Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Census

Dear Civil Rights/Census people,

Thank you for capitalizing on this holiday season. It makes me just want to hop on my donkey and get all censified.

November books

Getting close to the end of the year, here is the book list for November:

Marriage: Love and Logic
Dr. Foster W. Cline

My wife and I read this book together. It had some good advice and sparked some great conversation between my wife and me. But a lot of the "love and logic experiences" seemed very redundant after a while. Maybe the fact that we were reading it on a strict time schedule (we had to get it back to the library) lessened its impact. And, finally, whoever edited the book missed quite a few misspellings and format errors that made focusing on the content a challenge.

e 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey

This book took me about six months to read. There was a lot of good advice, sound principles and memorable ideas, but I thought that the book went on and on repeating ideas over and over with stories, examples and explanations. I think it would have been more powerful had it been more concise.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
Jeff Kinney

These books are extremely quick, but are just a lot fun to read. The author continues to find new experiences to keep the books interesting.


This book was a good reference in preparing for the GMAT. I was focused mainly on the quantitative portion, and their "100 rules to know" was very helpful in preparing.

GMAT 800

What I liked most about this book was that you had 2-4 questions to answer and then it took you step-by-step on how to find the right answer to each of those questions. So instead of having to take full tests or full sections before checking answers, I could understand where I went wrong almost immediately.

With one month to go, I think I have 6 books left to read to meet my goal of reading 50 books for the year. Definitely doable.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Studio

Some of you may remember my christmas wish post from a few years ago. Well, Deidra gave me an inch and I took over our spare bedroom closet and, with a newly-made shelf from my mother-in-law* recently added, here is the finished product:

* In my mother-in-law's defense, the shelf was given to us unpainted. The bright green came from a can of paint that Deidra got for free. But I kind of dig the color and the contrast it adds to the otherwise black instruments/cables/etc.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pawning my soul

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I went to a pawn shop with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. While they perused the power tools, saddles and firearms, I spent most of my time looking at musical instruments, amplifiers and electronics. As I didn't find anything that caught my fancy, I decided to look through the rack of CDs. I saw some old CDs that brought back fond memories (Real McCoy, Boyz II Men, etc.), as well as some Christmas CDs that I was trying to remember if my wife already owned or not.

Then all of a sudden a CD caught my full attention. I looked at the familiar spine with skepticism and carefully pulled it off the shelf from under the stack resting above it. This was the image on the front cover:

That's right - I found All I Fear, my own CD from 2001 sitting the EZ Money pawn shop in Burley, ID. I'm still not sure if I should be flattered or offended. But if you're in the money for a $2 Chris Hartwell album, now you'll know where to go.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Live, from Anchorage . . . it's Saturday Night!

What is it with Alaska that makes their constituents choose Saturday Night Live lookalikes as the head of their state government? I mean we all know the whole former Gov. Sarah Palin/Tina Fey comparison:

Well, the other day, I got an email from Alaska's tourism department telling me that I should come visit the state. In that email was a message from the current Alaskan Governor, Sean Parnell, along with the following photo:

First off, he shares a surname with SNL alum Chris Parnell. But what struck me was the uncanny resemblance that he has to another former SNL cast member, Phil Hartman:

So, in a highly scientific study, I decided to take a look at a few other former governors of Alaska and see how they stack up with SNL alumni:

Frank Murkowski and Dana Carvey

Walter Hickel and Jon Lovitz

But one I have yet to place is Tony Knowles:

Any ideas for his SNL doppelganger?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GMAT Report

So, I took the GMAT yesterday. The main reason was to try and best the Quantitative Section score on my previously-taken GRE. So I barely even studied the Verbal Section and spent weeks studying the Quantitative Section. Come test day, I was still not feeling up-to-snuff on all of the theorems, formulas, and equations that are out there, but my brain was full and I was out of time.

First in the test were two 30 minute essay responses. Then I took a five minute break before going head-on into the 75-minute Quantitative Section. By the end of that section, I was fried, and I didn't even think I had really done too well. But I didn't want to take a break and dwell on it, so I went straight into the 75-minute Verbal Section. Almost four hours after starting the test, I finished and was given my scores on the way out.

The first thing I did was check the Quantitative Score. And the funny thing is that I scored at exactly the same percentile as I did on the GRE. So much for all that wasted effort!

Then I saw my Verbal Score. Somehow, my score was eight percentile points higher than my GRE score. And my overall percentile (Quantitative and Verbal together) was significantly higher than my GRE scores. So I guess taking the test was worth it after all.

