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Posts Tagged ‘personal experience’

  1. I’m Not Weird . . . Just Extra Fruity

    March 4, 2012 by Ryan

    Before I begin, a quick note: If you read this and think that I am telling a story about you, please know that this story is not judging you . . . it’s about revealing my weakness of character. You are only the means I use to reveal much more about me. So relax and enjoy.

    Not long ago, and relatively not too far away, I was visiting the home of some fairly normal people. Before the visit, in fact, I thought they were actually very normal – well, I guess if I ignored the fact that they once lived in a city with a population of 100, 000 other normal people. Something happened though, and they chose to move to a city of 7,000. After a few years of drinking the water there, they decided to escape that bustling metropolis and move again to another town of 2,000 people. But other than that, they were really pretty mainstream.

    It was then that they told me that they had recently started buying a special fruit basket every other week. I think this was some sort of ‘farmer’s market’ variation where they order a basket of fruit and vegetables online, and show up at a designated parking lot on a certain day and time, and pick up their produce. Except that it doesn’t actually come with a basket – they have to bring a box or a trunk or a covered wagon or whatever they use in their tiny town to put their food into and transport it home. And the other thing – they really don’t know what they are going to get when they sign up. They find out when they show up to pick it up. Which brings up the other great feature of this program: they ended up with more variety and quantity of fruit and vegetables then they know what to do with.

    A quick aside: Does anyone know any good recipes for kohl rabi or mooli radish that I can pass along to them?

    Finally, they claimed that this was the best thing they had done in a long time. They were saving so much money on their food budget, and they were trying new things that they wouldn’t have otherwise and didn’t believe they would ever enjoy.

    The proud and haughty skeptic in me slowly turned off and tuned out with each testimonial they offered. Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll just go to the grocery store and buy my salty, fatty, pre-packaged foods, thank you very much. This sounds like some far-fetched multi-level-marketing thing to me. I already signed up for the U-Check grocery store scam, and that didn’t exactly work out. I’m not signing on to go to a parking lot to meet a basket case with fruit.

    This, I hastily decided, was simply too bizarre and unbelievable.

    Some days later, with a calmer mind prevailing, I was thinking of this experience again. I even ventured to look at the website for a moment. Not that I was going to sign up for myself, mind you… so that I could, out of love and concern, research and understand what kind of crop-circle cult these good people I know where now part of. That’s when the little voice in my head that sometimes speaks inconvenient truths spoke to me: “Some people think that some of the things that I do are unconventional too.”

    “No!” I immediately argued back with myself – of which, I might call attention to, holding conversations with oneself is not eccentric. Then I found myself quoting Doctor Otto Scratchansniff of the Animaniacs: “That’s not normal! I know normal!” But the voice inside began citing examples anyway.

    First, I hit myself with the thought: “I wake up early on Sunday morning, and spend a good 8 or 9 hours at Church every Sunday.” Now, wait a minute – three of those hours are part of the regular worship service. Wait, three hours for the worship service? That’s not exactly normal for most people. The rest of the time is spent in volunteer service acting as the clerk for the congregation. Uh, huh, normal boy, keep talking… because everyone else in the nation gets up early on Sunday mornings to devote that kind of time on a volunteer basis. Once a quarter, I take a turn cleaning the Church too. Most recently I scrubbed the toilets and mopped floors while the rest of my family took care of cleaning windows and chalkboards, and vacuuming halls and floors. Odd!

    Alright, so I’m not winning the argument of normalcy with my church attendance patterns. What else have I got? The inner voice responded next by quoting lyrics from the great boy band “Sons of Provo”:

    “People tell me ‘That’s funny to give a tenth of all your money.’
    But I do it no regret, cause of all the blessings that I get.”

    Admittedly, the fact alone that I am singing songs to myself by Sons of Provo might earn me a label in the categories of both bizarre and creepy. But giving a tithe to the Lord makes perfect sense to me. He gave me everything anyway, and it is a simple test of my faith to see if I am willing to part with a portion of what is His anyway. That’s perfectly normal. Uh, huh. In your world, sure. But in that world of 100,000 people your friends used to live around, not so much.

    How much debt do you have, normal boy? Um, that’s kind of personal, don’t you think? We are the same person, aren’t we? True. So how much debt have you got? I’ve got the house payment, which we have been trying to pay down extra principle payments to take care of that as quickly as possible (maybe we can stay on track to even have our 30 year loan paid off in 15). The cars are paid for. The credit cards are zero. And there is a little bit of savings in the bank for an emergency. You call that normal? How many of your neighbors can claim that? I doubt very many of them. That’s what I thought, Mr. Dave Ramsey.

