Look out for the future, because you never know what it might bring…
Question #73218 posted on 07/05/2013 1:58 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Is it generally a good idea to use different passwords for different accounts or to use the same one or two passwords universally? What do you do?

-Me

A:

Dear You,

It's a terrible idea to reuse passwords. It's becoming increasingly common for people to attack websites and grab their stored passwords. Typically, once they have those, it's fairly easy to retrieve 90% or more of the original passwords. At that point they can then try using the same username/password combinations to log into other sites (especially high-reward sites like banks, shopping sites, and so on). The moral of the story? Never, ever reuse passwords, because if you do, a single leak may mean multiple accounts get compromised.

But how can you possibly remember a different password for every single site? You probably have dozens of accounts (maybe even hundreds). The best way to go is with a password safe / password manager. (I recommend LastPass). A password manager is a program that keeps an encrypted database of your passwords, and then allows you to decrypt the database by typing in a master password. Typically it integrates with your browsers and will sync your passwords across different computers. Once you unlock it, you can visit a site's login page and it will fill in your information for you (although you can tweak the settings if you want). (I would not recommend the built-in "remember this password" feature in browsers, though; it tends to be insecure, not to mention more limited.)

Since you don't have to remember the passwords, it's no problem to just generate a different, completely random password for each account. And that makes things even stronger: a password like B"wP|@(Yz,4?pE~48rUZioT<Qn%fe4 is not going to be guessed, ever.

If you're reaching your limit of complexity, you can stop here. Congratulations! Switching to a password manager and generating random passwords for all of your accounts will make you way, way more resistant to people cracking your passwords. But if not, there is one more step you can do.

That is to generate a strong master password for your password manager. But how? My favorite way is to use dice to select from a list of words, to build a random passphrase. (This is similar to the XKCD comic that Zedability refers to in Board Question #71178). This system is commonly called diceware. The idea is that you start with a list of words, roll 5 dice (or 1 die 5 times, it doesn't matter), and look up the word on the list that corresponds with the 5 dice rolls.

For instance, you might roll 16655, which corresponds to "clause" on the standard list. Write that word down on a slip of paper, and then roll 5 more times to pick the next word. Keep going until you have enough words. Six words isn't bad, seven is good, and eight is quite strong. Diceware is strong even if an attacker knows you used this technique and the particular word list you used. (For more questions about how to use diceware, and its security, see the page I linked to above.)

Carry the paper in your wallet, with your other valuable pieces of paper; after the first day or so you should have it memorized, but you'll still have it there in case you forget. (If you're prone to forgetting or won't be using your password manager every day, it wouldn't hurt to write your password down somewhere else, too; if you forget it, you won't be able to get in any other way.)

See also Board Question #59568 for general information on how passwords are stored. And if you want a fascinating look at techniques used in password cracking (and why passwords you pick are probably very vulnerable to pattern-based guessing), see Ars Technica's fantastic article.

—Laser Jock

Question #73164 posted on 07/01/2013 12:58 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Is there some relation between length of answer and selection as Editor's Choice? What's the average length of a Board answer? What's the average length of an Editor's choice? How long is the shortest Editor's Choice? The Longest?

-My Name Here, Ph.D., Time waster extraordinaire.

A:

Dear TWE,

First, the actual averages/lengths for Editor's Choice (EC) and non-Editor's Choice (non-EC) answers, excluding punctuation, HTML, and URLs:

  • Average answer length (including EC): 756 characters.
  • Average EC answer length: 3,412.
  • Shortest EC (22 characters): Board Question #46985. (Squirrel pointed out that Board Question #47554 is also a contender: if you don't count the numbers, it has only 13 characters.)
  • Longest EC (66,019 characters): Board Question #71118.

Now, you asked if there was some relation between length of answer and selection as Editor's Choice. Based on the averages I reported you would probably guess that the answer is yes, but let's explore that a little bit more to be sure.

First of all, here's a graph showing what percent of answers had a given number of characters (EC and non-EC are considered separately). The black stars indicate non-EC, while the blue pluses indicate EC. (I also fitted curves to the data.)

exc_char_length_scaled.png

Each star or plus includes a range of 165 characters (the first is 0 to 165, the second is 166 to 300, etc.). In other words, looking at the first two stars, roughly 19% of non-EC answers have 0-165 characters, and another 20% have 166-300 characters, and so on. One of the most striking features of this graph is that the EC answers have a much longer "tail": a much larger fraction of them are longer answers. (And it keeps going off to the right, too; I just chose 10,000 arbitrarily to cut off the outliers and keep the interesting stuff from being compressed too much.)

To make it easier to compare features of the two, here's another graph with both data sets scaled to be roughly the same height.

exc_char_length.png

It's a bit easier to compare the locations of the peaks, now; the most common length for EC answers is around 875 characters, while non-EC answers peak around 150 characters.

Now, the final question: given length, what percentage of responses are EC? (Keep in mind that overall, only 3.8% of all answers have been marked Editor's Choice.)

exc_percent.png

Note that I extended the x-axis to 20,000 characters (past that point there wasn't enough data to draw conclusions), and I also widened out the character counts represented by each star: each star is 1320 characters wide (e.g., 0-1320, 1321-2640, etc.). Why did I widen them out? Mainly because with narrower bins, I was getting lots of points that were 0% and lots that were 100%, and it's easier to see what's going on if you get things averaged out a little more.

Anyway, I would say there's plenty of evidence that longer responses become progressively more likely to be marked Editor's Choice. Fun question!

—Laser Jock

Question #73090 posted on 06/30/2013 11:10 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Is there another park besides Rock Canyon that would be the one Leibniz refers to in Board Question #12755? If there is one, will you tell me where it is?

(There is that small private park/plot of sod up there, but trees and houses block the view, so I doubt it's that one.)

Do any current writers have any further thoughts on good places in or near Utah Valley to watch a sunset from? (Distance is not an issue...the intensity of a hike, if one is called for to reach said spot, might be).

-Sunsets are my Favorite

A:

Dear Sunsets,

To answer this question, Concealocanth, Yog in Neverland, Tootles and I went on a grand adventure through the hills of Provo. We used Leibniz's exceedingly vague description and this map of all the parks in Provo as our guide. It was a perilous adventure: Tootles drives like unto a rollercoaster, the map turned out to be absolute rubbish, and we nearly ran out of gas, in which case we would have been stranded up in the Indian streets for all time. Fortunately for you, dear reader, we survived and can now share the bounties of our knowledge with you.

After much exploration, we were unable to find the park that Leibniz may have been describing. Judging by the map, it could be the Sherwood Hills Park or the Timpanogos-Kiwanis Bounous park. However, these two parks seem to exist in an alternate dimension inaccessible to Board Writers. So we instead present to you our findings, which hopefully will be of use to you:

First: A vacant lot with a beautiful view! 

 DSC02901.JPG

This would be a lovely place to watch a sunset, provided you found a nice piece of sagebrush to sit on. Note also the lovely typo on the sign.

DSC02902.JPG

If I'm remembering correctly, this is at the intersection of 1200 E and 2620 N. Probably.

Next, the church on Mojave lane, up in the Indian Hills neighborhood. This is the ideal sun-set watching locale, with a gorgeous view of the valley.

 DSC02905.JPG

DSC02907.JPG

It also has some incredibly soft, definitely overwatered grass. Here Yog is testing it with her incredible grass-sampling skills.

 DSC02908.JPG

Seriously, though, look at the indents it leaves when you step in it. That's some crazy stuff.

 DSC02910.JPG

So, we were unable to locate your mystery park. But you now have a map with all the parks in Provo on it; hopefully, you'll have better luck than I in locating it! 

As for other places to watch the sunset, I would recommend the Bonneville Shoreline Trail just above the Orem City Cemetery. Follow it up to the water tower, and then find somewhere to sit down. It's a fantastic view. The Provo Temple and Squaw Peak are also both excellent sunset-watching sites.

Peace,

-Stego Lily

Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Do you know what the official divorce rate is amongst members of the LDS church? I have heard what seem like absurd numbers (2%) but I've also heard 50%, the same as the national average. This is all hearsay though, and I'm not sure if there is any official number out there.

-Happily Married

A:

Dear Happily Married,

The numbers you get depend on how you count, which is part of why you hear so much debate about it. Note that nearly all of these statistics are based on data that is 30 or more years old.

Short Version

  • It appears that overall, the number of Mormons who have ever been married who have ever had a divorce is about 24%, which is not statistically different from the national average of 26%. (Note that this is not the same as the "divorce rate," which would be all divorces divided by all marriages in a given year, and which is skewed because of serial divorcers.)
  • However, Mormons who marry within their faith have much better odds than those who do not (at the 5-year mark, 13% vs. 40%).
  • And those who marry in the temple also have better odds than average, though it's not clear exactly how big the difference is. (One study said about 6%, but that may not be reliable.)
  • Finally, keep in mind that "People committed to a religious lifestyle who graduate college either before or during marriage, who have no children prior to marriage and who do not live together before marriage have about a 15 percent chance of divorce." (source) So other factors besides being Mormon or being married in the temple also have very strong effects on chance of divorce.

Longer Version

Based on a survey of 7,446 LDS adults in 1981, 14.3% of LDS men and 18.8% of LDS women who had ever married had ever divorced (Heaton & Goodman, 1985). Dr. Tim Heaton, a professor of sociology at BYU and author on the 1985 paper just cited (which used the 1981 data) pointed out some potential issues with studies such as the one done in 1981, which don't match up with other studies that have been done (which have found higher rates):

Divorce may be underestimated in Church-sponsored studies, which may have some difficulty locating single or less active members. Perhaps divorced members who were raised on the idea that failure in the home is the only real failure may be reluctant to admit to a failed marriage when the Church sponsors the surveys. (Heaton, 1992)

The methodology of the 1981 study also included having the bishops of those who didn't respond attempt to give responses based on their personal knowledge and Church records, which may not have included more recent information about divorces. (As Heaton also points out, though, there are also difficulties in other methods of identifying members of the LDS church, or any other church.)

What else is out there, then? Several studies have been done based on numbers from the 1988 National Survey of Families and Households. One found that the likelihood of a divorce by the 5-year mark where both spouses were Mormon was 13%, significantly different from any other religion studied (Lehrer & Chiswick, 1993). On the other hand, if only one spouse was Mormon, the probability went up to 40% at the 5-year mark (which was among the highest rates of any mixed-religion marriage). Unfortunately, the Church's Newsroom seems to have misunderstood the study and claims that the 13% figure only applies to those sealed in the temple, which is not what the study says.

One often-cited study from the 1980s done by Dr. Daniel K. Judd, professor of ancient scripture at BYU, claimed that 6% of LDS members who marry in the temple ever undergo a divorce (Lobdell, 2000). Unfortunately, I can't find the actual study published anywhere; the only source anyone gives is his interview with the Los Angeles Times. Facing questions about his methods, he appears to have clarified that he was in fact talking about civil divorces, not just so-called "temple divorces," which must receive First Presidency approval and are thus much harder to get. Specifically, he said that the numbers were 5.4% for men and 6.5% for women.

The moral of the story? Marry another member, in the temple, during or after completing college and before having kids, and stay strong in the gospel. Not surprising, perhaps, but still good advice.

—Laser Jock

Heaton, TB. (1992). Demographics of the contemporary Mormon family. Dialogue, 25, 19–34.

Heaton, TB., & Goodman, KL. (1985). Religion and family formation. Review of Religious Research, 26, 343–359.

Lehrer, EL & Chiswick, CU. (1993). Religion as a Determinant of Marital StabilityDemography, 30(3), 385–404.

Lobdell, W. (2000). "Holy matrimony: In era of divorce, Mormon Temple weddings are built to last," Los Angeles Times, 8 April 2000.

Question #73074 posted on 06/24/2013 12:22 a.m.
Q:

Dear Genuine Article,

Is there a story behind the rubber lobster? If so, will you share it?


circumlocution

A:

Dear circumlocution,

Well, as most of you know, I used to be roommates with Uffish Thought. And at some point in our friendship she told me that as a two-year-old child she had a toy lobster, which she carried around and used as her wand of terror (meaning she'd point it at people and scream until they screamed back). Knowing this, I decided it would be fun to buy her a rubber lobster for her birthday one year. I searched online and found a few listings for rubber lobsters, but they were only available in pairs of two, or cases of something like 37—I couldn't find just one for sale. So I bought a pair, presented Uffish with one, and kept one for myself. They're kind of like bizarro friendship bracelets when you think about it.

Anyway, my lobster (Lobstee) lives in my purse and goes pretty much wherever I go, and let me tell you, he comes in handy in a pinch (Ha! Pinch!). For one thing he's the perfect toy for distracting distraught children, being chewable, bendable, bumpy, wiggly, and washable. For another, Lobstee enjoys having his picture taken while I do not, so he often stands in for me in pictures. Speaking of which, here are some highlights from the past year or so:

Here's Lobstee taking the Tillamook Cheese Factory tour:

tillamook.jpg

Taking in a play at West Yellowstone:

drowsy.jpg

Enjoying an ice cream cone at Miner's Landing:

IMG_20130328_163118.jpg

Visiting his friends at the Seattle Aquarium:

IMG_20130328_153233.jpg

And, most recently, hanging at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland waiting for a They Might Be Giants concert to start:

IMG_20130613_203455.jpg

And that is the story behind why I own a rubber lobster that I carry around with me most everywhere I go.

-Genuine Article

P.S. Funny thing—by complete coincidence my older sister used to keep a rubber shark in her purse, so sometimes when people ask me why I carry around a lobster I tell them it's something of a family tradition.

Question #72953 posted on 07/04/2013 4:40 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

So I've looked quite a lot of places and have found nothing. What are the blessings and callings of every tribe of Israel? Meaning: if you we're declared _______ lineage, what responsibilities would you be given? I know Ephraim is to share the gospel but I really can't find any other tribe.

-the pusillanimous juggernaut

A:

Dear the pouring jug,

My primary sources are Genesis 49, which contains the original blessings to each of the sons of Israel and the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis, which talks specifically about the blessings extended to Ephraim and Manasseh. I also draw from Deuteronomy 33:6-29, which contains Moses's restatement of those blessings with some changes. The Institute Old Testament manual offers some official interpretation of these Old Testament texts and I borrow heavily from that too. So, in order of birth, with Ephraim and Manasseh taking Joseph's place in the list, here are the blessings:

Reuben: He lost the birthright to Joseph by committing the grievous sin of sexual immorality when he "went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine" in Genesis 35:22. Because of this, Reuben is chastised when Israel blesses his sons in Genesis 49:3-4: "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch." Despite this, Reuben and his descendants are still of the house of Israel and consequently aid Ephraim in gathering Israel before the second coming of Christ. In the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 48 we learn that "Reuben...shall be blessed" with the same Abrahamic blessing as the other brothers as well as Ephraim and Manasseh.

Simeon and Levi: Simeon and Levi, both sons of Leah, are likewise chastened for a grievous sin, the massacre of the Shechemites, which you can read about in Genesis 34. Simeon and Levi get the same chastening/blessing in Genesis 49:5-7: "Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." However, like Reuben, despite their sins, after their chastening and scattering, they are still numbered and blessed in the house of Israel. The blessing of the tribes of Simeon and Levi now seems to relate to being gathered after their scattering. Their descendants are blessed to accept the gospel and be gathered again. Once they receive the gospel, the charge of those in the tribes of Simeon and Levi is to aid in gathering Israel. You may also recall that the tribe of Levi were also called the Levites, who during the time of Mosaic law were, as holders of the Aaronic priesthood, the priests, musicians, and ministers of the sanctuary (i.e. temple workers). For more on the Levites, see the Bible Dictionary entry.

