Monday, December 31, 2007

Mormon Journalist Prof on Media Coverage of Mormonism

Joel Campbell gives an insightful analysis of media coverage of the LDS faith.

Apparently, journalists writing articles are supposed to give both sides of a discussion a chance to respond. Wow. Letting Mormons respond to claims about how non-Mormons define Mormons? Great idea.

Also, note how Campbell reveals his bias in the first paragraph.

Deseret Morning News | Mormon Media Monitor: Time to grade LDS coverage

Monday, December 24, 2007

Question for Mike Huckabee and for Baptists in General

Question for Huckabee: if elected, will you continue to preach a sermon every Sunday? The POTUS should be at Church most every Sunday. I like that idea. But I am still warming up to the idea of the POTUS giving sermons. It seems to erode the appearance of separation of church and state.

Question for Baptists: I understand that Mike Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister. I have to say that I don't really know what that means. As an ordained minister, has Huckabee made a commitment to preaching a sermon every Sunday? What else is involved in being an ordained Baptist minister which might affect his ability to serve as POTUS? - CNN Political Ticker Huckabee unapologetic for religious tone �

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New trail in Utah County Perfect for Winter

The Utah Lake trail, surprisingly, runs next Utah Lake on the east side of the lake. It's 1.75 miles each way and has lots and lots of sun which makes it perfect for those short winter runs on a sunny day.

I ran it earlier this week and guessed the length at 1.25 miles each way based on my time. Looks like my pace was either a little fast or the newspaper article didn't count the .50 miles that goes north to nowhere.

Daily Herald - New Utah Lake trail open to public

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - CNN Political Ticker Huckabee denies subliminal Christmas message �

It's funny, but this was the first thing I thought too when I saw screen shot from the ad.

I'd really like to vote for Huckabee, I like his approach to dealing with critics, I like his personality as it comes out in the recent NY Times Magazine article. But at some point the guy's got to bring out some serious "this is what I'd do if elected" stuff and convince me that he can function as a POTUS. - CNN Political Ticker Huckabee denies subliminal Christmas message �

Monday, December 17, 2007

Rally around JM Bell (echoed from SLCSpin)

Thanks for the tip, Ethan. Now I've got a Militant Progressive t-shirt to wear to my next Utah County Republican Party Central Committee Meeting and a Militant Progressive coffee mug to put on my desk at BYU. Maybe I'll give the tshirt to my Democrat sister in Idaho.

I first met JM Bell yesterday when he took me to task for getting after Jon Krakauer without reading Under the Banner of Heaven. Apathy is, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems in politics right now. Jeff is clearly not part of the problem.

Get the credit card out and make something good happen here.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jon Krakaur as a source on Mormonism? Seriously?

In her recent editorial on Romney and rant on Mormonism, Mitt’s No J.F.K. - New York Times, Maureen Dowd used Jon Krakauer as a source on us. Wow.

Calling Krakauer to get his opinion on the speech would be something like calling Dick Baer (just google his name, you'll get the picture. I didn't have time to find an objective source) to get his opinion on General Conference. But not quite as bad because in his quotes, Krakauer comes across as well-reasoned and rational.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt's Speech

I was not embarrassed to be a Mormon. I can hold my head up high in political circles as a Mormon American after that sincere explanation of how patriotism and my religion might merge.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Megan on Hillary Clinton

While driving to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Thanksgiving last week, my 4 year old daughter Megan heard a clip of Hillary Clinton on the radio. It was a particularly shrill clip (Sean Hannity's replacement played it so I am sure it was impartial). Megan said "that's not a very nice person." I said "do you think she should be our next president?" She said "no Daddy."

So there you go. Megan would vote against Hillary. I guess I would too given the chance. But my vote would be based on politics and not neccesarily a sound bite on a far right conservative radio program.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My next $11,995 bike

Will definitely be one of these Arantix open lattice carbon-fiber bikes by Delta 7 sports. At 2.7 pounds for the frame, the frame itself weighs about 8 to 9 times less than my current low-end of the high-end mountain bike.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We have a bog in Orem?

Turns out that the recent stink in Orem is a bog fire burning out by Geneva Road.

PECASE awarded to professor at BYU

This is a very big deal. The PECASE ain't quite the Nobel Prize (congratulations Dr. Capecchi!), but it's the top award in the US for young faculty. Congratulations to Adam Wolley and the Chemistry/Biochemistry Dept. at BYU.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Memo to BYU students angry over parking

In a representative democracy, such as Provo, you need to vote. Otherwise, your only recourse is making angry statements about parking at city council meetings.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A $cout executive is...

