Thursday, April 30, 2009

What We've Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Sunday night at ward prayer, the group-discussion question was "If you could change one thing about the opposite sex, what would it be?"

As you might imagine, there were many interesting and varied responses to this question, some of which elicited those "oooh!" reactions that you hear from the audience on "Everybody Loves Raymond" just after someone has insulted someone else. A few people took the high road and either chose not to respond or said that they wouldn't change anything.

So, who had the deepest insight into this highly controversial topic? The girls often agreed with the girls' answers, and the boys often agreed with the boys. Go figure.

People's answers, I think, mostly boiled down to one larger issue: communication.

I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but men and women communicate differently. It's true!

I actually took a few classes in college in which we discussed some of the myriad ways in which the genders communicate. For example - and this has been proven scientifically (somebody, somewhere got the grant money for this study) - men use an average of 15,000 words per day, while women use an average of 25,000 words. That's why, supposedly, men are so reluctant to "talk about their day" when they come home from work, because they've nearly used up their 15,000 words, while women still have 10,000 or so more to go.

Also, men are far more likely than women to misinterpret a member of the opposite sex being friendly to them as being interested in them romantically. (See, girls, it's not really our fault; it has something to do with that pesky Y chromosome.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Software Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clowns, Part 1

Here is the first part of my film, Sofware Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clowns, which has been posted on YouTube:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

William Henry Who?

Yesterday, I took my car out to be washed. None of those automatic brushes and gadgets for me, thank you very much. I like to wash my car by hand.

Another reason why I like to do the washing myself is that I once drove my car into one of those automatic car washes and forgot to retract the radio antenna, which then broke off in the wash. It cost over $100 to fix it. True story!

Anyhoo, to get change for the car wash, I put a $5 bill into the change machine. In return, I was given several quarters and a few gold dollar coins. George Washington's face was on one of them. William Henry Harrison's face was on the other two.

William Henry Harrison?! Really? The U.S. president who became famous for, well, being the president for only a month?

I guess they will now put anybody's face on a piece of currency. In that case, expect to see Martin Van Buren on the new $5 bill, William Howard Taft on the $10 bill, and J. Edgar Hoover on the $20 bill.

If there were a $1 trillion bill, you and I both know that Barack Obama's face would be on it. Admit it - you were thinking the same thing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Big Gulp

On Sunday while I was at church, I accidentally swallowed my gum.

I realize that there's nothing particularly newsworthy in that announcement. But when it happened - it was the first time in many years that I have done that - it brought back memories of an old childhood superstition of mine.

Like many other kids, I'm sure, I was once under the suspicion that any piece of gum you swallowed would rot and fester inside your stomach for 20 or 30 years before it would eventually be digested - something akin to the fate of Boba Fett when he was swallowed by the Sarlacc monster in the Great Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi.


Come to think of it, I suppose that superstition was created by our parents, who told us kids things like that so that we wouldn't go around swallowing gum at every opportunity.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Ain't No Puppet Show!

Earlier today, my dad asked me if I would like to come along with him to my niece Kylee's marionette show at her elementary school. That's right - a marionette show.

(Insert the theme from the movie Halloween here.)

If any of you happen to recall reading my "Kindertrauma" post on October 20 of last year, you will recall that marionettes freaked me out as a kid and still creep me out quite a bit today. Initially, I told him that I wouldn't go. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that going to the show would be a good opportunity for me to face one of my fears.

Mrs. Anderson's fifth-grade class at Samuel Morgan Elementary School in Kaysville actually put on a decent program. They presented various snippets into the lives of famous Americans of the past and present, putting them into fictional situations - for example, I'm relatively sure that Bill Gates and Eli Whitney were not really roommates at Yale - to show what they had learned about these people and their accomplishments. I particularly enjoyed the segment featuring Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Amelia Earhart landing on the moon together.

Miraculously, I did not suffer any panic attacks nor did I bolt out of the room in tears. The only time I went out into the hall, as a matter of fact, was to take a turn watching Kylee's one-year-old little brother Jackson, who wandered into several classrooms and also ran down the hallway after the members of one class were let out for recess, following the excitement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting Used to Disappointment

In one of my favorite scenes from The Princess Bride, the Man in Black (who we later learn is Westley) and Inigo are engaged in their duel at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity. Inigo is highly impressed with Westley's skills and asks him who he is. Westley refuses to reveal his name. Inigo then says that he "must know," to which Westley counters with: "Get used to disappointment."

Maybe it's the Lortab talking, but lately I look around me and see many people who seem to have gotten used to one kind of disappointment or another in their lives.

Just what do you mean by "getting used to disappointment"? you ask? I will tell you what I mean.


