Random tidbits, thoughts, ideas, reviews, etc.Aaron Goes Yakkity Yak
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November, I Can't Wait! (New Mistborn Book)
Wednesday, 17 August 2011 11:46 PM MDT
According to author Brandon Sanderson's web site, his new book The Alloy of Law, set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy that I love so much. Brandon Sanderson and TOR, his publisher, have released several sample chapters already to whet my appetite:
I'm excited! The chapters I've read have me hooked. But then again, I've said that before. And I've been a Sanderson fan for over six years now, and even met him in 2007 at a book signing where I covertly captured a brief video at that signing.
While I'm on yet another Sanderon kick, I have to comment on the cover art. I really like the art on the original Mistborn trilogy hardcover U.S. editions.
Then while surfing around tor.com, I stumbled on this article by artist Sam Weber whose artwork for the Tor's ebook release of The Mistborn Trilogy which (I assume) encompasses all three of the first Mistborn books. Wow, Sam's art is practically perfect!
Mollie's Travels in Utah
Friday, 12 August 2011 11:40 PM MDT
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
Having grown up in Hurricane, Utah (well, mostly), no one in town would think twice to announce "I'm going to hike up Mollie's Nipple" when talking about hiking up the nearby Hurricane Cliffs escarpment and then surmounting the 400 foot hill on top, Mollie's Nipple. It was just the name of a geological feature overlooking the Hurricane Valley, albiet descriptive.
I recall while in Varsity Scouts ascending Mollie's Nipple with mirrors to send signals to other Varsity Scouts on surrounding mountaintops as part of On Target. Quite fun!
Owen Sanders of Hurricane—a neighbor of mine who has since passed away, a kind and talented gentleman who befriended me as a teenager and who would share his poetry with us fellow Hurricaneites—composed a poem that is inscribed on a historic marker in Heritage Park in Hurricane, placed there in 1991. The poem by Owen Sanders and subsequent marker text reads:
SEE MOLLIES NIPPLE "IT'S A BUTTE"Even though as a kid I thought Mollie's Nipple was a volcano, it is not. It is a remnant of an ancient lava flow that ran in a valley, subsequent erosion and the changes in the Hurricane Fault having left it now a high point overlooking the valley. Todd Furse pointed out this article, titled Inverted Topography in St. George Area on the Utah Geological Survey web site that describes the process that formed Mollie's Nipple.
SEE MOLLIES NIPPLE - CLIMB MOLLIES NIPPLE
by Owen Sanders
This pinnacle piercing the skyline
On the crest of the Hurricane Cliffs
Is a vivid, visible landmark
That has sparked many frontier tiffs.
The playful pioneer naming the nipple
Was lost in the annals of time
But Mollies who winced at jabbing jest
Survive in sparkling rhyme!
Breathtaking vistas of awesome charm
Can be seen from the Nipples crest
And silently vie with any view
That is lauded throughout the West!
To clamber like goats to the Nipples Nib
Takes vigor of muscle and wind
And laggards with fleeting devotion
Are left on the trail far behind!
The magic of mind to climb for the crown
Is the goad for gaining a goal;
Should your body grow weary from climbing—
Consider the gift to your soul!
Mollies Nipple was given its historic name by pioneer colonizers of Toquerville, Virgin City, Grafton, Rockville, Springdale and other communities along the Rio Virgin.
The unique symmetry of this visible Dixie landmark is protected from rapid erosion by a massive capstone of volcanic rock.
Indian throwing sticks for hunting small game, and hardwood fire tongs used to pick up hot stones from camp fires and drop them into pitch lined baskets for cooking purposes, were found in small caves at the base of Hurricane Cliffs below Mollies Nipple.
Hundred of hikers have climbed to the crest of Mollies Nipple to view a vast circle of breath-taking, colorful, geologic and historic wonders, unmatched by any view in the world! Pottery shards were found by hikers on top of this butte, indicating Indians likely used this landmark to send up smoke signals to hunting and seed gathering parties.
