Christmas Eve Thoughts

  • How awesome is A Muppets Christmas Carol?  Has there been a more convincing Charles Dickens than The Great Gonzo?  And "Wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas" might be the catchiest showtune of the 90s.  This is a criminally underappreciated film.

  • TRON: Legacy was the longest music video I've ever seen, but maybe also the best.  Daft Punk scored the music and Pixar helped with the graphics and story.  It was like being at a crazy dance party...a 3D, PG-rated dance party.  (Fret not! lovers of the original TRON. This one has a lame, incromprehensible plot too!)

  • Christmas Traditions are awesome:
    • Stockings
    • Christmas Trees
    • Presents
    • Christmas Cheer
    • Christmas Eve, which at my house growing up included
      • Pork loin
      • Stuffing
      • Bavarian Bratwursts, or Pulser in the original Norwegian
      • Rice cream with Raspberry Syrup and a hidden almond in one of the bowls
      • Christmas Eve Movies
      • Christmas morning breakfast
      • The Post-gift giving/getting glow and subsequent exhaustion and nap.

  • Remembering that we celebrate Christmas to honor the greatest Gift ever given and that as we reunite with family and friends, we have a Hope of reuniting again after our time has passed.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.


App 4: The Happy Birthday App

Happy Birthday  
All versions: FREE (ad-supported)

The feel good app of the year, Happy Birthday allows users to feel that birthday fuzzy any time, anywhere they like. 

Included are popular versions of the "Happy Birthday" song, performed by such artists as Miley Cyrus, Paul McCartney, and Kanye West.

Easily record, playback, or peruse your favorite Birthday memories, such as:

  • The e-Book you wanted (Mark Twain--the Autobiography, this year)
  • Pictures of your favorite dinner made by your favorite spouse
  • Recordings of a choir composed of hugely talented singers belting out "Happy Birthday" to you
  • Cards, notes, and facebook messages wishing you many happy returns...
...and that's just the beginning.  HB will let you live in the nostalgia that is your life at the touch of a screen button. Download it now!

NOTE:  Thanks for the awesome birthday, erv.  And to everyone else who has made my birthdays reasons to celebrate.  I am a truly lucky man.


App 3: Forget Me Knot

Full Version: $.99;  Lite Version: FREE

Ever have a hard time remembering what you're supposed to be doing, when?  Well--not anymore!

Remember when you (or your Grandmother) used to tie string around your finger in order to remember a chore, avoid that broken step, or keep in mind the perils of jalapeno oilForget Me Knot allows you to tie those knots to yourself....digitally!

Forget Me Knot's patented GPS guidance system allows it to sense with pinpoint accuracy if you're approaching that blasted step as you proceed upstairs.  For soccer-parents continually on the go, FMK can sense if you're nowhere near the middle school 15 minutes before Johnny is done with his marching band rehearsal and alert you accordingly.

But perhaps its finest feature is FMK's ability to sense odors in the surrounding atmosphere.  For the lactose intolerant, FMK can sense the subtlest of dairy products in that delicious pasta you were about to shove down your gullet.  For those who persist in tempting the fiery chiles of fate, FMK can even detect the level of heat in a chile and remind the user to put plastic gloves on for the love of all habanero!*

Simply program FMK to remind, warn, caution, counsel, or alert the user whenever the user is about to do something dumb, forbidden, or potentially regretful.

And, yes, for those of you wondering, FMK can even remind the most well-intentioned of bloggers that they haven't posted recently even when they promised up and down that they would.  In short, this is the perfect app for the forgetful family member, friend, or coworker.

Buy now.  Before you forget!

*Who knew that jalapeno oil could burn you simply by getting it on your skin?!  Oh, jalapeno, how you seductively vex me!


App 2: The Utah Fan App

The Utah Fan App
Full Version: 3.99; "Non-Alcoholic" Version: Free

For those Utah football fans looking to revel in the Runnin' Utes' recent successes, this is not necessarily the App for you. Although, like the BYU Fan App, you can find video highlights of the Utes destroying Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl or taking the paint off Pittsburgh in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl, the real must-have content of this App is in its most ingenious design:

Cougar Tears

Cougar Tears allows the user to easily navigate, intuitively browse, and conduct the most advanced searches for those greatest moments in Utah football history: the times wherein BYU fans (and players) cried. Among these timeless tragedies, users will find:
  • 34-31. Every field goal, every touchdown, every delicious tear-inducing play.
  • "The Duck", 2010. Utah's wobbly, deflated punt late in the fourth quarter of a game BYU led by five miraculously bounced off a BYU player and into the arms of a waiting Ute. Magic happens, indeed!
  • The Fan Drunk on Faith v. The Utah Cheerleader. Watch as the 250-pound Utah cheerleader gets sucker-punched by a rowdy (but rail-thin) BYU fan and then proceeds to pound BYU fan into the Cougar Stadium turf. Users have the option of setting this highlight to music, re-editing, and posting new mixes quickly and easily to facebook.
  • BYU v. Hawaii, 2001. A previously undefeated Cougars squad was pummeled on the islands to lose a potential Bowl Alliance Bid and renewed glory under Gary Crowton.
  • Gary Crowton, 2000-2004. Utah fans can relive every Crowton article, interview, and press release from the over-enthused media hype surrounding his arrival, his meteoric ascent in the Fall of 2001, and his ultimate and fiery demise in 2003's 3-0 loss to the Utes in the "Cold Bowl." (Warning: This feature may not be safe for work).
  • BYU v. TCU, 2009. BYU, then ranked no. 7 in the land and racing towards a BCS berth and perhaps a National Championship matchup, faced the Horned Frogs at LaVell Edwards Stadium in the game of the decade. TCU throttled BYU and, rumor has it, the "U" above Federal Heights mysteriously twinkled brightly for days (a celebration usually reserved for only the best of Utah victories).
  • John Beck, 2001-2004. Until he finally showed some backbone in 2005, the previous iterations of Beck made even the most warm-hearted Utah fan delight in his despair. Regularly weeping after losses, excusing his poor play, and wondering openly how life could be so unfair, Beck sole-handedly validated every Utah fan's stereotype of BYU.
Yes, Cougar Tears, like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol, is sure to warm the warmest hearts of even the happiest of Utah fans.

Act quickly, as this Application is sure to sell out quickly...

...at least until the next loss, that is.


App 1: The BYU Fan App

The BYU Fan App
List Price: 4.99; "Caffeine Free" Version: Free

This application allows the mightiest of loyal Cougar Fans to relive the glory days of McMahon, Young, Boscoe, Detmer, and Sarkisian.  Video highlights include: 

  • McMahon launching the Hail Mary to Clay Brown versus SMU in the Miracle Bowl; 
  • Young catching a touchdown pass against UCLA; 
  • Boscoe thrashing Michigan on an amputated leg; 
  • Detmer flinging the pigskin for thousands of yards per game against Miami and Oklahoma; 
  • Sarkisian lofting passes into the hands of descending angels as they flutter into the endzone;
  • Jonny Harline, alone in Rice Eccles Stadium, holding the ball as a silent Salt Lake City weeps;
  • Utah fans pouring beer. On themselves.
  • And many, many more 20- and 30-year-old highlights. (Well, maybe not "many" so much as "a few").
These video highlights have been designed specifically with the Cougar fan in mind.  The videos default to "repeat" so that Cougars may wallow at their leisure in their storied history while simultaneously reassuring themselves of their peculiar moral superiority.