Judah: The blessing to Judah indicates that kings and leaders would be born of his bloodline to rule until the first coming of Christ (Shiloh). In Genesis 49:10 Judah is blessed: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be." The descendants of Judah (the Old Testament Jews) were charged with leading and becoming a gathered people in preparation for the first coming of Christ. The Institute manual elaborates on Judah's blessing: "Old Testament history teaches that this promise was fulfilled. King David, King Solomon, and King Rehoboam are just three of the kings who came through Judah’s lineage. The King of Kings, Jesus Christ, referred to here as Shiloh, also came through this line."

Zebulun and Issachar: Genesis 49:13: "Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon." This blessing refers to the tribe of Zebulun's historical inheritance in the promised land, which you can read about in Joshua 19:10-16. As for Issachar, Genesis 49:14-15 says: "Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: And he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant; and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute." I believe this refers to this tribe's inheritance in Palestine and their later captivity, meaning this blessing is fulfilled in Old Testament events. In Deuteronomy 33:18-19 Moses speaks about these two tribes: "And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents. They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck of the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand." The "abundance of the seas" seems to refer to the tribe of Zebulun's historical coastal land inheritance, and the "treasures hid in the sand" seems to refer to the tribe of Issachar's historical inheritance of some of the richest plains of Palestine, land which would include Nazareth among other important sites."Call[ing] the people unto the mountain" means calling people to the temple. The temple is often referred to as a mountain; there is a rich volume of symbolism relating the two that I won't delve into here. Suffice it to say that it looks like, according to Moses's statement, that the tribes of Zebulun and Issachar are especially charged with temple work and helping everyone to receive the full blessings of the temple.

Dan: Genesis 49:16-18: "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Dan's blessing is in his name. When Bilhah gave birth to Dan, Rachel, Bilhah's owner, was inspired to name him Dan, which means "He has judged, or vindicated." Dan represented the judgment of God to Rachel because Rachel was angry she could not conceive and sent Jacob to her handmaid Bilhah, who immediately conceived Dan. The tribe of Dan was blessed to judge by Jacob (and by Rachel's inspired name) as well as to rule during Old Testament times. Like the tribe of Judah, the tribe of Dan is also called a "lion's whelp" in Moses's blessing, symbolizing rule. (A whelp, of course, is a cub.) These roles of judgment and rule, like that of Judah, seem fulfilled in the time before the coming of Christ. Because of the wickedness of the tribe of Dan in worshipping idols, they were made captive and scattered. Today this tribe is blessed among the house of Israel to be gathered.

Gad: Genesis 49:19: "Gad, a troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at the last." ("Gad" is a play on words of "troop" and "good fortune," another inspired name, this time from Leah, Gad's mother Zilpah's owner.) Though Gad was scattered by "a troop" this tribe has the "good fortune" of being gathered again. Moses enlarges Gad's blessing: 20  "And of Gad he said, Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad: he dwelleth as a lion, and teareth the arm with the crown of the head. And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice of the Lord, and his judgments with Israel." Like Dan, those of the tribe of Gad also ruled and judged before the tribe was scattered. Now we see the "he shall overcome at last" as this tribe is gathered in when members of it receive the gospel.

Asher: Genesis 49:20: "Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties." The tribe of Asher is/was temporally blessed. "Royal dainties" also alludes to rule and leadership during the time before the tribes were scattered. Moses's blessing in Deuteronomy 33:24-25: "And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be." The tribe of Asher is anointed and strengthened according to righteousness.

Naphtali: Genesis 49:21: "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words." A hind is a female deer. I won't pretend to be an expert on the symbolism of "a hind let loose," but an escaped wild animal seems analogous to a scattered tribe. "Giv[ing] goodly words" can be interpreted in many ways. The gospel of Jesus Christ is often called good news or the good word. Jesus Christ Himself is also called "the Word." To me, this seems to indicate that Naphtali is blessed to assist in spreading the gospel.

Ephraim and Manasseh: As we learn from the story of Joseph and the coat (Genesis 37), Jacob conferred the birthright (likely symbolized by the coat) to Joseph after Reuben lost it due to sin. The blessings given to Joseph are given to Ephraim and Manasseh, his two sons. This is explained in the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 48 when Jacob says that Ephraim and Manasseh "are mine"  and are numbered in the house of Israel. Ephraim, Joseph's younger son, is given the birthright. Therefore he leads the gathering of Israel in the latter days, because he inherits the full birthright of the Abrahamic covenant. The birthright of the Abrahamic covenant is passed down as follows: Abraham to Isaac, Isaac to Jacob, Jacob to Joseph, Joseph to Ephraim, and then to all of Ephraim's descendants. Though the Abrahamic covenant applies to all Abraham's descendants, the birthright, i.e. the right to lead, falls on Ephraim's descendants. Ephraim and Manasseh must gather Israel by spreading the gospel and building up the kingdom. We also know that Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh (Alma 10:3). Manasseh was blessed to be the "branch running over the wall" referred to in Jacob's blessing to Joseph in Genesis 49, which is officially interpreted as the establishment of Lehi's family in America. There is a lot written on Ephraim, and for more on the modern responsibilities and blessings of Ephraim, refer to Doctrine and Covenants 133:26-34.

Benjamin: Genesis 49:27 "Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil." I think this refers to the tribe of Benjamin's large conquests and inheritance in Palestine in Old Testament times. Moses expands this blessing:  Deuteronomy 33:12: "And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders." Again, this tribe is also blessed with the protection of the Lord dependent on righteousness. As this tribe was scattered, so it will be gathered again.

In summary, all of the tribes are charged and blessed to be gathered and then assist the tribe of Ephraim in gathering Israel. As a matter of note, every single one of these lineages have been recognized in patriarchal blessings. The gathering of Israel is happening right now.

–Concealocanth

Question #72906 posted on 06/24/2013 5:22 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

How do you daily remember and live your baptismal covenants?

-Vin

A:

Dear Adelaide,

Conveniently enough, this is what I've been studying over the past few weeks. In order to determine how to remember and live your covenants, you must first know what they entail.

The Bible Dictionary mentions that "[the baptismal covenant's] symbolism is beautiful, and its consequences ever so desirable."

I picked out the following scriptures for definitions while doing my personal research.

Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 mentions that those who are to be baptized are "willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins..."

Mosiah 5:8 adds, "I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives."

In Mosiah 18:9-10, it states that the baptismal covenant means we are "willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light. Yea, and willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in, even until death...that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments."

Moroni 4:3 is the sacrament prayer that is a reminder of our baptismal covenants: "O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen."

Elder Hales, in "The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom" contributes the following thoughts: "When we understand our baptismal covenant and the gift of the Holy Ghost, it will change our lives and will establish our total allegiance to the kingdom of God...we humble ourselves with a broken heart and a contrite spirit as we recognize our sins and seek forgiveness of our trespasses."

The baptismal covenant consists of taking God's name upon us, being willing to bear another's burden—mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that need comfort, standing as a witness of God, always remembering him, and being obedient to God's commandments. Essentially, it means to become like Christ.

So, let's take each of these separately.

"...willing to take upon them the name of Christ..."

One comparison I've heard is that, like the name of our family here on Earth, we take on the name of Christ and become part of His family. This means that not only do our actions reflect on our earthly family, but also upon our heavenly family. Elder Oaks gave a wonderful talk in April 1985 about taking upon ourselves the name of Christ. (The following snippets may sound disjointed at first, but I promise they will all make sense.)

"We also take upon us the name of Jesus Christ whenever we publicly proclaim our belief in him...

"A follower of Christ is obligated to serve him. Many scriptural references to the name of the Lord seem to be references to the work of his kingdom...

"The Old Testament contains scores of references to the name of the Lord in a context where it clearly means the authority of the Lord. Most of these references have to do with the temple...

"The scriptures speak of the Lord's putting his name in a temple because he gives authority for his name to be used in the sacred ordinances of that house...

"Willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ can therefore be understood as willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ. According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and authority of the Savior when he chooses to confer them on us...

"Thus, those who exercise faith in the sacred name of Jesus Christ and repent of their sins and enter into his covenant and keep his commandments can lay claim on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Those who do so will be called by his name at the last day...

"There is something beyond these familiar meanings, because what we witness is not that we take upon us his name but that we are willing to do so. In this sense, our witness relates to some future event or status whose attainment is not self-assumed, but depends on the authority or initiative of the Savior himself."

There are a few different elements of being willing to take the Lord's name upon us. The most obvious is representing him. On a daily basis, this means living a Christ-like life: being charitable, patient, honest, responsible, forgiving, etc. It also includes sharing the gospel with those we come in contact—even those that already have the gospel.

Taking the Lord's name upon us is focused on our willingness to participate in the covenants and ordinances of the temple. If you cannot do so yet, your efforts to daily live your baptismal covenants can demonstrate your willingness to do so in the future.

Finally, taking the Lord's name upon us includes exercising faith in him and repenting of our sins. To me, this encompasses a few things. First, it means trusting in his plan for me. He knows what will be best for me, and while there are some things that can be fine options either way, there are also some things that are definite no's or yes's. While we don't always understand why in the moment, we will eventually understand. When we barely know what we want, how wonderful it is that the Lord knows what he wants for us. It is up to us, through prayer, to understand what that path is.

Being willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ is essential to our baptismal covenants, and is a main component of the sacrament prayers. In fact, the sacrament is a witness that we are willing to take upon us the Lord's name and always remember him.

"...willing to bear one another's burdens that they may be light. Yea, and willing to mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..."

The important thing is that we are willing to do so and that we are looking for opportunities to help. There are two sides to this. We should be willing to listen when people come to us for help. Often that is all they need: a listening ear, and not someone to solve all of their problems. Additionally, since people won't always come to us for help, it's also developing a sense for who needs our help and what they need from us. The BYU Men's Chorus started singing "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" as I was writing this, and I think the second verse is especially pertinent.

Perhaps today there are loving words Which Jesus would have me speak;

There may be now in the paths of sin, Some wand'rer whom I should seek;

O Savior, if Thou wilt be my guide, Though dark and rugged the way,

My voice shall echo Thy message sweet, I'll say what You want me to say.

For me, I feel that living this part of my covenant daily means making a greater effort to listen to others and looking for ways to help those around me, something that the Spirit can help guide me to do.

"...to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in..."

Standing as a witness ties in very closely to taking God's name upon us, specifically the first aspect that I mentioned, so I'm going to just tell you to refer back to that section.

"...that they...always remember him..."

Lds.org actually has a page set aside for this topic, and they link to a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. He suggests that there are three ways we can always remember Him:

"...first, seeking to know and follow His will; second, recognizing and accepting our obligation to answer to Christ for every thought, word, and action; and third, living with faith and without fear so that we can always look to the Savior for the help we need."

Following the Lord's will demonstrates our remembrance with him. As our actions are in line with His teachings and promptings, we are in constant remembrance. I've noticed in my own life that when I am consciously trying to follow the Lord's plan for me, I am much better able to remember Him and I have, in my opinion, a better focus to my life. It's not easy to align ourselves to God's will, often because we believe that our path is the best one for us. Additionally, following the Lord means giving up the natural man, a task that requires self-control and the Lord's grace. Elder Christofferson adds,

Though it may not be easy, we can consistently press forward with faith in the Lord. I can attest that over time our desire and capacity to always remember and follow the Savior will grow. We should patiently work toward that end and pray always for the discernment and divine help we need. 

The second concept, of being responsible to the Lord for our conduct, is best explained, again, by Elder Christofferson:

Always remembering Him, therefore, means that we always remember that nothing is hidden from Him. There is no part of our lives, whether act, word, or even thought, that can be kept from the knowledge of the Father and the Son. No cheating on a test, no instance of shoplifting, no lustful fantasy or indulgence, and no lie is missed, overlooked, hidden, or forgotten. Whatever we “get away with” in life or manage to hide from other people, we must still face when the inevitable day comes that we are lifted up before Jesus Christ, the God of pure and perfect justice.

Sins do not take care of themselves or simply fade away. Sins do not get “swept under the rug” in the eternal economy of things. They must be dealt with, and the wonderful thing is that because of the Savior’s atoning grace, they can be dealt with in a much happier and less painful manner than directly satisfying offended justice ourselves.

We should also take heart when thinking of a judgment in which nothing is overlooked because this also means that no act of obedience, no kindness, and no good deed however small is ever forgotten, and no corresponding blessing is ever withheld.

Concerning living with faith and without fear, he continues,

Looking unto the Savior in every thought is, of course, another way of saying “always remember him.” As we do, we need not doubt or fear. 

In short, to “always remember him” means that we do not live our lives in fear. We know that challenges, disappointments, and sorrows will come to each of us in different ways, but we also know that in the end, because of our divine Advocate, all things can be made to work together for our good. It is the faith expressed so simply by President Gordon B. Hinckley when he would say, “Things will work out.” When we always remember the Savior, we can “cheerfully do all things that lie in our power,” confident that His power and love for us will see us through.

Like I said in Board Question #72886, learning to trust in the Lord is one of the greatest lessons you can learn in this life. Trusting in His plan for us keeps Him in the forefront of our minds.

"...to keep his commandments..."

There seems to be an impossible number of commandments to keep, but there's something that I've been using recently to break things down a little bit and, well, make the commandments easier to follow. In Matthew 22:36-40, we find that there are, essentially, two commandments: love God, and love thy neighbor as thyself. Think about it. If you look at every commandment we've been given it, we follow it because we love God or because we love our neighbor (which we do because we love God).

How do we remember and live our baptismal covenants daily?

To remember them, study them. To really remember them, live them. How you live them is, ultimately, up to you. Look at what you need to improve on, and start gradually making changes. Make your own personal study of your baptismal covenants. Take a day per topic and really study and ponder what it means to keep your baptismal covenants. Really applying these to your life will bless you more than you can currently imagine.

-Tally M. 

P.S. I realize I didn't really answer your question until the very end, and even then I gave you an answer that probably doesn't help much. However, it really is between you and the Lord to learn how to best live your baptismal covenants. The thing is, though, this is a good starting point for you, because knowing what you have to do in general can help you determine what to do specifically.

Question #72823 posted on 06/07/2013 4:16 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Which question is truly the most popular? Meaning, it has the most thumbs up for all it's answers combined?

-Galinda (Just not quite as popular as ME)

A:

Dear Galinda,

As counted by the total of votes on all responses as of June 4, 2013, the 6 most popular questions are:

  1. Board Question #62542 (227)
  2. Board Question #71792 (219)
  3. Board Question #69694 (194)
  4. Board Question #21534 (191)
  5. Board Question #43468 (177)
  6. Board Question #67964 (176)

(I was going to cut off at 5, but #5 and #6 are basically tied.) I noticed that most of these are about the Board writers themselves in some way.

Curious Physics Minor suggested also looking at which questions got the most page views, as another way of measuring popularity. Counting from August 2, 2010 (the first week after switching to Board 5.0, which had a new URL scheme) to now (June 3, 2012), I noticed that the most popular question-related page was FAQ #12 (71,339 views), about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Apparently many of the people who viewed that page then clicked the links to the four questions listed there, because first four questions by pageviews were those four, followed by one other:

  1. Board Question #19899 (20,543)
  2. Board Question #15750 (20,192)
  3. Board Question #47554 (19,422)
  4. Board Question #40690 (14,427)
  5. Board Question #60499 (14,171)

In the #5 spot above, and the first one that's not asking about Tootsie Roll Pops, is Board Question #60499 (which as you can see was barely behind the last Tootsie Roll Pop question in page views).

