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The Way of Kings

Book review. Click for details.

Les Misérables Review

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Way of Kings

Wow, that is an amazing book. What makes me say that is the amount of wisdom the author is able to draw out in some of the most creative ways I have ever seen. This is by far the best fantasy book I have ever read.
Yes, there is a small amount of cheesiness/nerdiness to the book, but there is an overwhelmingly amount of goodness and virtue in it, similar to Lord of the Rings.
The book features several main characters and has character focused chapters that alternate throughout the book, which I find very compelling – it really brings out the human heart.

The Way of Kings is 1258 pages that is written by Brandon Sanderson, a BYU graduate/professor and the closing author of one the best fantasy series ever, The Wheel of Time. The book is the first of The Stormlight Archive series… the 2nd book is expected to be released January 2014. And as far as difficulty reading the book, it isn’t that much of a challenge – a high school student would have little to no problem reading it.

If you are a fantasy reader, this is a must read; If you are a casual reader, this is a great read.

After reading the book, you will have a deeper understanding that the journey is more important than the destination, the value of friendships, leadership, importance of integrity, true honor, gratitude, diligence, and time. The stories in the book are dang good, you won’t be disappointed.

Just a heads up, I found the prologue to be a little weird, but once you read further in the book, one could definitely tell that this is a superb author. The Way of Kings is a very cleverly written book.

I will definitely buy the 2nd book when it arrives.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

One of the most embarrassing moments in my life was in 3rd grade at Mercer Elementary, Ohio. Back then we had two teachers, a 1st period teacher and a 2nd. At the second half of the school year at the time of my first period class, we had a movie shown to us. During the movie I sat next to the teacher and we started talking. While we were talking, my foot was on my chair and my leg was against my chest. I was feeling insecure and inept to hold a decent conversation with the teacher. I had a minor panic attack, where I reacted by licking my knee like a cat three or four times. She looked at me with eyebrows raised with mouth open and didn’t say a word. After staring at me for about 10 seconds, she turned her head to watch the movie, started contemplating what just happened, and ended the conversation awkwardly.

The next morning she announces, “There is a special person here that needs our help. I just want you all to be aware and to be extra sensitive to this person. We all are equal and we all need help, but some need more help than others…” After that announcement I was confused to whom she was talking about, but I quickly assumed that she was talking about me. To make sure she was talking about me, I waited for the daily 20 minute in-class homework session so that I could take the bathroom vest to leave the classroom in order to see if she would point out that the “special person” was me. So when the in-class homework time came, I took the bathroom vest with permission and left the room in a distraught, dysfunctional manner because I was assuming that I was the “special person.” However, when I picked up the vest, I didn’t immediately go to the bathroom; I left and waited outside the door for 15 seconds, before she publicized that I was “mentally handicapped” and would need sensitive help with homework, friends, and school projects. After I heard this announcement, I was bewildered and heartbroken; I slowly walked to the bathroom to think how stupid everyone was and how much I disliked school.

I came back to my desk group (4 desks that face each other) and casually asked John if he wanted to “play” later. With a patronizing smile he said, “Sure…, we can play later.” I knew that my social life was extremely damaged. I mean how is a 9 year old going to convince other 9 year olds that he isn’t mentally handicapped after a respected grownup says the 9 year old is in fact mentally handicapped? So, what was I to do? I could tell the teacher that I do not appreciate being “special,” or I could tell my parents that my teacher just declared that I was mentally handicapped, or I could weigh the options and consider being handicapped. I took the latter; I never did tell anyone, and during the rest of my 3rd grade experience all of my homework and tests were granted hefty mercy and leniency. I was even able to sign my name on other classmates homework and receive credit for it. Nevertheless, I fed into the role as being mentally handicapped, both from not caring and from expectation, by performing horribly on all of my work, never answering an in-class question correctly, and pretty much never doing anything substantially right. But the main drawback for being mentally handicapped to me was having fun at the playground because no one would play with me except for this giant kid named Toby who was actually mentally handicapped, and this little girl who pulled my hair and watched me jump off the playset a hundred times. However, neither of them really talked to me because Toby didn’t know how, and the little girl thought I was awesome and crazy for jumping off the playset and mentally ill from the teacher’s announcement.