AS A SPECIAL BONUS, Included with this App is the surefire gaming hit "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree."  Taking full advantage of the always sublime Apple touchscreen technology, Popcorn Popping pits Cougar fans against the most dreaded of BYU rivals, both past and present. Players must launch footballs from the George Q. Cannon to deflect team helmets, logos, and mascots showering down from above before the forces of evil can decimate the barely budding Apricot Tree planted at the heart of LaVell Edwards Stadium.  

Players can defend the Apricot Tree against the likes of the blood-spitting Horned Frug, the piss-from-a-boot-pouring  Wyoming Cowboy, and the beer-chugging, wife-beater-clad, chronically-unemployed Ute Fan

Defend the tree from your foes and watch it blossom like a rose!

WARNING: in some instances, the BYU Fan App has caused Apple hardware to melt from the sheer awesomeness and holy glory that is BYU football.  Think Raiders of the Lost Ark melting Nazis, and you're in the ballpark.

Holiday Apps

We got erv a brand new MacBook Pro for school a few months back.

It's been a nice purchase.  I hope she likes it. 

But for me, the real fun came in the form of the "free" iPod Touch that accompanied the Little Notebook that Could. 

Goodbye original 10,000 song iPod that was limited to four functions--Stop, Play, Rewind, and Fastforward.  and...Hello Apps!  You sexy little bits of pure data fun. The first thing I did, as any good parent would do, was look to protect and defend my our little iPod from dings and dents.  Now the our baby looks like this:
Now our little Speck 2 can safely ride in our pockets without fear of key scratches. 

But the relationship is mutual -- I we offer protection, and Speck 2 offers infotainment.  Months later and I'm hooked on Fruit Ninja (slicing through tropical vegetable matter with your icy katana blade was never this much fun) and Angry Birds (they're birds; they're angry; and you sling them at green-headed pigs (don't ask, just play)).  I can catch up on the latest news and weather on KSL's excellent App or listen to a Jazz game on 1320 KFAN. 

I even woke up early on the morning after "Blizzard 2010" (another disappointing story for another day) so I could grab the latest reports on my our iPod Touch.

With all that in mind, I've been thinking about some wicked amazing Apps that should be appearing soon on your our iPod, iPhone, and iPad soon.

So, in honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, here come my Twelve Apps of Utah.  The first, and guaranteed bestseller: the BYU Fan App.  Look for it later today.



I'm in a choir.  And a local paper did a story on our choir.  And I like it.  Read on below...

You can find the original story here.

Many thanks to Mel Sundquist, and of course, the Deseret Chamber Singers. We have concerts coming up, if you're interested.  Details are at the end of the story.
November 18, 2010
Mel Sundquist - Daily Herald

In a world where the "professional choir member" is an endangered species, many of Utah's graduated collegiate choir students become frustrated by the lack of professional outlets for their talent.

In an attempt to fill that gap in the lives of ex-choral members at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, Rex Kocherhans started the Deseret Chamber Singers in 2006.

"The reason I created the group was because I was looking for some kind of way to continue the wonderful experience I had with the BYU Singers," Kocherhans said, mentioning that the BYU Singers is a small choir with 30 to 50 members. "That experience has its own wonderful aspects. There's a lot more individual accountability and responsibility with each singer, because you don't have 10 other people singing your part. ... So there's more responsibility, but also more payoff. ... You get to know everybody in the choir better, and there's a kind of camaraderie since it's such a small group."

The Deseret Chamber Singers are different from most community choirs along the Wasatch Front in several key ways. Their membership is limited to about 30 to 50 members, the majority of their singers are in their 20s and 30s, and they maintain a professional-quality standard while working on an entirely volunteer basis.
"It is a bunch of former university singers who loved it and lived it, and miss it," said Eric Vogeler, a tenor in the choir and publicity co-chair. "They want to keep singing and performing, and they want to recapture the magic they got to experience. That brings with it that amount of passion that you can't get from a professional choir. It's just unique."

Kocherhans agreed about the singers' passion.

"Most of these people are choral conducting masters students, or have advanced degrees, or degrees in voice. ... The amazing thing to me is the lack of ego in the group. They're amazing musicians, and yet we have such a great time singing together."

The choir will perform its newest concert, "Sing Joyfully," twice this weekend. The songs in the concert represent a wide range of styles, from Renaissance to German romantic to American folk; the general theme of the concert, however, is the exhilaration of creating music.

"The common thread through all the music is this sense of the joy of singing," Kocherhans said. "It has that common thread of the joy of opening your mouth and singing, and creating music with your human instrument."

Though both performances of "Sing Joyfully" are in churches, Kocherhans said that the venues were chosen for size, price and acoustics rather than religious atmosphere. "We're not a religious group; we don't advocate any particular faith of any kind. We sing sacred as well as secular music."

For the first time since its inception, the choir created "Sing Joyfully" under the direction of a guest composer, Timothy Workman. Workman and Kocherhans have a musical relationship spanning years -- together they were in a barbershop quartet called Reprise, which won the International Barbershop Quartet Championships at a collegiate level in 2001.

"He and I go way back," Kocherhans said. "We have a really common musical thread that runs between the two of us."

Kocherhans, who works in marketing by day, was previously conducting the choir without an advanced choral degree. He said that Workman, who recently graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a Ph.D. in choral conducting, brings "a new level of professionalism and legitimacy to the choir with his degree."
In addition to its live performances, the group is recording tracks for an upcoming album. For updates about performances and the album, find the group on Facebook.

If you go...

Sing Joyfully

When: Friday (November 19) at 8 p.m.
Where: Provo Community Congregational Church, 175 N. University Ave., Provo
Tickets: Free, but with a $10 suggested donation

Second performance:
8 p.m. Saturday, November 20 at the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, 777 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City.

Info: deseretchambersingers@gmail.com or search for "Deseret Chamber Singers" on Facebook



How much do I love Paul Millsap?!  46 points against the Heat.

I still can't believe I haven't watched them yet.  That will change.  Soon.


Bad Choices

My wife tells me I'm brilliant...except when I'm not.

(Love you, honey! (And your honesty...except when I don't)).

In all seriousness, I make my fair share of dumb moves:

1.  Turning on the headlights on my way to work this morning.  

That in and of itself was probably a good move.  A smart move.  A safe move.  But that's where I flubbed it.  Entirely.

I left the headlights on.  All day.

The poor car probably beeped at me as I got out.  "Beep! ebv!!! Beep! Your lights are on!  Beep! Beep! (you're going to be so angry when I'm dead when you try to leave work at 5:05 and can't really leave work until 6:00)! Beep!!"

