Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trip to Bridal Veil Falls

Yesterday Meagan and I went to Bridal Veil falls to see the autumn colors. It was a beautiful morning and we had a wonderful time up there. Here are some pictures, an example of the good influence Meagan is on my blog (they were all taken by her).

iPod tenth anniversary review of iPod touch 4 and iOS5

Well its been 10 years since the iPod was first released and it seems appropriate for me to write my review on the iPod touch 4th generation and the new operating system iOS5 today. First though just a few reflections on the iPod: I remember the first time I heard of an iPod, Gordy was telling me about an amazing new gadget that Bro. Weber had, it played music and all the music, a seemingly unlimited amount, was stored directly on it, there were no cassettes or CDs to switch out, it was all right there in the palm of his hand. I remember going down to the foyer at church to see it. I was pretty impressed let me tell you. But it wouldn't be until my freshman year of college that I would finally acquire my own, my first iPod and the only one I have ever payed full price for was a nano 3rd gen. In the intervening years from the time I saw Bro. Weber's first iPod until the time I had my own I would poses several Palm Pilots and mp3players, but the iPod touch finally brought these two items together for me and the 4th gen just improves on that.
Although the 4th gen has been out for a year I only recently acquired one last Saturday for well below retail through BYU's lost and found sale. I quickly updated the OS to iOS5 which was released a few days before. The improvement was quite remarkable to me, but that may be because I was coming from a iPod touch 1st gen running iOS3, so I got all the hardware improvements at one time. The external speaker, the side volume control, and the microphone are all nice, but the best hardware improvement from the original touch is the front and rear facing cameras. The say the best camera is the one you have with you and the 4th gens camera is far superior to the one on my cell phone, plus it shoots video as exhibited below. Other hardware changes are the more responsive touch screen and what seems to me to be a much faster processor. All of these make for a better experience (although I loved my 1st gen and it was very use full).

The software changes are also great. Because I could never update to iOS4 on the 1st gen some of the software changes like multi-tasking have been around for over a year but I didn't have them. I really like the new notification center which is unobtrusively lets you know when you receive messages or updates. This way if I'm making flash cards and Cousin Jamie solves my word in hanging with friends I am not interrupted by a large blue box but just a simple notification in my status bar which will I can then drag down to access. Another old feature that is new to me is pretty simple but really nice, that is the ability to make folders on my home screen to organize my apps. I have a lot of apps and previously I've had to scroll through page after page of them to find what I want. In iOS5 there are several small feature updates that just make things a lot nicer. The calendar app in particular has been improved so that there is a landscape mode to view multiple days at once, and you can now just click on a time to start and entry, this all makes it much more convenient. One of my favorite updates to iOS5, which I've been waiting for since I first got an iPod, is the ability to create and manage playlists and photo albums on the iPod instead of on a computer, it is just much more convenient. Over all its been a great improvement to have the new iPod with the new OS.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Technology dichotomy

In this last general conference I noticed a theme emerging which we've heard about before but which is becoming increasingly important. This theme is the dichotomy between the good and bad of technology. A certain hesitancy is often found, especially among the older members of the church, when a new technology emerges. They wait, as is often proper, to see the way the brethren are leading on new issues, at time decrying them without instruction. I think we all remember the days of YouTube being blocked on campus and the bishops teaching that FaceBook was the realm of Satan. Now there church owns their own YouTube and posts to my news feed everyday, and missionaries in my mission teach lessons on FaceBook.
The work of the Lord moves forward through new technology, but those that worry about it are not without basis for this belief, both YouTube and Facebook have been used to send terrible messages and illicit material, MySpace was essentially a creeperfest, and text messaging has become a physical addiction for some people. This is why we have prophets and apostles now, so that as the world changes we can know how the an unchanging God wants us to act and react.
The church has always been at the forefront of using technology, Music and the Spoken Word is the longest running broadcast of all time, General Conference was transmitted via telephone, radio, television, and satellite as soon as those technologies were available, prophets were among the first to make audio recordings of themselves, the Church owns its own T.V. stations and produces its own smartphone apps (in fact they were producing apps back in the days of PalmPilots), and while I was reading the Ensign yesterday (on my iPod) I found QR codes are being introduced to it for the first time.. So we shouldn't necessarily be surprised at the developments of these recent conferences.
Because technology is becoming such a part of our daily lives we need to know what is expected of us in relationship to us. I'm so glad the apostles are speaking on it. This past conference was the first, I believe, to include a web address posted to the screen. This was during Elder Bednar's talk to the youth on family history as he encouraged them to use their technological skills for this great work. He told the youth that "Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation." In the second mention of tweets and texts in a single session of conference Elder Arden of the 70 gave this warning "There is much that is good with our easy access to communication and information. I have found it helpful to access research articles, conference talks, and ancestral records, and to receive e-mails, Facebook reminders, tweets, and texts. As good as these things are, we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text." This echoes Elder Bednar's own prophetic voice from a few years ago when speaking to the young single adults. Here's a video from YouTube on that:

