Sunday, November 29, 2009

An excerpt from Tales of the Arabian Nights

While asleep at my home in Baghdad, I have a dream of fabulous riches my deceased father left me and a vision of a long-lost relative in ... Tana, India. I set off on a quest to speak with him about it, using my skills of Scholarship, Seduction, and Enduring Hardship.

Early in my quest, I meet The Barber, an extraordinarily talkative fellow. I pray for deliverance from his chatter, but because I am not pious enough, he only hears my prayer and vows to accompany me on my quest to instruct me in the ways of Allah. I become Grief Stricken, so I can't use any of my skills.

Next on my journey I meet a women whom I question. As she pauses on the side of the road, I decide she has taken far longer than necessary to do her business and sneak up to find out what is going on. I discover that she is really a ghoul and is telling her children about how she is going to feed me to them. Aack! I try to sneak away, but her voice lures me back (since my Scholarship skill is inactive thanks to being Grief Stricken). Fortunately, I am saved by some passing soldiers who chase them off, but her voice remains in my head and I am ... Ensorcelled.

Finally arriving in Tana, I attempt to hire a mad enchantress who takes affront at my manner. She orders be to bow down and worship her. Having already demonstrated my lack of piety, I do so. She is pleased with my obeisance, rewarding me handsomely: I now have respectable wealth and gain the fabled Carnellian Idol. At any time, I can rub the idol to gain a skill or increase a skill to master level, but then I will become insane for one turn. I keep the idol with me.

I also meet my relative who tells me that my dreams of riches are true. He describes some of my father's ways and that he definitely kept his wealth ... back in Baghdad. Home again, home again...

More of the amazing story below the fold...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The good part

On my drive in a very unfamiliar area trying to put my baby to sleep, I just got on a highway and kept driving straight. I drove straight until the highway ended and I kept going straight into the "undergrowth" until the road gave out on me and I finally turned around.

So where does Route 195 end? I'll show you: Willimantic, CT.

Willimantic has a frog bridge. Four 11 foot tall frogs perch on spools of thread at the corners to a bridge leading as nearly as I can tell to nowhere. It gets nowhere remarkably fast, too.

A little googling tells me that Willimantic used to be a major thread factory area. When the US Dept. of Traffic Cones agreed to build a bridge, the residents didn't like their design. Too "bland," they said. So the DoT hired an architect, something of a rarity on these projects. And, voila! she is ART!

They are quite impressive.

And here the Ithacans are proud of a few murals and lamp posts on their bridges. Pfagh! In CT, they know how to spend taxpayer money!


Most families get to proudly report when their child sleeps through the night. Hyrum has always given us some excellent sleep, with only the occasional problem night. Tonight is one of those.

I'm sitting in a laundry room in my brother's apartment complex where I've set up Hy's bed for the night. He had fallen asleep just fine earlier, but when we moved him into the room where we are sleeping, I knocked over the blender. The clatter woke him and he cried something terrible. My heart just ached and moaned for him.

Finally I could take it no longer, so I packed him up and took him for a long drive. It used to be the only way my parents could get me to sleep. An hour and a half later, he was happily if lightly asleep. He woke up a little when we got home, but showed every sign of going to sleep.

No suck luck. So here we are in a laundry room together hoping he and the rest of the family will sleep while I duck for cover behind a washing machine. With Hy and Joy sick, Steve up until 4 and 5 in the morning for his job while trying to finish papers and prepare for classes, I'd really rather everyone get some sleep tonight.

The fun part of the whole adventure was learning that Hyrum talks in his light sleep. With his eyes shut quite thoroughly, he called out "Gill" (?), "Mom," "Dada," and at least half his words: "coke" meaning crayon, "docke" meaning milk, and when he got to "emma" for M&M, he woke up enough to ask for one. I gave him one, which he handed back a moment later. Then he handed back the one I gave him at the start of the trip. Anytime he woke up because of the street lamps, he asked for Mom. I'd tell him Mom was sleeping, and he was okay with that.

Any suggestions for how to get everyone in a small room to sleep at the same time??

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pit stops to remember

On NY-88 between Binghamton and Cooperstown, there's an exit for a town called Nineveh. Turn south (right if going east, left if going west) and you'll soon find a gas station and convenience store. It's not one of the major brands I recognize. We stopped there last night on our way to CT to visit my brother for Thanksgiving and I bought one of their strombolis (pizza sandwich).


Lots of flavor, lots of garlic, hot and fresh, great crust, gobs of gooey cheese. It was pizza heaven on just a one-topping dealy. Joy loved it too. The service was friendly and engaging and the restroom was clean.

We are definitely stopping there again.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Fair Verona, the Unfair

Will Shakespeare, patron saint of the Verona board of tourism. Verona owes its modern existence and its economy to the bard's favorable (?) portrayal in Romeo and Juliet.

After wandering a few streets, you come to an alley packed full of post-its with expressions of undying love ... and other emotions. Joy says, "Isn't it amazing how post-its can express undying love?" The alley spills out into...

The real home of the real Capulets. Juliet's balcony (added in the 1930s for the tourists) is quite picturesque. There' s just one thing: the little square here is only ten feet wide and not very long: WHERE DID ROMEO HIDE?? He would've been seen at an instant! I've performed on stages that are larger. Yes, there's a statue of Juliet just below your view. Tradition tells people to do things to her statue that do not belong in a family blog.

Verona has more than just Juliet's balcony to attract people. They also have the third largest colosseum in Italy. This brings me to my characterization of UnFair Verona. We came to Verona TWICE and the Arena was closed both times - once in preparation for a concert the next day, but they assured me they would be open the next week. So we came back and they had closed for the day at 2pm. UnFair! We also never got to the ancient Roman theater where I had planned to recite King Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech. Those being my major draws to Verona, it was a major let down. Somewhere along the way, Hyrum got his finger on my camera lens, so a bunch of my pictures are smudgy.

The Arena is guarded by fiercely costumed actors who were disappointed with my tip after the pictures were taken. As we finished, the guy on the left flashed me the corner of a bill indicating the desired payment. HOW much?? We narrowly escaped with our dignity intact. There was also a woman dressed as an Egyptian sarcophagus/moving statue that freaked Hyrum a little.

But wait, there's more! Shakespeare, after all, was never actually in Verona or any Italian city in his (possibly fictional) livelong life. But Dante lived here. The fellow who gave us the nine circles of hell lived and worked here and is commemorated only by this unmarked statue in a plaza near Juliet's home. He has an excellent view of the many vendors selling their wares. I think that's the third circle of hell for a poet....

The main cemetery was pretty cool, with its declaration of RESURRECTURIS, a testimony that these bones will rise again. Taken through the car windshield.

Here is the plaza (yes, it should be piazza, but I'm a dumb Californian and to us it's a plaza). Hidden in here are beautiful fountains, murals, defense towers, and the sarcophagi of Verona's rulers, the Scaligeri family. Not that anyone was paying attention.

Yes, I enjoyed the vendors too. Verona was just a little too commercial for the humanities minor in me to enjoy properly. I liked Venice more because 1) I was expecting it to be commercial and 2) there was a lot more to be commercial about ... at least that I had access to.

Joy liked Verona a lot. "Their ice cream was great, and the nylons we bought there were Awesome. It was a nice little town." She said she liked it much better than Venice when we were there - less bustle, cleaner, more small-town feel. "Yeah, I got my fan there and we got some yummy pizza - my favorite pizza we got in Italy was there." Indeed! A little bakery in a back alley with some good pizza. "And we only shared one piece."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Occasionally I go back, collect the last decade or so of talks by a particular general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and read through them to get a better sense of that particular leader's life and ministry. Each time I have done this, I find it profoundly affects my understanding of them, and hence of the gospel.

While Hyrum is sick and I watch him at home during church, I found the time to do this for Elder M. Russel Ballard, the 6th most senior apostle in his 25th year of service. He is the grandson of an earlier apostle, Melvin J. Ballard, and is descended from Hyrum Smith, Joseph's brother, for whom our Hyrum is named. He used to be a Ford dealer and businessman.

Elder Ballard served on the missionary committee for years, only to be transferred to the public relations committee. This is kind of like me telling Joy to take a break from being a mother (by which I would mean, let me have a turn playing with .. er, taking care of Hyrum) and do some housework instead. It's all the same thing - you're just working with different people.

Anyway, when Elder Ballard gets up to speak at General Conference, I prepare myself for a missionary talk. There's good reason. Oct 2001 he gave us advice on how to be better member missionaries by removing the phrases "nonmember" and "non-Mormon" from our vocabulary, to be replaced by "neighbor." Here are the next several titles: "The greatest generation of missionaries," The essential role of member missionary work," "Let our voices be heard" by sharing the gospel in all media formats, and so forth.

This means he has been surprising me nearly every conference for 5 years. What has he been talking about lately? Mostly about families. Yes, there was one talk about sharing brief statements with people who ask us for a little information about the church. But in that talk, he discussed the importance of families as part of that information. Last conference, it was about the relationships of fathers and sons. He's spoken about finding fulfillment in motherhood, about teaching our children, about learning from the generations before us... There's been a lot of family going on, actually. "What matters most is what lasts longest."

For the most part, he focuses in on practical advice to help our families be more close-knit, trusting, loving, and successful:

Sons: Trust your father, take an interest in his life, and ask for his advice.
Fathers: Listen to your sons, pray with and for them, have the "big talks."
Mothers: Recognize that the joy of motherhood comes in moments, don't overschedule yourselves or your children, but do find time for yourself. "We love you. We respect you and appreciate your influence..."
Husbands: Show appreciation for mom, counsel with her about the children, give her a "day away," be actively involved in the family.
Church leaders: don't overplan Mom, reduce the workload on families
Children: Help out without being asked, say thank you, tell Mom you love her.
Single guys: Date and court. Don't rush, but be active about it.

And what about courting his own wife? “I met her at the University of Utah ‘Hello Day Dance.’ A friend of mine thought I ought to meet her, so he tagged in to dance with her, danced over to where I was, introduced me, and I danced with her thirty seconds before I was tagged out. That was the beginning of a courtship of eleven months. She was not only beautiful, but had a sparkling personality. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to marry her, but she didn’t share the same feelings. It was a little hard convincing her. I kid her now that getting her to agree to marry me was the greatest sales job I ever did,” said Elder Ballard. That sounds remarkably familiar..... (Hat tip to 'Grandpa Bill')

I need to update my expectations.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pilgrimage: The Silent Night Church

On leaving Salzburg, we had one more stop in Austria before we made our way home: the Silent Night Church in Oberndorf, half an hour north of Salzburg. On this site on Christmas Eve, 1818, Joseph Mohr (priest, bottom right) and Franz Gruber (deputy organist and schoolteacher, bottom left) gave the world Silent Night for the first time. The original church was torn down due to flood damage around 1900, so they built this little chapel to commemorate it from 1924-1936, complete with stained glass windows of the pair on either side. Across the walkway is a model that gives you a better shot of the perspective than my earthbound legs can.

Gruber, who learned how to play the organ in only three months, retold how the song came about as its popularity was growing. I found it interesting that his rendition did not mention any mechanical problems with the organ, one of the parts from the traditional retelling that always caught my ear; only that Mohr asked him to write music to the words he had written (perhaps two years earlier) for two solo voices and guitar. Wikipedia tells me the first mention of the broken organ came from a 1909 US publication.

There are three more verses than you know. We have verses 1, 2, an 6. Here the rest are in English as clearly as I can render them without getting them in tune and time:
3. Silent Night! Holy Night!
That brought the world healing
From Heaven's golden heights
Out of the Mercy-fullness let it be seen:
|:Jesus in mortal form.:|

4. Silent Night! Holy Night!
Where today all might
Of Fatherly love poured forth
And, as our homaged brother, embraced
|:Jesus the people of the world:|
(note: Jesus is the one embracing)

5. Silent Night! Holy Night!
Long before were we planned for,
As the Lord freed from the wrath
of the fathers' first-terrored time
|:All the world was promised protection:|

If you want words that go with the music, I have some of those too. You lose a little in the next step of translation, but not much.

I'm very thankful we were able to go there. It was one of the primary reasons I wanted to head north to Salzburg in the first place, having learned about it from Elder Wirthlin. It turns out the German border is right across a bridge in Oberndorf. It has some impressive decorations, so we crossed the border several times. We then drove through a corner of southern Germany, enjoying the Kuhdorfs (Danglisch for cow-villages), pastoral land, and woods.

Not to mention some interesting town markers.

Along the way, we found a fellow whose trailer had overturned on a sharp curve on the sluck roads. We pulled off just ahead and I went back to help. He was carrying hundreds of glass beer steins to a market display to be held Sunday and lost more than half of them to the crash. He was uninjured, thankfully. I helped him move things around, separate the good from the bad, talked to another friendly motorist who stopped and the police. Even though we had been in Austria for a few days, so I had warmed up my German, this was southern Germany and the northerners I lived with told me that the southerners speak such a strange dialect that it's not even German. I understand a little better what they meant. Even though we both spoke in high German, he was really hard to follow, and when other natives came up, I caught the sense of what they were saying, but that was about it. I really wanted to say something like, "This act of service brought to you in part by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Next time you see our missionaries, think about letting them in, k?" At the time, though, the words completely failed me. It's made me ponder a lot in the last several months how I'm doing in my missionary efforts and if I'm actually prepared.

We cut back through Austria again and into very northern Italy. There I had the shock of shocks: they speak German in northern Italy. For 2-3 hours of the drive, the signs were in German and not Italian, the gelateria worker in the pictured village preferred German to Italian, the newspapers were in German, the architecture was Germanic. It took a long time to find Italian again. It was on this trip that we found some of the best gelato, one here at this village and one we caught at 10pm as he was going to bed. I explained to the fellow how much my wife really wanted to find another place for gelato, and he answered that, with love, all things are possible.

That drive in pouring, heavy rain over hairpin and switchback roads of the Alps (yes, I took the scenic route) was something I have not yet had nightmares about. It can only be a matter of time. Steep roads, dense forest, expecting deer and other animals to dart in frnot of me every moment (thank you, Ithaca), the windshield wipers weren't working... it was something else. I was thankful for a GPS system that could warn me of turns. We made it out okay, though, and came home to our sleeping baby who was happy to see us in the morning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Random Acts of Salzburg

I took nearly 500 pictures and videos of Salzburg, so I turned on my randomized screen saver to give a few more views of this wonderful city before we leave it. In case you can't tell, Salzburg was probably the highlight of the trip. Thank you SO MUCH, Mari, for watching Hyrum! And loaning us your van. And the water. And a place to come back to. And ... everything.

The archbishop sticking out his tongue and rolling his eyes, from the model in the palace.

A random thermometer/barometer on one of the streets leading up to the Salzburger Dom (cathedral). Or is it a picture of a nice elderly Austrian couple? Or maybe I was really interested in the design of the cobblestone.

You gotta pose with the artillery, man.

A castle turret (Festung Hohensalzburg)

Remember that picture I took for you of the serpentine horn? This is what it sounds like: "The crude and loud serpent."

Carvings inside the castle chapel.

Looking down on the cathedral from the castle.

We left the castle along a winding, steep, hilly trail along the in-skirts of the Altstadt (old city), past the original fortifications, and through some lovely scenery to get to our car parked on the other side of the hill. We were on our feet 3 hours in the castle then another hour getting back to the car and were BEAT by the time we made it. Got some lovely views though for our troubles.

The cathedral from the side.

View of the castle from the roundabout walk back to our parking spot

Another shot from inside the cathedral.

Okay, that should do it for Salzburg for now. There's plenty more to show, but I would like to get the monkey off my back that tells me I've been home for two months and haven't finished yet. Next stop: Silent Night chapel, Germany, and Germano-Italy, then on to Verona, an awesome safari zoo, and Trieste. And our trip will finally be done. Boy, it was great!

Window shopping

Joy's in to miniatures, so we occasionally get emails about them. I was impressed by the miniature knightly castle (didn't even see the pretty pink princess palace) and looked around (The castle is $100. Forget it. What else is here?). I saw this and was deeply impressed. No, I feel no compulsion to own it. It is simply beautiful, well crafted, and most noteworthy. 5.5" by 7" by 3.5".

Uses: garden decoration; DND campaign in Verona; object lesson about waters of life or the woman at the well; bookshelf knick-knack; a signaling present [ie - a gift that says more about the giver than the receiver]; ... $25 paperweight?

Hyrum Top 50

Over the last couple months, I've been making a note in our Windows Media Player when Hyrum spontaneously starts conducting the music. Sadly this doesn't include the music in the car he asks us to replay over and over again (mostly upbeat Christmas and the glory themes from Erich Kunzel's Ultimate Movie Collection). He's up to about 50 songs now on the WMP, so here is Hyrum's Top 50, with the Top 5 (asked for over and over again) in bold:

Bach – Ich ende behände mein irdisches Leben
Bach -- Toccata & Fugue in d
Bizet – L’Arlesienne: Farandole (March of the 3 Kings)
Beethoven – Symphony 5, Movement IV
Chopin – Raindrops Prelude
Elgar – Pomp and Circumstance
Handel – Hallelujah Chorus [MoTab and Neil Diamond]
Handel – For Unto Us a Child is Born
Stokowski – Firebird Suite
Strauss – Frühlingsstimmenwalzer
Strauss – Ohne Sorgen Polka
Tchaikovsky – Symphony 2 Little Russian, Movement IV
Wagner – The Flying Dutchman

New Age/Soundtrack
David Arkenstone – Round to the Faire
Bill Douglas – Diamond Dance
Kenny G – You Raise Me Up
Jared Johnson – Reunion
David Nevue – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Secret Garden – Lore of the Loom
Vanessa-Mae – Devil’s Trill
John Williams – Star Wars IV: Throne Room and End Title
John Williams - Star Wars V: Imperial March
Mission Impossible Theme

Azusa Pacific University – Walk Him Up
BYU Men’s Chorus – Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah
Keith Chapman – Bring a Torch
Tennessee Ernie Ford – Come to the Church in the Wild Wood
Michael McLean – Not My Will
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Away in a Manger
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Battle Hymn of the Republic
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Faith of Our Fathers
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – God of Our Fathers
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Hark, All Ye Nations!
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – High on the Mountain Top
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – They, the Builders of the Nation
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – When the Saints Go Marching in
Priesthood Choir – Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy

Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke – Supercalafragilisticexpialidocious
Julie Andrews and Richard Rodgers - Ländler
Perry Como – You Came a Long Way from St. Louis
John Denver – Higher Ground
Jim Henson – Our Melody
Mormon Tabernacle Choir – The Star Spangled Banner
Selena – I’m Getting Used to You
Shakira – Ojos Asi
Simon and Garfunkel – Why don’t you write me
Sullivan – Come to me, Bend to me
Weird Al Yankovic – I Love Rocky Road

Yup, he's my son, Charlie Brown.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fun Links

Counter-intuitive advice on how to get good advice. They include (1) listening to people who hate you and (5) who give you bad advice, and, please, (2) stop thinking your problems are especially difficult and unique. I blogged about that recently too.

The Cornell Economics Department t-shirt a few years ago brazenly declares that we have been "making common sense complicated since 1866." Apparently the Japanese have a word for that, and it's Chindogu. Though they are talking about Incredible Machines.

A Pixaresque short: Pigeon Impossible. The other two links are hat tipped to MR, but I found this one on my own. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hyrum vs. Handel

The other day, someone shared a video on Facebook with some "silent monks" performing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. They hold up signs for each syllable while a pretty good soundtrack plays. It's pretty funny.

Hyrum LOVED it. Oh, he went bonkers! He and I sat there listening to the Chorus over and over again for one solid hour before bed. He spent the first 8 times through conducting the entire thing. I recorded the 4th or 5th time through, but it's ever too big a file, so you'll have to make do with this short snippet. After that, he sat sleepily excited in my lap, just enthralled, though by that time we'd moved on to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version so he could see someone actually conducting it.

When he was all done, I realized I had found my Christmas Spirit. Let the holiday begin!

Random goings on this week

[The pitctures in this post have been randomly selected also.]

Derrill sang at church today

Someone in our branch asked me to accompany her on the piano for a musical number last week, which I was happy to do. I was thrilled actually, because it's been months and months since I last did a musical number. I mentioned this to Joy, our music director. She doesn't like to use me much because it means time away from the family. When the choir bowed out of today's performance, however, she very kindly asked if I would like to do one. [Picture from the Hellbrunn fountains: people getting hit from behind]

The week was very busy, though, and I never found time to practice. So yesterday I was trying to figure out what was a) appropriate to the topic (charity), b) interesting, c) that I could pull off on only one night's rehearsal, and preferably, d) that I hadn't done before.

As I prayed about it, I remembered a song Dad and I had sung to accompaniment years ago: John S. Tanner's rendition of the Psalm of Nephi to the tune of "I am a poor wayfaring stranger." I googled him, found the words, and practiced it for Hyrum. Hy clapped. I performed it for Joy. She said there were two notes that I needed some help on. I sang it off and on through the night until my throat hurt. [Joy at the Groton fair.]

Then I got up there today to sing. Just me, not accompaniment (ACK!) and my basso voce - the one that I pull out to sing with John Denver an octave lower. I sang with a power and vocal confidence that I have never had before. It was wonderful! My hands, legs, and back were shaking and quivering for my nervousness, though I don't think visibly. I saw some people startle at the first notes (I don't usually sound like that!) but could tell some were moved by the end. Joy said I had sung it perfectly and she had shed a tear because the Spirit was there. Hyrum clapped.

Hyrum ups his vocabulary
Pee-chee: peaches. He's been eating nothing but applesauce (an exaggeration, but not a big one) for two months now and wouldn't touch his peaches and pears mixture for a month. We're delighted he's returned to it and added a syllabel.

E-mom-ilee: Aunt Emilee, my brother's wife. What a cute phrase!

Kitty: Thank you, Monsters Inc. He both says kitty and meows when we point to a puzzle piece or picture of a kitty. It's highly adorable. [Hyrum at his first restaurant, 19 months ago.]

Yucky: It might mean diaper, it definitely means poo. He has even told us yucky when we weren't yet changing his diaper, but it hasn't been a consistent signal of bathroom intent. It's very cute. He says yucky through the whole diaper change sometimes.

He also makes an airplane sound and puts his arms up. We live near an airport, and the planes used to surprise and startle him. Now he gets excited and informs us about them. Today he did it even without an airplane going overhead.

Go and Go-go: Go is going somewhere, usually. It's also playing with cars. Go-go is yogurt, which has also been goo, gur, yo-gur (too bad that didn't last), and now is go-go or goo-goo.

We're making beginning progress of weaning him off the phrase "ga-ga" for music or computer. He's learning the sign for music and singing instead.

New freezer
Somewhat for Joy's birthday and somewhat because we've been talking about it for months, we're going to buy a deep freeze this week so we can start some meat food storage and so that, should we get pregnant again one day, Joy will have the space to store excess milk.

Dinner with Per
Last year I invited Per, my boss, and his wife to dinner. Last year he also invited us to his place so we could celebrate my graduation. We also talked about getting together over tea to discuss God's justice and mercy in relation to the salvation of the dead. We finally scratched one of those three meetings off the list last Monday.

We've planned this dinner three or four times this semester, only to push it off for Italy, for his family in town, and the last time because he had a bad headcold. He started to joke if it might not be God's will that we meet. [Hyrum has started using his hippo the way it was intended, and he's thrilled about it.]

Per and his wife Birgit came on Monday bringing flowers and some stacking blocks for Hyrum with the alphabet on them. We had first planned on serving them fried eggplant, a heavy salad, and some ham and cream cheese appetizers. The next time we tried to get together we planned on pork chops and vegetables. This time we successfully served them Emeril's New New Orleans pasta, a light salad, and the ham appetizers. It was a pleasant evening. They left promising to schedule the graduation party.

Kept the weight off
Neither of us can report losing any more weight loss since September, but we've managed to keep off the 25-30 pounds we've lost on the South Beach Diet going in to the holiday season. CELEBRATION. [Me at Niagara last June. Definitely a 'before' shot.]

Joy bread and mousse
Joy was delighted recently to discover the world's easiest bread recipe that can make either standard white bread or a sourdough bread if you leave it sitting a bit longer. She has been delightedly making it for friends and family. She also makes a delicious dark chocolate mousse. Both recipes have a whopping 4 ingredients in them. "The mousse is 3. It was nice to learn something new and quick since I haven't been doing much in that area recently." We served the mousse to Per and Birgit, and the enjoyed it.
[Joy's graduation from her Bachelor's]

Lucky Charm
Today, my former branch president asked permission to rub my not-so-bald head for good luck. It was ... interesting.

Some more Hellbrunn fountains

By popular request, here are some more videos from the Hellbrunn trick fountains.

The golden crown

One of four miniature vignettes in the hedge.

One room in the palace was designed as an underground grotto. Water was sent through different tubes to make birdsong. And to get people wet, of course.


"Charity suffereth," says Paul.

But wait, there's more: "charity suffereth ... LONG."

Now then. Who wants some charity?

I'm actually pretty serious. It's easy to kind when I'm feeling great. It's easy to not think evil of people, to not be provoked, to believe and hope all things when the sky is blue and I got enough sleep and a hearty breakfast and some good exercise and my work is going well and Hyrum gave me the cutest smile ever and my wife loves me to pieces. It's really easy to feel God's love for me and all mankind on days like that. It's every other day that I realize I don't have charity.

"Charity suffereth long and is kind." The headache, the stress all day long, running back and forth, kids screaming at you and you still respond with a soft voice and kindness. At first, kindness no matter what it costs you, kind even if it kills you. When we've really become charitable, it's natural to be kind even when we're suffering.

"Charity suffereth long and ... envieth not." When we feel God's pure love for us individually, it's easy to not envy someone else's success or lack of problems (as we imagine). Secure in God's love for us and them, what more do we need?

"Charity suffereth long and ... is not puffed up." We say, 'I've suffered! No one has suffered the way I have. No one has to put up with a spouse/kids/boss/pain like mine. My pain is my badge of honor.' But that's not how a person with charity feels and lives.

"Charity suffereth long and ... thinketh no evil." There are so many flavors for this one. There's the thirst for revenge (that dirty rotten son of a camel....); blaming God for our suffering and choosing to do evil to get back at God; all the envying and being puffed up already mentioned; just giving up. These thoughts drive out the love of God, just as thoughts of His love drive away the thoughts of evil. The two cannot stay in the same place at the same time.

"Charity suffereth long and ... hopeth all things." Charity is the antidote to bitterness. Hoping all things includes having the faith that we can "endureth all things."

I could go on with a lot more details and examples ... but I think it would be more charitable to forbear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's up

My work blog is now up at also known as, "Economics, my dear Watson". So now I'll be moving the posts about my work over there and leaving most of it off this blog.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hohensalzburg: the Castle

Perched on a hill overlooking Salzburg, the Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg) High Salzburg guarded the area and the archbishops for hundreds of years. Each of the archbishops added to the defenses over time, making a very impressive, impregnable fortress. I'm not sure if it's really impregnable, but it was never impregnated.

The cable car up from the cathedral where the archbishop worked every day was significantly faster than the Untersbergbahn. The archbishops were driven there, either by horse carriage or else carried by retainers, so they didn't have to hoof the up and down of the hill every day. We only did it once and were quite winded.

We only intended to pop in, see the castle, and pop out again on our last day in Salzburg, but ended up staying for three hours. There was a LOT to see and do. They really did an excellent job with it.

The current chapel of the castle. We also toured the excavated site of the original chapel. Lots of rocks and some rough outlines where things used to be and the hint of a flavor of color that used to be discernible. This is more impressive.

The upstairs is lavishly painted, with coats of arms of nearby allies all over. Art as a sign of power.

I mean, even the doors upstairs are incredibly ornate! The downstairs ... not so much.

The Bull of Salzburg is the mechanical organ in the tower. It chimes the hours with music, including a very loud, long F that resounds at moments important for the working day (get to work!). It apparently sounds like a bull.

They had a display of old Austrian musical instruments, including the ever-popular Glockenspiel and this "Serpentine" horn.

Build your own Festung Hohensalzburg! Fun for the whole family. (Grown up child not included.)

As we said, fun for the whole family.

Joy says, "I loved the puppets."

Downstairs was a marionette museum. They do full-length, very professional movies of great classics. We considered buying Mozart's Magic Flute (right) for Hyrum, but realized it was over 40 bucks and thought better of it. On the left are some devils from the Wizard of Oz. "But if we ever come into our own, we could probably buy it online some day."

The view around the castle. There were literally dozens upon dozens of mosquitos flocking those of us brave enough to be at the top of the castle that day. I got 5 bites just taking this video. Please enjoy it.

They also had a WWI museum. I hadn't ever really studied WWI - focused more on the second war. And even then, my studies were on the Battle of the Bulge with France and England against Germany. The first war, though, was the one that broke up the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so it was pretty important for Austria.

Seeing it from an Austrian perspective was very interesting. It's not the version they'd tell you in the US, let's put it that way. This painting, for instance, is of the worshiping of the beloved Kaiser.

In addition to the displays of WWI memorabilia, they had a fascinating art display of medieval weapons and armor arranged as if they were a small army preparing to charge the unprepared tourist walking through the door. The lights and shadows on it were quite impressive. There was a movie display on the wall facing the army depicting Pythonesque actors fighting back.

The castle is a bit odd. Joy was just saying that she was confusing which castle was which. The reason is that most of the museum lets you wander wherever you like, but they have a guided tour through the part with the mosquitos and the organ and the torture chamber. There was a lot to see. Pack a lunch.