Monday, April 28, 2008

Ice cream alert!

Wednesday, April 30th is 31¢ scoop night at Baskin Robbins. Yes, that's right, an ice cream cone for only 31¢ anytime between 5-10pm.

For more information on how you can participate in this excellent event, see the Baskin Robbins website.

But wait! There's more! Tuesday, April 29th is FREE scoop day at Ben & Jerry's. For more information, try their website, (which didn't work for me) or google "free Ben & Jerry's ice cream."

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Today is the recital in which I accompany the violin in the Beethoven Spring Sonata, 1st movement. Last night was the violinist's last lesson before the recital. We ran through the Beethoven once, which was quite dreadful--you know when you play something perfectly at home and then mess it up every single time at the rehearsal?

At any rate, the violin teacher then turned to me and said, "Have you had a chance to look at the Mozart?"

I'd been given the music six days ago, and aside from when all 20-something pages fell off the piano and I had to pick them up, I hadn't even glanced at it.

"Not very much," I said. I've found it's best to never admit to no practice. I frequently used to not practice the horn, and felt wickedly delighted one day in college when I sightread during my lesson, only to have my teacher compliment me because he could tell I'd worked on the piece. Oh, evil...

"Well, let's give it a try," she said. Then, turning to the violinist, "I want you to hear what it sounds like with a piano."

Great, I thought. Sightreading in a lesson again. I thought I'd moved beyond this point in my life.

The happy news is that it turns out Mozart is easier to sightread than Beethoven. I would say Mozart is easier to play, but I haven't really worked on it beyond the couple pages we did, so I don't know for sure.

The sad news is that the violinist hadn't looked at his music either, and doesn't have a very spectacular natural ability for counting. Eighth notes became sixteenths, sixteenths became eighths and were repeated if he missed one, and any rest other than a quarter was ignored completely. Those elements together make for very creative accompanying.

We "ran through" those pages about three times before returning to the Beethoven, and when we did I enjoyed playing the familiar notes again, even though I still messed up on the runs. But even if I miss in today's performance it will be okay--as an accompanist I'm learning how to cover flubs better than I ever have before. I've discovered that most audience members listen primarily to the soloist, and if the accompanist plays something within the harmonic family that resembles accompaniment, no one really cares.

The end.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Miss Manners III: Standing Ovations

[Betty Edit would like to state that she agrees 100% with Miss Manners' comments in this matter, despite the fact, or possibly because of the fact, that she herself has been the recipient of many standing ovations.]

Dear Miss Manners:

At the end of every performance I have attended over the last few years, the performers have always been honored with a standing ovation. Do you think that the quality of these performances has greatly improved over the last twenty years or the ability of the audience to discriminate between mediocre and the great has been lost?

Gentle Reader:

Miss Manners suspects that the audience is having difficulty discriminating between the robust tradition of judging a performance and the sweet but less thrilling inclination to reward the performers simply for having gotten through it. Unaware that audience response is supposed to render artistic judgment, people now speak of "thanking the performers."

Miss Manners doesn't like to discourage generosity. Nevertheless, she is sorry that this approach has changed the standing ovation from a rare and valued tribute into the equivalent of the tip awarded the taxi driver simply for having completed the trip.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Miss Manners II: Background Music

[The second excerpt from Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin, edited by betty.]

The adage "Silence is golden" has never been more true, in Miss Manners' opinion. Its value is rising astonishingly every day, and it is getting correspondingly harder for most people to have any.

By silence, Miss Manners means something you can hear a bird tweet in. As if the hum of the mechanical world and the blather of the human world were not enough, individuals and industries have combined to produce a constant stream of nasty noise masquerading everywhere under the inappropriate name of music. Restaurants, hotel lobbies and shops are wired for sound. Hand-carried radios take care of the streets and buses. In private houses, the choice is usually between the informal, or lower-class, sound of unattended television sets or the fancy sound of mild classical music used as a "background."