Take the time to make this scenic climb! It rises 400 ft. above the crest of the Hurricane Cliffs. The historic Nipple rises 1353 feet above the fertile Hurricane Valley.
Being a Geocacher, I placed a cache up on top appropriately titled the Mollie's Nipple Cache in the summer of 2001, and have revisited it periodically to do cache maintenance.
Mollie's Nipple and Molly's Nipple Locations in Utah
When I placed the cache, using some topographic map software on my PC at the time, I searched the U.S. Geological Survey database included in the software for the term "Mollie" and discovered there were five peaks in the state of Utah bearing the name "Mollie's Nipple".
Prior to posting ths 'blog entry, I decided to search again for "Mollie" and "Molly" within the state of Utah. Using the online U.S. Geological Survey National Geologic Map Database I learned that there are indeed five hills or peaks in Utah that are officially named "Mollie's Nipple" but also a few more named "Molly's Nipple". Additionally, there's a place called "Tatow Knob" that unofficially is yet another "Mollie's Nipple". Wow!
Here are the one's I found this time:
Mollie or Molly apparently was quite the explorer and managed to make a name for herself all over the state of Utah. If the Molly in question was a Mormon, then she must be the very Molly Mormon I've heard so much about. Or perhaps not.
It turns out, someone has put together a Mollie's Nipple Wikipedia article that lists most of these places too.
UPDATE: 24 Aug. 2011
I found this page with pictures and information about the Mollie's Nipple northeast of Kanab in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Date: Friday, 08 June 2012
From: Bob Durtschi
Subject: another one in Wasatch County
There's another "Mollie's Nipple in Wasatch County just north of Midway Utah. My dad would point it out to us as we drove to my grandpa's home in Midway where Dad grew up. Dad said there would be a lot of lightning strikes there during a thunder storm
Mathematically, Trouble is Coming (What, Live Within My Means?)
Saturday, 06 August 2011 12:37 PM MDT
The U.S. is speeding rapidly towards a giant cliff, national bankruptcy. It's a problem for all of us here, we all know it's coming, and blaming this group or that is really irrelevant. (I personally think both of the two big parties have made choices that have led here and pointed us on this disastrous path.)
Dave Ramsey puts the current national debt in perspective very well:
So very often I hear someone say that the solution is for some particular group or demographic to "pay their fair share". I too agree in fairness. But I will never ask you to pay what I am not willing to pay myself. So I have to ask of those who want Joe Demographic to pay his fair share, will you, the asker, also voluntarily pay the exact same percentage on April 15th this coming year? If not, I'm sorry, your "fair share" doesn't sound very fair to me, and instead sounds rather hypocritical.
It is very easy to spend someone else's money. That's part of why it has been easy for past leaders of the various political parties to get us into this trouble. And it's very easy to feel good doing it (spending money), particularly if it's for a good cause. That's why it's such a dangerous and slippery slope, granting our government the power to tax us. With that great power comes immense responsibility. And our leadership over many, many years, as evidenced by the predicament we're currently in, has failed in this responsibility.
I support a constitutional balanced budget amendment. I want any such amendment to include provisions that require a super-majority to raise taxes/fees, and a simple majority to lower taxes/fees. Why such a hard nosed stance? Because if the "good cause" that our elected officials believe in is truly so very good for us as a nation, there should be broad agreement, more than even a simple majority. And if some small minority believe the "good" is not worth forcibly taking money from those to whom it belongs in the name of this public good is in fact NOT good, not worth it, if that minority is significant enough to prevent a super-majority vote, I firmly believe that, even if I personally support the "good cause" and personally think that the public should support it, we the people as a government, should not force someone else to go along with us. Hence the super-majority requirement.
This is going to hurt. Fixing the problem. Like an addict, we will go through withdrawal. But in the long run, we will come out stronger.
