Friday, December 08, 2006



Sorry it has been a while. I have seriously been buried at work since like, June. But since September it has gotten even worse. Thanksgiving was the only break, and other than that one project I was telling you about, I just kind of sat around and did nothing for the whole holiday. It was like a week full of Labor days. Labor day is my new favorite holiday because it is the holiday with no strings attached. You don't have to give anything away, or go somewhere, or dress up. You just hang out. That's what I did over Thanksgiving as much as possible. Anyway, I’m on a plane from Boston to Charlotte, then over to Dallas and I’ve decided that I’m going to pound out as many of these letters as possible to update this blog. I also have some stuff I really want to post about on the Texans for Mitt Romney blog but I haven’t had time to type it up. I’m burned out dude. It’s all the corporate hooey, it can really be a drag sometimes.

The other day I was reading Orson Scott Card’s weekly column in the Rhinoceros Times. I’ve mentioned it to you before, the name of the column is Uncle Orson Reviews Everything. Over the last couple of years that column has been one of my favorite things to read. It’s where I’ve learned about cool books (like Johnathan Strange) new foods to try out, movies to catch, movies to avoid and all sorts of things. This last week he mentioned some books to give as gifts for Christmas. A family friendly book he recommended was Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, which apparently has been selling quite well since it was published.

Immediately I launched an investigation, because it turns out that I know a Brandon Mull. I mean, obviously I don’t know him that well, but he would recognize me if we met, and he knows my name. And I know enough about him and his family to give them an unqualified vote of confidence. I’ve had enough glimpses up close to know that they’re the real deal. You know, good, solid, cool people. How many people can there really be out there named Brandon Mull anyway? As it turns out, the (maybe correct) answer to that question is:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Anyway it is the Brandon Mull that I know, and I was very happy to hear the news of his successful book, but also a little bit envious. One of my goals to write a book that gets published and sells a ton of copies. But still, good for him, you know. That’s awesome. It was surprising to me what a flood of great memories the news brought back to me, and I figure while I’ve got all these good vibes in my head, I should get them down.

The last time I saw Brandon was outside the Tanner building at BYU. I had just received a root canal earlier that day. We exchanged a few brief words and parted ways. That was like, back in 1999. Not a good year for me. It seems like a long time ago. If I had to guess, I would have said Brandon had gone on to be an engineer or a doctor or something. I suppose I wouldn’t expect any of my acquaintances to produce art that makes it mainstream. (Except Hubbel Palmer – keep an eye on that guy)

I first met the Mull family when I was in a freshman at Westlake High. I was a freshman like you are now, and Brandon was a senior. We only lived in Westlake Village for one year; you don’t remember it because you were just first born. People used to joke that it was cute how we shaved your head, because none of us Bryners grow hair for the first 18 months. It turns out that my current home teacher Dave Simmons graduated from Westlake High the same year as Brandon. I don’t know if they knew each other though. I didn’t know Dave even though we were in the same ward. You know how there is kind of the barrier between freshmen, and seniors. There isn’t that big of an age difference, but when you’re a freshman you think everybody else in school is so much older than you. And cooler too, I thought Brandon was WAY cooler than I was. He used to hang out with this guy – Larry Bagby – who would do these performances in school assemblies. In fact, Westlake High was an awesome school. I remember one of the school assemblies some of the students who had a band performed ‘Enter Sandman’ before Christmas Break. “Do you guys like Metallica? – Well this is ‘Enter Santa’!”

Just in case you don’t recognize the song, here’s a video:

Maybe the biggest reason I knew Brandon is because of Boy Scouts. Brandon’s Uncle Tuck was the scout master. And I think Brandon even went to scout camp that summer when we moved in to that area. It was a 10 day summer camp, and it was very fun. It was the first time I ever played speed, hearts, spades, or BS with face cards. For a few short months there I could play speed like a zombie. On that campout we went exploring, canoeing, and had a great time. There were something like 10 scouts in our troop at the time. We had church on Sunday up on this big plateau with a great view. It was the first time I did church outside, and I really liked it. When I went through the Eagle board of review, in the interview I talked about having church that year up on the plateau.

When Mom was dropping me off for camp that year, Tuck showed up late. We had just moved in, so we didn’t know anybody. Mom commented to one of the men standing there that the scoutmaster seemed pretty flaky if he couldn’t even show up on time to take everyone to camp. The man replied that actually Tuck was an incredible person, and began to tell Mom about all sorts of cool things about him. Tuck was an attorney, he won this award and that award, and he volunteered to do such and such, so on and so forth, yada yada… The man kept going on and on about the cool things about Tuck when finally Mom asked how he knew so much and it turned out that Mom had been talking to Cy – Tuck’s father. I mean seriously Mom. If you’re going to criticize a person behind his back, at least have the sense to make sure you’re not talking to the guy’s father. But that’s how Brandon’s whole family is. They are kind and warm people who back each other up. At least ninety five percent about everyone you meet is good. My experience with Brandon’s family is that they pretty much choose to focus on the 95% good, and let the rest go. I’m sure everyone in their family has lumps and bumps, but I don’t know about any of that. By the way, I remember Tuck the way Cy described him. Maybe Tuck was late a lot, or kind of flaky, or something…but I definitely don’t remember anything like that. That guy was always good to me.