Well-paid. And honestly, I have no problem with that. But if we could just file trip permit applications over the web and/or email, I'd be much happier. The IT infrastructure in my Council is just new maturing into web 1.0, sort of.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How change education in Utah, step 1

Step one is to go to your neighborhood caucus meeting and elect delegates which represent your views on education. Neighborhood caucuses (or is it caucii?) are held in March. You will know most of the people there, they will be your neighbors.

The caucus system puts a lot power at the grass roots level, the you have to go to your caucus meeting.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

In the Post-Voucher Era

Let it not be said that Utah Republicans blindly follow their state party leadership like sheep.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Memo to George F. Will at the Washington Post


Nice op-ed piece on the Utah voucher fray out in the wild-wild-west. In paragraph 6, you mention that Utah's pending population boom will bring many students into our already crowded school. The good Senator Bramble and the Chamber of Commerce radio ad raise the same issue. I am not convinced. Here's why:

But public education is funded by property tax. Won't those newcomers need somewhere to live? If we assume that they won't live in existing structures with existing residents, then new residences will need to be constructed for these newcomers. Won't that increase the tax base and increase property tax revenue?

Vouchers actually make the situation worse. According to the Voter Information Pamphlet, vouchers will cost the Utah tax payer an extra approx. $40,000,000 in 13 years (that's cost of voucher program minus savings to public ed.). So not only will we have to build more schools, we'll also have to pay more money to fund the voucher program.

The fun thing about vouchers is that it's a financially complex issue. I must be missing something. Somebody please tell me where I am wrong.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

To What Extent do Vouchers Make Private School Affordable?

If tuition is $4,500 (the PCE number), vouchers have a significant impact on affordability across both family size and income. If tuition is $6,935 (a Deseret News number), vouchers have very little impact on affordability. I also did the numbers for sending my 2 kids to Ivy Hall at $5,600 per kid. Vouchers have a negligible impact in making Ivy Hall affordable for us (it's not, if you were curious).

Assumptions, model and detailed results given below. If you want the Excel spreadsheet to play with on your own, leave a comment below and I'll send you a copy.

The following graphs express the cost of vouchers as a percentage of annual income assuming that half of eligible children attend private school in a 2 parent home (except for single parent and single child homes). In the graph, the horizontal axis is annual family income. The vertical axis is number of children attending private school. The values on the vertical axis are 1, 1, 2, 3 (sorry for the lack of labels, my medicine kicked in and it happens to cause excruciating headaches and fatigue).

I decided that "affordable" means that tuition accounts for 5% or less of the family income. Affordable is colored blue. "Might be affordable" means that tuition is between 5 and 10% of the family income. Scenarios which might be affordable are colored orange. "Not affordable" means tuition is greater than 10% of the family income.

First up, we'll assume private school costs $4,500 per kid as assumed by Parents for Choice in Education.

Without vouchers, private school is affordable for only families making more than $110,000 and with less than 2.5 kids in private school. Not so good. Private school is maybe affordable for families making more than $60,000 a year and for larger families with more income.

The impact of vouchers on affordability with tuition at $4,500 is striking. With vouchers, all but large families with low income can afford or might be able to afford private school. Using the PCE tuition assumption, vouchers have a significant positive impact on affordability.

Next, we'll redo the numbers using the amended Deseret News numbers, which includes some kind of weighted average tuition which is $6,935.

If tuition is $6,935 then private school is affordable without vouchers only for small families making around $150,000 a year and might be affordable for small families making $70,000 or more.

Vouchers have little impact if tuition is $6,935. There's no significant change in families that can afford private school. Some small families making around $50,000 may be able to afford private school.

We happen to send our twins to a private preschool, all preschools are private so no sympathy cards are being played here, and I sanity-checked my affordability assumptions on our family budget. No problem. We'll send them to private kindergarten next year and kindergarten will be affordable because we'll make it affordable, but that's another story for another time ... maybe later this week depending on how things go.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Clarifying What I Meant by "Cost to Public Education"

In a comment, Bradley reacted to a plausible interpretation of my last post on the cost of vouchers to public it. It was a plausible interpretation of what I said but not what I meant.

Here's what I meant...

Suppose little Jimmy's parents choose to send him to private school next year. Rightfully so, as you point out, Jimmy's public school allotment no longer goes to the public school. That's the way it should be.

But the problem for me is that $500-$3000 of your tax money also follows Jimmy to private school. That's $500-$3000 coming out of tax revenue and into education but not into public education.

I am calling that a cost to public education because that's $500-$3000 that our legislature decided to spend on education (instead of transportation, infrastructure, public safety etc.) but which did not go to public education.

The central question for me is still this: if we can find and extra $40 ish million a year (that's cost to tax payer minus savings to public ed. using the numbers for the 13th year in the Voter Information Guide) to spend on education, then is subsidizing private schools really the right way to spend it?

For a state with the lowest per-pupil spending in the nation already, I think that the answer is no.

