Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Mormon JFK in 2008?

Hugh Hewitt comments on a Weekly Standard piece on Massachusetts' Republican Governor Mitt Romney, a potential presidential candidate in '08, and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hewitt also quotes from a Kennedy speech confronting the issue of a Catholic running for President. All are good reads.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


When I served as an LDS missionary in Germany 1976-78, my prized possession was a portable German typewriter (had an es-zet key -- for two s's). It was "tiny" (although quite a bit larger than my current laptop computer), had a cover, was well engineered. It made writing home easier (since my handwriting's atrocious). Made typing tasks of all kinds easier. Although German-made and branded, it looked something like this Royal:
Hard to believe that text was put on paper back then by a metal key striking through a ribbon against paper pressed against a rubber platten, and that you had to physically return the carriage at the end of each line.

I served as the printer in the mission office for 9 months. A primary part of my job was to publish a monthly newsletter in German and English. I learned how to type quickly as a result. I also learned how to justify margins (typing out the text, counting the number of spaces to get the margin even and annotating the line with the number of "ticks" required, then retyping the whole thing to put the spaces in).

For headlines and art, I'd have to use transfer lettering (rub on letters from sheets -- I had to draw a light pencil line, line the letter up and rub on it to transfer it to paper -- it was an art). Then hand paste up the headlines, art, and text using a T-square on a drafting table. Then take the paste up to the Church distribution center and run a plate (a paper "print" of the paste up). And use a brush to wipe away stray lines that appeared if my paste up wasn't "clean", and then run it through the "heater" to fix the compound to the plate. Then back to the mission office to start up the tiny offset press, put the right amount of ink in the well to get the rollers evenly distributed. Then put the plate on the roller and moving a control to transfer the ink to the roller, then feed paper through.

Sometimes plates would be ruined -- they'd be off-center, or the chemical solution wouldn't work and ink would ruin the plate, or they'd tear. That meant another trip back to the distribution center to make another plate. (I think after a while, I started making two plates so I'd have a backup). Sometimes I'd waste a lot of paper because the ink rollers weren't evenly coated, or because the text wasn't centered on the page. Sometimes sheets would stick to the plate or get jammed.

I also did two colors each time: black for the main text, color for the headings, art, and the margin line framing the text. That meant at least four plates (two for each side). And an ink change (which required cleaning the ink well and rollers). And I had to be sure I had extra color-printed pages before printing the text (to allow for any foulups).

As I say, I did this job for 9 months. While I was working on the text for articles, the translation, the artwork, and the actual printing, I was also recording talk tapes from the mission library for missionaries in the field. We made copies at real time speed, so I'd just listen as the tape copied. It would take most of a day to tape 7 talks.

The first computer I ever saw was an IBM 360 mainframe which took up a specially climate-controlled room in the math building at BYU. This was around 1973. This was about what it looked like (note the trendy plaid jacket):

Input was via punch cards:

You'd type the punch cards on a machine like this:

My first computer, the original Apple Macintosh
had the following specs: an 8 MHz processor, 128K of RAM, one 400K floppy drive, and a 9-inch monochrome screen. I bought it new in 1984 when it was introduced for a student-discount price of $1,995 (as I recall). Retail price was $2,495. It didn't have a built-in modem. Modems came later, and transferred data at the blazing speed of 300 baud. FYI, that's a lot slower than 1200 baud, and then 14.4, and even 56K. Tedious is the word. As soon as I could, I upgraded it to 512K -- known then as a "Fat Mac". 512K, not 512MB.

Fast forward to today. I'm typing this on a new Apple PowerBook 12" computer while lying on my bed.
(I pulled this image from a French website found via Google -- hence the metric measurements).

Some comparison is in order. The G4 PowerBook I'm using runs at 1.25 GHz (v. 8 MHz), has 512M (v. 512K) of RAM, an 80GB hard disk (no floppy drive) and a 1024 x 768 display showing millions of colors. It also sports a SuperDrive that can read and write to CDs and DVDs. And it retailed for $1,699 ($800 less than the original Mac).

Word processing has transformed text entry. Desktop publishing tools have transformed the (real) cut and paste of the old days -- from days to minutes (instead of handtyping articles I'd find, I can cut and paste them electronically, and justify the margins with the click of a mouse). My color printer (cost around $100) can produce multiple color output, including digital photographs, with photo-quality in seconds. And I don't have to clean rollers between ink changes for different colors.

I connect to the Internet wirelessly with an AirPort Extreme 802.11g card through a Belkin wireless router and a cable modem. Content appears nearly instaneously from computers thousands of miles away. (Compared to 300 baud via a dialup connection).

I can lie on my bed, as I am now, importing songs from a Stevie Wonder CD, send and receive email, and type this post. It takes the 8x speed SuperDrive a few minutes to import an entire CD -- so it doesn't take real time (i.e., an hour or so) to record a whole album. Plus, I'm free to listen to the songs in order while they're recording, or listen to something else, or to nothing at all.

With Apple's new OS (Tiger 10.4), I can sweep the cursor to a "hot corner" of the screen and see "widgets" that instantly tell me the local temperature and 6-day forecast, and the temperature and forecast in Jerusalem (where my parents are right now), and Houston (where my parents-in-law are). I can also see the current satellite photo of the Middle East (or choose to see any of a half dozen different weather maps of the area, or other areas of the globe). I also have at my fingertips an electronic dictionary and thesaurus, and an electronic encyclopedia, an electronic Yellow Pages, an electronic calculator, an electronic calendar -- all linked to the Internet. The response to any query is instantaneous.

I have so far stored over 1,200 songs in iTunes on my hard disk. I just keep importing CDs. I can search them by title, artist, genre, most-played, etc. I can instantly switch between tracks. I can arrange them in playlists, or have them play randomly.

Back in the day, I used to buy plastic 33 rpm records. The record company could record only 4 or 5 songs on each side -- because that's all that could physically fit. If you wanted to hear the songs on the other side, you had to physically turn over the record and put the needle at the beginning of the record or song you wanted to hear.

When cassette tapes arrived on the scene, I would buy a record, take it home, and record the mint album on tape -- sometimes skipping tracks I didn't like. But to change tracks on a record, you had to physically move a needle over the gap between the songs, and then let it drop. Scratches were a common song-altering and -ruining experience. Now, of course, the content is digital and can be stored and played on a handheld device that can hold thousands of songs. And you can drag and drop a song's name to record it, skipping any tracks you please.

I have also stored speeches of interest: Elder Oaks' General Conference talk on pornography, and Elder Holland's talk about Terror, Triumph and Wedding Feasts. I'm about to import the Book of Mormon read by Lael Woodbury (a gift from a motel proprietor in Rawlings, Wyoming who saw my driver's license was from Utah -- someone had apparently left the CDs in a room and not returned to claim them...).

We missed Elder Oaks CES Fireside a couple of Sundays ago when it was broadcast, so we listened to it for Family Home Evening the following Monday through my laptop connected to our home stereo via streaming audio transmitted to the laptop via radio waves.

I can also listen to local classical station, KBYU, using streaming audio. I can also view streaming video of movie trailers and news items. And I can watch full-length movies, with digital quality audio and video.

If I get a webcam (for all I know, I can use our digital camera, since it can take video as well), I can videoteleconference with three other locations around the world for free using the Internet (Apple's iChat AV -- built into the operating system). I can also "conference call" with up to 9 other locations using the same computer program.

Instead of taking pictures, and taking the film in to be developed (which used to take several days), we now take photos with a tiny digital camera, delete them immediately if they don't come out, and store them and make them into slide shows (with music) on our tiny notebook computers.

Using Sherlock (built into the operating system), I can see what movies are playing where, view a summary about the film, a poster, and a movie trailer, see the start times, and order tickets online to the show I want.

As Barry Manilow might sing, "It's a Miracle -- a true blue technicolor miracle come true."

Monday, May 23, 2005

This we'll defend

Major K, currently deployed in Iraq, blogs about why he and others of our countrymen are there. Read the whole thing.

Sounds like German, it does

I served an LDS mission in Germany 1976-78. Donald Sensing has a humorous piece (quoting Mark Twain and gleaned from his own past) about the German language. That Yoda from the Fatherland was he now concludes.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Islamic chip-on-the-shoulder

Julie Davis's Happy Catholic has quickly established itself as one of my favorite blogs, and she always has an abundance of worthwhile and thought-provoking material on it. Yesterday she produced this post, to which, with the greatest reluctance, I must confess my general agreement. I respect the right of all adherents of all religions to practice their faith, as long as that practice does not interfere with my rights or those of others; but because it is not considered Politically Correct to criticise Islam in any way, I may now be labeled as a bigot for endorsing Julie's views. (Julie, of course, runs precisely the same risk. But if we were talking about, say, evangelical Christians instead of Muslims, why, that would be something totally different, as they appear to be fair game at all times.)