Bless the bailiff who stayed late to give me a jump.

2.  Trying to take out my contacts after cutting jalapenos.

Thankfully, I only made that same mistake twice.

3.  Watching a scary movie with a sinus infection being treated with prescription strength Pseudoephedrine
(Warning: Video Link "scary movie" not for the faint of heart).

I set myself up for this one.  I recognize that.  I didn't check the rating on the Netflix, I didn't know much about the movie, and I made the mistake of starting it alone, in the dark since erv was at school late that night and I kinda like scary movies, but erv doesn't like them and I totally respect that because they freak me out sometimes.

So the movie was chilling, but definitely not terrifying enough to keep me from falling asleep before the drugs kicked in.

And this is where things get interesting.  I apparently am one of those people that pseudoephedrine affects more drastically than others.  It makes me anxious to the point that I can't sleep, that all I can do is pace around the apartment wondering which is better--insomnia or sinus pressure so great I think my skull is going to pop.  (Definitely insomnia).

So I wake up suddenly with the movie near the end and creepy things are happening and I have no context for...wait...what is she doing?! Oh, please for the love... (and I cover my eyes but have to peek at what's going on, because pseudoephedrine also makes me six years old again, apparently).  And, whamo! The scary part really hits, I whimper a little, crawl over to the computer desk, rip the power cord out of the socket and turn on all the lights.

Then erv came home, and she made everything better like she always does.  And then everything was well and good when I feel asleep easily in the arms of my beloved...

...until 3:00am rolled around...

...and I woke up in a sweat...

...and my heart was racing and I couldn't focus on anything in the room, and I swore someone or something was in the room...


...and that something would definitely possess erv as she slept next to me...

...and what chance does a guy like me have against ectoplasmic negative energy anyway without a Ghostbusters Proton Pack?!...

...well, let's just say that I cowered under the covers for the rest of the night in my pharmaceutically enduced nightmare.

In the end, I think my lovely spouse probably has things confused.  I'm definitely more often not brilliant, except when I am.



This blog serves many (admittedly selfish) purposes--

Soap Box.
Observation Point.
Comedy Club (although I wonder if everyone/anyone laughs).
Couch (for potatoes and friendly conversation).

I realized today that I haven't written as much as I used to.  A bit of me cried when I realized I'd lost a Google "follower" (see the widget box to the upper right).  It was a little like being unfriended on facebook--somebody took the effort of cleaning me out of their life.  Like any breakup, I tend to want closure.  To know that it wasn't me, it was them.

But this one is probably my fault.  In the whirlwind that was last year, it was difficult to find the time required to write on these things.

But now I think I'm ready to be back.  Married a year, helping a lovely wife wade through her Master's Degree, working (and grateful to be doing so), etc. has finally fallen into a comfortable groove.  It is, I think, the best groove I've ever been in.

And with that groove, I think I've finally found more blog time.

So here it is, my promise to myself and to anyone who deigns to read this: I'm going to write more. 

At least once a week. 

And I'll try not to waste your (and my) time too terribly.

Keep my feet to the fire, please. 


It's Funny Because it's True!

Alright, so I wrote the last post as a joke and as a way to exorcise the demons that currently torment the BYU Football Program and my fandom therein. 

Well, after the TCU debacle this past weekend, I kinda wish the post were real. 

At least the Utes are cruising.  Right?


BYU Board of Trustees to Take Over BYU Football Program

I woke up this morning and found this article.  Imagine my surprise!


  In wake of General Conference, LDS Church Leaders Assume Control of "Sinking Ship."

Is it timeout already for Bronco Mendenhall's reign?
Provo, Utah (BQ)

In a surprise move Wednesday evening, only days after his remarks to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints regarding fan behavior and civility in sporting events, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the Church's First Presidency announced that, effective immediately, "the BYU Football Team will be under the direct supervision of the Board of Trustees, from athlete recruiting to in-game management."

A press release from the Church hierarchy was distributed Monday evening, following a meeting with the players and coaching staff at BYU.  The document was signed by all members of the BYU General Board of Trustees: Chairman Thomas S. Monson, First Vice Chair Henry B. Eyring, Uchtdorf, and board members Russell M. Nelson, M. Russell Ballard, David A. Bednar, Steven E. Snow, Julie B. Beck, and Elaine S. Dalton.  President Uchtdorf represented the Board at a press conference following the decision.

Uchtdorf, a longtime Lufthansa pilot in his native Germany, amateur soccer player, and Second Vice Chairman of the Brigham Young University Board of Trustees, announced the decision on the heels of BYU's most embarrassing loss in decades--a 31-16 drumming at the hands of Utah State on October 1.  "Put simply," President Uchtdorf stated, "the football team is not lifting where they stand.  In losing to the Aggies, BYU effectively changed their course by, admittedly, only a matter of degree.  However, in piloting parlance, a change of mere degree can often lead to disaster.  We as a Board are looking to avert disaster and put this program back on the proverbial map."

BYU Pounds former PAC-10 Powerhouse Washington in Provo.
BYU started the season with an impressive win over longtime PAC-10 powerhouse Washington.  While the Huskies had been the league doormat in recent seasons, expectations were high on the West Coast that team, led by former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian, could be a sleeper and even potentially vie for the conference championship.  BYU ultimately defeated Washington at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, upsetting the Huskies 23-17 in heroic fashion.  With hopes high in Provo, little could the Cougars imagine how far, or how quickly, they'd fall.

With four consecutive losses--to Air Force, Florida State, Nevada, and last week's humbling defeat at Utah State--the Cougars are off to their worst start since 1973.  Coupled with the surprising firing of defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, the BYU program looked on the verge of collapse.

Mendenhall breathes a sigh of relief.
In his remarks to reporters following the publication of the Board of Trustee's decision, head coach Bronco Mendenhall appeared visibly relieved.  "Now I don't have to worry about the Xs and Os, team meetings, position battles, and film sessions.  I can now focus more on the Friday Firesides and attending corporate training," Mendenhall said.  When asked how the change could drastically affect the program, Mendenhall immediately quieted speculation.  "If it helps our team execute at a higher level, interpose our will upon others, implement a more robust management vector, win the hearts and minds of the people, and achieve a more efficient point margin per defensive output, then yes, I'm all for it."

In a moment of candor, coach Mendenhall revealed to the press some of the reasoning behind the perplexing decision.  "I think, ultimately, the decision came down to our failure to execute in crucial moments in the game.  While we are improving, that trajectory of improvement, when calculated against a typical sine-curve wave function, was not upward to the point where the y-axis, and subsequent wins, could intersect the x-axis, full investment, this season."

President Uchtdorf, for his part, did not pull any punches.  "With all due respect to coach Mendenhall, they have been awful.  And this coming from a man who thinks playing football with your hands is silly to begin with."  Following laughs from the press corps, Uchtdorf continued, albeit more ponderously.  "President Monson firmly believed that he, Elder Eyring, myself, and Elders Nelson and Ballard could be a more powerful and protective offensive line than that currently constituted at BYU."