(It has been objected that many fine pieces of music were written for the purpose of providing a background for the activities of patron-hosts and their guests. If Mr. Handel does not mind making Water Music while your guests are slurping their [chocolate shakes], Miss Manners will reluctantly permit it.)

Miss Manners is not even going to tell you what the medical consequences probably are to steadily assaulted ears. The fact is that all this noise is rude. It is rude to the captured audience of half-listeners, and what is more, it is rude to the music.

Music worth listening to is worth listening to, which is why symphony concerts provide the world's dullest "visuals," a huddle of people in black and white, sawing and blowing away. If you want something to look at while you listen, you can go to the opera and watch people stab one another, or go to a rock concert and watch them stab themselves with their instruments.

What you cannot do is put conversation or thought in the foreground and music in the background. Noise-producing industries have studies to prove that "background music" soothes (as on airplanes before takeoff or other antics) and stimulates (as in factories and hen houses). Whichever it is, it is an impertinence for public services or private hosts to attempt to manipulate the feelings of their customers or friends.

If you really want to soothe and stimulate a guest, what is wrong with [ice cream]? The chief results of piped-in noise, as far as Miss Manners can see, are self-absorbed salesclerks who don't attend to their customers and half-shouted conversations that ought to be nearly whispered. We have gotten so used to it that silence has come to be considered somewhat frightening--an admission of social failure, or the world's being empty. It is now possible to make anyone confess anything--not by torture, but by looking at them in silence for so long that they will tell all, just to break it.

Here are some suggestions of other things to throw into silences while you are (please) tapering off noise:

A naughty smile.

A satisfied look around the room, pausing at each face.

A thoughtful expression.

An appreciation of the sound of ice clinking in glasses, crackling fireplaces or rustling leaves.

Words, produced by a mind that has had the quiet in which to think.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Story of Three Hours

Sometime in March I was asked by an acquaintance (who also happens to be a High Councilor) to speak with him in a neighboring ward. Of course I said yes. After that, the word got out that I'd been home from my mission for two months and had spoken in neither my home ward nor my current branch. Appointments were made and I gave my talk in my home ward two weeks later; today was my day to give my talk in my branch.

Three weeks ago I realized I needed to switch the Sunday I was scheduled to teach Sunday school so that I wouldn't be teaching last weekend, as I was going to be in San Diego (it seems like I go there a lot, doesn't it? I don't really.). Today then was also my day to teach Sunday school.

Last week the organist told me she would be absent this week and asked me if I could play in her stead. Of course I said yes.

This morning (1.25 hours before church) Elegyrl called me and asked me if I could teach Relief Society since the other teacher is now slightly inactive. I'd already read the lesson and I don't think anyone else really ever reads the lessons beforehand, so I said yes.

One hour before church Tami called and asked if I could do a musical number because the musical number canceled. I actually really wanted to, but I had no idea what I could do so last-minute, and I figured I had to draw the line somewhere, so I suggested a rest hymn instead. Tami agreed, but during Sacrament meeting she told me I'd most likely be playing piano for Relief Society too.

Church went well. I messed up a lot on the organ, but I played with pedals on the prelude and postlude as well as one of the hymns, so I felt it wasn't entirely awful.

I mostly just feel bad for everyone who had to sit through all three hours of me, but perhaps I was able to disappear enough that someone actually learned something. At least, that is what I hope.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Being a Californian, I feel it my duty to patronize Disneyland from time to time, and as I've done so frequently since I was little, it's a duty I enjoy. Here are some great things I learned on my most recent trip:

1. It's better with a year-round pass. I never thought I'd be that type of person to have a pass, but since I'm planning on going back at least once this year, and since it's cheaper to buy a year pass than two separate tickets (and since elegyrl has a pass and helped to, ahem, "sponsor" my pass), I did it. Besides the obvious advantage of not paying an admission fee every time, it saves money on food (or at least covers the taxes) and, depending on the membership level, merchandise as well. Plus, since I can come and go whenever I want, I don't feel bad for not staying the whole time in order to get my money's worth.

