Proof For The Whole World To See

I was watching the Orange Bowl last night. I have been an Oklahoma fan for about 12 years now so we won’t be talking about the game. However, let’s just reference the half time show real quick.

The show started with Kelly Clarkson and a long legged country fella. Neither singer is a favorite of mine, but it was alright. But then the PA announcer relayed, “And now, superstar Ashlee Simpson” For the next couple minutes I was just surprised that she has ever sold a song in her life. Poor singing, poor dancing, no where as good looking as her older sister. If this was a superstar then I think we need to realign our assessment of talent. I was glad to hear that the crowd agreed with me as Ashlee Simpson finished her song to a chorus of boos.

I don’t write this entry as a chance to bash Ashlee Simpson (although any amount of disapproval would still not be enough to be accurate). I write it because now we see the beauty of the Itunes Music Store. This music store is by far the most successful online music store where you can get songs for 99 cents per song. Many people see it as just another portal for popular artists to sell more songs and make more money. Well, those people are only half right. There are two other major benefits to iTunes and their online music store.

1) Popular artists can get their music out within a few days (rather then months). Last summer, John Mayer was on a summer tour. He decided to record a few of his concerts and put them online titled “As is”. He played a concert in California, then just a day later it was on the iTunes Music Store selling to the whole world. There was no packaging and advertising and shipping and all the other things that take up time for an artist to get their “live” music out. For those of you who have been to a John Mayer concert, you know how neat they are.

2) The second benefit of itunes is even greater. The same way that John Mayer is able to get his songs out to the world, musicians who are just getting their music out can do the same thing. I could write a song, record it, and sell it on itunes all on my own. Granted, no one would buy my song, but if someone is talented enough they would have a portal to the world. This is beneficial because the music buying world no longer has to take what is force fed to them by the major labels. Artists like Aaron Carter and Ashlee Simpson (both of whom are famous only because they have an older sibling that made it) are no longer the only options. Believe it or not, there are alot of good artists out there that get passed over because they may not have the “superstar looks”. (Although, with Ashlee Simpson as proof, I see that the standards are getting lower and lower.)

The itunes Music store gives a chance for us to have music that we like, not just music that the record company thinks we want. Now that is power to the people.


An Easily Avoided Pet Peeve

I would just like to share a pet peeve of mine. So there I was right? Minding my own business when my cell phone started to ring. I couldn’t get the phone because I was with a customer, but I saw that the caller had left a voice message. I finished my conversation with my customer and checked the phone. It was a friend of mine. I called and listened to the voice mail. It was, “Hey Brian, this is ________. I have a question and a favor to ask you. call me back.”

Nothing sounds out of the ordinary with that message right? You get messages like that everyday. THAT IS EXACTLY THE PROBLEM!!!!!! It seems like all messages are just that way, “It’s _____, gotta question, call me” Nine times out of ten, I don’t call those messages back. The few times that I do it’s because I probably would have called that person soon anyway.

I did call this friend back but our conversation started off this way, ” Hey, _______, let us have a short conversation about message etiquette.” (I feel comfortable talking to this friend this way because we have known each other for a long long time.) I explained to them that the better thing to do is to call and leave a message with the question/favor/comment in it.

a few examples:

Not Effective

“Hey Brian, I have a question for you. call me.”

Analysis- In this example we see that the receiver of the message was left wondering. Is this a question that has the need for an immediate call back? Was she kidnapped and locked up with a Masterlock 8148 chain lock and she wants to know if I know any way to break the code? Or is it something more simple that I can answer anytime.

” Hey Brian, this is _________. I was wondering if those new apple computers came in. could you call me back?”

Analysis- Short and simple, but very effective. This gives me two advantages as the receiver. #1) If I call her back and get her answering machine then I can leave the answer right there for her (Yeah, the computers came in. You can pick them up anytime) and avoid the annoying but oh so common, “Hey, I was just calling you back so call me back when you can. #2) By her leaving the matter of the phone call on the machine it gives me a chance to gather the information and call her back informed and ready to answer.