I wonder what would have happened if I would have focused my studying on the Verbal Section instead. Then my Quantitative Section score might have improved, right? :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Racing & Retracing" available on iTunes and CDBaby

My new album, Racing & Retracing, is now available at the following locations:

(click on any of the above for the direct link to the album)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy 40th, Sesame Street!

My favorite character as a kid was definitely Count Von Count. In fact, he taught me how to count. 1 ah, ah, ah . . . 2 ah, ah, ah . . . 3 ah, ah, ah . . .

And then my parents had to teach me that I didn't have to say "ah, ah, ah" after every number.

(P.S. Snuffleupagus will always be Big Bird's imaginary friend to me)

And the winner is . . . (drumroll, please)

Brooke S.! Congratulations, you have won the Racing & Retracing CD giveaway! I will be in contact with you to get the information needed to send you the CD.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Physical CDs are now available directly from me for $10 (cash/check/PayPal). CDs will also be available at CDBaby.com ($12.95) within the next week, and Apple iTunes ($9.99 full album or $0.99 per track) within the next couple of months. I will give you all an update when those services are available.

Feel free to contact me or leave a comment on this post with any questions.

(contest winner selected using random.org)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

October books

Ender in Exile
Orson Scott Card

Being a fan of Ender's Game, I have read through all of the sequels and concurrent novels. This one just adds another layer to an already confusing landscape of stories that intertwine. I feel the same way about this novel as I felt about the latest Alvin Maker novel from the same author; I don't get to know the characters any more than I already do, which makes the entire book predictable. It's almost as if the author is trying to squeeze every penny out of a series that has been lucrative in the past, rather than coming up with something new.

Mario Facione

It was an fascinating read to learn about this conversion story and the complete change of heart and lifestyle that accompanied the conversion.

Jason F. Wright

An interesting premise (unfolding information written in weekly letters from a husband to his wife over the course of their decades-long relationship) is overshadowed by a dramatic soap opera story lines that makes it border on unbelievable.

Malcolm Gladwell

This book delves into some of the anomalies that produced outliers like the Beatles and Bill Gates. From birth dates, to cultures, to practice time, etc., it is interesting to see how there's always more to a rags to riches story than initially meets the eye.

L. Frank Baum

This was a quick read, as it was meant to be a book for children. However, there are great descriptions and underpinnings of the book that adults can draw from as well. While none of the adventures of Dorothy and her friends is very inventive (for example, a giant spider-like beast that has long been terrorizing the forest is killed in its sleep by the lion in about two sentences), the imagery and fast pace make the book enjoyable.
Mitch Albom

Fitting that I finished this "ghost story" on Halloween night. Having read a couple of Albom's other books, this one seemed to fall right in line with The Five People You Meet in Heaven. That was both good and bad. It was still enjoyable to read and Ablom creates a good narrative, but the book didn't seem to break much new ground or be particularly thought-provoking.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Nov. 9 (Monday) - Closing date for drawing

I received the "Racing & Retracing" CDs in the mail today, and it made me realize that I had not stated a closing date for the drawing I had previously posted. So I have set next Monday, Nov. 9th, as the closing date. Add your comment to this post before midnight on Nov. 9th to be included in the drawing. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Racing & Retracing - Enter to Win!

With the CD artwork completed (thanks, Brian!), Racing & Retracing has officially been sent off to be manufactured.

A couple of the songs are available HERE for your listening pleasure.

Within the next couple of weeks, it should be available for purchase on CDBaby.com and it will hopefully be available on iTunes by around Thanksgiving.

But lucky for you, you don't have to wait that long! I will be drawing for one lucky winner who will get an autographed copy of the CD sent to their doorstep (or at least to your mailbox). Just leave a comment on this post to enter the drawing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Five Guys vs. In-N-Out

Five Guys:
  • Peanuts while you wait in line
  • Thick fries perfectly seasoned
  • Enough fries to more than satisfy two people with one order
  • A huge selection of ways to personalize your burger, including jalapenos and A1 sauce
  • juicy, delicious burgers
  • A board that tells you exactly where the potatoes come from for the fries (which is usually somewhere in Idaho)