If you look at educational outcomes (in terms of % of population with a HS degree for example), no other state in the union spends less on education per capita and gets better results. Imagine what we could do if we were closer to the national average.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why do vouchers cost public schools money?

My neighbor and I were carpooling home the other day and talking about vouchers. He was surprised, I think, that vouchers will cost public schools money. I knew that they would (from the voter's guide) but couldn't explain why.

I re-read the voter's guide and here's why.

When a student's parents choose to send that student to private school on a voucher, some of that student's oreo stack (ie dollars) remain in the public school. But some go to the private school. Sure. We've seen the ads we know this.

The catch is that the oreo stack only stays in the public school for 5 years. After 5 years, the oreos just go back into the general fund, or something. Maybe they get dunked in milk?

5 years is a long time in school years for a child. But, in the end, the money still goes away.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Other People Question Spending Tax Money on Vouchers

The KSL Editorial Board says "Is Utah's public school system broken and in such disarray that doing something as radical and unproven as directing precious tax dollars toward private schools, many of them parochial, the answer? We think not!"

And Green Jello says "I believe providing more accessibility to private schools would also provide another great option for students who need a non-traditional approach to their education needs if it could be done without creating an additional drain from Utah's taxpayers and from the already underfunded public schools system. However, referendum 1 doesn't succeed in this point. After the 13th year and beyond it would be a drain on the public coffers, and I'm afraid it would be viewed as nothing more than another entitlement program."

I agree with both. Pramahaphil over at Green Jello is even an accountant. I am not very good at accounting, so reading the numbers in the Voter's Guide was all I could handle. Pramahaphil read the Legislative Fiscal Analyst's Report, probably enjoyed it, and reached a similar conclusion to mine.

Cycling Moab with 4 Year Olds


We took the girls down to Moab for the weekend and they were dying to ride their bikes in Moab, just like Daddy did with the Scouts a year ago. So we packed up their bikes and headed to Sand Flats by the Slickrock Trail. And we biked at the Rotary Park down the hill off the road to Sand Flats.

They had a great time. Megan is a pretty good biker for a 4 year old and Ashley is a little more apprehensive so far.

The Rotary Park is a fun green shady oasis in town.
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Faculty are anti college sports?

[Salt Lake Tribune - Monson: Professors show their annoyance with college athletics]

Monson's citing a reputable study, so he's probably on the right track. But I wasn't surveyed in the study and I just want to go on record as saying that as a college professor myself, I love college sports. In my department, lunch conversations alternate between football and "other stuff" almost all of fall semester.

Then again, in our department, Computer Science, we don't see players from marque sports like football and basketball. I've had a men's diving diver and a women's tennis player. Both were good students and seemed to enjoy the challenge of doing both school and sports.

I suppose that if I were in an, um, easy major like the humanities or public broadcasting, that I might see more marquee sports players in my classes. Ok, easy is probably the wrong word. Let's go with "less time consuming."

If you know any football or basketball players or cheerleaders in a technical major, I'd love to know who they are. So far, I know 0.

I should add that I knew a Utah scholarship football player and met a BYU scholaship basketball player. Both starters. Both very smart impressive people. Seriously. Just don't have a lot of time for demanding majors.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Input needed on field work test sites

In the lab, we are preparing a proposal to a build the technology for capturing the shape, color and reflectance of rock formations using consumer hardware. This technology will allow the general public to virtually visit remote sites and create an archive of fragile rock formations before they are damaged by vandalism or natural causes.

We are looking for a field work test site somewhere in the desert. This will be a place we can visit to test our ideas. We need a place with the following characteristics:

1. Within 2.5 hours of Provo, Utah.
2. Includes a cool looking rock formation. Need to be able to walk around the entire rock formation.
3. Low elevation. We want year-round access.
4. Is between 1 and 2 miles from the closest road. This is negotiable though.

We are thinking of using the Conquistadors near Little Holes Canyon near the Grand Canyon of the San Rafael River, see picture above. The problem with the Conquistadors is that they are next to a 50 foot cliff with loose rock. Safe enough, but safer would be better.

We are also thinking of using the first Pinnacle (following Steve Allen's guidebook) in Pinnacle Canyon off the Tidwell Draw North Road.

Got any other ideas?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Budget Numbers on Vouchers

After reading comments left here and elsewhere, I decided to go do some studying to find the cost of vouchers to the Utah taxpayer. As you might guess, it all depends on which assumptions you make. I'll use the Impartial Analysis in the Voter Information Pamphlet.

In the end though, the question is: If vouchers create an additional tax-payer burden, are vouchers the best way to spend that money?

More specifically: What if we spent the extra cost (if any) of vouchers on teacher raises?