    What about your alcohol consumption? None. Tea? I once had some homemade peppermint tea that my dad brewed up. I see. Coffee?  Interesting that you should bring that up… on my visits to South Carolina with work, I carry around a cup of ice cubes to get going in the morning, while everyone else has coffee. I smiled and thought that was … amusing. (this time my inner voice didn’t say anything – just nodded and smiled as if I was proving his point for him).

    Alright, alright. So buying and eating healthy fruits and vegetables is normal and wonderful to them. I’ll admit it… it seemed unusual to my perspective, but it is not all that strange. Happy now?

    The voice didn’t respond. I think I was punishing myself with the silence.

    OK, I’ll apologize to them for rolling my eyes at the dinner table when they brought it up.

    Nothing.

    Fine! Where on this website do I enter my blasted credit card?


  2. Spinning My Wheels

    April 15, 2011 by Ryan

    Remember cassette tapes?

    They were an invention that was made of two wheels (or spindles). Around one spindle was wrapped a metallic film. It fed through a plastic shell, and came around a track to connect to the other spindle.

    You’d put this clever cassette into a “cassette desk” and press play. The spindle that didn’t have the film wrapped around it would start to turn. This would cause the magnetic film to become taut, and would begin to pull the film. In turn, that would cause the other spindle to turn as the film rolled off of it, worked through the device, and back onto the first spindle. In the meantime, somewhere in the middle, a magic magnetic reader would watch the film as it passed, interpret the magnetic information, and would send music to connected speakers. It was remarkable, really.

    With these tapes, you could choose what order your song played by pressing a button labeled “Fast Forward.” The spindles would go faster. Some players would let you listen to the audio, which now sounded like a talking chipmunk.

    The whole idea of a talking chipmunk is kind of silly, if you think about it. Chipmunks can only talk in Disney cartoons.

    You’d forward to the next song, and listen to that. Or, if I didn’t like that one, I’d forward to the next, listening at high speed.

    If you wanted to hear the same song again, you’d press the “rewind” button. This would reverse the process, putting the one spindle in “neutral” and causing the other spindle to spin.

    Being technologically advanced, I used to own a duel-cassette deck. I’d use it to make my own “mix tapes”. In one deck, I’d put a blank, recordable cassette tape. In the other deck, I’d put a music tape in and fast forward to the beginning of the song that I liked. Then I’d simultaneously press “record” and “play” on the other deck’s controls. I think I had to press “Play” because it drove the motor to move the spindle, and of course “Record” because I wanted it to capture what it could “hear” in the other tape deck.

    Because the songs on the tapes were always in the same order, I developed a “memory” side effect. After I’d hear the tape in sequence several times, my brain would start to associate the order of the songs. If I heard the song in another situation (such as over the radio), when the song ended my brain would expect to hear the next song from the tape, and I would even start to “play” the tune in my mind.

    Soon compact discs appeared in the mainstream. They didn’t wear out with use, and they had scientific laser beams to read digitally recorded information. I got me a new player that could play CDs and record them to tapes (so that I could still listen in my car).

    The feature that won many people over was the “Random” button. It would decide what song to play, and in what order to play it.

    Which worked well unless you were listening to an audio book, where going out of order was not such a good feature.

    CD players grew and soon let you load multiple CDs into one machine. Then the random feature could span multiple albums.

    Those got replaced by MP3s and MP3 players. Now, the digital information on the CDs could be turned into a computer file, and many CDs could be loaded onto one device. Since my car still has a cassette tape deck in it, I’ve purchased an adapter. It is something in shape of the cassette tape. it has a wire that leads to a CD or MP3 player’s headphone port. It still has two spindles, although they don’t do anything expect spin with the tape deck motor. Instead, the audio signal was fed directly into the tape deck’s magnetic reader.

    So even with my new and modern technology, even after all these years I’m still spinning my wheels.


  3. A swimming tale

    January 14, 2010 by Ryan

    The local city recreation center offers a beginning swimming class for young people, and we enrolled our daughter in one this last summer. The class was a Monday – Thursday class, running for about 45 minutes each day for two weeks.

    It turned out that there were two members of the four-student class who were not interested in learning. After continuous disruptions during the first day (which I’ll describe in a moment), the girl ran out of the pool, through the locker room, and was outside the building before she happened to be intercepted by her mother who was coming to pick up the kids. By the second day it became clear that they were going to be so disruptive that it would inhibit our daughter and the other student from learning what they came to do.

