Friday, April 27, 2012

Exciting, Excellent News

I don't want to leave that rant at the top for very long at all, so I decided to follow it basically immediately with some awesome news that counteracts the unpleasantries of the previous one.

For quite some time now, over a year really, we've been in the market for a new apartment.  At the time we started looking around, we had lived here for a year, and our contract had run its course, so we were renting month-to-month.  We wanted to move somewhere a little bigger, but we also wanted to move somewhere we really liked, a place that had all the things we were looking for now that we're both working and feeling much more financially stable, somewhere we could live for a good few years and that would really feel more like home (preferably somewhere just a little farther from Student Town...  We've really liked this area and ward, but there's so much turnover due to the number of students and proximity to campus).  We looked and looked, and never really found anything, and then I was called to be the choir director and Julie was called to work in the nursery, and we did like our apartment a lot, and it was a good deal, and there wasn't nearly the sense of urgency that there was the last time we moved (from a place we couldn't even stand living for six months), so we thought we might as well just keep our eyes open and stay at our current place to save a little money until we found the exact right new place, which apparently I have mentioned here on the blog before.

Flash forward about a year.  I had by this time started actually working from home, commandeering the dining room table (while we have been relegated to eating dinner in the living room), so we thought it was time to start looking again for a place with another bedroom I could use as an office (and, in the future, as a place for a wee one to spend its nights, as it were).  We had done a little apartment hunting here and there throughout the year, taking a few months at a time off, but always checking the listings to see if Our Place ever appeared.  We looked at so many apartments that we started to recognize a handful of really common layouts and amenities, and we found quite a few places we were sure we would have been mostly satisfied with, but we never left a place saying YES.  We thought after a while we were being a little too picky, but then we thought, if we're going to make a move and make it last for several years (maybe our last place before finding a house?), and since our current contract allowed for it, we might as well wait until we can find the place we want!  Still, we adjusted some of our requirements and tried to be a little more flexible.

Then, just as it was starting to look more or less hopeless, and with the unpleasant prospect of another sweltering summer in this oven (especially with me baking in it all the livelong workday), Julie casually mentioned an ad she found on Craigslist.  I was hesitant when they didn't include any pictures (tip:  When you are trying to rent your apartment, POST PICTURES.  Seriously, they really make or break your ad so very much of the time), but I called and made an appointment to swing by anyway, just to take a look.  Through some unfortunate circumstances I actually missed meeting the tenants (because I was looking at another place) and couldn't find the right apartment (I had the number wrong), but I looked at the place from the outside, and was pretty much thinking that we had to see the inside as soon as humanly possible.  I wrote a few emails and made a few calls and after work we had a chance to swing by on our way up to Park City for the weekend.  We walked in, looked around, talked to the wife of the house and her adorable child, and walked out saying YES.  By the next day we had been contacted by the landlady and two days later we had signed a contract (we even scored a discount on rent for signing for two years).  Apparently we were the first to look at it, so they took the ad down right away.  This place has pretty much everything we were hoping for!  It's probably twice as big as where we live now, and IT HAS AC.  The amenities are delightful, but I'll save them for a later post.  For now, this is just breaking the great news.  I actually don't have a picture (like I said, they didn't post any...), but I yoinked this one from Google Maps.  It's the gray one, second one from the left:
I'm trying to convince myself that it's not actually smaller than the apartment surrounding it, it's just sort of sunken in so it looks a little smaller from this angle.
We're moving!  Next week!  XD  And now when family come to visit we will have a place for them to sleep and they won't die of sweating in the night!  And, of course, neither will we.  And I can have my work in a separate place and close the door on it after the workday is done!  We had hoped to move outside of Provo, but this place is just so right that it's worth the possibility that there are still a lot of students around (not that we dislike students, it's just that we both finished school years ago, and that kind of area seems so transitory and impermanent).  It's actually really close to where we live now, like half a mile, but it is a little further from the central radius of campus, and in a little more established neighborhood with seemingly less student-type apartments.  It seems like each time you cross one of these major Provo streets it makes a big difference.  We've basically go about a mile northwest each time we move.  I contacted our current landlord and let them know we're on our way out, as I know our contract requires notice of 30 days, and they told us we would be responsible for rent for May, unless we found someone to take over for that month.  I posted an ad online (with plenty of pictures!) and that very night we had a young engaged couple come look at it, and just a few days later THEY had applied and were approved.  This really has been a good place, and it's a great deal, so I felt bad telling the other interested parties that the place had been sold, but mostly I was just glad there was so much interest, it made my job a lot easier.  That weekend in Park City we could think and talk of little else but how excited we were.

