Sleddin' in Utah

Here's what we did today. Fun.


Design and Developer Tips

I stumbled on a treasure trove of design feeds full of tips, tricks and tutorials about web design and development. Jon over at spyre studios shares with us the rss feeds that have helped him with his web design skills - he is a self-made artist, you know. Here it is:

160+ RSS Feeds For Web-Designers And Developers


LDS Maps = Pretty Sweet

This was awhile ago, but the Church released a new map app for finding your closest meetinghouse (aka "church"). I remember the old text-based one that they used to have, it reminded me of Oregon Trail. "You've been bit by a snake. You've found your closest meetinghouse." Actually, it was nothing like that but for some reason it makes me think of it. Either way, this app blows the old one out of the water. Link: maps.lds.org

It's exciting to me to see how much the Church has opened it's doors technologically. Open source projects and profitable freelancing have skyrocketed the number of professional programmers and web developers with excellent skills, and the Church is reaching out to that community to built its online presence. I remember when the Church revamped its homepage (not too long ago) and I thought "Woo hoo, it will be awhile before we see another change around here." Not! The newsroom, a new media player for watching conference, and the tech site - and that's just the beginning! It looks like they've got a Home Teaching/Visiting Teaching web app in the works, which is still in the draft draft draft stage and pending approval before it can even move beyond a prototype, but that's still cool! It was funny because I stumbled on that piece of news right as I was finishing up my home teaching web app for the branch. Don't know if I'll ever roll it out, but it could be useful for the younger home teachers, anyway. That, of course, includes President. :)

One last thing: Church discussions on Twitter. I just joined Twitter so I'm still figuring out what a tweet and a hashtag are, but I caught the vision while reading the article of what this could mean in the future. My twitter feed can be found here (please no stalkers please), or it can be accessed directly from this blog (the bottom sidebar tab).

Tonight I told my wife that I'm getting in touch with my geeky side as we gorged ourselves on Korean banchan and bulgogi and tofu soup. She nonchalantly replied, "That's ok, as long as you don't cheat on me." What? I didn't see that one coming. Where did that come from? Did she hear what I said? I guess she meant spending more time with the computer than with her. That could be a form of infidelity. Man, I love that woman.


Christmas Tradition!

Some individuals have incredibly elaborate traditions to celebrate Christmas. As you can see, I am one of those individuals:

My Grinch tie on the Sunday before Christmas.

Presents for our friends at church (hey, when you're mass producing you've got to be a little creative!).


The Economy at Your Doorstep

The U.S. economy slipped into recession in December 2007, the nation's business cycle arbiter declared on Monday, and the downturn could be the worst since World War Two.
Reuters - Mon Dec 1, 2008

The above statement, or the basic idea anyway, has been haunting around our neighborhood for the last several months. I've heard rumors of job cuts. Church members catch me in the hall to tell me that their friends are being laid off and they're only working 30 hours a week. A friend will be taking a quick trip to Vietnam and back because her department was mandated to take a week off - unpaid. We all saw it coming, we all recognized the signs, but it's still an unpleasant surprise (to say the least) when it's staring you in the face. I just got out of a meeting with our department head who told us that we are safe from direct layoffs, for now anyway. Who knows what next week will bring.

Positivity is absolutely imperative. Of course I can "be" positive right now because I am still sitting at a desk getting paid to work. Many of my brothers and sisters, in the County and elsewhere, do not have this blessing or will soon be stripped of it. Finding the good in times like these can seem impossible, but truly it is the only way to survive. We must move with hope and not sit and bemoan tragedy. It is upon hope that we can regain our balance and continue forward; without it, we lose all and submit ourselves to defeat. And for what can we hope? Just as Mother Earth cleanses herself with fire, rain, and rumblings in the earth before shooting forth new life, the Economy must bend and break before it can start swinging up again. There's a pattern and a plan behind all of this - always.

