Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sub for Santa

I am in need of help from all of you Cougar fans out there.  I know it's only August but it's time to start preparing to help out some needy kids at Christmas time this year.

Every year Boeing in Salt Lake City has an auction to raise money for Sub for Santa.  Different packages are put together and employees bid on the ones they want.  This year they want to make a U of U quilt and a BYU quilt.  They want to make these out of old t-shirts.  That is where I need your help, we need shirts.

I know all you die hard Cougar fans have closets full of BYU gear that your wife is probably dying to get rid of.  Now is a good time to go through all that gear and donate some of it to a good cause.  We are looking for a variety of colors and logos from all eras.  As long as it is in decent shape we want it.  I'm not asking you to part with the retro hoodie that you scored on eBay, but all of the other t-shirts that you got for free at basket ball games or for cheap at the surplus sales.  The more shirts we get the better this quilt will turn out.  Remember, they are also making a U of U quilt, and we don't want to be shown up by a bunch of Utes do we?

The biggest hassle in all of this is going to be getting the shirts from all of you.  I live in Davis County, so if you live in Davis County as well we can arrange a time for you to drop them off or for me to pick them up.  I live right off the freeway so if you will be passing through it wouldn't be too far out of the way.

I make a weekly trip to Provo for a night class, as well as to each football game, and would be willing to arrange a pickup while I am down there.

If you live elsewhere and would still like to contribute it would be just fine if you could ship them to me.

If you would like to help please leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email or phone number) as well as where you live.  I will then get in contact with you and we can work out a way to get your shirts.  I will leave the comments private so that your contact information isn't out there for all the world to see.  Also, please pass this along to any of your Cougar fan friends and relatives so that we can get as much help as possible.

Your help is greatly appreciated.  The money raised with this auction will go a long way to light up children's faces this Christmas.

Go Cougars!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's Nothing Like Seeing It Live

(This is long I know, at least skim through if you don't want to read the whole thing. There are even pictures!)

One of my favorite things to do is go to concerts. When I was younger my parents used to take me and my siblings to the local high school choir and orchestra concerts in an effort to make us more cultured (you can be the judge as to whether or not that worked). When I was in middle school and high school I performed in and attended many more of these types of concerts. While I can definitely appreciate the time and hard work that those performers invested in their music those aren’t the types of concerts that I love to go to.

I’m talking about concerts where people have invested their lives into conveying their deepest emotions to others through music. I’m talking about concerts that people plan their summer (or at least weekend around). I love seeing bands both big and small gather with their fans to share in an experience. I love the energy and the emotion that can come from seeing a band perform live. Some people say that you can get the same thing by listening to a CD, but they are the same type of people that scoff at the idea of waiting for Wicked to be made into a movie instead of going to see the Broadway play.

Another thing that I love about is the memories. I might not remember every song but I always remember who I was with. Fifty years from now I’m not going to be sitting on my front porch with one of my friends reminiscing about the time that we sat in my living room and listened to a George Strait CD. It’s a lot more probable that in fifty years I’ll be sitting with my brother and sister and we’ll be able to talk about the time when they took me to see Rascal Flatts for my birthday.

I’ve assembled a list of most of the concerts I’ve seen. If I’ve seen a band multiple times it usually won’t be listed more than once. I’ve been able to list some exact dates and most opening acts thanks to the help of Google.

Chicago with They Might Be Giants

July 4, 2000, Rice Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

This was my first concert. I went to this one with my whole family. It was event similar to the Stadium of Fire that is held each year in Provo in the fact that it is followed by fireworks set to music. It is different in the fact that it is much more like an actual concert. TMBG played for twenty minutes or so and Chicago played for close to an hour. I had listened to my Dad’s Chicago Greatest Hits CD many times and at that point in my life listened to a lot of classic rock in general. TMBG was a lot of fun and I loved Chicago’s horn section.

Besides this being my first concert it is special to me because it was where I was inspired to learn the accordion. Also, if you know my dad you know that he is usually a pretty reserved person. I’ll never forget when Chicago finished their last song looking over and seeing my dad on his feet with both arms in the air cheering at the top of his lungs (I was doing the same thing, by the way). He never did that listening to the CD. I still have the shirt that I bought. It’s now holier than the Bible and I’m sure if my mom got a hold of it it would be promptly incinerated.


December 7, 2001, Utah State University, Logan, Utah

I was up in Logan with my friend Scott Hales for a scholarship weekend at USU. After the meetings we had on Friday they had several things going on that we could attend on campus. I had heard of Colors before and was very excited to see them. It was a small concert (forty or fifty people maximum) in a small auditorium but it was great. I remember that the guys in the band seemed to be having as much fun as anyone in the audience. I bought a CD afterwards and got autographs.

That was the first of many times that I saw Colors live. The following summer I went with friends to see them just about every time they performed in northern Utah. During my first semester of college I helped to promote their fall show at Thanksgiving Point and got to hang out with them for a day. I still have the shirt I wore to all the shows as well as the staff shirt that I got. They decided to move on from their music careers right before I left on my mission and played their final show while I was in the CTM (that’s what they call the MTC in Brazil). I’ve been to two reunion concerts in recent years and I still remember the words to every song. I’m also taken back to the great summer that I had right after high school.