Patience and persistence and perserverance and prayer.  Those are the four Ps that made this possible.  And I guess that's a fifth P.

So yes!  That's it!  Great news!  Details to follow!  Very shortly!

Bewildering, Bothersome News

So I don't actually write things like this on the blog very often anymore, for a few reasons, but things have sort of piled up in the last few weeks and I think it's worth getting out there, albeit semi-briefly.  Of course I'm not one to shy away from talking about heavy or socially relevant issues, but I have lately been trying to avoid stirring up the pot unnecessarily, stepping back from things that will negatively affect my self and future and family, and focusing instead on doing what I can in venues and ways that will actually make a difference.

Having said that...

First things first, this happened.  (I couldn't even find a balanced description of the event, which makes sense since the event itself was evidently hardly balanced.)  There are so many problems with this, I don't even know where to start, so I won't get too deep into it.  I will say that when I posted the link on Facebook, bemoaning the fact that my beloved BYU is not the place it once was (if it ever was??), and wondering when it became such an overt and blatant breeding ground for unchecked propaganda, I was even more disturbed with the response from my supposedly like-minded friends than I was with the actual event.  It was unbalanced and propagandistic and refused to acknowledge alternatives to simply accepting this as part of your identity.  I just don't understand how people can't realize what this means.  Of course it was a departmental event, but the part is the whole, and unfortunately this reflects very poorly on BYU and the Church, at least for people who still believe in and follow the word of God regarding this subject.  You know, the people who don't give standing ovations for the poor kids in the panel who said God made them a certain way and as soon as they leave the horrid confines of BYU they are certainly going to live out the lifestyle with which they so adamantly and blindly identify.

Second things second, by now many of the very few people who read this blog will have discovered this little piece.  (I'm purposely not embedding the actual video because I don't want the wretched thing to show up when I look through my blog.)  When this came to my attention, my eyes went wide and my jaw dropped.  Bear in mind that I have had issues with the entire It Gets Better campaign as it is (I find it extremely elitist and emotionally manipulative, and isn't really getting to the core issues at all, but is more a platform for widespread propaganda), and have seriously considered breaking ties with beloved and important institutions because of their participation in it, and then here this bomb drops from my own beloved BYU.  Again, so many things wrong with this.  I mean, from the sound of it, it DOESN'T get better!  What's the message of this video?  That if you feel something that you don't believe is right and true, or something that you have been taught all your life isn't right, you just deal with it until you're in a position in life that you can accept it and act on it?  THAT'S when it gets better?  When you can abandon or modify the word of God just so you can experience some backward notion of who you are?  And base your identity entirely on your behavior and self-labeling?  I also resent the implication that people who disagree are sheltered and naive and stupid and intolerant.  Oh yes, and bigoted (oh, how I have come to loathe that word... don't those who throw it out realize how easily and completely it's turned directly around?).  Where's the tolerance for the other point of view?  Honestly, if I had seen that video while I was a young and impressionable and thoroughly confused college student, it would have shaken my belief system's foundation to its very core.  This video probably would have driven me to self-destructive thoughts.  (How's that for having the opposite effect?)  I could go on and on about this, but I shall proceed.