So that was one drawn out example, but there has got to be more people who are bothered by this. Let’s leave behind the “I have a question for you” and get used to this advantage of leaving real messages for people. In this case, I practice what I preach. If I ever leave a general no purpose message please get on me for it.

There, I’m off my soapbox.


impressed and humbled

I was struck in a special way this weekend. Christmas was good. I mostly just enjoyed the extra time to get things done. But on Sunday Night, President Gordon B Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints visited Larry King on his show, Larry King Live. I really enjoyed the conversation that they had. It was amazing to see the way that President Hinckley stayed so simple and forthright about the beliefs and doings of the church. Even though he is very knowledgeable and experienced, he still chooses to use the most simple thoughts when he shares the gospel. That is a good reminder for all of us.

One of my favorite tidbits:

KING: It’s hard to be a Mormon, isn’t it?

HINCKLEY: No. It’s wonderful.

KING: Not hard.

HINCKLEY: No, no. It’s just wonderful. It’s demanding. Great expectations. I should say so. But it’s wonderful.

KING: Wonderful to resist the temptations of life?

HINCKLEY: Oh, you don’t go around resisting. You just develop a positive outlook and walk forward with faith.

KING: What do you do …

HINCKLEY: We don’t dwell on the negative. We dwell on the positive.

KING: What do you do with temptation? What do you do with it?

HINCKLEY: Set it aside. Put it behind. Leave it there.

KING: And you’ve been able to do that all your life.

HINCKLEY: I tried to, yes.

KING: Were you ever, as a youngster, did you ever stray?

HINCKLEY: Oh, I was a natural boy growing up, of course I was. Just a freckled-faced kid. Sure.

KING: I’ll bet you were.


KING: I’ll bet you had a little rascal in you.

HINCKLEY: Sure I did.

KING: OK. It’s good to know …


KING: … that God blessed you this way.

HINCKLEY: I’ve been blessed so abundantly that I can never get over it. I just feel so richly blessed that I want to extend that to others wherever I can.

KING: Hope you have a long life.


I know I am a week late, but ir’s never bad right?

Strangest thing happened to me this morning. I woke up with gratitude on my mind. My thoughts were turned to people, places, events, things that have affected my life. I felt an overwhelming responsibility to be more open with gratitude. Maybe I am catching the Thanksgiving feeling finally.

I am not exactly sure where all of this comes from. I had a conversation last night with a man that has trouble showing gratitude. I know it is in him, but it is hard for him to vocalize it.

Forgive me as I write a story that has been told many times before. I will make it s short version, just enough to suffice my point.

As I was serving a mission in San Francisco for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I remember meeting so many fun and interesting people. One night in August of 2000, my missionary companion and I boarded a bus to head home for the evening. As we boarded that bus, we took a look at all of the people on there. In the front there was a drunk, scraggly man doing his best to flirt with two women that spoke only Chinese. Behind them were two couples going out for the evening, all men. The role call in the middle was a woman dressed all in red with little red horns stuck on her head, a man who could have been mistaken for Elvis if it had not been for the chain connecting his ear to him lip, by way of his nose. and in the back was a group of “homies” all standing in desperate need of a belt. It was no wonder the bus driver sat with a bat across his lap.

I looked at my companion. he was a new missionary and noticeably scared at the scene in front of him. We are supposed to talk to everyone and introduce them to the Gospel. Looking back at the bus occupants, I noticed something ironic. the bus had quieted down and they were all looking at us, the strange ones with clean cut hair and business suits on.

I turned to my missionary companion again and said, “Let’s take this one different. Let’s make our way down the bus and find something to compliment everyone on. Meet you in the back.” And off we went.

It was fun to make our way down the bus meeting people and making them smile. I made it to the back first and sat their with the “homies”. I sat there chatting and joking with them. It was fun, but our stop arrived and we got off the bus.

I remember thinking that night and making a promise to myself that I would never miss the opportunity to give an honest compliment again. My Bus friends had genuine smiles on their face as I told them what I liked about them. I don’t give fake compliments. I would rather be quiet then untruthful. I have tried to keep that promise to myself since then I have enjoyed the smiles that it produced. I decided that for the next few weeks, i am going to make my way thru my e-mail address book and extend personal compliments to my friends, family, and not-so-much friends. I would encourage you to entertain the thought of doing it too. Everyone likes an honest compliment.


Middle Finger Man

I have been living in Provo for about four years and I was just barely introduced to one of Provo’s finest characters. A friend of mine told me about this man and where he could be found. I call him “Middle Finger Man” (MFM)because no one knows his real name. These man sits on his porch all day every day and flips off everyone that drives by and has been doing this for years. He is so reliable to be there that you can actually give directions according to this man as a landmark. “Yeah, head up Geneva and then when you see middle finger man, then I am the second turn after him….etc” When I heard about this guy, I just couldn’t believe it. I thought that would have to be the funniest thing that I have seen for a while. So i hopped on my motorcycle and headed over to Geneva Road. I drove over the bridge that spans the Provo River and counted the houses, ” One House, two houses, three houses.” I didn’t see him at first and thought that i would go home without seeing him then BAM! There he was on his porch and AS SOON as I caught eyes with him, both fingers went flying up and stayed there til I was out of sight. I couldn’t believe it. I quickly turned around to try it again. Same thing happened. so I tried it six more times (8 total) and just chuckled each time.

Well, I went home that night and shared my adventure with a few friends. They didn’t know what to think. It was on my mind thru the night. Finally I got wondering to my self, ” Self, this guy definitely has speed with his fingers, but how is his endurance?” So I devised a plan.

The next day my buddy Dave and I headed over to MFM’s house again with my video camera. What I decided to do was just to pull off in front of his house and challenge him to a battle. I would hold the camera on him and he would hold his fingers toward me. I’m not sure what would happen, but I knew it would be fun.

Dave and I headed over there and pulled off to the side of the road. We waited til the traffic cleared and then made our approach. MFM saw me and my camera and assumed his position…middle fingers up. I made my challenge and he accepted it with his version of a thumbs up. We tried to talk to him a few times, but he was not interested in conversation. Well, long story not as long, it was a little over two minutes before he finally lowered his hands in defeat. He also broke with a smile because he knew he was beat. All in all it was a good time…and don’t worry, I posted the video for your viewing pleasure. (see below). It starts off a little blurry and shaky, but that stops after a few moments. I suppose that viewer discrestion is advised if you don’t like the gesture of the middle finger. I am determined to meet this guy and talk with him!!! let me know what you think.

Gems General

Did I ever find a gem

Well, i am closing in on 8,000 30,000 songs on my computer. To be honest, it has become a sort of addiction and I like to collect songs. I’ll have you know that these are not just any songs that I can get my hands on. That would be much to easy to increase the amount. Rather, all of these songs are songs that I know and enjoy. Oftentimes I will let iTunes just play songs randomly and I love to hear all the songs. There is everything from Les Miserables to Willie Nelson to Ying Yang Twins to Mr Rogers greatest hits. (That last one is a really fun cd.)

Well, every once and a while you come across a song that is a great find. i call them my gems. They are usually by a little known artist, and they are songs that I can just listen to over and over again. “Divide me” by Kalai was one of those songs. Well, I found a song recently that has joined the ranks. It is a song called “Winter” by Joshua Radin. He has such a mellow voice and great harmonization. He also has another great song called “Today”, but “Winter” is something special. Visit the Itunes Music Store and take a listen. They are GREAT!!

One last thing, speaking of mellow voices and great sound, did all of you hear/see james taylor play the national anthem at the World Series!! I was so excited, I didn’t know he was going to be playing, but when I turned on the tv it had a close up of hands on a guitar and I was like, “OH MY GOSH!!! THOSE ARE JAMES TAYLORS HANDS!!!!” I was excited. (Before you call that psycho, I recognize his hands because I watch them when I am trying to learn his music.”

Finally, on Nov 1st James Taylor is going to release his first ever Christmas album . It will only be sold at Hallmark. I have not heard it yet, but as you can imagine, I am very very very very excited. I will be there first thing that morning. I am going to try and get at least 100 people to buy it. That is my goal. Please let me know if you get it so I can keep track. I also want to know what you think of it.


Pedro Revisited

A very popular movie around this area has been the new movie called “Napolean Dynamite”. It is a very funny movie of a Idaho Teenager just trying to make it thru the perils of life. It’s one of those movies with unforgettable characters, and one-liners that you will put permanently in your everyday vocabulary. It is in alot of theaters still, but it should be out on DVD soon.

For those of you who have seen the movie, I have to report to you that I think I met Pedro’s cousin this morning. I stopped in at Winchells for a little morning treat, and the guy behind the counter told me he would be with me in just a minute IN AN EXACT PEDRO ACCENT. I could help but smile. I then asked if they sold donut holes. His answer was “Jes, but we don’t have some this morning” . I couldn’t help but continue to talk to this nice fella. I couldn’t believe how closely he resembled Pedro. Finally, I pointed to the Apple Fritters and asked, “What kind of donuts are those.” to which he replied, “It’s an Apple Fritter” in the exact same tone as Pedro uses when he says, “It’s a sledgehammer.” I couldn’t believe it. I bought an apple fritter and I was on my way. For those of you in Las Vegas, he works at the Winchell’s on Rancho and Washington. I was there just after 7 so I know he works the morning shift. Such a nice guy.


Few Things In Life

I just returned from Southern California and had a great time down there. Candace and I met with my grandpa at his condo in Oceanside. We spent an evening with him, very much enjoying his stories and a wonderful mexican restaurant that he brought us to for dinner. Early this morning, 3:45am to be exact, Candace and I got up and left Oceanside. Trusting Candace did not know what she was getting up for, but I promised her that it would be worth the wake up.

We drove out of Oceanside, CA with the full moon still reflecting off the water. Under the cover of darkness we drove the 76, and then north to Temecula, CA. We got to the winery vineyard and the sun was still asleep behind the mountain. Still not knowing what she was doing there, Candace followed me to the registration table and we checked in. The man at the table said, ” Well, you two will be flying with Eric and we will get going as soon as the balloons are ready.” I’m not sure but I think that Candace let out a little shriek when she heard that.

We went with a group of people to a nearby field and there were five balloons there ready to be blown up. We pulled up as the fans were filling the balloons. After a few minutes the torches were ignited and the oxygen filled balloons slowly raised from the earth. Candace, two ladies and I all climbed into the balloon with our pilot and up we went. There were many other balloons over the grape vineyards. At one point we counted 12. As you came up over the fog and climbed higher then the surrounding mountains it was a very neat experience. At one point we dropped within 40 feet of the ground then he got the fire going full force and we shot up raising to 2000 feet. It went up about as fast as a high speed elevator would in a building. It was such a thrill to shoot up past the other balloons.

After an hour in the balloon, we touched down, packed up the balloon and everyone went back to the winery for the traditional ballooning toast. Everyone raised their wine, Candace and I raised our Orange Juice, and we toasted to the safety and fun of the morning.


I tell this story partially for entertainment, but for another reason as well. In this day of video games, virtual reality, and high budget films, there are few things in life that can stay as such a thrill. Flying planes, seeing big explosions, high speed car racing, all of these things become an everyday occurrence. However, riding in a hot air balloon was not one of these experiences. It was absolutely breathtaking. It got onto my list of “Things That Take My Breath Away”. Other things on that list are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and watching the sunset against the Golden Gate Bridge. What things are on your list? I would love to hear them.


The Passing of a Giant

I have been traveling a little bit in the last couple weeks. I went to Salt Lake City for the funeral of Elder Neal A Maxwell . It has been broadcast since, but I thought I would share a few of my favorite moments.

The funeral for Elder Maxwell was very interesting. Candace and I arrived to Temple Square in Salt Lake City about three hours before the funeral, which was to start at noon. After waiting in line for a bit we were finally ushered into the Old Tabernacle building. Security was very very tight. There was nothing allowed in besides small purses (which were searched) and scriptures. No other books were allowed. Even the scriptures were fanned thru. The security guard mentioned to me that they found a cut out Bible a little bit ago and inside was a hand grenade. They were to take no more chances.

We were brought up to the second level of the tabernacle. The whole bottom section was reserved for family, close friends, General Authorities and invited guests. Candace and I found a seat and waited for the services to begin.