Dave Matthews Band

February 2002, Olympic Medals Plaza, Salt Lake City, Utah

When Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics I was very excited to hear that many of the medals would be awarded at a venue downtown, that a list bands would play afterwards, and best of all tickets would be free. A couple of friends and I skipped seminary one morning and drove to Smith’s in Tooele to stand in line for tickets. (We would have skipped whichever class was at that time, it just happened to be seminary. But that’s a topic that deserves its own post now that I think of it.) The first one hundred people in line got a numbered wrist band and we were told to come back another day to get tickets. When we went back they picked a number at random and that person got first pick of that group of tickets followed by the next person in line. My number was drawn so I got first pick of the tickets followed by my three friends. We each got four tickets for the DMB show, traded some of them for tickets to the Foo Fighters, and sold the rest. We also used some of the money to later buy tickets to see Brooks and Dunn.

I went with two of my friends and we each took dates. I enjoyed seeing DMB because of the sheer talent that they have. They are a diverse looking group of people and each of them is a master of their respective instruments. It was like watching a group of friends jam for an hour and it was great. This was also my first Olympic experience and one that I will always remember.

Foo Fighters

February 2002, Olympic Medals Plaza, Salt Lake City, Utah

The Foo Fighters concert was AWESOME! I went to this concert only knowing one or two of their songs but had a blast anyway. This was my first true rock concert and it lived up to the hype. I remember there being and energy in the emanating from the stage that was almost palpable. We jumped around so much that I started to sweat at an outdoor concert in February. (Colors was also one of the opening acts this night.)

Some of you may remember at these Olympics that the snowboard half pipe event was swept by the Americans. It was at on this night that they were given their medals. We watched as three American flags were raised above the crowd and we all sang The Star Spangled Banner. It was a night that I’ll never forget.

Brooks and Dunn

February 2002, Olympic Medals Plaza, Salt Lake City, Utah

This was our third and final trip to the Olympic Medals Plaza. By this time we had seen just about everything that went on previous to the concert but Kix and Ronnie didn’t disappoint. I knew most of their songs and had a great time. I remember thinking that Brooks and Dunn didn’t sound quite as good as they did on their recordings but they made up for it in showmanship. I will also be able to say for the rest of my life that I did the Boot Scootin’ Boogie live.

Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band with Colors and Peter Breinholt

Summer 2002, Orem Summerfest, Orem, Utah

When I graduated from high school my parents gave me a mandolin as a graduation present. As a result I started listening for a mandolin part in any song I heard. That summer I saw the movie Brigham City. One scene in that movie is in a bar with a live band playing and in that band one guy was playing a mandolin. After the movie I scoured the credits and found out that the band playing in the bar was Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band. This was before the days of You Tube and streaming music online so finding out about new music was a little different back then. My friend Taylor and I managed to find one song to download (Remember Napster?). The song was Banjo Boy and we were intrigued. We decided it was worth further investigation so we decided to find a concert to go to. An upcoming concert was at the Orem Summerfest (or whatever they called it back then) and it featured two other bands that we were familiar with so if the Rubber Band ended up being a bust we knew we’d at least be entertained by the rest of the show.

The Rubber Band was far from a bust. In fact, like Colors, I ended up going to many more shows. But unlike Colors the Rubber Band is still around and going strong. RS & RB plays a unique style of music and they have a great time

doing it. It’s high energy, high creativity, and it’s a ton of fun. I’ve seen them play at big amphitheaters with thousands of people and at small venues with only ten or so people in the audience.

In 2005 when RS & RB signed with Capitol Nashville they were getting a lot more media attention than in the past. The Provo Daily Herald was doing a feature article on the local group and the reporter called me to get my perspective on the band. He said that one of my friends that worked at the paper and given him my number and said that I was a big fan. That was an understatement. I knew that my fandom was permanently validated when after a show Ryan (the band leader) stopped me and asked what I thought of the new bass player. I’ve gotten to know Ryan better recently when I started taking mandolin lessons from him a few years ago.

When I was on my mission we would sometimes talk about things we missed back home. Two of the things I would always mention were Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers and Ryan Shupe and the Rubber Band concerts. The problem with doing this over a period of two years is that expectations tend to become inflated and the real thing has a hard time living up to them. After returning from Brazil Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers didn’t seem to taste as well as I had remembered (despite how many I ate that summer) but my first RS & RB concert didn’t disappoint.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Summer 2005, Sandy Amphitheater, Sandy, Utah

This was another show that I went to during that great summer after high school. I went with my friends Jacob and Taylor and I’m pretty sure we were the only people under fifty in the whole crowd. The Dirt Band is a group of old guys but they can sure bring the heat musically. I remember that after they had played for about an hour they took a break. After the brief intermission each member of the band took a turn alone on stage and gave a type of musical monologue. They each told a few stories and played their instruments by themselves before continuing with the concert. John McEuen told about how he had lived in Utah for several years because he thought it would be a good place to raise his kids. He also did a thing with his banjo where he would change the pitch of each string by turning the tuning pegs instead of fretting the strings. For those of you that play a stringed instrument you’ll know that this is much harder than it looks. The other thing that sticks out to me is that the drummer played the harmonica during his monologue. And not only did he play it, but he played it extremely well. I was even more impressed later in the show when he played the harmonica and the drums at the same time.

It was at this show that I finally realized what people meant when they described a natural high. The quality of the music, the energy of the band, and the enthusiasm of the crowd created an almost euphoric feeling. We stood in line to meet the band afterwards and one of them joked around with us asking what we were doing there and why weren’t we at a punk rock show somewhere. (The fact that this was during my longhair days might have contributed to this.) I’ve see the Dirt Band one time since then but the first time was definitely the best.

