Late Summer 2014 Photos

Some of my favorites as I review the contents of my tablet from the last two months:

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows.  In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky.  Here, I also like the dark tone.

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows. In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky. Here, I also like the dark tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

Great shade of blue in this one.

Great shade of blue in this one.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Directly above the previous picture.

Directly above the previous picture.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014.  We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait--standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014. We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait–standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

And into this nearby field.

And into this nearby field.

Going...going...

Going…going…

A small pool created by the setting sun.

A small pool created by the setting sun.

Sun's almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

Sun’s almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

The horizon is giving birth  to a sun.

The horizon is giving birth to a sun.

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Notes and Quotes: September 2014

EDUCATION

I’ve always said this: teachers don’t leave because of bad pay, they leave because of poor working conditions.

WSJ: Four Ways to Spot a Great Teacher.

 

HUMOR

I suspect I find this funny for reasons other than those the artist had:

shirt

 

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Gioia’s intro to Finnegans Wake

WSJ: Shakespeare as a Life Coach.

14 Reasons to Read the Classics

Fight the Moral Madness: Read Charles Dickens to Your Kids

 

LIVING WELL

Fun parkour video.

I’m a sucker for great astronomy photography.

Beautiful photo of contrasts.

Sunset AND a castle?  Wow!

Here’s a chart I found online with some good productivity ideas:

how-to-be-productive_530adf38cc928_w1163

 

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Ten Ways Mormons Can Celebrate Independence Day”  Good advice for all of us, for every day.

Great essay about defining conservatism–required reading for all poli-sci wonks.

On conservative literature–a good start.

The complicated politics of Shakespeare.

On ostensibly conservative college students being intellectually stunted:

“They cannot think with a conservative worldview because they have had limited exposure to conservative values. Children spend thirteen years in a school system which was founded upon progressive ideals about education and which increasingly promotes statism. For eighteen years the entertainment industry communicated to them an equally progressive worldview. From all sides children are taught to believe in the inherent goodness of humankind and to cherish the values of tolerance and diversity. There is no good and evil; there is just diversity. There is no justice and truth; there is only tolerance for other opinions. Democracy has become a good in its own right instead of being founded upon virtue. When democracy becomes its own end, any atrocity can be justified by a majority vote.”

Great comment on an Instapundit link about politically biased professors:

I noticed that back when I was in university: the liberal students were so used to everyone around them validating their opinions that they didn’t learn to make good arguments; the conservative students knew they needed good arguments, so they learned to make them,

The unfortunate part comes when these liberal students go through many years of schooling, get loads of validation for twittering about the talking point of the day, and then turn into incredulous, raging jerks when an adult conservative makes a point contrary to their ideology.

 

Emerson and Melville on Melancholy

Two great quotes I picked up on earlier this summer when I read Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness:

 

I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe, and is disappointed when anything is less than best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.

–Emerson, “Friendship”

So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. ‘All is vanity.’ ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;—not that man is fitted to sit down on tombstones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.              

But even Solomon, he says, ‘the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain’ (i.e. even while living) ‘in the congregation of the dead.’ Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

–Melville, Moby Dick, ch. XCVI

 

More of Mill on Living Well

From chapter 5 of the autobiography…

On happiness through ignoring yourself:

The enjoyments of life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a principal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal questioning. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life. And I still hold to it as the best theory for all those who have but a moderate degree of sensibility and of capacity for enjoyment, that is, for the great majority of mankind.

 

On music:

The only one of the imaginative arts in which I had from childhood taken great pleasure, was music; the best effect of which (and in this it surpasses perhaps every other art) consists in exciting enthusiasm; in winding up to a high pitch those feelings of an elevated kind which are already in the character, but to which this excitement gives a glow and a fervour, which, though transitory at its utmost height, is precious for sustaining them at other times. This effect of music I had often experienced; but like all my pleasurable susceptibilities it was suspended during the gloomy period. I had sought relief again and again from this quarter, but found none. After the tide had turned, and I was in process of recovery, I had been helped forward by music, but in a much less elevated manner. I at this time first became acquainted with Weber’s Oberon, and the extreme pleasure which I drew from its delicious melodies did me good, by showing me a source of pleasure to which I was as susceptible as ever.

 

On finding enjoyment in simple things:

Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs; and that there was, once more, excitement, though of a moderate kind, in exerting myself for my opinions, and for the public good.

