Circular Breathing

Two weeks ago, we held Stake Conference at church.  For those not of my particular religious persuasion, that is a twice-annual, joint meeting of area congregations.  In our “Stake” there are 15 congregations, organized by geography, which makes us a relatively large Stake (about 5500 church members).  Due to our largesse, we decided we would try webcasting our meeting over the Internet to two other chapels in the Stake, enabling the entire Stake to meet at once and greatly reducing the need for travel for those who live in the eastern congregations and the organizational pain associated with holding multiple sessions of conference in one day.

Due to my calling as the “Stake Technology Specialist” – the job was mine to do the webcast.  But webcasting isn’t what this blog post is about.  For those who’ve been following Facebook (or me in real life), you’re probably sick of me talking about the webcasting thing.  Understandable.  No, this post is about a group of people I got to know while webcasting – and a gift they possess that I didn’t really understand until now; the Spanish language translators.  This group of people simul-translated the meeting, as it was occurring in English, into Spanish.

While people thought I was impressive for being able to technologically offer both languages, I was more impressed with their ability to actually do the translating.  Since I know Portuguese (and can understand a good deal of slowly-spoken, church-related Spanish) I spent a good portion of the meeting listening to the Spanish side of the webcast rather than the English side.  I was incredibly impressed with these people’s ability to do this great service for the Spanish-speaking people of our Stake.

As I was considering the incredible talent they must have to hear a new sentence in English at the same time the speak the last sentence in Spanish, I remembered a skill I learned in my band days called “circular breathing”.  Circular breathers are an impressive set of musicians who can sustain a note with the wind trapped in their mouth while they breathe through their nose and refill their lungs.  It’s a pretty special skill that is quite difficult to do with finesse.

Kenny-G holds the Guiness Book of World Recrods for the longest note ever held using circular breathing: 45 minutes, 47 seconds holding an E flat on a saxaphone

This was the exact skill these translators have.  They seem to be able to hear in one language, process it in their brain, and repeat it in Spanish – all in real time!  I can’t imagine how they do it, and with such incredible fidelity.  Even obscure poetry and cultural anachronisms they seemed to translate with ease.

I wish I knew their names or was able to take a picture of them in action (I was a little preoccupied with my own video production responsibilities), but I suppose – like most service in the church – they continue to be largely unnoticed, except in the recesses of my little blog.

 

The view from the other side of the bike

My coworker and friend posted a note on Facebook today titled “The Missionaries in my Neighborhood” that caught my eye.  At first, I thought it would be a complaint about those pesky, nerdy, door to door missionary tracting, but it turns out she liked regularly seeing these missionaries in her neighborhood!  Wow!  Blew my mind.

Here’s what she said:

Continue reading The view from the other side of the bike

The Morning After the Rapture

If you didn’t hear about the “rapture” predictions, you were living under a rock last week.  I was on vacation, far away from any workplace water coolers, and it seemed like every time I looked at the Internet, there was some other pithy comment about the predicted event  — which led me to ask —

Why was this such a big deal to people?

Continue reading The Morning After the Rapture

Lord, Is it I?

On a mission, you learn thousands of lessons that stick with you through the rest of your life.

One such lesson that I learned from my mission president was based on the New Testament account of the Last Supper.  During the event, the Lord informs his disciples that before the morning, one of them would betray him. Most of us focus on Jesus’ miraculous clairvoyance and wait in suspense for Judas to be named, and in doing so, gloss over an interesting and important verse that comes in between.  The disciples respond to their savior’s accusation:

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
– Matthew 26:22

The disciple’s response to their master’s allegation that one of them would betray him was not as ours might typically be.  If you were sitting around that table, would you have responded with “Is it I?” or would you have said, “Oooohh… who is it?” Would you have thumbed through the file folder in your brain labeled “People I know that might betray Jesus” or the one labeled “Stuff I’ve done that has betrayed Jesus”?

It’s natural for us to find fault with each other, but not good.  Somehow we are programmed at a young age to feel that the more we can put others down, the higher we will rise.  We are so worried with how well everyone else is doing that we sometimes lose sight of how we, ourselves, are doing.  Sometimes we even seek to remember someone we know is struggling so that we can feel better about our own comparatively small issues.

Finger pointing often becomes a team sport.  Can you imagine the Disciples breaking into a full-on Pick-a-Little-Talk-a-Little number, accusing each other of being the possible betrayer?  Or the whisper campaign theorizing who the traitor would be?

But, no.  Not the Disciples.  Their humble response to this disturbing allegation was: Is it I?