    I prepared a letter for Glorajean to turn into the recreation center. She printed it, and carried it with her to class on the third day. It read:

    Dear Recreation Center Director,

    My daughter is enrolled and currently attending the 10:00-10:30 A.M. Swimming Lessons for Preschool Levels 1-3. She is enjoying the class, and her teacher, Paul, appears to be excellent, from what I am able to observe from upstairs. However, my concern is that two of the students, a brother and sister, are very disruptive to the class.

    In my observations on Tuesday, these two students will not stay put when Paul repeatedly asked them to. The older one ran out into the water, causing Paul to interrupt lessons with another student while he went off to retrieve the insubordinate pupil. The other continued to run around on the stairway and deck in the corner area of the pool, despite being repetitively warned not to. The instructor did the best he could to keep the class moving forward, but with frequent interruptions created because of these two children. This caused the other two students, including my daughter, to miss out on instruction that she desires to receive and that we paid tuition for her to take part in.

    Let me be clear that I do not fault the instructor in this. It appears that he is capable and doing the best he can while dealing with two students who act unruly. I also understand that this class is merely to provide basic swimming techniques and instruction, so I carry no unreasonable expectation or aspirations beyond that for my daughter’s participation. My concern is for my daughter and the other student, who are not getting the attention they desire because of the potentially dangerous behavior of the others. If the disruptive pupils are merely coming for babysitting purposes, perhaps they should be removed from the pool area – for their own safety and for the benefit of those who have come to learn, and instead be babysat in a quiet and less exciting area of the building.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

    (signed)

    My commentary on the letter:

    Paragraph 1: To be clear, this happened in the past. At this time, she is no longer “enrolled and currently attending.” I didn’t write about this and post it on the Internet while the class was ongoing.

    Paragraph 2: “insubordinate pupil” is my favorite phrase of the entire letter. I just hoped that the letter would eventually be shown to the mother of these two, who would read it, and exclaim “they called my kids a what?!” and then have to look in a dictionary to find out what it means.

    Paragraph 3: “I also understand that this class is merely to provide basic swimming techniques and instruction, so I carry no unreasonable expectation or aspirations beyond that for my daughter’s participation.” I added this sentence because I foresaw that if the mother of the students ever saw this complaint, she would immediately dismiss it by thinking “well those stuck up parents are expecting their daughter to come out of the class winning gold medals and are just looking to blame me because she is not excelling yet” – nope, our expectations of the class are mentioned so that excuse won’t fly.

    “removed from the pool area – for their own safety” See how I have concern for them and their safety. Ain’t I sweet?

    There was one more thing I wanted to add, but didn’t quite know where to fit it in. It would have been, “If these children are permitted to remain disruptive to the learning of others, I will seek out a refund of class tuition to be paid back – not by the recreation center (who is doing everything in their power to provide a fine and safe learning opportunity), but personally by the parents or guardians of these hoodlums.” Well, I hadn’t worked out the exact language yet, but it would have been something like that.

    So how did the story work out?

    On that third day, with the letter tucked into her bag, Glorajean decided to wait until the end of class to see if anything changed before she turned in the written complaint. Much to her surprise and relief, the two students were moved that day to a different class… a class that featured instructors, one serving as instructor and the other as baby sitter. So my literary masterpiece never saw the light of day, until today.

    Where was the parent?

    As near as we could tell, she was across the street jogging on the exercise trail. While the kids were learning to swim, she was taking her “personal time.”

    Did their behavior get better?

    On Monday and Tuesday of the second week, the kids were absent. Amazingly, all classes at the pool went very smoothly.

    On Wednesday, mom and kids were back. A substitute teacher happened to be filling in for their class, and the mother advised the substitute, “Don’t let her leave early; she’s a fast one.” The substitute didn’t put up with their misbehavior.  A director came and removed the kids from the pool.

    Glorajean just happened to be in the right place at the right times to witness a couple interesting scenes. First, the return of the mother from jogging. She did not find her kids in the pool, and asked around. When she learned that her sweethearts had been removed from the pool, she was furious. With her kids in each hand, she argued enthusiastically with the director about the unfairness of taking her kids out of the pool, when she had clearly paid the enrollment fees to have her kids instructed in swimming (and on and on). The director was being firm, explaining the safety of the children and other patrons of the pool was of prime concern, and his words were going in one ear and, unobstructed, right out the other. After dressing and moving toward the exit, Glorajean happened to witness the mother arguing with another (apparently higher up) official of the recreation center, with much the same arguments. How could they? Why? What did they do to deserve this? I paid good money, and not for this kind of treatment!