 

On poetry (and mountains):

This state of my thoughts and feelings made the fact of my reading Wordsworth for the first time (in the autumn of 1828), an important event in my life….   
  In the first place, these poems addressed themselves powerfully to one of the strongest of my pleasurable susceptibilities, the love of rural objects and natural scenery; to which I had been indebted not only for much of the pleasure of my life, but quite recently for relief from one of my longest relapses into depression. In this power of rural beauty over me, there was a foundation laid for taking pleasure in Wordsworth’s, poetry. the more so, as his scenery lies mostly among mountains, which, owing to my early Pyrenean excursion, were my ideal of natural beauty. But Wordsworth would never have had any great effect on me, if he had merely placed before me beautiful pictures of natural scenery. Scott does this still better than Wordsworth, and a very second-rate landscape does it more effectually than any poet. What made Wordsworth’s poems a medicine for my state of mind, was that they expressed, not mere outward beauty, but states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty. They seemed to be the very culture of the feelings, which I was in quest of. In them I seemed to draw from a Source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative pleasure, which could be shared in by all human beings; which had no connexion with struggle of imperfection, but would be made richer by every improvement in the physical or social condition of mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would be the perennial sources of happiness, when all the greater evils of life shall have been removed. And I felt myself at once better and happier as I came under their influence. There have certainly been, even in our own age, greater poets than Wordsworth; but poetry of deeper and loftier feeling could not have done for me at that time what his did. I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this, not only without turning away from, but with a greatly increased interest in the common feelings and common destiny of human beings. And the delight which these poems gave me, proved that with culture of this sort, there was nothing to dread from the most confirmed habit of analysis.

John Stuart Mill on Living Well

I’m getting a lot out of Mill’s autobiography. From the end of chapter 3, wise advice:

I learnt how to obtain the best I could, when I could not obtain everything; instead of being indignant or dispirited because I could not have entirely my own way, to be pleased and encouraged when I could have the smallest part of it; and when even that could not be, to bear with complete equanimity the being overruled altogether. I have found, through life, these acquisitions to be of the greatest possible importance for personal happiness, and they are also a very necessary condition for enabling any one, either as theorist or as practical man, to effect the greatest amount of good compatible with his opportunities.

And near the end of chapter 4 Mill details the casual self-improvement programs he and some friends conducted, mostly as a sort of intense book club. They studied languages, read and discussed serious works, and debated issues. Where are such groups today?

Continue reading

North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day Fireworks, July 26, 2014

Every July for 40 years, the North Las Vegas Stake of the LDS Church has put on a Pioneer Day celebration that has become legendary. Here are the fireworks from the end of last night’s festivities. Yes, they are close to the crowd, and yes, this is done with the permission and supervision of the fire department! Sorry for cutting off the first bit of the first song.

Notes and Quotes, June 2014

Education

  • List of technology-enhanced activities for secondary English classes.
  • Examples of worthwhile technology-enhanced lesson plans.
  • Quick thoughts from the Hardings, homeschooling parents of ten who have sent seven kids to college by age 12.
  • Recently found this silly video I made for a class I was taking two years ago.  Amusing.
  • Instapundit nails it: the humanities lost relevance when they decided to preach that nothing has intrinsic value.  It’s been my experience that students (yes, even at-risk, underprivileged minorities!) appreciate the classics.  Everybody likes the egalitarian ideal of participation in the uniting, universal canon, rather than manufactured niche curricula that only panders to trends.

 

Language & Literature

  • Great WSJ essay on one of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces.
  • Cute chart collects insults from famous authors who hated each other’s work.
  • Fascinating memoir of writing the script for Star Trek: Insurrection. Included here because it shares so much about that specific writing craft.  Also, Insurrection is often over-maligned—it is not great, but not nearly as bad as many say.  This long essay shows how it could have been great.
  • Long lost introduction by Anthony Burgess to Dubliners.

 

 

Living Well

Continue reading

Three John Muir Quotes

I noted these in a biography I read last year:

“The sun shines not on us but in us, as if truly part and parent of us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing…”  –journal, 1872.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul.”  –journal, (1888?)

“The American forests, however slighted by man, must surely have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from the beginning it seemed favored above all the other wild parks and gardens of the globe.”  –first line of “The American Forests,” Atlantic Monthly, 1897

 

soul_john-muir

See “Wonders of the Universe” at CSN Planetarium

Took the kids to see this recently and it was excellent.  You’re basically seeing a mini-IMAX production for a fraction of the cost (digital projectors have replaced the glorified film strips we had as kids), and while the quality of the film’s narration is scattered (the How the Universe Works series is much better written), the visuals are perfect.  It’s amazing to sit back and glide into the edges of a galaxy, and see the colorful dust of space wash over and around you.

I learned stuff, too: there are small pockets of stars floating around out there that aren’t in any galaxy at all.  Have there been any sci-fi stories about these lonely areas of space?

The sound quality was surprisingly lower than the visual display, but still, this is a great show.

The CSN Planetarium is a decent place with comfortable seats, friendly staff, and a regional sky orientation in each show.  Plus, you can go use their huge telescopes at the end of the night, even if you don’t pay to see a show!

Restaurant Reviews: Divine Eatery and Lumberjacks

A few weeks ago, we had one of those generic gift certificates that apply to lots of places, so we picked a new place at random to try.

Jackpot.

The little Divine Eatery cafe in Northwest Las Vegas is, just as its name suggests, a miracle.

Run by Chef Esther, this hole in the wall of a strip mall in a residential neighborhood makes the absolute freshest food we’ve ever eaten.  When my wife and I had our first bite of the appetizers, we went wide-eyed and shared a look that said, this is something special.

Talking to the waitress revealed some things you want to know:

  • They don’t even have a freezer on the premises–the food must be that fresh
  • Esther has worked at some big Strip hotels, and was offered an executive position, but decided to try for fame and fortune with her own place.
  • The menu is very flexible–request to modify what’s on the folded sheet of paper they give you, and Esther will impress you.
  • Prices are very reasonable–and you definitely get your money’s worth.
  • Esther runs the place almost single-handedly.  She’s trying to train others to cook her way, but it isn’t easy.  She’s unique.
  • We had garlic fries and potato wedges at first, then a pulled pork sandwich and adobo chicken, finished with some deep fried stuff for dessert. All highly recommended.
  • They’re almost at the point where they need to take reservations.  By the time you read this, they might be there.  They’ve only been in business for about five months.

Continue reading

A Grandfather

My grandfather lived from 1910-2000.  Last month, for no special reason, I wrote out some short notes about him.  I really didn’t know him that well, and can now only wish I’d spent more time with him.  I suppose these memories reflect myself more than they depict him, but it feels good to do this:

  • My grandfather kept a garden in his backyard, in which he grew rhubarb.  He loved rhubarb.
  • He often took long, quiet walks by himself.
  • He kept a collection of big books downstairs.  I remember him having a copy of (the then-new novel) James Clavell’s Noble House, which he freely agreed to let me read.  As a child, I predictably couldn’t make it past the first page.  I just read it a few years ago and loved it.
  • He went to church on Sundays and, when he was in town, made sure to take my brother and me.  When we got home, he told our parents that we had been “good as gold.” Continue reading

Living Well Notes and Quotes, April 2014

When I was younger, I would have dismissed these stunts with some nerdy, smarmy snark, but as I age I appreciate physical skill more and more.  Life is for living, and these guys have reached goals that are not only fulfilling for them, but inspiring and entertaining for others, as well, including me.  Some of these are clearly fake, but they all make for good viewing.

 

A great list here called, “50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History,” focusing on medical and technological advances, quite rightly.  We have now basically become the gods of the ancients, able to do unimaginably fantastic things.

It’s not just the lifestyle progress, though.  I’m reminded of a remark the historian Will Durant made when asked what the greatest period in history was.  He replied that it was today, because we have the largest inheritance of cultural experience and creations of any civilization.

Which brings us back to technological progress–the Internet brings us so much of that inheritance with ease and panache.

 

Graphic showing 35 simple productivity tips.  Saved to hard drive.

Nevada’s best-kept secret’ offers hiking, camping and stargazing.  Note to self: visit ASAP!

“The 60 Most Powerful Photos Ever Taken That Perfectly Capture The Human Experience”  Many of these are truly wonderful–thought-provoking and humbling.

“The Years Are Short”

“The days are long, but the years are short.” –Gretchen Rubin.  One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard.

 

 

It’s always amazingly scary to think about how tiring, how busy and stressful most individual days are, but then to look back on the last year, or the last five years, or even the last ten years, and realize how much happened in them, and how much seems missed, and how it all went by so quickly.

I have children who are rapidly approaching adulthood, and I constantly wonder where their childhood went.  How did it disappear so suddenly?

I’ve now been teaching high school for more than three times as long as I went to high school, and the student part of my life actually feels like it lasted longer than this part.  Weird.

It’s true what they say, isn’t it?  At some point, every year seems to go by even faster than the year before.

I think if you’re not consciously being corny and sentimental, at least some of the time, you may not be doing it right.  There will likely be more regrets.

*sigh*  Don’t mind me.  I’m still just bummed out about How I Met Your Mother being over.