I did just a little more digging, curious to see where all those Tootsie Roll Pop visitors were coming from. The answer, according to Google Analytics: Yahoo Answers. (Here are some of the places that link to us about Tootsie Roll Pops.) Interesting. All of the Tootsie Roll Pop questions had a somewhat steady stream of traffic; pageviews went up and down, but there are visits across the last several years. In contrast, Mico's answer about Finding Nemo got nearly all of its visits on a single day: February 7, 2013. The source? Reddit. Specifically, this post. Cool!

—Laser Jock

Question #72688 posted on 05/27/2013 8:10 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

When/how was it decided that symbols and numbers should come before letters when alphabetizing things? How do computers alphabetize symbols and numbers? Is there a universal system?

~*oO0Oo*~

A:

Dear circles,

Perhaps you would be surprised to learn that your questions open quite a large realm of study.

The process of ordering information is known generally as "collation."  In general, as far as I can tell, the decision about how non-alphabetical characters are handled is completely arbitrary.  One organizational scheme might say that numbers come before letters.  Another might say that numbers come after letters.  And in some schemes numbers would be handled by converting them to their written form (e.g., "100 Hour Board" would be sorted as "One-Hundred Hour Board").  But this can lead to additional inconsistencies.  If you wanted to sort the book title 1776 one person might sort that strictly as written, "One-thousand seven-hundred seventy-six," but another might sort it as spoken, "Seventeen seventy-six."

However (and somewhat blessedly), decisions about sorting have become pseudo-standardized since the advent of the computer for a variety of reasons.  The pseudo-standardization occurred mainly because a computer, with a given set of rules, will always behave the exact same way.  Any ambiguity in the rules will always be resolved in the same fashion (however the software developer decided).  So as computers grew in popularity users accepted the computer's rules on sorting even when they conflicted with their own rules simply because it was easier to adapt the user to the computer than to make the computer adapt to the user.

So how do computers alphabetize things?

All data in a computer is equivalent to a series of 0s and 1s.  Everything.  Every picture, every video, every song, every paragraph, every word, every letter.  The only difference is how we tell our computer to interpret those 0s and 1s.  (The way in which a computer "knows" that something is a picture and not a song is a different discussion, but a very simple way that Windows used exclusively for sometime is the file extension: .txt, .jpg, .mov.   A file ending in .txt would be interpreted as text, .jpg as a specific type of picture, and .mov as a specific type of video.)

Let's suppose we want to sort the words "cat", "dog", and "car".  The computer can simply look at their series of 0s and 1s and sort those instead.  It doesn't care about "letters" per se. So let's convert those words to binary.

Word Binary Representation
cat 011000110110000101110100
dog 011001000110111101100111
car 011000110110000101110010

Great, but how does the computer "know" what order they should be in?  This brings us to the concept of lexicographical ordering.  Short version, it's the mathematically precise description of ordering whole things based on the relative ordering of their parts.  Which is just saying, we can order two words by comparing them letter-by-letter.  The order of the words is determined by the order of the first letters that differ.  We don't need to compare any further letters.  Or, in this case, we can compare the binary values bit by bit and the first time we find a difference we're done.

If we consider our 0s and 1s as numbers then, of course, 0 comes before 1 (because math defines it).  So, to order our 3 words the computer need only compare them up until it sees a difference.  The actual algorithm used to determine in which order it should compare the words is a completely different field of study, so we'll skip that.

Let's say our computer first compares "cat" to "dog."  The sixth entry is a 1 for "dog," but a 0 for "cat."  So "cat" comes before "dog."  Now we need to see where "car" fits in the ordering.  The computer compares "car" to "cat" and the 0s and 1s are the same all the way until the third-to-last entry.  At that entry "car" has a 0 and "cat" has a 1, so "car" comes first.  We now know "car" comes before "cat" and "cat" comes before "dog" thus our sorting is complete: "car," "cat," "dog."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, but that ordering also happens to be the alphabetical order, how did that happen?!  How did the 0s and 1s that "just happen" to represent those words also "just happen" to sort in the exact same way that the words would sort alphabetically?!  Fair enough.

Representing letters, numbers, and symbols in binary

It isn't just coincidence that when we sort the words by their binary representations that they get sorted alphabetically.  You may have heard the word "ASCII" at some point in your life, particularly if you spend any time around computer nerds.  ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.  And that's exactly what it is.  ASCII is the standardized mapping that tells you what number, and thus binary value, represents which character.  "c" is represented by the number 99, or, in binary, 1100011.

But each of the things in our table start with a zero!

Each 0 or 1 is referred to as a bit.  The original ASCII standard only used 7 bits to represent characters.  This meant it could only represent 128 distinct characters which easily covers lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and some basic symbols; but it doesn't provide enough characters for various other characters or for the various non-printable characters like "end of text" or "line feed" or "carriage return" which are all needed.  So an 8th bit was added to the standard which allowed for an additional 128 characters for a total of 256.  So when we look up in the ASCII table that "c" is 99, we write all 8 bits which gives us 01100011.

Are you still with me?  We're almost done.

The ASCII table defines a standard order simply by mapping each character to a unique number.  And the ASCII standard just happens to put digits (in order, 0-9, and various symbols) before upper case letters (in order, A-Z) which come before lower case letters (in order, a-z). 0-9 are represented by the numbers 48-57.  A-Z are represented by the numbers 65-90.  And a-z are represented by the numbers 97-122.

Now remember that lexicographical ordering I brought up?  Well, it's transitive.  So when we want to compare "cat" to "dog" we can break it down by first comparing "c" to "d" and we can break that down by comparing their numeric representations, "99" to "100", which we can compare in their binary representations: "01100011" to "01100100."  We then break that down and compare bit to bit until we find a difference (at the 6th entry).  Then the entire comparison can unwind: 0 comes before 1, so 99 comes before 100, so "c" comes before "d", so "cat" comes before "dog."

When text is sorted by the binary values of the individual characters it comes out in a consistent and alphabetical order with numbers/symbols before letters.

And there you have it.  In regards to computer data that's why symbols and numbers come before letters when sorting.

But is it really as simple as that?

Well, no, it's not.  Sorry.

The computer is most likely not going to compare things bit to bit.  It's much easier to just subtract one value from the other to find out which is larger and sort based on the outcome.  So it may compare compute that 99-100=-1 and then know that 99 is smaller than 100.

Also, you may have noticed that the "A" in ASCII stands for "American" and there certainly isn't enough room using only 8-bits to store all the characters we need for English and for Chinese, and Japanese, and Arabic, and all the other languages.  So ASCII is a deprecated standard, which was subsumed by the Unicode standard which is widely used today.  The Unicode standard uses up to 32 bits to represent characters allowing us to represent 4,294,967,296 unique characters.  (To save us some pain and anguish, the first 256 characters of the Unicode standard are exactly the same as the ASCII characters.)

But the complexity doesn't end there.  ASCII and Unicode are just two possible mappings used to represent characters.  There are literally dozens of other mappings that might still be in use around the world.  If one of those systems didn't put letters in an order that allowed the binary values to match their alphabetical order then a computer wouldn't (by default) order them alphabetically.

And another added complexity is that we software developers can write different sorting algorithms.  Even though the ASCII standard puts numbers before letters I could easily write a sorting algorithm that puts the numbers after letters just by checking if I'm looking at a digit and, if so, add 100 to the binary value (for example) which would then cause the numbers to be sorted after the letters.  This algorithm would necessarily be slightly slower than the native sorting, but it'd still be so fast that you wouldn't notice the difference.

-Curious Physics Minor

Question #72573 posted on 05/17/2013 8:46 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

How is it that when thrown, a stone can skip water?

-This is a Clever Alias

A:

Dear Clever Alias,

You're essentially making the rock ricochet off the water. First, to give you a visual, here's a series of high-speed images of a circular disc (simulating a rock), taken 6.5 milliseconds apart (Clanet, 2004):

skipping_cropped.jpg

You can see the disc coming in, hitting the water (and digging a hole), and then flying out the far side. This probably gives you some intuition as to what's happening; if you're more of a force-diagram sort of person, here's a diagram (Bocquet, 2003): 

skip_diagram_shrunk.png

It turns out that there are several important factors for a successful stone skip. First of all, the rock has to be going fast enough. Secondly, both the angle of the rock relative to the water (labeled θ in diagram 2) and the angle of the rock's motion relative to the water (labeled β in diagram 2) need to be right; it turns out that the optimum value for both angles is about 20° (Clanet, 2004). And finally, the spin on the rock is important: its purpose is to stabilize the rock's angle relative to the water (θ), via the gyroscopic effect.

When the rock first strikes the water, the water pushes back: as seen in diagram 2, some of the force is pointing up and back (labeled n; this is the rebound, if you will), and some is pointing down and back (labeled t; this is friction). If you add those forces together with the initial force (V in the diagram), you get the final motion of the rock. If you have the angles and the speed right, the vertical part of n is large enough to overcome the other downward forces on the rock and send it back upward, causing it to skip as it moves forward.

It turns out that what makes a rock stop skipping is actually the angle θ (of the rock relative to the water): with repeated bounces/skips, the angle eventually gets messed up enough (far enough away from 20°) that the rock can no longer skip, and it sinks, no matter how hard you threw it (Bocquet, 2003). Hence, a good fast spin is important, to preserve the optimum angle θ for as long as possible.

—Laser Jock

Bocquet, L. "The physics of stone skipping," American Journal of Physics 71, 150 (February 2003). doi: 10.1119/1.1519232

Clanet, C., Hersen, F. & Bocquet, L. "Secrets of successful stone-skipping," Nature 427, 29 (1 January 2004). doi: 10.1038/427029a

Question #72571 posted on 05/18/2013 2:04 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Friday is date night. You are hosting and want to have a nice, home-cooked meal. But you want to impress your date, so it's going to be three courses. Using what is currently in your pantry (and no more than $5 if you really need to buy something), what would you make? Descriptions of the finished product along with a list of the ingredients used is fine, but I wouldn't mind learning a new recipe if you want to share. :)

~Smurf Blue Snuggie

A:

Dear Smurf,

Seeing as I almost never eat a full meal at home this summer, I didn't really have all that much food available, so this was a pretty fun experiment. I enlisted the aid of Owlet to make sure I didn't burn down my apartment help prepare this answer. So, here's the meal.

Course 1: Bacon Quesadillas

Or, to quote my original placeholder answer, "HECK YES BACON QUESADILLAS." It was my very first thought after listing all of my available ingredients. Because bacon. Always because bacon.

SAM_1424.JPG

Then we stuck the bacon on tortillas and stuck some cheese on the bacon.

0515132112.jpg

Here's the microwaved final product:

0515132126.jpg

It was awesome, as well as ridiculously easy to make. BACON.

Course 2: Fried Rice and Vegetables

After coming up with the idea of bacon quesadillas and deciding that this was something too good to just leave hypothetical, I then had to invent two more courses. This led to a long discussion with sisterfulness in which a wide variety of fruitless ideas were tossed around. We rejected beans and rice as being too bland (since I don't really have any seasonings) and rice with tuna as being too strange. Other concoctions I've tried before, like corn and boiled cabbage with melted cheese, tasted good but just didn't seem like the kind of thing I'd ever want to serve to another person. Finally, we settled on the idea of fried rice with vegetables.

So, while Owlet and I were making and enjoying the bacon quesadillas, we cooked a pot of rice and let some of my frozen vegetables thaw.

0515132149.jpg

We cut up the thawed vegetables (a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and squash) and added some chopped fresh cabbage, then mixed it all with the rice and fried it in the leftover bacon grease.

0515132213.jpg

The final product was good, but hampered by the fact that the only seasonings available (without significant rule-breaking) were my roommate's salt and pepper. Some soy sauce would have made it awesome. But even without it, it was definitely worth eating.

0515132228.jpg

Course 3: Eclectic Parfait

Dessert was the hardest thing for me to come up with, since I really didn't have all that many dessertish ingredients. Sisterfulness had suggested that I use yogurt and an avocado to make chocolate mousse, but... um... let's just say I didn't realize how long that avocado had been sitting in my fridge. I don't think it was really an avocado anymore...

Not to be deterred, we took my roommate's suggestion to make a parfait instead. Here's what we had to work with:

0515132305.jpg

Peach yogurt, strawberry jelly, a pop tart, and a peanut-butter-filled chocolate rabbit that we melted down in the microwave. We made a layer of yogurt, a thin layer of jelly, a layer of crumbled pop tart, and a topping of melted rabbit.

0515132316.jpg

It was good, but if I didn't have so many constraints, I'd have used a different type of yogurt, and there's no way I'd have used that peanut butter chocolate rabbit. The chocolate was good enough, but the peanut butter made it an absolute pain to work with and didn't really do much good to the flavor. Also, the pop tart... yeah. Use a graham cracker instead. But the basic idea was definitely good.

-yayfulness, with yet another adventure in experimental cooking

Question #72561 posted on 05/16/2013 11:04 p.m.
Q:

Fellow Experimenters,

I recently acquired a laser that professes to put out 100 mW but I suspect it only puts out between 5-10 mW. That doesn't really bother me, I'm just happy to have a laser and one that I can easily see the beam in midair at night.

Last night I wanted to see if I could read by the light of my laser shining on the ceiling of my bedroom (which is your standard white, drywall ceiling). As it turns out, I actually can read by the reflected light. However, I noticed that something that looked a lot like static on the pages of my book that was being created by the laser-light. There were lighter and darker areas that were moving around and fading in and out. Why did this happen and what is it called? Would it be a bad thing to look at it for a long time? (keep in mind, it's not direct laser light. It's reflecting off the ceiling and the page before it hits my eye).

Thanks for all you do!

Stands
Upon
Magnificent
Places

A:

Dear Sump,

What you're seeing is called laser speckle, and it's caused by interference. It's not dangerous; once a laser beam has bounced off of a diffuse surface (as opposed to a specular, i.e., shiny, surface), it's no more dangerous than any other bright light source. (However, even ordinary light sources can be painful or even dangerous if they're bright enough. In your case, though, you're definitely fine after bouncing off of two diffuse surfaces.)

There are actually two types of laser speckle. Subjective speckles are what you see if you shine a laser on a surface (e.g., the wall or ceiling) and look at the surface directly (although if your laser pointer is as bright as it sounds, you might have difficulty looking directly at the wall/ceiling). These are subjective because the actual speckles you see depend on things like the aperture of the lens (your eye, or a camera's). One example Wikipedia gives is to look directly at the wall, and then at the wall through a small hole (e.g., a pinhole); the speckles will appear much larger through the hole. (If the spot on the wall is too bright to look at, don't push it.)

Then there are objective speckles. These are caused by light bouncing off one diffuse surface (the ceiling) and then a second (the pages of your book). In this case, the speckle pattern doesn't depend on the optical properties of your eye. You would expect to mostly see objective speckles in your case, although there will still be some subjective ones as well (they'll just be much harder or impossible to see).

Okay. So what causes laser speckle? The light coming out of the laser is coherent, which means that the wavelength and the phase of the photons coming from the laser are pretty much the same as each other. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, but good enough in this case.) So you can imagine all of these waves coming from the laser in sync. Once they scatter off of a rough surface, however, the phase of each photon gets changed relative to its neighbors (since they all reflect at different "depths" on the wall). They're still the same wavelength as each other, though. This is a perfect setup for interference.

If you're unfamiliar with the idea of interference, I'll refer you to the double-slit experiment, which is a classic example of interference. If you just want a visual example of what's happening, you can jump down to here (note the diagrams/animations on the right-hand side). I also explained interference in thin films in Board Question #49920. The basic idea is that waves can either add up (if they're in phase, e.g., wiggling in sync), which is constructive interference, or they can cancel out (if they're out of phase, e.g., if one is going "up" at the exact time that another is going "down"), which is destructive interference.

