Sunday, February 26, 2012

#48: Linsanity and impossible expectations.

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I am a huge fan of NBA basketball. In fact, one of the most memorable moments of my life occurred when John Stockton made a 3-pointer over Charles Barkley to send the Utah Jazz to the 1997 NBA finals. It was at that moment that I knew I was DESTINED to play in the NBA someday (unfortunately, it didn't quite work out since I wasn't even the best player on my Ward church ball team). Despite my crushed dream of NBA stardom, I still love to watch the games (and work on my fantasy basketball team on cbssports.com).


As you probably know, during the last two weeks one of the biggest stories in the news has been the explosive rise of NBA rookie point guard Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks. An undrafted player from Harvard University, Lin is the first Taiwanese-American player to ever play in the NBA. On February 4th, Lin made his first career start in a game against the New Jersey Nets, in which he led the Knicks to victory, scoring 25 points! Over the next six games, Lin had additional amazing performances (such as scoring 38 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 10th or hitting a game-winning 3-pointer against the Toronto Raptors with less than 1 second remaining in the game on February 14th), leading the Knicks on a 7 game winning streak. "Linsanity" gripped the nation, and Jeremy Lin was heralded as the greatest rookie to ever play the game. Unfortunately, just a few days later, Lin had a bad game in a loss against the Miami Heat, shooting only 1 for 10 from the field. Suddenly, critics were everywhere, saying how overrated Lin was as a player and that he couldn't lead a team to victory (even though he only had one bad game!). Lin hasn't yet had another chance to prove his doubters wrong, due to the annual All-Star break this weekend, during which no regular season games are played.
Lin's game-winning 3-pointer against the Toronto Raptors.
As I watched the meteoric rise and sudden fall of Jeremy Lin, it led me to think about the impossible expectations we sometimes place upon our real-world heroes (sports, political, celebrity or otherwise). Just like Tim Tebow in the NFL earlier this year, Jeremy Lin was set up against expectations that no one could sustain forever (and through no fault of his own). Amazingly, Jeremy Lin has stayed extremely grounded and humble during the "Linsanity" of the last few weeks. Lin is an evangelical Christian who lives his faith. After one victory during his remarkable run, Lin said, "I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore." After his basketball career, Lin hopes to become a pastor who can use his influence to work with underprivileged children. We should really admire Jeremy Lin for his faith and desire to help others, not just for just his skills on the basketball court.

Additionally, I think we can apply Jeremy Lin's story to our own lives. One of my dad's favorite quotes goes something like this: "The greatest source of frustration is unmet, unrealistic expectations". For members of the Church (and for anyone striving to live a good life), we sometimes set unrealistic expectations for ourselves to be perfect. Then, when we fall short of meeting these expectations, we become discouraged  and give up entirely. Perhaps, just as in the case of Jeremy Lin, we need to be more moderate in the expectations we set for both ourselves and others.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

#47: Mitt Romney and the 2002 Winter Olympic games.

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Last night, Diane and I celebrated Valentine's Day (better late than never) by spending the night downtown. We went to Olive Garden for dinner, stayed at the Little America Hotel, and attended the 10-year commemoration of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics at Energy Solutions Arena. Looking back, I have wonderful memories of the 2002 Olympics. At the time, I was recovering from lung surgery, and since I had to lay in bed most of the day, I spent most of my time watching coverage of the games.

As part of the commemoration program last night, former Olympic figure skating champions Sarah Hughes, Kurt Browning, Sasha Cohen, and David Pelletier/Jamie Sale performed (among others). Although it is unmanly of me to admit this, I absolutely loved the figure skating performances (I've also read Twilight, so maybe my manliness is already out of the question). I am amazed at the abilities of the skaters and the fact that they manage to not fall down or run into each other. I have only gone ice skating twice in my life and I spent half of the time flat on the ice and the other half holding on to the rail at the edge of the rink.
My personal favorite moment of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
In addition to the figure skating, there were video highlights of the 2002 Winter Olympics, as well as speeches given by Derek Parra (former long-track speed skater), Scott Hamilton (former figure skater/funny bald guy), and Mitt Romney (former CEO of the 2002 Olympics). As many of you know, Mitt Romney is both (1) running for the GOP nomination for President of the United States and (2) is a Mormon. I have avoided talking about politics on Mormon Wookiee because it can be an area of great contention, and I would rather talk about Star Wars (which EVERYONE can agree on). However, to be honest, I am a major political junkie, and I was very excited to see Mitt Romney speak in person. As CEO, Mitt was largely responsible for the success of the 2002 Olympics. No matter what your political preference may be, I think we can all agree that Mitt is a good man and a good American. I recorded Mitt's 6-minute speech last night and I wanted to post it here. Sorry for the quality of the video (there's not really much to see, but at least the audio is good). Until next time, have a good one!



