Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Year Resolutions Kept So Far

So, I realized today that I've been pretty good about keeping one of my resolutions: every night I write down one memorable thing that Lucy did/said that day on a calendar.

The idea is that as each month finishes I'll then make one (and only one) scrapbook-like page with my favorite photos from the past month. Then I'll put it in the calendar above the appropriate month. So in a year I should have a book of Lucy memories and photos that I can show her when she's 13 and thinks I don't love her at all. As I was re-reading January's entries I was so proud of myself for completing the month--and since I know you're dying to hear what she's been up to, here's a sampling (I know, I know, blatent parental pride, but some of it was kind of funny).

5 Jan. 07: Favorite Game of the Day: Hide. (no seeking yet.) Lucy loves to go to the side of the bed by the closet and duck down on the floor ...

12 Jan. 07: Lucy discovered fry sauce at Carl Jr.'s during dinner. She liked it so much she took the container and started to drink it down!

22 Jan. 07: Lucy threw up 10 times in 6 hours this evening.

28 Jan. 07: At the auditions for the Messiah, Daddy asked Lucy why she was so good at the church and so "bad" (i.e. tantrum-prone) at home. She responded: "Jesus."

See, it's really not much--it's resolutions like that that I actually keep :)


Friday, January 26, 2007

Did you notice the new salsanight blog icon?

In my never ending quest to avoid writing my dissertation, I have discovered how to change the icon that appears in your web browser when you are reading salsanight, or in the bookmark you undoubtedly have for salsanight. I think it is safe to say that I have now increased our enjoyment of salsanight by 21%.

(If you have an idea for a better icon, thus increasing our productivity and enjoyment, do let me know.)


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Train

I get on the train. As I am wont to do at the end of a work day, I try to get a seat to myself and unwind a little, a process which is greatly aided by the relative solitude of an empty space next to me. If someone else is beside me, that process is delayed until they leave and I can finally let my breath out. I sit down and lay my backpack between my feet, prepared to plug my headphones into my laptop and review my part in The Messiah, which our stake will be performing in the Spring. The train is not crowded, but there are only a few empty spaces left, including the one next to me. A man climbs the stairs to the train just as the doors fold shut, he looks around quickly and moves right to my seat and sits. Rather close. I look at him and size him up: he is scraggly and unkempt with a long beard, and looks vaguely Native American. Though dismayed that a dirty smelly man is now sitting next to me, I tell myself that at least he will probably get off at the 900 S or 1300 S stop.

As soon as the words cross my mental lips, I cringe, and feel vaguely ashamed. Here was I with my laptop going home to my Sandy mansion feeling heartened that the person sitting next to me was in all likelihood far below the poverty level and would thus be getting off the train sooner, rather than waiting for the richer neighborhoods in the south valley. Various scriptures run through my mind as I sit uncomfortably beside him, laptop still encased safely in its home.

My logical self raged back: Hey! He probably makes more than you do! He could work full time at McDonald's and still make more than you! Don't feel bad about wanting him to move out of your personal space.... and on he went.

We reach 1300 S, and sure enough, the man leaves. My chest relaxes a little and I let out the air that almost always accumulates when my personal space is occupied.

Someone else gets on. Another man, younger this time, with blackened teeth and clothes that even my DI loving self would pass over. I could see the smell emanating from him, so I quickly get out my laptop and make it look as if the whole seat is necessary for the extremely important business I am working on. To my exhaled relief, he finds a friend and sits across from him, laughing loudly and crudely, his jaw jutting out, his eyes dark from a few punches.

Another stop. Another man, still younger but now dressed very trendy in jeans, leather jacket, ipod buds hanging down his chest, hefting a college physics book. He sits opposite me. The guilt of my anti-social behavior still fresh, I feel I should make conversation.

Physics got you stumped?
Huh? Oh, yeah, this stuff is pretty hard.
Yeah, I know, I used to TA for that class a few years ago.
Oh really? Yeah, I get most of it, but theres a few things that trip me up...

The conversation wanders off, and I gaze out the window at the passing decrepit buildings still standing after years of non-use. After awhile, he looks up at me.

Hey, can you see if I did this problem right?
Sure. Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. Yeah... It looks like you've got it.
Great! Thanks.