    On the final day, Thursday, the kids were back, and back at it again. Mom was missing in action, away jogging so that she would not have to witness her children’s educational experience. The kids were just as rambunctious as ever.

    The moral of the story? Jogging Mom should have hired a babysitter, because I’m quite certain that the kids got nothing from the class. Unfortunately, do to her entitlement mentality, neither did anyone else. Except I’m certain that every baby sitter in her area knew about those kids and either wouldn’t take the job or raised their rates too high to afford them.


  4. No Comment

    December 5, 2009 by Ryan

    I apologize for not having time to write more often. It is hard to do so when I spend most of my time deleting spam comments.

    If you have never been an administrator for a web site – even as small as this one is – you’d be amazed at the volume and wide range of comments being offered to my articles.

    Some just go for the sell. They offer their products, plain and simple. I like those honest and direct approaches. I see them for what they are, and can delete them without a second thought.

    Others go for flattery. They tell me how much they admire my work, and want to know if I write professionally (Really? You liked “Would you like to take a survey?” that much?!). They hope that I will continue expounding on the topic (especially popular is “Dear Senator (hic) yew r stup ud sissy… (hic)”), asking me to continue writing additional articles about it, and they promise to bookmark my page. I can usually spot when they are fake, but occasionally they seem pretty sincere. A few times, I have actually went to check them out to see if they are really linking to me. One tax attorney said he would blogroll me on his site, but I could not find the link when I went there. However, an automotive website linked to a new post of mine within a couple minutes after it appeared, and they did indeed have a link back to my site. Our topics were completely unrelated, and as I looked further, I found that they linked to just about every other WordPress powered site in the world-wide-web too. Then my ego was deflated again. Sure that they were just looking for a “ping-back” I deleted their comments too.

    The latest effort though is to tell me jokes. So far, the jokes have been clean and funny.

    Where does a one-armed man shop? At a second hand store.

    What do you call a bunch of dancing pebbles? The “Rock”ettes.

    Who is Dracula’s favorite person on the baseball team? The bat boy!

    What do you call a bee born in May? A Maybe.

    What did Adam say on the day before Christmas? It’s Christmas, Eve!

    What do you get if you cross a setter and a pointer? A pointsetter.

    When a girl slips on the ice, why can’t her brother help her up? Because he can’t be a brother and assist her too.

    Why do Vampire have to brush their teeth? Because they have Bat-Breath.

    There – now I suspect that the spam bots are looking for those jokes to be posted, and when they see them, they will send more spam. (So I hope you enjoyed them, because I just created more work for me)

    Anyway, that is just one interesting aspect from behind the scenes of a web site.


  5. Sister Friendly’s True Holy Ghost Stories

    October 28, 2009 by Ryan

     For my non-Mormon friends, I’ll begin with a translation guide.

    Primary – the organization of junior Sunday School classes, which include singing time and group instruction for children under 12. It is divided up into “Junior” and “Senior” primary at about the 7 year old level, in theory so that activities can be geared to age appropriate levels.

    Sharing Time – the group instruction time held during Primary class time. Often teachers and Primary leaders trade turns presenting this lesson each week.

    The Friend Magazine – official church publication for Primary children ages 3 – 12

    Calling – members serve in volunteer positions within the Church. The Bishop and his counselors direct who should serve in what positions, and issue callings to these positions. When calling assignments are changed, the members of the congregation are asked to thank the person for their service or approve them for a new calling by a show of hands.

    Ward – another name for congregation, divided in a geographical area. 

    Sunbeams – class name of the three year-old group. Their class song explains the name with the lyrics “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day….” Since they are the youngest group in Primary, I’ll pick on them a little in the story.

     

    As newlyweds, my wife and I were given our first church assignment, which was to teach the 5-6 year-old class in Primary.

    We were soon introduced to the concept of “Sister Friendly.” In this ward, they called a sister to teach a Sharing Time lesson to the kids once per month, presumably taking her material from The Friend magazine (thus the person and position was called “Sister Friendly”). We were later told that this idea had once been widespread throughout the Church, but apparently been discontinued years ago in every ward except for ours.

    Sister Friendly had a tough job. Teaching Sharing Time was a difficult thing for me to do once a year, and so I didn’t envy her. But sometimes the lessons she choose didn’t seem “age appropriate.” For instance, her crossword puzzles were probably a big hit in the Senior Primary, where the kids knew how to read. But in Junior Primary, the Sunbeams just colored the boxes, not understanding what she was talking about. The teachers each talked their class through the answers, about the words and the concepts, and helped with the spelling. 