Sunday, February 12, 2012

#46: Guest post on Jocelyn Christensen's "We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ" blog.

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This is an extremely exciting day for me! Last month I was introduced to Jocelyn Christensen, the author of the Mormon blog "We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ". Jocelyn expressed an interest in Mormon Wookiee and commented that her six-year-old son has actually taken screenshots of my blog and hung them on his bedroom wall (which totally made my day!). Since that time, I have really come to admire Jocelyn for all of the good that she does through her blog. In a way, Jocelyn has become my blogging Jedi Master by teaching me all kinds of things about effective blogging. A couple of weeks ago, I was honored when Jocelyn asked me if I would like to do a guest post on her blog. After a couple of weeks, I finally came up with something that I felt would be meaningful (and still represented my nerdy self). Without further ado, I would like to redirect you to R2-D2 and Fulfilling our Callings on Jocelyn's blog!

And once again, I would like to personally thank Jocelyn for reaching out to a new blogger like myself and giving me a chance to share my blog with a much wider audience than I am currently used to. Thank you, Jocelyn!

Jocelyn's blog.

#45: How to tell your kids that Star Wars isn't real.

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A few months ago, a couple of people sent me this hilarious public service announcement about dads who struggle knowing how to their kids that Star Wars isn't real. I fear that in the not-too-distant future, this is a bridge I too will have to cross. Enjoy!


And remember kids, no matter what you may have seen while watching Episode 1 in 3-D this weekend, Jar Jar Binks is not cool! :)
If only this were what actually happened!
Found at Han's Payback on deviantart.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

#44: FamilySearch Indexing now has an iPhone app! Booyah!

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As I was leaving Church this afternoon, my bishop pulled out his iPhone and showed me the brand new (and totally free) FamilySearch Indexing app. I have been waiting for the Church to release an app version of the Indexing program ever since I got my iPhone, and it is finally here!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with FamilySearch Indexing, let me give you a little background. Genealogy (not geology) is a huge part of the Church's history and beliefs. Since the mid-1800s, the Church has made an ambitious effort to collect and categorize billions (with a b) of genealogical records from around the world. These records are available for anyone to view in the form of microfilm (little plastic rolls of images that can be magnified on a screen). However, there are a couple of problems with trying to research microfilm records: (1) you have to get a copy of the actual microfilm and use a microfilm reader, and (2) even when you have the film, you need to manually search through the microfilm for any records that may pertain to you. Searching through microfilm can be a painstaking (I like that word) and time-consuming process. Fortunately, that is where FamilySearch Indexing comes in!
Microfilm readers: all the rage in 1933.
In 2006 the Church started an ambitious project to make its billions of ancestral records available to search online for free. However, it is not just the image of the records themselves that are available. Even more importantly, the records are actually SEARCHABLE by typing in a name that you may be looking for. Let me try to explain how hugely significant that is. In the past, if you wanted to find a name, you would have to find a microfilm containing images from the geographical area and time period that you were researching. You would then have to search through each page of the microfilm in hopes of randomly stumbling across the name you were looking for. Well, now, due to the Indexing program, you can hop online to FamilySearch and simply type in the name you are looking for (if the name has already been "indexed") and the record will appear on your screen. This could literally save you hundreds of hours of researching for a name of one of your ancestors.

For the past six years, hundreds of thousands of volunteers (both Mormon and non-Mormon alike) have been going through the Church's genealogical records and "indexing" the names from the records. "Indexing" is very simple: you download a screenshot of records (for example, one page of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census) through the Indexing software. Then, on a line-by-line basis, you "index" the names, ages, occupations, birth counties, etc. for each of the individuals on the page. Once you have completed the page, you submit it to be reviewed by an experienced indexer (called an "arbitrator", which coincidentally sounds like a type of vehicle that Luke Skywalker would fly).

Indexing page example from the 1930s U.S. Federal Census.

