. Nearby ROK marines from the Tiger Battalion noticed the problem and unilaterally, without orders and without allowing communications to stop them, counter-attacked before Bob went into the neutralized column. He had burns on his hands and face; even with more than one assault rifle to work with, his rate of fire had been high enough that the weapons were burning hot. He had first and second degree burns, though he was lucky enough to heal without scarring. The Korean colonel, Lee, was awarded a silver star and sent home because of his complaints over Bob's court martial (which was later cleared off of Bob's records).

BTW, Robert Oaks served in the area as the same time as "Bob" who home taught my dad, there in the swamp. I don't know if his term of service in Vietnam overlapped with this particular event.

As somewhat of an epilog, right after that happened, the first shirt checked out two grenades. The guy in charge of the inventory that shift gave him thermite grenades (those will burn a hole in something, but they don't blow up) and sure enough, the light colonel ended up with two holes very near him -- some property damage, but nothing fatal.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

LDS Heros -- My brother Daniel, on the Alcan Highway 1968

We were stopped to camp for the night and my brother heard someone cry out for help. A little kid had fallen in a stream and was being washed away. Daniel dove in and rescued the kid. As he pulled the kid out, the kid was crying about his shoe that was lost, so Daniel dove back in and rescued the shoe too.

Dan was born in 1957 and it was 1968 or 1969 when this happened, so he wasn't much more than a kid himself.

But this incident pretty much catches Daniel, who never does anything by half measures, risk his life to save your little brother, then back in to save his shoe too.

He is still that kind of guy.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What if we really are all equal?

If we really are all equal, and if we really are supposed to love and care for each other, then my right to be offended at my bishop is about equal to his right to be offended at me. My duty to reach out to him is the same as his duty to reach out to me.

I take it literally when I am told that we are all children of God. We are all children. It is important to think of others as children who need to be treated kindly, no matter who they are. I thought a lot about that in church today, and have been thinking on the topic for a while.

One other thing that I've thought about, in different ways, was the topic of today's lesson in church. It was on being followers, and I've been thinking on that. To follow and support leaders it is important that we be:

thoughtful in relation to problems

One of the most important gifts we can give others who deal with us is the comfort of predictability, so that they know what to expect from us. Yes, I want someone who can be reliable, but I would rather have predictability, because without it, I can not rely.

Next, reliability is so important. At work things would break down if we could not rely on each other.

Being cheerful helps so very much. If I ask someone for help, or just talk to them, and they are cheerful and pleasant, it makes life so much easier. It lightens my day. When combined with kindness, it provides a sort of safety, a type of comfort, a level of peace that is important.

Finally, when dealing with problems, it helps so very much if people have invested themselves in some thought. Not "I don't have any chairs in the class room" but "I need to set up forty chairs, could you help me set them up." If we ask leaders for help doing something rather than just reporting un-thought problems to them, it makes life easier for them.

All five of those things are also things we strive for when we work with others as equals. To let them know where they fit and what they can expect. To be treated pleasantly and with kindness, and finally, to be informed of problems in an action oriented way rather than a passive whine, makes life so much easier and a task so much more pleasant.

We would do it for our equals. If we can do it as followers, we can be better children of God and fellow citizens of Christ.

Shangri-la Diet, Ditto Foods, Hydration and Calcium

I think I've hit the last on what I have to say about the Shangri-la Diet. I was looking at things from March and realized that I was hoping to reach my goal of 172 by September 13. My weight on September 14 was 167. Now I'm on the maintenance end of the diet my weight is between 167 and 169 and has been there for a month.

Three things that seem important, and that are easy to miss or forget are the concept of "ditto foods," keeping hydrated, and getting enough calcium in my diet.

The calcium is easy when I'm at home, because I eat a lot of yogurt. On vacations I end up not eating as much yogurt and that makes a difference. I seem to gain weight when I'm either not eating yogurt (or taking calcium supplements) and to drop back down to my stable weight when I do.