Update: Here's the scoop on my county in particular. It will be interesting to see these leaders come to a collaborative agreement without tearing each other apart: County CEO proposes 3 percent across-the-board salary cut

Update 2: Looks like we're not the only ones: Việt Nam: Thất nghiệp tăng vọt


The Turtle is Real!

Ever wondered about the stories we hear about Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, the lake in the middle of Hà Nội that supposedly harbors the magic turtle who returned King Lê Lợi's sword to the gods? Yeah, well here's his brother, who apparently didn't hold on tight enough during the recent flooding in Northern Vietnam and got swept away into a hungry fisherman's hands. I'm glad the turtle was saved (it is now back home) because it is believed that he is one of only four of his kind (rafetus swinhoei) left on the entire earth. I say that's a pretty good number seeing that they're magic turtles.

By the way, the turtle in Hồ Hoàn Kiếm is not a legend. My mother in law saw it.


Revamping the Blog - xanghe v2.0

This blog has always been an experiment. Every time I learned something new, I would try to implement it. Well, I did it again.

This new design was inspired by the Web 2.0 sites I frequent (eBay, Facebook, Trulia, etc), some sites that try to break the Web 2.0 look (W3 <MARKUP/>, a Wordpress theme, Cameron Moll's site), and of course the magic of jQuery. I don't hold a candle to those masters, but by meager imitation I hope to achieve something that is appealing to me and functional for the readers (if any).

I'm caught between contemporary design and grunge, between straight lines and organic forms, so I end up with geometric shapes with shifting opacity, all superimposed over color-rich backgrounds. I love interaction (hence the really-useless dragging in the old blog) so I've attempted to encourage visitors (even force them) to interact with the site to initiate anything - even just reading. The icon in the bottom right opens the Background Picker, which... well... picks the background. The great part about the "picker" is that it is populated live from a google spreadsheet rss feed (didn't use an AJAX call because my database is on another domain and I don't like proxies - thank goodness for JSON!), so as soon as I add more background options, the menu will repopulate on the next click without even reloading the page!!! Ok, maybe the exclamation marks are too much, but I think it's cool.

Bedtime. Now that I enjoy seeing my own blog again I should probably start posting more. Or maybe I'll just play with the sidebar tabs.


Streamlining the Blog

Well, I'm working on the blog again. It should load up faster, but no changing and background and draggable things... for now. I kept getting a message that my blog was infected and stuff because I was pulling scripts from freewebtown.com, which is a "Reported Attack Site!" Oh well

At the bottom, you'll see some links called "version backtrack" - it's my first attempt at implementing the magic of jquery on the blog.

More to come.


Van and Hai's Wedding pics!

111508_VanHaiWed-SealingUT077, originally uploaded by xanghe.

Mawwiage. Mawwiage iss what bwings us togever today.


Lost in the Wilderness. And Found

It's finally over. The biggest election in history (or so I heard, over and over and over) is finally over and my life has returned to normal. Registrars and elections officials across the country still have to finish up the counts on remaining ballots, check provisional ballots for qualifications, complete the post-election canvass and hand count 1% of all ballots cast (all the stuff you don't hear about on Fox and CNN) before the election is certified, but for all intents and purposes, the election is over. I got home at 4:30 yesterday. Life is good.

For the last year, I've felt some serious changes a'brewin in my life and I now's the time to implement them. I was sorting through some pictures last night and found this one from when we went hiking up in O'Neill park last spring (I did not photoshop the orange stuff in - it was this stringy stuff that covered half of the vegetation out there, kind of like War of the Worlds or something). I felt that it was very indicative of my current situation, lost as can be out in the middle of the wilderness but now free to finally start moving again. I'm going to go back to school for a masters in Environmental Science and Public Policy. I'm intrigued with energy and how we as humans can tap into the huge reservoirs of energy all around us, without burning all the oil in our lamps. We'll see how far that road takes me.