Anyway, with the diagrams from Wikipedia to look at, here's what's happening with your laser (which is slightly different from the double-slit experiment): some of the light from your laser reflects off the ceiling and hits your book. The phase of this light will depend on how far the light traveled to get to the book, which will vary depending on which particular spot on the wall it's coming from. Some places, by random chance, will have lots of light that is mostly in phase arriving at the same spot; these will be brighter spots on your book. Other spots, also by chance, will have light arriving that's all out of phase with the rest of the light arriving, which will cause a dark spot. (Of course, there will also be places in between.)

So why are the speckles moving? Your laser pointer isn't exactly a high-quality laser, and so it's unlikely to have a very stable beam. The beam profile is likely to fluctuate, which would cause the shifting you're seeing. (It's also probably not extremely coherent, but that would just keep the bright spots from being quite as bright and the dark spots from being quite as dark.)

Why doesn't this happen with other light sources, like a flashlight or your ceiling light? The light from most non-laser sources isn't coherent at all; it's such a mix of different wavelengths and different phases that the speckles are washed out. You could imagine it as if you have millions of speckle patterns all on top of each other, and they all blend together to create uniform illumination.

Oh, and one final note: if you want to cheaply check to see if your laser pointer is in the ballpark of 100 mW or not, you might look at these do-it-yourself laser power meters. (I put DIY laser power meter into Google and wasn't expecting much, but was pleasantly surprised!) The first one linked from that page requires no soldering and claims to give you a number within about 15% of the real value. Not super accurate, but not too shabby for only $17. (Plus the cost includes an IR thermometer that you can use for other things.)

—Laser Jock

Question #72555 posted on 05/15/2013 9:28 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Your mission: Find a picture of Brenda Song's purple makeup on an episode of Suite Life of Zack and Cody - I remember she had on really pretty purple makeup that matched her skin tone amazingly.
Your next mission: Tell me how to do my sister's Prom makeup like her.

- Older Sister

A:

Dear Older Sister,

You should know that, while I myself don't wear makeup every day, sometimes I look at makeup blogs and I have acquaintances that do makeup semi-professionally, so that's where I'm coming from. This is the best picture I could find:

 London Tipton.png

This is a pretty good video showing a step-by-step tutorial of Brenda Song-inspired makeup. The person in the video uses dark green and light green eye shadow, which you'll want to substitute with dark and light purple. I looked at quite a few written-out makeup tutorials, and so combining those, the tutorial video, and my modest understanding of makeup artistry, this is what I suggest you do:

1. Start with foundation (a dewy one, if you have it [but not if you have oily skin]) & eye shadow primer.
2. Apply a matte light-colored eyeshadow (like cream or light tan) as the highlight color all over lid and up to the brow bone.
3. Apply dark purple eye shadow on the upper lid. Wing out the eye shadow slightly past the outer corner of the eye.
4. Apply the same color a little along the bottom lid of the eye near the outer corner.
5. Apply a dark neutral (such as reddish brown) eye shadow in the crease and outer V; blend everything well.
6. Line the upper lid with black eyeliner, winging out with a thicker line on the outside corner.
7. Apply black eyeliner to the waterline as well, but don't go all the way in with the lower lid; keep it towards the outer corner.
8. Apply a lighter shade of purple eye shadow on the inner corner, both on the upper and lower lids. This will really make the eyes look bright and awake. Blend.
9. Add a smokey effect by adding a touch of black eye shadow where you used eyeliner and blend out a little.
10. Use a lot of black mascara. I recommend doing the lower lashes before the upper.
11. If you use blush, use a neutral/brown/plum-like shade, not pink. Sweep up along cheekbone.
12. If you use bronzer, use just a bit on the temples and sides of the face.
13. You'll want to go easy on the lips, as having both strong eye and lip color will make you (or your sister, I guess) look like a clown. Opt for a neutral or light pink shade. 

I drew this diagram for steps 2-10, but it's rough and I was pretty conservative with the purple. I hope some of this helps! Have fun!

-Owlet

Question #72405 posted on 05/16/2013 10:16 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

My niece is turning five in the next few weeks. The other day she heard my sister and me singing “Time After Time” and she loved it and wanted us to play the song over and over. This made me think that, due to her age, she’s missed out on some great music. For her birthday present, I wanted to give her five CDs (one for each year of her life) to celebrate five full decades of the best sing-along (or dance-along, she also likes dancing) music possible. Can you please suggest to me music I should add from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s (and, I guess 2010+ if you feel inclined. It’s not a full decade, so I wasn’t going to include it)?

-Sheri

A:

Dear Basil,

With the help of a few friends, we have compiled you five and a little bit decades of music. Olympus's sister, She, compiled the original list (though she had a lot of things I would have added anyway), and she added some international songs because they're favorites for dancing at the elementary school where she teaches.

1960's (ignore the part where there are songs from the late 50's, just enjoy the music)

  • La Bamba - Ritchie Valens - 1958
  • 16 Candles - The Crests - 1985
  • Shout Part I - The Isley Brothers - 1959
  • Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora) - Harry Belafonte - 1961
  • Uptight (Everything's Alright) - Stevie Wonder - 1965
  • You Can't Hurry Love - Diana Ross & The Supremes - 1966
  • Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel - 1967
  • Higher & Higher - Jackie Wilson - 1967
  • For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder - 1968
  • I Want You Back - Jackson 5 - 1969
  • Sugar, Sugar - The Archies - 1969
  • Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond - 1969

1970's

  • ABC - Jackson 5 - 1970
  • Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Stevie Wonder - 1970
  • Joy to the World - Three Dog Night - 1970
  • Don't Pull Your Love - Sam & Dave - 1971
  • Mama Don't Dance and Daddy Don't Rock & Roll - Dr. Hook - 1972
  • Play Me - Neil Diamond - 1972
  • Desperado - Eagles - 1973
  • Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd - 1974
  • Mamma Mia - ABBA - 1975
  • Seaside Rendezvous - Queen - 1975
  • You're My Best Friend - Queen - 1975
  • Rubberband Man - The Spinners - 1976
  • Somebody to Love - Queen - 1976
  • Dancing Queen - A*Teens (2000) or ABBA (1976)
  • Fernando - ABBA
  • Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees - 1977
  • September - Earth, Wind, & Fire - 1978
  • YMCA - Village People - 1978
  • Let's Go - The Cars - 1979
  • Don't Stop Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson - 1979
  • Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles - 1979
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper - 1979
  • What a Fool Believes - Doobie Brothers - 1979

1980's

  • Celebrate - Kool & The Gang - 1980
  • All Out of Love - Air Supply - 1980
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar - 1981
  • Mickey - Toni Basil - 1981
  • Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield - 1981
  • You Make My Dreams - Hall & Oates - 1981
  • Come On, Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners - 1982
  • Eye of the Tiger - Survivor - 1982
  • Hungry Like a Wolf - Duran Duran - 1982
  • I'm So Excited - The Pointer Sisters - 1982
  • Beat It - Michael Jackson - 1983
  • Jump For My Love - The Pointer Sisters - 1983
  • Separate Ways - Journey - 1983
  • Uptown Girl - Billy Joel - 1983
  • Burning Down the House - Talking Heads - 1983
  • Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper - 1984
  • Footloose - Kenny Loggins - 1984
  • Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Wham! - 1984
  • Careless Whisper - George Michael - 1984
  • Oh Sherrie - Steve Perry - 1984
  • I Would Die 4 U - Prince - 1984
  • Neutron Dance - The Pointer Sisters - 1984
  • Take On Me - A-ha - 1985
  • The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and the News - 1985
  • Conga - Gloria Estefan - 1985
  • Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi - 1986
  • Manic Monday - The Bangles - 1986
  • Walk Like An Egyptian - The Bangles - 1986
  • I Wanna Dance - Whitney Houston - 1987
  • It Must Have Been Love - Roxette - 1987
  • The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson - 1987
  • 500 Miles - The Proclaimers - 1988
  • Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin - 1988
  • Get On Your Feet - Gloria Estefan - 1989
  • Love Shack - The B-52's - 1989
  • Pump Up the Jam - Technotronic - 1989

1990's

  • Theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - Will Smith & Quincy Jones - 1990
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - They Might Be Giants - 1990
  • Black or White - Michael Jackson - 1991
  • Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn - 1991
  • Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave) - Roxette - 1991
  • If We Hold On Together (Laugh if you will, but if you play it, people sing) - Dianna Ross - 1991
  • Too Legit to Quit - MC Hammer - 1991
  • I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston - 1992
  • Basket Case - Green Day - 1994
  • Macarena - Los Del Rio - 1994
  • Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls - TLC - 1995
  • Larger Than Life - Backstreet Boys - 1996
  • Wannabe - Spice Girls - 1996
  • Real World - Matchbox Twenty - 1996
  • Barbie Girl - Aqua - 1997
  • Doctor Jones - Aqua - 1997
  • Mmmbop - Hansen - 1997
  • My Heart Will Go On - Céline Dion - 1997
  • Truly Madly Deeply - Savage Garden - 1997
  • Tearin' Up My Heart - *NSync - 1998
  • One Week - Barenaked Ladies - 1998
  • Believe - Cher - 1998
  • Jump, Jive an' Wail - The Brain Setzer Orchestra - 1998
  • All Star - Smash Mouth - 1999
  • I Want It That Way - Backstreet Boys - 1999
  • Baby One More Time - Britney Spears - 1999
  • Rhythm Divine - Enrique Iglesias - 1999
  • Livin' La Vida Loca - Ricky Martin - 1999
  • Smooth - Santana & Rob Thomas - 1999
  • Candy - Mandy Moore - 1999
  • Hey, Beautiful - The Solids - 90's

2000's

  • Aaron's Party - Aaron Carter - 2000
  • Beautiful Day - U2 - 2000
  • Bye Bye Bye - *NSync - 2000
  • Dancing Queen - A*Teens (2000) or ABBA (1976)
  • I Want Candy - Aaron Carter - 2000
  • Oops!...I Did It Again - Britney Spears - 2000
  • S Club Party or Viva la Fiesta - S Club 7 - 2000
  • Upside Down - A*Teens - 2000
  • Wherever You Will Go - The Calling - 2001
  • Ave Maria - David Bisbal - 2002
  • Heaven - DJ Sammy - 2002
  • Song for the Lonely - Cher - 2002
  • Crazy in Love - Beyoncé - 2003
  • Hey Ya! - Outkast - 2003
  • I Believe In a Thing Called Love - The Darkness - 2003
  • In Love With the 80's - Relient K - 2003
  • Baila Esta Cumbia - Kumbia Kings & Selena - 2005
  • Brat Pack - The Rocket Summer - 2005
  • Crazy - Gnarls Barkley - 2006
  • All For One - High School Musical 2 - 2007
  • Ever Ever After - Carrie Underwood - 2007
  • What Time Is It? - High School Musical 2 - 2007
  • Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
  • Love Story - Taylor Swift - 2008
  • Eres Tú - Kany Garcia - 2009
  • Halo/Walking On Sunshine - Glee - 2009
  • I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas - 2009
  • Party in the USA - Miley Cyrus - 2009
  • Tik Tok - Ke$ha - 2009

2010's

  • Baby - Justin Bieber - 2010
  • Forget You - Cee Lo Green - 2010
  • Kick Drum Heart - The Avett Brothers - 2010
  • Waka Waka - Shakira - 2010
  • Dynamite - Taio Cruz - 2010
  • Call Me Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen - 2011
  • Elle Me Dit - Mika - 2011
  • Good Feeling - Flo Rida - 2011
  • Titanium - David Guetta - 2011
  • Good Time - Carly Rae Jepsen & Owl City - 2012

There are a lot of artists who have enough popular music that you can just buy the whole CD, for example, I would buy CDs for ABBA, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson (and The Jackson Five), NSync, Brittney Spears, Spice Girls, Christian Aguilera and Neil Diamond.

Hopefully you will use this to create the most awesome playlists in the history of ever.

-Marguerite St. Just (with help from Olympus, She, Laser Jock, Eirene and various nymless friends and cousins)

Question #72319 posted on 04/27/2013 10:10 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The following are some facts(?) about Sparta that I read on tumblr. Seeing as it's tumblr, I figured I'd fact check. What, if anything, of the following is true?

"Like, guys. Sparta was so kick [edit] sometimes when it came to women. Spartan women were given these small knives so that if their husbands came home and tried to hit them or assault them, they had a weapon within reach. That weapon was for CUTTING THEIR HUSBANDS’ [edit] FACES so that when he went out in public everyone would know he was an [edit], abusing jerkface and they would publicly shame him.

In Sparta, women could own land and were considered citizens.

Divorce was totally fine, and a woman could expect to keep her own wealth and get custody of the kids because paternal lineage wasn’t very important. And it didn’t make her a pariah! She could totally remarry, no big deal at all.

Spartan women participated in some [explicative] sporting events, too. And because they were expected to be as physically fit as the Spartan menfolk (who all had to serve compulsory military duties, btw, and couldn’t marry until they finished them at thirty) they didn’t have time for lots of swishy dresses. So they wore notoriously short skirts. According to some accounts, their thighs were visible at all times.

Also, In Sparta men only got their names on their graves if they died in battle. And women? Women only got their names on their graves if they died in childbirth. THE SPARTANS COMPARED CHILDBIRTH TO [edit] BATTLE AND IT WAS VIEWED AS A [edit] AND HONORABLE WAY TO GO OUT."

Thanks,
Razputin's girl

A:

Dear Razputin's girl,

Congratulations! You've hit on one of my favorite topics: ancient Greece! You may be aware that one of my favorite people from that time is Athena, and so I feel I must defend Athens by refuting these claims. Alas, Wikipedia actually confirms many of them and so I turned to the library. The books I used for this answer can all be found in the HBLL (once I return them).

It should be noted that much of what we know from history, especially ancient history, is limited to and influenced by the writings of the men of the time. One author provided this caveat: "Contemporary scholars...differ in their assessment of what constitutes historical reality, and what was part of the 'Spartan mirage'" (Pomeroy viii). One should also keep in mind that the following research mostly applies to higher-status Spartan women.

Women holding knives to scar their husbands in case of assault: No evidence. In her book Spartan Woman, Sarah B. Pomeroy writes that "One may speculate that Spartan women would have been better at defending themselves if need be, for Plutarch...states that a goal of their physical education was to make them able to defend themselves, their children, and their country. At any rate, just as there is little evidence for illicit adultery at Sparta, there is little for the rape of individuals" (18). While the above shows that women were prepared to resist, I have found no research that points to their being armed.

Women could own land and were citizens: True. Pomeroy clearly states "women could own land" (36). Spartan women were Spartiates, or citizens of Sparta, but they did not enjoy the same political privileges as men. Although Pomeroy gives an example of the significance of women in Spartan elections, she concedes that "Such reports do not indicate that women were fully active citizens in the sense that men were, that they could defend their polis [city], vote, or hold governmental office, for overt political power was not exercised by women anywhere in the Greek world before the advent of Hellenistic queens" (92). They had more citizenship than the lower class and slaves, but not as much as men.

Divorce and remarriage were acceptable: True. It was very important in Spartan society to have heirs, and as Pomeroy writes, "...divorce and remarriage would allow them to sample partners with whom they could have fertile unions" (66). Divorce appears to have been common in ancient Sparta, as was remarriage. In his essay in Spartan Society, Hodkinson points out "It seems that mature rich widows were often in a strong position to determine whether and whom they remarried"(116). Younger widows could remarry but they had less of a say in the matter--"women were normally expected to marry within restricted socio-economic bounds" (118). From what I understand, women who were divorced or widowed were expected to remarry, especially if she was still young enough to have children.

Women kept their wealth and children's custody after divorce: Sort of. It's hard to say definitively, because property laws and things were quite complicated in Sparta. As one author notes, "the Spartans had not completely evolved the principle of private property, and...the family was not a fixed institution" (Oliva 9). A woman's influence in society and power to make her own decisions depended on her wealth, land, and marital situation (Pomeroy 93). The evidence points to women being able to keep their wealth after divorce--indeed, this would help her secure a high-status second husband--but I could not find anything convincing regarding the custody of the children. The emphasis of the woman's role in rearing children leads me to believe that she would retain custody as well.

Women participated in sporting events and wore short skirts: True. The importance of athletics for Spartan women seems to be unique among ancient Greek societies. Some ancient Greek authors indicated that racing, trials of strength, wrestling, discus throwing, and hurling the javelin were important physical activities. Pomeroy writes that "the women's curriculum was a selective and less arduous version of the men's, but similar to it" (14). In regard to dress, she writes that "Not only did Spartan women wear a peplos (tunic) that revealed their thighs, but they regularly exercised completely nude" (25). Some ancient writers referred to Spartan women as "thigh-flashers" (26).

The men couldn’t marry until they finished their military service at thirty years of age: False. They were required to serve in the military and live in the barracks until they were 30, but they could still--and were expected to--marry during this time; they just couldn't live with their wives for an extended period of time until they finished their residence in the barracks.

Women had the honor of getting their names on graves if they died in childbirth: True. This is mentioned in the book Spartan Society, which quotes Plutarch: "On the gravestones it was forbidden to write the names of the dead, except in the case of men who had died in war and of women who had died in childbirth." However, from what I understand, this meaning is disputed by some, and "childbirth" could be better translated as "sacred office," introducing some ambiguity to the account. Nevertheless, the former meaning is generally accepted. (Brulé and Piolot 152-153)

In conclusion, though I've not found it put quite so colorfully as on tumblr, Sparta indeed rocked women's rights. This website has some more cool facts--the good and the bad--about women in Sparta that seem to agree with my research. (I also borrowed a book about Athenian woman, but that's another question.) For now I must admit, Sparta, that you win this battle. Until next time.

-Owlet of Athens

Brulé, Pierre and Laurent Piolot. "Women's Way of Death: Fatal Childbirth or Heirai?: Commemorative Stones at Sparta and Plutarch, Lycurgus 27.3." Spartan Society. Ed. Thomas J. Figuiera. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2004. 151-178. Print.

Hodkinson, Stephen. "Female Property Ownership and Empowerment in Classical and Hellenistic Sparta." Spartan Society. Ed. Thomas J. Figueira. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2004. 103-136. Print.

Oliva, Pavel. Sparta and her Social Problems. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1971. Print.

Pomeroy, Sarah B. Spartan Women. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Question #72100 posted on 04/16/2013 10:16 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I grew up on the East coast, met a boy at BYU, and followed him to the Midwest. It looks like things aren't going to work out with this boy, so I'm starting to look at other options. Growing up I had zero interest in the West coast, but lately I've had this desire to move to Los Angeles and give California a try. I've never even been to California (the farthest west I've been is Las Vegas), so I don't know where this idea is coming from - maybe a desire to be as far away as possible from everyone I know because I'm embarrassed? Anyway, what can you tell me about LA? My idea is that it's warm, it's near the beach, it's expensive, and there's a lot of traffic. I'm pretty informed, right? What areas are considered LA and what areas are the suburbs? What are the good and bad parts of town? What are the wards like? What are some good radio stations? What are some realistic rent expectations if I want a dishwasher and washer/dryer (or at least hookups)? How's the public transportation? Should I even have a car?

I recognize this is a really big question and I know you probably won't be able to tell me everything, but anything is better than what I know right now!

-Mover and shaker

A:

Dear Mover and shaker,

You have come to the right place. I will encourage everybody to spend time in LA for at least a short time in their life. It's a great city. There's a lot to say about it though—I don't really know where to start. So I'm just going to randomly list all the information I want to share; there's no way to organize it sanely. Here goes.

Anyway, what can you tell me about LA? 

LA is exactly what you think it is. It's a laid-back city. It's warm. There is an inordinate amount of attractive people (mainly aspiring actors who will wait tables for the rest of their lives). Almost everybody surfs; everybody is tan. If you don't recycle, you will be cast out. You bring your own canvas bags. Along the same lines, there are WAY too many Priuses, and you'll meet more gluten-free, vegan people than you'd ever believe existed.

But there's always something to do. Whether you're in Downtown, the Beach Cities, the West Side, or the Valley, there are parties, concerts, art walks, comedy shows, and anything else you can think of. There are just so many different cultures thrown together, it's turned into it's own unique culture. The Mexican food is sublime (get salsa from El Tarasco's—you won't regret it). You can follow your favorite food trucks around the city. You are expected to love Pinkberry. You can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day. It sounds cliché, but you can run into celebrities anywhere (my mom once met Lamar Odom at Target; I've driven down Lincoln next to Chris Paul—I have so many other non-basketball examples). Earthquakes are fun, not something to be feared. You are expected to be an LA-sports fan. You can choose between the Lakers and Clippers, the Dodgers and Angels, what matters is the LA unity. You will be in the minority because you (probably) don't smoke pot, medicinal or not. When people talk about Rainbows, they are not looking in the sky. You should seek out bacon-wrapped hot dogs from street vendors. LA has the greatest radio stations. Even the tourist attractions can be great—spend time at LA Live and 3rd St. Promenade. I could write a whole answer about how great the Troubadour, the Knitting Factory, and other small venues in the city are. Go to Roscoe's and get chicken and waffles. You can find a specialized bakery for ANY type of pastry. Walk two blocks in any direction and you will find a Starbucks. People legitimately get this excited about freeways. On the same note, although Angelenos may talk about freeways and directions a lot, the accents in "The Californians" is TOTALLY FABRICATED (their outfits though? Spot on). Don't stop at a stop sign; do the California Roll. Movies cost upward of $14. It is illegal to talk on the phone while driving. Natives judge others by their area code. This is for real.

Businessmen work in Downtown or Brentwood; struggling artists chill in Silverlake and East Hollywood; West Hollywood is the most well-known and accessible for tourists, and Hollywood is totally upscale—where you're most likely to get rejected from clubs. The Westside is a less-pretentious version of West Hollywood, but with a more beachy vibe. The Valley is exactly what Clueless makes it out to be. 

My friend showed me this blog post last summer; it's a few handy tips from a Mormon girl who moved to LA last year.

What areas are considered LA and what areas are the suburbs?

Unlike New York City, there's no universally-accepted definition of where the city ends and the suburbs start. This makes it awesome. There are multiple cities—Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Downtown, Venice Beach, Silverlake—that all consider themselves the true "Los Angeles." And because many cities that are not called Los Angeles—Westchester, Compton, Beverly Hills, North Hollywood—use LA in their address, the issue is even more confusing. 

My idea is that it's warm, it's near the beach, it's expensive, and there's a lot of traffic. I'm pretty informed, right? 

Your assumptions about LA are stereotypically true. The weather is almost always perfect; the beach is so close (depending on where you are in the city—many people from Pasadena claim to be from LA, but the beach is almost an hour away); it can be very expensive; traffic can be terrible. But there are ways to avoid crazy-expensive rent and most of the traffic. 

What are the good and bad parts of town?

Listen to the rappers—stay away from Compton; Inglewood is usually up to no good. The Beach Cities—Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo—are pretty safe. A common thing people say is that if you stay West of the 405, you'll be fine. But the valley is safe too, and it's gaining in popularity with people in their twenties and thirties. I worked in Echo Park last summer, and it was a great corner of LA I'd never experienced before. Also, even though I'd always assumed Downtown was pure ghetto, there are some really hip, upscale places there. I actually really fell in love with Downtown last summer.

But, really, you just have to be smart. I've spent time in Compton (technically I just went to court there, but during the day it's really not that frightening), Inglewood, Southwest LA, and Watts, and I'm alive. As long as you're not moving to a place where there are shootings on a regular basis, you'll be fine. I wouldn't recommend looking for an apartment in any of those cities, but you don't have to avoid them completely.

What are the wards like?

I can't speak for every ward in the greater LA area, but all the wards I've been a part of—three total—are great, especially the singles wards. Each stake has one singles ward, and they're party places. There are very few students; the wards are mostly composed of young professionals.

What are some good radio stations?

  • The World-famous KROQ 106.7 - The greatest radio station in the world
  • Star 98.7 - In between top 40 and alternative
  • Power 106 (actually on 105.9) - The best hip-hop station in the world
  • Amp Radio 97.1 - Top 40
  • 102.7 KIIS FM - Top 40
  • 104.3 MyFM - Random assortment of everything, but with an inordinate amount of No Doubt
  • Kost 103.5 - "Soft rock with less talk"
  • 95.5 - Classic Rock
  • 93.1 Jack FM 
  • Go Country 105.1 
  • KFrog 95.1 - Country
  • KEarth 101.1 - Oldies

What are some realistic rent expectations if I want a dishwasher and washer/dryer (or at least hookups)?

This really depends where you're going to live in the city. If you're searching for an apartment in Brentwood, you'll be paying between $1,500 and $2,000 a month. However, if you live with (at least) one roommate in a less-expensive part of the city, you can find places for as low as $500. Also, if you know the general area you want to move to, contact the singles ward's bishop. Each ward has a housing specialist who can seriously help you out.

How's the public transportation? Should I even have a car?

Public transportation is terrible. You need a car. And more importantly, you need to learn the freeways. In Downtown alone, there's the 10, the 110, and the 101. And that's just the very very beginning. 

I'm not sure if you can tell, but I love Los Angeles. If you have specific questions or just want to know the best food trucks to follow around, shoot me an email: ace(at)theboard(dot)byu(dot)edu.

-Ace 

Question #71992 posted on 04/11/2013 4:04 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Would one of our programming savvy writers (or one with lots of time on their hands, I suppose) make a graph of how many editor's choice questions there have been weekly since the beginning of time?

You know, I always hesitate to start my questions with "Will you," "Can you," "Would you," etc. because I'm afraid that I'll just get some smart alec that says "Yes." and leaves it at that. But I also hesitate to make it say "Please make a..." for fear of having some smart alec not answer my non-question.

-Giovanni Schwartz, who hardly asks questions under this 'nym anymore. But he's still around. Oh, is he still around.

A:

Dear Gio,

Here you go. The system of excellent responses started in mid-2005, as a way for editors to mark responses that they thought were especially good examples of the best of the Board. The Board was going through a bit of a crisis at that point with sponsorship, and they wanted an easy way to point out good answers to sponsors. Thus, the first week or two an absurdly high percentage (over 30%!) were marked excellent. In order to better show the remaining data, I cut off that spike.

exc_week.png

However, the data is still pretty noisy, so I also checked the results if you average over a month instead (keeping the y-axis the same).

exc_month.png

And what about years?

exc_year.png

I didn't do any statistical analysis, but it looks to me that despite considerable variability on a weekly or monthly time scale, when looked at a year at a time, the percentage of responses marked excellent has been remarkably stable for the last few years, holding pretty steady around 1%.

—Laser Jock

Question #71983 posted on 04/11/2013 3:10 p.m.
Q:

Dear Readers of the 100 Hour Board,

So, this might be a little unconventional, but this is the week for unconventionality, is it not? I made a call today for a question and it got me thinking ... how many of you readers have been contacted by a Board writer for help with a question? I really sometimes wonder how often the people I talk to are totally clueless as to what the Board is, or if I'm talking to a reader and just don't know it. Every once in awhile, the Board gets a comment or a question from someone who has helped us answer a question, but I'd like to put it out there for everyone. Just post a comment to answer my question if you have.

-Olympus

A:

Dear Olympus,

Your question was the perfect impetus for a Board reader survey! That being said: HEY READERS, if you still want to comment about your experience, DO IT!

Okay, on to the results. 61 people responded in all. Here are the results.

Question 1: Has a writer ever contacted you for help on a question? 

bq1.png

Question 2: Did you know the writer in real life? 

bq2.png

Apparently I left out options for things like "we are/were roommates," or "(s)he is/was my significant other," or even "I used to be a writer." Ah well!

Question 3: How were you contacted?

bq3.png

Two people responded that they lived with the writers, and one said they met at a party.

Question 4: How many times have you helped with a question?

bq4.png

Question 5 asked what the subject of the question was that the readers helped with. Google Docs died a little when trying to make a graph of those results, so I'll just present them here sans graph. 

Readers have helped with questions of the following categories (at least!): Advertising (1%), Art (1%), Business (3%), BYU-related issues (6%), Cartoons (2%), College/University (8%), Computers (2%), Dances (1%), Education (3%), Electronics/Technology (2%), Entertainment (1%), Environment/Nature (2%), Ethics (1%), Famous People (1%), Fashion/Style (2%), Food & Drink (4%), General Reference (1%), Health (7%), Hypotheticals (2%), LDS-related issues (6%), Legal (law) (1%), Literature (2%), Medical/Body (1%), Money/Finance (3%), Music (3%), Periodicals (1%), Questions about Girls (1%), Questions about Guys (1%), Random (4%), Recreation (1%), Relationships (6%), Religion (2%), Science (2%), Self Improvement (2%), Statistics (1%), Telephones (1%), Travel (1%), Trivia/Riddles (1%), United States (1%), Utah (2%), Writing/Publishing (1%).  

So, BYU-related issues, College/University, Health, and Relationships were the topics most commonly helped with. But clearly we have a lot of variation in reader expertise!

Question 6: Did you know you were being asked a question for the Board?

bq6.png

Finally, for Question 7 they were asked if they had anything else (especially funny stories, if applicable) to share and they totally did! Answers from our lovely readers:

  • I love you guys.
  • Not hilarious, but it confirmed my suspicion that the board writer was who I thought.
  • it's never happened to me, maybe later.....
  • Not exactly hilarious- just amusing. I got my application the same day a question that I helped with got posted. I was freaking out over FB, getting so excited, "IT'S HERE [YAYFULNESS]! IT'S HERE!", and yay thought I was just on a sugar high or something- it was weeks later when he realized that I was freaking out about the app, not the question-I was excited about that too, though!
  • I dreamed about it once.....it was glorious.
  • Somehow the writer knew I was on the track team (it was a track question) and I had no idea how they knew other than omniscience...but it turned out later that my sister had been dating a different board writer, and that's how they knew to ask me. 
  • This board writer shared a specific question with me because it reminded her of me. She then told a story about an incident that happened between us and used it as part of her answer. Turns out, the questioner was me all along!*
  • I haven't been asked for help on a Board question, but I've still been involved in several answers. For example, Eliot's experience in 68510. Having a stranger stay at my house might have been dangerous, but now we're real-life friends, so it was definitely worth the risk! -Glad he didn't go in for the kiss!
  • One time I told my whole premarital class experience and it wasn't really even related to the question. Yum.
  • Hobbes and Tangerine used to come to my office for Board questions. Once I told them I read the board, and that I thought I knew which writers they were. And that's how I learned how to scare a couple of board writers. 
  • I only help writers so I may one day have abs like unto the Quinn. 

Thanks everyone! And once again, if you have further comments you can comment with a comment!

-Mico, maker of surveys

*I always wondered if that happened when I was a writer!

posted on 05/07/2013 2:02 p.m.
Dear Olympus,

Once upon a time I was roommates with the beautiful Miss Scarlet, so I got to go on her epic adventure mentioned in Question Board Question #52963. I will attest that it was quite epic.