A whole row of cars pulled up alongside the building. The Prophet and his counselors were among the first to enter the building. The whole congregation stood and remained silent. That is an experience that I will never grow tired of having. When the Prophet enters a room and instantly people stand in respect, the room is always filled with a very special feeling. Even in the large conference center the feeling is present and I believe it to be a reminding witness from the Holy Ghost that you stand near he who is very much “noble and great.”

Returning the the funeral service. President Hinckley and the other members of the Twelve and Presidency of the Seventy stood at the doorway as the family and friends followed the casket of Elder Maxwell. When all were finally seated, the service began.

The Mormon Tabernacle choir sang a few numbers throughout the program. Presidents Packer, Monson, Faust and Hinckley all spoke. Also, a son of Elder Maxwell spoke. I especially enjoyed a story from President Packer. He recounted the happenings before the last meeting of the Twelve before the passing of Elder Maxwell. he said that Elder Maxwell slowly made his way into the room. When Chancing upon 98 year old David B Haight, Elder Maxwell raised his cane into the air and challenged, “On Guard”. Elder Haight VERY slowly raised his cane as well and “a shot sword duel ensued. Luckily both sides withdrew before bloodshed occurred.”

There were many parts that touched my heart and awakened me to a sense of my better self. However, I especially enjoyed the comments of President Hinckley. Specifically speaking to Sister Maxwell in the audience, he told her , “as one having experience”, just exactly how she will miss her husband. And he relayed to her the times that it would be most hard. To me it was a window into our Prophet to see his hurting heart. It also showed me how President Hinckley uses even his hardest struggles in a positive way to teach and uplift others. We would all do a little better in life if we complained less, and encouraged more.

In general, the theme of the funeral focused on just how surely the work continues on the other side. They spoke of Elder Maxwell going right to work on the other side of the veil. It reminded me that you can not escape work in this life. People tend to find the easy way here on Earth because they figure that it will someday all be over and they just have to make it until then. The truth however is that we should set patterns of growth now because when we die we will pick up right where we left off and we will continue to have chance to grow and chances to help others. I smiled while listening because I picture those who welcomed Elder Maxwell into the next stage of growth. No doubt they were excited to use a man of such great knowledge, skills and love. If they wanted an personally delivered update on the illnesses and hardships of earth then there was no man on this earth better to bring it to them then Elder Neal A Maxwell. He had such a heart for compassion and a mind for understanding.


A Little Something on Mileage

Abstract: So I bought a new truck last week. There were 7 miles when I bought it. Part of the instruction from the dealer was to keep it under 55mph for the first 500 miles. That’s right, 500 miles! So, for the last week I have been driving no more then 55 mph on the highways and byways. That was fun. I struggled keeping it under 55 because with the flow of traffic it is natural to keep up so I would turn on the cruise control and keep it at 53 mph. I tell you this because I logged the reactions. You see, people here in Las Vegas don’t like to travel that slow ESPECIALLY when there is a long and empty road in front of them. They’ll speed up to right behind me then after a few minutes they will realize that I am going incredibly slow then they’ll switch lanes and fly by, usually showing their displeasure for my choice of speed. Just for informations sake, I received 8 middle fingers. (mostly from men) I kind of liked the middle fingers though, it reminded me of my good friend up in Provo. I also received 24 dirty looks (mostly from women, they were really good too.) Of all the friendly gestures I got though, there was only one that I thought about for more then a few seconds. In fact I thought of this for dozens of seconds. (which is to say that I got to 24 seconds and stopped)

There was a minivan that pulled up behind me. I couldn’t really see who was inside but I could tell that they were anxious to pass me as soon as the next lane over cleared. Well, the lane finally cleared and as the van came zooming by, the man driving was still focused on the road, the wife in the passenger seat was giving me a dirty dirty look (from the this i concluded that she was in fact the wife…there is only one way to perfect a look like that) and then the two kids in the back were staring at me. To me that says a couple things. 1) they were so disturbed by my driving that it became a topic of conversation in the van. boring much? 2) This man certainly belongs in a mini-van because he had his wife do the dirty work.