Monday, March 9, 2015


Lately I've been listening to a couple stations on iTunes Radio that include some screamo bands. Probably much to the demise of my mother, I see some appeal to the genre.

I don't know that I actually enjoy the screaming, but there is something cathartic about the tension that builds up until it finally resolves with a melody. To me, it is similar to the dissonance and resolution in jazz songs (yes, I just compared screamo to jazz). It also mirrors the ups and downs that life brings us. There are grating, scarring, painful lows, then soaring, melodic highs.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Dress

Part of me found the dress discussion last week refreshing. It felt like all of society grew a little closer and became unified around discussing a relatively silly topic.

The other part of me is baffled and a little unsettled. To me the dress looks so clearly blue and black that even Wired's color-corrected version that is supposed to show the white and gold side of things still looks blue and black. If it weren't for democratic senator Chris Murphy's unfortunate tweet: "I know three things: 1) the ACA works; 2) climate change is real; 2) that dress is gold and white," I wouldn't believe anyone was serious about it being white and gold.

What unsettles me is that so many people (a majority from the sounds of some articles) resolutely see an issue in a way that I cannot even fathom. It's not like other optical illusions where you finally see it and then you understand. It is just something I will never understand. I don't know if I'd be more unsettled if I were one that saw white and gold, but I'm just glad Alexia and I agree. 

In closing, here's what I don't get about the issue. The whole idea that it could be seen as white and gold rests on the idea that it could be a dress in a low light situation. Yet clearly this is not the case because 1) the background on the right is very well lit and 2) there are shadows on the dress, showing that there is light shining on it. It boggles my mind. And though it is a little unsettling, it was still entertaining. I also felt validated that I was correctly able to assess the colors of a random dress on Tumblr. I feel that says something about me. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014


I haven't written a post in quite some time. Oddly, I think about blogging several times a week. It seems as though the more I think about writing but don't, I become more and more paralyzed and less likely to begin again.

So here I am again, making an attempt to begin again, writing about writing. I don't know why I feel drawn to writing, especially since I don't do it very often. I don't know if I feel like my thoughts are clever or important enough to let others read them. Rather, I think it is because the process of writing helps, or has helped me process my thoughts and emotions. I remember taking a writing class at BYU where the teacher had us perform timed free-writing exercises on a very regular basis. I forget how often or for how long, but I remember being instructed to just start writing and not stop. We were told not worry about punctuation, spelling, etc. We would then email the teacher the writings, though I don't know if he ever read them. It was an interesting exercise, and I found it liberating and therapeutic to allow words to flow without nitpicking, editing, or censoring.

I remember when I first started this blog. Many of my friends were also blogging at the time. Most were about feelings, experiences, and ideas. Few still blog, and most that do have transitioned into writing about their families as they've married and have started having kids. There's nothing wrong with such blogs, and I enjoy reading some of them as it allows me to stay up to date on their families and lives. However, I miss the raw inner expressions of those early blogs. As with a few other trends I've noticed among my peers, I can't decide if that trend was a product of society (like Yoyos, JNCO jeans, or pogs), or whether it was a product of the age of those involved (becoming one's own person as you experience college).

During the years where I blogged, I felt a lot more expressive and open. Blogging felt like a safe way to open up myself to my friends. I wasn't too concerned about who would read it or what they would think of me. I often discussed relationships, both positively and negatively, and even used people's names. Whether my openness was the cause or the product of blogging, I don't know. It was probably a bit of both. However, I do know that I feel more private, closed, and introverted now. Many times I've not blogged because I worry about who will read my blog and what they will think. I feel more vulnerable. It may be because now as a professional I interact with a lot of people who do not know me outside of my role as a dentist, and I want to preserve the dynamics of those relationships. During college, the only people that were looking for me by name were likely people with whom I interacted as a friend, or ward member, or classmate. I may not be able to pinpoint it exactly, but something feels different now.

I've considered taking my blog private, starting a new blog incognito without giving identifying information, or just continuing on with this one. Given that the latter is the path of least resistance, that is what I am doing right now. It may mean I am a little more guarded and a little less open, and I may choose another option down the road. But if I continue to blog, I hope I will at least reap some of the benefits of writing that I once enjoyed.

I don't know if anyone still reads this blog, or if that even matters. A month or two ago I started keeping a weekly journal, and now I think I'll try to get back into writing here. There is something therapeutic about putting your thoughts down in words. As I've grown older I've found myself becoming a much less opinionated person. While many on Facebook express very strongly opinionated posts, I often find myself either not caring, or having a very middle-ground view. Sometimes that leaves me feeling a certain way that I can't quite describe. It is somewhere between feeling uneducated, apathetic, uninvolved, and dispassionate. At times I wish I was a very opinionated, passionate person brimming with conviction, even though logically I think the most reasonable opinion often lies towards the middle of many polarizing topics. But perhaps opinions and passions are formed through analyzing, processing, and writing one's thoughts and feelings.

In summary, I'm going to make an attempt at writing here regularly. My writing may be for me as much or more than for anyone who might read it. And this post is how I'll begin.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


My understanding of testimony and faith has developed through both continual activities such as attending church and reading scriptures, but also crises of faith, some large and some small. Here are a few stories that highlight some realizations that have helped me better develop and understand my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

During the summer of 2008 I was on break in Provo while attending BYU. The previous semester I had taken almost exclusively science courses such as evolutionary biology, computer science classes, and I didn’t end up taking a religion class. I’ve always been a very scientifically minded person. In fact, my default mental position is one of skepticism, sometimes to the frustration of Alexia if she is telling me something that I find hard to believe. Snopes should probably be my homepage. So, this semester had gotten me even more in that frame of mind. This skepticism was contrasted with the fact that I was spending a lot of time with a friend who had recently returned from a church mission and was still on that spiritual high. Herein began my crisis of faith.