  • A lot of gooey, delicious cheese on the burger
  • Only limited selection of available burgers (even including animal style)
  • thin, wimpy fries
  • The ability to order milkshakes
  • decent burgers, but nothing to write home about
Verdict: Five Guys wins HANDS DOWN. It's barely even a contest. The only thing In-N-Out has going for it is their milkshakes. But you get enough food at Five Guys that a milkshake would probably be overkill.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

September Book

That's right, I said "book" - as in, a singular book read last month. But at least it was a good one:

Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back
Josh Hamilton

I've been a fan of Josh Hamilton's since I read his story in Sports Illustrated and then watched his unbelievable home run derby performance at Yankee Stadium. This book brought back memories of growing up playing baseball and how much a part of my life the game was. And to fully understand his story - from being a #1 draft pick, to becoming a drug addict, to getting clean and returning to baseball - is pretty amazing.

Thanks for the Happy Birthday calls

As I am sure you are all aware, yesterday (Oct. 8th) was my birthday. And I am also sure that all of you probably called and/or texted me to wish me a happy birthday. The problem is that my phone went the way of all the earth about a week ago, right before our trip to St. George. I am currently in the process of getting it replaced. However, that entails signing up for a new plan, getting Deidra and I on the same plan, and most likely changing my phone number. That means that I'll probably never see our hear any of the voicemail or text messages. So I just choose believe that everyone reading this blog post has already contacted me. And for that, I say thank you!

PS I'll keep you posted when I get a new phone/number.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It is finished!

26.2 miles completed in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 27 seconds

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Foul ball fiasco

I have always thought that it would be cool to catch a ball at a major league baseball game. And I think it would be extra cool if I had kids and could share the moment with them. With my luck, it would probably end up like this:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

August books

Who Moved My Cheese?
Spencer Johnson, M.D.

This follows the formula of similar business motivational books like "Gung Ho," in that it explains a business model (in this instance, it was "dealing with change") by telling a narrative story. The books does give some good ideas on not remaining stagnant, anticipating change, etc., but nothing earth-shattering.

Julie M. Smith, PhD.

This book taught lessons on how to become change-resilient. Basically, it follows a very similar pattern to "Who Moved My Cheese?", but was twice as long and half as entertaining. The narrative is extremely contrived and the included puzzle and cards are fo
rmulaic and uninventive.

The Arbinger Institute

Finally! A business/self-help book written with a compelling narrative, instead of condescending childish story (i.e. "It" Happens, Who Moved My Cheese?).

This book really opened my eyes and I related personally to it with numerous facets of my life. The basic premise of focusing outward instead of inward is simple enough. But the understanding and realization of what it takes to get "out of the box" could take a lifetime to master. And he implications, behaviors, and outcomes that can result are essential to personal, interpersonal, and organizational success.

Glenn Beck

I was actually enjoying the book okay until the end and then it just all fell apart. I don't want to give anything away, but the ending of the book basically undermines everything that the book had been preaching up to that point. And it makes the whole book extremely unbelievable.

Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, & John Christensen

This book describes how to add energy and morale to the workplace: choose your attitude, play, make the customer's day, and be present. It is based on the world-famous Pike Place fish market. It was a quick and entertaining read, with some good counsel and advice.

V.J. Smith

This book is basically a treatise on customer service. It's about an old man who ran a cash register at Walmart. He would always ask how his customers were doing, listen to their stories, shake their hands, and thank them for coming in. This personal touch made him almost a local celebrity. People would wait four deep in his line at times, even when there were other registers open. The book was somewhat interesting and inspirational, even if it was talking about an employee for the dreaded Walmart.

Monday, August 31, 2009

500 miles

The half marathon pushed me over the edge . . .

I should get another 100 miles or so by the time I finally wrap the Top of Utah marathon up on Sept. 19th. We'll see what happens to my running motivation after that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Four years aplenty

Here's a toast to spending four years with the classiest, most beautiful, fun, smart, and amazing girl I know! We've only just begun . . .

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

July books

The Crystal City
Orson Scott Card

The last book (so far) in the Alvin Maker series, I thought this was the least entertaining and intriguing of the series. All of the ideas seem like they are being rehashed from previous books and there is not much new stuff here. Supposedly, there is another book in the works, but it's been 6 years since The Crystal City's initial release. Hopefully it's taking so long because the author is trying to create some new, fresh ideas. Or maybe he's realized that this series is already overdone, and he doesn't want to continue beating the dead horse.

