Thursday, October 30, 2008


From, Semantics is very neatly described as "the study of meaning." I find that much of my life has been spent debating semantics with people. I grew up with a lot of kids that would listen to everything a person said (and often that person was me) in the hope of finding one element to tear apart. Whenever they couldn't find a serious issue with it, they would attack the semantics - the meaning of a particular word I used - in the hopes of tearing down my argument.

And yes, they did it even if we weren't actually arguing.

By the end of high school, everyone who knew me would agree I talked like a politician. I couched my terms so carefully with qualifiers (such as "for the most part" or "a lot of the time") so the only thing left to debate was semantics. I did it because I grew tired of the constant debates and wanted to be ready to defend myself. As long as I used words I knew, I was safe. Most of the time.

I actually love to study language, and especially meaning. I enjoy learning new words and sharing words I know with others. Because of my father, I also work hard much of the time (see what I mean about couching?) to be precise in what I say. Right now, though, I think too much of the debate in politics has boiled down to a debate over semantics instead of actual substantive comparison of ideas. People would rather label every idea as "socialist" or "capitalist", "communist" or "corporate", or whatever other pigeon-holed word makes the other side look bad.

Recently I was trying to explain the nature of economics to my cousin who just so happens to be working on a masters in mathematics. I said that the way to get people to do something is to incentivize them. At the word incentivize, he got up, walked over to the bookshelf, and started flipping through an old dictionary. Reaching the page where that word might fall, he said, "Would you please show me where that word is on this page?"

It wasn't there, obviously. Which was his point, to simply ignore my argument because I used a word not in his dictionary. He really didn't care about what I was saying, so much as how to tear it apart. I gave him the definition, though, which turned out to be almost exactly what could be found on, "to give incentives to". As someone who has studied linguistics a little in my Latin classes, I know that the word is simply constructed from the noun underlying it, and there is nothing wrong with forming a verb that way. That process is actually called making a gerund. I find incentivize is a synonym for motivate, though perhaps a more specific and clear term. It is also in regular useage among business academics, and even among many normal folk in my experience.

I must admit, though, that I was just as guilty of a semantic argument later that evening. He kept using the word "anti-intellectual" over and over, so I turned the still-open dictionary around and said, "Would you kindly show me where that word is in your dictionary?"

"Touche." was all he said. When pressed, he finally came up with, "An inch deep and a mile wide." which didn't sound terribly intellectual to me. So I looked up the definition for him: anti-intellectual. I found a great deal of irony in the idea that an "intellectual" disliked the use of unfamiliar words. Does that mean he was the anti-intellectual?

-- Robert

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Plural You

This post is partly in response to, but more inspire by, this post by Natasha. Thanks for a good laugh. At least, I think your post was meant to be humorous.

I've always appreciate that most other languages seem to have a plural you (e.g, tu vs. vous), and just figure that Southerners have improved English to include one. My wife believes that Southerners use y'all as a singular (like talking to just one person, they'd still say y'all for you), but I told her only really ignorant ones do. All y'all is simply a more inclusive plural you, like in this example:
"All y'all can come on over." followed or preceded by a gesture to a large group. Looking at just a small group within a large one and saying, "And y'all're welcome to invite some more folks to come, too. We got plenty o' fixin's." would distinguish between the smaller y'all and the larger y'all.

See how much clearer that sentence is without the ambiguous "you" to refer so non-specifically to one person, several, or a lot? And for the record, y'all isn't even improper English - it is a contraction of "you" and "all". It's not like "ain't" for "isn't" or "aren't". It is the way someone should contract those words. Ah, the beauty of the English language. So bizarre, and so flexible.

Y'all come back now, ya here! Tomorrow's post is about semantics.

-- Robert

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Too Good to Be True

The adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" seems as appropriate today as ever. In the now-now-now microwave culture of the United States, we are inundated with emails, infomercials, phone calls, flyers, and even "new friends" wanting to share get rich quick schemes. A few years ago, some good friends of ours met such a new friend who invited them to a "dinner" which turned out to be a few snacks and a sales pitch for a pyramid scheme. We went along (I had no idea it was not actually just dinner until we got there), and I sized it up for them.