    Then came the unforgettable lesson of October 2001.

    A new Primary President had been called only two weeks earlier and was conducting today. She wore a smile plastered on her face to hide the confusion of her new calling. Apparently she had not been impressed with the reverence that the youngsters exhibited the previous week, because she made a special emphasis this day on being reverent and listening very well. She introduced a new concept to the Primary children – if they were becoming noisy or inattentive, the pianist would start playing a song. If they heard the particular song, they would know that they needed to pay more attention.

    Very soon thereafter, it came time to invite Sister Friendly to come up and present Sharing Time.

    Click. The lights went out. The room had plenty of outside windows, so it was still well lit. Thinking a child had flipped the switch, everyone turned to the back to see who it was. To our surprise, we saw that Sister Friendly had done so.

    She began walking up the isle to the front of the room. In her hands were some objects – a flashlight? something wrapped in a tissue? As she walked, she asked the kids what special event was coming this month? Several voices responded with “Halloween.” She said that was so, and this is why she had turned out the lights. Because at Halloween, sometimes we talk about ghosts. Often, those ghosts are scary. But today I want to talk to you about a good, friendly ghost (no, it wasn’t Casper). This ghost is called the Holy Ghost.

    She held up the object in her hands. It was a lollipop, with a tissue over top, and a smiley face drawn in felt tip marker. I mentally reviewed the pages of every October edition of The Friend magazine that I had ever read, but I could not recall ever seeing any illustration like this.

    She proceeded with her lesson, telling us that she had three stories to share with us today about the friendly Holy Ghost. The first story involved her cat Fluffy.

    Fluffy was a great cat! But Fluffy didn’t like people very much. Whenever anyone would come to the house, Fluffy would run away. She never went very far away; she would always come back soon after the guest had left.

    One day, Sister Friendly was serving in her calling as Ward Food Storage Specialist. She was having a super activity at her house, and many members of the ward were coming and going to her house to do canning and food storage.

    As you might predict, with the large number of people at the house, Fluffy was not comfortable and so she ran away somewhere.

    Sister Friendly was too busy to really notice that Fluffy was gone, until the end of the day when all of her guests had left. As she was cleaning up from the ward food storage activity, she noticed that Fluffy was missing.

    She kept an eye out for Fluffy, but the cat never returned. It was now getting very late and very dark, and she was worried where Fluffy could be. Had Fluffy got lost? Was Fluffy hurt somewhere? So Sister Friendly went off in search of her cat Fluffy.

    She thought that Fluffy might have gone to an open field nearby. (She paused, and decided she better clarify with the next statement) Because at that time they lived in the country. (Oh, well that explains everything. Thanks for clearing that up!)

    She drove to the field, and got out of the car. She tried to scan the field (she demonstrated, placing her hand over her forehead, palm facing down, as she scanned the room), but it was getting too dark out to see anything. She offered a quick prayer, and remembered that she had a flashlight in her car.

    She dug around the glove box and found the flashlight. She then began shining it around in the field. After a short time, she saw a pair of eyes staring back at her. You know how, when a flashlight hits the eyes of a cat in the dark, the eyes glow right back at you? That was what it was like!

    She could tell that it was Fluffy, but Fluffy did not come to her. The animal was tense. It simply stared back at her and seemed ready to bolt away at any second. This would not be good – Sister Friendly did not want to lose Fluffy now!

    Then, the Holy Ghost inspired her with an idea. The reason Fluffy was not coming to her is that Fluffy could not see her face, and did not know who she was. Have any of you kids seen the movie “Ghost Dad”?

    Um, the kids didn’t really respond to that question from left field. Sadly, I had once wasted a couple hours of my life watching that classic Bill Cosby movie, but I was too ashamed to admit it, so I also sat silently and enjoyed the blank stares that were being shared around the room.

    She explained the basic premise of the movie “Ghost Dad” for everyone. You see, Bill Cosby plays the dad who dies, but he wants to be there to help his kids as they grew up. So he comes back to earth as a ghost. And that is why they call it Ghost Dad. Well, his teenage daughter has a boyfriend that the dad doesn’t like. So he does things, as a ghost, to scare the boyfriend away. One of the things he does is travels through the telephone to come out the receiver at the boyfriend’s house, and he held a flashlight at about the level of his chin, and shined it up and onto his face (she demonstrated this for us). As we would now see demonstrated, it makes the shadows on your face and was kind of scary, and it made the boyfriend not want to date the girl anymore (For you three-year-old sunbeams, the name of that highly recommended movie once more was “Ghost Dad”).