The next is hydration. Even now, when I've finished my meal, I'll feel like eating something until I drink enough fluid. I get the water I should be drinking and the hunger goes away. Staying hydrated is very important. Too many diets, focused on short term, temporary weight loss, use dehydration as one of their stock tricks. But for long-term, permanent weight loss, dehydration is an enemy. For short term weight loss, it is a trick, a fraud, a temporary waste of time.

Finally, "ditto foods." A "ditto food" is a food that is the same, time after time, usually flavor dense and calorie dense. The classic "ditto food" has to be alcohol or ding dongs. Since I don't drink and am allergic to chocolate, neither affects me, but I've realized that calorie and flavor dense foods that are exactly the same, time after time, those foods will move my set point up. It is interesting to watch what people do in order to be able to eat chocolates or fudge. I think of the times I gained large amounts of weight and they were always times I was eating a diet heavily balanced (or not) by ditto foods.

The Beneke variations on the Shangri-la Diet are really methods for avoiding any ditto food elements in your diet as are the protein smoothies.

If I had a final trouble shooting comment, a final bit of advice for someone who was seeking to tweak things on maintenance, a last bit of advice, it would be to eliminate ditto foods, stay hydrated, and make sure that not only do you get enough protein and vitamins, but that you get enough calcium as well.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Identity Theft

Well, much to my surprise, the telephone calls I was getting were not from a boiler room trying to steal my identity, someone already had. However, my insurance and the police are on it now.

Arghhh. The poor person at PayPal sounded so sad. I felt bad for them.

I'll post more, about something worth posting about, later. I've more certified letters to send.

Dominant v. Competitive

My first child, Jessica, was very dominant. It would not be unusual to find her playing with six or seven kids in the neighborhood, all of them playing a game they did not like because she wanted to play it, even though most were older than she was. But she was not very competitive at all. Winning was not important to her. Nor was dominating other people, she just did it, but it wasn't important to her.

My youngest is very competitive, she really wants to win, but she doesn't seek to dominate at all. It has been interesting to watch her in sports, since she isn't interested in dominating (though she does want to be friends with everyone), but she does want to win.

Has made me think a lot, wondering what kinds of differences her sisters would have made in her life had they been here to share it. It has also gotten me to thinking and looking at people in groups and on the bloggernacle, and seeing the two behaviors (seeking to dominate and competing) as two very different things.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

LDS Heros -- Early 60s

I thought I'd post the stories of some real heros who were also LDS.

I'm starting with the very early 60s in Newfoundland. Pre-Cuban Missile crisis, in Canada.

There was a SAC (pronounced "sack") base there. Active, with all that means. An alert went out, either a broken spear or a broken arrow (the terms will make sense in a moment). An experimental external carry air-launched thermonuclear device was being ferried through the base and someone pushed the wrong button, thinking they were jettisoning an external fuel tank.

Instead they had armed and released (on the ground) a fusion weapon. It was cycling, attempting to acquire a target. At some point very bad things would happen.

A perimeter was established. The problem was, of course, that there was no way to evacuate. Of course the weapon might just take off, but it could detonate in place as well. They needed two men to disarm it. One to disarm, the other to make sure the "safety" equipment (the nerve gas in the weapon designed to prevent tampering with it) didn't kill them.

They could only get one volunteer. As the other guy said "I've got a family." The Mormon guy said "I have a family too, that's why I'm doing this."

Now Newfoundland has a lot of wind and if you take the right precautions, nerve gas diluted by wind and blown away from you won't necessarily kill you quickly, the drugs you can take can slow it down sometimes. If you get lucky, you might even disarm the weapon without setting the safeties off, if you don't, and work fast, you have a chance at disarming the weapon before you die.

The risk was high enough that every man who worked the perimeter was given a promotion.

The LDS guy lived, and they told him that living was more than enough for Mormon. Any more and they might have to acknowledge the weapon had been there, and that had the potential for embarrassment.

My Dad thought the guy might be bitter about the difference in treatment, but he only said "you know, I still have a family." He was sealed to that family later in the Los Angeles Temple, and I'm sure he received his true reward.