"What these people are doing is making it sound fun and exciting for you to join so they can make money off of you." My poor friends were sure I was wrong, but then I explained the nature of what they were asking me to believe. The scheme: get a bunch of friends to buy their groceries through this service instead of the grocery store. By buying through this service, members get paid as a "thank you" for not making the service use funds to advertise.

No one is getting rich from buying their own groceries. Someone who has hundreds of people buying groceries that way might be making a nice profit off such a scheme, but the people at the bottom are probably making nothing - if not losing money.

Such is the way of almost any get rich quick scheme. It does someone rich: the person selling it. In the midst of an economic downturn, many people get drawn in to trying these things simply because they're hoping to find a new bucket to bail water out of the sinking financial ship. What they often find instead is that they have pulled the plug and sunk it instead.

My advice to anyone considering a new idea on how to make money: sleep on it and pray about it. If the person shilling the idea can't wait for a day or two, then something is going on. My wife and I made the commitment several years ago that we would sleep on any major decision about money after we let ourselves get sucked in to a bad car deal. We have rarely regretted our choices since that time.

-- Robert

Monday, October 27, 2008

High School Musical 3

Yes, I really am going to write about the movie. No, I don't ordinarily write about movies. No I'm not going to spoil anything. I just wanted to talk about it in general.

The local one-screen theater premiered HSM3 Friday night, with at least a hundred people attending the first show. People openly laughed, danced, clapped, and cheered in the theater. The whole experience reminded me of my own high school days. I remember rarely, if ever, missing the school plays and almost never missing a musical. I loved watching people my age perform live. We even had a song and dance troupe in town called Class Act, comprised of the most talented people from all three high schools. I loved their performances, and I would not be surprised to hear that someone from the groups I saw made it on Broadway or even in the record business.

Watching HSM3 was a lot of fun. My kids loved it. My wife and I loved it. Not all of the songs were great, but they really managed to portray the image of kids putting on a show, all why interweaving their lives off-stage. It almost became unclear where the stage began and the "real world" ended (or vice versa).

Certainly there were some moments that might make an adult groan. But taken as a fun, youthful performance, it was a real treat. The smalltown theater atmosphere probably really added to the effect for me, too. Whatever the case, it's always fun to get a little nostalgic now and then. It even made me consider going as "Washed up Troy Bolton" for Halloween, just for fun.

-- Robert

Friday, October 24, 2008

Upgrade or Screw Up

In the past, my poor experiences with updating or upgrading have generally centered on Windows and Microsoft products. The newest products are almost always heavily laden with bugs, so I avoid them until the inevitable "patch" or "service pack upgrade" comes out. Sometimes I avoid them altogether. I, for instance, still run Office 2000 on all my work computers but one, and on my own laptop at home. I am sure when I return to school I will have to get Office 2007 or whichever version is current, but I will avoid that change for now.

This week, though, I am dealing with a problem with an upgrade to Quickbooks. We first upgraded several years ago from Professional to Premium, having been told by a technical support person that the file size was simply too massive to be accommodated by Professional anymore. A year or so ago, we upgraded to Enterprise Solutions (the highest end version, as far as I know) for the same reason - file size. The reason we called, though, was because speed had become a real issue. Inputs from the keyboard were sometimes not noticed because the file was so busy checking something, causing data entry meltdowns. Processes that previously took me twenty minutes ballooned to hours. Simple procedures that had been fast and easy required the user to wait for each step in the entry process to finish the hourglass-wait before entering more.

I started writing this post as I was waiting on hold with Quickbooks. Since starting it, though, they came on the line, fixed all my problems, and now have me running faster than ever. Anyone who ever doubts why I recommend Quickbooks should read this post. Truly, they upgrade their products and services all the time. Thank you, Intuit, and thank you Quickbooks Tech Support.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One Word Tag

So I was looking for something to blog about, and my wife mentioned that Melissa had tagged anyone needing something to blog about. I will pass that along to anyone similarly looking for something to post.