With a twinkle in his eye, Uchtdorf half-jokingly said "Believe me.  President Monson could pancake [former TCU defensive end and consensus All-American] Jerry Hughes tomorrow.  You wonder why we all laugh so heartily at his jokes...well, now you know.  He's terrifying in a three point stance."

Kariya getting tackled; a common sight this year.
When asked what ultimately prompted the decision, Uchtdorf surprised the group by saying "That stretch play to Brian Kariya against Nevada on fourth and four.  President Monson almost choked on his nachos.  That's when we knew there was a problem."  When asked to elaborate, Uchtdorf reiterated, "[Offensive Coordinator Robert] Anae called a stretch play.  On fourth and four.  And you give the ball to Brian Kariya?  No amount of good living off the field can make up for poor play calling on it."  After a pause, Uchtdorf, simply disgusted, summed up the frustration of BYU fans everywhere: "KARIYA!"

Details of the restructuring were not revealed in the press release, however speculation has it that Julie Beck, President of the Relief Society, will work as Receivers Coach.  When contacted for comment on this story, Ms. Beck's camp simply stated that "As the ultimate source of relief for the quarterback, the receivers have a lot to learn regarding their role.  We'll start on fundamentals tomorrow, beginning with charity, which in this context means catching the ball.  We want the receivers to learn that, like charity, they never fail.  And," Sister Beck noted personally, "if they do happen to fail, they'll be running what I term 'Called to Sprint.'" 
The new BYU Coaching Staff
Among other rumored positions changes, speculation remains high that President Thomas S. Monson will assume offensive play calling with President Uchtdorf at the defensive helm.  It remains to be seen what role President Henry B. Eyring will play in the revamped BYU system; however, many feel the former scientist would be a natural athletic director.  When contacted for his reaction, current AD Tom Holmoe had "no comment."

Regardless of the results of this stunning decision, all parties agree that new meaning has been given to these lines in the BYU fight song, "Rise and Shout": As we join in song, in praise of you, our faith is strong.

Cougar faithful might just have received the gift they'd been praying for.



 I just took this test over at the religion site Beliefnet.  It's supposed to gauge how and where my personal beliefs are based on a twenty question quiz.  While I can see the relationship to Mainline / Liberal Christian Protestants and Orthodox Quakers, I was a bit surprised that my admittedly LDS-leanings are so closely in line with Mahayana Buddhism. 

I knew I liked the idea of coming back as a cat to learn the essential skills of lazing and eating, but I didn't know that idea could creep its way into my dogmatic ideals. But then again, it's just a fun little quiz.

Go take the test.  It's interesting.

1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Orthodox Quaker (98%)
3. Mahayana Buddhism (94%)
4. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (93%)
5. Baha'i Faith (91%)
6. Liberal Quakers (88%)
7. Hinduism (87%)
8. Sikhism (86%)
9. Theravada Buddhism (86%)
10. Jainism (85%)


The Ladies' Loo

I caught a glimpse[1] of the Women's Bathroom at work the other day as the janitors were rolling through, and, well...

Ladies, you have a couch in there?!

And barca loungers?!!

This shocking revelation led me to question all the things I did not see as I passed the Joan:[2]  if there are couches, could there also be masseurs, caviar, champagne, performing flautists, and bathing servants to care for your every restroom requirement? Do the Roman Baths still exist, unbeknownst to half the population?

My dear female friends, before I get too crass, I want you to know how truly lucky you are to have these amenities in your water closets.  These lavish appointments, even a simple couch, finally explain why these areas are called "Restrooms." 

I now understand why entire flocks of women migrate to and from the restroom during group activities.  I can only surmise that super secrets and other important things are worked out and arranged there.  In fact, in researching this post, I discovered that many important International Treaties have been brokered in the U.N.'s Ladies' Room.  One must assume that this kind of social cooperation among women is a direct result of the comfort of your bathrooms

In contrast, your Typical Men's Room has three features:  

1.  Scum on the floors and crinkled candy wrappers from the 80s.[3]   

2.  Troughs and / or holes in the ground to carry away human effluence 

3.  A sign informing us that we "must under PENALTY OF LAW WASH YOUR HANDS"[4]

This kind of atmosphere does not breed conversation.  In truth, we menfolk stop talking the second our feet hit the restroom tiles.[5] 

For example I could be engaged in a furious debate on the intersection of Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion within the context of American funerary ceremonies with my fastest guy friend, legal mumbo jumbo spewing from our mouths at a prodigious clip, and the moment we opened the Men's Room door, our conversation would instantly and consciously be put on pause.

Would we resume the conversation after leaving?  Of course.  But our time in the porcelain cave is not time for thinking.  It is business time, and we want to get out of there as soon as practical. No one I know is really in the mood to talk about the weekend when they're afraid of what creeping thing could be lurking under the effluence trough.

So celebrate your restrooms, ladies.  Lap in the luxury of your loo.  And know that at least one man out there will understand when and why you do.

[1] It was INNOCENT!  They were cleaning the place… honest.
[2] See also the male version: the John.
[3] Twix wrappers are the most common, followed by Three Musketeers and Air Heads.
[4] The sign must have been defaced with either crude drawings or naughty phrases made by a 13-year-old (regardless of how old his body really is).  Additionally, the fact that this sign exists is a sad commentary on the mental state of men in general.  Do we really need to be reminded to do this all the time?  Sadly, the answer appears to be a resounding "Yes, Dummy!"
[5] For the record, we men also stay as far away from each other as possible while taking care of our business.  Are there deeper reasons for this behavior?  Perhaps.  But for now, just know that we all follow these rules regardless of reason; and we break them at our own peril.


The Way to Make Money

Apparently isn't to earn an education, work hard, or even become skilled at your craft.

Looks like all you have to do is put together a contracting bid, lose the bid, and threaten to sue the State Agency that made the decision because "the decision wasn't fair."

Then you can walk away with a cool baker's dozen (in millions) and you never have to lift a finger. 

Does this seem wrong to anybody else (alleged political "pay-to-play" schemes aside)?



Babylon or Zion? (part 2)

My last post was mostly about religion.  This post will mostly be about college football and sport in general.  I didn't want this to become a defense of my "purpleness" or something about not being able to "serve two masters."  However, I suppose it does help explain why I try to keep one foot in Babylon and one in Zion.

Mostly, though, it's just me riffing on why sports has become its own sort of religion and how religion (at least in Utah) has bled into sports.  And why it's gone wrong.