I struggled with how literal many people took old testament stories. I wondered if I wasn’t just considering positive experiences to answers to prayers, while discounting negative ones as trials to bear. Science felt like it was vying for the same real estate as my spiritual faith. Things began to progress. I felt that my doubts were a lack of faith. This made me feel uncomfortable dating people very comfortable in their testimonies. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to. Praying seemed to beg the question. I didn’t want to divulge my feelings to anyone I was dating for fear of their reaction. I didn’t feel like I had many friends scientifically-minded enough with whom I could satisfactorily discuss my doubts. My one friend whom I regarded as fairly intellectual and who had himself expressed concerns of potentially intellectualizing himself out of the church sometimes understood, but not fully. I was feeling like I had to fight this battle alone. I began to wonder if there was a place inside of the church for intellectualism, for me.

I ended up making it through this period testimony intact. Through some long discussions with a couple friends and some time pondering, I came to some realizations that helped me better understand what, at least to me personally, a testimony meant.

1. Keep in mind the core of gospel
Joseph Smith stated, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

There is a core set of doctrines in the gospel, such as having a Heavenly Father, that He loves us, that He sent his Son who atoned for our sins, and that the Church has been restored today after a period of apostasy. Whether the flood was global or local, whether people really lived 900 years, whether some old testament stories are to be taken more figuratively than literal, these should not be the basis of a testimony, nor should they be the basis for losing one.

2. Keep going straight, relying on the best information you know, rather than impulsive gut reactions when challenged with doubt
On once occasion during college I was driving to work on a long straight road. I was wearing a jacket I wanted off. Instead of trying to get my arms out of the sleeves and then wrestling it off behind me, I thought that it might work well if I quickly pulled it over my head and then worked my arms out in front of me. I pulled it over my head, and it got stuck in front of my face, while I was still driving. Though I’m sure it just seemed longer than it really was, I remember thinking about what to do as I was now speeding down a road with my face cloaked in complete blackness. I realized that the last time I could see the road, it was straight. So why would I turn now when I was cut off from visual cues? To do so would be reactionary and detrimental. I kept going straight, eventually worked the jacket off my head, and everything turned out fine, with the extra benefit that I now knew how not to take a jacket off while driving.

Similarly, during my crisis of faith, when I started to doubt my testimony, I kept going straight. The last reliable guidance I had was certainly better than reactionary shots in the dark. I kept praying, reading my scriptures, going to church, and when I worked through things and saw the light again, I was still on the road going in the right direction. Don’t become a spiritual day-trader, making quick gut reactions when new information may appear to challenge your faith. Sometimes that new information is false, sometimes misunderstood, other times true but requiring a shift in your spiritual paradigm rather than an abandonment of your faith. Remember that your spiritual retirement is a long-term investment.  Nephi describes this in 2nd Nephi 31:20 by stating: “Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” When it comes to doubts, consider all that you don’t doubt. Make sure that you aren’t throwing out the 95% that does fit to accommodate the other 5% that doesn’t.

3. Faith is compared to hope for a reason
Hebrews 11:1 states “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” During my crisis of faith I was bothered by not feeling like I “knew” the gospel was true. I felt it was, I hoped it was, but I didn’t know it. Resolving my crisis involved a little bit of progression along the spectrum from hope towards knowing but a lot more understanding that, at least for me, this is exactly how faith works: hoping, feeling, but maybe not ever knowing. That is the test this life consists of. Didn’t Peter deny Christ three times? Didn’t he also fumble while walking towards Christ on the water? Didn’t Thomas doubt?

It seems to me that as a period of probation and progression, this life was built around seeing how I would act on imperfect knowledge. To be handed incontrovertible proof would defeat the purpose. And so, I’ve come to expect that there will always be doubts, and there will always be unanswered questions. Spiritual manifestations and confirmations will help us progress towards knowing, but I’m not sure that we will ever truly know while in this life. And I think that’s by design.

4. Lean on the testimony of others when needed
In Doctrine and Covenants 46 it discusses spiritual gifts:
11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. 
It’s interesting that some are given the gift of knowing, while others are to believe on their testimony. Yet the latter are still promised eternal life if they continue faithful. Just as it did that one semester in college, my spiritual strength ebbs and flows depending on what is going on in my life, how much attention I’ve paid to scripture pursuits, and other factors. Sometimes I feel spiritually strong and more independent. Other times I draw strength through others’ testimonies. In my case, I find strength seeing the testimonies of those who seem similarily scientifically-minded, knowing that there are others that may have had similar thoughts or doubts that I have, but have found satisfactory answers themselves. Just as our society is made up of individuals and businesses that fulfill certain niches, combining to achieve great things while alone they can accomplish very little; spiritually we should recognize that we were not given every spiritual gift nor every answer. Again, this is not a fault, but, as we see in the scriptures, is a divine design that brings us together as a spiritual family, encouraging us to rely on and strengthen each other.

5. Allow room for the mistakes of others
Along the lines of cutting ourselves slack, we need to do likewise for others. The gospel being true does not make the church flawless. Wilford Woodruff did state “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” However, the definition of “leading the church astray” is not given. I feel that it would require quite a lot to do so, and that we should not allow ourselves to be painted into the corner of thinking that every statement made my every church leader or prophet is doctrine. Not only does such a belief make it very difficult to reconcile history, it also isn’t fair to the individuals themselves. Remember that Moroni repeatedly cautions readers of the Book of Mormon not to discard its sacred message if there are mistakes, for he says they are the mistakes of men. There we have a prophet stating that he may be making mistakes in his account, but that they do not mean the book isn’t true.

While I think it is important to understand that church leaders are men, as well as men called of God, I think it is also important to be cautious in doing so. There lies a fine balance between accepting this idea and allowing church leaders the right to be human and at times make mistakes, while at the same time avoiding the temptation of extending this principle to selectively dismiss teachings or counsel that we personally find inconvenient.

6. Sometimes it helps to zoom out
When I served a mission, I wanted to be able to reconcile every statement said by every leader and scientifically map out our doctrine. But later I learned there was more value in seeing the larger picture. This is akin to certain paintings where you get so close because you want to see how each blade of grass is painted, but in doing so the grass no longer looks like grass, but rather abstract brush strokes. Sometimes only in stepping back and capturing the whole painting do you appreciate and understand the gospel.

Similarly to zooming out, it’s helpful to simplify things at times. While my brother and I were serving missions, we wrote each other on the topic of doubt. He shared that at times he broke things down to what he knew, that there are principles that are inherently true or good, like compassion, love, service, and sacrifice. Similarly there were inherently bad principles. This intrinsic duality or morality in life lead him, as it does me, to believe in a higher power. People may debate certain morals, but there are certain absolute goods and evils that transcend culture and leave one with no other explanation than the existence of a higher power.

7. Sometimes you have to believe two seemingly contradictory facts
Alfred North Whitehead wrote a chapter devoted to faith in one of his philosophy books on science. In it he asks if faith and science are mutually exclusive. He states they aren’t, but are sisters, working towards the same purpose, each with different personalities. He mentions how science can be a lot more graceful. When a theory is disproven, science rejoices, jumping at the opportunity to learn from it. Religion may take these advances less gracefully. For example, think about how religion resisted the Copernican model of the universe. Why? Perhaps we get ahead of ourselves and jump to conclusions. He relates an account about two scientists and a dilemma they faced. When the idea of molecular weight, the idea that materials are made up of molecules that each have a uniform weight, was being developed, there were two different scientists that came to a troubling impasse. One scientist had a method for producing a certain gas, the other had an alternative method. Yet at the end of the two processes, it seemed that they had different molecular weights, despite being the same gas. So at that point they had a very tempting choice to reject the idea that there is a uniform molecular weight. This seemed to be what the data proved. But sure enough, it was later discovered that one process developed a side product as well that threw off their calculations. How many times does this happen to us in our lives? We are positive we are right. We’ve rechecked the facts over and over. There is only one possible conclusion. Once in High School while doing calculus homework one night at my friend’s house we became convinced that we had disproven calculus, until we finally realized our mistake the next day. Sometimes we need to delay judgment until we gather more data. In the meantime we may feel like we are wrestling with contradictory data.

8. Don’t betray your past confirmations
Once in college I lost my wallet. I circled back to all the classrooms I had been in; I called lost and found; I was at a loss. After a day or two of searching, I decided to pray about it. I knelt down in my dorm room and prayed at my desk chair. As I got up, my wallet was lying on the carpet next to the chair. I remember how incredibly spiritual and moving that experience. However, when looking back after a few years, or even a few days, it was easier to focus less on the spiritual side and think more about how it must have been in my jacket that was resting on the back of the chair, and moving the chair probably caused it to fall out of the pocket.

For me, this experience serves as a good example to remind me that despite the fact that spiritual experiences may seem a dimmer as time goes on, this doesn’t change the fact that they were real, and they were powerful. It is important to hold on to these feelings as they are often a large part of our testimonies, and to correct for this dimming effect when considering our testimonies. I believe this is why the Book of Mormon focuses so much on the Nephites remembering what the Lord had done for their ancestors.

9. Don’t do it all by yourself
Finally, I realized while going through this crisis of faith, that I was trying to do it all on my own. I was expecting myself to resolve all doubts and have perfect faith without any help from Christ and his atonement. When Christ was petitioned to heal the man’s son in Mark 9, the Lord said that “All things are possible to him that believeth.” It says that “straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe;” but then perhaps the man realized what I realized, that we aren’t expected to do it alone and that we can bring our doubts to the table, and he added, “Help thou my unbelief.” We aren’t supposed to figure things out so we can accept Christ’s atonement. We are supposed to use the atonement to help along the way.

There is a song by Nickel Creek entitled “Doubting Thomas” that addresses the struggles inherent in faith and shows the progression of an individual as they accept these and press on in spite of them.  
What will be left when I've drawn my last breath
Besides the folks I've met and the folks who've known me
Will I discover a soul-saving love
Or just the dirt above and below me
 I'm a doubting Thomas
I took a promise
But I do not feel safe
Oh me of little faith
 Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face
Then I beg to be spared ‘cause I'm a coward
If there's a master of death I bet he's holding his breath
As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power
 I'm a doubting Thomas
I can't keep my promises
‘Cause I don't know what's safe
Oh me of little faith
 Can I be used to help others find truth
When I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie
Can I be led down a trail dropping bread crumbs
That prove I'm not ready to die
 Please give me time to decipher the signs
Please forgive me for time that I've wasted
 I'm a doubting Thomas
I'll take your promise
Though I know nothin's safe
Oh me of little faith
 The three chorus refrains outline this individual’s progression. The first and last lines of each chorus “I’m a doubting Thomas” and “Oh me of little faith” don’t change, signifying that faith is a continual and lifelong endeavor. The second line progresses from “I took a promise,” through “I can’t keep my promises”, to “I’ll take your promise.” This parallels my own realization that I can’t have faith on my own, but that it requires allowing the Lord into the formula. The third line progresses from “I do not feel safe” and “I don’t know what’s safe” to the acceptance of “I know nothin’s safe,” again signifying that having a testimony is not an elimination of doubt, but a process of accepting and balancing healthy doubt with faith and hope.

I made it through the crisis of faith that I had in 2008. I didn’t gain any incredible knowledge that made it all suddenly click. But I realized that everything good in my life was connected to my faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and still is. I realized that faith, at least for me, isn’t an absolute, but is founded in hope. I am grateful for my testimony. I do believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s church restored, that it is guided by a prophet called of God. I know that living theis gospel brings peace and happiness, and I believe that it has the power to allow families to be an eternal unit. These are the fruits that fortify my testimony and are the reasons I continue in faith.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Healthcare and Billing Practices

I just got my tonsils out two days ago and will be graduating dental school in a couple weeks, so I've been thinking a bit about healthcare lately. I just got a bill today from an ENT. I had gone to the ENT to have her look at my tonsils. In the process of the exam, she checked my ears (not my chief complaint). She said something along the lines of "Hold on, I'm going to just get a bit of earwax out," swung some sort of scope over, and within a minute the earwax was removed and the exam continued.

At the time I thought to myself, "That's a nice gesture. She saw something that needed taken care of that I wasn't really aware of, and she did it." Then the skeptic in me thought, "I wonder if I am going to be billed for that." Sure enough today I got a bill showing that $179 was billed to the insurance, while only $55.03 was allowed. Since I hadn't met my deductible, my portion was $55.03.

Alexia and I were just talking the other day about how odd it is that providers bill a large amount and then it always seems to be adjusted to a "contractual discount." So is the insurance shortchanging the provider by reimbursing less or only allowing a lower amount to be billed? Or is there fee inflation going on causing uninsured people to subsidize the contractual "discounts" insurance companies have?

Furthermore, should you as a provider inform patients of every fee they are going to get charged with? I struggle with this as a dental student. Do you inform the patient about the cost for radiographs and give them an option as to whether they want to get them or hold off for another six months, or do you make your opinion and perform the procedure? Will you be stuck with indecisive patients, who may be unable to understand and weigh the cost/benefit of a preventative radiograph vs. a possible cavity? Should a patient be financially counseled before all billable procedures? And what about billing not for service, but for complexity/time spent plus materials like a mechanic? My procedure to me did not seem like a $55 ear wax removal, certainly not a $179, but then again, I can't judge ENTs, the cost of equipment, cost of schooling, and complexity of procedures.

I guess overall the question is, what level of autonomy and trust should patients be given in their health care? As a patient, I feel capable with my medical knowledge, and the resources available to me, to be fairly autonomous in my cost/benefit analyses and to largely decide what I should and shouldn't have done if given the appropriate diagnoses and professional opinion. Many others may feel differently and may prefer to have the provider take the wheel. However, overall I am in favor of more transparency on pricing, procedures to be performed, potential risks, and especially complications that happened during the procedure, so that the power is in the patient's hands. If the patient decides that they would like to be less involved in the process, at least they were informed.

The difficulty with this is the implementation. I've heard of providers posting prices online, which sounds like a good idea. I feel like there needs to be some informed consent from a financial aspect where the patient either agrees that he or she will either not be aware of every billable procedure before it is performed, or where they are provided with prices and indicate that they would like to be informed of what procedures will be happening and that the onus is on them to get involved if they have a concern. Ultimately, providers shouldn't be expected to unreasonably compromise care because a patient wants to apply their Slickdeals mindset to their healthcare, but I think patients are currently losing a battle against autonomy, confusing medical codes, and convoluted insurance practices. What do you think?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Free Insulated Chicken Coop Plans

My big project of the year, actually of my lifetime (at least in the building category so far), was to build a chicken coop. Alexia talked about wanting chickens last year; I wasn't as thrilled. But, eventually I realized she really wanted them, and so I got on board. She called our borough, and they said we could have 5 animals. So, now we have one dog and four chickens.

Our first step was designing the project. I suggested we design it on the computer before putting it together in real life. Honestly, I wouldn't have a clue where to start otherwise. I also wanted to put together a design we could share with others, since most of the designs we found online weren't free. Alexia started working in Google SketchUp and got the frame together. Since I'd be doing most of the building, I took it from there. She was the one who had checked out and read several chicken raising books from the library, so she served as my advisor for the project. I'd tell her what I was planning, and she would tell me about insulation, ventilation, height of roosts, etc. Designing the project took a while since we had to learn SketchUp, but I was happy with it. It is based on a popular design called the playhouse coop, which has plans available online. Making our own plans allowed us to customize the design. Our plans appear to result in a more costly and complicated coop, but the coop includes insulation, gives the chickens more room in the actual coop itself, and is customized for our automated feeding, door opening, and watering. We designed the coop to house 4 chickens comfortably. Besides those two plans, there are several other plans available online if you look in the right places. There are also plenty of pictures of chicken coops on to at least give you some idea of the possibilities out there.

Alexia did some scrounging online and found some free wood. We borrowed a truck, broke the wood down enough to fit it in the bed, and brought it home. It saved us quite a bit of money since plywood is expensive, but we still needed to buy a lot of 2x4s. Then Alexia spent a lot of time sanding the wood to prepare it for sealing. Eventually I had a 3 week break from school and started to hit this project full time. It wasn't long before I got the frame together. That was the easy part.

After putting the frame together, I sealed it with a natural sealer. We wanted to go non-toxic since chickens have the tendency to peck indiscriminately and we'd be eating their eggs, however, in the end I'm not so certain this was necessary. All the surfaces available to the chickens (all 2x4s and the inside of the plywood when I put them on) were sealed with AFM Naturals Clear Penetrating Oil. The rest of the plywood surfaces I coated with generic clear sealer from Lowe's. I like the non-toxic sealer, but it required a lot, and it was rather expensive (over $70 a gallon). I think I used over 2 gallons.

Then I started to cut the plywood and screw it on. This part was tricky since I had to do two of the walls in parts because my plywood pieces were not big enough. It was also a lot trickier because we were double-walling the sides and insulating. Some say this isn't necessary, but since we weren't planning on having a heat lamp out there and it gets pretty cold here, we wanted to play it safe. Alexia found some free insulation on Freecycle that did the job nicely.

After the plywood and insulation was placed (I sealed the plywood as I put it up) and the removable plywood floor was installed (works better in theory, as it's a little difficult to get it to slide out without scraping it clean first), I installed the roof. Our landlady had some corrugated fiberglass material that worked wonderfully. I secured it with screws that included rubber washers and caulked the seams. Then I improvised and made a roof cap.

As for the enclosure, everyone up to snuff on chicken keeping seems to advise against poultry fencing and recommend hardware cloth. The problem is that poultry fencing doesn't keep predators out, hardware cloth does. Unfortunately, it is expensive. However, I designed the coop dimensions just right so I was able to get it done with one 50' roll. I then placed a larger mesh apron around the coop that I stapled down to stop digging predators.

That's basically the bulk of the coop. As for the chickens' amenities, here's how they are living. They've got plenty of roosting area in the coop. The feeder is designed to hold a lot of food and is filled from a hatch on the outside. Once we gave away the rest of the chickens we raised from chicks to get down to the 4 we kept, I only needed to refill it once a month. The side of the feeder has a clear plastic window to indicate the level. The waterer is a 6 gallon bucket with nipples screwed in to the bottom (used some teflon tape). For the winter I dropped a thermostatically controlled birdbath deicer. So far, it's been working beautifully. I also only need to refill this once a month. The chickens have two nesting boxes accessible from the outside for egg collecting. Oddly enough, I've noticed

that they are segregating themselves by color of eggs. Blue egg layers on the left, brown egg layers on the right. We've got latches on all the accesses, two windows that are secured with hardware cloth put have plexiglass windows you can slide in for winter. The coop has plenty of ventilation that comes out underneath the sides of the roof. We also have a solar panel which charges a marine battery. This powers a timer that opens a plexiglass door every morning closes it every night. The panel, timer, and battery are available here, and the motor is available here. Finally, I installed a hanging CFL on a timer to extend the days in the winter by coming on at 3AM to keep the chickens laying through the winter. Unfortunately the solar panel and battery only have enough power to run the automatic door, while the CFL and birdbath deicer run off an extension cord. I couldn't find any suitable solar solutions to prevent water from freezing. Solar powered lighting was a bit more feasible, but since we ended up running an extension cord out to the coop for the light during the winter, I figured there was no point in investing in a solar powered lighting which would only be necessary in the winter.

This project took about 10 times longer than I thought it would. However, getting our first eggs was so rewarding. I think a lot of that had to do with all the work I put into it. Which is probably why I am the one that collects the eggs each day out of excitement (sometimes checking multiple times a day). We get 3-4 eggs a day, and the chickens seem happy.

You can download the model from Google SketchUp's 3D warehouse. You will need SketchUp to view it. Let me know if you end up building it or have any comments, questions, or suggestions. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Eliminate Fast User Switching by Using an Applescript to Toggle Preferences

Alexia was a PC. I'm a Mac. However, when moving into our house after getting married, her PC bit the dust. So, eager to spread the gospel of Apple, I transferred her stuff over to my Macbook Pro.

However, as productive as Hot Corners can be when you are familiar with them (me), they can be equally frustrating to someone who is not familiar with them, nor has any intention of becoming so (Alexia). I like to tap to click sometimes, she doesn't. I have switched over to the natural scrolling of Lion, she is still using the unnatural(?) scrolling of Snow Leopard.

So, to make it work, I set up different profiles. While these allowed us to keep our individualized settings, it also had its drawbacks. Fast user switching is still not fast enough. You have to click on the name, select your name, type your password, and then wait for the cube to rotate to your profile. It was also a pain when restarting, because you were prompted for your password to confirm that the other user's programs would be terminated (also a problem if they had something open they didn't save). I also had a background program that would often crash while switching profiles. Finally, I have yet to figure the best way to share an iTunes library (and iPhoto is even worse). Permissions would always get wonky and the iTunes library file would be locked.

So today I made all that change. I had never Applescripted before, so I relied heavily on piecing code together from here and there. The Frankenstein that I ended up with was exactly what I wanted. I have a quick application called Switch that toggles back between my "preference profile" and my lovely wife's profile simply by switching the individual preferences back and forth. Run it once, and it turns off Hot Corners, tap to click, and natural scrolling, while displaying a Growl notification that Alexia's profile is now activated. Run it again, and you're back to mine.

The Hot Corners are toggled using some code that edits the plist files. I borrowed this code from a script called Lava Corners Switch. The Growl notification code is adapted from the Growl website (which I just noticed the other day is now in the Mac App Store. I declined to buy it because... how much more can Growl be improved? It gives me messages, that's great.). The toggling of the natural scrolling is implemented with UI scripting (so you have to enable access for assistive devices) and comes from commenter fireshadow52 on I added the tap to click toggling. And finally, the method testing to see if an app is running came from CodeSnippets. Then I just grabbed a nice icon from the web and slapped it on there.

To get this running, copy the code into a new Applescript. Save it as an application and throw it on your dock. Set all your settings, and then run the application to toggle all of your Hot Corners off, and switch those other two trackpad settings. Obviously individuals will need to tweak the settings they want changed, and that will take some digging online. If you use it, let me know how it works. And if there is a better way to do any of this, feel free to enlighten me.

As a side note, it amazes me how much some people know out there. I'd like to think of myself as pretty computer savvy, especially compared to those I interact with daily, but my progress to this point can best be described as blindly stumbling for hours. The knowledge of some out there is very impressive. Anyway, I hope this helps. To me, this will be so much better than multiple logins.

-- List of properties for hot corners. Just set your hot corners and it will toggle back and forth between those settings and being disabled
property tl : 1
property tr : 1
property br : 1
property bl : 1
property runs : 0

if appIsRunning("GrowlHelperApp") then
tell application id "com.Growl.GrowlHelperApp"
-- Make a list of all the notification types
-- that this script will ever send:
set the allNotificationsList to ¬
{"Switch Notification"}

-- Make a list of the notifications
-- that will be enabled by default.
-- Those not enabled by default can be enabled later
-- in the 'Applications' tab of the Growl preferences.
set the enabledNotificationsList to ¬
{"Switch Notification"}

-- Register our script with growl.
-- You can optionally (as here) set a default icon
-- for this script's notifications.
register as application ¬
"Switch" all notifications allNotificationsList ¬
default notifications enabledNotificationsList ¬
icon of application ""

-- Indicate which user or profile is now running
if runs = 1 then
notify with name ¬
"Switch Notification" title ¬
"Profile Activated:" description ¬
"User 1" application name "Switch"

notify with name ¬
"Switch Notification" title ¬
"Profile Activated:" description ¬
"User 2" application name "Switch"
end if

end tell
end if

-- Stores existing hot corners as properties for next toggle
if runs is 0 then
set tl to do shell script "defaults read wvous-tl-corner"
set tr to do shell script "defaults read wvous-tr-corner"
set bl to do shell script "defaults read wvous-bl-corner"
set br to do shell script "defaults read wvous-br-corner"

-- Disables hot corners
do shell script "defaults write wvous-tl-corner -int 1; defaults write wvous-br-corner -int 1; defaults write wvous-bl-corner -int 1; defaults write wvous-tr-corner -int 1; killall Dock"
set runs_A to 1
end if

-- Sets hot corners back to existing values
if runs is 1 then
do shell script ("defaults write wvous-tl-corner -int " & tl & "; defaults write wvous-br-corner -int " & br & "; defaults write wvous-bl-corner -int " & bl & "; defaults write wvous-tr-corner -int " & tr & "; killall Dock")
set runs_A to 0
end if

-- Initializes the trackpad preference pane
tell application "System Preferences"
set current pane to pane ""
end tell

tell application "System Events"
tell process "System Preferences"
-- Toggles between natural scrolling and unnatural(?) scrolling
click radio button "Scroll & Zoom" of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
click checkbox 1 of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
-- Toggles tap to click on
click radio button "Point & Click" of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
click checkbox 1 of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
end tell
end tell

quit application "System Preferences"

-- Keeps track of where you are at in the toggle
set runs to runs_A

-- Call to make sure growl is running
on appIsRunning(appName)
tell application "System Events" to (name of processes) contains appName
end appIsRunning

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs

I was really surprised when I realized how much Steve's passing affected me last night and today. Today seemed a little gloomy. I knew I loved my iPhone, iPad, and laptop, but I didn't realize that I had grown to look up to Apple's iconic CEO. Thanks Steve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


When I lived in downtown Marietta, I'd often walk to the corner store for snacks. Halfway there, sat an old, shirtless, plump man on his porch. His name was Henny.

Henny would say some of the oddest things to my brothers and me as we passed. Whether he was merely enjoying the lack of accountability that often is afforded the aging, or was conducting his own social experiment, I never knew. Often I would be hailed as the "candyman" as I walked by.

Once while passing, he called out "Your mom's in the hospital!" By this time I had caught on to Henny, may have given him a nod or a half hearted "Oh," but just kept walking, quite confident that my mom was not, in fact, in the hospital. My confidence may have been bolstered by having just been at home minutes prior, and having seen my mom, unhospitalized. Regardless, he didn't fool me.

And then one day, he passed away.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beach with my best friend

Alexia and I went to the beach last Saturday, and it was great. I really enjoy car rides with her, cause it forces us to slow down, talk, and just spend time together, when the rest of the time it is so easy to get caught up in everything we are busy with. But man, wouldn't it be sweet when we can have our cars drive us places and we can just relax in the meantime?

Anyway, we brought Cinder. It was her first time to the beach, and it was a lot of fun watching her and Alexia play. She has had a little aversion to water since her first experience with us and water was when we had just gotten her, she was 4 months old, we took her to the park, she ran right out on the ice, and fell in. Alexia jumped in the freezing creek to rescue her. Speaking of which, I'm always impressed with how good she is with animals, of the human baby kind, or the pet kind. She does a lot of the work with Cinder, and also looks out for the chickens by making them delicious meals that consist of a bunch of scraps we have left over.

So, Cinder's a little leery of water. But she has been getting better. She would walk out into the water a bit, but was scared when the waves would crash into their foamy whiteness. In fact, her most common response to this (other than running back towards land) was to bite the wave. It was adorable. Oh, and the best friend in the title is Alexia. Cinder's just my second best.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to re-web your own Chacos

My 5 year old Chacos which I purchased for 40 bucks had seen better days. The soles were peeling off. So I sent them in and got them resoled under the warranty for free. Yipee! It was then that I realized that the webbing was fraying through. I called to see if this was covered under the warranty, but they said it most likely wasn't. They needed to see them first.

Not wanting to spend another $8 to ship them off, certainly not wanting to pay $36 bucks to have them re-webbed, and knowing that my brother had successfully re-webbed his own Chacos, I started my project.

You will need:
  • A torch, or matches, or some heat source to melt the ends of your webbing
  • About 10' 3/4" wide tubular webbing (costed me a little over a quarter a foot)
  • A medium sized needle
  • Strong thread (I had to go to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft for upholstery thread)
  • A knife
  • Scissors
  • A few hours
Here are pictures of the beginning and the end, and then how I did it.

1. Remove the bar tack stitching that connects the main strap to the inside heel riser (the ones between your feet, not on the outside). I just replaced the main strap as my heel strap and buckle straps were fine, as I assume most are. But those seem replaceable too, you just need to take off the chaco logo.

The bar tack stitch also has a straight stitch underneath. So I took a knife and cut the side to side bar tack stitch, and then pulled the thread out with my leatherman. Be very careful that you don't cut any of the heel riser webbing. Take your time so you are just cutting stitches. After the bar tack is gone, you need to cut the straight line of stitches holding the strap in.

2. Cut the end of the webbing you just removed from the heel riser at an angle and fuse it with a torch. Cut the end of your new webbing complementary and fuse it as well.

3. Thread your needle and sew the two ends together well. You want to butt the ends together, not overlap. Make sure it is very secure. Otherwise the connection may break while it is being threaded through, and then you will need to cut through your sole to finish the repair.

To sew it together, I took 10 inches of thread, and threaded 2 inches through the eye of the needle. Don't tie a knot anywhere in the thread. Just sew 4 or 5 times through the smallest bite of webbing on a corner of one of the pieces. Once you have this anchor, just keep looping over that seam between the pieces. I went from one end to the other, and then back and anchored again like I did at the start. Then snip the pieces. You may want to double this if you aren't sure it is strong enough or if you don't have heavy duty thread (I'd recommend upholstery thread, which is 100% nylon and doesn't fray). Trim any protruding corners that may impede threading this seam through your sole.

4. Now pull, and pull hard. You need to pull your new webbing through the whole webbing pattern. You may need to find the right angle of pull so that the webbing moves and you don't tear your foot bed apart. Check your stitching after each pass so it doesn't fall apart on you.

5. Now that it is all the way through, snip off the old webbing by cutting your new webbing at a right angle right after the seam. Fuse the end. You can now cut the other end of your old webbing and disconnect it from the buckle. Note how it is attached, because you will be replicating that.

6. Sew your new webbing on the buckle like the old webbing was sewn. Again, thread the needle, pass through the same bite (as much as you can, you just want to concentrate your stitching on the smallest possible piece of webbing) several times, and do your best to replicate a bar tack stitch (what was there originally). With all the stitches in this project, I did it twice, with about two passes each. So I would anchor, go from one side to the other and back, anchor again, and trim the thread. Then I repeated the process. That way if one stitch breaks, you have a backup.

7. Now, put the sandal on your foot and adjust all the straps just like you normally would. Mark about where you should cut the other end of your new webbing, and cut it at an angle (it comes out of the heel riser at about a 45 degree angle). Fuse the end.

8. Slide the end into the heal riser, thread your needle, anchor, stitch two passes, anchor, trim. Repeat. You've finished repairing one sandal, now do the other.

9. Enjoy the re-webbing job that cost you under $10

I was pretty pleased with the result. My only complaint is that my new webbing is a little softer and floppier than my original webbing so it takes a bit more effort to put them on. The original webbing is tubular, but it looks like it may be stitched flat. It may stiffen up it time, or perhaps wax or a rosin could help it out.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

2 Seconds

-- The amount of time it took me to pause at the trashcan and decide that feeding the chickens my leftover chicken was not right. I threw it away.

Monday, July 11, 2011


....and I got a Parrot AR Drone for our anniversary. It is pretty much awesome. Except for the fact that it is a little out of commission while I wait for repair parts:-).


I'd say two posts in one day, but technically my last post was started yesterday. Alexia and I currently have 17 chicks living in our basement bathroom. There are 5 Cuckoo Maran pullets that lay a dark brown egg, 4 Ameraucana pullets that lay blue/green eggs, and 8 Rhode Island Red (we think) roosters that were included in the box to keep the girls warm during the shipping process.

I spent my three week school break working non-stop building a chicken coop. I'll put up some pictures when it is finished. But the end goal is a 5x8 coop to keep 4 hens in for egg laying. The funny thing is we don't eat many eggs, but I guess we will learn to. You can blame this all on my wife to, she's from Portland:-). No, it has been fun. I originally wrote "really" before "fun" but took it away because it has been hard work too. But fun hard work.

Not sure what to title this

As the title says, I'm not really sure what a good title would be, or what this post is really about. It is just late on a Monday night, and I am procrastinating going to bed. I logged on to Facebook (seems weird to capitalize the F when it seems to usually be lowercase in their logos), and it was weird.

It was weird to see that people still do stuff on Facebook. I'm not sure why, but I guess for me, Facebook jumped the shark a while ago. In fact, logging on to Facebook (ok, each time I've written it, I've had to go back and capitalize it... no more) will someday feel like logging on to AIM and seeing that some people from high school still IM. Actually, it is funny, because in highschool, I IMed a lot. And then I did a little bit before I went on my mission, but once I came back, it felt like I think of the past. But then Google Talk came along, and we all sort of got suckered into IMing again, without even realizing it was IMing. At least I didn't. And yet, here I am, logging into Google talk, eternally "busy." But mainly busy because I don't feel like I have time in my life to allow my time on the computer to be dictated by someone else's desire to talk. Similarly, when I message someone on Google Talk, it seems forced, and I worry that I am interrupting or wasting their time. But, apparently other people still find time to get on facebook.

I don't know why I find that so weird. It feels kind of sad though. It's as though I went to a party, and it was great for a while, but then I had to leave, and then hours later I still see and hear the party going on.

It has been frustrating trying to keep up with friends. I say trying to, but really it is more like trying to try to keep up with friends. I don't know what happened to my life, but perhaps getting married and being in dental school have something to do with that. And I love being married, and I usually like school, but somewhere along the way, my life became, not incompatible, but less compatible with staying in touch with people. Just yesterday I talked to my brother Caleb for the first time in months. I found out he had been dating someone for the last year. I didn't know that. I get in touch with my mom every few weeks. But friends are even harder. I've had emails in my inbox that I have been meaning to get back to, and I will some day, for months, if not half a year. Jana, a friend from highschool who lives in Germany, yeah, I'll get back to her. Brad, I got your email in April, it's still in my inbox.

My inbox is another frustrating thing. I've got things that people send me, that I some day want to look into when I have that free day that never comes, but I just never get around to it. And when I finally do have a free moment, I find something else to occupy it with. So my inbox has become like a cluttered desk, where you keep everything on the top because you want easy access to it, and fully intend to get to it someday, but instead it becomes this disorganized mass that every once in a while undergoes the process of prioritizing, where things lower on the priority just get bumped (like I will likely not read articles you send me, as interesting as they look), and other things higher on the priority but not high enough to be a priority, get relegated to the back of the line to one day be addressed.

In fact, all of my life has become this poor juggling act. Instead of all the balls being in the air at the same time, however, I throw one ball up really high (like I deep clean the house), and while that is in the air for it's brief moment of glory, I find the next ball that has been sitting on the ground the longest, and I chuck it high (I finally read through all my brother's emails since I emailed him last on the mission, and I reply).

Blogging itself has been something that I have been meaning to do for so long, but I never get around to it. If I could blog mentally, that would be great, because I'd blog a couple times a week. I always think, "This would be interesting, I should blog about this." Doesn't happen.

But back to friends. Sometimes I get bummed and feel like those I'd grown close to in the past no longer think about me or care to keep in touch. But then I realize that some do, Nathaniel's been trying to get in touch with me for a while. And then I think that maybe everyone's life is like mine. Is this the common path we've all found ourselves on? Does anyone have leisure time anymore? I really do want to keep in touch with my friends though. I think about people a lot. And often I think about getting in touch with people. But heck, I just checked the mousetrap in the attic two days ago, that I knew had to have had a mouse in it (and it did), and had been sitting there for probably 4 months. And the only reason why I did check it, is because I had to go to the attic for another chore. All along I had this nagging thought that I needed to check the trap, but somehow I really never got around to it. The most I could do was hope it was choosing the path of dessication and not decomposition, which it did.

So if you are a friend of mine, which you probably are since you are reading this, know that my absence of communication and apparent lack of ambition in staying in contact is not reflective of my feelings toward your friendship. It is just a product of my life, and me not knowing how to manage it yet.

It is interesting too, that I have this unfailing hope, almost confidence, that some day I will have caught up with things and life won't be busy anymore. Often times, that hope keeps me motivated and working.

I'm not sure what to do to improve my communication with my family and friends. I find it difficult to make friends of the same closeness as I had made at BYU or throughout high school, and so I do value them, but at the same time it seems like an impossible task to go through life and keep in touch with everyone you want to. Maybe I will post more, and this will serve as my communication to you friends, at least those of you that read this, and you can respond in comments. Maybe I will join Google+ and feel much less overwhelmed by the sheer number of "friends" to communicate.

I guess the questions I have are these... Do most people feel as unable to truly manage their lives and stay on top of things, including communication, as I do? Do they not keep in as good contact as they would like to as well with their family and friends? If so, who the heck is on facebook still? Another trend I've noticed is that the introspective blogging of yesterday has turned into the family newsletter. Which is fine, as I think about blogging what Alexia and I are up to as well. I just don't know whether blogging as a whole has become less introspective, or whether it is just a reflection of the life stages my friends are going through.

Anyway, it feels good to write again. I feel like I've become a less social and outgoing person since I've come to Pittsburgh, and I sometimes wonder if it isn't related to not blogging. I find myself keeping to myself more often. Perhaps blogging kept the pump primed for me when I used to do it more often.

I'll try to blog more often. I hope some people still read this:-).