Answer the following questions using one word:

Where is your cell phone? desk
Where is your significant other? home
Your hair color? vague
Your mother? MOM
Your father? wise
Your favorite thing? experiences
Your dream last night? realistic
Your dream/goal? professor
The room you’re in? office
Your hobby? shelved
Your fear? mediocrity
Where do you want to be in 6 years? teaching
Where were you last night? work
What you’re not? simple
One of your wish-list items? Indiana
Where you grew up? Atlanta
The last thing you did? installation
What are you wearing? clothes
Your TV? LCD
Your pet? imaginary
Your computer? HP
Your mood? hopeful
Missing someone? no
Your car? Chrysler
Something you’re not wearing? watch
Favorite store? book
Your summer? changing
Love someone? totally
Your favorite color? black
When is the last time you laughed? yesterday
Last time you cried? Chihuahua

Monday, October 20, 2008

Departing Friends

This Sunday, a lot of changes happened in our women's groups. One reason it was time for these changes to come was because one family is leaving -where is not yet known because the Army keeps putting off telling them. For what seemed like months, their departure has been upcoming, but it never seemed imminent. Then Sunday they informed everyone wanting to have a farewell party that they would only be here one more Sunday before shipping out.

The suddenness of their departure made me think ahead to our own. Right now, time seems to both fly and drag. It flies because each passing day goes by rapidly, but it drags because we too await news of our future. I am not impatient - I know I will not hear anything for several more months - but I can definitely feel the sense of approaching a waterfall. We are about to take the plunge. What awaits us in the mist beneath is anyone's guess.

For now, life continues. We plan for birthdays and holidays. We take our daughter to preschool. My wife teaches her lessons. We watch our son grow up and become more verbal all the time. We prepare for the new baby.

People ask us often about when we'll know where we go from here. The answer is always the same - months from now. It's nice to know people are taking an interest. Friends I've barely talked to since moving back here have heard the news and asked me. Maybe we're more noticed here than I realize. I am sure now we will be missed more than I had originally thought. Certainly our lives will never be the same. I hope and pray the new challenges will bring new joy and new learning.

And to our friends now leaving, we wish you well. We will pray for you as you serve your country. We know you are taking a big step, leaving the town you have called home most of your lives - in the case of your children, their only home. You will be missed.

-- Robert

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm It!

Here are the rules to the tag:
1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules on your blog (copy and paste 1-6).
3) Write 6 random things about yourself (see below).
4) Tag 6 people at the end of your post.
5) Let them know they are tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6) Let the tagger (who tagged you) know when your post is up

First off, in the spirit of the person (Crissy) who tagged me, I don't know any blogs that weren't tagged already, so I'll simply respond with six random things about me.

1. I have wide feet. The first time I visited my current doctor's office, the Physician's Assistant just kept saying over and over, "Your feet are huge!" Must've said it five times. I wear 4E's whenever I can get it.

2. I love history. I enjoy listening to television shows about it, reading books and stories about it, and seeing elements of it by visiting sites of significance. I give my parents credit for a lot of it, and a couple of my teachers really nurtured that love by how they related stories of significant figures in history. Listening to a documentary about the Civil War in eighth grade certainly helped.

3. I love olives. I have gotten a can of them in every Christmas stocking for more than two decades (so far as I can recall) and they rarely lasted past lunch. I can find a way to work them into almost any dish, or at the very least any cheese or pasta-based dish. I think they are the manna described in the Old Testament.

4. I once won over $5,500 from a $5 bet on video poker. And I've never played since.

5. I own a couple dozen medieval or oriental weapons. My collection started when I inherited my brother's claymore - a five and a half foot tall sword he'd ordered when we went to Scotland. He wanted it partly because he loved Conan movies, and he used to swing it around that same way in the back yard. I have purchased my additions from all over the world - as well as town fairs and mall stores. I haven't added to the collection in at least seven years, though.

6. I love all of my in-laws. I could not have picked out a more perfect group of people to bring into my life, and I consider myself fortunate to know each and every one of them. I not only don't dread when they visit, I look forward to it, and even find excuses to visit them.

Those seem like fairly random thoughts that certainly make me unique, if not terribly interesting.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Sis

Sixteen years ago, I remember you ribbing me about my not wanting to drive much yet with my learner's permit. What amazing ride it's been since then. Now we're both married, both have kids, we've both got two degrees, and hopefully we're both happy with the direction of our lives. I wish you well on this, your anniversary.