The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan

Deidra got this book from the library after hearing good things about it. She had heard that some kids like this series better than Harry Potter. I liked the premise of the book - that the ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are real and have moved along with Western civilization, so that they reside now in America. That mashing of ancient traditions in the modern world had great potential. But the author is too formulaic in his storytelling and the book parallels Harry Potter in so many ways (a "chosen one" who has to go off to a special school, and goes on a quest with his goofy friend and a really smart girl, only to find out that an ancient evil is threatening to come back, etc.) that I would say that there's not a whole lot of originality in the book. It was entertaining enough, but I wasn't too impressed.

Give 'Em the Pickle
Bob Farrell

Now that I have a full-time job developing and presenting training programs, you'll probably see a lot more business-style, motivational books (like Gung Ho last month) pop up on my list. This book was written by the founder of Farrell's Restaurants and Ice Cream Parlors. It is a fun and interesting treatise on customer service. The title comes from a story where he received a letter from a regular customer who was upset that he asked for an extra pickle one day (like he usually did) and was charged extra for it. So Mr. Farrell's mantra for customer service became "Give 'em the pickle!" In other words, make the customer happy. He tells some great story and makes some valid points about how to be successful in customer service.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why NOT to force your kids to go to church . . .

I wish I could figure out how to embed this, but click HERE for the video of a 7-year-old in Utah leading police on a car chase because he didn't want to go to church.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cancel the moving truck!

We are no longer moving to Buffalo!

I got a job offer here in Logan doing development and delivery of business-related training programs. It pays more than the Buffalo job, and there is no moving required. What's more is that this job would be okay with me leaving after a year to pursue a Ph.D. The job in Buffalo was "informally" expecting a three-year commitment.

So there you have it! We're sticking in Logan for one more year, and then hopefully it's off to get a Ph.D.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's a miracle!

Months ago, the inside screen went out on my cell phone. I could still see who was calling me from the outside screen, but I couldn't read any text messages that I received or tell who sent them. And I had to put the phone up to my ear and scroll down my contacts, listening to the automated voice tell me the names, in order to make a phone call.

Today I flipped open my phone and - viola! - the screen works again! I went through the 20+ text messages that had been sent to me since early April. (Thanks for inviting me to play basketball every week, Nate!)

Hopefully, it continues to work. I quite like having a fully functioning phone.

(P.S. Deidra had a similar problem happen with her phone, but she was without a screen for much shorter than I was. We're now both happy to have phones that work.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shuffle off to Buffalo

Feel free to press play and listen to the song as you read this post, since there's no video to go along with it.

We have finally resolved the last hurdle to accepting the teaching position I was offered at Trocaire College in Buffalo, NY. So it looks like we're officially moving! The job will start mid-August. I will be initially working on developing an Associate's Degree program in Human Resources, including getting approvals, getting it accredited, and writing course syllabi. Depending on how long that takes, I would start actually teaching classes in either January or next August.

I'm sure we'll need helping packing up, so we'll keep you posted as it draws closer and our moving dates get set. And if anyone has any leads on apartments to rent in the Buffalo area, let us know.

(minor tangent ahead)

A number of years ago, when I was playing shows as a solo singer/songwriter, I played a show in Alexandria, VA with Seth Horan, another solo singer/songwriter. He had previously recorded and toured as the bass player for Vertical Horizon. He was initially from Buffalo, and wrote a song about the city, entitled "Anonymity." Here are some of the lyrics:
  • Why live where no one wants to be? / There's nothing left here to discover, and nobody I'd want to discover me.
  • Everyone's tomorrow looks the same as yesterday / In a city meant for nothing more than anonymity.
  • Everybody's days are filled with animosity / And never meant for any more than anonymity.
Our initial introduction to Buffalo when we visited for the interview was pretty similar to these sentiments. But hopefully we'll find more in Buffalo than meets the eye originally and end up having a great experience.

(end tangent)

Anybody who wants to visit us in Buffalo is certainly welcome. We've got the Buffalo Bills (NFL) - now with the additional entertainment of Terrell Owens, Buffalo Sabres (NHL), and Buffalo Bisons (a minor-league MLB team). Niagara Falls is a mere 30 minutes away (make sure you have your passport if you want to go over to the Canadian side), Toronto is less than two hours away, and - for all you Mormons (or those interested in Mormon history) out there - Palmyra is only 90 minutes away. So there's plenty to keep you busy.

Anyway, there's our big news! We will keep you posted as this all develops.

(a Lawrence Welk version - just for you, Deid!)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fantasy Football Fever '09!