I.  History Lesson

A history of College Football in Utah.  It doesn't need to be long.  This should suffice:

Brigham Young founded the University of Utah a long time ago.
A slightly less long time ago, someone (not named Brigham Young) founded the Brigham Young Academy in honor of Brigham Young.
Not long after their respective foundings, the schools started playing football.
They played it almost every year, and it began to get heated when they played.
At first, the University of Utah beat Brigham Young Academy--a lot.
Sometime thereafter, the Brigham Young Academy changed its name to Brigham Young University--to sound cooler, or something.
Sometime after the name change, Brigham Young University hired a guy out of Granite High School named LaVell Edwards.
Thirty years and 20-something wins over Utah later, and BYU named an ice cream and a stadium after him.
Both schools beat Utah State senseless every year.
Then the University of Utah hired a guy out of Bowling Green, by way of Notre Dame, named Urban Meyer.
And like the Spanish Inquisition before him, Urban proceeded to drill, torture, and defeat the Cougars.
Urban was Catholic; the Cougars were Mormon.
Then BYU hired a guy named after a Horse.  And he did well against Utah.
Then someone dubbed the Utah / BYU rivalry "The Holy War"; thousands of Crusaders rolled in their graves.
Oh, and somewhere in there, people poured beer on Max Hall's family.
And here we are today.

It saddens me that the rivalry has digressed in sportsmanship and respect.  There was (and hopefully still is) something endearing, something unique, something special about the Utah / BYU rivalry.  Time had it as a good-natured and competitive meeting that took place whenever the Universities met up in Sport.

These schools are forty miles apart. That's close.  When they played, they played bragging rights and their accompanying smack talk; conference championships; neighborhood rivalries; and to taste the sweetness of victory or avoid the bitterness of defeat.

Friends and families could be divided for three hours on a Fall Saturday, only to reunite later over Turkey and Trivial Pursuit.

In short, it was a blessed, harvest time event.

Somewhere along the way, however, the rivalry got ugly.  Religion--and its attendant biases and prejudices, adherents and detractors-- strolled into the show.  People in Utah started to align according to their faith; they chose up sides and in so doing became equal parts self-righteous and hypocritical, pious and petty.

Now people--not everyone, mind you, but enough--openly hate on each other, calling each other classless, pouring beer on families, punching coaches' wives, stealing cell phones, assaulting cheerleaders / getting beaten up by assaulted cheerleaders, stealing statues, tearing down goal posts, getting pregnant, living in sin, stoning prophets...

You get the picture.

I don't know exactly when or how this happened, but it's here.  Maybe it's been progressing that way for years. One thing's for certain: there's something deep and dark about the hatred that is oozing from the "Holy War."  And I wonder why it's happened here, in the Valley of the Saints.

II.  Sport

Sports are and have always been a way for us to safely create a microcosm of our society.  A place where the rule of law is absolute and we have at least the feel of control.  We can pour in all our violence, all our competitive urges, all our desire to win, be the best, destroy, etc. without actually destroying.  Whereas the Romans got to watch their gladiators defeat the "others," we get to cheer on our Spartans / Trojans / Cougars / Utes as they defeat the invading Aggies / Longhorns / Fighting Irish / Wolverines.  Better yet, no one gets decapitated at the end of it all.  (I'm waiting for you to blink on that one, MMA).

But perhaps the most appealing aspect of sport is the sense that these competitions are fair.  They are the Mosaic law.  Eye for an eye, hoop for a hoop.  No one gets an upperhand at the beginning* because everyone starts with the same score: 0.  From there, it's up to you. 

Sports are fair in an undeniably cruel and often unfair world.  By way of example, the majority of Brazilians live in abject poverty.  Many are one room, dirt floor, tin house, beans for all meals poor.  But despite this, Brazilians make the world gasp in awe when they take to the pitch for World Soccer matches.  I was in Brazil during the 2002 World Cup.  Brasil beat Germany in the final match to become the "Pentacampeao"--five-time champion.  Poverty lost out that day to unbridled joy and pride.  I've never seen more deliriously happy, jovially drunk people at 8:00 in the morning. 

All this was possible because the playing field was level.  Brazil earned its victories, poverty and corruption forgotten.  For one day, at least, the Federal Republic of Brazil could say they were the best at something and know it was true.

That's not usually what happens after BYU / Utah games anymore.  If one team beats the other, it's not enough to have won.  The sense of accomplishment somehow isn't enough anymore.  The winning team and its supporters will often disparage the loser.  The divisive comments--"I hate those guys" or "I'd rather die a Ute than win as a Cougar (or vice versa)"--are routinely heard, not in whispered conversations, but in shouting matches between victor and loser at the stadium, on the radio, and at home.

This kind of behavior is something like Achilles dragging Hector's corpse around the walls of Troy after slaying the Trojan hero in single combat.  This act of desecration was so putrid to the Greeks that, at least according to the Iliad, the gods conspired to help defeat Achilles.  But in "The Holy War", many take "rubbing it in" as par for the course.  To the victor go the spoils.  All's fair in love and war.

I worry that this is a result of the religious subtext that has crept into the game.** 

(Thanks to Ted Naismith)


Bringing this all back, I'm afraid that the "Holy War" has become not a positive, fair microcosm of how society should work, but rather as a reflection of how society is working.

There were plans by a self-professed Christian minister to burn the Quran this week as some sort of protest about the planned Islam Community Center near the World Trade Center Ground Zero.  Americans everywhere are sacrificing the First Amendment on the altar of the War on Terror--arguing that the same Islam Community Center planned near Ground Zero should not be constructed, and if it is, the builders should not be surprised at what could happen.  (This is a story for another time as well).  Religious people are viewed as ignorant and blind.  Aetheists are despised as evil.  Republicans ridicule Democratic values and Democrats ridicule Republican values.  (Again, another story).

We Americans love to sort each other into groups, label each other, and ultimately (here's that word again) pigeonhole ourselves into a comfortable corner where we are surrounded only with what makes us feel comfortable and good.  And justified in what we do and believe, reason or love be damned.

In the end, we build up a castle, only to be holed up in it, spewing insults down on those who pass by, who are not in our kingdom or of our kingdom.  We shout to them that they are wrong, that they are misguided, and when they ask us to join them, we shout again that we don't want to join their search for the Grail, because "we've already got one."

We arrange ourselves into Bhuddist, Baptist, Mormon, Catholic, Ute, and Cougar.  And feed our insecurities by hate.  We engage in bullying and call it righteousness (or open-mindedness if you're not in a religious context).  We are doing just fine in our corner, thank you very much.

And we are all the poorer for it.


* Unless you're in the BCS, but that's another story as well.

** Which is odd, because there are just as many Mormon Utah fans as not.


Babylon or Zion? (part 1)

Growing up an innocent toe-head in Northern Utah, I (naively) assumed that everyone went to the same church as me on Sundays.  We all just "went to church."  When Dave Johnson asked me--in the 2nd Grade, mind you--what Church I went to, "Lutheran or Mormon?" I remember thinking Lutheran sounds cooler, "Lutheran."

Dave's response?  "Huh.  Cool."

That was that.  Dave and I continued on with our puzzle (it was a She-Ra / He-Man crossover puzzle, for what it's worth). 

Life was fine.

It was only later that my Mother found out my answer and informed me that I was definitely Mormon. 

This didn't really come as news to me, as I recognized the name.  I just figured that Lutherans liked Luther more than Mormon.*  No big deal; I had bugs to catch or castles to build.