-- Robert

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What We See of the World

During my first quarter of college, I took one last English course - though the school called it Science, Technology, and Culture. I knew it would be a little different when the professor explained the format - we were to read the assignments and write an online piece about it or about the posts of another student. I loved that class, and I really got to like the professor. I often walked with him after class toward his office.

One day, he laid a fascinating piece of wisdom on me that still sticks with me. I commented that people see so much more of the world today than ever before, to which he said, "They see the same amount as they always have. They just see more in less detail."

I asked him to explain, and he pointed out that the human eye can take in just the same amount of visual information as it always could. Now we just see the world rush by from speeding cars or screaming jets, so we miss the finer details people who lived in the days of the horse and buggy might notice.

Twelve years later, I still remember his point. I think about it as I am wandering through airports, observing so much humanity around me, and so little connection. We're all too busy buzzing along to take time to notice each other. I didn't start writing this post as an examination of societal woes, but obviously it must be on my mind just as it is so many others. We have become a society so bent on getting ahead ourselves or "helping" people (so long as someone else pays for it).

Maybe this economic crunch will help more people take the time to stop and smell the roses. Greet a neighbor and maybe make a friend. Listen to someone older relate a story from the past. Study the scriptures rather than simply reading them - or read them instead of just thinking about doing so. Call an old friend and catch up. Take time to play games with children. Go for a long walk in the neighborhood.

Who am I kidding? Push the gas pedal and get outta MY WAY! (just kidding)

-- Robert

Monday, October 13, 2008


In high school, or maybe it was college, I wrote down a list on my computer of all the different nicknames I had been given over the years. Almost none of them were the type of names people would use to regularly refer to me. They were simply momentary monikers that seemed to fit. Still, I got a kick out of them, so I started writing them down. Since that computer has long since disappeared - and the list along with it - I thought I would share some of them here for my own record and to hopefully share some laughs.

Mr. Connected - I got this one because I engineered club elections in high school for my friends. Think Rove, but on a much smaller level. I got a kick out of it towards the end, and actually elected a friend out of a field of six candidates just because he swore he'd shave his head if I did. He was a liar, but that goes right along with being a politician, I suppose.

The Human Heater - I have always emitted head from my body for as long as I can remember. I did not realize how useful a skill such a thing could be until a female friend started wrapping up around my arm to get warm in class. The funniest time came when she sat in my lap in class and the teacher just stared at us, unsure of what to do (since she knew we were just friends). I explained it was for warmth, and she let it go. (My wife finds this skill useful when we're living in colder climates than at present)

The White Wall/White Knight - The only time my coach was foolish enough to put me on a skins team in soccer, the other team called me that because I was still just as fearless about getting in their way, and because I had a serious farmer's tan (still do) - two brown arms and pasty white torso.

Tenille - I laughed at this one because I had actually never heard of the group, but one of my buddies who liked to be a contrarian gave it to me because I was captain of so many teams. He said, "I should just call you Tenille, you're captain of so many things already."

Little Old Man - a family friend and later teacher said to me, "Robert, you're just a little old man." I wrote a whole post about this one so I won't explain further.

Big Rob - I lived on a hall twice with multiple Roberts. The first time, I was just Robert because the other guy was "Big Rob" but the second time there were four Roberts (technically, anyway, since one was Roberto). Rob (who hated being Little Rob so people only called him that when he wasn't around), The Hungarian Hammer (because he was from Hungary), Big Rob (me because I dwarfed the other three), and Roberto. It came in handy when people wanted to yell explicatives in my direction. Not sure it ever got used otherwise.

RobRob - Amazingly, no one picked up on this obvious nickname until I did in creating my first email address. Then it stuck and many friends still use it.

Brotha Bob - As Bill Cosby would say, "I told you that story so I could tell you this one." I enjoy my other nicknames for their anecdotes, but this one is probably the funniest and most used (besides Robrob). It came about like this:

At the beginning of my Masters program, we were given an impromptu assignment to think of three funny things about ourselves. I was stumped until I thought of three things I thought were funny considering I had done them and yet I was still back in school. About ten seconds after I handed them in, I realized I sounded like a total snob for writing them and had to give a lot of explanation to that effect when they were read to the group.

Later that night at a class dinner, I thought of two much funnier things to share, and I told the people I was sitting with. First, I told them I had a suit that whenever I wore it, people wanted to know where I preached or what church I was the minister of, so I call it my preacher's suit. Second, I told them I never liked being called Bob because it was one letter short of boob.

Without skipping a beat, one of my classmates (who I still think is a great guy) said, "Well I think you just named yourself."

I asked what the name was. and he said, "Brotha Bob!"

After that, whenever I would raise my hand in class, he'd yell out "Lay some wisdom on us, Brotha Bob!" or something along those lines. It was a great nickname and I still get a kick out of it. I had gotten over being called Bob (and told them as much) by that point in my life because so many friends knew I hated it and forced it on me in a joking way, but that is the only way I've actually enjoyed being called Bob.

-- Robert

P.S. There were more names - something like twenty - that were on that old list, but they (like so many memories) are lost to the ages (or at least too boring to share).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Son

To my wonderful boy,

Happy Birthday. I love you and your sister very much, but this post is for you.

I enjoy the sheer joy with which you meet life every day. I love the way you try to protect your sister, and the way you love to be where she is. I love your compassionate heart. I love the mischievous grin you get when you're about to do something you know you shouldn't (or even when you're just having a lot of fun). That grin certainly helps me know you're up to something, but mostly it's just cute. I know with your blond hair, blue eyes, and great smile you will steal many girls' hearts one day. But you probably won't even know it, because you don't worry a lot about what other people think. You're fearless. You want to be where the action is. You also want to know how things work. Your curiosity might seem troublesome now, but I know it will take you far in life. I hope you never lose it. I look forward to seeing you grow up even more. Every day you have been in my life has been great.

Thank you for being my son.

Love, Dad

Thursday, October 9, 2008

An Analysis of the Banking Fallout - Article Review

Yesterday Glenn Beck shared a letter he wrote to his sister about how we as a nation came to be in the situation we're in financially. I think he states a lot of it far better than I could hope to, and I appreciate that he did not point the finger at one party, but he did name names when particular individuals had acted or made statements clearly showing they played a role.

In simple terms, though, what he said was greed drove it all. I think he has hit the nail on the head. Politicians greedy for power, bankers greedy for profits, individuals greedy to have things NOW instead of waiting for when the time was appropriate, builders greedy to put up more and more homes while credit terms were so loose... greed greed greed.

It really is sad that such a base, animalistic drive got us here. Regulations were ignored, overlooked, or sequestered. Risk was ignored because it was all being passed on to someone else who didn't care about it. Everything spun out of control.

Fortunately, the economy is still functioning. Rampant inflation (caused at least in part by these slackening credit terms) has not managed to destroy it yet. People are still employed at high percentages, and they go to work and do their job, then come home and purchase goods and services from other people. We have not reached a total fallout, nor will we it would appear thus far. So hope remains. Today may seem dark, but tomorrow - or several hundred tomorrows from now - we can still hope for a brighter day. And maybe, just maybe, that day will bring with it the wisdom learned in the midst of these trials.

-- Robert

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

College Roommates

My wife's post about weird science reminded me of two different experiences I had with roommates at two school. My first quarter in college, I moved into a dorm room with a buddy I had met the year before at a summer program. We shared a mini-fridge since the hall fridge was just a good place to have food stolen. The school required that all appliances by unplugged when students were away for break, so we had to unplug the fridge. I finished finals before my roommate, so I told him just before leaving, "Hey, I know you still have food in there, so just clean it out and throw anything away, then unplug it when you go."

Somehow only that last phrase "unplug it when you go" was the only part he listened to. I came in to start the new term, plugged the fridge back in and opened it to put in a soda or something. If green smoke had come out to color the smell that hit me, I would not have been shocked. I nearly vomited right then and there, and I almost fell over. I quickly closed it back up and went into the hall to catch my breath. If I had known when my roommate would be back, I might've saved it for him to find, too, but instead I cleaned it out. That was the first time I learned that mold could be orange and yellow (on top of white and green). It was also the first time I learned that butter could grow mold.

A year and a half later, I was sharing an apartment with three other guys. Todd and I chose to use my mini-fridge and let the other two guys use the main fridge. Because of a strange set of circumstances, Todd and I ended up having the apartment to ourselves for more than a month. Because of that, we decided to finally use the main fridge, which had ignored by the vacating roommates.