    So she did that with the flashlight in her hand, but not to try to scare Fluffy. She knew that if she did that, shinning the flashlight on her own face, Fluffy would be able to tell that it was her and would come to her. Which, fortunately, Fluffy did just that, or else we wouldn’t have much of a faith promoting story here, now would we?

    It was somewhere about this point in the story that the piano player decided the kids were not being reverent and attentive to the important gospel-centered lesson going on, and started playing the reverence song. Sister Friendly apparently didn’t know about the new “play a song to promote reverence” program, and gave the piano player a crusty look. My wife and I exchanged glances that said “of all the things we want the kids paying attention to, this is not it!”

    Well, when Sister Friendly regained her composure, she concluded story number one and said how grateful she was that the Holy Ghost had reminded her of a scary PG movie moment to allow her to rescue Fluffy, the cat who was dumber than rocks and would never have found her own way home (unlike the past, when she always managed to return home just fine). 

    Then she moved on to story number 2, which was apparently brought to you by McDonald’s™.

    The story was about a birthday party that they were going to hold at McDonald’s™. But Sister Friendly was worried that they might have invited too many guests to the McDonald’s™ birthday party, and that McDonald’s ™ might not have enough cake for all the guests. So she prepared some extra cakes to take with her to McDonald’s™ so that they could supplement the McDonald’s™ birthday party package that they had purchased (did somebody say McDonald’s™?).

    She was busy making the cakes to take to McDonald’s™ when something else came up (laundry or something, I don’t remember anymore) and so she had to put the cakes into the window sill to cool anyway before she could put icing on them and get them ready to take to McDonald’s™. (I have only one thing to say about this story so far… I’m love’in it™).

    She was away attending to the laundry or whatever other distraction, when a knock came at her door. She answered the door and there was a woman who was in tears, and she asked, “Do you own a cat?”

    “Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I do,” replied Sister Friendly, sensing that the news might be bad.

    “Your cat just ran in front of my car, and I hit it and killed it,” the driver affirmed.

    Sister Friendly and the woman went out to the street, where Sister Friendly determined that it was indeed dumb old Fluffy who now lay as road kill. I’m a little fuzzy remembering the details here (admittedly, I probably needed the piano to play the reverent song again), but there was much crying and shedding of tears there at the roadside of Sister Friendly’s house out there in the country.

    Sister Friendly regained her composure, and decided to check on those cakes. After all, they still needed to be frosted and taken to McDonald’s™.

    She returned to the cakes, but found something interesting. There were little paw prints on them, as if Fluffy had walked across the top of the cakes. Sister Friendly offered her interpretation that she knew that the Holy Ghost had allowed this sign as a way for Fluffy to say good bye to her.

    Unfortunately, we never heard the rest of Sister Friendly’s second story, though I presume she frosted over the paw prints and served the cake as planned. Nor did we hear any of the third story. The lights were turned back on. We all turned to see that the Primary President had flipped the switch, and she walked quickly to the front of the room, thanking Sister Friendly for her lesson but apologizing that we were out of time.

    There is one post-script to this experience. It turned out that we had witnessed Sister Friendly’s very last Sharing Time lesson. The very next Sunday, she was asked to stand before the congregation, and was released from the calling of “Sister Friendly” with a vote of thanks and appreciation. She was then immediately called to the position of “Ward Food Storage Chairwoman” and was approved in this calling by a show of hands of the congregation.

    The scariest part of this Halloween story is that it was true!


  6. Refills are Free, Big Spender

    July 13, 2009 by Ryan

    I apologize if this post isn’t up to the usual quality of coherency to which you are accustomed. I’ll blame it on being dehydrated.

    I entered the fast food restaurant this evening, hot, tired, and slightly sunburned.

    I won’t name the establishment that “I’m thinking” about, but you can probably guess. It doesn’t matter; they are almost all guilty of this anyway.

    Waiting for a family member’s bathroom break to conclude before ordering, I sat down at a table. I should probably have been thinking about what I wanted to order, but I was too worn-out to spend brain cells on that sort of thinking just yet; I’d figure that out when I got to the counter.

    As it happened, a combination of events unfolded before me, at just the wrong time, to combine with my tired state and to have an overall effect of annoying me.