Heartened a little that I was able to help, I resume my gaze out the window. I see the new hospital around 5400 S. Trendy college student puts away his homework and sticks in his earbuds, and I once again pull out my laptop, this time ready to practice The Messiah, but the cackle of laughter from Black Teeth enters my ears again. I turn up the volume.

Comfort ye... Comfort ye my people, saith your God... saith your God.

I'm a bass, but I consider trying out for that particular tenor solo. I skip ahead to another solo:

Thy rebuke hath broken His heart. He is full of heaviness; he looked for some to have pity on Him, but there was no man to comfort him...

Thats a pretty one I think. Maybe I'll try for that one instead. I look up. Black Teeth had left the train, leaving me and the other unassuming passengers to their own thoughts, their own work. Finally! Now I can concentrate! I think as the train pulls away from 5400 S, and I gaze out the window at the now receding hospital. The next chorus begins:

All we like sheep...


Monday, January 22, 2007

More Time Killers

I think the title is self explanatory. As I have nothing of substance to add tonight, enjoy the following:

Sketch Swap. You make a sketch, any sketch, submit it, and it's swapped for another. Sometimes they are really bad, and sometimes they are evidence that someone has way too much time on their hands. I like it.
LiteBrite. It's a LiteBrite. If you really loved LiteBrite, this could be fun. If you didn't, it might not.
Flash Face. A good way to try on different looks. Enough said.


Blogging is a cruel mistress

After a long personal sabbatical, I have once again placed a post on my independent blog: Fruit at the Bottom. I guess I kind of ran dry for a while. Or I was lazy. Or I was discouraged from a lack of comments. Then I noticed that I had accidentally set my preferences to require all comments to be mediated by me, and I hadn't even seen the comments that Nick and Jon left. Thanks, guys.

Anyway, the point is that I'm going to be blogging again. For those who care/for what it's worth. Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On Being a Public Spectacle

I watched American Idol tonight. Whatever would you do a silly thing like that for!?, you ask, and that would be an excellent question. I got an email today from a friend that said they were pretty sure they saw a guy from our high school class on the preview for tonight's show. The potentially funny part was that this guy also happened to be considered quite a nerd by most everyone.

His name is also Nick, and people would sometimes mistake us for each other. I knew he considered himself to be somewhat of a musician, and tried out for the music group I was in, but didn't make it. A little pitchy, as Simon would say. Ok, very pitchy- any high school choir ALWAYS needs more guys, and he was still turned down. So you can imagine that when I heard he was on American Idol, I could only think it was a joke, and I honestly hope he thinks it is too. Or.... maybe he's had private lessons since high school. LOTS of private lessons. From Renee Fleming.

So we watched tonight's show, and as long it was a joke, it had to be one of the funniest things I've seen on TV. He was bad. Hysterically bad. Simon even said that that day in Seattle was the worst day in American Idol audition history, and that his audition was the worst of the day. Ouch. I think his was the longest segment of the whole show. Almost every commercial break they were hyping his upcoming performance. They had at least three minutes of non-audition camera time with him. He was ratings gold!

But what if he didn't think it was a joke? What a sad thought- him being up there actually singing his heart out and trying to be the next american idol, and all of us are laughing hysterically at him. In one context, for those of us that know him, he's a hero, and in the other, we uncomfortably look the other way. It got me thinking though as to why people are willing to make a public spectacle of themselves. I'm not talking about the people who go on as a joke and be really bad, but the people who go on thinking they're really good, but aren't. Are they any different than the Jerry Springer type people?

Anyway, I sent him an email and told him it was awesome, I just didn't tell him that I thought it was awesome in the humorous sense.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Trans Fat

Many of you are probably aware that New York City voted to ban trans-fats last month. Restaurants have, I believe, six months to comply.

I have watched this unfold with interest, though I have vacillated between opinions. Taking an idea from Plato, I will convey some of the arguments on both sides of the issue in the form of a dialogue. The characters will be Milton Friedman (Milt) and Mayor Bloomberg (Mayor). Please note that these specific arguments do not represent actual arguments by these men, especially in the case of Mr. Friedman because he is dead. These arguments are forms of the arguments I've heard from many sources.