Let's say that there are 30,000 teachers in Utah. (There were about 21,000 in 1999). In the first year, vouchers may only cost the tax payer an extra $3.1 M. Using that number, we could give all teachers about a $100 raise. Not that exciting, but a nice way to say "thanks" to the people who teach our children. The other estimate gives vouchers a $6.0 M net savings to the tax payer. Teachers would need to take a $200 pay cut to fund vouchers the first year. Not that appealing if you are making a teacher salary and if you are trying to actually hire teachers.

It's a lot more interesting in the 13th year (when vouchers are fully phased in). In the 13th year, vouchers cost the taxpayer either an extra $60 M or an extra $43 M depending on which numbers you believe. So the question is: should we use that extra $51.5 M (I used the average) to subsidize private schools or should we use it for public schools? If we use it for public schools, I vote we put it all in teacher raises. Let's say we have 40,000 teachers in 13 years (I made that number up), then we could give all of them a $1287.50 raise. In 2020 dollars, an extra $1287.50 per year won't be a ton of money, but every little bit helps--especially if house prices continue to rise and you want to buy a house.

Vouchers may save money in the first year. But after 13 years, when everyone thinks of them as an entitlement (which is why it's odd that conservative Republicans support them so passionately), they are going to cost additional money. If we are going to spend additional money on education, and I think we should, then let's spend it on making public education better.

And that's why I'll still vote no on vouchers.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Loading a helicopter with 1 skid on the ground

Apparently that's what it took to get these guys out of Grand Staircase Escalante. I saw it happen once on Timpanogos above the Timponooke Basin just below the saddle. It was impressive even from a distance.

[Salt Lake Tribune - Three hikers plucked from wilderness cliff in daring helicopter rescue: "The helicopter flew in this morning, landing one skid on a ledge and opening the door for the three men to jump inside."]

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Secret 18 Mile Loop in North Orem

One of the pending comments was curious about the 18 mile roadie loop I mentioned in a post about the dangers of riding the Provo River Parkway in clueless foot traffic. Since I am sitting in my living room in my new cold weather cycling jacket and not riding my bike (due to rain), I thought I'd take a minute to post that route.

It goes something like this:

Get on 2000 North in Orem, head west. Turn left at the stop sign just before the dump. Head south for a while. At the next stoplight (next to a park, I think it's 400 South), turn left. Ride west to 400 east. At 400 east, turn left again. Head north for a while. Turn left on 2000 north for another 18 mile loop.

One of my woodbadge tickets was to ride the Alpine Loop, which I did two weeks ago. That was my first time all the way around. It's pointless. The climb up Provo Canyon, then to Sundance, Aspen Grove and the Summit is great. The descent down the Sundance side is way fun. But the drop down the AF side is not so fun and the ensuing ride through Cedar Hills, AF, PG, Lindon is even less fun.

Moderating comments, oops

It turns out that there were 25 comments waiting to be moderated here at Utahania. I took a long summer off from many things, including blogging. But the good news is that I got continuing faculty status (BYU equivalent of tenure), taught computer graphics for the first time, published my first paper in computer graphics, took the scouts to camp, the kids on a vacation or two and even went to family woodbadge.

Anyway, at some point in that process, the blog set itself to have comments moderated. I guess that actually sending me email when a comment needed to be moderated was too much? At any rate, I am now caught up.

20 out of 25 were great comments that I wish had been out there in the community. I even agreed with some of them :) . The other 5 were, or appeared to be, unrelated spam.

Sorry about that, I'll stay more on top of that now that I know there's a silent queue of pending comments.

Why I oppose vouchers

As much as it kills me to be on the same side of an issue as the UEA, I am going to have to vote against vouchers. I have two primary reasons.

First, I am a fiscal conservative. While I do support parents' choice in education, I don't think that the government should spend your tax money to help parents choose private school. Similarly, I don't support using your tax money to help parents have a choice, for example, in what kind of car they drive. Just to be clear though, I do think that your tax money should be spent to provide education to all children for free. Public ed has problems. However, I think many of them can be blamed on the UEA (sorry UEA). Tenure in 3 years? That's crazy. Stretch that out to 6 or 7.

Every person I know who supports vouchers and hates their local elementary school (n=2) simply has a bad principal. If it weren't so hard to fire a bad principal, then public ed would be a better place. It's easier to fire a college football coach than it is to fire a principal. What's wrong with that?

Second, voucher proponents have made a big deal out of the following arguement "vouchers aren't bad for public ed because a student who leaves on a voucher leaves behind the money spent to educate that student." Apparently, the legislature found some money in the general fund that can be used to pay for vouchers without taking money out of public ed. If we have the political will to take money out of the general fund and spend it on vouchers, then why don't we take that same money and use it on public ed? The Utah Senators and Reps. that I've met are pretty smart. They have to understand this arguement against vouchers. So why don't they support using that money for public ed but do want to use it for vouchers? That's an easy one: UEA again. Legislators are reluctant to throw more money at public ed because they aren't happy with how it's going to be spent.

Dawn: hope that helps you get through class next time!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memo to DesNews: Paper Ballots are not Ludite

Last Thursday's editorial in the Deseret News painted me, and people like me, who want voter verifiable paper audit trails as being afraid of technology. That's funny because I love technology and have made it a major part of my career.

Back in '04, many Computer Science professors at the U and BYU got together to ensure that our legislature understood the difficulties of getting electronic voting right. I was one of those professors and still believe that a voter-verifiable paper audit trail is important in establishing the legitimacy of an electronic election. Not because of public perception, but because it's just too easy to get electronic voting wrong.

Phil's post, Phil Windley's Technometria | Saying Yes to Paper Ballots, reminded me that I needed to say something about this.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Welcoming the New Utah County Democrats

The New Utah County Democrats were elected as the party leadership last night. Welcome! It's good to have a viable second party in our county.

They say, on their website, "even our moderate Republican friends and neighbors are now grumbling about how out of touch their own party is to the needs and opinions of real Utahns."

Exactly correct. As a moderate Republican, I was dismayed by statements at my party's convention last week. We are very close to "Republican means anti public education" That's an extreme position I don't agree with. (Not just the "Satan's role in immigration" thing but also just about everyone's statements on education and vouchers).

A viable second party in our county will pull the Republican far right back towards the middle. They won't like it, but it will be good for our state.

The other way to pull the county Republican party back to the middle is to get moderates elected as delegates and then as party leadership. Unfortunately, moderates tend to be uninvolved other than voting every 2 or 4 years in November.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

War Criminal?

Memo to those who call President Bush a war criminal:

It's a serious thing to call a sitting president of the United States a war criminal during a time of war. Unless you are correct, it borders on treason.

If you really believe that he's a war criminal, then you should be doing more than leaving comments on blogs, writing blog entries, holding rallies and debating radio talk show hosts for charity.

You should be presenting a case to Congress and the UN to help you get a war criminal out of the Oval Office. You should be prepared to see it through until Bush and Cheney are imprisoned, probably for life.

If you commitment to Bush/Cheney as war criminals isn't that deep, then let's all continue to oppose/support the war but let's tone down the rhetoric a little.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Usage rules for incite versus insight

The BYU newsnet today has the following headline: BYU NewsNet - Speakers to Share Incite at Women's Conference.

I think that they meant "insight" but "incite" is much more interesting especially if you watched "The Mormons" documentary and listened to the bits about women in the church as described by a former Church member.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Mormons

The Mormons documentary wasn't too bad. The first night was far better than the second. Ken Verdoia did an excellent job of speaking about LDS history in a way that I think non-Mormon people will relate too while remaining correct and positive. I was extremely impressed with Ken's pieces.

I think anti-Mormons will be disapointed with the coverage and I think that some Mormons will be as well. That means that they probably got it about right.

Elder Oaks' on Mountain Meadows was good. I thought they made Will Bagely look pretty dumb. They let him say "Brigham Young ordered it" but didn't let him give any justification. I guess you just have read his book if you want to find out how he formed his opinion.

The bit on dancing in the middle was odd but fun. Both my sister (in Boise ID) and brother (in Seattle WA) had their spouse turn to them in that part and say "but you can't even dance!" My wife was asleep by then.

The second night was pretty slow and less balanced. The disaffected intellectuals got lots of air time to comment on the state of the church generally.

Mormon intellectuals are fine. The problem is that one can't actively advocate positions that oppose the LDS Church _and_ remain a member of the LDS Church. People are free to oppose the LDS Church, you just can't be a member while you do it. It's neither complicated nor oppressive. I am probably over simplifying the situation, but if you oppose the LDS Church and don't believe it's fundamental claims or positions, then why do you care if you remain a member or not? I am sure it's more difficult than that because Toscana seemed to sincerely struggle with the actions of others, her decisions and their consequences.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Utah County Republican Convention

Fortunately the resolution on Satan's involvement in illegal immigration failed. There wasn't a quorum so it was all moot. Even so, it would have failed in a straight up vote. The wording on "close the borders" may have passed if there was a quorum needed to suspend the rules and remove the Satanic part.

I was extremely pleased to hear Stephen Sandstrom talk about immigration. He said, more or less, that his first year in the House taught him that immigrants are people too with desires, goals and feelings. That's progress.

The debate on vouchers in our Senate District Caucus was fascinating. John Valentine is our senator and gave a great inside scoop. I had an interesting discussing with the State or County PTA President afterwards.

The good news is that I've finally come to a position I agree with on public/private education. Stay tuned...

Ralph Nader at UVSC (for BYU, sort of)

I didn't attend the alternative commencement. I draw the line at one commencement a month. Even if the guy who gave Bush the presidency is speaking.

One of my colleagues did go and the comment I got from him was "you should have heard his ideas on health care." So it's just as well I didn't go.

It's interesting that the alternative event was far more political than the official one. Politicizing graduation was one of the original complaints with the Cheney invitation.

Unfortunately, news reports suggest that Nader did not follow Mike's first law of graduation speaking, which is, be short, be uplifting and sit down.

Serious kudos to the students who arranged it. It strengthens my hope in the future of our democracy.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

VP Cheney at BYU


Being a BYU professor has very few perks. There is no annual bonus. The Christmas present is a book. Although I love the books, seriously, you aren't going to remodel the living room with a book. When I retire, I hope I have a collection of about 30 of them. I already had a copy of the book, it was an LDS triple combination, we got last year. The gift was bound in a very fancy Italian leather. I digress.

But today the perk was a short line to get in commencement and a second row seat. See blurry picture to the right.

Graduation today was excellent. Completely non-partisan. Even the 9 protesters at the gates of campus on my way home from the Marriott (3 pro 6 against) seemed silly and trite. It was a fine occasion. The VP seemed touched to get his honorary degree and I thought it was an appropriate gesture for a guy who's been in government service since 1976.

I hope the graduates all enjoyed the talk. The VP obeyed Mike's first law of graduation speaking. Which is: nobody really came to hear you talk. Keep it short and meaningful then sit down.
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[ | County GOP delegate links illegal immigration to Satan]

I got this resolution in the mail as part of my packet for the county convention on Saturday. I can't decide if I should stick around to vote against it or just let the lack of a quorum kill it naturally.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mormon Democrats I know

Stereotypes about Mormons and politics are easy and fun. And there is ample evidence to support them. However, the problem with stereotypes are that they ignore a small but significant part of the population which does not fit the stereotype.

In an effort to debunk the "all Mormons are Republicans" stereotype, I thought I'd list off a few staunch Mormon Democrats that I know well. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent :)

A Bishop. I served as his counselor. He is one of the most significant influences on my church service life.

A Stake Young Women's President. She's doing great.

A Ward Clerk. Formerly one of the best Scoutmaster's I know.

Another Bishop.

A few BYU faculty.

A counselor in a Relief Society Presidency.

A Stake President.

I continue to be a Republican. There may be other Democrats lurking about as well, but, oddly enough, politics rarely come up at Church.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BYU Protest Update

I took a quick lap around the BYU library today to see how BYU students were enjoying their rights of free assembly as given to them by the BYU administration and American Military power.

Conservatively, (I am a conservative after all) the anti-Cheney protest by the BYU Democrats drew 2 times as many people as the pro-Cheney protest staged by the BYU Republicans. The Republican protest drew about 3 uniformed ROTC students while the Democrat one appeared to draw none. It was hard to spot military uniforms through all the people at the Democrats' protest. Graduation should be interesting. I'll bring a camera to this one.

Since the Republicans are outnumbered 2 to 1 here on the BYU campus, I predict the Democratic candidate will win by a landslide in November 08. Unless of course, something happens in the next 18 months...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Walsh on Commencement Speakers at BYU of U of U in 2007

My other favorite part about Walsh's recent article is this:

Paragraph 3: "The decision to invite Vice President Dick Cheney to speak at Brigham Young University's April commencement shreds the LDS Church's perennial claims of political neutrality. "

Paragraph 4: "the University of Utah's commencement speaker choice of LDS Apostle Thomas S. Monson. "

Let's do some cut and paste to consistently apply the standard from paragraph 3 to the information in paragraph 4:

Mashup of paragraphs 3 and 4: "The decision to invite [Apostle Thomas S. Monson] to speak at [the University of Utah's] [May] commencement shreds the [state of Utah's] perennial claims of [religious] neutrality."

Doesn't really work does it?

Neither does the original paragraph 3.

[SLCSpin » Blog Archive » The Problem With Rebecca Walsh’s Column]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Welcome UVU!

The Senate Site reports that UVSC has just become UVU. Right now, it is a university in name only (literally) but I look forward to having another University in Utah County and wish them the best of luck. I know a few of their CS faculty and they will do well with the change.

As a parent of children in Utah County, I am hopeful that in 15 years when my kids are old enough to attend university that UVU will be a viable option for them--assuming that they can get in. But their father, mother, both grand-fathers, both grand-mothers, a great-grand-mother and a great-great-grand-mother all graduated from BYU so they may decide to attend BYU--if they get admitted there!

[The Senate Site: Utah Valley University!]