    I watched another customer rise from his table. In his hand was a paper cup that was fairly small. In fact, as I looked closer, I noticed this paper cup was not intended for holding a drink, but instead for holding a side order of popcorn chicken. It was even a little bit smaller than a “kid’s meal” drink cup, if that is possible.

    And I watched him fill it up with water at the drink machine.

    Meanwhile, at another location somewhere near the front counter of the restaurant, a kind employee was informing a different customer that she could call the number printed on the bottom of the receipt, to take a customer satisfaction survey. A bit of less relevant detail, and I promise that I am NOT making this up: She told the customer that she hoped they would give good “5” ratings, as the store manager really wants to improve their “C.S.I.” I hope that was internal jargon that meant “Customer Service Index” rather than “Crime Scene Investigation,” but I digress.

    When these two unrelated events collided in my drained brain, I realized that in just a few minutes, I would be the buffoon carrying the smallest paper cup in the store to the drink machine, filling it with the top capacity of two ice cubes and a thimbleful of water. And that I would have to make numerous trips to the drink dispenser, pressing that little “water” tab next to the lemonade tap, over and over, until I could satisfy my quench during my meal.

    And I wondered to myself, when I take that telephone survey, how will they ask about that experience?

    Did you order a soft drink with your meal? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

    Did you know that the refills are free, you big spender? Press 1 for yes, or 2 for no.

    But why, when I order water, do they insist on finding the smallest cup in the building and offering it to me? I was hot, I was tired, and I was just as thirsty as the next customer!

    Do they assume that all water drinkers are on a diet, and therefore need less to drink?

    Is it a mark of shame, to carry the smallest cup through the dining room? Is it to make an example of me before the other paying customers, to show them what will happen if they give up their high-calorie soda-drinking habits?

    Is it so that the minimum wage employees, who care less, can keep a careful watch out for anyone illegitimately filling that cup-of-shame with Mountain Dew? Thus making it a “loss-prevention” mechanism to prevent the caffeine from dispensing to the wrong customers?

    If so, why not make a special cup with bright colors on it; print across it “I am a cheapskate! I asked for water!” Perhaps using a special electronic sensor and radio frequency technology, the drink vending machine can sense when the cup approaches an incorrect faucet, and ring a bell or sound an alarm? Or why not just issue a special triangle pointed hat, to be placed on the head of every water-drinking customer, to more easily identify them (by which I mean me and that other guy)?

    Is that what it will take to get me the larger cup, so that I can drink a tall glass of ice water with my food?

    What do they think they are proving?! And at what cost of annoyance to the customer?!

    And when I finish my meal, can I redeem my water cup for a small order of popcorn chicken? No, wait, better not do that… I’ll just get thirsty again.

    So I don’t understand this annoying trend of issuing a diminutive drinking device to customers who wish not to inflict upon their bodies drinks other than (mostly) natural, (almost) clean, (kinda) pure water.

    I tell you, it’s enough to drive a man to drink! I’ll take a large Sprite!


  7. You’ve Got a Friend in Me

    July 4, 2009 by Ryan

    About mid-May, following my experience with the tremor, I brought home a gift for my four-month old girl. I picked out a “Wheezy” plush doll (from Toy Story 2), a black and white penguin, with yellow feet and beak, and a small red bow tie. As he does in the movie, this stuffed animal has a squeaker inside, so when you squeeze the toy it squawks back. The size, colors, and sound were just right for her young enjoyment, and she has taken quickly to the toy. She can easily grab his wings to hold him, and sometimes enjoys putting his beak into her mouth.

    A little more than a month later, she was at Disneyland. Upon exiting the Toy Story ride, there are numerous movie related merchandise available to purchase. Imagine the look on her face as her young eyes saw an entire shelf full of Wheezy dolls on display. Though she couldn’t speak it, one could see the little wheels turning in her head as she tried to process the sight of so many of her favorite doll – row after row, stacked deep on the shelves.

    …to there.”]What's the point of prolonging the inevitable? We're all just one stitch away from here...to there (points to yard sale).

    His squeaker works, too!


  8. Love the ‘land

    June 17, 2009 by Ryan

    Sometimes people ask me why I like Disneyland so much? What makes it so special? Why do I keep going back?

    As you enter the park, you must pass under a tunnel that supports the train track. Above the tunnel is a sign that reads:

    Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.