What we found was pretty disgusting. In the vegetable keeper, there were blobs of things no longer distinguishable as a particular fruit or vegetable... or as food, really. Then there were the various bottled substances. I say substances because they had expiration dates from our senior year in high school, nearly three years before and a year before Todd had moved in (I joined him a year later). I'm pretty sure that means they were no longer "food" or "condiments".

I am amazed I did not die of food poisoning or some random fungal infection thanks to those two experiences. I did have a lot of breathing problems in college, which probably were not helped by the disgusting filth my roommates kept in the kitchen. So when I opened the "rice" my wife had left, at least I had dealt with such things before. Hers was mild by comparison.

-- Robert

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Should Wii, or Should We Not?

So today our family has joined the world of Wii owners. I think it will be cool to find out if I can manage the whiteboard trick I saw on this video. My brother-in-law did it and loved it for his classroom. I am sure my kids (and my wife) will enjoy the actual games of the Wii. Okay, I probably will, too. In fact, I'm sure I will enjoy it a lot. Just hopefully not too much. All things in moderation or something like that. Maybe I'll be Wii Exercise or whatever workout "games" they have and see how that goes. I am certainly open to suggestion.

Thank you, my loving wife. I love you.

-- Robert

P.S.: I am sure she would love to hear any suggestions for good games for kids.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Challenge to Our Higher Institutions...

Like most of you, Robert and I both have Master's Degrees, and as Robert mentioned he's working feverishly to continue his education. If there's one common bond that Robert and I share it's our love for learning, and that love for learning has been passed down from our parents and other family members to a common focal point -- college.

In most families, like ours, who have risen out of poverty and blue-collar jobs, the prospect of college is often thrown around like an arrow whenever a unruly teenager gets out of line. In both of our families college was not an option, it was a requirement. There was never any question that my brother and I would attend--and finish--college. There was never any entertaining the thought that "college just wasn't for me." Everything in my education, from pre-Kindergarten onward was focused on college.

To be sure our young people are under a tremendous amount of pressure to achieve that college degree. Neither of my parents nor their parents nor their parents' parents graduated from a four-year University, so while the pressure was on my brother and I, I doubt I experienced any pressure like those of children from severely impoverished families, or those from disadvantaged socio-economic classes. It's the pressure to learn (and eventually earn) that our institutions of higher learning must cradle, nurture and frankly use to prepare students to become better wage earners, better thinkers and hopefully better citizens.

Our "Higher Instituions" should be regaled for the importance they play in our collective future. Yes, all education is critical including early education, but how many doors are closed to those that don't attend college? I can't begin to name how many were open for me, and how many more were opened once I attended graduate school. I've heard the refrain from others saying that college isn't for everbody and I think the best answer is, "but it should be." With that in mind here's a few challenges to our Higher Institutions:

1) Place more emphasis on teaching interpersonal communication and developing and maintaining relationships. There are many outstanding Communication programs in multiple universities. But I would love to see more emphasis placed on this type of curricula for students across disciplines. The world runs on relationships, and the grist for the mill of commerce is communication. We need to not just develop great problem-solvers but problem-solvers who can work with people. Leaders aren't the ones with all the answers, they just have the right people around them. I think too often we dismiss this type of learning as "fluff." It isn't fluff, it's critical, and our lack of attention to building great communicators harms our ability to build great leaders, great workers and great citizens.

2) Emphasize Partnerships with Public Schools, especially those in impoverished areas. The Education Departments of many, if not most Universities are well-schooled in this area. They can provide teaching support and assistance for many under-funded school districts. But what about providing support beyond just student help? If we asked a random University President how involved they were with the ten closest high schools to campus what could they say? Universities need to lead the charge for resource sharing and partnerships in everything from curricula development to athletics programs. This type of work builds more and better future college students, and everyone wins.

3) De-emphasize athletics by instituting revenue sharing across athletic divisions. Collegiate athletics are important, please don't get me wrong. I love collegeiate athletics, I'm a multiple sport season ticket-holder. But the fact that football and men's basketball are supporting so much at so many insitutions begins a sort of inter-collegiate competition that is unhealthy for education. Yes, I recognize that collegiate athletics opens up doors for fundraising and recruitment, and yes, I recognize that these two most visible athletic programs are self-sustaining. However, at some point we need to decide "enough is enough." The NCAA would do well to institute revenue sharing across all schools in a particular division, not just within Conferences. When certain conferences are competing against one another, and school's athletic programs get stronger and stronger, everyone loses. With the massive TV revenues now being experienced by nearly every major conference, we need to put less emphasis on making the best better and more emphasis on raising the ability for all schools to use athletics in positive ways, at lower costs. This too, would require schools agreeing to spending limitations on athletic programs.

4) Continue aggressive efforts to fund education for poor students. True, private universities are not in the business of giving away education. Public universities aren't either...but public universities share a duty to provide education for the "common good." In many ways their outreach and resource-sharing efforts accomplish this, but so too should the substantial resources that larger universities generate from commercial partnerships. True, there isn't enough money to go around for everyone, but expansion of grants, low-cost or forgivable at the Federal and State levels must be coupled with a Universities own efforts to expand its education among those who may otherwise not get a college education. Helping people get out of poverty on their own terms...that's "common good."

5) Expand social entrepreneurship as a discipline through research, teaching and funding. Business is a good field, and we know that sound business principles can lead to meaningful social change and profits for investors. It's important then for our Universities, who by and larget do outstanding work partnering with the private sector, to ramp up efforts to expand this important field. I share the call of Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus to build this "new kind of business" to ensure that we get beyond simple charity and effect lasting change through social business. The type of piecmeal work that many charities and non-profits do is honorable and laudable, it is not my intention to tear them down. But a self-sustaining enterprise can take these efforts to the next level and eradicate many of our social ills. I see our Higher Instituions holding the key to opening this field to the masses.

I'm interested in your thoughts, how would you challenge today's Higher Institutions?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Korean Pioneer

One of the first members of the LDS Church in Korea was Kim Ho Jik. He was an educator who wished to help his nation improve nutrition and overall health. He knew that scientists in the United States would give him a great deal of insight into that subject, and so he sought the chance to pursue a doctorate from an American school.

He also had a deep love for Christ and his teachings. Unfortunately, he had not found a church he felt completely comfortable with and hoped he might find the "true church" while pursuing his degree. He visited several, still unsatisfied, but then he began to notice another student, Oliver Wayman, who shared his office. They had become friends, but had never discussed religion. Still, not long before he was to return to Korea, Kim Ho Jik commented, “I have never seen you smoke or drink. I have never heard you use vulgar language or profane the name of God. You work harder and longer hours than any of the others, but I have never seen you here on Sunday. You are different in so many ways. I wonder if you would tell me why you live as you do?”

Oliver Wayman, as it turned out, was a Latter-day Saint. He gave him a copy of The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage, which Kim Ho Jik read within a week. He loved it and wanted more. Brother Wayman then gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon, which he also read and accepted it to be the word of God. He did not immediately decide to join the LDS Church, but he continued to study the gospel.

Ironically, it was the Word of Wisdom that finally touched his heart completely. He had come to America to find a way to help his people fight malnutrition, and the prescription was right there in the famous doctrine given in revelation to Joseph Smith in the 1800's. Very soon after, he was baptized as the first official Korean member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Now there are many stakes in Korea, but as Brother Wayman told Brother Kim, he was sent to be a messenger to his people. If he had chosen not to listen, the Lord would have raised another in his place, but such was never necessary. His story inspired me the very first time I heard it. So many pioneers faced great obstacles to their membership, yet they knew the gospel message when they first heard it. I am thankful for their examples to me.

-- Robert

Friday, October 3, 2008

Amazing Pioneer Stories in Africa

In honor of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is tomorrow and Sunday, I wanted to share this amazing story of how the Church came to be in Africa. When I first heard it, I was truly amazed, but more than that, I felt the Spirit touch me and let me know the truth of it. As I read the linked story, I felt the Spirit again. For anyone not interested in reading the long version in that linked article, I will relate the first story I was told:

Anthony Obinna (I got the name from the story) had a dream one night where an angel took him to a magnificent building and showed him all around it. Years later he saw a Readers Digest magazine featuring the Mormon Church, and the picture of the cover was of that same building - the Salt Lake Temple. He knew immediately he needed to write to the Church and request materials. After many requests, the Church finally sent materials, and after many more he was able to be the first member baptized in his area. The longer version of the story explains in more beautiful detail how amazing his story was and is, but again, I wanted to offer a simpler version.

- end of story -

I loved that story, and I am glad to see how much the Church has grown in Africa. It now has at least one temple, many stakes, and many missionaries going there. In a few short weeks, my wife's oldest nephew will begin serving a French-speaking mission in Africa. I am deeply proud of him for his sacrifice, and I look forward to hearing more about his experiences.

-- Robert

P.S.: For anyone interested in General Conference, it can be listened to on or watched on or BYU TV/KBYU. If I can find it, I will also share a story of how the Church came to Korea tomorrow.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

#200, Great to Be Here

Recently, my wife gave Todd and I an award, which I was honored to receive. She, after all, inspired me to begin this blog. Numerous others had suggested it, but she finally gave me the motivation I needed to do it. Writing it with Todd has been a real pleasure, since we'd wanted to write something together for ages. We even tried co-writing a website before the age of blogging began, but it was not to be. Now we have this blog.
What inspired us to begin? We wanted to share our thoughts on success, on what that really means for us (and perhaps what it should mean for others), and on how we hope to find it in various elements of our lives. Hopefully over these two hundred posts we have at least scratched the surface in that endeavor. Certainly there are many more things we could write about on the subject of success. Along the way, my own plans in life have changed (or at least accelerated), and I give Todd a lot of credit for helping me wake up to that possibility. So, to my co-blogger and best friend, many thanks.

Finally, in the spirit of an acceptance speech, I'd like to thank my children. They bring joy to my life each day. The way they greet me when I come home would make life worth living even if I were shoveling manure to pay the bills. And even greater, looking at my children every day has helped me realize how important it is to follow my own dreams. I can't bear the thought of having to explain to them one day that "Daddy had a dream, but it wasn't important enough to follow... but you follow your own." No, I must show them - lead by example - if I can ever hope to give them the fatherly love and guidance they deserve. These special beings give me so much hope for the future - their future - and I would hate to be the one who snuffed out that hope.

I don't know seven bloggers to pass this award on to - at least not that my wife hasn't already given it to. I will say I have truly enjoyed Attached Parent (my wife's blog) because it is fun to see her perspective on our life together, both for the similarities and the differences. I have only recently started reading Natasha's blog, but I would definitely pass the award on to her because I love the conversational tone of her posts. I second my wife's inclusion of Melissa's blog because so many of her posts make me laugh, and her virtual book club has gotten me to read at least one excellent book (The Last Lecture) and one other book I would never have read but for her. I also like Jill's blog because it is full of humor and great family experiences. The same goes for Darlene's blog - have I ever mentioned I love my in-laws? - which helps me think about things we should be doing for our little family. Martha's blog is always full of happy thoughts - she is one of the most upbeat people I've ever met - and great pictures. Crissy's blog (when she writes) is inspiring because I know it has to be hard as a single mother of three boys to even consider working toward debt elimination. Good for her.

So there are seven blogs I have enjoyed reading and with whom I would gladly like to share the award our blog received. Thank you again.
-- Robert

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's a Small World After All

So there I was, driving along, mostly minding my own business, listening to Eddie Fantastic on audiobook with my family. We'd left her brother's house that morning, stopped off in Las Vegas for lunch and then headed on. It was a lovely drive through the red rocks and desert, lots of amazing views of mountains.

Then we were stopped on the Hoover Dam. Apparently it was undergoing some construction, causing slowdowns. Because I was effectively parked, I found myself looking around. That girl... well, okay, that woman... I knew her... and that bearded guy with her looked vaguely familiar.

Yep, there, driving across the Hoover Dam, hundreds of miles from where I live, and where I went to high school - hundreds of miles from where this couple lived in fact - were two people I went to high school with. I just had enough time to roll down a window and call out their names. They saw me and waved back, but it truly was one of the more bizarre happenstance meetings I've had. Not the most, no, that still goes to a couple of meetings at different church buildings, but that one was pretty funny to me.

Anyway, we're home from out west. I thought that was a pretty funny way to end it.

-- Robert