I was praying last night and wondering why 3-4 years ago I got everything I wanted without even asking. I've been applying for jobs here and there lately and nothing has worked out, but back then I applied for one job and just got it. I applied to one university and I just got it. I applied for one wife and just got her (I might get smacked for saying that, but it's true :P ). Back then, I had no clue what I was doing, I didn't have a direction, I could care less about making money, and I thought school was just so interesting but I never took the time to figure how it would translate into a career. The only thing I really put any stock into was my church and the youth I was called to serve. I feel so much more established now, I've laid out my path, I know what I want and I have a direction, but everything's moving like molasses and I haven't seen really any progress at all! Last night, I was perplexed: how could an oblivious, uneducated, naive person like me 3 years ago with no plans of his own just fall into fortune's path... then it hit. Duh. Oblivious: not impeded by his own thoughts. Uneducated: not stuck to what he thinks is right. Naive: not stopped by his own pride. No plans of his own: ready to accept the plans from Someone higher. I was being led because all my all was directed towards serving others. Now I have my big plans, but I'm so involved in them that I don't reach out like I used to. There's the answer. Hope I learn it this time.

By the way, there's going to be a big earthquake:


Your Temple

Everybody needs to have a temple of their own. A place of peace, where you can come close to Nature and the Divine. A place where all things begin to make sense, where confusion and troubles give way to clarity and opportunities. Where you learn all the things that you already knew, which somehow seem new in contrast with your current struggles.

When problems make their way into your heart, or you're exhausted from always battling with the same questions that keep you up every night, don't find a distraction. Don't blast it away with loud music or hide it away with smoky darkness or drink it away with temporary elixirs. Don't sweep it under the mat or settle for impermanent solutions. Don't run away to a distant land, only to find your monster waiting on your doorstep. Don't bury yourself in busy-ness and work, only to find your assailant working right beside you. Don't ignore it for so long that your bottled-up emotional trauma suddenly becomes somatic and you become so ill that you can't do any good for anyone.

There's something absolutely terrifying about looking fear in the face. Lost hope and unmet expectations are even worse. Defeat and doubt probably the worst of all. But once faced, these enemies can no longer haunt you because you see them for what they are: spiritual imbalance. Something is out of whack between how you perceive your inner soul and how your soul really is. Someone's singing off note and you think it's your soul but your soul thinks it's you.

The only way back is through the doors of your temple. Stepping away from the worries of the world and allowing, for only a moment, your mind and heart to get back in tune. Taking all the little pieces of your emotion that life has flung around your soul and connecting them back together. Permitting a higher power to cleanse the filth that collects in the cracks of your heart. It's like defragmenting your spirit.

I just got back from one of my temples (yes, I have many) and I feel like I've been liberated from a wicked tyrant who has held me hostage for a long time. I entered with a specific question, and got the answer almost before I sat down. After 2 good hours of meditation, I have no clue what went on around me but I know that my life has been changed and a new direction set. Actually, it's the old direction that I knew I should have been following anyway, but refinding it has made all the difference.



the only thing now that can get to me, now i've found my dreams
is when I look in her eyes and see that i don't meet what she needs in me
first come the smarts and then come the skills, i finally got my degree
but what happens when the rice comes to an end?
the skills make the heroes and smarts become dead

i'm looking forward but can't see

the books on the shelf are collecting dust, i've consumed them all
but now and again i hear words in my head that
all of this theory still can't meet the ends

i'm looking forward but can't see

sometimes i dream of my children, all so pure and naive
they love unconditional, illuminating
all of the things I've been taught from the start
reminding me of the angels they are
but when they ask for bread
how can i give stones instead?

i'm looking forward but can't see

i know I have more, i scream to the sky
endowed with all things that i need in this life
but can i give more? can't I give more?

i watch them asleep on a bed of dreams as i make my night call
wondering what all their wishes mean and if i can meet them all

i'm looking forward but can't see

i'm looking forward but can't see


Tết Trung Thu social

Come see our photos
We had our summer social for the branch last night, which happened to fall near Tết Trung Thu, so we sang a Tết Trung Thu song and called it good. It was one of the better socials I've been to as of late - nice and intimate, and more games for the kids than you can shake a stick at!