Counting Crows with Frou Frou

Fall 2002, McKay Events Center, Orem, Utah

I went to this concert during my first semester at BYU. My favorite radio station at the time put this concert on for free, all you had to do was show up to a station event and get tickets. I remember everyone but me was excited for the opening act. I hadn’t heard of her before and I haven’t heard of her since. It’s hard to describe why I like The Crows so much. I think it has to do with the fact that they are a big group that allows for a complete and full sound. I haven’t listened to The Crows for a while but Mr. Jones is still one of my favorite songs.

One thing I’ll always remember is that during the encore lead singer Adam Duritz was on stage with one other guy who was playing the guitar. They were singing a lesser known Simon and Garfunkel song and Adam forgot the words to one of the verses. He thought for a second then just explained what the verse was about and went on with the song.

Diamond Rio

Winter 2005, Abravanel Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah

I have been a Diamond Rio fan since I was eight years old. I had their first album on a cassette tape. They went off the radar for a while and started touring and recording again while I was on my mission. Not too long after returning from my mission I was working at Soelberg’s, the grocery store in Grantsville where I had worked since I was fourteen. Associated Foods was having their convention in Salt Lake City one weekend and had booked Diamond Rio to entertain. The owner of Soelberg’s was nice enough to pull some strings and got me, my friend Scott, and the rest of the stock crew tickets to the show. We had a great time and had pretty good seats. I saw them again later that summer at Steel Days in American Fork. It was a good show but it’s where I learned that if you see a band twice on the same tour to expect the same songs and the same stage banter.

Lonestar with Mandy Moore

July 2005, Stadium of Fire, Provo, Utah

This was my first time at the Stadium of Fire. I had heard about it for years and there was always a cavalcade of celebrities advertised and big name musical acts. Lonestar was pretty popular at the time and I was pretty excited to get a glimpse of Mandy Moore too. Mandy looked great and didn’t sound too bad either, but she only sang two or three songs. I was even more disappointed when Lonestar quit after just four or five songs and the Osmond Second Generation took the stage. I was expecting a full on concert like when I had seen Chicago up in Salt Lake City. It wasn’t a total wash. Fred Willard was the special guest and I’ve always thought he was pretty funny. Everything else aside the Stadium of Fire does have some pretty spectacular fireworks.

Jack Johnson with Matt Costa and ALO

Summer of 2005, USANA Amphitheater, West Valley City, Utah

This was the only big show that I’ve ever had primo seats to. I had won them from the same radio station that had put on the Counting Crows concert (right place at the right time). I took my friend Clay and we had seats on the second row right in the middle. We could have stood in the pit but decided against standing for six hours. I had never heard of either of the opening acts but enjoyed both of them. The guy from ALO looked a lot like Kid Rock but was pretty handy on the keyboard and accordion. He also played the piano during Jack’s entire set.

Jack is a very talented musician who obviously loves to play for people. During this tour he said that he didn’t feel like he was getting enough time on stage so he moved the start time of this concert up one half hour so that he could play longer. This was the first time I saw anyone play the melodica and also the first time that I smelled actual marijuana. I had smelled it on peoples’ clothes in high school but at this show there was an old guy sitting behind us smoking a joint.

Rascal Flatts with Blake Shelton and Keith Anderson

November 4, 2005, Delta Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

This was the first concert that I went to that I felt like was a full blown production. Rascal Flatts used things like moving stages and laser light shows during the concert. My brother and sister took me to this one for my birthday this year. I’m not as big of a Rascal Flatts fan now but they put on a good show. I still regret not buying a “Blake Shelton’s Barn & Grill” shirt when I was at this concert.

All American Rejects with The Academy Is and Rooney

Fall 2005, In The Venue, Salt Lake City, Utah

I went to this show with my friends from college. I think we only paid fifteen bucks for this show and it was worth every penny. This was a high energy show in a small venue which made it a lot of fun. The Rejects put on a great show and their opening acts were great too. I could have done without most of the stage banter at this show. I like hearing about the stories behind songs or members of the band but I could care less what they are going to do and with whom on the bus after the show. The only regret I have from this show is not working up the courage to crowd surf. The security staff at the front would pull people off and I thought they were kicking them out; I later realized that they just sent them to the back but it was too late. Next chance I get I’m going up.

The Killers

May 18, 2007, The Great Saltaire, Salt Lake City, Utah

I went to this show with my friends Matt, TJ, and Miranda. Our friend Scott decided that he didn’t want to spend $20 and I would say that was probably the biggest mistake of his life. My brother Tyler also went to this show but spent his time with his friends packed like sardines up by the stage. Saltaire is kind of a hole but once the music starts you’d never be able to tell. I wasn’t impressed with the opening act (and neither were the Killers because they dropped them from the tour a few months later).

When they started setting the stage for the Killers they hung a huge white sheet over the front of the stage and set up the bands equipment behind it. When the lights went out they showed a video featuring the band and artwork similar to what was on the Sam’s Town album cover. In the montage of images a silhouette of a band appeared at the bottom of the screen. All of the sudden the sheet dropped, the silhouette was the actual band, and the music playing during the video seamlessly became the first song of their set.

Brandon Flowers has a great voice, incredible energy, and is extremely talented. After the first song he came to the front of the stage and said “Welcome to our Taj Majal!” At one points he stepped up on a monitor at the front of the stage and waved his arms like he was conducting a congregational hymn in church while the crowd sang. At one point in the show the whole place went dark. All of the sound equipment was still working but the stage lighting wasn’t. The band quit playing and after a few seconds we could hear Brandon Flowers explain, “It looks like we blew a fuse. It’s gonna take them a few minutes to fix it but we’re going to keep playing.” He came out on the stage holing a huge Maglite and the band picked up right where they left off. Instead of being a whiny rock star and pouting for an hour like a lot of people would have done he created his own stage lighting. When there was a guitar solo he would shine the light on the guitarist and when the crowd was singing he’d shine the light on the crowd. Before the song was even finished the lights were back on, Flowers tossed his light to a roadie, and the continued on with the show as if nothing happened.