Nowadays, my innocence is gone.  How you answer the question of religion--"You Mormon? You Christian? You Muslim? You Atheist?"--apparently pigeonholes you into something you might not be. Look, I get pigeonholing; I grew up in Utah, where everyone thinks polygamy still thrives (it doesn't) and dancing is outlawed (damn you, Footloose!).  And it's not just from the outside "gentile" population; many Salt Lake City folk will treat you well until they find out you belong to "That Church" or that you're a "blind sheep," or "close-minded," or some such pejorative term.**  Then you get condescending or patronizing stares that simply ooze "Oh, you poor, poor village idiot.  I'd talk to you in my grown up voice, but I worry you wouldn't understand me." 

Pigeonholing pisses me off, though.  When I get those condescending stares, I try to glare back with my "I'd talk to you too if you weren't so convinced that your own world-view was superior to my own, hedonistic hypocrite!" glare.  Judging someone largely on your broad, superficial, and usually wikipedia-based knowledge of their beliefs is like attempting to paint over a Van Gogh rather than appreciating it.

That said, however, some of the finest, most decent people I've ever met in my life were Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, and Bhuddist.  These are still some of my closest friends.  And, in general, we all maintain a healthy respect for each other regarding our spiritual and ideological beliefs.***  

All of this serves as a backdrop to my confessional. 

I belt "Ki-Yi" for the University of Utah.


I also rise and shout for the Cougars of BYU.

Go ahead, gasp.  In college football terms, I keep one foot in Zion and one in Babylon.  The ultimate sacrilege.  That which is worthy of a spewing out by the three-headed deity of JoePaBoBear.

If this were Sodom & Gomorrah, I'd be a two-hundred pound pillar of salt by now.

I think a lot of my friends see me as a fair weather fan.  Or truly a Utah fan or truly a Cougar fan, underneath that smutty veneer of the "other team." 

I understand, though, that being able to entertain ideas that are at odds with each other is a sign of psychological health.  I suppose the same could be said of teams.  At least, that's how I'd like to justify it.  But that's for another day.

Part 2: Will explore the deeper meaning of "The Holy War", why it's ridiculous, and why I love both teams but hate what they're doing right now. 


*Which is, I suppose, true.

** I think I might have sussed out the difference between "open-minded" and "close-minded" people.  Seems to me that neither group can tolerate the other, where one openly embraces its label and the other remains blissfully ignorant of its own.

***Yes, most of my friends are probably LDS.  Part of that is demographics, part of it is self-selection.  I see the same group of people every nearly every Sunday, and we are working towards several common goals, not least of which is community building.  We try to watch out for and take care of each other (some more than others, and some more judgmentally than others. Sigh.).  When it works, it's inspiring.  It doesn't always work well, and as in life, there are road bumps. No matter the outcome, though, you tend to forge fast friendships and long-term relationships.


Does Anyone Else Get...

Weird comments from supposedly Asian readers with ellipses links to what I'm sure are some type of Avian Flu-Computer Virus?

Yeah.  It's annoying. 


Everything's Coming Up Vogeler

I've been thinking it over.  I need to post more often.  Life is busy, of course, but there is time to be made.

One of the reasons I keep this blog, aside from pointing out funny Mormon / Blogger / Utahn / American idiosyncracies, is to keep a lot of you updated about my life.  So here's an update.  A run down of, perhaps, the best year of my life. Ever.

One year ago this time, I was just finishing up the bar exam, trying to figure out how to convince the love of my life that she should remain the love of my life forever, and wondering just how I was going to make money to support myself (let alone the soon-to-be-permanent love of my life).  It was stressful, and I was adrift on the tide of a bad economy.

And then miracle by miracle started to pop up.  Here are some of them:

1.  August 21, 2009:  A job I'd interviewed for with a judge I didn't hear back from in May suddenly opened up again.  And they offered me the job!  How long did it take me to accept the offer?  The measurement for a period of time that small hasn't even been imagined yet.

2.  August 22, 2009:  Riding the euphoria of a job and knowing that, at least for a little while, I could afford to keep eating and maybe even live somewhere, I asked erv to marry me.  In an incredibly sappy, kitschy way that she just ate up.  And it totally worked!

3.  September 2009:  Find out from facebook that bar scores are up--somewhere.  Find out from friend where to find my score.  Find out from internet that a lot of people passed and a lot of people failed.  Frantically try to find my exam number.  Find out from my email what my bar exam number was.  Find out I passed.
I nearly hyperventilated in the ten minutes it took me to figure all of this out.

Later the same day, find out from letter that I passed with way more points than I ever needed to.  Curse myself for having studied too much.  Cross myself for having studied enough.

4.  September 2009:  Find an amazing apartment at an amazing price in downtown on Craigslist.  We close the same day we see it.

5.  October 2009:  Sworn in as a licensed attorney in the State of Utah.  Get a raise for becoming an attorney.  Lose a lot of money towards bar fees.  Still, I feel I came out better for this deal.

6.  October 24, 2009:  I married the girl that makes me still feel all twitterpated inside.

7.  October 25, 2009:  Relieved to see that the girl I married didn't run off in the night.  Still hasn't (crossing fingers).

8.  January 2010:  Made it through tryouts and into an amazing chamber choir.  Did we sing complex latin requiems? Of course.  Were we snooty? You bet.  But did we sound fantastic? Every time we warbled.  (The band broke up in April, sadly.  Probably in order to get rid of me. :P).

9.  May 2010:  Visit my little brother in Seoul Korea.  One case of Kimchi poisoning aside (and it burned!), we had a fun, culturally enlightening visit.  I have to admit, however, that having to order my food based on pictures in the menu is not my favorite activity.  Nor does it always produce the tastiest food.

10.  July 2010:  Longtime Professor, mentor, and good friend, Tom Lee becomes the latest Utah Supreme Court Justice.   Among such cool things as watching him get sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and later meeting and conversing with the same, I was humbled when, a few weeks after being approved by the Utah Senate, Justice Lee called me and asked me to come clerk for him in 2011-2012.

Pause. Blink. Blink.

I stammered out "yes" in about five different ways and five different languages, rambled on for a few minutes about how "awesome...I mean awe-inspiring...I mean...Yes!" it was.  And when I finally composed myself enough to say, "it will be an absolute honor" and hung up the phone, I squealed like a little girl for at least two minuets.

*Quick primer on judicial clerkships:  law clerks have a lot of functions in a judge's chambers, but perhaps what Justice Thomas told me is the most succinct way to put it.  "[]Our job is to make the judge's job easier."  We research, write, debate, and basically make sure the judge is prepared in hearings and that his opinion sparkles with brilliance and accuracy.  A judicial clerkship often opens professional doors that wouldn't open otherwise.

And, at the end of the day, it's just fascinating, invigorating work.  Needless to say, I am completely stoked to get in there, roll up my sleeves, and work hard.

TODAY:  And today, well...today I'm just grateful to be alive and kicking.  I have a job that pays me money, I have friends I love spending time with, I have the greatest family in the world, and perhaps most importantly, I have a wife who absolutely loves me.