But he was a real hero, even if somehow he was the one guy on duty at the time who did not get a promotion.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Forgive me

“Forgive me for whatever things I have done or failed to do that caused
you such anger and anguish of spirit.
Forgive me for the months and years and feeling your hostility and
knowing that in some way you were responding to me, convinced that I
trigger these negative feelings in you.
Forgive me for not having asked forgiveness before.
Forgive me for not being able to sit with you and ask about your pain.
Yes, I know that there are two sides to every question, but _my side is
not important right now_.”

That is an excerpt from a great post at about advice a parent received from Pastor Chip Murray.

Shangri-la Diet: Months Five and Six

For other Shangri-la diet posts, see: diet posts.

By now you should have found the level of oil (or other flavorless calories) that works for you to keep lowering your set point. It might be one tablespoon, it might be six or eight. As time passes and you lose weight, that number will probably go down (when I started, four was barely enough, now I take two tablespoons).

Once you have that working for you, the next step is to make sure you are getting enough vitamins, enough calcium and enough protein. You also want to stay fully hydrated. Don't eat when you should be drinking water.

The big thing to try at month three or four is the protein shake or smoothy. In basic form, that is a simple cold water and flavorless protein shake taken in to give you more nutrition (well, more protein) in the form of flavorless calories. In the fancy form it is a true smoothy, but with constantly changing and unusual flavors. At Seth Roberts' forums there are numerous recipes, including instructions that are basically what you need for a random flavor generator.

In addition, you should now have four months of experience with low glycemic index foods, survived the two week "blahs" or what I refer to as the boredom stage (where you just get tired of losing weight), and been through three or four plateaus. You've realized that a plateau is not a failure and you should have some skill at dealing with emotion without using food.

As long as the diet stays on track, then keep on track. You might want to look for and try some walnut oil or a similar oil that is high in Omega 3s. Many people report improved sleep and balance when they increase Omega 3s in their diets. You might want to try taking your oil in the middle of the night (a big "yes" in my personal experience for walnut oil, a big failure with drinking "the midnight oil" -- your experience may vary -- many find drinking the oil in the middle of the night a huge improvement).

But the thing to consider at this point is that you may be ready for very mild exercise. Stretching, for example, is a form of exercise you can do every day, even if you are in terribly bad shape. Water aerobics and swimming are also good gateway exercises is they are available to you, but stretching is something you can do for free. Eventually you will lose enough weight to be able to walk or do something more vigorous (I'm playing Judo these days), and if you get the chance to lift weights, I've a blog post on a method I stumbled into that gets good results with lifting once a week.

Also, keeping a weight journal, basically benchmarking your weight every Sunday morning (and writing it down so you can keep track) can really help. I know that once I got past the initial rush and loss of the first two months, keeping track really helped as I kept forgetting where my weight had been recently. After a while, it becomes a blur -- and those who are losing weight at the slower end (a pound or two a month) report that the blur is more intense.

Also, you need to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Finally, if things are really slow, you need to read a post like Jenn's at where it took her quite a while and some very specific tweaks to start losing weight.

Those are the things to consider and keep track of at months five and six.

Next post, probably I'll discuss maintenance, unless more things develop on the boards that lead me to summarizing them all.

Clear, Concise, Complex

My daughter was asked what made a good thesis statement and she came up with that description. It occurred to me that the "three c's" also work well for what makes a good title for a blog post, I'll have to keep them in mind for future posts.

She also told me that as to school: "They told me that I could be anything when I grew up. I felt dashed when I realized I could not become a cat. I've always had a little disbelief in everything else they've told me ..."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Back from conference

Gas was $2.02 in Childress, Texas, much more expensive in Utah. Our general conference tickets were the casualty of a mistake by the guy in our stake who is responsible for them (but, in his defense, this is the first time he's messed up in years) so I drove to Utah and watched it on TV.

We got to see Heather, which was more than worth the trip. Rachel got to see Mesa Verde on the way back. We then drove straight through home, and I'm going to sleep. It is 6:30 a.m. and I could use a nap. ;)

BTW is run by some of the neatest people we know (the wife is teaching ethics in the BYU nursing program and the husband used to be an elite skier, now flies helicopter). Better than a visit to Six Flags.

I'll have a real blog post later. I am so glad to be home.