While I may not have appreciated it fully at the time (for this also was my introduction to the Board as a whole), I definitely feel cool now, knowing I helped (albeit minimally) with the construction of an Editor's Choice answer. =)

-Wildcat
Question #71972 posted on 04/11/2013 3:10 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I have decided that someday I want to own a home that's literally across the street from the temple. Owning a home in a location like this would be very beneficial to my goal to attend the temple regularly. How much would the property of a location like this cost? What is an estimate of an average home in a location like that?

-Spiritually motivated

A:

Dear spiritually motivated,

I'm obsessed with housing prices these days (this is what you get when you want to buy a house in one of the more expensive parts of the country!), so I decided to dig into some of the research here and find how much a property like that would actually cost. Now, you didn't specify which temple, so, just in case, I'll give you an idea of the prices for all the temples in the U.S. (I would have liked to include international temples as well, but it's much harder to find data on housing prices in, say, Ghana; my apologies.)

So let's start with some basic parameters I used for the data. There are currently 68 open and operating temples in the U.S., with another 12 announced or under construction (at least at time of writing, and at least if I counted right). For our purposes here, I exempted temples that are only under construction, since housing prices may vary after the temple is constructed (particularly if Lexi Khan's friend is right and temples are good for neighborhood house values). I also exempted the Salt Lake City and Gila Valley, Arizona temples, because both are built in locations with no houses directly across the street.

Now, about "across the street": availability of online real estate data varies by location, as does availability of houses for sale literally across the street from a temple. Likewise, while a house directly across the street from the temple might satisfy your needs for location, location, location, it might not satisfy your actual housing needs, while a house elsewhere in the immediate neighborhood might satisfy both. To try to solve these problem, as well as to standardize the data, I opted to use each temple's zip code rather than their actual address to find price data.

(A caveat about zip codes as a proxy for "across the street": actual area of zip codes varies quite a bit, from a single building to 1,000 square miles. In this sample, the average area for a zip code was 88.9 square miles, though if I removed the two largest outliers (Monticello, UT and Vernal, UT) the average was 48.4 square miles. The median was 22.6 square miles. Both of these areas are larger than "literally across the street," but many of the zip codes in the sample were only 5-10 square miles, and hopefully it should still be enough to give you an idea of typical house prices in those areas while still being a simple and standardized way to get the data.)

Now, on to the actual prices. I used zillow.com to find the median list price for houses in the zip code of 66 out of the 68 operating temples (again, exempting SLC and Gila Valley). zillow.com uses the median rather than the average because if it used the average a single very expensive or very cheap house could dramatically skew the overall picture of the neighborhood. [Another quick methodological caveat: using the median sale price would have been more accurate, but zillow.com didn't have that data for all the zip codes used and I wanted to be as consistent as possible.] Using the median list price for the zip code, the 5 most expensive temple areas and their house prices were:

  1. Manhattan, New York: $1,475,000
  2. Newport Beach, California: $1,450,000
  3. Boston, Massachusetts (Belmont): $689,000
  4. Los Angeles, California: $579,800
  5. Oakland, California: $569,000

No surprises there, really; those are all major metropolitan areas, which tends to make land values expensive, and those are all fairly urban temples (i.e. set right in the middle or very close to the very expensive cities). The Los Angeles and Oakland temples are older, built when land values were probably not so exorbitant in their areas, but the Manhattan, Newport Beach, and Boston temples are much newer (all in the early or mid-2000s). Those crazy real estate values are also why the Manhattan temple is simply floors within another building, not its own stand-alone building, since space is at a premium in Manhattan.

While we're on the subject of space, let's look at the data another way: price per square foot. This is a common way to standardize discussions of real estate values, since size and type of homes also vary widely across the country; in some areas, the house across the street from the temple is likely to be a 3 or 4-bedroom stand-alone single family residence with spacious backyard, while in other areas (such as Manhattan) it's likely to be an apartment. Evaluating by price per square foot, rather than just by the price of the home, tells you roughly what you're getting for the price. Here are the top 5 most expensive temple zip codes by median price per square foot:

  1. Manhattan, New York: $1,438
  2. Newport Beach, California: $571
  3. Los Angeles, California: $411
  4. Boston, Massachusetts (Belmont): $366
  5. Oakland, California: $363

Also unsurprisingly, it's the same 5 temples. Notice, though, that while the absolute house prices near the Manhattan and Newport Beach temples are similar, the price per square foot is much higher for the Manhattan temple, indicating you'd be getting a 2.5x larger house for the price in Newport Beach. (You'd also be getting much better weather and a view of the beach!) The order of the L.A. and Boston temples is also switched, meaning you'd be getting a larger house in Belmont, MA (the town where the temple is located) than in L.A. The price per square foot for the Boston and Oakland temples is also very similar, while the median actual prices are more than $100k higher in Belmont, so again, you'd be getting a larger house in Belmont than in Oakland. (Again, these are just medians, but having grown up in Belmont, MA and currently living in Oakland, CA, I can attest that Belmont, a posh suburb, tends to have much larger houses than Oakland, where many of the houses were built in the early 20th century and you're hard-pressed to find anything over 3 bedrooms.)

This is fun. Assuming you're not a millionaire, though, let's take a look at some of the more affordable temples. The top 5 cheapest temple zip codes, sorted by median home price, are:

  1. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): $70,000
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada: $78,000
  3. Columbus, Ohio: $89,600
  4. Columbia, South Carolina (Hopkins): $93,000
  5. Palmyra, New York: $94,900

It might surprise you that the Las Vegas temple area would be the #2 cheapest (it did me), but that's in part due to the effects of the housing crash, since the Las Vegas area was one of the hardest hit in the U.S. (I'm sure there are some other factors, too; I don't know the area well, so some of it may be the specific neighborhood where the temple is located, but I can't say for sure.)

Slicing the cheapest list by median list price per square foot, we see some different areas appearing on the list:

  1. Kansas City, Missouri: $57
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada: $59
  3. Columbia, South Carolina (Hopkins): $64
  4. Idaho Falls, Idaho: $66
  5. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): $67

The median list price of houses in the Kansas City zip code is $95,000, just off the top-5 cheapest list prices, but apparently those houses are bigger than Omaha's; same story for Idaho Falls. All this talk of house size got me curious: which temple zip codes are likely to have the largest median houses (calculated by dividing the median list price by the median price per square foot)? Here are the top 5:

  1. San Antonio, Texas: 3,211 sq ft
  2. South Jordan, Utah (home to the Jordan River and Oquirrh Mountain temples) : 2,969 sq ft
  3. Columbia River, Washington (Richland): 2,900 sq ft
  4. Houston, Texas: 2,844 sq ft
  5. Draper, Utah: 2,776 sq ft

I guess what they is true: everything is bigger in Texas, and if you want space, go to Utah. And the places with the (likely, median) smallest houses?

  1. Manhattan, New York: 1,025 sq ft
  2. Winter Quarters, Nebraska (Omaha): 1,044 sq ft
  3. Detroit, Michigan (Bloomfield Hills): 1,270 sq ft
  4. Brigham City, Utah: 1,277 sq ft
  5. Columbus, Ohio: 1,298 sq ft

Manhattan is there for obvious reasons, but I'm not sure about the others, whether that's actually representative of the size of houses in those areas or whether there's some fluke going on with the zillow.com data (which is based only houses for sale recently, so maybe there's some bias in the type and size of home currently being put up for sale). It could also be that the these temples are built in more urban or older areas, which tend to have smaller homes than newer suburbs. (I don't know the Winter Quarters or Omaha areas at all, but from Google Maps it looked like the houses immediately around the temple were older and smaller, and a little bird tells me the neighborhood isn't the best, though the zip code itself is fairly large (67 sq miles) and appears to cover most of Omaha, which should have evened out the neighborhood effects a little bit.)

If you're interested in playing around with this more or looking for a specific temple's data, I put my full spreadsheet online here. Have fun.  Lastly, just in case you only meant the Provo temple and you've been incredibly bored with the data about all these other temples, you can look at current Provo real estate prices here. There aren't any houses for sale across the street from the temple (in any direction) right now, but you can get some houses fairly close (within a block or two) for $250k (4 bed, 2 bath, 2,736 sq ft) or $370k (6 bed, 3 bath, 3,997 sq ft). And I must just have my Oakland real estate goggles on, because, wow those are cheap.

-Petra


P.S.: Thanks to Katya, who stepped in and provided some key info about where to look up the size of zip codes.

posted on 05/07/2013 1:57 p.m.
To help with Petra's excellent research about the temples-- I can add some info about the Detroit temple. Bloomfield Hills is a really expensive area to live in and the temple's kind of smashed sideways into a residential area. The houses there are fairly small because they're more expensive, although the further you go in Bloomfield Hills, the huger the houses get. And the Detroit temple is really not in Detroit at all. Good thing , too. If the questioner wanted to live across from a temple, Bloomfield Hills would not be a bad place, especially since the recession hit Michigan bad and house prices have halved.

-Grilled Cheese
Question #71911 posted on 04/08/2013 10:10 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Can you make some kind of bar graph or chart or something for all the categories on the Board? Like, how many questions for each category are there on the Board? Including the questions with more than one category. And if that's too much work then don't worry about it. But seriously that would be really fantastic if you did! Thanks!

-The Internaut

A:

Dear Internaut,

I did some hunting around to try to figure out what the best way to visualize the categories might be. The thing that makes it tricky is that (a) there are a lot of them (over 240), so a basic bar chart or pie graph isn't a great option, and (b) they're hierarchical, meaning that we have not just categories but subcategories, sub-subcategories, and so forth. However, after a while of researching I eventually stumbled across the idea of a Voronoi treemap [PDF], which looked ideal.

I had a fair bit of programming to do; I had to (a) get the information I needed about the categories, (b) actually use the the Java library I found for creating Voronoi treemaps [1], which is great but needs a program built around it, and (c) figure out how to use D3.js (a great JavaScript graphics library). I assigned colors for all of the groups of categories that had subcategories, and the deeper the subcategory, the lighter the shade. Top-level categories with no children are all just cream colored. (I also did the coloring manually, since I figured that for a small graph that was easier than implementing a coloring algorithm.)

Anyway, here you go! Due to some restrictions of the Board's current design I wasn't able to include an interactive version directly, but click on the image below to get a version with way more information: you can hover over each category to see its name and how many questions have that category. (Alas, it won't work with Internet Explorer 8 and below, but it will with pretty much anything else, including Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. You can also use an iPhone or newer Android; just touch a category to bring up the information, instead of hovering.)

Click the image and enjoy!

—Laser Jock

voronoi_treemap.png

[1] Arlind Nocaj, Ulrik Brandes, "Computing Voronoi Treemaps: Faster, Simpler, and Resolution-independent", Computer Graphics Forum, vol. 31, no. 3, June 2012, pp. 855-864

Question #71887 posted on 04/06/2013 10:40 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

The online version of the 100 Hour Board turns fifteen this year.

How has the Board changed since you first became involved with it?

In what ways do you think the Board will have changed in the next ten years?

What do you hope for the Board?

--Ardilla Feroz

A:

Dear Ardilla Feroz,

What a great question! And loaded too. There are quite a few questions like yours and probably the best place to start would be to search the archives.

You were totally waiting for that answer, weren't you?

I was at BYU in 1999 when the Board was in its infancy. So I've seen the thing go from the stone age all the way through the later versions of the Board. This current version is past my day but it's nice and still functioning and as long as nobody has to go and manually put HTML code around Board answers to be published online then the world is a great place. 

I have way too many memories. And don't ask why I still have photos like these (I'm kind of a sentimental geek so I'll save you the time), but I have past images of Board UI! Once upon a time the Archives looked like this... (eww)

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.09 PM.png

And the Ask a Question page looked like this...

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.31 PM.png

And then we decided to kill the Board and do an amazing new version before Christmas 2004, and Fractile had a little bit of fun with it...

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.10.18 PM.png

(The inception thing was a joke; yes we know how to properly use that word.)

And here is an example of byte cancer (I laughed so hard at all of these, but this is just an example of the page totally screwed up):

Screen shot 2013-04-01 at 9.13.30 PM.png


Have you check out the Board history? There's a lot of interesting stuff in there about the Board's past too. And not just mine.

My hope is that the Board will continue but that the writers will improve their writing and come back to the Board as it once was, people who loved answering questions for the love of writing and researching. I'll always love the Board because of my history with it, but the Board is only as good as its readers, and therefore its writers—else there be no readers. 

xoxo

Duchess

Question #71881 posted on 04/30/2013 11:16 a.m.
Q:

Dear Lady Christina de Souza,

It's the day after Easter, which means I'm sure you have mounds of Easter candy lying around. Like Peeps.

I personally hate Peeps, so I like to do strange things with them.

How many Peeps can you eat in 3 minutes?

What's the most fun you've had Peep jousting? (Pictures are great.)

What other weird things have you done/will do with Peeps?

-Tally M.

A:

Dear Cinnamon,

I actually was not given any Peeps for Easter, much to my dismay. My sister hates them (I usually ate hers every year -- after I stole them from her because she doesn't like candy but, more than that, hates sharing, so she'd stash everything under her bed and I would slowly steal it all when she wasn't home, but that's neither here nor there), so her kids didn't get any, either. That meant I had to buy my own.

Fortunately, Peeps are just the garnish called for in NPR's new and sugary drink called The Bloomberg: the sugariest drink in the world! I love NPR and my office used to do what we called "Culture Days" where we would bring in different foods to share, but we haven't done that in years. I decided The Bloomberg was the perfect opportunity to resurrect this office tradition. Let me get you the original drink ingredients and I'll note where we made some substitutions:

Ingredients:

1 part Coca-Cola

1 part Yoo-hoo [We just used Nesquik chocolate milk]

1 part Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino [We used Starbucks Vanilla Syrup]

1 part Red Bull

1 part Mountain Dew Kickstart, Mountain Dew's inexplicable new energy drink

1 part Pillsbury Funfetti cake frosting [We picked the pink color/flavor -- do they have flavors? It all tastes like sugar]

1 part Marshmallow Fluff

1 part Hummingbird Food (We actually couldn't find any, due to supply chain issues and a Divine Force protecting us.) [We did not add this, but put in extra sugar to make up for it]

1 part Mrs. Butterworth's pancake syrup

1 part aerosol whipped cream

1 part Kool-Aid [we weren't sure what kind of Kool-Aid, so we did the little bottled kind and a packet of the dry kind, just to be safe]

1 part Cadbury Creme Egg creme (You'll have to extract the creme yourself, because for some reason they don't yet sell it on its own. If you're trying to eat healthy, just use the Cadbury Creme Egg white.) [We put the whole thing in because, hey, why not?]

1 part Nutella

1 part sugar

1 part Country Time Lemonade Mix

1 part Gatorade (for fitness!)

Instructions:

Serve in a glass with a sugar rim. Garnish with whipped cream, a stick of Big Red gum and a Marshmallow Peep [I also got the coconut-covered marshmallows for those who don't like Peeps, because for some reason those people exist]. Be careful not to cry directly into the glass, as the salt of your tears will ruin the taste. [While we did not rim the glass (in actuality, it was a plastic cup) with sugar, we did add sprinkles, and, to be awesome, pop rocks to the garnishing]

As you add the ingredients one by one, you'll notice the colors are constantly changing, like a sunset.

20130408-KAC_9635.jpg

When you first read the ingredients you kind of think, "Hmm, that's probably pretty gross," but when you actually gather all the ingredients together (yes, all this for one drink!), you realize just how truly disgusting it really is.

The most fascinating thing is it really DOES change color like a sunset. It almost looks like a milk shake but with the consistency of maybe a milk shake that's separated into a watery part with a few floating chunks.