2. It's better with a wheelchair. If you don't have an injured member of your party, it may be worthwhile to injure someone, at least for the Disneyland park (not so much California Adventure): you get to board from the exit, which usually cuts line-waiting time to next-to-nothing. And then you are already sitting in the car when you go past the non-handicapped people and you just know they're all thinking, "Why are they on the ride already? Why do I have to wait for them?" California Adventure has unfortunately built all of their rides to be wheelchair accessible, so a wheelchair does not hold the same great advantage there.

3. Don't go at times you know will be crazy busy. I have several "blackout" dates on my membership, which is just fine with me, because those indicate days on which I would become overly frustrated by crowds and noise and people. I'm generally frustrated by crowds and noise and people anyway, but given it's Disneyland, I try to make allowances (and take lots of Ibuprofen or Tylenol).

4. Bring your own food/drinks. Or, if you don't, expect to pay about 3-5 times more than you would like to spend for food. Since they know you don't want to leave the park to eat, they milk you for every penny: a whole pizza in California Adventure is $32 (and it's not even really great pizza either, kind of lukewarm and burnt on the bottom and soggy in the middle), a medium soda is $2.69 (I didn't even bother to ask about refills, but I could probably guess), and a churro is $3 (although the churro, in my opinion, is worth it).

Here is the $8.99 fish and chips at the Golden Horseshoe Restaurant in Frontierland:

Although it looks like a pitifully small amount of food, especially for nine bucks, I would have preferred 1/2 the food at 1/5 the price.

At least they haven't yet figured out how to charge for use of the bathrooms...

5. Keep in mind that Disneyland is all about awing and amazing you, so everything you see is fake. Even the flying fish. This is especially good to remember if you are gullible and are hanging out with people who like to make fun jokes, like telling you that the flying fish in the pond show up every couple seconds in the exact same spot--isn't that amazing? Yes, yes it is. The sad part is I think I've fallen for that same trick before.

6. If you ask the workers, they will give you hints or tell you flat out where the hidden Mickeys are on the rides. If you're unfamiliar with a ride, it's best to go on it a couple times before trying to look for minute details, but it can be fun to notice the little touches. And if the workers don't know where to find a Mickey, elegyrl might--she took pictures of quite a few.

Those are all the main points--I could mention other ones like "wear comfortable clothing" and "get a good night's sleep", but then I'd start sounding like a guidebook, when really, I'm just a Californian.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Miss Manners I: Spaghetti

I am almost through reading Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin, and it has been thoroughly enlightening. I now know exactly which rules to break if I ever wish to be considered a boor by the upper crust, or which to keep to be considered snobbish by everyone else. In honor of this excellent book, I've decided to share my favorite three excerpts.

As to my thoughts regarding this first exerpt, I personally cut my spaghetti and then eat it. I have no idea if that is correct or not, but at least it doesn't involve a spoon.

(p. 201)

Dear Miss Manners:

Eating spaghetti is a two-handed exercise, and it does employ the use of a spoon. But consider first your proposed method, the fork perched like a flagpole on the plate, twirling the spaghetti around its base as though to drill a hole in the china. Ugh. Proper, perhaps, for a Roto-Rooter man. The correct way to eat spaghetti is with a fork and a soup spoon. The soup spoon is held in the right hand, the fork in the left. One cannot eat spaghetti properly without a soup spoon. Shame on you.

Gentle Reader:

That many people use spoons to assist forks in eating spaghetti, Miss Manners is well aware. That correct spaghetti eating, with fork only, is not easy, Miss Manners also knows. (Why Miss Manners is suddenly writing her sentences backward, she does not know.) The most rewarding things in life require patience and diligence. In the civilized world, which includes the United States and Italy, it is incorrect to eat spaghetti with a spoon. The definition of "civilized" is a society that does not consider it correct to eat spaghetti with a spoon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mommy for a weekend

I actually secretly love it when my nephews call me Mom by accident: "Hey Mom, I mean, Betty..." It makes me feel needed.