It seems like some people have become slaves to routine. They may as well be living in their own version of the film Groundhog Day, because they appear to be doing the same things on a daily or a weekly basis. At church or in other social settings, they always sit next to and talk to the same people; or, you see them only at church and never at the other ward activities (ward prayer, FHE, etc.) during the week. When you do see them, they never even look in your direction, let alone will they talk to anyone outside of their own comfort zones, so they never meet anybody new. They never try anything new, so they learn no new skills. They risk nothing and, therefore, gain nothing. They expect nothing new, and that's what they get, time and again.

This pattern of behavior may be summed up by Albert Einstein, who said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

In their song "Nowhere Man," the Beatles sing about someone who "(sits) in his Nowhere Land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody. (He) doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to - isn't he a bit like you and me?"

A very wise person once said that when you point a finger at anybody, there are three fingers pointing back at you. I'm definitely not immune to the "Nowhere Man" syndrome.

My point is that I have found, from my own experience, that life is more meaningful and far more interesting when I'm trying and learning new things and meeting new people, whether or not I feel like I'm succeeding at it - and not just in the social or dating arena.

One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite hymns, "Be Still, My Soul," is the one about a time "when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone." I think that the hymn refers to the life after this one. But I don't think we have to wait that long, per se, to rise above those things, either. We can get a handle on them here and now, depending on our individual attitudes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Random Observations from the Past Week

- General conference was absolutely amazing. So many talks were just what I needed to hear. Then again, isn't that always the case?

- I played dodgeball at FHE Monday night, and, miraculously, I didn't get injured.

- Years ago, when I was still a teenager, my neighbors Bro. and Sis. Wadsworth team-taught my Sunday School class. In the many years since then, however, I have hardly spoken a word to them - mainly because I just haven't seen them that often. Wednesday night, the Wadsworths invited me over for dinner. They served an excellent meal (taco soup is a favorite) and showed me many interesting photos and knicknacks from their mission to Nigeria.

It was nice to get caught up with them. I am grateful for good and kind neighbors, especially ones who stay that way even though many years have gone by.

- At the same dinner, I was also introduced to miso soup, which I tried for the first time. To be honest, I didn't like it too much. But I tried something new. And that's always a good thing.

- Speaking of food, I know a handful of people who, for whatever reason, claim that they cannot live without Diet Coke. Well, I accidentally took a sip of Diet Coke this week (the girl serving my drink filled up the cup with the wrong thing), and, with that little sip, my Diet Coke needs for about the next 50 years were instantly met.

- I went to see the doctor this week, and he told me that I may very well have one or more kidney stones. Hurrah! That's a new one for me. I am currently awaiting the results of a CAT scan to find out for sure.


- One of my hobbies is watching classic movies, or movies that are rumored to be classics. I have a long list, which has been compiled from various lists of people's favorites and the Top 250 list on imdb.com. This week, I checked out Lost Horizon, Ace in the Hole, and Bringing Up Baby from the library. (I didn't even know that you could borrow movies from the library until just a few years ago!) I loved Lost Horizon, I was intrigued by Ace in the Hole, and I absolutely detested Bringing Up Baby, mainly because I find Katharine Hepburn to be about as annoying as people who say "Really?" a lot. The DVD cover advertised it as a "madcap comedy," and, though it was heavy on the madcap part, it was low on the comedy.

- Mom, Mike, Jana, and Ben spent the week traveling all over the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland). Lucky punks!

- Both Ricky and Shannon made their debuts at our Improvables show Friday night. They did not do too shabbily at all for their first time on stage.

- Steve landed a leading role in yet another musical. He will be playing Simeon in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Rodgers Memorial Theatre this summer.

- For the first time in a couple of months, I went to see a new movie in the theater today: Monsters vs. Aliens. My nieces and nephews were glued to their seats. Any movie that can do that is definitely doing something right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An All-New Way to Annoy People!

Over the past few weeks, I have been working extra hours to finish a work project that I began to labor on about a year-and-a-half ago. Our deadline has finally arrived, and we're now fine-tuning things on the curriculum that we have written before we submit it to the powers that be.

For the past couple of days, another writer on the project and I have been reading and reviewing each other's work and posting comments on it. The idea is that these comments will, in turn, assist us as we go back and review our own writing one final time before we turn in our final drafts.

My co-worker is a skilled writer and also has a keen eye for catching little things that I have previously missed. Having said that, he also has the habit of frequently posting the comment "Really?" on many of the pages I have written. The thing is, I don't know what "Really?" means. Does it mean that he thinks the information that I have written is all-too obvious, or he doubts the accuracy of it, or he wants further clarification/more information, or what?

Honestly, I don't think he's doing this to annoy me. I am sure that he is trying to be helpful. But, so far, it has just been flat-out annoying.