Since 2006 indexing volunteers have indexed more than 2.5 billion names, but there are still billions and billions more records to go. My local Church stake (a "stake" is a group of about 10 neighborhood congregations called "wards") of approximately 3,000 people has a goal for 2012 to index 2 million names! That is a crazy huge number for one stake, but we know it is possible. Last year we had a stake goal to index 750,000 names and we ended up indexing about 900,000. Anyone can sign up to be an indexer at the FamilySearch Indexing Volunteer website. You can index as much or as little as you would like, and there is no pressure to index more than you feel comfortable doing. Personally, I love indexing because it makes me feel like I am contributing to a good cause, even if I can only do it for 15 minutes at a time. And NOW as of two days ago, there is a brand-new Indexing iPhone app!

The great part about the app is that you can do one name anywhere anytime. Let's say you are in the Walmart checkout line on a Saturday night. You are at least five people back in line and the lady in front of you has 45 cans of vegetables that need to be individually scanned. So, you decide to pull out your iPhone to kill some time. Instead of playing Angry Birds, checking Facebook, or reading the Huffington Post while you wait, you could choose to index a name or two. Time will fly by, you will be a better person for your unselfish contribution of your time, and you'll be next in line at the register before you know it. Check out the app and give it a try--you won't regret it!
Indexing record for Thomas Brown.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

#43: My other favorite movie: Groundhog Day!

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As much as I love "Star Wars", there is another movie I love just as much: "Groundhog Day". No, really. I absolutely love this movie. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character Phil Connors is a bitter, cruel, selfish (and hilarious) TV meteorologist from Pittsburgh. As part of his work duties, every year he is forced to go and report on the Groundhog Day celebrations in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. And every year he can't wait for the celebration to get over so he can return home. Well, this year, things turn out differently.
Phil Connor's best groundhog impression.
When Phil wakes up the day after Groundhog Day, he finds out that he is stuck reliving the exact same Groundhog Day from the day before. And then the next day it happens again. And again. And again. And again...for more times than it is possible to count. At first, Phil is in shock. Then he gleefully turns to lust and laziness by taking advantage of others through the knowledge he has gained from his repeated Groundhog Days. As the days wear on, Phil begins to tire of his selfish life, as he realizes that nothing he does has any meaning. He finally reaches a point of despair and takes his own life. However, even then he wakes up the next day. After multiple deaths, Phil slowly begins to realize that there must be something that he is supposed to learn from this experience. Each repeated day, he starts to look for opportunities to improve his own talents and also to help others. He takes care of a hungry old man, he learns how to play the piano, he saves a boy who falls from a tree, he learns French poetry, he performs the heimlich maneuver on a man who is choking, and much more. I won't give you too many details, but in the end, Phil discovers that true happiness and freedom comes only from selflessly serving others.

There are a few things I absolutely love about this movie.

#1: Bill Murray is a fantastic actor. I actually haven't seen very many of his movies, but for all of his movies that I have seen, he is fantastic (well, except for "Space Jam", but that's forgivable).

#2: Ned Ryerson is the greatest movie character of all-time. Below is a clip of all of the Ned Ryerson scenes from the movie. Every year on Groundhog Day, my dad sends me a text picture of Ned Ryerson with the message, "I could watch that movie over and over and over again." Silly dad. I sure love him.


#3: Groundhog Day has an extremely powerful message about the nature of life and the significance of what really matters. I found the following excellent explanation of what makes this movie so great from an article titled "Groundhog Day -- Breakthrough to the True Self" (http://www.transparencynow.com/groundhog.htm):

What is so powerful about Groundhog Day is the way it lets us experience what it would be like to make a breakthrough like this in our own lives. The movie shows us a character who is like the worst in ourselves. He is arrogant and sarcastic, absorbed in his own discomforts, without hope, and cut off from other people. Like us, he finds himself in an inexplicable situation, seemingly a plaything of fate. But, unlike us, he gets the luxury of being stuck in the same day until he gets it right. Whereas most of us go semi-automatically through most of our (very similar) days, he is forced to stop and treat each day like a world onto itself, and decide how to use it. In the end, he undergoes a breakthrough to a more authentic self in which intimacy, creativity and compassion come naturally - a self that was trapped inside him and that could only be freed by trapping him. Like many of the heroes of fiction, he can only escape his exile from himself by being exiled in a situation not of his choosing. In telling this story, the movie hits on a message that is commonly found elsewhere and that appears to express an essential truth. When we get beyond denial and resentment over the conditions of life and death, and accept our situation, it tells us, then life ceases to be a problem and we can become authentic and compassionate.

Without being overtly preachy or religious, Groundhog Day always makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to change my life so that each day I focus on unselfishly serving others. After all, isn't that what life is really all about? Until next year (or for Phil Connors, maybe until tomorrow), Happy Groundhog Day!