My Wow Moment

I installed Vista on my work desktop yesterday because it was a slow Monday afternoon. I've had three wow moments so far. First, "Wow, it looks just like it did before and I am not sure why I did that" Second, "wow, search was fast. Much faster than it was on OS X" Third, "wow, they still don't have support for different background images on multiple monitors"

Your mileage may vary.

Windows Vista – Show us your "Wow"

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Average Sunset on Mt. Timpanogos


This image is the average image created by compositing 43 images of Mt. Timpanogos taken at 99.6% of the lit day over the course of the last 2 months. As such, it represents the average sunset over that time period. The average noon-day picture (taken at 50.0% of the lit day) is bit more murky.
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Monday, January 22, 2007

A story that warms the conservative heart

The film version of Edward Abbey's liberal environmental epic "The Monkey Wrench Gang" will not be filmed in Utah because the state didn't offer the producers a large enough tax break. Instead, it will be filmed in New Mexico.

One does wonder how the producers managed to get the film rights to Ed Abbey's book without agreeing to film it in Utah. It's kind of central to the whole premise.

[ - Utah's Online Source for Local News & Information "The Monkey Wrench Gang" to be Filmed in New Mexico]

On a related note, I have read Ed Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" and came away with the following conclusion: convservatives want culture to remain unchanged, liberals want the environment to remain unchanged. The liberal position is a little uncomfortable if you plan to build on or use things built on land that was previously undisturbed. But if you already own your vacation cabin in the mountains, the liberal position isn't too bad.

In-state tuition for students here legally

Anthony asked a very reasonable question in a comment. Do non-US students here legally for school get in-state tuition?

I believe the implication is that if they do not, then it's mighty odd for students here illegally to get favorable treatment compared to people who kept the law. It's a good point.

The key difference is that a child of an illegal immigrant brought here at the age of 4 didn't choose to come. It seems unfair to punish that student for a choice made by their parents. For example, children of crack dealers still get in-state tuition even though their parents broke the law. That seems reasonable to me.

Here's what the Utah Law says (from The University of Utah - Admissions): "Aliens who are present in the United States on visitor, student, or other visas which authorize only temporary presence in this country, do not have the capacity to intend to reside in Utah for an indefinite period and therefore are classified as nonresidents. ... Aliens who have been granted immigrant or permanent resident status in the United States are classified for purposes of resident status according to the same criteria applicable to citizens."

The summary is that if you intend to reside in Utah for an "indefinite period" then you get in-state tuition. If you are here on a temporary visa, then you can not intend to say indefinitely.

I believe Anthony also suggested that a person who is (a) brought here illegally (b) attends school here for 3 years (which meets the residency requirements established for everyone) (c) graduates and (d) gets admitted to college should be (a) nationalized then (b) given a tuition break based on existing law.

I like that idea, a lot. I'd support it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Vote against Utah HB224

HB224, which repeals in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants, made it out of committee Friday. HB224 is a bad idea.

If a child is (a) brought to the United States illegally by their parents (b) graduates from High School after attending for at least 3 years in Utah and (c) gets into college, then they ought to get a tuition break.

To penalize children brought in illegally by their parents is a form state-sponsored punishment of children for their parent's illegal behavior. If children of convicted drug-dealing US citizens aren't sent to jail with their parents, why should children of illegal immigrants be penalized?

In 2005-06, there were 182 students taking advantage of the tuition break. At $5000 of tuition lost per student, that comes to almost an opportunity cost of almost $1,000,000 to support keeping these students in school. To put that in perspective, if we took 1/3 of the budget surplus, that would be about $100M in round numbers, for 2005-06 and spent it on covering lost tuition for these students, we could fund the program for 50-100 years depending on how many students use the program.

[Salt Lake Tribune - Undocumented kids' tuition break takes hit]

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hey, that's the person that runs with my sister!

KSL has a piece on Joy Postma and running marathons. My sister runs with Joy and we met Isabel and her parents and my sister's New Year's Eve shindig. Joy et al. had to go home before the midnight run but it was fun to meet Isabel and her parents.

Reading the article also reminds me why I quit running marathons after my first and last running of the Logan marathon. I have a low tolerance for pain.

Donut Falls open again

The city bought the canyon containing Donut Falls for $1.284M in order to preserve the watershed. And that means that Donut Falls is now open again winter travel. Donut falls is one of two places where I've been out in weather cold enough to make my snot freeze. The other was Aspen Grove while snow caving with the scouts. [Salt Lake Tribune - Treat time: Donut's for all]

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Way to go Democrats!

Rob over at Utah Amicus has posted the The Letter to the NNSA from Utah Democratic Chair, Wayne Holland Jr.

The Democrats and Utahania (and many other) agree on this one. Not a good idea. The point about "do it when the wind blows toward Utah" and the similarity with the same directives in the atomic tests is uncanny and well argued.