If you don't believe me, then just try this little experiment: The next time you are at any kind of a social setting, come up next to someone and say "Really?" after every little thing that person says. I can pretty much guarantee that not five minutes will pass before you have either annoyed that person to the extreme or you are lying on the floor with a bloody nose.

Also, on another page of mine, this co-worker has posted the comment that a particular paragraph I wrote was "disconcertingly and unnaturally choppy."

For the life of me, I can't figure out what this comment means. Does he want something that is naturally choppy?

At any rate, I know one thing for sure: Unnaturally Choppy would be a great name for a rock band.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Are These Children Coming Down?

In case I haven't talked about them enough on this blog - and who can ever say too much about the members of one's own family ? - I have seven nieces and nephews. They are great kids who never cease to amaze me. Sometimes, I sit back and ask myself the question inspired by so many viewings of Saturday's Warrior: Just who are these children coming down, anyway?

Over the past week, I got to spend a little bit of time with all seven kids. On the weekend that was, I was up at Mike and Jana's house with their four kids to watch one of the sessions of general conference with them. (Mike and Jana are currently spending time in England, visiting Mom's family with Mom and Ben. Jana's parents are taking care of the kids during the week, while Biz and Jeff are tending them on Saturdays and Sundays.)

Anyhoo, between sessions, Kylee, Dallin, and McKenna turned on the Nintendo Wii and kept us all entertained by playing a game called Wario Ware: Smooth Moves. This is a game I didn't even know existed until then, but my eyes were certainly opened to the endless hours of entertainment that could be provided by it.

Random may be the best word to describe how this game is played. It was practically custom-built just for these kids. It consists of several small tasks that the player(s) must accomplish, such as (I am not making these up): directing several people with very full bladders to the correct restroom, before they have an accident; clearing away the smoke (by shaking the Wiimote) after someone has passed gas; shaving an elephant; reaching out to a girl who has fallen off of a ledge and pulling her up to safety (which is most amusing when the player fails to get a hold of her); using a Samurai sword to chop a strawberry off of an opponent's head; and so on.

Dave and Jessica invited me over to their place Wednesday night for dinner. It was good to spend some time with their gang. Jessica cooked a great meal, including spaghetti and breadsticks, after which Dave, Jenna, Luke, and I played several rounds of Mario Kart on the Wii.

Yes, the Plowmans bond by playing video games. I can think of worse ways to spend time with people.

As we played Kart, I realized that three-year-old Luke still knew the chorus to a song I accidentally taught him about a month before. He happened to overhear me singing the chorus to the ABBA song "Money Money Money" - from the Mamma Mia! soundtrack - and learned the words for himself. And, Wednesday night, he still knew them just as well.

Who are these children coming down?

We also celebrated Jenna's sixth birthday and Jackson's first birthday over the past week. Jenna has become a star student in her Kindergarten class this year. Jackson, meanwhile, is now walking like a champ and is beginning to talk like one, too.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Epistle Strikes Back!

By now, I'm sure that most of you have figured out that my last post was merely my attempt at making an April Fool's Day joke. The Epistle of Jon hasn't shut down, obviously, because here you are reading it. I still have a blog.

That's right; nobody is suing me - that I know of. If I go into a courtroom this year, it will be when and if that jury summons actually does come through (knock on wood).

During the past few days, a few people approached me in person and asked me if the rumor was true; to play along, I told them that it was and that I was in the process of pursuing legal advice on how to act. I am grateful for their concern, and I hope that they will forgive me.

Over the years, I haven't been the kind of person who has attempted many April Fool's jokes, and I don't really consider myself to be a prankster. A few years ago, though, I did rather enjoy taking part in one joke at my workplace, posing as an employee of the Honor Code office at BYU. I left a message with one of my co-worker's roommates that my co-worker needed to call the Honor Code office for investigation into a rules violation and possible suspension from school, and she bought it, hook, line, and sinker. I have also been the butt of an April Fool's joke, having been quoted in The Daily Utah Chronicle (the U. of U. student paper) for something I didn't actually say.

Only at the U. could they get away with libel. Good times!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Garfield Minus Garfield . . . Minus Jon!

Well, friends. This blogging thing has been a fun experience. But it must now come to an untimely end.

On Monday, the oddest thing happened. I received an e-mail from one of the guys who runs the "Garfield Minus Garfield" Web site - the same one I have, in the past, borrowed cartoons from and posted here.

Unfortunately, borrowed was not the term that this man used. He called it, in no uncertain terms, THEFT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, and, for good measure, he wrote it in all caps and underlined it twice.

I don't know how these guys stumbled across my humble blog and why they're so perturbed about it, but words like a $2,000 fine and cease and desist really grab you attention. So, the compromise is, according to them, to shut down the entire blog.

So much for free speech! I'm going to fight this thing.