It's that time of year again, and I know you're excited!

I have set up a fantasy football league through Yahoo! and currently have six teams registered. We are looking to have up to 16 total teams.

If you are interested in joining, just follow these instructions:

1. Go here.

2. Click on "Join a League". (You will need to sign in with your Yahoo! ID. If you don't have one, you will need to create one.)

3. Click on "Join Custom".

4. Enter the league ID: 114684

5. Enter the password: roxor

And you'll be all set. Good luck!

Leave me comments on this post if you have any questions.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

June books

I know, I'm a slacker. But here are finally the books that I read last month:

Gordon B. Hinckley

I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot of lessons through it's teachings. Of course, it's hard not to like a book written by someone you believe was a prophet of God. :-) This book was very interesting, because President Hinckley uses personal stories, biblical scripture, and quotations from prominent historical figures, while refraining from using Book of Mormon scriptures or alluding to many references to the Mormon church. By doing so, he has created a book, based on true Christian principles, that is timeless and that reaches out to members of all faiths throughout the word.

Gung Ho!
Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles

This book is basically a treatise on organizational behavior and how to improve organizational effectiveness. But it is different than most organizational "help" books in that it is written in a story format. Basically, a manufacturing plant is close to being shut down, and they are able to save it by learning the "Gung Ho" style of business, which is taught to them by a Native American manager in the plant. This style is based on The Spirit of the Squirrel (worthwhile work), The Way of the Beaver (being in control of achieving the goal), and the Gift of the Goose (cheering each other on). I thought the basic principles behind the book and the narrative story were pretty engaging, though the reference points of nature and learning from animals just kind of reminded me of some cheesy Karate Kid type of movie.

Orson Scott Card

Despite a title and cover picture that make this book look like some sort of harlequin romance novel, this was probably my favorite book of the Alvin Maker series so far. It basically deals with themes of persecution, both with witch trials in the North and with slavery in the South. I thought the author did well in progressing the overall story line of the series, while also creating a book that could stand on its own.

Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom

After reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I was interested in reading this book, which is easily the most well-known book written by Albom. Like the other books, this one was an quick read, while being both poignant and heartfelt. It tells the story of a well-respected old man (Morrie) with a degenerative condition teaching a young man (the author) lessons on how to live best, even as he (Morrie) gets closer to death. It had a lot of great points and touching narrative, and it's easy to see why it is considered a classic.

These four books for June put me right at 25 - halfway done with my goal and halfway through the year.

As always, I welcome your input on other potential books. My initial list of books I wanted to read is getting close to being completed, so I am going to need some recommendations.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

300 miles

As I get closer to the date of the Top of Utah Marathon, the miles start racking up faster. It took exactly one month to go from 200 to 300 miles.

I thought that was pretty good, but one of the books I recently read (my June reading synopsis is forthcoming) is a fiction novel about a competitive runner. He would run about 120 miles per week! Now, that's crazy!

Speaking of crazy . . . the night before Chod and I were supposed to go on a long run (12 miles I think), Deidra had a dream that Chod and I were running and we got arrested by the police. They told us that running that many miles was just plain crazy, so they had to take us in and have us evaluated or something.

I can't say I blame them. Even I think it's crazy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Back from Buffalo

We made it back safely from our trip to Buffalo, NY. I was interviewing for a faculty position at Trocaire College. No news yet on whether I will be offered the job, but I felt good about the interviews.

We also got to see a bit of Buffalo, visit the church sites in and around Palmyra, and cross into Canada to see the Canadian view of Niagara Falls. All-in-all, it was a good trip, though I don't think either Deidra or I got attached to Buffalo at all. In fact, Deidra was rather perturbed by the Buffalo Bisons (She does have a point: the plural of bison should really still be bison). So if I do get a job offer, we'll have to definitely make it a matter of a lot of pondering and prayer.

We did take some pictures, and my guess is that Deidra will have those up on her blog before too long. She's cool like that.

Monday, June 01, 2009

May books

There is not a lot to report for reading in May - only two books:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Mitch Albom

I really liked this book. It was an extremely fast read, but I thought it was thought-provoking and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

Orson Scott Card

This book follows the previous books in the series and leads to the books that follow. So it tells a good story, but leaves much of the story line wide open at the end.

I am currently in the middle of two other books, so hopefully I will have more to report next month. Otherwise, I have a lot of catching up to do if I am going to hit my goal of 50 books. After five months, my total is only 21 so far.