First, my roommate came by and, using her blender in my boss's office, we mixed up the drink.

20130408-KAC_9636.jpg

This is us at the beginning of mixing. So far we've added Coke, Kool-aid, chocolate milk, Nutella and the pink frosting.

20130408-KAC_9637.jpg

The adorable finished product with its whipped cream, Peep, Pop Rocks, sprinkle, Big Red garnish.

A few of the reactions we got were:

"It tastes like something my kids would make for me." or "It's like a kids cereal but in liquid form."

My boss thought it wasn't too bad, he even had seconds.

"I think the Kool-Aid is a little too strong? Maybe if it had more Nutella?"

"This is nasty? Someone seriously finished it?"

"It's like a Mexican soft drink."

Most of the "comments," however, came in the form of dry heaving.

20130408-KAC_9645.jpg

My brave roommate trying it. It's really not even a good texture. It's just all-over gross.

20130408-KAC_9648.jpg

My suddenly less-brave roommate looking for somewhere to spit it out.

20130408-KAC_9653.jpg

C4 gagging on it.

20130408-KAC_9662.jpg

The coworker who said her kids had fed her worse. She and my boss are the only two to actually finish the drink. The rest of us just threw ours away. What surprised me the most, however, was how many coworkers we actually got to try it (and I read them the recipe list beforehand). Peer pressure is clearly the most effective way to make things happen.

Pilgrim mentioned, but the Krispy Kreme brownies would have complimented this swimmingly -- but only based on the fact that they both were filled with sugar and made everyone who ate them sick for the rest of the day.

And then, because neither my roommate or I drink soda, let alone soda with caffeine, my boss, another coworker, Roommate and I decided to do shots of a Coke/Mountain Dew/Red Bull mixture. Which was...way better than The Bloomberg. It reminded me of the Coke factory where you can try The World of Coca-Cola drink trey with drinks from all these different countries.

I threw all the leftover ingredients away (I saved the chocolate milk for a few days because I love chocolate milk, but every time I looked at it, I'd get sick at the memory, so that went, too) and just ate the Peeps, which is what I should have done to start with. Peeps are perfect the way they are, they don't need dressing up.

Also, Roommate and I spent the rest of the day being nauseous and jittery. It was great.

-Marguerite St. Just

A:

Dear Tally,

Does this sound like an opportunity to have fun to you? Because it sure does to me.

SAM_1376.JPG

Peeps one through ten. Let the experiments commence.

We decided to sacrifice the first peep to a blender.

SAM_1377.JPG

The result was actually kind of unanticipated--a blended peep loses a LOT of its volume.

SAM_1378.JPG

Here's another view.

SAM_1379.JPG

And then we made it into a smoothie.

SAM_1380.JPG

The finished product.

SAM_1382.JPG

We kept it small, just in case it was nasty, but it actually ended up being pretty good. The nasty flavor of the peep was overwhelmed by the other ingredients, so it mostly just added a bit of texture. I could see myself eating it again.

SAM_1384.JPG

Thus ends peep #1.

Peep #2 was destined for a similarly gruesome fate.

SAM_1381.JPG

However, it was too sticky for the grater to actually shred it, and it basically just got mashed instead.

SAM_1386.JPG

Peep #3 was sent to the frying pan.

SAM_1387.JPG

While the pan was warming up, peep #4 met its doom.

SAM_1388.JPG

And, I should note, I almost did too.

SAM_1389.JPG

It's really a shame that my facial expressions can't be expressed with a paper bag. That was truly nasty.

Now, back to the fried peep.

SAM_1392.JPG

Add heat to a peep, and it grows.

SAM_1393.JPG

And grows.

SAM_1394.JPG

And grows.

SAM_1399.JPG

As soon as we took it off the heat, it shrank back down to a fraction of its original size.

SAM_1400.JPG

Despite the nasty appearance and the coating of olive oil, it was actually kind of tolerable. Fairly caramelized.

And now peep #5 makes its appearance.

SAM_1395.JPG

It shall go the way of the egg.

SAM_1396.JPG

Doesn't this look painful?

SAM_1397.JPG

Here are the results.

SAM_1401.JPG

The pieces were separated and sent out as warnings to all other potentially rebellious peeps.

SAM_1402.JPG

Having made an example of peep #5, we then turned our attention to peep #6.

SAM_1403.JPG

For being so sensitive to heat, this peep proved remarkably hard to burn.

SAM_1405.JPG

Multiple attempts left it match-riddled but largely unscorched...

SAM_1407.JPG

...until we finally gave in and broke out the hairspray.

SAM_1408.JPG

It still only partly burned, but we called it good.

Peep #7 was sentenced to death by crushing.

SAM_1409.JPG

And duly executed.

SAM_1410.JPG

But it only sort of worked.

SAM_1411.JPG

He inflated almost halfway up again after we took off the pressure.

SAM_1412.JPG

So, being pragmatists, we just cut it in half.

SAM_1413.JPG

Peeps #8 and 9 were sent to the jousting arena.

SAM_1414.JPG

We didn't have toothpicks, so we used two tines of a fork instead.

SAM_1415.JPG

The goal of peep jousting is for one peep to stab the other with its weapon.

SAM_1416.JPG

My money's on the one-eyed peep.

SAM_1417.JPG

And the winner is...

SAM_1418.JPG

The one-eyed peep! Let's get a closer look.

SAM_1419.JPG

This left only peep #10.

SAM_1420.JPG

And we were out of ideas, so I just stabbed it.

SAM_1421.JPG

And displayed the carcass.

SAM_1422.JPG

There you have it! Ten peeps, slaughtered for your enjoyment. I hope you had fun. We certainly did.

-yayfulness and Saint Seb

Question #71841 posted on 04/07/2013 8:34 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I am the asker of Board Question #58033. I LOVED reading Dragon Lady's answer, especially the updated style of storytelling and the easy to understand explanations of Jewish customs. Since this weekend is temporarily bringing back some of the retired writers, I was hoping she would be available to tell another bible story (or several!). I don't have a particular story in mind, though.

So, Dragon Lady...if you're there, would you tell me some more of your favorite Old Testament stories in your own special style??

-me again

A:

Dear me again ~

You definitely just made my week.  Thanks!  When I was at the Jerusalem Center, I used to help people study (we had to know pretty much every name in the Old Testament.  Not even kidding) by telling the stories in modern terms.  It helped that I would tell one person who would spread it, and then others would come ask me, and I would end up telling the same story 3-5 times.  By the time I got home I had grand dreams of writing a book of Bible stories in modern-day language.  But then I realized how much pressure there would be to get things correct, and really, I'm not much of a true Biblical scholar.  I know more than most, but not enough to be considered an expert by any means.  So that dream faded.  So thank you for giving me the chance to do this again.

I debated and debated what story to tell.  My first choice is Tamar in Genesis 38.  When you read that chapter, you leave horrified, wondering how in the world you are ever going to explain that chapter to your children in family scripture study.  Should you just skip it?  You don't even really understand it yourself.  But there is a purpose to it.  I wrote an exegesis on it my last semester of school.  But if you follow the links through the question you linked to, you can actually get to said exegesis.  Would it then be a cop out to write about it?  But it's definitely the scripture story I know best and can tell you the most culture about.  And I love teaching people the principles behind it.  Plus, who ever clicks through links?  (Also, I just realized that the permissions for it were set to private.  Oops.  So no one has read it yet anyway.  I've fixed that, though, so if you want to read the actual thing, you can.)  And lastly, it's written in more of a scholarly tone.  If you're looking for a friendly tone, I guess I'll just have to re-write it here.  [grins]

Ok, ok.  If you still think it's a cop out and want something different, I'll tell you another short one at the end.

Genesis 38: Judah and Tamar

You read the story I wrote up about Ruth, right?  If not, go read it. In the middle I sidetracked a little and talked about Matthew and how he's a man writing for men (err… Jew writing to Jews) and never talks about women.  Except that he's the one that lists women in his genealogy.  (Not Luke who is a gentile writing to gentiles and is the Gospel writer to include most of the stories we have about women.)  Why?  Because he's about to tell the story of the virgin birth, which he's pretty sure is going to be rejected and ridiculed as a woman breaking the Law of Moses.  So he starts by specifically pointing out three women in their genealogy who appear to break the Law of Moses, but are really bringing about God's will.  I already told you about Ruth, and honestly I've never studied Rahab (maybe I should do that someday?), so let's talk about Tamar.

When you read this chapter you probably read something like: Judah has a son who marries Tamar.  Son dies.  Next son marries Tamar.  He does something immoral that makes me squeamish and can we please not talk about it?  He dies.  Dad freaks out about all his son marrying Tamar dying, so he procrastinates letting his third and last son marry him.  He sends Tamar to her family and promises that when his son comes of age, he'll send for her.  He doesn't.  So she dresses up like a harlot and seduces him into sleeping with her (not knowing that it's Tamar) and gets pregnant.  He finds out she's pregnant out of wedlock and sends her to be killed until she reveals him as the father and he declares her to be righteous.  The end.

No wonder you're so confused.  How is that story supposed to be uplifting?  Why is in the scriptures?  What am I supposed to learn from this?  Sleeping with my father-in-law without his knowledge makes me more righteous than he?  Whaaaaat? Once again, knowing Jewish culture clears up a lot of confusion.  It fills in gaps.  So, let's start filling.

Judah, son of Jacob, leaves home and marries a Canaanite.  (Note: this is equivalent to marrying a non-member.) She bears him three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah.  Er, being the oldest, gets the birthright of his father.  He carries on the family name, he gets twice the inheritance of any of his brothers, including job, land, house, etc.  Birthright is a big deal in Jewish culture.  Er marries Tamar (the heroine of our story) and before they have any children, he does something very wicked, so God kills him.  

Now we have a problem. Who gets the birthright?  If Er had had a son, the son would get it.  Without an heir, the birthright transfers down to the next son, Onan.  Guess which option Onan prefers. 

Unfortunately for Onan, the Law of the Levirate (which I talked about in the Ruth story) requires him to marry Tamar (even if he's already married to someone else!)  Any children he has with Tamar will be considered Er's children.  So if any of those children are male, Onan no longer gets the birthright, because Tamar's son with Onan is considered Er's son, and thus gets the birthright.  Guess how much Onan likes this option.

Well, as the Law demands, Onan marries Tamar.  Onan, however, does not want Tamar to bear any children that might potentially rip the birthright away from him.  It would be a drastic decrease in wealth and status.  And as you can probably tell, Judah isn't exactly raising his children to have strong standards.  Onan, being a selfish man, isn't about to not sleep with Tamar, though.  He's legally married to her and still wants the pleasure of sex.  So he decides to have the best of both worlds.  He sleeps with her, but then just before he ejaculates, he pulls out of her and lets all of his semen spill out.  Pleasure without responsibility.  Any guesses how God feels about Onan right now?  Yeah.  Not pleased.  Not pleased at all. One more of Judah's sons has now been killed for wickedness.

Judah and Shelah are now both freaking out a little.  Two sons/brothers have married Tamar and soon after, both have died.  (I'm guessing they don't know the details of the deaths, but even if they do, they don't seem the type to really believe in punishment for sin.  Plus, it's so much easier to blame the outsider, innocent that she may be, than your own family.)  If Judah lets Shelah marry Tamar (which the Law of the Levirate demands), and if tradition follows and Shelah dies, Judah is now left without an heir.  He would be shamed forever.  What kind of a man doesn't have an heir!?  Shelah is also scared to death.  He doesn't want to die!  Luckily for both of them, Shelah is still young.  So Judah tells Tamar that Shelah is simply too young for marriage.  "Why don't you go home to your parents? You'll be more comfortable there.  Let them take care of you.  I'll send for you when Shelah is older."  Of course, he doesn't.

Let's talk about the Law of the Levirate a little more.  Why is this even a law?  Clearly it just causes problems.  Why would God put a law into place that clearly causes contention?  Well sure, it causes contention if you only look at the men.  The men, who want to provide for their families and do so in the best way possible, want the birthright and they want to fight for it.  It's understandable.  But what about the women?  What happens to Tamar if Onan is allowed to just have the birthright?  Back in the day, women don't have very many rights on their own.  Tamar can't just go out and get a job.  She can't even go fall in love with another and get married.  For one, not many people would marry another man's wife.  They'd rather have someone "unspoiled."  For two, until she runs out of Er's kinsmen, she's still connected to that family.  (Though, that's only because of the Law of the Levirate.  So I fear we're getting into circular reasoning here… moving on.)

When a woman gets married, she becomes part of his family.  Judah now has more rights for Tamar than her own father does.  Sending her back to her own family is actually kind of a slap in the face.  Judah is responsible for taking care of her.  She, on her own, has no rights.  This may seem incredibly unfair and sexist, and maybe it is.  But ideally, God's chosen people are all family-oriented and wonderful, loving people, so they'll put their family first and take care of them.  Oh, there's a widow?  Let's help her out. Just like if we saw an orphan, we'd happily help them eat and sleep and have clothing and an education.  The Law of Moses includes several commands to take care of the widows.  This very-patriarchal system has a major flaw if the patriarch is removed.  So laws like the Law of the Levirate are in place, in part, to help the widows (and any possible female children she had with her first husband) have a husband to provide for them.

Also, remember how I said the birthright was a big deal?  Well, so is the firstborn.  The firstborn is very, very symbolic to Jews.  Well, and to Christians.  We know it's because Christ is the firstborn of God, so all of the firstborn symbology is representative of Him.  (The Jews don't yet realize that.  But they will.  Don't worry.  Ok, they realize it's symbolic of the Messiah.  They just don't realize that's Christ.)  The firstborn male of every female animal is sacrificed.  The firstborn male of every woman technically should be, following that law, but is instead replaced on the altar by an unblemished firstborn male animal.  (Because we don't want child sacrifices here.  That's against the Law of Moses.)  So ideally, the birthright should go to the firstborn male.  Not just because we're all male-chauvenist pigs in an archaic, backwoods culture, but because the firstborn male is symbolic of the Messiah.  Thus, while the second-born can have the birthright (because someone needs to), it's in place as a last resort.  Ideally it should go to the firstborn son any way possible, hence the Law of the Levirate.

Whew.  Got all that?  So, quick recap of Tamar's story: she marries Er who erred (haha.  I'm punny.  But actually, it's punny in Hebrew, too.) and is killed for his wickedness.  So she marries his brother, Onan, who wants sex without giving away his birthright, so he's also killed for his wickedness.  Instead of following the Law and giving Tamar his youngest son, Shelah, to marry, he sends her away until Shelah is old enough, with no intention of ever sending for her again.  Now we're caught up.

Tamar, remember has no rights.  She is living off the charity of her parents.  Imagine being a grown woman, widowed twice over because of the wickedness of your two husbands (who you probably were given no choice in marrying in the first place), then being forced to go live in your parents' basement until a child is old enough to marry you.  Oh, and you're not allowed to get a job.  You have to live off your parents' charity.  Even worse, you're only living on your parents' charity because your father-in-law, who is supposed to supplant your own father in love and responsibility, has decided he hates you and is scared to death of you and has sent you away.  Feeling bad for her yet?

So poor Tamar is stuck at home, waiting on the whims of her selfish father-in-law to give her any semblance of rights, and after years of waiting, realizes that Judah has no intentions of ever fulfilling his duties.  Not only is he leaving her in a hollow husk of a life, but he's denying her children.  She was supposed to be the wife of a birthright son.  She was supposed to raise children to continue on the family.  Perhaps she even loved Er and wanted to give him children.  She should still be given the chance to do so, but it has been denied to her repeatedly.  And given all of that time to do nothing but think, she probably also realized that, barring her death, Shelah will never be allowed to marry, and thus Judah's line is basically terminated.  Not only will she never have children, but her new extended family is basically at an end.  Maybe she's even heard the prophecy that the Messiah is supposed to come through Judah's line.  (I don't know if she had or not.  This is just speculation.)  And family is another big deal to the Jews.  Judah has effectively stripped almost everything of value from Tamar, temporally and spiritually.  And perhaps has doomed prophecy itself.  Yipes.