This is a real danger, I spend most of my life on a computer, I have an iPod (4 actually), a cell phone, and a kindle. Everyday at work I see people so absorbed in the electronic that they no longer know how to interact with human beings but treat you as part of a machine that will spit out smoothies for them. Especially those of us of the rising generation have got to learn how technology must be used correctly. We can't just hide under a rock, pretend to be stuck in the 1980's and not use it, its to valuable a tool for the spreading of the gospel, imagine if that had been done with print or broadcast media? No, we have to use it, but we have to use it correctly, and we better figure out what its about so we can teach our children. All of my younger siblings use iPods, iPads, and kindles. They have no idea there was a life before we had computers in our homes. If this group is not taught how to control technology it will destroy them, but if they are taught to harness it for good it will cause the gospel to be spread faster than ever before.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I'm lazy, make me your leader

"Some men are born leaders, some become leaders, and some men are too lazy to do anything else" to paraphrase the blessed playwright.
After taking the leadership of my PR class group in an unintended coup, I was brought to ponder on the things that make a person a leader. Having spent most of my life leading in one group or another, sometimes formalized and sometimes not it has caused me to wonder why. I mean what really makes somebody a leader? Some people may think it has to do with being willing to do everything, but I contest that it is exactly the opposite. I believe that the amount of time I have spent leading is directly related to my attitude of not wanting to do anything, or at least not to much of it, in other words, my laziness. The abilities required of a leader flow naturally to those who are lazy. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't mean lazy in the sense of sitting on the couch watching television, no these people are involved, that's what puts them in these situations to begin with. But we are lazy when it comes to long term application of advanced skills. We like to learn, but in a lazy fast kind of way. As a result of this we of this type tend to have a wide variety of amateur skills. The only areas the excel in are organizational and communication skills.
These skills are not in spite of but in fact are in response to our laziness, we need to be organized in order to work the least amount possible, the faster we can get things done, or the longer we can push them off means the more time we have. And what do we do with all this time once we have it? We socialize, hence expanding and improving our communication skills.
This leads us to an important point, there are a lot of highly skilled people in many areas that because of strong work ethic have developed master level skills in their field, but as a result of the time spent have lost their ability to communicate with others and to see their skills fit into a broader picture. This is where lazy people come in, the non lazy people won't make assignments because they don't have the socicommunication skills to do so. The lazy people will make assignments because every assignment you hand out means one assignment you won't get and because you've made friends because you had time to, people will listen to you. And so we see why lazy people fall into leadership roles, and oddly enough it works. The organizational and communication skills carry the day in the end bringing together specialized individuals, by someone who has just enough random knowledge to know whether things are getting done or not. I'm lazy, make me your leader

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Of Pianos and Popcorn Poppers

Hey folks, I'm back, I'm gonna try and get back into this blogging thing. I don't know if I will be detailing weeks all the time again. This time I'm going to do a topical post.
One day this past week Anna and I were at Gordy's house for dinner and we turned to talking about two of the most important Nielsen traits: popcorn poppers and pianos. This was mostly brought on by two of Gordy's friends coming to steal popcorn from his much beloved stir crazy and that Meagan and I had delivered Anna's piano to her after general conference. Like some kind of genetic trait or an early inheritance these two items have followed every Nielsen to leave the yellow house on West Sunset Drive. They are distinctly Nielsen, separately you rarely find them among college students, but in pair it is never found except in the offspring of David and Bonnie. Anna and I had actually talked about it earlier that week and then we found ourselves explaining this phenomenon to Gordy's friends when they asked if we also had stir crazy popcorn poppers. We explained that yes, we were Nielsens.
While this is humorous in that it is interesting and true, it has caused me to reflect on the true character of being a Nielsen and the legacy we follow. The mere fact that we carry these items with us wherever we go has a reflection on the things we just can't live with out. We have pianos because music is ingrained in the very core of the worst pianist amongst us (me). We all took piano, it wasn't an option it was just something you did. Music and extremely powerful tool and we were all taught how to make it. If there was one cardinal reason we were taught piano I would have to say that it was so we could serve, the church will always need pianists and mom thought we should be prepared in case that was us. We've all played for church meetings (even myself), and of course the other three have often served in callings involving the piano or organ (Anna is currently). Music was always prevalent in our home, and I think we can consider it one of our greatest blessings there. This of course extends back beyond the single dormer home in Akron, it stretches back to our Grandparents and what they taught and had taught to mommy and papa that prepared them for us. Truly we follow a legacy as our pianos follow us.
The Popcorn popper is also an item that says something distinct about the Nielsen culture and values. Why a popcorn popper? What made the stir crazy such a central part of the Nielsen childhood? Its simple really, there were a ton of us, and we are mormon. The ton of us means that we naturally fell to a food that was simple, tasty, and cost effective, something we didn't have to worry about dividing 8 ways because there would always be more of it. The mormon part meant that we kept food storage, so we order popcorn 500 pounds at a time and kept columns of it in 5 gallon buckets in our basement. It was a food that showed the importance to us of a shared family experience because we could gather together and all eat popcorn as we played games or watched movies. Many people we meet know popcorn only as something they had at the theater, but we knew it as part of the sustenance of daily life.
In short I think this pair P words represents four core values we've taken with us out into the world: Faith, Family, Fun, and Frugality. These have been a driving and carrying force to the four of us in our adventures away from home.