Even though there were some drawbacks for being categorized as such, there were many benefits: tons of free time for video games and books, elimination of busy work, very low expectations to fulfill, and added sleeping time during class. Making lemonade can be as simple as changing your attitude instead of changing what’s around you. I could have forced the issue of not being mentally ill, but I enjoyed life and was progressing through school nearly as well as everyone else.

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.” “It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” - Dale Carnegie

After 3rd grade, the label of being “special” wore off and I was considered one of the smart students for 4th grade. The teacher that thought I was handicapped avoided me so well that I only remember seeing her maybe two or three times again. Maybe she felt bad, or embarrassed; I don’t know. I don’t even remember her name, but I’m guessing that she still remembers mine.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Piano Guys

These guys are great. It has been awhile since I had a significant appreciation for classical instruments – The Piano Guys reintroduced that admiration.
I spent several hours this week meditating while listening to their tracks. It is really interesting to think about the correlation between music and our lives – how music translates into thoughts and how thoughts translate into music. Whether you realize it or not, classical music is a much more elaborate story than the children’s book Justin Bieber and his agents produce. Classical music has more depth, emotional fluency, and emotional perspective; i.e., Justin Bieber’s music isn’t nearly as fluent in the language of emotion, and in no way can it reach to the same scope.  

What makes the The Piano Guys unique besides their own original work is their production of classical pieces from pop hits and movie themes such as Bourne Identity and The Hobbit. And the reproduction of pop songs is especially exclusive because The Piano Guys replace the original singer’s voice with instruments.

The band members Steve (the cellist) and Jon (the pianist) are extraordinary. When they play you can feel the direct emotion from the heart and soul that they put into their music. Their work is truly inspiring (cliché, I know) insomuch that it makes me feel that our small lives can make music of our own.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Eliminating Drugs in Secondary Education

If the reward is greater than the cost, people generally default to the reward. Removing drugs from secondary education would work by implementing a crowdsourced, randomized, variable drug testing schedule throughout the school year.
Crowdsourcing is a process that outsources tasks to a distributed group of people. Examples of crowdsourcing include:
  • Lego’s CUUSOO project where the public can create their own lego set.
  • Pepsi’s take a photo of yourself and you have a chance to been seen for Super Bowl’s halftime show.
  • Many open-ended social media pages where companies look for feedback for answers to problems.
The start of the program is implemented by administering drug tests at a designated school throughout the academic year. These drug tests will be held for flagged students and for the entire student body. The drug tests are the same as the newly required general health test, which requires a urine sample. Students can waive the required sample by providing a doctor’s letter, or a sufficient hair sample.

The process is carried further by informing the students that they will be rewarded if they successfully submit a peer’s name with substantial evidence that results in a positive drug test. Substantial evidence may include a photo, possession, recorded conversation, or whatever that may be seen as considerable inference for abuse. If a student has been flagged by another student, the flagged student will promptly receive a urine test with a randomized group of students to avoid subject’s victimization.

Students will also be encouraged to confess drug abuse during the program's presentation. Students who turn themselves in will be rewarded by avoiding all penalties that exist for those who are reported in.

This program would require a considerable amount of funding, but nothing more than what a typical school could afford. Rehabilitation is a good cause that can save lives from endless drug addiction, physical death, and feebleness. If this program was put into place at a high school, costed $6,000, and directly saved 15 individuals from a lesser life, would it be worth it?

Saturday, January 19, 2013


If you are depressed, have low spirits, or are feeling lonely, this piece is for you.
If you have one of these symptoms and feel that you have nothing, you are feeling the consequences of your point of view.