And can you imagine, if we cut spending from the $75,000 per year (listen to Dave Ramsey's aforementioned national debt explanation to know what I'm talking about) down to $58,000 per year and live within our means, eventually we WILL pay off the debt, suddenly freeing up over $10,000 additional per year that now we CAN spend in those places we the people (via elected officials) deem appropriate. Or even cut taxes if we so choose so that those whose money we are taking by force of law can keep more of it and spend it as they choose. What a blessing that will be in the future, to be out of debt!
I think that about sums up my personal beliefs.
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 10:13 PM MDT
This evening I logged into my Lending Club account. Lending Club, like Prosper, is a social lending site that lets people lend to or borrow from other people in a peer-to-peer fashion. I've been a member for over a year now but only have about $1,400 invested in 71 different loans.
With social peer-to-peer lending and borrowing, when someone borrows money (let's say $5,000), there may be from 50 to 200 separate lenders participating in the loan. I like to keep my participation in any one loan at the minimum of $25.00. This lets me spread my money out over many loans (I mentioned 71 currently), so that if any single borrower defaults, I only lose a small amount.
So far, I've been quite lucky. No borrowers have defaulted on any of the loans I own a piece of. And that's let me do a bit above the average. According to Lending Club, my account is getting a net annualized return of 13.59% (that's of course before paying any taxes) while the average return for most investors is only 9.64%.
Hopefully this means my filtering and screening methods are valid. But I really can't be sure until I've had more time and owned more loans.
Some might consider me a little odd to periodically post here on my 'blog about my struggles to get out of debt and here I go lending money on a peer-to-peer lending site that may have been more wisely used to pay off my own debts. That's a valid concern. Even though I am earning more interest than I am paying—so far, that is. And that could change quickly should a few borrowers default and cause losses for me. That's not accounting for paying taxes on interest earned, which takes me closer to breaking even, and then when one considers the monetary value of spending 20-30 minutes a month on the site, I'm really losing money.
But it's fun! Sadly, "fun" has been wisdom's bane in my life far too often. *sigh*
Did I mention that Lending Club is running a promotion where if you join and invest $2,500 or more, they give you a $100.00 bonus when I (or another Lending Club) refers you? Yep, it's true. So if you're NOT currently a member but want to join, feel free to click "Contact Me" in the left-hand menu column and send me your email address. I'll send you a referral through Lending Club so you can sign up for the promotion.
Like any investment, there is substantial risk involved when investing. It's been a learning experience for me. I hope I can keep picking loans that give me a great rate of return and minimize my losses, and I hope this remains fun.
Memorial Day Weekend Project - Gerald K. Gifford's World War II Memories
Monday, 30 May 2011 12:25 PM MDT
Over the long Memorial Day weekend, I decided to do something to remember my grandfather Gerald Kendall Gifford's World War II service. He served in the 100th Infantry Division and was wounded in the Battle of Heilbronn (Germany) near the end of the war in the European theater on his 28th birthday. He then spent two-and-a-half years recovering in various hospitals having multiple surgeries. All while his wife took care of three very young children. They both sacrificed so much.
I wanted to know more. So my dad let me borrow folder with a bunch of hand-written memories from Gerald's LDS missionary service before the war for two years, and his memories of his service in WWII.
Not only was there transcribing to do. My curiosity drove me to spend hours online searching to find more details about the places Gerald had been. Prior to searching online, I didn't even know what unit Gerald served in, nor where exactly he'd been wounded.
Here's where I put Gerald's information: http://www.aarongifford.com/gerald/. On that page are some links to his war memories, which now includes an audio cassette recording from 1991 of Gerald sharing some of those same memories to me, my parents and siblings.
Both Gerald and his wife Aleath passed away in the 1990s. I miss my grandparents. But this Memorial Day weekend has been made wonderful by learning more about them. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa Gifford, for your sacrifices to your family, to me, and to this nation during World War II.