Mayor: My city has banned trans-fat.
Milt: What do you mean? You have banned the import of it and will have NYC customs agents enforcing it as you come into the city?
Mayor: No, we banned it from being served in restaurants. You can still get it in foods at grocery stores if you wish.
Milt: Why?
Mayor: Trans-fats constitute a public health risk. They have been proven to contribute to heart disease and other bad stuff.
Milt: So you are banning it because you don't think your citizens will avoid it if you don't ban it, despite its dangers.
Mayor: Many of my citizens aren't aware of the dangers. The dangers have only recently been discovered. Restaurants have been particularly resistant to providing information on whether or not they use trans fats on menu items to diners.
Milt: You mean some of the restaurants have been resistant. Subway has many trans-fat free alternatives that it adverstises. KFC announced it will stop using trans-fat in it's chicken batter. Wendy's announced they won't use it in their fries. The free market is working. As time goes on, more consumers will become aware of the dangers of trans-fats and demand that restaurants either stop using it or give information about which menu items have it. The law is unneccesary.
Mayor: The market is working too slow. That is only three examples out of hundreds of restaurants and chains. In fact, the uniformity in which some groups of restaurants have resisted giving consumers and authorities information about their trans-fat usage suggests a form of collusion. That would be an violation of anti-trust laws, and an obstacle to the free market. Legistlation is needed.
Milt: You are using speculation as a basis for your conclusion. If you had true evidence of collusion, you could prosecute them for it. The truth is that you don't.
Mayor: Point taken, but we still need legistlation because the market is moving too slow. Hundreds of thousands of people are having their health damaged because they are being exposed to trans-fat.
Milt: I agree that trans-fat is damaging their health. Please further elaborate why it's the government's job to stop that.
Mayor: If we can make their lives better, then shouldn't we? It's also a matter of economics. If we can get rid of trans-fats there will be fewer health problems which will mean lower health insurance premiums, lower life insurance premiums, higher productivity...
Milt: Ah, of course, more tax revenue for you. Why don't you ban alcohol, cigarettes, March Madness, "American Idol", and all the other things that decrease productivity in your city?
Mayor: We tried alcohol. We do ban smoking in most public buildings. Television is different and you know it.
Milt: You ban smoking in public places to protect people from secondhand smoke. You tax cigarrettes to discourage people from smoking at all. Why don't you just tax the use of trans-fat in restaurants. That would give you some precious tax revenue.
Mayor: It would be too costly to administer. Besides, everyone would switch to non-trans-fat when faced with the tax anyway since it is not any more expensive.
Milt: Speaking of will you administer the ban, how much will it cost, and where will the money come from.
Mayor: I don't have the details, I don't know, and out of the city budget. We are confident that the benefits will outweigh the costs.
Milt: Interesting. You have little reason to be so confident considering you don't know how much it will cost and you haven't even estimated the benefits.
Mayor: Can you at least agree that despite all your idealistic objections, the citizens of New York will be better off when this goes into effect?
Milt: Perhaps many will. The question is will they be better off if they have to pay for the ban with higher taxes, more potholes, or fewer police officers when they could have the same effect personally by choosing to eat at particular restaurants that already use alternatives to trans-fats?
Mayor: Above, you acknowledged that trans-fat is damaging the health of some of my citizens. This will reverse that. True it will cost something, but the city council and I believe it is worth it.
Milt: You are making judgements about what things are worth to 10 million people all at once. You are making a decision for them that they can make for themselves.
Mayor: On the contrary. The city council and I were elected to make these sorts of decisions. Besides, public opinion is in my favor.

I chose this format because it amuses me.
I am interested to hear other people's views on this issue.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

A Little Levity

In the interest of leisure, levity, and promoting independent arts, here are a few links to videos online that have been brought to my attention in recent weeks:

Charlie the Unicorn is just under four minutes. It deals with Charlie's reluctantly sought quest for the mythical Candy Mountain. Among other things, he is led along the way by a magical liopleurodon.

Glad I Got a Sword Today is a series of three short films done by BYU students. It's definitely a comedy, but it's surprisingly well done and well thought-out. Highly entertaining. Please be sure to watch all three episodes. The students won second place in an online contest for it!

I have been aware of for a few years now. Every year they host a contest that requires submitters to create 90-second films. Not all of them are great, but several are quite enjoyable and well made. Some are comedies, some are dramas. Some are animations, some are live-action. My favorites include:

Geoff, World Destroyer
Le Cheval 2.1
How to Tell When a Relationship is Over
Terrance Eats Knowledge
Taking Care of Loved Ones
and of course: