General

School vs Real Life


I recognized something in my learning process that has been very very good for me. I realized that I pay much better attention to individual tasks when I am doing two things at once, rather than just trying to focus on one thing at a time. For example, if I was sitting in a class in college and trying to just listen to the lecture I would have a hard time focusing on what was being said. On the other hand, If I was listening to a lecture AND playing a little tetris game on my computer, I’d be able to give full attention to both of them. This doesn’t just pertain to school either.

When I’m just watching a ball game, my mind can wander. But if I am watching the ball game AND tracking the movement of a certain player I focus well on both.

If I am listening to a talk in church, I do much better if I am also reading a essay on photography fundamentals.

I think this is why I got into so many pranks and games in high school. The teachers were so adamant about students focusing only on the lecture and doing nothing else. In search of a parallel thought process, I’d usually resort to planning the next great prank. If the teachers had just let me play a game boy or even fold papers into shapes we both would have been much better off.

This is also why I like computers so much. It is very easy to have more than one process flowing at the same time and switching to any of them is just a key or two away.

Once I realized this (and got rid of pesky teachers) I’ve been able to learn much more thorough and effective. Strangely, focusing on two things at once helps me to give 100% to both. The alternative is to focus on one thing and only giving 50% to the item and the other 50% to the wind.

Rebirth Of The Photoblog


As much as I like Flickr (and if you’ve been reading recently, you know that I do), it seems that with all the pictures that are uploaded, sometimes the best ones can get lost in the mix. For this purpose, I’ve rebuilt a photoblog where I can post my favorite ones from Flickr. I hope that you’ll visit and give me any comments, including constructive criticism.

The new photoblog is in the same place as the old one, http://www.brianstucki.com/photoblog . And of course there is an RSS feed here. (What is RSS?)

Often Imitated Never Duplicated


Over the weekend, “The Wizard Of Oz” was on television. I had a good time watching the film, as it had been a long time. I’ll tell you what, the sets are much more fake looking when you are older. Oh well, great movie.

But after watching that film again, I added one more phrase to my “Movie Phrases That Are Often Quoted But Never Done Well” list. As you would expect, the list is quotes from movies that people always recognize, but not because they sound similar to the original. My List so far:

  1. “Say hello to my little friend!” -Scarface
  2. “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!” -Kevin from Home Alone putting on after shave
  3. “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” -the Wicked Witch of The West from The Wizard Of Oz
  4. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die.” -Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I will add to this list as necessary.

How To Find New Music


I am constantly on the look out for new music. The three best ways to find new music that you’ll like are:

  1. XM Radio- Because they don’t make money by playing the music that record producers want them to play, there is a lot more variety on the channels. And with over 100 channels, you have a lot to choose from. My favorite music channels are Hank’s Place (Ch 13), The Loft (Ch 50) and Hear Music (Ch 75). (Most of the time I listen to NPR and ESPNRadio on XM) Be sure that you have XM Radio in the next car that you by. IT makes driving much much much more pleasant when you can avoid all those annoying radio commercials.
  2. Mixes on iTunes- iTunes allows for users to put together mixes of music that they like for others to pander in. I usually find an artist I like, go to his main page in iTunes, and then look at the lists that include his music. Like all other songs on iTunes, you can preview any song on the list and get a feel for the music of the artist.
  3. Pandora.comPandora.com is the most useful website that I have seen in a long long time. You pick an artist that you like, and they will play a song from that artist and then follow it with music that has the same style. It really is quite good at getting the style and I have found quite a few good artists there that I have never heard of before. THey play the full song for you then move on to the next one. It really is just like having a radio station that is catered to your liking. It’s a free service so you can go to the website and start it up and leave it playing while you do your other work. YOu can click on any song and buy the song straight from iTunes. I suppose that is how they make the money. They figure that good music, when heard, sells itself. I agree.

Now that you know my three main secrets, I’ll expect to hear about some new gems.

Rudolph Redone


I have featured Jack Johnson in my Gems a few times before (1,2), but I can’t help it. He is absolutely one of my favorite artists.

You can imagine how excited to I was to hear that Jack Johnson will be doing the soundtrack for the upcoming Curious George movie. You can see the trailer (with some of the music) here. This will be double sweet for me because Curious George books were may FAVORITE books when I was growing up. My middle name is George and I always felt a little connection with that monkey.

The reason I like Jack Johnson so much is them same reason that I like a lot of my favorite artists. They have an original sound and they put their own magic on whatever they play. I can immediately pick out James Taylor playing the guitar, even if it is as a back up. I can quickly identify a Norah Jones drum rhythm. An I can certainly hear the smooth groove of a Jack Johnson strum. All of these sounds are hard to duplicate.

As an example, let me give you the gem this week. Since this is the first day of Decemeber, as a christmas gift I present a classic Christmas song with a Jack Johnson twist. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. This was recently posted on iTunes and I was alerted of it. If you’ve never checked out Jack Johnson on the iTunes store, you’re missing out on some of his best music that is only available there. A lot of great live stuff.

iTunes Link: (iTunes Originals – Jack Johnson)

How To Keep A History Of Yourself


About 8 months ago, I was reading a book by my ancestor John S. Stucki. He lived in Switzerland and was one of my first ancestors to come to America. The book was his history and was a large part in why I wanted to visit Switzerland so much.

When I got done reading the book, I wondered what stories of me would be remembered in five generations from now. After thinking about it, I realized that I was starting to forget things that happened just five years ago so how would they know about me? So I made a plan.

Since that time I have kept two journals each day. One is a journal that recaps the day’s events. It has been good timing to start one now as I have had some major things happen in the last year. Writing in a journal is a very good practice to keep. It is more than a chronology of your day. As you write, you realize how you can plan your day better and you give yourself a good gauge at how you are doing in your life with your standards and your goals. I felt this as I wrote on my mission, and feel the same way now as I have restarted the habit.

The other journal was a new idea for me, and I have enjoyed it just as much. I call it my Memory Journal. I realized that I have already forgotten quite a bit from the first 25 years of my life. If those memories are fading already, I can’t imagine what it will be like in 25 more years. That thought scared me.

My memory journal consists of memories that I have never written down but would like to remember. Each day, I think of something to write. Some of my posts have been my first plane ride, the first time that I got in big trouble, the names of my elementary teachers and something they taught me, etc. You’d be surprised at how much comes rolling back when you think about it.

I don’t write really long entries, but I put enough detail in there so that I will remember it when I’m fifty. And I write as if someone is reading it for the first time. It should be clear enough to give them the story, but not too long to bore them.

To write these journals, I use a program called MacJournal. It is free and makes it very simple to keep a daily digest. If you don’t have a Mac, you can use a plain word document.

I keep a good backup of my computers, but also I print the full document out every two weeks so I am sure to not lose any of it.

One final tip would be to find a way to remind yourself each day. Personally, I don’t like to have too many emails in my inbox so I have an email sent to me each day and my rule is that I can’t erase it until I have written the entries. To do this, I use a cron job, but you can use iCal or a free online service like Memotome.com. They’ll send you an email every day at the same time.

If emailing isn’t a daily thing for you, you can try an old fashion way like a rock on your pillow that can’t be moved until you write in it. Or keep your iPod and iTunes collection off limits until you get the writing done.

I hope that your great-great-great grandkids will know that you existed.

Evans Lullaby


Following is a story I wrote when my nephew, Evan, passed away of SMA within a few months of birth. At the conclusion of the story is a song I wrote and performed at Evan’s funeral.

I am not sure the reason that I feel it so important to write my experience with my nephew Evan. I suppose that in part its purpose is for others to know the inspiration for the lyrics of his lullaby that I have written. Or perhaps it will serve as a reminder of just how lucky we are to have known him. But in all honesty I think the purpose is a little more personal. I learned a lot from Evan and the way that he touched lives. I hope that you too will experience the emotions that I did as I share the story with you from my point of view in the final 48 hours.

On Friday the 28th of March I received a phone call from my mom late in the night. She told me that Rachel had brought Evan into the hospital and he was diagnosed with a very serious disease. Immediately I felt humbled by the emotion that flowed into my heart. I went to bed that night with a prayer in my heart hoping that I could be of help in some way.

The following morning, Rachel called me with the news that the original diagnosis of six months was shortened to just a few days and that if I was going to meet my nephew then I would have to do so very soon. I knew that I would have to make plans immediately to get to Sacramento. But even more prevalent in my heart was a feeling that I should be very observant in all that will soon happen. Thanks to the help of my dad, I would be able to make the flight to California with him and my brother Kyle. We would fly out of Las Vegas on Sunday the thirtieth arriving just before midnight.

On the way out to California it was a dark and very quiet flight. I remember very clearly looking out of the window and getting lost in the shining of the stars. I had just finished reading a book of astronomy and while on the plane I thought how strange it is to have an object so distant pierce my heart so deep.

Our original plan was to go straight to our hotel from the airport, but upon exiting the plane I had some voice messages waiting on my phone. They were from my sister Stacey and they warned us that if we were going to be able to meet Evan, we should do so immediately. Also, I was told that Josh was waiting for my dad and I so we could join him in naming and blessing his baby. We entered the emergency entrance of the hospital just after midnight. Stacey and Linda were waiting by the doors to show us the way. As we were navigating the halls of the hospital, I remember so clearly suppressing an urge to run. I wanted so bad to be there with Evan and to support Josh and Rachel. Because it was so late, the hospital was quiet and dark and seemed so abandoned. It remained that way until we reached the corner room of the sixth floor. From that room seemed to flow an overwhelming amount of life, light, and love.

Entering the room, I remember feeling very nervous. I was not sure what to expect. But as I came around the hanging white curtain a beautiful baby and a very proud young mother met me. It could not have been more inviting.

The hospital room was small, but manageable. There were chairs and makeshift beds surrounding the walls. In the center of the room was a very small but elevated bed. There were tubes and wires dangling everywhere, each of them making their way to Evan’s little body.

Rachel, obviously relieved that her dad and brothers made it in time freed an arm to give us hugs. She immediately instructed us that she would like each of us to spend some moments alone with Evan. At first I was a little nervous, but as the baby was left in my arms and the room was emptied, I felt such a warm feeling.

I remember holding his little body very close and careful. His little arm, which was very weak by this point, would tap on my chest every once and a while. I felt saddened when I reached for his little fingers and they did not clutch like every other baby I had ever held. The tubes that were taped to his little face were also heart wrenching. But it was at this heart wrenching moment that every emotion was turned upside down. After laying in darkness for so long, Evan slowly peaked from under his eyelids. His eyes cautiously opened and revealed very big and beautiful dark eyes. But it was not the color that struck me the deepest, it was the incredible sparkle that they shared. Instantly it brought me back to the airplane flight and being lost in the stars. Just like the stars, his eyes pierced my heart. But instead of floating high in heaven, this time I had the sparkle in my arms. I will forever thank Rachel for allowing me to spend some time alone with my nephew.

After my father and kyle had some personal time with Evan, the whole family was again brought into the hospital room. At this point the room consisted of Evan, Josh, Rachel, Linda, Dale, Kyle, Karen Harris, Julianne Harris, Stacey Eaton and me.

On the advice of close friends, we decided that Evan Harris should be given a name and a blessing in the hands of the Priesthood. Josh, Dale and I surrounded Evan laying our hand on his head and Josh authorized a powerful and humble blessing upon Evan. A blessing so honest and pure that it could only be given by a meek father to his needful son.

The remainder of the evening was quiet and somber but had such a feeling of peace and serenity. After an hour or so, Dale, Kyle, Stacey and I left to a nearby hotel. Karen and Julianne retired to a waiting room. Rachel and Josh found place on the beds in the hospital room. And Evan slept in the arms of his Grandma Linda.

Excuse me for a personal reflection, which is not to take away from the focus of this story, but is meant to show one of the many lessons I learned from Evan. Upon reaching the hotel and finally retiring for bed, I looked over to my dad and remembered how grateful I was for him. Like Evan, I was near death very early in life. How grateful I am to have beaten my disease to have more time with my dad in my life. Thank you Evan for reminding me of that miracle.

We did not know what to expect the next morning when we called the hospital. When I finally worked up the courage to call my mom, I was informed that the night was long and difficult but uneventful.

My dad, Stacey, Kyle and I made it to the hospital about 10am on the morning of March 31st. When we made it back up to the room we were met by a very tired and worn out young father, obviously weighed down by the circumstances.

We spent most of the day moving between the hospital room and the waiting room. As doctors came in to perform different tests on Evan I was not able to watch. I would leave the room because it was too hard for me to understand. However, I reminded myself again and again that each test would actually decrease the amount of pain that he was already experiencing.

The hospital we were staying in had a tradition they would follow. Each time a baby was born, the hospital would play Brahm’s Lullaby over the intercom system. I can see the beauty of celebrating each life, but it felt so painful each time we heard it because we knew we were losing our baby soon. I was further saddened when I heard that Evan had never received the song for his birth because he was born at 1am. The hospital did not play it due to concern of waking the other babies.

The next six hours consisted mostly of all of us surrounding Evan and trying to do anything we could to comfort Rachel and Josh. There was a strange fusion of feeling in the room. Part of me was hoping for his life to be extended so that we could enjoy him. But another part of me silently hoped that his passing would come soon so as to escape the pain. But the overwhelming emotion in the room was that of peace and faith. There were so many prayers being offered for Evan that merely association was blessing us.

I suppose the hardest time of the day was the late afternoon and early evening. Evan went through a cycle. He would breathe fine and his heart would beat well for nearly two hours. Then all of a sudden all of his vitals would drop and he would begin to lose color in his face. The room would go silent as all of us held our breath along with him. Never knowing if this would be the last time, Rachel and Josh were forced to repeatedly prepare to lose their son. My heart broke each time I heard Rachel whisper,” My Baby!” and Josh would sigh, “My boy!”

By this time I had determined that I would write a song so I wanted to be sure and properly represent the experience. I wanted Evan to have a lullaby too. One that was written especially for him. I was very keen on listening to phrases and touching moments throughout the day. Perhaps I should note a few of those now.

After one of the close call moments, I recall Rachel looking into the face of her newly revived son and saying,” He doesn’t want to leave. He likes it in my arms too much.” I reflected on what a beautiful thought that was. His little heart was depending on the heart of his mother.

Another special time was shared between Evan and his father. It was clear to all of us that Evan was in a great deal of pain. His vitals were dropping dangerously low and there was little that any of us could do. He was laying in the arms of Josh. Very quietly, Josh began to whisper into the ear of his baby boy. He told Evan of all the excitement that the new parents felt when they were preparing for the birth of Evan. He talked about the classes, he told of the books that were read and the plans that were formed. Soon, Josh had all the room as an audience and we laughed as the stories were shared. Amazingly, Evan seemed so pleasant while sharing that moment with his dad. His vitals were all perfect and so was his color. It was a very special moment.

Unfortunately, it is already known how this story ends. Just after 7 pm, Evan lay sleeping in the arms of Josh. Rachel was nearby comforting them both. Evan stopped breathing again. We all gathered around the young family offering hands of support. Whether my eyes were closed or I was just too afraid to look, I don’t remember. But after a few moments, Rick announced that the vital signs had all dropped and the baby was lost. Collectively we cried and kneeled together to give thanks for our time with Evan. We also asked our Father in Heaven to now welcome him back home and asked that we would be able to live worthy enough to be with him again.

I will forever be thankful for the moments that I had with Evan. I do not believe that lives are defined by length. Quality of life is marked by love, service, and purity. Evan was an immediate master of all three. I hope that Evan’s Lullaby will serve as a token of his beautiful light, a tribute to his untainted life, and as a gift to others so they too can feel his glow.

Evans Lullaby – Written and performed by Brian Stucki

The New Tarkanian Court


Last night, I went to the UNLV Rebel game. We lost the game, but the night was a special one for me. UNLV (finally) named the court after Jerry Tarkanian.

Jerry Tarkanian is one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time. He coached UNLV through the glory years and really influenced the university and the city. He recently released a book called Runnin’ Rebel: Shark Tales of “Extra Benefits”, Frank Sinatra and Winning It All that is sitting on my night stand. Rebel basketball games were my favorite hobby while I was growing up. Last night when they renamed the court to “Tarkanian Court”, they showed some of the old games and players on the big screen. They handed out free white towels and put the shark outlines over the spotlights just like the old times. The whole crowd stood and broke into the shark clap. The only thing not there was the old realistic looking shark that would hang from the rafters with a towel hanging from it’s mouth.

The whole thing was actually quite emotional for me as memories of basketball, growing up, and times with my dad came flowing back. I think Candace was surprised to see me shed a tear or two…or three.

Well, I took a few photos. It was dark, and my seats weren’t real close, so they aren’t great. But I’m glad I took them because it was a good night.

Wave To The Crowd

Using Groups On Flickr


To continue my talk of Flickr, I’d like to talk about Groups.

Groups on Flickr can be created by anyone and it is just a way to bring together people who like to look at the same sort of photographs. For instance, if you are into Purple Flowers, you should belong to the Purple Flowers Group. Or maybe you like to look at different kinds of pizza. (Pizza Group)

The fun thing about groups is you can submit your photos to a group that it applies to, and people will look at them and comment on the pictures. If you are a serious photographer, this can help quite a bit. But if you just want to show off your pictures, it is also fun.

One of the groups I like is Guess Where San Francisco. In this group, people will take picture of random things in San Francisco and submit it to the group. The members of the group will then try to guess where the pictures were taken in the city. I also like The Jumping Project, where you just take pictures of people jumping in the air. Here is one that I submitted:

Rich and me

Along those lines, I recently started my own group that I think all of you should join. It is called the Swing Jumping group. All you have to do is take a picture of you jumping off swings. It doesn’t matter how you land, as long as you look good in the air. I don’t know if there will be many members or not, but what the heck. If you want to be in the group just visit the page and click on “Join This Group”. That way, you can submit pictures to the group AND you will be able to keep up with pictures that others submit. Next time you are sitting around with friends and asking, “What should we do today?”, you now have an answer. Go Swing Jumping.

It Just Does Not Seem Fair


Today I stopped at Arby’s for lunch. Thet total was $4.12. I handed the lady 4 ones and a quarter. When she had the ones in her hand, she took that magic money pen and drew a line on each one to be sure that the bills were not counterfeit.They do this on singles now? I suppose that tells you the kind of neighborhood I was in.

But this got me thinking. (Yes, Jamie, a lot of things get me thinking.) This process just doesn’t seem fair. What if one of those bills WAS fake? She wouldn’t take it? I didn’t do it. I acquired that bill legally. Why punish me? If it turned out to be a fake bill, I think that I would just ask for it back and give her a different one. I would then use that fake one somewhere else that they don’t check. Like with the ice cream man.