Date: 7:03 PM MDT, Fri, Jun. 3, 2011
Comment: I love that you did that, Arnsie!
Go Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, and The Piano Guys!
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 3:58 PM MDT
Okay, I admit it, I like this:
Here's a direct link to the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR94NDIfGmA
Paul Anderson and the others at The Piano Guys (Paul and Tony Beatty sold me my piano—they're a great group of talented folks) really did a good job putting the video together.
That and I like Jon and Steven's music.
On the Trail of Some Bad Data
Saturday, 30 April 2011 2:00 PM MDT
Yakkity Yak, Astounding Adventures
Cache Found: If You Dare Drive by Baad Daata
Saturday, 30 April 2011 - 2:00 PM MDT (-0600)
On this cool, windy last day of April, I went hiking with my brother. We parked down by the stream at the base of the hill near Harrisburg. We then proceeded up the road toward the cache site.
The hike is uphill nearly the entire way, ascending about 580 feet in altitude from the stream bottom to the point above the cache overlooking Quail Creek Reservoir. Although the distance is only about nine tenths of a mile one way, because the trail is continually climbing, it takes more time to hike it.
Originally, I'd intended to find this cache, then continue on to my Quail Creek East Overlook cache further southeast along the ridge, but due to time constraints, and the fact that up on top, the breeze was more of a wind and I was beginning to feel the cold, this trip became a one-cache-only hunt. There were several caches close to the bottom where I parked my vehicle that I would have visited too, had there been more time. (I'll definitely be back.)
The desert was in bloom. All over the hillside, bushes and shrubs were blooming, some bedecked in yellow flowers, others white, and the prickly pear cacti sporting pink petals a-plenty. I love hiking in the desert in springtime.
About the wind. At the bottom, it was mostly a gusty, hearty cool breeze occasionally blowing hard enough for me to classify it as a wind. But as we ascended the hillside, the wind decided to breeze no more and just blow. But it was nice having the air as we hiked, keeping us cool. It was only when we stopped at the top to survey the vistas around and hunt for the cache that we felt the chill.
The cache was nicely hidden in an excellent spot. I made a brief log entry in the notebook. Wow, it appeared we were the first visitors since October 2010. Then I traded a couple of gold dollar coins for a carabiner with key ring.
Did I mention the view? The view was superb! Quail Creek Reservoir was below us, a few brave jetskiers braving the wind, the wind pushing moving patches of scaly-looking waves and ripples across the surface. Sand Hollow Reservoir was also visible in the distance, as were the sewage evaporation ponds across the Virgin River.
Of course all the mountains and hills around us were visible too. Pine Valley Mountain, still with snow patches accenting the cliffs, with those stunning red sandstone cliffs below, was most prominent. The sky was mostly blue with patches of white, fluffy clouds scudding around the mountain top. It was gorgeous! Stunning! Beautiful! What a beautiful area southwestern Utah is!
Thank you for a great cache!
TO DO: Add pictures from the hike...
Ebay Automated System Fail
Saturday, 19 March 2011 6:30 PM MDT
I've had an Ebay account for over seven years, but never really used it. So this afternoon, I decided to try selling a DVD I don't need.
Their web interface let me create my listing and preview it. Then before allowing me to post the new listing as available for sale, their system decided it needed to verify my identity by calling my phone.
No problem... Except that my home phone system is a VoIP PBX (a Voice-over-IP system) that requires all callers to navigate a menu before my home telephone handsets will ring.
Ebay's automated callback system failed to make my home phone ring. On multiple attempts.
And their web page would not allow me to continue until their failed system somehow magically started working.
Oops! Can you say "design flaw" for an "edge case" Ebay programmers?
Of course on the page I was stuck at there was a handy link suggesting that if I was having any trouble at all, I should contact Ebay.
That's what I did. But sadly their contact system has ZERO option for sending a detailed technical explanation of the issue by email. Instead, the only contact option open was for me to call them.
That's what I did, from my phone, the very one their automated system was failing to ring.
After explaining that I was stuck at a web page asking for a PIN that would be provided to me by an automated calling system to the Ebay support rep, we explored options. Apparently NOBODY but ME has EVER had this problem. So no one has ever provided a phone to Ebay that was a PBX system with a menu before. Ever. (I find that very difficult to believe. There have to be users who have used business phone numbers on their accounts that connect via PBXs with front-end menus.)
Needless to say, I was bounced from department to department, forced to explain my situation again from scratch to each person. All-in-all, I was on the phone or on hold, talking to 4-5 different people, including one person in their account security department, for nearly an hour.
And still I am unable to list my DVD for sale. I'm now awaiting a call-back. Allegedly a human being is supposed to call my phone number to verify my identity for my account. But I have doubts. I suspect the Ebay customer rep is just going to click whatever button tells their automated call-back system to give me a call.
And it will fail. Again. After explaining to Ebay their system deficiency in considerable detail multiple times.
Anyone know someone technical at Ebay who actually can do something to remedy system bugs like this?
One potential work-around is the ability for a technically savvy Ebay customer support rep (perhaps the Ebay telephone contact system really ought to make an attempt to connect to the correct department with someone who can escalate these edge case issues to a technically savvy person with authority) to be able to include the equivalent of an old fashioned modem dial string where commas represent pauses. Then all that person would have to do for their automated system to reach me is append ",,1" to my phone number, just this one time.
Inevitably in order for me to use Ebay to sell stuff, I'll have to disconnect my PBX and program a VoIP ATA for temporary use just to work around Ebay's design flaw. It's not like a giant organization with a veritable army of programmers can be expected to fix customer support issues that only affect 0.01% of users, no?
I've actually kind of enjoyed laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. Sooo easy to fix, were I an Ebay VoIP automated callback system programmer...
Out-of-Debt By 2012 Progress Update
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 3:13 AM MST
Last month I restated my goal, to get out of debt (except for my mortgage) by tax time 2012. This is my monthly progress update, a little late.
A quick spot check of my total non-mortgage debt liabilities compared to mortgage debt as a percentage ratio is currently at 29.17%, down 1.65 points from last 'blog check-in's 30.82% ratio. That's progress in the right direction, but a little slow to reach my goal. And with tax time coming (and I'll have to write a check to Uncle Sam and the State of Utah this year), the next two months may be slow too. *growl*
I hope I can make it up the following few months.
Nevertheless, I'm happy about making headway in the right direction. Last year I'd been backsliding and acquired some new debts. Next month, one of those will be retired and I can "snowball" that monthly amount to help pay off another. A month later (April), depending on how much I end up owing Uncle Sam (I'm still working on my taxes), I may be able to retire the other acquired-last-year liability balance. That will be sweet.
Goal: Out of Debt in a Year (By Early 2012)
Saturday, 29 January 2011 1:24 PM MST
My goal: I want to be out of debt (sans mortgage) in a year or so, at least by tax time 2012.
In September, I noted that I'd been backsliding in my get-out-of-debt plans. It's almost exactly four months later. While I haven't exactly knocked off four percentage points in my debt-to-mortgage ratio as I need to, I have improved a bit.
As of today, my debt-to-mortgage-debt ratio is down 30.82%. That's down about 11 percentage points in 4 months. While short of the nearly 16 points I'd hoped, it is still moving in the right direction.
With that in mind, I'm setting my sights on knocking off the remaining 31 points or so over the next 12 to 14 months. That's between two and two-and-a-half points per month. I think that's more realistic for me.
That means that before tax time (April 15th) in 2012, I want to be completely out of debt except for my house payment. No auto payment. No credit card payments. No other loans.
I'm going to once again try reporting monthly to this 'blog, even though I slacked at this last time I said I would.
This is doable. Here goes...
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