Things really are coming up Vogeler.

It's at these times that I usually brace for the incoming crap storm, but at least for right now, I'll enjoy it.

A lot.


A Very Special Sunday

The Mrs. and I have spent the last few weeks taking breaks between vacations to go in and (sigh) get to work.

Life's hard, isn't it?

Well, one such vacation was up to our dearly beloved West Yellowstone and Hebgen Lake.  My wife and I both grew up going to Hebgen, although we had cabins on totally different parts of the lake.  We still adore the area and when we get a chance to go up there, we tend to jump at it. 

Part of the fun of going up to Hebgen, aside from lake activities, hiking, cabining, and chilling, is the little town that is West Yellowstone.  It's a collection of Mom & Pop stores run by long-time residents catering to tourists and vacationers.  The most culturally significant places on Main Street include the Dairy Queen, the Playmill, and the local Soggy Log Bar.

In short, West is awesome.

Part of the deal at Hebgen is, if you're up on Sunday, you go to church in West (unless it's Stake Conference, which was the best Sunday of my youth up there).  The LDS ward in West is a small congregation that swells to overflowing on holidays and throughout the summer.  Usually it's the same ol' same ol' of preachin', teachin', and upward reachin' by a good mix of locals, summer employees, and Idaho/Utah residents spending the summer there at their cabins.  It's usually tame...

...but this Sunday was different.

This Sunday was special.

We were treated to some very interesting talks from church speakers over Memorial Day.  I'll only leave you with the first one today (The second merits its own discussion):

A young returned missionary (only a month home) from Maseo, Brazil, got up to speak for about 10 minutes.  I'm always interested to hear how Brazil is having spent several years myself as a missionary and later working in Sao Paulo for a summer.  Needless to say, I have an enormously soft spot in my heart for that happy country and perk up whenever I hear anyone speak of her.
Because he was speaking on Memorial Day, I get the gist that the local leadership had asked this newly off the presses Missionary to speak about his mission experience and, if he felt it appropriate, tie it in to some of the themes of remembering our veterans and the devastation of war (again, I'll assume actual warfare, but maybe, hopefully, an emphasis on spiritual warfare). 

Wow, was I surprised.  Instead of the normal spiritual powerhouse talk, we were treated to a 15 minute diatribe on

1.  How a third world country like Brazil was not like America, where no one was free, and how the populace was fighting desperately to secure its rights against a corrupt government.

2.  A quote from President George W. Bush on how America was a light on a hill (actually, I thought this quote was going to segue into something better, when in fact it just devolved to…), which he promptly equated to us being superior to any and all countries (natch!). 

3.  How this young man was so grateful when his airplane home crossed into American airspace that he turned to his companions on the flight and said "Now, boys, if this plane goes down, at least it will be on American soil! Yeehaw!"  I can only imagine the reaction his fellow missionaries gave him.  I would have loved to have punched him in the nose.

4.  How America was the most American Americana of them all and wasn't America the greatest rootin-tootinest country there ever was, dern-it-all! 

Writing that, I want to make certain that you understand that I love my country.  Living outside of the USA for many years has only deepened my appreciation for it and dedication to making it a fantastic country for myself and the future. 

But that said, man, this kid missed the point.  Bad.

Missionaries are supposed to go out and serve.  Love others.  Do the whole Christian thing--that is, forget themselves, and sacrifice themselves to a bigger cause.  For other people. Without a thought for themselves.

Or the country they left behind. 

For example, I was so apolitical and out of the loop on my mission that when the United States invaded Iraq in 2002, I didn't hear about it until three days later. I was more interested in what was going on with the neighbors across the street (who, although very nice and interested in what we were doing, later turned out to be the front of a city-wide drug cartel... whole 'nother story there). 

My point is this: America is great.  We are extremely lucky and very blessed to live here.  Period.

But to adopt an attitude of superiority, especially one that reeks of "We're in an American world (or religion) where we merely tolerate your presence in it", is about the most unAmerican attitude I could imagine. 

As he wrapped up his rhetoric, my sweet wife summed up the young man's talk very succinctly, as she turned to me and whispered "Wow.  That was right wing."

Yes.  So far right as to be simply wrong.


A Series of Open Letters, vol. 2

Dear Modern Family,

You make us laugh, cry, and generally feel good about ourselves and our family.

My wife thinks I'm Phil--delightfully clueless and a lover of accents and fun.  I hope I'm at least a bit less pervy, though.

I think she's Claire--way too cute to be with me and well aware of that fact.

Your genius, my dear Modern Family, is that we can all relate to you in some way or another.  We all have that in-law; we all have those uncles; we all have brothers, sisters, cousins, relatives, etc. who adore spending time with us, even though we all drive each other crazy.

And you relate it in hilarious, often zany ways--and we thank you for the laughs.  But then you ground it in the familiar and the poignant--and we thank you for the life lessons.

All in all you just make us happy.

Thank you, Modern Family.  Thank you.


ebv & erv


A Series of Open Letters, vol. 1

Dear Glee:

You make me sad.  Your last two episodes were weak.  No.

They were worse than weak

They were the same contrived, plotless excuses for musical numbers that got you into trouble early in the first half of Season 1.  My wife pointed this pattern out to me last night: "Sue Sylvester says something outrageous; Will Shuester reacts; the Kids act out; we all learn a lesson."  And that's completely true.  There were flashes of brilliance in the first half of the Season: the Rachel-crush episode (Pepper Potts!), the Puck-comes-to-Torah episode, the Sue-Sylvester-has-a-handicapable-sister episode.  But the reason they were brilliant was the story: plot, dialogue, characters, drama, etc.  The music was a nice accent for the story line, not the focus.

But now you've turned that around.  The Madonna-centric episode was nothing more than a slap-dash plot written to connect up some of Madge's more famous songs. And now you're planning to produce more of these?  The Britney Spears episode?!  What, is her catalog so rich and deep that it's just begging to be storylined?

In the words of GOB Bluth: "Come on!"

Honestly, Glee, the reason I liked you in the beginning was because you weren't formulaic.  No other TV show was quite like you.  You were fun and engaging.  You had relatable characters, hilarious dialogue, and plot lines that sizzled with both off-the-wall craziness and believability.  The music, often, was choice and appropriately placed.

Then you started to follow your own perceived formula.  And now we just get over-produced, often nonsensical music that was performed better by the original artists in the place of plot, drama, and anything else that could be considered a coherent story.

Structure and formulas aside, I have serious plot concerns too:

(1) Where is Quinn Fabray living? Her parents kicked her out months(?) ago and she stayed with Finn and his Mom, presumably... so, is she still living in Finn's basement? Is she out on the street? Does she live in the school gymnasium, fending off hobos and vagrants for the leftover Little Caesar's crusts? What the heck is going on with her baby? For the love of all that's silly and whimsical and used to make us grin silly grins, just tell us!

(2) Ummm .... do these kids just perform without practicing?

(3) Wait... that's it.  There is no more plot.

Sigh.  I'm quickly losing faith, Glee.  Prove to me I should stay.




