Recent Travels

I am not a traveler. I have never flown anywhere just for leisure. I generally prefer to stay home, and with children there are logistic and financial implications to traveling as well. And until my current job I never had to travel for work either. But in the last two years I have taken a few trips, and it's been interesting to gain some perspective on what it may be like for those who do it more often.

Last week I was in Fort Worth for a convention. Our employees all had rooms at a hotel by the convention center. I ended up on a flight that came in at midnight with a few coworkers. We were picked up at the airport, but the hotel had overbooked and had to find us rooms elsewhere. The other hotel had a problem finding our reservation, so we ended up getting to our rooms about 1 a.m. So instead of this:

We ended up in this.

It's a hotel built in 1907, with old-timey style. It was kind of a fun place. But I was only there for a few hours.

The next morning the other hotel got us a taxi back to where we were supposed to be from the beginning, but our rooms still weren't ready, so we had to leave our bags for a few hours and get right to work. Later that afternoon I got to actually check in to the room I would have for the next few days.

There were meetings to attend that afternoon, and then we spent the evening working on the slide decks of the people who would be presenting during the convention. When you get a group of people of various nationalities presenting in English, there are a lot of grammatical issues to work out. So we worked on those until around 11, then I decided to get a late run in at the gym rather than try to drag myself out of bed at 5.

The next night was what we call the Road Rally, where people who have earned cars through incentive programs bring them and we take a big group photo. Then it's dinner and party time. We had it at a place called Billy Bob's Texas, which is the world's largest honky tonk bar. They can fit 6,000 people in there. So we had some great barbecue, live music, indoor bull riding, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The next two days were the general sessions of convention, with leaders presenting training and recognizing people for their achievements. I spent my time backstage working on communication tasks and helping our new social media person learn the ropes of working events.

Our events end Saturday evening, and there's a curious phenomenon that happens after months of preparation and a culminating week of long hours. We all get really giddy and silly, and a large group usually goes out to dinner. We ended up at a place that served UNBELIEVABLE barbecue. The brisket melted in our mouths, the spicy smoked sausage was amazing, and even the plain chicken was super good. Also, mac and cheese with bacon and jalapeño. Then there were four kinds of cobbler with ice cream, and I ate seven servings.

We all went back to the hotel right after dinner because most of us had morning flights and the time change would make our night even shorter. Sometimes we see a movie or go shopping, but I think everyone just went back and packed up and went to bed.

I was nervous about the time change and whether I would wake up at the right time, so I didn't get much sleep. But everything worked out, in part because we have great people who know how to organize these trips, and I got home by mid-afternoon. I don't know how I would manage the kids by myself if Katie left town, but she has been doing better and better each time I go. I admire her for that.

Anyway, with the new person I may not have to travel much at all, which I am frankly okay with. The end.

I Read You Loud and Clear

I'm amazed at how popular audio books are. Part of me is sad because I think people are physically reading less, and part of me is happy because we might be exposed to more great books this way. While thinking about this I came up with an important question.

If you have listened to an audio book, have you "read" it?

Most people I think would say yes. I would argue that it's not the same thing. For me, I get a sense of accomplishment when I read a book with my own eyes. I might go back and forth between pages or reread lines to get something I missed the first time. It feels to me like a fundamentally different activity, like watching a theater production of a play vs. reading the script (I'd use movies as an example, but obviously they are typically very different).

Full disclosure: I have never listened to an audio book, with two exceptions. I did once listen to The Book of Mormon on audio over the course of a few weeks during my commute. I enjoyed it and got some things out of it that I hadn't when reading. But I still wouldn't "count" it as the daily reading we have been counseled to do. The second exception was when I did freelance work with an audio book production company. I would read the book and listen to their audio recordings, making corrections. That was work, so not the same thing as just choosing a book I wanted to read and listening to it.

So here is what I propose. If you have listened to an audio book but have not physically read it, in conversation you may say, "I read it." But you must use air quotes with the word "read." And in writing you would place quotation marks around "read" as well.

So let it be written. So let it be heard.

On Tolerance and Disagreement

Can you disagree with someone and still be respectful of their point of view? According to virtually all public discourse right now, the answer is no. But I (respectfully) disagree.

For example, I am a Mormon, and I adhere to Mormon theology. There are beliefs and practices that are considered acceptable in the world at large that I do not agree with morally. For example, I do not think homosexual behavior is morally correct. HOWEVER, I respect the rights of those in the LGBTQ community to live their lives in a manner that makes them happy. I am sympathetic to the plight of minorities in general and the struggle they go through to gain societal acceptance. And I want to do all I can within my own sphere of influence to show compassion and acceptance to everyone, regardless of whether I agree with everything they do.

There's a problem with today's social justice warriors who seek equality and tolerance but are unwilling to tolerate that others hold differing opinions, and therein lies the great hypocrisy of modern society. I am very much in favor of legal rights for everyone regardless of sexual or gender identity. To continue with the previous example, I have no problem with the legality of gay marriage, while I don't condone it on a moral level. But I am afraid to express my views in a public forum because they are mischaracterized as intolerant or bigoted. Some of the people closest to me are part of this community, and I wish them nothing but happiness. While we have fundamental disagreements, I love them and want them to be treated equally, and I wholeheartedly support their rights.

This has ramifications beyond questions of individual morality. The political climate in our nation right now is toxic beyond my ability to express it in words. There are such fundamentally opposed groups now that I sincerely believe that an individual in one party would rather suffer a deadly fall than extend a hand to a member of the other party to be saved. Each party has held positions and made decisions that are bafflingly un-American and very obviously against the common good. It would be nice to see any efforts at all on the part of our leaders to find some modicum of common ground. The purpose of elected officials is to serve and protect the rights of constituents, not to please special interest groups, fan the flames of extremism, and vilify any who belong to a group espousing opposing ideals.

The idea of tolerance is something we all deal with in our lives, whether in the workplace or in our families. We have different ideas. Compromise is often good, but when it's not possible we still need to agree upon a framework to make decisions, understanding that civilization itself is largely based on give and take. Certain behaviors, of course, must be universally condemned where they infringe on the fundamental rights of others or place one group in danger of disenfranchisement (see: virtually the entire history of human civilization). But other questions of moral philosophy and governmental direction are by their nature subjective, and we have to engage in meaningful discourse to progress as a species.

We will likely never change another's mind when it comes to deeply held beliefs. But at least we can each make efforts to understand others, and try to accept them and love them in spite of our differences. It's okay to disagree—even with others who don't feel that disagreeing is an option.

Sympathy for the Way Ill

I have a few friends who have consistent health issues. These are things that impact their lives every day, and that often create a cycle of even worse health. For example, they develop a chronic illness and are physically unable to exercise. Over time this leads to things like gaining weight, which causes more systemic issues, and there is simply no opening for them to begin doing things that can make them healthier.

I have still never experienced anything like that. But I felt that last year I gained a little empathy for people about whom I might previously have judged for not making changes in their life. For a while I had a bunch of colds and persistent sinus infections, and bronchitis for perhaps a few months. Most of the time I continue to run when I have a cold, and I've been fine. But for weeks I kept having horrible coughing fits after exercising. I began to suspect a form of asthma, and my doctor did refer me to a pulmonologist. Eventually I got better, and decided not to go.

When things happen in my life that I don't like, I do sometimes try to think about the purpose for them. I believe in God, and that He directs my life if I allow it. And I believe that regardless of whether a given trial is from Him, or caused by my own choices or the choices of others, I believe that they can be turned to our good. In this case I gained a little more empathy for people who have long-term health issues, which I think makes me a better person. (Note that that's a relative measure, not an absolute statement.)

Anyway, a little perspective shift now and then is always good. And maybe if I learn some lessons well enough I won't have to repeat them.