I unknowingly took most of these at 480x640 (dork!) Thanks Kathy for letting us use your camera.



Some art just speaks to me. Last year, someone sent me a little animation called Animator vs Animation. I watched it several times, then began to browse the other works of Mr Alan Becker, the "Animator" of that short. I found in his journal that he had a sister, who went by "ilsung," who was an artist as well. Seeing that Alan was out doing good as a missionary and would therefore be unable to update his page anymore, I wandered over to ilsung's page to see some of her works. I was enchanted. There was something about her art - no, it's her expression, her feeling, her originality- that held me speechless for a moment as I looked through her gallery. I called my wife over and we looked together, commenting on the simple, graceful lines and hues that made up her images. We downloaded some we've used them as our wallpapers ever since. I even have this image as my phone wallpaper. I just feel happy when I look at it.

I've stopped by often since then, enjoying her new pieces, browsing back to my old favorites and admiring her skill. I've learned what it is that draws me to her most recent work: a constant reach upward (example), an inspiring draw to the heavenly (example), and her portrayal of heaven's interaction with with we mere mortals (example).

Harmony is now preparing to leave on her missionary service. My wife and I wish her well and hope she does much good while she's there. But we also look forward to when she returns, in case we want to change our wallpaper.


Nhà tôi

Lúc gặp khó nhà tôi cũng hộ
Bản thân đầy xấu cứ dối là thiện
Nãy sửng sốt gặp ma trong nhà
Nhà tôi đã bền không bỏ không trách
Nay nhận ân trời ban trong nhà
Nhận tôi bị ám chứ không phải nhà.


the Strait and Narrow

IMG_4877, originally uploaded by onlyblue.

This photo is so full of symbolism to me... I've been looking at it all morning.



Yesterday I had to walk so much
After biking to and fro from work
Like any normal day
I took a new bus route to school
Fell asleep
Passed Chapman
Went all the way to Katella
Before I figured out Chapman
Was 5 minutes ago
Jumped off the bus
Can't miss class
Ran the mile in my office clothes
And 5-year-old Sketchers
With too many holes and not enough tread
Fell upon the bus stop
"The bus broke down, we'll have to wait for the next one"
2 hours of class and back to the bus
Caught the early one
Might get some homework done tonight
Off the bus, to the next stop
Bus not scheduled for 34 minutes
I'll be home by then
If I walk
And I did.

Today while riding my bike to and fro from work
I saw a man a-crossing the street
Pink pack, shorter than most
Behind the rest
One leg longer
Than the other
Never corrected
Limping in back
Knee over-extended
Foot under-curved in a painful arch
Limping in back
Across the street
Through the parking lot
Into the way station
Red light to Green

Thank you, Lord, for letting me walk so much


Belated and Unfinished Xanghe Version 1.0

Well, it's done. For now. I've been working on this little blog since January and now it's time to stop. I'm not done with everything I was planning to do, but life has a way of pulling in different directions quite suddenly and I've just been yanked. So no more blog design. For now.

Here's a condensed list of the release notes, accessible from the link in the top corner:

  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH

    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented

    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished

  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH

    • image style to imitate polariod

    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop

    • release notes styled and written

  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH

    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it

    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper

    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)

    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing

  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH

    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)

Now that time-sensitive background is supposed to be much more than it now is. So far, I've only got a day, night and sunrise background, and it's all in winter. I had big plans, like having spring, summer and fall seasons and even attach some script to an rss weather feed and have the background change with the actual weather. Big plans. But sometimes big plans never materialize, as is the case with my now perpetual-winter-mountain-town background.