I Have Spelling (and Grammar and Etiquette) Nazi Tendencies

And I'm kind of proud of them.

But I also know they can annoy the heck out of people (just ask my lovely bride).

So, with that in mind, here are some of my biggest spelling/grammar/word usage/etiquette pet peeves.  Please tuck them away for future reference.  And, if any of these faux pas(es?) apply to you, be strong. Make the change. You'll be better for it. (My apologies to those who live outside of Deseret. Some of these peeves are very Utah-centric. We have our idiosyncrasies just like everybody else...).

1. YAY! vs YEAH!

Look, I'm all about expressing e-enthusiasm through texts, emails, chats, whatever.  But when you are spelling it out, you must recognize that these two are distinct and different words.

Yay-- reads as a long a. Rhymes with hey and hay.  This is the word people often use to express genuine excitement.

Usage: "The Legislative Session is over?  YAY!!!"

Yeah-- reads as a shortened eh sound.  The vowels form the same vowel sound as lamp, pal, and gal. This is the word people often use in replacing yes, or to indicate that they're going to do something, but less than enthused about it.

Usage: "So, Disneyland really costs 50 dollars a person?" "Yeah, it does."

(Note: sometimes, YEAH! can be used as an exclamation of joy. See picture above).

2.  Proselyte vs. Proselytize

This one kills me, but up until about five years ago, I made the same error over and over again because, well, so did everyone else in Utah.  I fear that this is already a lost cause.  But I will not go quietly into the night.  I will rage against the dying of the light! (at least for today).

A Proselyte is a noun, people.  It is NOT a verb.  A proselyte is a someone.  You don't go "proselyting" and you don't "proselyte for two years" as a missionary, just as you don't go "mechanicing" and you don't "mechanic for two years" as a form of summer employment during college.

A biblical term, proselyte refers to an individual, "a Gentile who had converted to Judaism."  In modern usage, the Mormon community--who can sometimes still be heard to refer to non-believers as "gentiles"--would consider any person who converted to the Mormon faith from a previous faith or state of unbelief to be a proselyte.

Proselytizing is the verb form, my friends.  To proselytize is "the act of attempting to convert people to another opinion and, particularly, another religion."  If you want to go out and convince Gentiles to become believers for a period of time, you will be spending your time proselytizing. NOT proselyting.

I understand that the Mormon community has taken to referring to proselytizing as proselyting. Heck, even my spell check doesn't try to correct it.  But trust me on this one--at the best it's colloquial.  At the worst, it's grating.

3.  Answering Cell Phones in Meetings

Thesis:  You know the bad rap the Millenials get for being tied to their cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc.  We are supposedly incapable of going five minutes without texting, calling, or otherwise communicating with our peers.  (This also gets wrapped up into the ages-old contention that we are infinitely lazier than our hard-working, salt-of-the-earth parents...who are relying on us to bankroll their retirements...but I digress).

In my generation's defense, I must admit that, in my admittedly limited experience, I have seen the worst phone etiquette come from the Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation.  Bar none.  This includes answered phones in the middle of church.  Ringtones that are not muted after the first three courtesy rings.  And game playing during meetings.

Don't believe me?  Here are just two of the most recent examples I've experienced.

Example 1: I was sitting in a very sensitive, important meeting (only held once a month), when one of the team leaders pulled out his cell phone like it had bit him.  He hastily answered and everyone else around the table stopped what they were doing or saying.  I imagine we were all thinking something along the lines of "His wife is sick" or "There's an emergency at home" or, at the very least, the cable guy was calling.

But no.

He held a five minute conversation with his "sweetheart" about how she should go ahead and fill a bag with canned food for the Scouts to pick up.

While the rest of us watched.

And listened.

With our mouths slack-jawed.

Example 2:  I am currently covering the traffic judge position in municipal court.  I like it because it's interesting, interactive, and different each week.  Plus, I get to wear the black robes (power trip!).  But sometimes, the job is frustrating.  For instance, I get lots of excuses as to why someone failed to appear for their court date--"I have lots of classes and it just slipped my mind" or "I thought it was somewhere else" 78 miles from where they got the ticket.

But the most galling of all behavior is how many people answer their phones in court.   

On one special day, a seemingly sweet old lady interrupted me mid sentence so she could answer her phone.  Turns out, her daughter was waiting in the parking lot with the engine running, and could we please hurry things up.

Needless to say, I was not very much in the mood to be lenient.

Conclusion:  Shut your phones off in semi- to fully-formal occasions, please.  Or at least silence them. I don't care that the judge in front of you is "too young" or that the meeting you're sitting in is dull.  You insult everyone around you and make yourself look foolish when you answer your phones there.  Worse, you not only lose your own attention, but you distract others as well.


4.  The "Wave"

When someone lets you merge your car into their lane, give them the wave.  In fact, when someone does anything to assist you in traffic, give them the wave.  It's the least you can do.

I think that for every bird flipped, there should be at least two more waves given somewhere else in the world.  We would live in a much a happier place.

5.  Obscure Latin Phrases are NOT Your Friends

More often than not, they do not make you sound smarter; they make you sound pretentious.  Imagine if you will, a young man in a tweed sport coat approaching you, and between chewing on his ivory pipe and twisting monacle, utters (with a slightly nasal lisp):

brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio.  [Sigh...].

Now, unless you speak Latin and understood that this man was simply trying to explain to you his educationally weary frustration, you missed his ironic point: "In trying to become concise, I become obscure."

What this speaker of dead tongues doesn't realize, however, is that a goodly percentage of the world knows he's using latin.  And even the small percentage of the world that understands what he's saying thinks him a twit. 

At my job, I see far more latin phrases than I ever care to see.  And unless these phrases have become some kind of shorthand for a principle where the latin really is the most concise thing (e.g., quid pro quo or ex post facto), the latin just becomes buzzy buzz words that are trying desperately to tell you how smart they are without ever realizing that they are skimmed over and disdained like some bunch of grammatical mosquitoes.

All that said, it would be really cool if Google had a latin translator function.  Then we could all sound smart, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

6. Using ALL-CAPS and Quotations "Marks" to Prove a "Point" Proves Another Point Entirely: You're an Ass

You've all had individuals do this to you at least once.  This person sends you an email or text message that just drips with confrontational sarcasm. Something like: 

"You had NO RIGHT to 'vote' me off the island!"


"I CANNOT believe that YOU had to 'go to your sister's wedding.'"

Look, there are many reasons that we write our language down.  One of those reasons is so that we can express ideas to each other calmly and professionally when we might otherwise backhandslap our best friend in the mouth want to respond immediately and in anger.

Which is why it always amazes me when people can sit down, pour their immediate frustrations and temporary anger into an email and, before they've had a chance to rationally think about it, hit "Send to All."

I imagine that many relationships, careers, and maybe even lives have ended because of the simple click of the button and a few "quotation" marks and ALL-CAPS scattered throughout an email that never really needed to be sent.

Please.  Let your cooler head prevail. Don't send angry emails for at least an hour after drafting them.