I Am Bismark

2010-07

Why can’t I buy a pay-as-you-go wireless data plan for ~$.15 per 100 MB? 5 GB for $60 ~= $.12/ 100 MB, but I won’t use 5 GB. :/

so tired, so not interested in going to the gym tonight, so gonna regret it in the morning.

Re: Reverence

Tianna wrote the a post about reverence in the context of Doctrine & Covenants 107:2-4 and using words like God, Heavenly Father, etc. in our speech.

I’m convinced that as a culture at large, we don’t give proper respect to deity. Is it possible that as a church culture we still don’t give proper respect? We understand that we shouldn’t use His name in vain… but is that enough?

If the name of God were rarely said, it would draw more attention to His sacred nature. As it is, has God become more of (for lack of a better term) a household item? Do we treat him with the reverence that He deserves?

I had a few thoughts that I want to share:

1) I think it’s difficult to say exactly what this scripture means. Like Tianna says, there are a number of possible interpretations. I think it is also worth pointing out that these verses sound more like a Joseph-ism (i.e. Joseph attempting to explain something according to his understanding) than a Koran-style passage coming directly from the mouth of God (for more on this, take a look at this awesome post on revelation). This pushed the meaning through an added level of interpretation.

2) Jesus had no qualms about speaking about His Father. I really think we should have a more personal relationship with God than we tend to, even to the point that I have a hard time agreeing with the Mormon culture of using archaic language when addressing deity. If our goal is to become more like Jesus, doesn’t that include striving to have such a personal relationship with our Father in Heaven that we can call Him Abba?

3) Using the names of deity as expletives is the most common form of taking the Lord’s name in vain, but it surely is the least damaging. The real sin occurs when people claim to be acting in the “name of God” for their own personal gain (yeah, I’m looking at you, politicians).

4) The Atonement gives us greater access to our Heavenly Father through Christ, which I believe is one reason that we have moved on from things like only allowing the high priest to enter in the presence of God once a year. The Atonement gives everyone that same opportunity anytime they wish.

Given the above points, I think the answer to Tianna’s question is no, these verses do not indicate we should ever avoid talking about God. The closer our relationship with God, the more natural it should be to talk about Him as part of our daily lives.

Why the name change? I dunno. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it really matters.

Slavonian Burger

I took off a few weeks from Sunday cooking due to July 4th and the Disneyland trip, but I was able to start up again last week. I got really excited when I first saw this recipe for Slavonian burgers and I’m glad I made them: they were great. Mariam had me make them again later in the week with some of the leftover ingredients because she liked them so much.

The ingredients

Here is the set of ingredients, nothing too fancy, which is good for a mageirocophobic person like me.

Chopping

If my hand are chopping, then who is holding the camera??? On a related note, apparently I can chop garlic.

Ball-o-meat

Here is the ball-o-meat I created after mixing together the beef, the garlic, and the spices. The first time I made the burgers, I was too timid with the paprika and the cayenne pepper. The second time around things were quite a bit warmer.

Frying

Frying away.

Steaming hot buns

The buns were definitely the most difficult part of the recipe, and to be honest I am still not sure I got them right. They got pretty soggy after a bit of steaming and the dipping into the broth. They kind of stuck to the pan when I tried to fry them. They ended up being kind of hot and gooey, which perhaps is right? I may never know given the dearth of Slavonians in my life. And no, these are not ciabatta rolls; our local Safeway seemed to not sell anything of that sort.

The final product

Here is the final product, fresh green onion and all. That chip in the plate takes away a bit from the artistic value doesn’t it… The green onion dipped in salt was pretty tasty I might add.

A happy customer

And another happy customer, which is definitely my best motivation for doing this stuff.

Thoughts on Disneyland

Ok, now that we have the travelogue out of the way, I wanted to post a few things I’ve thought about since the trip down to Disneyland. The week before we went, while I was trying to describe Disneyland to Mariam, I told her it was “the Apple of theme parks”. After our weekend there, I’ve decided that it actually lacks in a number of areas, keeping it from being truly great.

Now I’m sure some of you absolutely love Disneyland and my family is packed full of die-hard annual pass holding fans, so I hope I don’t offend anyone by pointing out some of these flaws. Actually, I’ve reflected a bit on why Disneyland breeds such strong devotion, and I think it comes down to one word: nostalgia. Parents take kids, kids love it, parents love seeing their kids love it, good memories for all. Parents take kids again once they are older, original fun memories a remembered, good times are had. Kids become parents, bring their new kids, fun times are remembered, kids love it, rinse and repeat. I can bet that some members of my family probably have some fond memory from almost every inch of that park; no wonder they love going back.

Now if you hate crowds or American consumerism, then let’s face it, you will never like Disneyland (and probably not Apple either). But here are a few things Disneyland could really improve on:

1) The food. Ok, in the two days that we spent in the park, we certainly didn’t get a chance to sample all of the food, but we definitely did eat some pretty terrible stuff. The burger from Taste Pilots Grill in California Adventure in particular stands out as being absolutely tasteless and nasty, all for $10. Aside from that, much of what we ate was pretty generic: try getting some non-blah Dreyer’s ice cream in the park. Perhaps we just never made to it to the good stuff (ok, the deep fried corn dog was pretty good, but greasy late night theme park food is hard to screw up), but the fact that any of the food is terrible is a pretty large blemish on the park (think iPhone 4 death grip). There is no excuse for crappy food in this world. Disneyland should let outside independent restaurants come in and open up shop. The competition would be great for keeping the prices down and quality up. Imagine what all around amazing food would add to the atmosphere.

2) The souvenirs. Full disclosure: The existence of 99% of souvenirs makes me lose faith in mankind. Why anyone would spend their hard earned money on cheap, worthless crap is beyond me. Sadly, I am sure Disneyland makes a large amount of their profits from selling crap shaped like mouse ears. But if they are going to do that, can’t they at least sell something interesting or unique? Why does Disneyland sell the same junk you can find walking down the toy aisles at Walmart? Let me give one example: as you walk out of the Star Tours ride, a couple of really awesome Star Wars-themed travel posters are hanging on the walls. Even I, Mr. Anti-Souvenirs himself, was sucked into the trap and wanted to buy those posters. The ride exits directly into a souvenir shop, so I looked around for the posters: nowhere to be found. The place was just full of crappy plastic light sabers and stuffed Yodas, just like any Walmart across this country. What I am trying to say is: if you are going to sell crap, why not sell crap that is unique and different?

3) The cruft. Like I said, Disneyland basically runs off pure nostalgia, so I know that this last suggestion is probably the most far-fetched: lose the cruft. Animatronic elephants may have been all the rage back in the 1950’s, but now they are just cheesy and lame. Disneyland has enough money, why not real animals? The fake submarine ride just doesn’t make sense to me; why not fill the pool with real marine life? And seriously, please lose the Grand Canyon panorama with the stuffed animals. Things like that, especially for those who have seen the real thing, are always just so stupid and cheesy. It reminds me of the fake Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas. Just kitschy.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on what could be improved at Disneyland. Let’s be honest, I will probably take my kids someday, and they will take theirs regardless of whether any of the above change. But seriously, those changes would be nice, wouldn’t they?

Disneyland

Whoa, long time no blog. Time to catch up a bit.

Two weeks ago I took off a Friday from work for a whirlwind trip down to Disneyland. It was Mariam’s first time, so it was fun introducing her to it all. We went with my grandparents and my Aunt Wendi, who is pretty much as hardcore as you can get concerning Disneyland, which was nice. Since she knows all the ways to work the park, we never had to stand in line (those Fast Passes are a pretty good idea) and we always had a great view for the shows. We left the Bay area at around 4 am on Friday and didn’t get back until around 8 pm Sunday night, and it was non-stop the whole time we were there, so by the end, we were both crazy tired. A lot of fun though. Some of the highlights include:

  • Mariam completely hiding herself for the entire Splash Mountain ride because of her fear of the big drop.
  • Mariam almost crying because we got stuck in the far back seat on the big roller coaster in California Adventure and then having her say she loved it after we got off.
  • Mariam and I getting the back row on a late Pirates of the Caribbean ride and.. oh never mind.

Here are a few pics:

Grandma Tic Tock's Brick

Before going in we stopped by to say Hi to Grandma Tic Tock’s brick. She was my great-grandma who passed away two years ago. It’s nice to have that there just a few feet away from the entrance.

Mariam at the castle

Here is the requisite shot in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Quite a beauty if you ask me.

Mr. Toad's wild ride

I let Mariam drive on all the rides, including Autopia. This about sums up how I felt the whole time. Wild ride indeed.

Goodbye Mickey

As you can see, Mariam got a first timer badge and we both got “Just Married” badges as well. I guess “just” was used rather loosely; it was always a bit awkward when people asked us when we got married and we would say April. Just having that many people coming up to ask was awkward enough already.

Ruthless

And yes, in case you didn’t notice in the last picture, this is Mariam ruthlessly destroying the dreams of small children around the world.

Meat

This is me eating a huge piece of turkey.

Tea cup

Saturday night Mariam and I got some time to ourselves so of course we went to Fantasyland to ride on the little kid rides. We did the tea cups right after I ate a corn dog. Bad idea.

Carousel time

Our last ride was the carousel. That was nice.

Forward!

Off into the sunset…

なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達とすることはできますか?なぜ我々は友達

why can’t we be friends? why can’t we be friends? why can’t we be friends? why can’t we be friends? why can’t we be friends? why can’t we be

Made my first order using my free Amazon Prime account. I like this.

Company meeting/party today. The goal of everyone to to be drunk by 6 pm. Lalalala..

Writing a design doc for a personal project I have been kicking around for the last year. Hoping a big picture will help.

I propose a new group for Shepard Book’s special level of Hell: people who pee on public toilet seats and don’t clean up.

super dodge ball

Here is my most recent attempt at pixel art imitation. This one comes from the NES game Super Dodge Ball. The original screenshot can be seen here.

I like how this one turned out. The thicker lines made it a bit easier.

Fallout from this Microsoft Kin thing is just getting uglier and uglier. 503 units sold according to Daring Fireball? Wow.

1776 now Wii bowling. Next is enchiladas made by Mariam, so I guess go USA! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

130 flags:

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

at the singing flag in Concord w/ grandma and grandpa.

going somewhere warm so we can wear shorts and sandals for Fourth of July.

dinner at Udupi Palace then watching Charlie’s band, Hot Lunch.

I’m hoping someone will post data on how much data Skype would eat up using it for 200-300 minutes over 3G. iPod touch + MiFi might work…

I’m glad that I’m not the only one who thinks M. Night Shyamalan’s movies have gotten progressively worse with time.

We were denied access to Wii Mario Kart due to office construction. Just isn’t a good Friday afternoon without it..

I still have one more backupify.com premium account invite available. Any takers?

Pancakes

When I was a kid, whenever it was dad’s turn to cook dinner, he always made breakfast food (eggs, sausage, pancakes, etc). Given this strong tradition of breakfast food for dinner in the Johnson family, when I saw this pancake post on Salt and Fat, I knew it would make a perfect Sunday evening meal.

The sad truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever made pancakes from scratch all on my own, so this actually was a good learning experience.

Staging area

Here are all of the ingredients put together. Simple enough for me to understand.

Melting butter

The recipe called for melted butter, but we don’t have a microwave so this is the best I could do.

Dry ingredients

All the dry stuff.

Wet ingredients

And now the wet.

Blueberry pancake

And here is one cooking away. We had a big box of blueberries, so adding them seemed like a perfect idea, though there almost wasn’t enough to add to the pancakes towards the end because I kept eating them. Seriously, is there a more awesome fruit in existence?

Special treat for Mariam

This was a special surprise for Mariam (she was in the other room reading the whole time).

Our meal

And here is the final product. Yes, I know I need to work on my presentation skills a bit (this looks no where near as nice as Jim Ray’s photo). And yes, that is turkey bacon. I know, I know, very ironic to follow a recipe from Salt and Fat and then serve turkey bacon, but sometimes the wife wins at the super market.

A happy lady

It was definitely worth it.

Actually, the pancakes were not all that amazing. They ended up being a little too dense and not as fluffy as I would have liked. If anyone has any ideas as to why that may be, please let me know!

Social Networks

Earlier this week the tech blogs started buzzing about the rumored existence of a Facebook competitor made by Google called “Google Me”. Everyone started speculating about whether it could beat Facebook or not, how would it be different than Buzz, Orkut, etc etc.

Without any way to see into the future, it’s really impossible to say what kind of “success” such a product will have. However, while thinking about the possibility of a major competitor to Facebook, I furthered realized just how broken the “social networking” industry is.

You Don’t Own Yourself

Log into Facebook and take a look at all the information about you contained within your account. Your profile page. Your list of friends. Your pictures. Other’s pictures with your face tagged. Notes. Statuses. Likes.

Taken as a whole, this information basically acts as many of people’s entire social presence online. It’s how you interact with friends, it’s how you send out updates about your life, it’s how you express yourself. And who owns all of this data? Facebook.

A few months ago, the trendy thing to do in geek circles was to delete one’s Facebook account out of protest of Facebook’s stupid privacy debacles. Though it made a few headlines, it’s likely Facebook gained more users in a few hours than they lost due to this nerd exodus. Most people probably are ignorant of or plain just don’t care about Facebook’s many issues. But even those that do care are faced with one large barrier: one’s entire social profile and social graph are completely locked within Facebook’s silo.

Let’s say Google release Google Me tomorrow and it is freaking amazing. It has all of the exact features you have always wished Facebook would implement and it also fixes many of Facebook’s problems. So, you go and create a profile. It’s easy enough to copy and paste from your current one on Facebook. Then you think it would be good to have all of your pictures. Well, Facebook doesn’t give you an option to export your pictures in their original resolution, but that’s not a huge deal. But of course, all of your face tags won’t come with… Ok, forget the pictures. Next, it’s time to add back all of your friends. Wait, only three out of your 357 Facebook friends have Google Me accounts? Well crap. I suppose you could try to evangelize a bit to encourage them to move over, but do you really think you are going to be able to convince Great Aunt Gertrude why she should move over to some brand new scary system now that she finally figured out how to comment on her friend’s Facebook walls? Not gonna happen.

So, you have two choices:

  • Forget about Google Me and keep your social graph intact on Facebook.
  • Cut out huge chunks of your social graph that has built up over the last 6 years that you’ve spent on Facebook.

Now it’s true many people had a MySpace profile before jumping on to the Facebook bandwagon. However, I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s social capital investment is much larger in Facebook than it ever was on MySpace, adding much more friction any changes.

Nevertheless, Google Me may win. It may just be so awesome that it garners the critical mass of users to make it worthwhile, even to Great Aunt Gertrude. But if Google Me is just as closed as Facebook, we would just be trading one poor master of our social graphs for another. Over time, the number one social network will continue to get bigger and bigger and will continue to suck up more and more of your social graph until there is absolutely no way you could possibly move to a competitor (and honestly, this may have happened already with Facebook).

So what are we supposed to do?

A Real Open Graph

In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter what social network you are on. If you are on Google Me, you should be able to “friend” someone who is on Facebook and tag a photo of someone who is on MySpace. Why are social graphs limited by these walled off networks?

The thing is, we don’t really need another network: the Web already provides us with one. The Web (graph) is a collection of data interconnected by links (since we all use search engines so much these days, we sometimes forget to think about it that way). If I can create a link here on my blog to any other item that exists on the Web, then why isn’t adding another person on the internet to my social graph just as easy?

It may require defining a new standard of how to connect profiles as friends as an extension of the Web. Unfortunately, that would mean the social networking companies would have to collaborate extensively, something they have little financial incentive to do (have you ever thought how much in dollars your personal information is worth to Facebook?).

Another barrier to the Web as the social graph is the incorrect idea that personal information can be kept private on the Internet. Let’s just be honest: if you post it on the Internet, it doesn’t go away and someone who you never expected to see it will. Five years ago, did you really think your mom would ever get a Facebook profile so she could look through those crazy party pictures you are tagged in? Facebook is not private. Do not treat it as a private way to interact with your friends. Other people will see it.

Once everyone get’s over the illusion of Internet privacy, then perhaps we can start moving to a saner model for social profiles. Why not do it 1997-style and create a personal website containing your public info, public pictures, and links to your public friends? This gives you complete control of your social graph. Sadly, this is not nearly as simple as setting up a Facebook profile, and this is one area where we geeks have failed to help our Great Aunt Gertrudes.

Some of you may have heard about the Diaspora project which is seeking to free our social graphs from companies like Facebook. I think the idea is neat, but so far I don’t have much hope. Even a geek like me yawns when I see feature lists like:

  • OpenID
  • Voice-over IP
  • Distributed Encrypted Backups
  • Instant Messaging protocol
  • UDP integration

For Posterity’s Sake

Many of you reading probably think I am making a big deal about nothing. Well, I have one last point to make: Do you want your grandchildren to have records of who you were? Do you enjoy looking at old pictures of your ancestors and hope that your great grandchildren will do the same with pictures of you? Think about this: that last set of pictures that you uploaded to Facebook and then deleted off the camera is no longer yours. Will Facebook be around in 100 years? If it is, will your profile be around? Will your great grandchildren have access to your profile?

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer to all of this. I still have my Facebook profile, but I basically just use it as a place to aggregate my tweets and blog posts. I have made some attempts to control my social graph. One reason I started using Tumblr is it’s really simple export capabilities. I keep local copies of things I write in an archivable format (not .doc). I post my pictures to Flickr which gives me complete access to the original picture file (I don’t use some of their nifty tagging features since there is no portable way to export that data). I only put on the Internet something that I want my mom, my future employers, my Great Aunt Gertrude, and my great grandchildren to see.

If you care about this at all, try to take control of your own social graph. Forget about trying to hide it behind a Facebook privacy setting. Good luck.

I just got annoyed with someone on the Internet. Whoops.

July eh? San Francisco makes it hard to remember it summer here in the northern hemisphere.

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