The University of Utah is conducting a project on the simulation of accidental fires and explosions called C-SAFE. Maybe it could be tweaked to include intentional fires and explosions, like say, Divine Strake?

Interesting to note that the above mentioned letter includes the Grand-Staircase Fiat of the Clinton era as an arguement against Federal action without public comment in Utah. In that case (in my reading of the letter) the ends justified the means. In this case, the ends don't. I disagree (with the Escalante part). I think the ends never justify the means when the Feds act by fiat.

Nice work Democrats, seriously.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rashaun Broadus' Bad Day

Broadus is a great BYU team player. Lots of hustle and brings much needed energy to the court. Assuming these charges hold up, I'm hoping this works out well for Broadus in the sense that he realizes BYU is serious about the Honor Code and he re-commits to follow it more carefully. It could also be that he decides BYU isn't the place for him after all. Hopefully the former but if the latter, then Utahania's college sports editorial board wishes him the best.

Salt Lake Tribune - College Basketball: Y.'s Broadus arrested on four charges

Friday, January 05, 2007

Big Box and Daybreak

As correctly reported at slcspin almost 2 years ago, Daybreak does not and likely will not contain a cornucopia of neighborhood stores inside the friendly confines of the planned community. My sister, a Daybreak resident, and I were talking about it over New Year's and she independently (she doesn't read SLCSpin, but she just got a mac, so maybe she'll read RSS feeds now) claims that there's no neighborhood stores because of all the big box right outside the gates. Her hairstylist says there's just no market for neighborhood stores (like his) inside Daybreak because all of the shopping is outside. (We also did a midnight run on New Year's eve at Daybreak in which we ran uphill in 2006 and downhill in 2007. Just as 2007 officially started, we were able to say "it's all downhill from here." My other sister and I crossed the finish together in a sprint to win before I looped back 50 yards to re-finish with my wife.)

It's complicated, but if people want neighborhood shopping and living, then they'll quit shopping at big box stores--even if they are just right outside their neighborood.

Meanwhile, Ikea's going to open the next big box soon... Salt Lake Tribune - Big name stores committing to Utah market. Funny how Ikea's big box is a "give ourselves a pat on the back" event while other big boxes are the targets of neighborhood protests (followed by neighborhood shopping.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Unusual Sunset

As I mentioned before, I've got a camera in my office window snapping pictures of Timpanogos at various times of day for a project on rendering terrain under time-varying lighting conditions. Last night it captured the attached time-varying lighting effect. Not bad.
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Apocalypse must be near.

Because the CIO of the LDS Church has created a blog on which... 1. He posts frequently. 2. The posts suggest that he stays on top of technology and 3. The Church's CIO is genuinely concerned about using the best technology and practices to further the mission of the Church.

As a supportive lifelong member of the Church I am thrilled to see the new blog, hopeful that it will lead to good things and hopeful that I can contribute to the discussion.

Joel Dehlin, you get the Utahania gold star of the day!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2 and 0

That's the stat of the day because that's the record for non-BCS schools against BCS schools in BCS bowl games. With a record like that, it's no surprise that the BCS doesn't want to allow non-BCS schools into the game.

This win was significant because OU was actually a good team. Utah's win over Pitt two years ago wasn't a big deal because Pitt wasn't a good team. But isn't that another problem with the BCS? Mediocre teams in the right conference always get an invitation while everyone else has to go undefeated.

We were fortunate to have some bona fide Boise State fans over for the game yesterday (one drove down from Boise all day Monday--for other reasons, our house was just a good place to watch the game). The game was more thrilling than BYU's win over Utah last month. In the BYU-Utah game, I only lept off the couch to my feet once. In the BSU-OU game, I lept to my feet twice.

It's time for a playoff.

Monday, January 01, 2007

My Return to Blogging

I've got a serious problem with life Utah County that compels me to return to Blogging.

While preparing for a snowshoing trip with my 3 1/2 year old twins and their neice, I became aware of a serious issue facing the average citizen of Utah County. The problem first appeared when we went to WalMart to buy inexpensive snow boots for the kids. I get clued into it while at Target looking for boots then it gots serious at Big 5 and Sports Authority.

The problem is that both Big Box and Sports retailers quit selling snow boots in about early December! Walmart and Target were busily stocking sandals (this was December 29) and I am not sure what Big 5 and Sports Authority were trying to do. They did have lots of softball equipment though.

So we had to tape plastic shopping bags around their feet up to their knees, but their tennis shoes on top of that and go play in the snow like poor white, um, people. The bags worked great and cost less too.

The second problem was that, while Boise State U. rents children's size snow shoes, BYU (and every where else we called in Utah County) does not. So we went sledding instead. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.