You have forgotten the power that you possess. You have forgotten many great changes that you’ve made in your life and in the lives of others.  You have forgotten much of your love for human dignity.

You simply need to be reminded about the power you possess for good. As soon as you recognize your true importance, you will no longer be feeling depressed.

Realize that you have gifts. Realize that you are armed to deal. You will then need to become resourceful in order to renounce your despair.

One of the greatest perspectives that you can develop is seeing the objective of conquering yourself. That is a platform where you can measure true success. Plato said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.”

Money and job titles will never be able to truly take you away from who you are. Don’t give up on yourself. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13.)

Your soul is immortal, of great heritage, with the potential to become all powerful. “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:16-17.)

You will be in for a rude awakening if you give up on yourself now by trying to escape whatever problems you feel are too much to bear. “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” (D&C 131:6.) “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.” (Alma 34:34.)

You hold your banner. Even though “… the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41.) Use your creativity to make your body a hub for righteousness. Righteousness has never been wrong, unsuccessful, or irresponsible. Your power can be of enormous value to yourself by overcoming and becoming indomitable, clean, strong, experienced, and intelligent, all while still being of a relatively small value to the entire. Everyone has limitations set by their bodies; nevertheless, using preexisting conditions as a value for determining success would be moronic. Define your success by something greater.
“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” (Prov. 16:32 [Solomon].)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Les Misérables

Props to the little kid in the movie. If you have seen it, you know exactly who I am talking about.
You will love the movie. However, if you have seen the play, Russell Crow will give you a 25% chance of being disgusted.

If this movie was the only production of the story, it would go down as one of the greatest movies of all time. There isn’t another movie in 2012 that competes with the storyline of Les Misérables. I cried three different times during the movie, which totals my cries to approximately six times for the year of 2012.  

This movie gets my vote for the best movie of 2012. The actors aren’t the best singers, but perhaps some of the best actors for the film. It's my opinion, but I like the imperfection of the singing because people aren’t perfect. It makes the characters more relatable. We probably all can agree that it is more important to have good actors than singers.

I would say Les Misérables is the most successful movie at continually combing the depth of the human heart through the eyes of many. If movies were photos, Les Misérables would be an intricate and elaborate panorama.  

The sincerity and the sense that this show makes is truly a piece of art. You will walk away with a better sense of virtue and desire. What is worth fighting for? A fight worth dying for? You can see some of the defining lines from the film.
A must see.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Art of Intelligence

I needed to put my consuming curiosity of the CIA to rest, and this book did a great job.

This book is about Henry Crumpton, a former clandestine operative for the CIA. To give him justice, he was more than just an operations officer for the CIA; he has also served as deputy for FBI’s International Terrorism Operations Section, led the War on Terror as CIA’s chief of CTC/SO, served as CIA’s chief of Natural Resources, and became the U.S. coordinator of counterterrorism (directly under former Sec. Rice). 
The book starts off with a small chapter of his childhood dream to work for the CIA and then on to his recruitment to the CIA with the conclusion of the book detailing his appointment to the State Dept.

As far as being a civilian trying to understand the esoteric role of the CIA, FBI, and modern counterterrorism, this book is outstanding. I don’t think you will find any other book of similar distinction compared to that of Crumpton’s.

For me, this book was a good read. I would recommend it for more mature audiences; i.e., those who can tolerate profanities, memoirs, the subject of counterterrorism, an informative writing style, and exenterated stories. If you have any interest in the CIA, counterterrorism, intelligence, national defense, politics, or becoming a leader, this is a great pickup. You will definitely get the incompetent bureaucracy feel for the inept actions the U.S. has or has not taken. You will also find spectacular accounts of James Bond like stories; however, it is for each one to decide whether the anecdotes are true. 

Just go read it! The writing style is informative,but also is written in a straightforward manner to make for a fast read.


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