Finally, briefly, in response to that video along came this.  When I first saw it, it was even a little more shocking than the previous one.  How sad, these people are being used for and/or participating in a propaganda film. How much more manipulative could it possibly be?  I mean, aside from all the idiotic things these poor people say, am I seriously supposed to think it's sweet that they are bearing testimony of false doctrine?  In the sacred and holy name of my Lord and Savior, no less?  Who lived and died so people could overcome any and all temptations through His all-encompassing Atonement?  Like they said in the video, I also hope the poor confused people who watch that video see themselves as who they really are, and don't identify themselves entirely as their behavior, ignoring the hopeless ideas preached therein.

Then, of course, there's the whole issue of the terroristic threat that was mailed via the United States Postal Service directly to my parents' front door and into my dad's very hands...  This from the side that demands tolerance and love.

So yes, all of this has been disheartening, but at the same time, conversations have arisen from these things that have caused people to finally pay attention and think and realize what's going on (and what has been going on for years, right under their noses, though much more quietly).  Some people were posting and praising those videos without even watching them!  (They just looked at it and thought it had a good message, so shared it without even thinking about it or doing the proper research.)  People have thanked me for standing up for the right thing, to which I reply with thanks, but also encouragement to stand up themselves.  Silent dissent is as good as assent, and they think their agenda is gaining greater ground than it really is, because most people just sit silently by and pretend it's not happening (this could be for many reasons, but none of them are very good, not even the fear and friends and family will disagree with your stance...  Whose approval are we more concerned about gaining here?).  Bear in mind that this blogpost is a mere snapshot of my many thoughts regarding these recent happenings, but it's something at least.  Regarding this issue, I think most of the time I think people really do have their heart in the right place, they simply aren't thinking things through.  I do love everyone, and of course I have friends and acquaintances and associates who have feelings of same-sex attraction (why do people always assume that if you take this stance then you obviously don't know any gay people?), and of course I have done my research (the opposite of which is another assumption people make when you take this position), that's not what this is about.  Love does not equal permissiveness, and love has never meant you just accept everything and let people do whatever they want.  I love my fellow man too much to keep quiet when God's plan is being so actively and systematically challenged.  There is a big picture here, and these little things are not baby steps, they're giant leaps.  The slope just keeps getting more and more slippery.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Various Springtime Weekend Goings-On

There have been goings-on going on for the last few weekends since my birthday, so I think I'll just do a little bullet list of them.  Here goes!

•  The morning after our epic night of Hunger Games I ran the annual stake 5K (Julie opted out of this one this year).  It's a fairly nice course, and there was a much higher attendance than last year.  This also means that I didn't place quite as high as last year, but I was still in the top 10 (6th place overall, 21:14, after adding a little to make it a full 5K).  They even had age groups, the "Senior" division breaking off at age 40, much to the delight (and probably request) of the stake presidency and such.  There were a lot of runners from the ward, which was fun.
Me after the run.
How I really felt after the run (we stayed up too late the night before).
•  Later that day we went to see Beauty and the Beast at Capitol Theatre.  Now, I have seen this show twice (thrice?  I can't remember now!) already, but every time it comes through town I wonder, do I need to see it again?  Then I remember Be Our Guest, and decide, yes, yes I do.  It was an interesting little quest to find tickets, since of course I procrastinated and there weren't any decent seats left, and if they were, they were single, not to mention outrageously expensive.  Thanks to a fellow who posted an ad on KSL, I was able to score a couple of tickets in amazing seats for an amazing deal.  It even included free parking and bottled water!  We dressed up, ate delicious things at Olive Garden, and sat right there on the Orchestra level, probably 10 rows back from the stage.