When I was a freshman at BYU, the cool comedy club was called ‘The Garrens’. The Garrens was an improv comedy troupe named after Deseret Towers’ (the dorms) Q Hall (where I lived) resident supervisor – Sister Garren. For the record, if you decide to go to BYU, don’t live in Deseret Towers unless they’ve been rebuilt. Now that I have more of a facilities background those buildings would not be safe to be in if there were ever an earthquake or something. Anyway the Garrens were really quite good, and I liked going to their shows. A lot of talented people were in the Garrens like Lincoln Hoppe, Katie Fillmore, and Eric Snider. Sometime between my freshman year in 1995, and when I got back from my mission in 1998 the Garrens had been eclipsed (in my opinion) by a group called Divine Comedy. My friend Anne had tried out for divine comedy and was in it. The Garrens did improv sketches, but Divine Comedy put together very funny skits, and they had great songs. Brandon Mull was in Divine Comedy, and almost every time I went to one of their shows, someone, or several people from their family were there to see the show! I saw Tuck, Kim (aunt), I think I saw Cy there once. Summer (sister) was pretty much always there.

I looked Brandon Mull up on and there is a link to his siblings Summer and Bryson. I was in scouts with Bryson. He’s about a year younger than me. His myspace account says he is currently a police officer in Sandy Utah. I don’t know how Utah does it, but they do an awesome job of attracting talent to their police force compared to other states. I have never encountered a police officer in Utah that didn’t act in a professional manner, even when dealing with difficult people. They all behave in a way that you would expect public servants to behave. There is a huge contrast between police in Utah, and police in states like…oh… Kansas City, or St. Louis.

Don’t know what’s up with Summer. She and I are the same age, her birthday is either the same as mine, or one day away, and out of all the Mull kids, I probably know Summer the best. I had a huge crush on her back in the day. In 9th grade I always wanted to go talk to her, but hardly ever did because she was ‘so cool’. It was a big mistake for me to assume that she wasn’t approachable back then, because she is an approachable person. And she really is that cool. She’s one of those people who not only is cool as an individual person, but she also increases the coolness of those around her. If she were a dungeons and dragons character she would increase the charisma, hit points, and magic in her whole group. My friend Kenny and I went over to her apartment one time and she had this study group going for her world religions class. Her whole crew was having a great time quizzing each other with flash cards, and joking about the professor’s Asian accent. He had told the whole class: “You are very blessed.” (but with an Asian accent) and they were all laughing about it. I think the last time I saw Summer, I was about to go work at Anasazi, and she was about to go on a mission. I think…

Things I gained from knowing the Mull siblings:

Make a sincere effort to focus on the positive in others – you’ll find it

Give people around you permission to be themselves

Don’t underestimate those around you – they’re better than you know

Well, I’m sure you would love for me to ramble on some more about people you don’t know. But I can’t; its time for me to turn off all electronic devices and put my seatback in an upright position.

Word to your Mother


Sunday, October 22, 2006



Have you ever wondered how many other people out of the 300,000,000 people in America have the same name as you? Well now there's a way for us to find out:

Here's the results for me -
LogoThere is:
person with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Here are the results for you:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Word to your mother




I just read a great post when I was perusing through some homeschool blogs. I liked this one at O'Donnell Web.

Here's the list:

How to talk to your boss.
How to survive a meeting that’s poorly run.
How to run a meeting.
How to figure out anything on your own.
How to negotiate.
How to have a conversation.
How to explain something in thirty seconds.
How to write a one-page report.
How to write a five-sentence email.
How to get along with co-workers.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Winning The DARPA Grand Challenge


I don't know if you've heard about this, but it is extremely cool. Watch this video and this guy will explain how his team at Stanford University designed a car that drives itself with no human intervention.

Here is a summary:

Google TechTalks
August 2, 2006

Sebastian Thrun

The DARPA grand challenge, technical details enabling Sebastian Thrun's win, and an introduction to the next phase called "The Urban Grand Challenge".



We've talked before about the reasons why you should start up a club in your high school. It would take initiative, but it would be easy. I think a good club would be a microcredit awareness club. It's a great idea to make the world a better place, and it doesn't take much to get started. You could sell donuts in the cafeteria at lunchtime to raise money, and loan the money on Seriously, go to the kiva website and see for yourself. It doesn't take much money to change people's lives.

It would be EASY to get school permission for something like that.

I've also talked about Muhammed Yunus with you before. I'm not sure if you heard, but he recently won the Nobel Peace Prize!!! If you haven't read the book Banker to The Poor, you should, and use it for a research paper you have to write sometime.