Most religions, including my own, have a violent fringe element within their ranks. Latter-day Saints, for example, were responsible for the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre back in 1857. But I am unaware of any member of the Church today who glories in that incident, or claims that it was somehow justified. Moreover, the demonstators who picket our General Conferences, waving placards accusing us of being a Satanic cult and even desecrating our sacred temple garments in ways clearly intended to be provocative, do so every six months, without fear of retribution. President Hinckley has never called for a "holy war" against them, and I am fully confident that he and his successors never will do so. The fringe elements among us are just that -- kooks and fanatics, people lurking on the shadowy fringes of Mormonism, and well outside the mainstream of the faith. They do not typify us in any way. Religious violence among Christians -- and for that matter, Buddhists and Hindus as well -- is a rarity. Thus, one has to wonder why extremism is such a huge problem among Muslims in particular.

Apropos of this theme, check out Jeff Jacoby and Mona Charen in today's JWR.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Did it: new PowerBook G4 12"

Arrived today. Loaded with Tiger (Mac OS 10.4). Now loaded with my settings, preferences, and software from my old iBook. Took about 10 minutes with FireWire 400 cable. Have also updated other software. Love the Dashboard and Widgets. Love Spotlight. Still exploring.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Tony Woodlief over at Sand in the Gears (link from our blogroll) has a thoughtful post on home.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Democrats' "nuclear option"

Krauthammer has it right (as usual): a filibuster to block judicial nominees -- especially nominees who would win an up or down vote in the full Senate -- is unprecedented. IT is the "nuclear option". And Frist is right to end it and preserve the President's perogative. His is not the "nuclear option", but a restoration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

BYU 20th Ward Bishopric

BYU 20th Ward Bishopric
Originally uploaded by bmadsen.
Garry Wilmore has posted a photo of himself on his profile over at I miei cari amici. So here's one of yours truly (2nd from left). This photo was taken by Relief Society President Amy Tidwell on the last Sunday we had as a ward (April 10). The BYU 20th Ward was mostly freshman living in Heritage Halls on campus. We started as a bishopric last spring. Spring term we had about 80 members. Summer term we went up to around 100. Fall and Winter semesters we had 177 (ratio 2:1 girls to boys). L-R: Dean Titemore (Ward Clerk), me (1st Counselor), Brent Smith (Bishop), and Michael Simpson (2nd Counselor). We had an absolute blast as a bishopric. We had a blast as a ward. The Lord continues to have a sense of humor: I'll be serving as bishop of the BYU 68th Ward starting June 19th.


Originally uploaded by bmadsen.
This is the view from a Mother's Day walk around our block: Mount Timpanogos (named after an Indian princess). Pic was first one taken by my wife with her new Pentax Optio s5i (5 megapixel digicam). It's also my computer's new wallpaper.

Pentax Optio s5i

Glenn Reynolds and Donald Sensing have blogged about their digital cameras. My Mother's Day gift for my wife was a Pentax Optio s5i.

Got it at Costco with a 1 GB SD card. It's tiny. It's easy. And its photos import easily into iPhoto on her laptop. My mom recommended the Pentax (she has had several digicams and loves her Optio). Will be posting some pix here soon.

(Photos of Optio linked from Steve's Digicams -- click Pentax link above).

Rain, rain, go away

After suffering 5 years of drought, and following faith and prayers by Utah's predominantly LDS population, we've been having a record water year. Snow in the mountains (and on our deck this morning), and rain off and on all day -- and all month it seems. (Like we've been transplanted to Oregon or something). In various parts of the state, we're now hoping there won't be more flooding and mudslides. Here's some kid's stuff about the science of precipitation.

The Anchoress strikes again!

I haven't watched much news lately, but it appears that I have missed out on a real treat -- namely, the reception given the other day to the President in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Anchoress sums it up quite well, however, in this post, which appeared on the site yesterday. Check out all of her links as well, particularly the one to Gateway. This is one of her better posts, which says a lot because she is always very good.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Ticking off the USA: before and after

Chrenkoff has a before and after photo essay of four enemies of America: how they looked before they ticked us off, and how they look now. Who's winning?