The Killers can rock like nobody’s business (after this show my ears were ringing for a few days) and most of the band usually looks the part, but they keep it very clean.

Goo Goo Dolls

October 29, 2008, Nu Skin Regional Convention, Salt Lake City, Utah

Working for Nu Skin has some great perks. For instance: I haven’t bought shampoo or toothpaste in almost six years. But thanks to Nu Skin I have also seen a few great concerts. The week of convention I worked almost sixty hours, but at the end of it I got to go with several of my friends to see the Goo Goo Dolls play. The concert was at the end of the concluding session of the convention. It started out with a large crowd of convention goers but after a few songs a lot of them had left and we were able to get really close to the stage. The Goo Goo Dolls put on a pretty good show, they used a mandolin in one of their songs, but I was a little disappointed that they couldn’t hit the high notes like I had heard on the recordings. I guess years of hard living can be tough of the vocal chords.

Taylor Swift with Kelli Pickler and Gloriana

May 26, 2009, Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

I’m man enough to admit that I’m a big fan of Taylor Swift. I know she’s not the greatest vocalist or musician (and my mom can’t stand to watch her dance) but she is a very talented songwriter. I enjoy her music because there is a lot of feeling in it and you can tell that it comes right from her heart. This was her first headlining tour and I shelled out for tickets to see this show.

When we drove by ESA on our way to the show there were semi-trailers with Taylor’s face on the side parked three across and at least seven deep on the street outside. We got there a little late and only caught the end of Gloriana’s set. They were pretty good (you can’t go wrong with hot girls playing mandolin) but I don’t remember a single song they played. Kelli Pickler was sick and didn’t perform but let’s face it, she’s basically eye candy anyway. The only song of hers that I like is the one that she “co-wrote” with Taylor.

Taylor put on an awesome show. The stage was designed in such a way that it could become a high school hallway, a medieval castle, and a burning inferno using only lighting effects. The stage had a trapped door that she used continually. I lost count of the costume changes but it seems like there was one every other song. For her encore she finished with “Should’ve Said No” which ended with her singing under an on stage waterfall. My only regret from this show was not paying for better seats. When I see her this fall I’ll be much closer to the stage.

George Strait with Blake Shelton and Julliane Hough

July 17, 2009, USANA Amphitheater, West Valley City, Utah

I was very excited when I heard that George was coming to town. I planned the entire day so that I would be by my computer the minute that tickets went on sale. I did not want to miss out. This show was in the middle of July and it was hotter than hell. (Sorry mom, heck just wouldn’t cut it here.) I took my friend Elise and she was a trooper. Traffic was snarled all the way from the freeway and since we weren’t moving very fast my air conditioner stopped working. The water I had on ice in a cooler ended up being a lifesaver. We missed Julliane Hough (once again, mainly eye candy) and caught the last half of Blake’s set. Blake couldn’t stop talking about two things: how hot it was and how excited he was to be on tour with the king of country music, George Strait. Not only do fans of country music hold him in the highest regards, but everyone in country music holds him in the highest regard. The crowd for this show was diverse and entertaining. Every age, every walk of life, and every level of intoxication was represented. I remember seeing a little old lady sitting on the grass hooked up to an oxygen tank. When George came out onto the stage I looked over and she was standing up and cheering while being supported by two younger women on each of her arms. Now that is a dedicated fan.

One thing about George is that he isn’t flashy. He wears boots, wranglers, and a hat and is there to sing the hits. I was a little worried that since he was on tour promoting his new album that we would mainly hear songs from that album with a few classics sprinkled in but it was the other way around. He knows exactly what the people come to see. His dialog on stage was restricted to the basic pleasantries and the introduction of his band. His band is enormous and I remember that four or five of them were introduced as being from San Marcos, Texas. I’m sure they’ve been with him since the beginning. One very pleasant surprise was during his encore. He played two Johnny Cash songs (one I didn’t know and the other was my favorite, Folsom Prison Blues) and then finished up with This Is Where The Cowboy Rides Away. It was a perfect ending to a great show.

Brad Paisley with Darius Rucker and Justin Moore

September 24, 2010, USANA Amphitheater, West Valley City, Utah

This is another show that I went to with my family (minus my brother who was on a mission). My mom has a huge crush on Darius Rucker so she was more excited to see him than Brad. Due to being in the right place at the right time we ended up with excellent seats on the grass for this show. I don’t remember a thing about Justin Moore. Darius Rucker was a lot of fun. He’s got a lot of energy and you can tell that he loves what he does. He played the hits from his country albums, a few classic country songs, as well as a few Hootie and the Blowfish songs.

I am a big fan of Brad Paisley for three reasons: He is an excellent musician, he writes his own songs, and the only reason you ever see him in the news is because of his music and not because of public drunkenness or domestic drama. Brad did not disappoint. He made excellent use of the giant video board behind the stage and he absolutely shredded on the guitar. At one point he made his way back to the middle of the crowd where a small stage was set up with a stool and a microphone. He said when he was younger he’d go to concerts and he never sat closer than where we were sitting, and he wanted to play a few songs just for us.

A few months later when Brad was giving an acceptance speech at the CMA Awards he got emotional when thanking his fans. He thanked not only his fans but all fans of country music for their loyalty. He said that he understood that we spend our hard earned money to come see them play and that they worked very hard every night to make sure that we got our money’s worth. I can attest that is good on his word.


October 9, 2010, Nu Skin Regional Convention, Salt Lake City, Utah

This was another perk from working for Nu Skin. I didn’t take a bunch of friends with me this time but hung out with my friends from work. I ended up an arm’s length from the stage and got an up close look at the great show that Styx puts on. They wear the tight pants, have the long hair, and look the part of a classic rock group. I knew most of the songs they played but there were a few that I didn’t. One of the guys told a story about how he was in Alabama playing with a band in a bowling alley. He said that even though it was a nice bowling alley he couldn’t help but think if that was as good as it was going to get for him or if there was something better out there. If only he had a crystal ball he could know what was in store for his life. It was at that point that he wrote the song Crystal Ball. This was one of those songs that I connected with. Knowing the background of the song made it very powerful to me and I wished that I could write songs like that. The story continued that a few weeks after writing the song he was asked to audition for Styx and the rest is history.

I took quite a few pictures at this concert which is unusual for me. I took a few videos as well. I was able to capture Come Sail Away in its entirety, but when I got home and watched it all you can hear is me singing along at the top of my lungs. It could have been working thirty hours in three days or it could have been an amazing rock show but afterwards I was exhausted.

George Strait and Reba McEntire with Lee Ann Womack

April 2, 2011, Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah

This was my second time seeing George Strait and he was as solid this time as he was the last time. What was great about this concert was that it was like two concerts for the price of one. Lee Ann Womack sang for about twenty minutes. I knew two of the songs. One was her hit I Hope You Dance and the other was My San Antonio Rose, an old Bob Wills tune. After the opener Reba came out and sang for almost two hours. I was surprised at how many Reba songs I knew and to how many I knew the words. Reba has a lot of energy and moves around the stage and interacts with her band and the audience quite a bit. The highlight of the night was when Reba sang Does He Love You. This song is sung from the point of view of two women: one is a man’s wife and the other is that same man’s mistress. Reba started the song and sang from one point of view, and then all of the sudden Lee Ann was on the other side of the stage and sang the part of the other woman. The two powerful voices that sang this song is something I’ll never forget.

Following Reba, George sang for at least two more hours. We were there for almost five hours but they flew by. Compared to Reba George is a statue on the stage. In his defense he plays the guitar while he sings so he can’t stray too far from the microphone stand. This concert was “in the round” so the stage was set up in the middle of the arena. This allowed us to be a lot closer to the stage then we probably would have been otherwise. George delivered another solid performance.

Clint Black

June 4, 2011, Pony Express Days, Eagle Mountain, Utah

Clint Black is one of those guys who I always knew his name but never really associated him with any songs that I heard on the radio. After talking to the friends with whom I went to this concert I realized that I knew several of his songs. When he started playing I realized that I actually knew most of them. The opener for this concert was a local guy trying to make it big. The only thing I remember about him is that he covered You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC.

Clint impressed me quite a bit. He is an excellent musician. He is very proficient on the guitar (not quite as good as Brad Paisley but along those same lines), plays a mean harmonica, and can hold his own on the drums. I also read that he writes most of his own songs, two big things in my book. It wasn’t the most exciting show I’ve been to but I came away with a great deal of respect for Clint Black as a musician.

I don't usually solicit comments but if you've been to one of these concerts with me leave a comment and tell what you remember. Or tell about a concert that you've been to or want to go to. Also, thank you for sticking it out and making it to the end!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Knowledge is Knowledge, Right?

For anyone that doesn’t know I work in a call center here in Provo doing customer service. People call up to ask questions, sign up new accounts, and place orders. The company I work for likes us to try to “personalize” each call to ensure that each customer has a good experience and to avoid “dead time” on the call (extended periods of silence). We’re encouraged to talk about anything except religion, politics, marital status, and the weather. (Saying, “How’s the weather where you are?” is not considered “personalizing.” The other topics can be touchy or divisive.) I usually try to bring up where they are from, especially if I’ve been there or know something about it. This is my go to because even though I haven’t been to a ton of different places I am a junky for useless trivia so I usually know a tidbit about the city or state where a person is calling from.

This morning I was taking an order from a lady. After she had told me the products that she wanted I was getting the order set up. I confirmed her shipping address which was in Hot Springs Arkansas. I’ve never been to Hot Springs, or Arkansas for that matter, but you can bet your boots that I knew something that I can only hope will win me some money on a game show sometime in the future.

I said, “Isn’t Bill Clinton from Hot Springs?”

She said somewhat excitedly, “Yes, he is!” Most people like it when you know something about where they’re from (especially if they’re from Texas). Then she continued, “You must be a history buff.”

It would make me look very scholarly if I could have told her that I knew that from reading Bill Clinton’s autobiography, read it in a New York Times article, and seen it on a History Channel Documentary, or at the very least gotten it from a Wikipedia entry. But no, I learned it from this:

That’s right, I know that Bill Clinton is from Hot Springs Arkansas because I saw it in an episode of King of the Hill.

I didn’t want to lie to her so I told her I saw it in a TV show. I explained that the main character was from Texas and was driving through Arkansas and when he saw the sign he immediately locked his doors. She thought that was pretty funny and we shared a good laugh. I did leave out the part that it was a cartoon.

I had a similar experience about a year ago that involved me knowing that the Dallas Cowboys used to hold spring training win Wichita Falls Texas. The old lady was tickled to death that I knew that (note she was from Texas) but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I learned it from an episode of King of the Hill.

Friday, March 04, 2011

On Brandon Davies, the Honor Code, and BYU Basketball

It seems that I have attained the status of everyone’s “Resident BYU Fan.” As such, with the events that have transpired surrounding the BYU Basketball team this past week, many people have asked me what I think of it all. So here you go:

I haven't felt this way since September 19, 2009. Two weeks earlier the BYU football team had pulled off what most thought impossible: beating a ranked Oklahoma football team, who had an eventual Heisman trophy winner and first round NFL draft pick under center, in its own backyard and on a national stage. The next week they cruised to a victory over a quality Tulane team on the road, again on national TV. After both games I stood on the tarmac of the Provo airport to welcome my team home after their stellar performance with hundreds of fellow fans. I was excited for the first home game of the season. BYU was playing against Florida State, there was a nationwide buzz about the teams’ chances, and sports analysts from coast to coast were talking about a bunch of white Mormons who were making waves in college football. Then my Cougars laid an egg. They turned the ball over, produced little offense, and couldn't get a third down stop to save their lives. I walked back to my apartment in silence. It wasn't the loss that bothered me, it was how poorly we played.

Now fast forward to this week. I was just arriving at my apartment Tuesday afternoon. I glanced at my phone as I often do to check my "Tweets" and saw one from Greg Wrubell briefly stating that Brandon Davies had been suspended for the rest of the season due to an honor code violation. The tweets weren't only from Greg, but from reporters at other local papers, and basketball analysts at ESPN and CBS Sports. I ran up the stairs and into my room to read the reports online. I felt sick for a lot of reasons, but mainly because here was a nineteen year old kid who was having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I can only imagine how embarrassed, ashamed, and foolish he must feel. Aside from the spiritual ramifications of his decision, his education and basketball career are now in jeopardy. He let his teammates, his coaches, his school, and thousands of fans down. There was no doubt in my mind that if anyone in the world understood the gravity of his decisions, it was Brandon Davies.

This provides one more venue for the age old honor code debate. Is it fair? Is it too harsh? Is it realistic? Is it really what Jesus would do? One thing that most debaters fail to realize is that the Honor Code is not a list of commandments, it is an agreement that you make with the university. You promise to abide by certain rules and the university agrees to provide you with a world class education in a spiritually uplifting environment for a very reasonable price. If you don't hold up your end of the agreement you don't get those benefits. Everyone knows what they are agreeing to when they apply. The honor code office isn't in the business of repentance; they are there to enforce a sort of contract that each student has made with the university. Repentance will happen between Brandon and the Lord, possibly with the help of his bishop. The fact that he violated a commitment that he made will be handled by the honor code office.

Last Saturday I once again found myself standing in the rain and snow on the tarmac of the Provo airport. I was welcoming home a team that had just beaten a top ten team on a national stage. There was once again a national buzz about a bunch of white Mormons in Provo contending for a possible 1-seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. The small group of fans was enthusiastic to congratulate their team for pulling off what most people thought impossible, a regular season sweep of SDSU.

The game on Wednesday was no different from any of the other recent conference games except for one thing. Students camped out for days in a line that almost surrounded the Marriott Center, the arena was packed to capacity, and the eyes of the nation were watching, but there was a tangible sense of apprehension. No one knew exactly how Davies’ shoes would be filled. I reassured my friends that we had a bench full of players that were eager to contribute and that we have an amazing coach who was very capable of making the necessary adjustments, and we had the Jimmer!

At halftime I could believe what I was seeing. I texted my dad saying that there was no way we could continue to shoot as poorly as we did. The offense was out of sync, players were bobbling the ball, and New Mexico couldn’t miss. The second half didn’t turn out to be much better. After the game I stood there in silence. I was stunned. It wasn’t the loss that bothered me, it was how poorly we played.

Now the only thing left to be seen is how the team will react. A week ago BYU was thought of by many as a one man team, the BYU Jimmers. Now those same people are saying that we can’t win because we lost our third leading scorer. The lack of Davies’ presence will surely be noticed, but I have full faith that Coach Rose and the rest of the team still have what it takes to win, and they will find ways to win just like they have all season.

BYU has its final home game of the season tomorrow against Wyoming, and do you know where you’ll find me at 6am? I’ll be in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk outside the Marriott Center counting the hours until tipoff. Go Cougars!

Friday, March 26, 2010

My gas bill and how it affects you.

I got my utility bill in the mail today. It’s not the most I’ve ever paid for a month of utilities (I think last month might be the record) but it’s still higher than what I’ve paid on average over the last few years that I’ve lived in Provo.

You might be wondering why I’m writing about something as boring as my utility bill.

But recent events have me rethinking a lot of things. You see in the apartment complex where I live every resident gets a utility bill. I like this because I don’t have to put a utility in my name and then hound my roommates for money each month, and then be left footing the bill if they decide not to pay as is the case with many student apartments. It’s one less thing that I have to worry about. (And for the record, I don’t think any of my roommates past or present would ever leave me hanging with a bill, but it’s still easier this way.)

If any of you are like me you’ve probably resolved, after seeing the amount of your bill, to use less, be it turning off the lights, turning down the thermostat, or taking shorter showers. Not only will these things save you money, but reducing the amount of energy that we use is a good thing. For six months I’ve been living in this apartment, and trying to save money I have been very vigilant to turn off the lights and to keep the thermostat at an appropriate temperature. I thought I was doing the responsible thing by saving me and my roommates money, but I never really saw my bill go down. In fact it seemed to go up, even in December when the apartment was practically empty for half of the month. It’s never been something I can’t afford. It’s not unreasonably high plus I’ve worked hard and saved money to pay for expenses like this while I’m going to school.

I found out about a month ago that the gas portion of our utility bill (the most expensive part) isn’t billed to us based on how much we use, but the gas bill for the entire complex is split evenly between the tenants. So let’s suppose for a minute that my energy saving efforts eliminate about $5 worth of gas usage in a month. There are over 1000 residents in my complex, and again supposing that their utilities usages remain the same, that $5 that my efforts saved divided among those 1000 tenants ends up being $0.005 or one half of one cent. Among my neighbors there has to be others like me who are trying to use less, but my experience tells me that there are a lot more people in student housing that don’t think twice about what utilities cost them each month. Either because it doesn’t occur to them that having a window open and the furnace on is like throwing money out the window or because mom and dad take care of the bills.

So I started thinking, is it really worth it for me to focus so much of my attention on using less energy just to save myself half of a penny when so many others don’t seem to care. Being a responsible user really isn’t benefitting me so why should I even try. I could focus my attention on much more (or less) important things and at the end of the month the amount that I write a check for will depend on how much everyone else used. But over time that attitude will result in higher bills for everybody. Each cubic foot of gas costs money and whether each person pays for exactly what they use or if your bill is subsidized by the prudence of others that money comes out of someone’s pocket.

It would be nice if everyone decided to conserve energy because it was good for the environment, but in reality people are and only when their utility bills are ridiculously large with they start to consider how their own choices might be effecting how much money they have left over at the end of the month.

There has been a lot of talk about the new healthcare bill that was passed earlier this week. It has been called the most significant piece of legislation passed in decades. I’m not going to claim expert knowledge of the bill, but from what I understand it will force insurance companies to cover anyone who applies regardless of pre-existing conditions, and puts a limit on how much they can charge. And then the government (read tax payers) will subsidize the cost of insurance for those who “can’t afford it.” Everyone will be required to participate or they will be fined. Sounds like a good plan right? Everyone gets insurance and the government will make sure that it is cheap. Let’s think about this for a minute.

The way I understood insurance companies was pretty simple: You paid so much money each month based on how big of a financial risk you were to the company. A healthy person who would require minimal medical attention would have lower monthly premiums and lower deductibles because in the end they would require the insurance company to pay out less money. An person who is unhealthy, either because of their own bad choices or luck of the draw, would require more frequent medical attention would have higher monthly premiums and higher deductibles because in the end the insurance company would end up paying out more for that person. It’s all a calculated risk based on statistics. Either way you get help paying the bills for things that are covered by your insurance plan, and in the case of a catastrophic illness or injury (if you have a decent plan) you’ll get help paying for the enormous medical bills that usually accumulate (hence why it is called insurance). It’s the same for any other type of insurance: if the insurance company thinks that insuring you is risky because you are a bad driver or your house was built on a flood plain, then you are going to pay more for insurance.

There are ways that this can work in your favor. By keeping a clean driving record or taking a defensive driving course some insurance companies will lower your auto insurance premiums. If you take care of your health (i.e. eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, etc.) then when you apply for health insurance you’d most likely be considered a low risk and you’d save money. By being required to pay a relatively small amount out of pocket for each doctor visit that incentive to stay healthy continues. If I take care of my self then at the end of the year I’ll have more money in my pocket.

Under this new bill an insurance company will be forced to cover everyone, including those people who consist on a diet of Cheetos and Bud Light (at least it’s light) and consider running to the refrigerator during a commercial break exercise. I know not everyone is like this; I’m just trying to illustrating a point. Because of these people’s poor lifestyle choices they are usually considered high medical risks because they are more likely to develop illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes among others. But the insurance company won’t be able to charge them according to the risk that they pose; they’ll only be able to charge the federally mandated limit. So how does that affect the rest of us? Everyone else’s rates go up. Since they can’t charge the high risk people more they will make up the difference by charging the rest of us more, even though we’ve been careful to make sure that we are “low risk.” The insurance company is going to have to make up that money somewhere, remember that the bill has to be paid out of someone’s pocket. And what’s the incentive for the insurance company to charge less than the mandated maximum? Remember that we are now legally required to have health insurance.

Now that the cost will be divided equally among everyone the thousands of dollars that I “save” every year by living healthy are divided among millions who might not be as careful. Do you think those savings will show up on my bottom line? Probably not. Why should I work hard to benefit “the system” when there are so many who, whether they are cognizant of it or not, are a drain on the system? Not only will my insurance costs go up, but I will be taxed more to pay for all of the subsidies and tax credits. Remember, the money has to come from somewhere. And if there ends up being less money to pay for things like medical procedures and doctors visits, do you think that those services are going to improve? Do you think that the bright young minds in our country are going to aspire to be doctors when can go to half as much school and make twice as much money? There will be no incentive for innovation in the health industry and then everyone suffers.

There are motivations for me to make good choices: my own health, and the benefit of society, both noble causes. But in my experience there are enough people out there who care little about either. I look at other government assistance programs as evidence. Working for several years at a grocery store I could see that most of the people getting help through food stamps or WIC somehow needed that money to buy “food,” but in that same trip to the grocery store could drop fifty dollars of their own money on cigarettes and beer. (I know that not everyone on assistance programs behave like this, but ask anyone who has worked at a grocery store, it’s a majority.) And whether we like it or not we as humans are motivated by self preservation. There are few people out there who make decisions based solely on how it will benefit society.

You might be wondering how I could be so na├»ve and heartless. For the record I have been denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, one that is not totally under my control. I can understand where those people are coming from, but we all have different challenges in our lives. I already donate to programs that help provide for people who have fallen on hard times both through taxes and other donations of my own free will and choice. I’m not opposed to helping other people; I’m opposed to a bureaucrat in Washington D.C. telling how and when. I’m not saying that this new plan is socialized medicine, but I do believe that it is a step in that direction.

It all comes down to the fact that I’d rather have less government than more. If people weren’t so burdened with taxes maybe they’d be able to take care of themselves instead of becoming more dependent on the government. Or maybe the government ought to find ways to help people fix their own problems instead of trying to fix it for them. Making everyone dependent on the government does not make us a stronger nation. I believe that our founding fathers were inspired when they created this nation. A nation based on the rights of individuals to carve out their own destiny, not to have everything handed to them.

If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely thank you for your time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Correlation or Irony?

I bought two things at the bookstore today: The first thing was a new 200-sheet pad of engineering computation paper. (For my engineering classes I’m required to use this type of paper to submit my homework.) This might not seem significant but I’ve already gone through one 200-sheet pad and the semester is barely half over. In the past I’ve bought 50-sheet pads and it lasted the whole semester and then some. Why is this significant? It’s an indication to me that I’m doing a ton of homework. It’s not uncommon for me to spend 12 or more hours a day on campus attending class and studying. (If it’s a Tuesday or Thursday I never leave the Clyde Building.)

The second thing was a book on dating that I had read about in the Daily Universe. It seemed to have a different approach on the subject compared to other books I’ve skimmed in the past so I decided that it was worth the $12 investment. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I bought such a book, but not ashamed enough to not share this story through the most public medium on earth.

Now I’m trying to decide if these two purchases are correlated. Am I spending so much time doing homework that my dating life needs help? (Or is a lack of dating life driving me to spend countless hours analyzing indeterminate structures and open channel flow?) The phrase “Correlation does not imply causation!” from Patty, my stats professor will be forever ingrained in my mind, but I wonder. Either way I couldn’t help but see the irony in the situation.

To top it off, with my purchase the bookstore gave me a voucher for a ticket to an upcoming jazz concert on campus. That’s half a date right there. Maybe I should get started on that book, someone else can analyze those structures.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Tough as Nails

Several years ago my family and I found ourselves at my grandparents’ house in Manassa Colorado. That year my grandparents were hosting a reception in their back yard in honor of my cousin’s recent wedding. We were setting up a few collapsible canopies to provide shade while the sun was out. One of the drawbacks to these canopies is that if they aren’t staked down properly, the slightest breeze can turn them into supersized tumbleweeds.

As we were getting everything ready the wind kicked up and true to form the canopies started rolling around the backyard. The decision was made to stow the canopies and the reception went on swimmingly without them.

While we were cleaning things up that night someone noticed some white medical tape on my granddad’s hand. When we asked him what happened he explained that when one of the canopies had started rolling across the yard he reached out to stop it and in the scuffle he received a cut on his hand. When we asked to see the extent of the damage my granddad removed the tape and revealed not the small cut that we were expecting to see, but a gaping hole between his middle and ring fingers.

Not wanting to bother anyone with what he considered a minor scratch, my granddad said that he quietly went into the house, poured hydrogen peroxide into his wound, and taped his fingers together. He then continued on and attended the reception and no one suspected a thing.

I would like each of you to put yourself in his situation. Imagine that you are out doing some sort of work, and you look down and see blood oozing out of a gaping hole in your hand. Would you quietly tend to your wound and resume normal activity? Or would you enter into a state of crazed shock and hyperventilate until someone rushed you to the ER? You think my granddad is tough? In the words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

After a few phone calls we finally got a hold of the local doctor and without hesitation he said that he would meet us at his office. My dad volunteered to drive him there and I opted to tag along. We met Dr. Jackson at the back door of his clinic and he led us into a room where he began prepping for sutures. Since there were no nurses or assistants present my dad took upon himself that role and he performed admirably. Under Dr. Jackson’s instructions my dad gathered materials and supplies for the treatment.

Dr. Jackson began by examining and cleaning the wound. After he confirmed that stitches were indeed necessary local anesthetic was applied with a small syringe. If anyone has been stuck with a needle of any size anywhere in your hand you know how painful it can be, now imagine not only getting shots in your fingers and hand, but inside a deep gash in your hand. My granddad didn’t even flinch.

After letting the anesthetic set in for a few minutes Dr. Jackson began suturing the wound. The cut was severe enough that he had to tie several stitches inside my granddad’s hand. After the doctor had tied two or three of the stitches he suddenly stopped himself and said, “I’m sorry I forgot to ask Cletus, but can you feel that?”

My granddad looked up at him and with his gruff voice simply said “Yeah.”

For whatever reason the anesthetic hadn’t kicked in yet and the doctor had gone to work tying stitches not knowing that my granddad could still feel everything. Meanwhile, my granddad sat there with no complaints, no grimaces on his face, and no squirming in his seat. Not even a calm “Uh doc, I can still feel that.”

The doctor gave him a few more numbing shots and after making sure that his hand was numb proceeded to tie around fifteen stitches total. I always knew that he possessed many great qualities, but from this moment on I knew for a fact that my granddad is tough as nails.