I had dinner with some good friends tonight, and the discussion turned to a project that I participated in several years ago. I need to reinvolve myself in working with people. Blogging is nice, but there's magic in the touch of a human being, physical or otherwise. The Magic of Touch - that may make a nice post someday. Perhaps after I post on The Magic of the Khổ Qua - How the Most Bitter Melon on Earth Can Actually Cure All Your Problems.


Ok or Cancel - The Dialogs in Life

For the last 2 weeks I've been engrossed in a web project at work trying to migrate a recruitment database from Access forms to web-based forms. It is actually workable right now (big surprise to me!) and the recruitment process is moving along smoothly. However, I'm enduring some serious after effects. I used VBScript to connect all the pages and being a novice at even VB in general, I've spent a lot of time trying to get things to work. I'm now thinking in "if...then" statements (which is not totally effective in a marriage) and I'm under the impression any mistake I make can be fixed with a simple click of the "Undo." Everything around me seems to be framed in procedures and sub procedures, which for one, lead to an interesting thought today.

The common interface between a user and his or her machine is the dialog box. It's small, to the point and in most cases directs the machine what to do next. Although some just inform, the majority of dialog boxes ask the user a question, or rather an ultimatum which requires an answer of yes or no, Ok or Cancel. Some contain a simple question, others an entire copyright. Some dialogs have evolved into incredibly complex windows with lots of information and a series of questions we must answer before clicking Ok or Cancel. No matter how many answers we come up with, it always comes down to one choice - Ok or Cancel. (Actually, there's the little close box at the top which technically counts as a null click, I think, but for all intents and purposes we'll count that a Cancel click. Man, what a geek) No matter what we chose in the interim, our click on one of the two buttons is what decides the next action the machine will take. I realized riding my scooter home today that life is like that in many ways.

How many times do we get hit with promptings from above that leave us with a choice? "Help that old lady across the street. Ok or Cancel" How often do we click Cancel too quickly, or perhaps ponder and mull over the prospect of acting on that prompting... and then click no? Some choices are quick and painless, like "Shall I eat breakfast this morning?" Others are incredibly complex, multi-faceted decisions impacting multiple people and setting the direction for the rest of your life. We can come up with our own answers, we can beat around the bush until the cows come home trying to figure out what to do, but it all comes down to one choice: Ok or Cancel

Theorize, analyze, rationalize it away, but it still distills down to one choice.

Visit the elderly at a nursing home even though they can't move and they drool and stink and might be gone soon anyway.

Ok or Cancel

Take a moment to reflect on your blessings even though a loved just passed away and you lost your job and your brother is in jail.

Ok or Cancel

Hold your tongue even though he or she has offended you so many times before and you're hurt and they're rude and you're so tired of it.

Ok or Cancel

Surprise a loved one even though you're so busy and your work day was hard and they see you 24/7 and already know you love them.

Ok or Cancel

Apologize to someone even though they deserve your grudge.

Ok or Cancel

Make the change in your life that you've needed for so long even though you're not ready and you're a little afraid and it might hurt.

Ok or Cancel

Help that old lady across the street even though you don't know her and it's cliché.

Ok or Cancel

Oh, how life is like an internet of its own. So many distractions and entertainments, enticements and allurements, inventions and deceptions - all swirling around a handful of worthwhile destinations. Each decision moves us closer to a destination. What kind of destination? It's not the balance of Ok's and Cancel's, but the sequence and frequency of our choices and the pattern set by such that determine what destination we ultimately receive. We will be lead finally to meet our Maker in the infinite worlds to come who will ask if we are prepared to move forward into glory and peace, a far better world of promise instead of continuing in the pain and sorrow of this life. At that moment, faced with the ultimate decision and final dialog box, the answer will make its way out of our heart, already determined by thousands of previous answers, before we can even stop it.