Musical Paranoia

There's a big music store in town that I drive by on my way to work. They have a piano showroom, and I think they rent instruments as well. This place always seems suspiciously busy to me. Whenever I pass by the store, whatever time of day, there are always more cars there than I would expect form a music store. I seriously wonder if it's some kind of front for a criminal enterprise. If we were still in prohibition days it would be the perfect speakeasy. But given modern society it's more likely a meth lab or something. Guess I'll start using the inside lane to pass by, just in case.


Fair warning: If you're not LDS, this post may not make any sense to you at all. Find a member of the church to interpret for you.

A couple weeks ago in sacrament meeting our stake high council representative read a letter telling us that our stake was realigning boundaries and creating two new wards. A meeting the next Sunday evening would give us the details.

That made me sad, because our ward was essentially the combination of two different neighborhoods, and the odds were they would be split up. Most of the friends we had made were in the other area. Later the rumor was that one of the new wards would be named after our neighborhood, so I figured we were in for a big change.

The rumor mill was right, and we are now in a brand new ward. It's now our neighborhood and a second subdivision again, this time in the other direction. We were moved to a different building (fortunately, much closer to our house), and our meeting time was changed to 8:00 a.m.

That's right, 8:00 church. With four kids.

Four wards have to meet in this building, until the completion of a new building in July. I know the stake presidency felt the wards were becoming too large, but I can't help but feel that waiting a few months wouldn't be that bad. I'd rather have crowded classes than 8:00 church.

Anyway, we were given leave to just have sacrament meeting the first week since it takes a while to get organizations staffed and ready for classes. So I was curious to see when we might get phone calls and receive callings.

Katie got a phone call Thursday night and was called as the ward organist. So now we had to plan to be there at 7:45 on Sunday. ARE YOU ASKING FOR A ChALLENGE?!

We prepared as much as we could on Saturday. Finally that primary song made sense. "Saturday is a special day. It's the day we get ready for Sunday..." And we did well, getting there early and everything. It was a little weird to recognize half the ward and have the other half be total strangers. People seemed nice, of course. I'm just hoping we can get to know each other so we don't end up with an "us" vs "them" mentality. And I'm curious to see what I end up doing. Come on, hymn book coordinator...

2017 Whatever

I guess I usually do a year-end post of some kind, but it's been a little hard to figure out what kind of year 2017 was. And yet for some reason I don't feel like I should post anything else until 2017 is put to rest. So what you get is stream of consciousness!

Recency bias means things toward the end of the year are on my mind. I had a bit of an unusual health situation happen, and as a result I learned that I can give myself shots, at least when it's a pen-style syringe. Depending on what happens over the next few months I may post more about this, but for now this will do. But it has altered my perspective on things a bit.

I traveled to Dallas and Las Vegas for work conventions. I dislike being away from the family for five days at a time, but the change in schedule can be fun. I work with good people, and they make things run smoothly.

As far as running, the year was okay. I got in 800 miles (the goal was 1,000). I got a lot better at running up hills, and did climb over 1,000 feet during one 15-mile run. So I was proud of that. I had the goal of training for a marathon with a real training plan (I just made up my own plans in the past), but I injured myself the first time I tried the speed work because I wasn't used to it. So that didn't happen.

Samuel turned 12 in October, which is a big milestone in the LDS church. He's now considered a "young man" instead of just a child, and it's an interesting feeling as a parent to have a child on the edge of adolescence. He's a super kid, and I'm proud of who he is. Oh, he also got braces, which is sort of another rite of passage. He also started learning the trumpet in band at school.

There weren't any huge changes to us as a family. It felt largely like a year of treading water, managing four kids and various responsibilities with church, work, and so on. I wouldn't call it an easy year, and I think I'm glad to move forward.

In 2018 I expect more incremental growth rather than large changes. Allison will turn 8 in April, another LDS milestone because she'll be baptized. James will enter the terrible twos, and Sam will become a teenager and enter middle school. And that's all I can think of right now.

*end brain dump*