Tamar then realized that she can't wait on Judah to make the right decision.  She has to take matters into her own hands.  The plotting begins.

Meanwhile, Judah's wife dies.  Having little shame or self-respect (you can probably guess my opinion on Judah, can't you?) he waits out the prescribed mourning period, then moves on with life.  A flock of his sheep are being sheared in Timnah (which happens to be where Tamar resides (or near it), which probably explains how Tamar knew the family to begin with) and he decides to go with a friend*.  Tamar hears that Judah is coming and comes up with a plan.

Did you know that anciently, a woman's clothing was based on her station in life?  There were clothing for a maiden or unmarried woman/virgin (which, incidentally, is how Nephi probably new that Mary was a virgin when he saw her in his vision), for a married woman, for a widow, for a prostitute, etc.  It's like a way more complicated version of an engagement/wedding ring.

Tamar takes off her clothing of widowhood and dons the clothing and veil of a prostitute.  (Of course she wears a veil.  She doesn't want Judah to recognize her, after all.  In fact, what prostitute wants to be recognized?  Most of them are relegated to it because it's the only way available for a woman to make money.  If they have no husband, they have no way to provide for themselves outside of prostitution.  It's shaming.  And another reason people are supposed to take care of the needy! And proof that the people are being wicked and not taking care of the needy.)  She goes to the road where she knows Judah will be traveling, sets up her tent, and positions herself in an alluring manner.

Judah, upon seeing Tamar, is immediately tempted.  He has no wife, after all.  He wastes no time and propositions her to sleep with him.  She asks what he's willing to pay and he promises to send for a goat.  Uh huh.  Like a prostitute is going to accept promises.  So Tamar agrees, so long as he leaves collateral.  Deciding that's fair, Judah asks what she wants.  Oh, not much.  Just his seal, cord and staff.  Or, in modern terms, his signature, credit cards and driver's license. She basically asks for his identity. Clearly Judah is letting his lust talk, because he agrees to the deal and they go do their thing.  Judah leaves and goes on with life.  Tamar packs up and changes back to her widow's clothing, returning to her miserable life.  But her plan succeeded.  She conceived.

Judah finishes up his sheep business and heads home.  He sends his friend back to the prostitute with the promised goat and to receive his stuff.  Prostitutes generally set up camp in one place for awhile, because their best advertisement is word-of-mouth.  When the friend gets there, though, he can't find her.  And when he asks around, no one has any recollection of seeing a prostitute around.  She had just disappeared.  Judah considered his options and decided it was best to just let everything slide.  He could have a new seal, cord and staff be made, after all.  And, really, he had tried to pay her.  If she tried to demand more of him, he had witnesses to prove that he had, in fact, tried to pay.

Three months later, Tamar can no longer hide her pregnancy.  (Turns out, she's pregnant with twins.  Those show a lot sooner.) Word reaches Judah, who is furious.  How dare his daughter-in-law put such shame upon his family?!  As she is not married, she must have committed some form of adultery.  This looks very bad upon his name.  Hypocrite. Now, you remember how by being her father-in-law he has more rights over her than even her own father?  Well, he has the right to punish her for her adultery.  Do you know what the punishment is for adultery in the Law of Moses?  Death.  Seeing a way out of both the shame she shadowed him with and the inevitable marriage of her to his last son, he sentences her to burn to death.  Lovely man, wouldn't you say?

Tamar lets everything happen for awhile, she doesn't want him to be able to worm out of responsibility after all.  As she is being led to her death she sends Judah a message asking if he wanted to know who the father was.  Of course he did!  The more people he can put the blame on, the less shame is on him!  So she tells him, "Here's some stuff that belongs to the man who got me pregnant.  Perhaps you can recognize who they belong to."  And of course, they're his.  It doesn't say so, but I'm guessing there were witnesses to the whole event.  Executions and such had to be witnessed to be legal.

Ohhhhh.  Take that, Judah.

Finally Judah recognizes the hypocrisy of the whole situation.  In trying to preserve and protect his posterity and birthright, he denies the only chance of its fulfillment.  By so doing, he forced Tamar, who was also trying to preserve and protect his posterity and birthright, into desperate measures to circumvent the law in order to fulfill it.  And then he tries to punish her for taking those desperate measures, when he does the exact same thing, but for pleasure instead of for righteous reasons.  At that point, he had no choice but to revoke her death penalty (had he carried through with it, he would have had to sentence himself to death as well anyway) and to admit that she was more righteous than he.

We don't know if she ever married Shelah.  We do know that Judah never slept with her again, though.  She later gave birth to twin boys, though, so she was no longer left helpless and penniless.  She was now the mother of the birthright (grand)son and could take possession of the birthright in his name until he was old enough to claim it for himself.  And it was through her line that Christ was born, as told by Matthew hundreds (thousands?) of years later.

 

*or his shepherd.  The consonants are the same in Hebrew for a long time the text had no written vowels.  It wasn't until Hebrew stopped being a commonly spoken language that the Massoretes decided to add the vowels to the written text, so it's possible that it got voweled wrong.  And really, I think 'shepherd' makes more sense here.  Is it more likely that Judah would go to a sheep shearing with his friend or his shepherd?

 

2 Kings 2: Go up, thou bald head

Ok, you think telling that story was a cop out?  Ok.  I'll tell you another, much shorter (though probably not short) story to clarify another oft-misunderstood (yet morbidly funny) scripture.

You read: Elijah has been the prophet for awhile, but God decides to twinkle him and makes Elisha the prophet in his stead.  Elisha, newly-anointed, starts making the rounds.  He gets to Jericho and the people complain to him that the water is gone and the ground is barren and they're all going to die.  Would he kindly help them?  So he tells them to bring him a new bowl full of salt, which they do, and he throws the salt into the spring and the water was healed and the land saved.  Hooray!  And then as he left and went to Beth-el, some spoiled little kids come out and mock his baldness (and what man isn't touchy about that?) so he swears at them and calls upon two female bears to come out of the woods and eat them.  42 children dead at the touchiness of a bald guy.  And then he goes on his way to Mount Carmel, then Samaria.  The end.

Ummm… again.  Wha-aat?

Let's try this story again, with more detail from culture and Hebrew.

Elijah has been the prophet.  Everyone knows and loves him.  When he is taken up to heaven, his mantle (a coat of animal skins, basically) falls off him and lands on Elisha, symbolically showing that the mantle of the prophet now lays upon him.  That physical representation is important to show his authority from God.  So Elisha goes around, doing his duty as a prophet and is asked to heal the waters of Jericho.  Which he does.

Have you ever stopped to consider the ramifications of that act?  The water is gone (or poisoned or somehow made unsuitable for humans), yet people are still there.  How are they drinking?  Bathing?  Washing clothing?  Water is essential.  If there is no water, there is no people.  I don't know if you realize, but Israel is a big, giant desert.  If the water disappears, the people won't last more than a few days.  Luckily, though, Jericho is right next to the river Jordan.  In fact, the spring we're discussing here is probably one of the springs that feed the river, as the river Jordan's head is right there by Jericho.  There are still people, so there is still water.  Probably from the river.  So how is it getting to the people?  Where there is a need, someone will find a way to make money.  A bunch of young men (I'd guess the number to be near 42) see a business opportunity and start hauling water for payment.  The river is probably far enough away that most people wouldn't want to make the journey themselves, as they have plenty of other things to keep them busy, so business is booming.

And then along comes Elisha.  And rips the rug out from under them.  In one bowlful of salt, their income is gone.  Would you be pleased?  They sure weren't.  "Wait, so you're saying they're mad at him so they call him… bald?  And he's petty enough to send she-bears to eat them for it?"  No, no.  That's not at all what I'm saying.  Remember the mantel Elisha is wearing?  The one made of animal skins?  The physical symbol of his priesthood and authority?  By calling him bald, they're really calling him hair-less.  Or rather, they're denying his authority as a prophet.  They're telling him he doesn't have the mantle of a prophet.  They are denying his priesthood and authority.  And, as is the Old Testament way, God kills them for their wickedness.

"But, but, Dragon Lady!  It says they are little children!  Surely God wouldn't kill children!" Nope.  Wrong again.  Look at the footnote of "little children" in verse 23.  In Hebrew, the word is youths.  Not little children.  Chances are, these are boys in their late teens and twenties.  Possibly a few in their thirties.  Boys that are largely of marrying age.  These aren't spoiled kids who are poking fun at an old balding man.  These are responsible adults (yes, late-teenage boys were considered adults) who are calling down the prophet of God and denying his authority because of their own selfishness.

Takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?  Either way, I would suggest refraining from calling President Monson bald.  Just sayin'.

~ Dragon Lady

Question #71797 posted on 04/01/2013 1:52 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I would like to know if this is possible. If it is, can you please calculate it for me?
My goal: Find out the cumulative elevation increase of all the hills I drive up on my way to Boise from Provo. I don't mean subtracting Boise's elevation from Provo's elevation. I mean adding up all the hills I drive up to give me that elevation, without subtracting the downhill elevation.
Hopefully this makes sense. I realize this may not be possible at all, but Board writers often surprise me with cool talents and abilities.

Thanks,
Cleph

A:

Dear Cleph,

My idea was to make a WalkJogRun route. To make one of these routes, you click on each turn you make, creating a route with lots of little legs. So I clicked away until I created a 385 mile route from Boise to Provo with 187 legs.

 staticmap.png
 
WalkJogRun has a nifty little feature that shows you the elevation changes over the course of your route. The really handy part is that it adds up all the ascents and descents for you (hooray!).
Question #71761 posted on 03/31/2013 12:28 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I would research this myself but the associated triggers are too much for me to handle, so I wonder if you would be willing to help me with just enough information that I can not sound completely stupid when talking to a professional.

Please help me understand how Avoidant Personality Disorder relates or does not relate to Autism Spectrum Disorders. Could a child be misdiagnosed as an autism spectrum kid when he really has this personality disorder? Could an adult be misdiagnosed with this personality disorder when he is more properly diagnosed with Aspergers? I sense that Spectrum disorders are firmly based in biology (= nature - genetics and epigenetics), while this personality disorder sounds like it may have its roots more in childhood trauma or PTSD (= nurture). Am I wrong?

Thank you for your efforts. If you don't feel comfortable answering these specific questions, if you could give me some idea of the type of professional I could call; that would be a satisfactory substitute answer. You should be aware, I am only a distant cousin to any relationship with BYU, so I don't qualify for any BYU associated benefits.

-wife of one, mother of the other?

A:

Dear wife of one, mother of the other?,

First of all, the type of professional I think you should call is somebody with a PhD in clinical psychology. Here's a handy place to start. Clinical psychologists are expensive, but they are the people that everyone else in the field defers to concerning diagnoses, assessments, and the exact nature of each of the disorders covered in the DSM. Speaking of the DSM, you could go down to your local library or bookstore and read the informational sections on both of the disorders you mentioned, as the DSM contains all kinds of information about all of its disorders.

The DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, is psychology's attempt to give the full picture of a person's mental health. The DSM divides these concerns onto five axes like so:

Axis I: Acute symptoms or more transient conditions (depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, etc.)

Axis II: Long-term, mostly stable disorders that are more resistant to treatment (personality disorders and mental retardation)

Axis III: Relevant medical conditions or disorders

Axis IV: Relevant psychosocial and environmental factors

Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning score (0-100)

In older versions of the DSM, the autism disorders were categorized on Axis II. The current version, the DSM IV, moved the autism disorders to Axis I. This is perhaps a positive change in professionals' point of view when it comes to treating autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, because Axis I disorders are typically much more treatable than Axis II disorders. The thing, though, is that there should not really be any misdiagnoses that cross over the axes. Oftentimes, Axis II conditions will cause or influence Axis I conditions. For example, an individual's narcissistic personality disorder (Axis II) may support their development of alcohol dependence (Axis I) or another individual's self-destructive symptoms associated with their borderline personality disorder (Axis II) may cause their development of an eating disorder (Axis I). In both of these cases, however, both of the diagnoses would exist, and neither would be a misdiagnoses. The idea that an Axis I disorder could be misdiagnosed as an Axis II disorder or vice versa is an interesting one, because it would suggest that the diagnosing psychologists could not distinguish between more acute conditions and more pervasive ones.

Perhaps because of this, neither of the disorders you mention popped up as probable misdiagnoses of the other diagnosis. In an Advances in Psychiatric Treatment article, the differential diagnosis (meaning a list of other possible disorders that have to be ruled out before a diagnosis can be made) of Asperger syndrome included other pervasive developmental disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, ADHD, OCD, depression, and a handful of medical disorders, but no Axis II disorders. Most differential diagnoses of avoidant personality disorder include other personality disorders. Some of them do include panic disorder with associated agoraphobia, which is an Axis I disorder, so that is interesting, but there was no mention of any of the pervasive developmental disorders that I found.

Next, let's take a look at the symptoms. Asperger syndrome is defined as:

(I) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

(A) marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction

(B) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

(C) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interest or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)

(D) a lack of social or emotional reciprocity

(II) Restricted repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(A) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

(B) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

(C) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

(D) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

(III) The disturbance causes clinically significant impairments in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

(IV) There is no clinically significant general delay in language (E.G. single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)

(V) There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction) and curiosity about the environment in childhood.

(VI) Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Avoidant personality disorder is defined as:

A pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by four (or more) of the following: 

(A) avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection 

(B) is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked 

(C) shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed 

(D) is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations 

(E) is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy 

(F) views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others 

(G) is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

The most obvious difference between the two is the motivation involved. The social behaviors associated with Asperger syndrome appear to arise out of a lack of understanding or interest, whereas the social behaviors associated with avoidant personality disorder appear to arise out of fear and shame. I imagine that psychologists seeking to make a diagnosis would measure this based on the client's report of the presenting problem. Do people's social behaviors befuddle them, which impedes their own functioning, or is their functioning impaired by their extreme fear of rejection or ridicule? Both of these disorders can appear in early childhood so that makes this self-reporting more difficult, but these are still situations that the diagnosing professional should have watched for. The other obvious difference is the requirement of repetitive or stereotyped interests or behaviors for a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. A person could not be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome unless they demonstrated some repetitive behavior or extreme focus on one activity, and these behaviors would be unusual at best with a diagnosis of avoidant personality disorder.

All of that said, is there significant similarity between how behaviors could present with the two diagnoses? Absolutely. If a child is unwilling to meet your eye line, avoids peers like the plague, or obsessively reads books while never engaging others, it could be difficult to surmise what their motivation is. If there is any doubt, I think it is always best to seek a second, third, fourteenth, or fiftieth opinion.

As a note, anybody who says that they know for 100% sure what causes any mental disorder is incorrect. All of them are still up for debate. Your assessment of the causes of one disorder versus another seems rational enough and I would not be surprised if you were correct. However, there is evidence of a genetic predisposition for personality disorders and, like I say, no one knows for certain yet.

One more thing: In the DSM V, which is slated to come out in May (finally!), there will likely be no more Asperger syndrome. The thought is that autism, PDD, and Asperger will all go under the umbrella of autism spectrum (AS) which will be rated as a spectrum. It's an interesting idea.

Call that clinical psychologist, and good luck.

- The Black Sheep