Tech town USA

Speaking of high tech, Atlantic Engineering just laid fiber optic cable in our yard this week leaving nary a mark on our green turf as part of the new iProvo network. Service providers will lease bandwidth from the city to provide high speed internet, telephone, and TV services. A hundred bucks will get you all three (faster than cable broadband, unlimited nationwide long distance, and digital TV with programming on demand). The place I call home.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A new PowerBook and iPod in the house

I've rediscovered why I love Apple computer.

Bruno Correa (Brazilian student living with us this year) had ordered a Dell laptop (his friend Fabio had one). But, while waiting for his order to ship, after playing with Fabio's Dell and then trying out an Apple PowerBook at the BYU Bookstore, Bruno decided on the spot to cancel his Dell order and buy a 12" PowerBook with Tiger (Mac OS 10.4) loaded.

The fit and finish of the hardware is amazing. And the new operating system is amazing.

Since I've had a Mac since '84, Bruno asked me to help him out and show him around his new computer. The Dashboard Widgets (mini-programs like Weather, Package Tracker, Calendar, and World Clock) are slick. The new QuickTime is sweet -- a new H.264 codec makes computer video better than ever. And I've begun to take the coolness of iTunes and iPhoto for granted. After Bruno went to a movie with Shaun and Allie, I watched a lot of the 2005 MacWorld Expo Keynote by Steve Jobs showcasing Tiger.

For around a year, my main computer's been a dual USB 500 mhz iBook running Jaguar (Mac OS 10.2.8). It's got a G3 CPU, and a Combo Drive (reads and writes CDs, reads DVDs). But it's around 4 years old (was my mom's), and the screen is having backlight issues and the charge plug has a short.

After using Bruno's PB, I think I need a new Powerbook with a SuperDrive (to burn DVDs -- for backup). I can write it off as a business expense and use it as my primary computer at work, too.

Son David bought an iPod (20 GB) this week and has loaded around 600 songs on it so far. He also bought an iTrip today (a device that lets you play your iPod over any FM radio -- especially useful in the car).

I'm glad there's Apple in a Windows world.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Runaway bride

Manolo over at Manolo's Shoe Blog has a take on "Fourteen Maids of the Bride" (here's the whole thing):
Manolo says, so the crazy Georgia bride she just up and ran away before the wedding.
A Georgia bride-to-be who vanished just days before her wedding turned up in New Mexico and fabricated a tale of abduction before admitting Saturday that she got cold feet and “needed some time alone,” police said.

Jennifer Wilbanks, 32, was in police custody more than 1,420 miles from her home on what was supposed to be her wedding day Saturday.

“It turns out that Miss Wilbanks basically felt the pressure of this large wedding and could not handle it,” said Randy Belcher, the police chief in Duluth, Ga., the Atlanta suburb where Wilbanks lives with her fiance. He said there would be no criminal charges.

Far be it from the Manolo to be the person to cast the stone at this poor woman, and her crazy fleeing ways, however, this detail it caught the eye of the Manolo.

The wedding was going to be a huge bash. The couple had mailed 600 invitations, and the ceremony was to feature 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen.

Fourteen maids of the bride! This it is madness!

By the comparison, the Princess Diana she only had five maids of the bride. The Jackie O. when she was the Jackie B. and married the JFK, she had only ten of the maids of the bride.

Manolo says, although the Manolo he is usually in favor of the opulence and the luxury, it is nonetheless the rule of the Manolo that if the girl she feels the need to have more than ten maids of the bride–more than the Jackie O. (nee B.) needed to marry the JFK–she should not be getting married.

Perhaps this rule it sounds too harsh, but it has been the experience of the Manolo that for the girls who demand the most super gigantic of the fairytale weddings, the wedding itself frequently becomes more important than the marriage.

This it is not to say that the big wedding it is in itself bad, but rather it is to say that for the bride who demands the perfect day of the wedding, to the point of either inciting the hatred of those around them, or to the point of wanting to runaway and leave the poor parents thinking she has been murdered, something it is wrong.

The wedding day it is to be the day of joy, and its approach should be greeted with the gladness and the earnest longing for its arrival. If the planning of the wedding has become the ordeal to be endured one must step back and reconsider the necessity of the fourteen maids of the brides.

'Nuff said