A Fairy Tale for Unwitting Adults, Part 2

My idea going into this study of the Book of Mormon, especially the section dealing with evidence for and against its historicity, was if the Book of Mormon is true, then it has to stand up to the most rigorous assaults and critiques that skeptics and nonbelievers can make. So I made every effort to honestly, fully investigate every criticism, every objection that's ever been made to the historicity of the Book of Mormon. One has to suspend judgment in a number of cases, because it's hard to say when the evidence will all be in, but at the present there are still a number of unresolved anachronisms and problems and ambiguities in the text.

But I felt satisfied that there was in every case a corresponding weight on the other side of the equation, which actually led me to, I think, some very important insights into the nature of faith and how faith works. I came to the conclusion, in large part through my study of the Book of Mormon, that for faith to operate, and for faith to have moral significance in our lives, then it has to at some level be a choice. It can't be urged upon us by an irresistible, overwhelming body of evidence, or what merit is there in the espousing of faith? And it can't be something that we embrace in spite of overwhelming logical rational evidence to the contrary, because I don't believe that God expects us to hold in disregard that faculty of reason that he gave us.

But I do believe that the materials are always there of which one can fashion a life of belief or a life of denial. I believe that faith is a revelation of what we love, what we choose to embrace, and therefore I think [it] is the purest reflection of the values that we hold dear and the kind of universe that we aspire to be a part of. And so it comes ultimately as no surprise to me that the evidence will never be conclusive on one way or the other. I think that there's a purpose behind the balance that one attains in the universe of belief. ...

This quote from Terryl Givens (taken from an interview for the PBS FRONTLINE "The Mormons" found here) presents an interesting view of faith. Givens distills faith down to a choice - a choice to believe in something that has not been proven nor is based on any tangible evidence; or in Alma's words, the choice to "hope for things which are not seen, which are true." The crux of spirituality is being able to reach beyond this human body which demands proof, and attain a higher level through positive thinking. This is the emphasized by Christ himself: "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

Religions are based on faith. If it were not so, religions would be no more than service organizations or social clubs. Yet it seems that in our attempt to prove the "only true church," some may lose sight of this principle. Those against the LDS Church claim that we are "unwitting" for following a religion that has so little evidence - the fact that religion is founded on faith (not requiring evidence) is somehow disregarded. Those Latter-day Saints who take up arms against other religions claim that those religions are the "whore of all the earth" - the fact that only those who "fight against Zion" are considered such is somehow shoved to the side. The point of my other post (which I didn't portray very well) was that the two above parties represent two extremes on the spectrum - those who actively engage in discrediting the Church and those who actively engage in discrediting those who discredit the Church. I mentioned a "delineation" in my last post - I meant the delineation in question which, to me, is the invisible line that is constructed by these two extremes, when really there's more common ground than not.

I love the idea of faith because it's so all-encompassing; I can have faith in Jesus Christ as my Redeemer just as much as I can faith that the sun will rise this morning. One I've seen everyday of my life and one I haven't seen even once, but that's the beautiful of faith - seeing is not necessarily believing. When it comes to evidence, well, say what you may but I have my evidence for everything I've ever believed to be true. That evidence is in my heart.


2007 in Pictures

I know this is a little late, but we finally got our pictures from last year organized. Come take a look at our 2007 in pictures!


A Fairy Tale for Unwitting Adults, Part 1

It appears that there are people who think I am going to hell for believing in Christ, only because my way of doing so differs from their way. Conversely, experiencing this feeling has opened my eyes to the fact that I may be thinking the same thing about others because they do things differently than I do them. My wife likes to tease me when I'm upset at someone and ready to tell them "where to go" - she reminds me that whatever judgment I pass on someone else will be the judgment passed on me (see Matt 7:2). She is probably not too far off.

For the two weeks of Early Voting that I spent racing around the county with VVPATS, 2nd VBM Declarations and SOS-mandated security seals (no wonder I went a little crazy!), I rediscovered a radio station that I hadn't listened to in years. It's a Christian radio talk show that jumps between recorded sermons, books on tape, Christian politics and a lot of fundraising. I really enjoy the program between 6-9pm, which consists of mostly archived sermons from pastors with heavy southern accents. "Ya got ta git intersted... intersted in Jesis..." A lot of the teachings I heard while driving from polling site to polling site made me reflect on my beliefs and how I fit into the broader spectrum of Christianity.

One day I was listening to this station and the host was doing a question and answer show. I tuned in late so I didn't hear the prompt, but I did catch the tail end of one of the questions. I heard the questioner mentioning Moses and other ancient prophets and then he referred to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie, saying something about Mormons always excusing their leaders by saying "they're only human." I gleened from context that he found it ridiculous that people who call themselves Christian would align themselves with such sinful men, whereas as those aligning themselves with the Ancients were ok because of the obvious purity and perfection of the prophets of the Bible. The radio host agreed and quickly summed up the Joseph Smith story (emphasizing the lack of evidence for Smith's claim), ending by calling the whole story of Mormonism a "fairy tale for unwitting adults." I'm not a fightin' man, but I'm just glad I hadn't been told that to my face.

That phrase - a fairy tale for unwitting adults - stayed with me for many days. Not long after, I was working with a large group of temporary staff at the office and one of them noticed that I was LDS, just like her. She talked to me about her experience in south county, where the missionaries are sometimes heckled by "born again Christians" and she finished by expressing her dismay that one of "their" main churches was just up the street. "Now we have the Christian Right. They hate us!" Despite my common affiliation with this woman, I was just as taken aback as when I heard the radio host denounce my faith. What's with these people! Or "we people" I guess, since I'm in there, too.

The delineation between born again non-denominational Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing to do with doctrine or beliefs or anything of substance - it's pure perception. I'm not a doctrinal scholar on either side of the "line" but it seems to me that born-agains and Mormons have a lot more in common than many would like to believe. We both believe in Jesus as the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. We both believe in the power of the Atonement and that through Christ, we can find joy in this life and in the life to come. We both look forward with an eye of faith to the Second Coming and see the signs of the times all around us in the world. We both believe that God reveals his truth to His prophets, and that those truths are recorded in recorded in scripture to teach us and give us an example of how we should live. This list could continue but for brevity I'll just say this: for two theologies that are so closely related, there sure is a lot of hard feelings between the two.

I had a friend who welcomed two Christian men into his home to witness. They shared their message and stood up to leave, but before stepping out the door left one last thought: "By the way, make sure you find a church where you can worship Jesus, but don't join with the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses." I once spoke with an LDS colleague about his experience with a non-denominational Christian church. He said that they breed their children to hate us and have classes for Sunday School just to teach bashing the Mormons. As I look back and begin to catalog all of the perceptions I've heard from both sides of the spectrum, I feel like I'm in the middle of a high-school love triangle. To make an analogy, I guess the person that both sides are fighting over would be Jesus (I hope that's not irreverent). Both sides want so badly to be looked upon by Jesus as the best and most faithful but, as high school students often do, each side feels insecure in their diligence and position and therefore belittle the other to attempt to compensate. Inaccurate as it may be, that analogy seems to reiterate itself every time I hear the born again vs LDS debate. But that's just my perception.

So who wins? In the end, it's got to be both sides who decide to put doctrinal differences aside to seek for a higher level of understanding. We live in a world full of mislead perceptions blown out of proportion that result in hate and crime and war and death. Values and morals are shifting as religious institutions - Christian or otherwise - lose their foothold in society. The last thing we need is bickering and stubbornness between the individuals who call themselves Christian and who should be uniting to do good for Jesus' sake.

I may need to split this post into two (or more). I'll end part one with this:

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:12-22


Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

Cung chúc tân xuân - Xin chúc bà con một năm mới vui vẻ, đầy hạnh phúc, sức khỏe dồi dào, tiền vô như nước, an khang thịnh vượng, mọi sự như ý, and all that good stuff.