Here's a short video of them announcing that Mr. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I was so happy to hear about this. Last year was the UN 'Year of Microcredit', and this year Muhammed Yunus wins the Nobel Peace Prize. It's about friggin time.



Wednesday, October 04, 2006



Here is a pretty cool video for you. It shows you how to fold a t-shirt in like, 3 seconds.

You could fold the t-shirt in 10 seconds, but don't you have something better to do with your life?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006



I just read a great article by Orson Scott Card about homework. I know, I know, it sounds just totally interesting to you, and you can hardly wait to read it. Would it help if I told you he's kind of anti-homework?

Here's the link.

My favorite paragraph:

Here's another reason some teachers hate homework -- and stop assigning it: Their own kids reach school age and start having to spend hours a night doing meaningless assignments. Both books record this phenomenon. Teachers who are also parents become quite skeptical of the value of homework when they see how it steals time from and ruins their relationships with their children.

Anyway, if you've got time you should check it out


Sunday, September 24, 2006


Dear Samuel,

I originally saw this on Marshall Brain's blog. But since I'm going hog wild putting video up on this site I thought I'd just post the video here. You have to admit this is cool! This video shows how to make a key that will open any lock using that particular blank. I haven't gone to the effort to make one of these. One of these days...

Anyway here's the video.

Have a nice day




I'm having a great time checking out and finding cool videos to embed into this blog. Remember in a previous post I told you that the reason Vanilla Ice became uncool was because he was trying too hard to be cool. Vanilla! Just chill dude. Quit trying to convince everyone you're cool. We like you!

Well maybe Jim Carey also had something to do with it.

Favorite line:
What's your real name? Robert VanWinkle.. Why did you change it? Cause nothin rhymes with Winkle!





Okay, I was going to post this last night, but I got sidelined. I figured out how to embed videos onto these posts, and I went back and found a bunch of videos and embedded them in previous posts.

Then I got sidetracked watching clips like this one from the greatest sitcom ever: "The Office"

I never claimed to be a perfect person Samuel. I don't have perfect focus. I can't raise or lower my cholesterol at will.

Anyway, I haven't forgotten about some of those links. Don't take this seriously, but when I read it I thought it was pretty cool.

You can find all the rest of the links from the link above.



Thursday, September 21, 2006


Dear Samuel,

Nice talking to you today, happy birthday by the way. Sorry we had to cut our conversation short. I was trying, unsuccessfully to get my boarding pass for a flight on AirTran airlines, and they had to help me out at the desk for like, 20 minutes and when I called back the line was busy.

Thanks for the feedback from this site. I was actually surprised that the post suggesting ways to study was your favorite one. I assumed that the business idea posts would have been your favorite ones. But that’s just me, I was so obsessive about money at your age. I don’t know why.

But I’m glad the study suggestions were interesting to you because good grades are important. A lot of people will tell you that they’re not so important, but those people are wrong. Only one person in my entire childhood communicated to me that I should get straight A’s. Uncle Lowell. He got out Barbara’s report card, and showed it to me. He pointed out that all her grades were A’s, and told me that Barbara always got straight A’s. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get grades like this.” One time I spent a week at their house when Mom and Dad went on a cruise and I was kind of surprised that they expected me to sit down and do my homework. When I was frustrated with doing my Algebra, one of the older cousins sat down and helped me through it. That rarely if ever happened to me as I grew up. Dad used to say that grades were a big joke and you pretty much have to jump through hoops to get them. He was right about that. Unfortunately I concluded that it wasn’t important to jump through the hoops. If I would have jumped through the hoops back then I would have it a lot easier in college. It is important to get good grades.

Why is it important for a person like yourself to make the extra effort to get good grades?

The same reason it is important for you to get your Eagle Scout. People constantly evaluate each other based on different criteria. One way adults (who rule the world) evaluate teenagers is by their grades. If you have straight A’s, it says that you are bright enough, and hard working enough, with enough initiative to successfully work within a system (like the school system). If you have really good grades it doesn’t mean you’re the smartest person in the school. It means you show up, you do a good job, and you’re consistent. If you can do those things you’ll be successful at pretty much everything you set your mind to doing.

I have some friends who I’ve invited to participate in this blog. All of them are more qualified than I am to describe what it takes to be successful academically in school. Of course they’re all very busy people. But one of these days one of them will chime in with a different point of view.

Anyway, I’ll talk to you later.




In the next several years, our society has a lot of tough problems to tackle. One of those problems is the need for clean, sustainable energy. Probably the toughest energy sector is the transportation sector where individual cars dominate the landscape. Some people think it may turn into a big problem for us, some don't.

Here is a link describing a cool technology developed to tackle that problem (Hat tip to R-Squared):

These guys supposedly have developed a new kind of battery made out of ceramic materials that can hold huge amounts of electrical energy, and re-charge in just a few minutes. If this is a real technology there is little doubt that it would take over the market in a big way, very quickly.

Actually, technically it isn't a battery. It's an ultracapacitor. Whenever something new like this is announced, my first reaction is to be skeptical. But if it is real, it will change the world.


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