    And that sums it up for me. Even if I have spent most of the day standing on my feet at the convention center across the street, or fighting the stressful traffic at the end of a 564 mile car ride, I feel an energy and renewal wash over me as I approach the land. When you walk through that tunnel, you emerge on a typical 1900 era Main Street scene like you could imagine happened in any small town at the time. Go a little further, and you see a fairy-tale castle, inviting you to come further and explore. Along the way, you can detour into the jungles of another continent, ride herd through the frontiers of America, or blast off in the exciting world of space and technology. Or head through the castle and end up in a place that could otherwise only be found within the imagination of a child.

    I distinctly remember being there for my first visit, which was as a grown adult. Somewhere in the middle of our multi-day trip, I found myself so lost in the experience that I stopped, and thought to myself, “I know I have a job somewhere, but where?” I had to think hard for a couple of minutes before I could pull reality back enough to remember my employer’s name. It was a tranquil experience where I found I had let go completely of my cares, and I liked it.

    I like the feeling every time I go. I love the immersive theming, the impressive entertainment, and the inviting ambiance.

    I agree with their saying, “love the land”.


  9. Too close! A little too close.

    June 3, 2009 by Ryan

    I only wished we would have gotten a picture.

    Yesterday, as I drove through Springville, UT, I followed a large truck. It looked like the kind that would carry construction derbies – heavy, cement material; probably containing rocks and such that could easily break lose and fly out while in motion.

    Here is a mockup of what I saw:

    Come Up Close and Read Our Warning!

    Come Up Close and Read Our Warning!

    The bumper-sticker sized warning printed on the back read:

    STAY BACK 300 FEET.
    NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR
    BROKEN WINDSHIELDS

    Their lawyer must have told them that they have to put that message on the truck. So they picked the smallest font they could get away with to cover themselves legally.

    Now, if I were in charge of their marketing, and if I actually cared about the other driver’s windshields, this is how I would have done it…

    Something you can read from at least 5 feet away!

    Something you can read from at least 5 feet away!

    After all, they had a large surface area to work with. It would cost a dollar or two more in vinyl lettering, but would have indicated that they really cared for people to read their message.

    Instead, I can now easily discern their true intentions.


  10. I felt the Earth move under my feet

    May 23, 2009 by Ryan

    Everyone in California is pretty much going to laugh at this. I don’t care. It is my blog post, and it is interesting to me, so I’m going to write it. And yes, I’m going to make myself sound very heroic, like a true survivor who has a wondrous tale to spin. A daring adventurer, full of conquest and deserving of admiration. I also want to apologize for the lateness of getting this article written and posted. After all, after enduring such a remarkable experience, it took some time to overcome my emotional high. Plus there were the obligatory media interviews, parades, parties and celebrations thrown in my honor upon my triumphant return home. All of these distracted me from recording my true-life adventure for all to read.

    I was in Anahiem, CA (no surprise there) on the evening of Sunday, May 17, 2009. I had been working at the Anahiem convention center, setting up the booth, working the show floor, and then packing the booth away at the California Dental Association’s exhibit hall. All of that standing on my feet, accompanied by the obligatory trip to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday night from 6:00 pm – midnight, made me feel as though I deserved a rest.

    I had wandered my way through Downtown Disney, enjoying some wonderful blues music played by Brother Yusef out on the street. I found my way to the Paradise Pier Hotel, where I meandered up to the third floor pool and observation deck. In this section of the building, this was the roof. For the rest of the building, the rooms continue up many stories higher (see photos here).

    I had arrived early to stake out my position for a view of the evening fireworks at Disneyland. I sat in a tall chair, close enough to the railing that I could prop my feet up high and change the blood flow through my legs. If you ever want to view the fireworks but cannot go inside the park, this is the best location to do so, as they also play the music with it.

    It was at about 8:45 pm, local time, that it happened. A 4.7 earthquake, centered close to LAX,  rolled through this part of the state. The first jolt was the hardest. It felt as though the entire building swayed, startling me from my relaxed position at the railing. I brought my feet down quickly and sat up, at once recognizing it was, and at the same time questing if it really was, an earthquake. All the earthquake training I had received came flooding my mind; how I should get under a desk or in a doorway.

    As the second rolling motion came through (a little less powerful than the first), I instinctively started looking around me, and saw that there was nothing close to me that could possibly fall on me. I reasoned that if the building didn’t crumble, I had nothing to worry about, and so I settled my fears and chose to ride it out and enjoy the experience.

    The third rolling motion occurred, gently and almost unnoticed compared to the first two. It may have been a reaction of the building swaying more than anything.

    As I sat wondering, “Is that it?” some native Californians nearby began to cheer and applaud.

    Within about 5 seconds time, I survived my first earthquake experience unscathed (as apparently everyone else but one person in the state did too).