As for the show itself, um...  So apparently, as it's been running for some fifteen years, they decided it was time to update the production, or, as they call it, "streamline," I guess.  I was interested to see what this would mean, and after seeing the new show, as far as I can tell, that basically translates to cutting some songs, making the rest of the songs REALLY fast, adding and expanding some scenes (complete with deep, psychological, sort of out of place dialogue) and therapy between Belle and Maurice or the Beast, scaling back the sets and costumes and cast significantly, and adding a few puppets in place of previously cooler special effects.  We were assured by the souvenir stand girl that we wouldn't be disappointed, but secretly we were a little.  It was still fun, and Be Our Guest was still cool, we just wanted, and were expecting, a little more spectacle.  But it was great to go out anyway!  I'm glad I was diligent and was able to find such an awesome deal on tickets and surprise mine wife with them.  (She wanted to go so very much this time.)
I'm pretty sure our seats were season ticket spots, and every seat had a long-stemmed rose placed upon it.
Soooo exciteeeed!
 •  The very next day was the ward choir Easter program.  Now, a couple weeks earlier I had received word that our program, originally scheduled for two weeks AFTER the actual holiday (to resolve conflicts of General Conference and Fast Sunday), was going to be moved to two weeks BEFORE Easter.  O.O  Apparently they were informed that it's preferable to have the program before Easter Sunday if it's not possible to have it ON Easter Sunday.  Anyway, I rallied my choir and they were able to pull together and really great program, the highlight of which was this, which I have wanted to do with a ward choir for lo, these many years:

(I realize I also posted this video in the link above, since we apparently sang it last year before I was director.  Eh, the ward changes so much and so quickly I doubt anyone realized it, or if they did, I doubt they minded.)  It was probably my final hurrah as ward choir director, and it was great to leave on such a positive note.  This ward has always had pretty great talent, and (when I was able to corral them up for rehearsal, which was at times quite a task), they could do some incredible things.  That Christmas program is one of my very favorite ward choir director experiences ever.

•  The weekend following was General Conference.  We decided to go up and try to get tickets for the Saturday afternoon session, which of course we were able to, and then for the Priesthood Session I did my usual bit of translating.  President Uchtdorf stayed on his script mostly, but even when he jumped around I was able to keep up with him more or less.  And no aviation vocabulary to try to wrangle!  *Phew.*  On Sunday we were able to enjoy both sessions in their entirety in our jammies in our living room, just as it was always meant to be (ha ha), and then we spent several more hours on the couch rewatching Pride & Prejudice, which of course is fantastic.

At some point on Sunday, this little event took place:
•  Then the next week this happened, which was delightful:
... then we went running in it, which was a little less delightful.
•  Then we had Easter, which was also delightful.  We all had a delicious dinner at Cami's house and Julie made a cake for dessert, which doubled as Cami's birthday cake, which made sense since Easter doubled as Cami's birthday.
It was incredible, and a huge hit, but somehow we also ended up with leftovers, about which we were certainly weren't complaining.

•  Last weekend we took a little weekend jaunt to Park City.  Here's the story:  Last fall there was a Living Social deal that offered a night at a Park City resort for a great rate, with a few little perks thrown in, so I bought a couple of nights, sure we would be able to use it for a little getaway sometime the next winter or spring.  Well, imagine my surpreeze when a few months ago I realized that they expired in an incredibly hasty fashion, so here I was thinking I had just wasted a nice couple hundred dollars, which vexed me greatly.  I tell you, I put on my squeaky wheels, and was definitely rewarded with some appropriately applied grease.  They let me know that I couldn't get exactly the same deal, but I could use the vouchers for a couple of nights in the future, up to the amount I paid for them, and then pay the difference for a stay at the place, which of course varies based on the time of year.  We estimated after Easter and General Conference we would be ready for another weekend away, and it worked out pretty well.

So on Friday night, after dinner at a favorite Mexican place in Midway, which features a most beloved salsa bar, we head up to the Park City Peaks Hotel, which was fairly nice (though not as nice as where we stayed for our last Park City/Midway getaway).  But we had a great time relaxing and staying cozy while the occasional snowstorm swirled outside our window.  We went to a couple of movies (The Hunger Games again--still awesome, and Wrath of the Titans--at the request of The Wife), watched The Aviator in our room, enjoyed a discount at the (so-so) on-location restaurant, took advantage of the indoor/outdoor hot tub/pool (outdoor hot tubbing while the snow gently falls FTW), did some fun shopping, including the discovery of a new and exciting store to us, World Market.  We didn't take many pictures, as it turns out, but we did have a great and relaxing time, and it was fun to stay somewhere new and actually understand the geography of downtown and local Park City a little better.  It seems like until now I had mostly just gone out of the way into the outlets part of town.

