Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cool Video from the Cockpit of an Air Tanker

Just wanted to share this cool video shot from the cockpit of an air tanker fighting the Monument Fire in Arizona.

Also I found this cool time-lapse video of the fire.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments" Scripture Chain

One of the reoccurring themes in the Book of Mormon is the idea that if the people follow the commandments of God then they will prosper, but if not then they will be cut off from his presence. This theme is so prevalent that it is mentioned at least 18 20 times in the Book of Mormon in almost the exact same way. If there is something that is mentioned so many times in the Book of Mormon then I think it should be something to take note of.

One thing I find particularly interesting is the difference between what is promised for keeping the commandments, and what the consequence is for not keeping the commandments. On the one hand those who keep the commandments are promised that they will "prosper in the land". But on the other hand those who do not keep the commandments are not warned that they will be destroyed, instantly, slowly or otherwise, but they are warned that they will be "cut off from the presence of the Lord." So the warning for not keeping the commandments, interestingly enough is not instant, immediate, absolute and eternal destruction, but rather that they (those who do not keep the commandments) will be left to their own devices, and will be left to fend for themselves. They will stand or fall by their own strength and will no longer receive the sustaining influence of the Lord.

A number of years ago one of my sisters loaned my a set of scriptures to use in seminary. It was the same set of scriptures that several of my sisters had used in seminary (sorry I don't know the full history of this set of scriptures, but it does have two of my sister's names in the front). Somewhere along the way someone had written a scripture chain which included every instance where the promise and warning is given in the Book of Mormon. I just wanted to include that scripture chain here, with links to the scriptures on lds.org. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone.
  1. 1 Nephi 2:20-21
  2. 1 Nephi 4:14
  3. 2 Nephi 1:9,11
  4. 2 Nephi 1:20
  5. 2 Nephi 4:4
  6. Jarom 1:9
  7. Omni 1:6
  8. Mosiah 1:7
  9. Mosiah 2:22
  10. Mosiah 2:31
  11. Alma 9:13
  12. Alma 36:1
  13. Alma 36:30
  14. Alma 37:13
  15. Alma 38:1
  16. Alma 48:15
  17. Alma 48:25
  18. Alma 50:20
  19. Helaman 3:20
  20. 3 Nephi 5:22
[Author's note 8/23/15: After going back and checking these verses I found two more references that were not in my original list. Alma 48:15 refers to the original prophecy found in 2 Nephi 1:20. 3 Nephi 5:22 is commentary by Mormon about the fulfillment of that prophecy. As near as I can tell this list is now complete. Also note the interesting difference in Omni 1:6.]

Bound for the Promised Land

Bound for the Promised Land is a song written by Samuel Stennett in 1787. The tune for the song was written by a "Miss M. Durham" of which nothing else is known. The song became a well known Christian hymn, and most recently it has been arranged by Mack Wilberg. Below is a video of the hymn as arranged by Mack Wilberg, performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, directed by Mack Wilberg.
When I looked up the lyrics I found that many of sites that had the lyrics did not have all of the verses. Some had three, others four, but they all seemed to have different verses, and none of them had all of the verses in the Mack Wilberg arrangement. So put together the lyrics as found in the Mack Wilberg version. He has four verses, and includes the chorus six times (first two verses, chorus twice, next two verses, and repeat chorus four times).

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land,
Where my possesions lie.

There generous fruits that never fail
On trees immortal grow;
There rocks and hills and brooks and vales
With milk and honey flow.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land
O who will come and go with me
I am bound for the promised land.

Repeat Chorus

O the transporting rapt'rous scene
That rises to my sight;
Sweet fields arrayed in living green
And rivers of Delight.

When shall I reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
When shall I see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land
O who will come and go with me
I am bound for the promised land.

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus

Repeat Chorus

In addition to the four verses in the Mack Wilberg arrangement I was able to find four additional verses to the song. I will include them below.

Soon will the Lord my soul prepare
For joys beyond the skies,
Where never-ceasing pleasures roll,
And praises never die.

O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.

Filled with delight my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay;
Though Jordan’s waves around me roll,
Fearless I’d launch away.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Book Review: Venezuela's Chavismo and Populism in Comparative Perspective by Kirk Hawkins

If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be "dense". This is not a book that you would (typically) want to curl up with on a lazy afternoon to relax with. This book has an incredible wealth of information, complexity, and analysis. This is not a book written for a general audience, but the things it talks about are incredibly important for the general audience. Perhaps the only way I could begin to understand what the author was talking about was because I have at least a minimal familiarity with Latin American politics and I spent four years studying philosophy, that way I could understand a lot of the technical terms and their proper context.

Perhaps I can give a brief overview of the book (kind of like trying to explain the history of Western Civilization in 1000 words or less), so here goes:

As the title implies the book deals with the Chavismo movement in Venezuela (it does not provide a breakdown of Hugo Chávez himself, as the Chavismo movement, while centered on Hugo Chávez, is much more complex than a single movement lead by one man). Furthermore, the book looks at Chavismo as a populist movement rather than an expression of a particular political ideology. The movement does have a particular ideology, but to think of it in such narrow terms is to miss what is really going on.

One of the first things Dr. Hawkins does is set out an understanding of three critical ideas; populism, worldview and discourse. In terms of worldview, Chavismo movement has what is called a Manichaean outlook, which means they view their own actions, plight and work as being part of a larger cosmic struggle between the Good and the Evil. In this case the Good is interpreted by them to be the unified will of the people and the Evil to be a conspiring minority. In this sense their worldview is a populist worldview. The discourse refers not to a set cannon of political tracts or works, but a more elusive and set of vocabulary, tone, metaphor and broad themes that drive the movement.

After laying this foundation Dr. Hawkins then proceeds to give an in depth analysis of Hugo Chávez's use of populist discourse and also gives a method of measuring the populist discourse quantitatively. This is compared to other countries and leaders to give a sense of where Chávez and Chavismo in general falls in the populist spectrum. Not surprisingly it falls at the extreme end of the populist spectrum.

Then Dr. Hawkins looks into the historical causes that lead to the rise of populism in Venezuela. While there were a number of factors that contributed to the formation of the societal forces in Venezuela, Dr. Hawkins clearly states that it was the break down of democratic norms and the underlying violation of the rule of law that allowed for the creation of a populist movement in Venezuela. This assertion is accompanied by a number of studies and surveys (presented in a number of tables) to measure the level or the perceived level of corruption in government. This measure is compared against the causes of populism across several countries and areas of the world.

The book finishes up with a look at how the introduction of a populist movement has affected Venezuela in general. Specifically the author looks at the effect of Bolivarian Circles on the fundamental political organization of the country. The Circles are characterized by four attributes: low institutionalization, movement structure, disruptive tactics, and insularity within the larger society. These four things both defined and drove the populist movement in Venezuela. The effects of populism on public policy are also considered where it is asserted that the ideology of the populist movement drives the economic policies rather than economic policies driving the movement.

The book concludes by emphasizing the importance of the ideas developed in the course of the book, namely that of populism as discourse and worldview that can be used to understand and apply to different situations across the world. It is important to understand how the system works because that will determine future outcomes and/or determine how the society interacts with other societies. How that particular society responds to external forces and influences will be highly dependent on the strength and amount of populist fervor in the country. Definitely important things to consider when interacting or studying the country in question.

Overall I found the book to be very informative and interesting. I realize that I could never give an adequate summary of the book here as it is very complex, but it does provide a wealth of ideas, analysis and understanding of populism.

Disclaimer: Dr. Kirk Hawkins is my brother-in-law, which is why I decided to read this book. I don't typically go and pull random Political Science books of the shelf and read them. But I really did enjoy reading this book.