The lesson: we need to check ourselves first.  People living in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones even when they have more rocks in their hands than their neighbors.  When we are being corrected or taught something, especially when we think it was intended for someone else, we should examine ourselves. When we hear about divorce, do we dwell on the couple who is struggling, or do we consider the health of our own marriage?  When we hear about giving back, do we compare ourselves to the one who gives little or do we consider whether we are being generous with what we’ve been blessed with?

Honesty

Last Sunday, our Stake Presidency hosted their semi-annual Youth Standards night. This meeting brought back quite a few memories from my own youth (only 10 or so years ago), where we’d get frequent frank talks about abstinence, the internet, drugs, and a host of other societal ills.

This was my first time attending such a meeting as an “adult”, and it was really weird being on that side of the line. As we started talking about the technological minefields of today, social networking and texting, I found myself saying “Wow… this is worse than it was when I was a youth.”

I immediately caught myself.  Have I, in a short ten years, become the old fart I used to mock in my youth who was completely out of touch with what was “now”?)

The best was saved for last when, instead of continuing the harping on TXT messaging and social networking, the topic turned to Honesty.

Though his main motivation seemed to be to encourage the youth to be honest with their Bishops and not let little problems turn into big problems by trying to cover them up, the more nuanced parts of his talk made me reflect more sincerely on the general topic of honesty.

Honesty isn’t just a religious topic.  President Ward started out talking about doing the right thing when no one is looking.  In his case, that was stopping at a four-way stop at 4am, even though 100% of the time there was no one at that intersection.  Whether he believed that God was watching or whether he’s just heeding the social contract that we make with each other as drivers, the honest thing to do is to stop at the stop sign.

Complete honesty:

  • Prevents problems from happening
  • Prevents real problems from ballooning in size and scope
  • Enables you to live a less stressful life

The key takeaway for the youth was to be honest with themselves, be honest with God, and be honest with their leaders and Bishops. A common theme – to do the right thing even when no one else is watching. However, this reminder made me think more about the subject of honesty and how truth and honesty are the antidotes to most of the troubles that surround us.

Like a Phoenix From the Ashes

Like a phoenix from the ashes, I rise again to blog…

…Renewed in spirit, and with fresh new opinions to opine…

…Unashamed of even the most poorly-researched commentary…

…and unafraid of being lampooned, harassed, technologically abused, and left for dead.

Here’s a quick smattering of topics to get us up to speed:

Politics:

Congress now has a “jobs agenda” instead of a “jobs bill.”  Switching from an actual bill to an agenda seems to mean it will be even less likely that anything actually gets done in congress.  Is there a negative approval rating?  That’s seems to be what they are heading for.  People were harassing Obama that he got very little of his ambitious agenda done in his first year, but I would definitely say Congress gets the prize for completely wasting its time working on mondo-legislation that will be forever gridlocked.  My solution?  Congress needs to focus on incremental, consensus change.  Get what you can get, because it will be better than getting nothing at all.

Religion:

Lately I’ve been reading a biography of Brigham Young.  So far, I’m at 1848, right after he’s entered the Salt Lake Valley for the 2nd time.  Here are few things I didn’t know I never wanted to didn’t realize:

  • Brigham came from a very poor family
  • He was one of the most ardent protectors of Joseph Smith, oftentimes threatening and exposing apostate church members who were seeking to harm him.
  • He served only one mission to England, which was less than 18 months, and still baptized and gathered over 8000 converts.  The message was not well received in London, but was best received in the British countryside among the working class.
  • Brigham left Winter Quarters shooting directly for the Great Basin, in spite of others who made strong cases for California or Oregon.  It wasn’t quite the ‘wandering children of Israel with miraculous discovery of the Salt Lake Valley’ portrait that has oft been painted.
  • After Brigham got to the Valley, he basically turned back around and went directly back to Winter Quarters.  I wasn’t sure I knew that.  He left most of the men of the initial 1847 company there to start planting winter crops, and his thoughts then turned exclusively on initiating the massive migration the following spring.
  • I’m surprised how poor of a writer he was.  All of the direct quotes from his diary are extremely poor in grammar and spelling, while things like “Journal of Discourses” are just replete with flowery language.  He must have been a much better orator than he was writer, and he certainly had some help committing it to paper later.

American Idol:

I’m not going to be able to watch the Top 12 Boys and Girls until Thursday… so stay tuned for a massive blog on Thursday.

The Lord’s Prayer

I recently sang The Lord’s Prayer at a wedding.  I’m no pro, but I still like singing.

Seems appropriate for Sunday.

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* Note: You will want to listen to this with good speakers with a sub woofer (for the organ).  It sounds pretty crappy on laptop speakers.