Taking care of kids is a great mystery to me, and each time I do it I am left with many good reasons why I want to be a mother, and many good reasons I'm glad I'm not.

My favorite parts, in no particular order:

1. T. (9) kissing me goodnight. I'm pretty sure I'm not very good at tucking in, but he doesn't seem to mind.

2. D. (11) displaying beautiful little acts of kindness that he thinks no one sees.

3. Laughing in the backyard with T. as Izzy (the dog with the nice blue eyes) digs in a muddy hole, turning her normally-white fur to brown. Cleaning her off afterwards was a different story.

4. The random questions--T. asked two good ones today:

-"If you gathered all the saliva your mouth made every day of your entire life, do you think it would be enough to fill a bathtub, a pool, or an ocean?" (I told him that was a disgusting question, but I guessed a pool and D. guessed an ocean; it was apparently a question from Kadoo, and T. didn't know the answer.)

-"What makes the oxygen and gravity stay in the earth?" (I explained about the atmosphere and ozone, then about how the earth was so big and spinning so fast that it had a gravitational field--I hope I gave the right answers. I think I did, because he then said, "So we're always being pulled towards the center of the earth, but this is as far as we go?")

I really wasn't expecting to answer those questions when I got up this morning.

5. The moments of uproarious laughter. I still maintain that D. has the best and most contagious laugh I have ever heard.

6. The sneaky cleverness. Aside from both of them taking full advantage of me not knowing every single rule of the house (and me mostly being okay with that), D. wanted five more dollars to buy a game, and kept asking if he could do something to earn it. I suggested he take care of the dishes, and he toyed with the idea for some time, but when he learned that I meant even the dishes piled up in the sink with the bits of leftover food stuck on them he said, "but that's disgusting!" Hmm, ya think? I also suggested vacuuming, and he actually got the vacuum out, but he never progressed further to the actual performing of the task.

7. The religious moments. I love reading and explaining the scriptures to kids because no matter how crazy it gets during the day, when you start talking about the gospel they settle down and pay attention.

8. The great times when they are just playing together and are smiling and having a good time.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Is it love?

I'd never really been attracted to them like everyone else. I mean, sure, they're cute sometimes, especially when they're little, and I've never particularly disliked them...

But then they grow up and get all stinky and hairy. And then they expect you to feed them and take care of them and baby them because of course they can't do anything for themselves, and they smell bad and make lots of noise. They leave stuff all over the house and make a mess everywhere they go, a mess that they never clean up themselves. They whine and complain if they're not the center of attention, and you can't ever have your privacy because they're so nosey they have to know exactly what you're doing 100% of the time.

But women do love them, and they start to act stupid about them. They grow infatuated and get all lovey-dovey and fall head-over-heels and get furious with anyone who tries to point out any flaws. They get mad at other people who don't absolutely adore their "Snoogy-wookums" the same way they do, and they snap at people who offend them, either intentionally or accidentally. They're blinded by their own overzealous devotion.

Imagine my surprise then, while, when staring into those beautiful big blue eyes and running my fingers absently through the soft furry hair, I found myself thinking, "Maybe dogs aren't so bad after all."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Book: Elijah of Buxton

I need to read Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illus. Robert Byrd, because then I can determine whether Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis was slighted or not. But truly, what a great book. I think Olive would even agree that this was a work well-deserving of the honor given.

The story takes place in Buxton, Canada, a small settlement established as a refuge for former slaves; Elijah was the first child born to the settlement, which gave him the honored distinction to be the first settler born free.

Since the story is told from the first person, written in a native Canadian-type voice which was carried excellently throughout, the reader gets to know Elijah well: he is eleven, has a gift for throwing rocks swiftly and accurately, likes animals, and has a naive trust in people that often leads him to unfortunate gullibility. His mother frequently calls him a "fra-gile" boy, but even I was impressed at how many times Elijah was taken in (and that's saying something because I tend to be incredibly gullible myself).

The plot had a lot of buildup in the form of character depiction, mostly related to the Preacher, a shifty self-proclaimed religious man. The heavy focus on the relationship between Elijah and the Preacher meant that the inevitable creation of the climax was somewhat predictable, but the way the problem played out was creative, and rested the responsibility exactly on the shoulders of Elijah. The greatest moment ended up not to be a show-down or an adult intervention or a deux ex machina, but came when Elijah fought to overcome the naive tendencies he'd been battling the entire book. It was a great battle.

On the scale of one to ten, I'd say read the book. It was well-written, engaging, entertaining, and sincerely touching (but not in an overly sentimental way, so Olive will still enjoy it).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Speaking of Dreams

I'm one of the lucky people: I have dreams every night and can remember them almost as consistently. They're usually pretty exciting dreams too, not just dreams about work or school.

Frequently I dream from another person's point of view, or from the POV of an omniscient onlooker, or from many characters' points of view at once (I'm never really sure how that last one works out, but when I wake up, that's the best way I can describe it). I've been Peter Pan, a bear, a man, a troll, dead, a pirate, a dwarf, a mermaid, a werewolf, Harry Potter, and all sorts of other crazy individuals.

If my dreaming ever starts to get too hairy, I can always revert back to my all-powerful self, and swing the dream in my favor: when that dragon had me cornered and I was about ready to fall prey to his nasty fiery jaws, I made a bat appear to divert his attention, which allowed me time to escape. And if my omnipotent self doesn't work, I have occasionally managed to wake myself entirely. The only things I haven't yet mastered are the massive waves at the beach--they're always trying to kill me--and the bees (why bees? I don't know).

My dreams are instructive too: over the years I've taught myself to fly, so that is pretty much second nature. As far as real life attributes go, I've learned how to drive a stick-shift car and sing alto because of my dreams, and I attribute my job I worked during college to a dream that I had seven months before I actually became employed.

I wonder, then, if dreaming is so enjoyable to me, why does it always take me so long to get to bed?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dreaming of Spiders

Spiders are apparently a significant symbol in dreams: a spider means good luck, but if you kill the spider it can mean bad luck; a spider means you are feeling like an outsider; a spider is a symbol of feminine power; a spider spinning a web means you will soon be rewarded for your hard work, or it means that you are entangled in your current situation.

In my dreams, however, spiders mean one thing: the following day I am going to see a spider.

There was a fat ugly orange spider in my dream the other night, and since I dislike spiders, I killed it (ooo, bad luck!). The next day I was searching in the deck box for my goggles and came across a black widow. I didn't kill it (it was outside and I was in a hurry and had bare feet and no death spray). I guess it was my fault for looking in the deck box, the known home of several probable spider colonies, but I love the coincidence all the same.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Recipe for a color-changing Betty


1 Average Betty
1 Sunshine

Mix ingredients for at least ten minutes, or as needed up to half an hour. Betty is done when covered in little brown dots.

Ta-da! Speckled Betty!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Life Philosophies: Improvement

For many years I have lived by this philosophy:

It's better than it was, and that's good enough.

I realized, however, as I mentioned this to my employees (I was a manager at the time) that it didn't quite sound the way I envisioned it. To read it as is, one may think that I am advocating inferior quality as acceptable, so long as it is a little better than the absolutely pathetic quality previously found.

While I suppose this may be part of it, I read it to say that if you are continually improving, and always striving to be better than you were before, you're going to do just fine: you can't give anything more than your best continual effort.

I've since discovered that, not surprisingly, President Hinckley advocated this same principle, but said it much more eloquently:

Try a little harder to be a little better.

And that's what I've been saying all along...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Current thoughts

I have always wondered why some electric plugs have two prongs and some have three. I used to think it had something to do with the size of the item being plugged in, or the amount of electricity needed to run the item, but I've seen a lot of small items with three prongs, and a lot of big items with two prongs, so I really have no idea. I wonder why that is...