•  Just a few days ago, we participated in another stake 5K, this time at the old home stake with Mom and Dad.  It was a pretty good turnout, and there were runners of all ages.  I started out pretty strong, then still managed to pass one or two more people to finish 2nd overall (20:34), and was rewarded a ribbon and a watermelon for my efforts.  Right on!  Great prize.  Julie and Mom and Dad all did really well too!  It was a pretty good course through the old neighborhood, though those last couple of laps over grass around the elementary school soccer field were pretty brutal.  Give me pavement or give me death!  Okay, not death, but still, I prefer to run on pavement.
Then last Sunday, just because it's fresh in my mind, the men of the ward choir put together a nice ensemble of Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy, and the The Wife and I enjoyed a nice picnic in the warming weather with some friends.

And that's about it!  Some fun weekend happenings.  Stay tuned for bewildering, bothersome news, followed by exciting, excellent news.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blogkeeping -- Spring 2012

(!!!  Apparently blogger has updated me to the new template for writing blogposts.  This will take some getting used to it.)

I seriously feel like I just barely did this, but apparently it's been a few months, and the list there on the right is definitely due for a little spring cleaning.  In truth, it was almost ready to go after my last blogkeeping post.  This list goes from late November, just before Thanksgiving (bottom) to 27 Feburary (top).  We apparently watched a lot of movies during the winter months.

Planet 51 ** 1/2 / / Dumb and Dumber [r] *** 1/2 / Regency House Party *** 1/2 / The Help *** 1/2 / Moneyball *** 1/2 / The Tree of Life *** / Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey **** / Robots *** / Julie and Julia [r] **** / Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken [r] *** 1/2 / Swing Kids [r] **** / Man On a Ledge *** 1/2 / The Island [r] *** 1/2 / Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [r] *** 1/2 / Valiant ** 1/2 / Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs *** / Anonymous *** / The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 * / The Kid [r] **** 1/2 / The Woman in Black **** / Willow [r] *** 1/2 / Matilda [r] *** / The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story *** 1/2 / Waking Sleeping Beauty **** / Heart and Souls [r] **** 1/2 / Pride & Prejudice (2003) [r] **** / Wit [r] **** 1/2 / High School Musical 3: Senior Year *** / Camelot [r] **** 1/2 / Dreamer *** 1/2 / The Man In the Moon [r] *** / Great Expectations (BBC 1999) **** / Daria (Season 3) [r] **** 1/2 / The Incredible Mr. Limpet [r] ** 1/2 / What's Up, Doc? [r] **** / Rebecca (1997) *** / You Again *** / Some Like It Hot [r] *** 1/2 / Green Lantern ** / The Spitfire Grill [r] **** / Rebecca (1940) [r] **** / All About Steve ** / The Rocketeer [r] **** / America's Sweethearts [r] *** / Alex & Emma [r] ** 1/2 / Red Eye [r] **** / Girl With a Pearl Earring [r] *** / Midnight In Paris *** 1/2 / Prom *** / Beauty and the Beast (3D) **** 1/2 / The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn *** 1/2 / Bring It On [r] *** 1/2 / The Pixar Story *** 1/2 / Exit Through the Gift Shop ** 1/2 / Gnomeo and Juliet *** / Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles *** / Newsies [r] **** / Daria (Season 2) [r] ***** / The Man In the Iron Mask *** 1/2 / Battle: Los Angeles *** 1/2 / Something Borrowed ** / Uncorked [r] **** / Jersey Girl ** 1/2 / Bertie and Elizabeth *** / Sherlock Holmes [r] *** / The Hudsucker Proxy [r] ***** / My Boy Jack [r] *** / The Spanish Prisoner [r] *** 1/2 / The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters *** 1/2 / Water For Elephants ** 1/2 / I Don't Know How She Does It ** 1/2 / Warrior ** 1/2 / Tangled [r] ***** / Crazy, Stupid, Love. ** 1/2 / The Princess and the Frog [r] ***** / I Am Legend [r] *** / The Story of Us [r] **** 1/2 / Leap Year [r] *** 1/2 / There Will Be Blood *** / Obsessed [r] **** / No Country For Old Men *** 1/2 / Star Wars: The Clone Wars ** 1/2 / A Christmas Story [r] *** / Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol *** 1/2 / LOST (Season 6) [r] *****! / The Nativity Story [r] *** 1/2 / Edward Scissorhands [r] ***** / Survivor: South Pacific **** / Love Actually [r] ***** / Undercover Blues [r] **** 1/2 / While You Were Sleeping [r] **** 1/2 / America's Next Top Model: All-Stars (Cycle 17) *** / Gargoyles (Season 2) [r] **** / Away We Go *** 1/2 / The X-Files: I Want To Believe *** / The Muppets ***** / Muppets From Space [r] *** / Muppet Treasure Island [r] **** 1/2 / LOST (Season 5) [r] **** 1/2 / Waitress *** 1/2

The highlight was  The Muppets and the last season of LOST.  The lowest of lows was Breaking Dawn Part 1.  Both of those were probably to be expected.

Apparently I'm also due to clean out my reading list, so here's that (this runs from early July 2011 to mid-March 2012):

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick) **** / Chocolat (Joanne Harris) *** / Under the Greenwood Tree (Thomas Hardy) [r] **** / Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (Jeff Kinney) *** / The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) **** / Pickles to Pittsburgh (Judi Barrett) ** 1/2 / Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Judi Barrett) *** / Desparate Remedies (Thomas Hardy) **** / The Lottery (Shirley Jackson) **** / Matilda (Roald Dahl) [r] **** / Children of the Mind (Orson Scott Card) *** 1/2 / Xenocide (Orson Scott Card) *** / Speaker for the Dead (Orson Scott Card) *** / Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card) [r] **** / Tarzan Chronicles (Howard E. Green) ***** / The Dragons of Blueland (Ruth Stiles Gannett) **** / Elmer and the Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) **** / My Father's Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) [r] ***** / The Fledgling (Jane Langton) [r] *** / Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) **** 1/2 / The Turn of the Screw (Henry James) **** / Tarzan - Special Collector's Edition (Russell Schroeder) **** / Loves Music, Loves To Dance (Mary Higgins Clark) *** 1/2 / The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) *** / Mulan - Special Collector's Edition (Russell Schroeder) **** / Peace Like a River (Leif Enger) [r] ***** / The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (Roald Dahl) **** / Mary Poppins In the Park (P.L. Travers) *** / Mary Poppins Opens the Door (P.L. Travers) ** / The Art of Hercules: The Chaos of Creation (Stephen Rebello and Jane Healey) **** / Mary Poppins Comes Back (P.L. Travers) ** 1/2 / Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers) *** / The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket) [r] *** / Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The End (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Penultimate Peril (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto (Lemony Snicket) [r] *** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Slippery Slope (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital (Lemony Snicket) [r] *** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy (Lemony Snicket) [r] ***** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Miserable Mill (Lemony Snicket) [r] *** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window (Lemony Snicket) [r] ***** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning (Lemony Snicket) [r] **** / The Art of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Stephen Rebello) **** / Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K. Rowling) [r] **** / Pinky Pye (Eleanor Estes) ****

So there you have it.  I'm glad all of the Series of Unfortunate Books ended up in the same blogkeeping post, rather than having to break them up forevermore.  Now that list on the right is so much shorter!  It's like the cleanness of a nice spring morning.   Enjoy, archives!