Happy New Year


xanghe Makeover

Well, I'm going to miss the old blog, but I need a change. I've been concocting this design for a long time now, and I have much more tweaking to do in the future, but I thought I'd put it up first to see if I can handle leaving the old design behind. I put so much time into that thing... Oh well, times change.

The bumble bee up there was bouncing around that thistle blossom when I walked by. I was at Bryce Canyon with some friends right after I got married and we were heading back to the car. I was a little camera happy (ever since digital cameras came out) and thought this little bee might enjoy a photo shoot since he was working so hard. Several months later, I came across that picture again and the thought hit me that I feel like a bee sometimes, always searching and looking and gathering. I might not even know what I'm looking for, but it feels like I'm constantly seeking for something. Currently it's a new job, but that's because the election is on Tuesday and I'm super sleep-deprived so I'm sure as things calm down I'll relax and go on enjoying my job. At that point, I'll start searching for something else, and so the cycle continues. I guess that's why I put a bee at the top of the old blog - I wanted something that said something about me.

I've put away the old design and I'm going for something totally new. I have a whole stack of lined paper from school that isn't being used, so I'm going to start typing my blog posts on that paper and taping it up to my window. I'll put all the sidebar stuff on different sized post-it notes so I can line it down the side. Feel free to rearrange them if you feel like it. And the title is on a static cling sticker, just in case I feel like moving it once in awhile. Right now, the view from my window is from a mountain lake high in the Uintas, I'm laying on the ground looking up at the night sky framed by towering trees. Ahhh... it's calms me just to think about it.

So there's my new blog. Hope you like it. Now I've got to somehow find a way to get that bee back into this blog...


President Gordon B Hinckley Passes Away

I just received three texts that President Hinckley passed away tonight at 7pm. He was my Prophet. I remember so vividly hearing about President Benson's passing nearly 15 years ago - I was walking into the kitchen at Uncle Glen and Aunt Jody's house when I heard the news. President Hunter's passing is much more vague in my memory, and I don't even recall sustaining President Hinckley. But since then, through all my teenage years, my missionary service and the last 5 years of growing into adulthood, I've repeatedly returned to the words of my Prophet for guidance and inspiration. I have a hammered copy of the Ensign from high school that I carried around for years (until the pages fell freely from the binding) because of the two pages filled with quotes from President Hinckley. President Hinckley reminds me of temples and earrings and the Book of Mormon challenge, of Vietnam and the silver thread and the dedication of Asia for missionary work. I recall the several last General Conferences in which President Hinckley looked so weak, and everyone thought it was his "last time" when he mentioned his failing health and his hope to make it to another conference. I remember his good-humored reply to these assumptions, that he was not giving his own epitaph but just his feelings. I look back to just two weeks ago and see President Hinckley speaking at the Southern California Stake Conference Broadcast. He did look frail and the camera intentionally focused on the other side of the pulpit while President Hinckley arose and sat down, perhaps in an attempt to allow him the time and assistance he needed to move.

I just received two more phone calls about President Hinckley's passing. I am grateful for the internet and text messaging that allows news to relayed to hundreds or thousands of individuals at the click of button. I will miss President Hinckley, but I look forward to see the continued progression of the Church upon the foundation he built. One thing is for sure: of all the people on the earth right now, he's the only one I know for sure is going straight to Heaven.


The Election is Almost Here!

Well, I've never worked this hard in my life (except maybe for Đại Hội). Yesterday I worked 17 hours and it looks like the next 3 weeks will be the same thing. I've been placed over Early Voting this time around, and it's a killer. Needless to say, there's not much time to blog (or clean or cook or do anything other than eat and sleep) but I just wanted to drop a line and let my 8 readers (or maybe we're up to 10?) know that I'm still alive. If any of you have emailed me in the last month, please know that I'll respond after Feb 5th. hehe

Remember, get out and vote!

Here's some pictures from before the madness took over my life.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)