Sunday, August 1, 2010

泰國? 能吃辣的!

It's been a while, but that tends to happen during times of transition.  Once again, I have made the yearly migration back to my ancestral home, Asia.  It is an arduously long journey, with pitfalls and dangers lurking on every hand, but the McKinley will admit no defeat as he makes his way home.  Just as the wild salmon valiantly hurls itself up the roaring flood, so does the McKinley battle every obstacle with fierce determination, until finally he rests.

So it wasn't quite that dramatic, but I got up at 3:30 in the morning to catch a 6 am flight (delayed to 7) to Chicago, followed by a five hour layover, a fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong, a four hour layover, and a three and a half hour flight to Phuket, where I arrived around midnight on the following day.  Blearrggh!  I'm back in Kuala Lumpur with the family right now, but this post will be strictly about Phuket.  The picture above is Hong Kong as we landed.

Phuket, Thailand's largest island, is an amazing place.  It's located in the Andaman Sea, off the west coast of Thailand, where the water is perpetually warm and azure.  We've been there as a family four or five times now, and I like it a lot better than Bali or Hawaii (the two other comparable places I've been).  The people are extremely nice, and the food is to die for.  Freshest seafood ever, huge prawns (gigantic shrimp, usually anywhere from five to eight inches long), etc etc.  It's similar to Chinese, but a lot fresher and less heavy.  And still very cheap!

My favorite day was coincidentally the one with the best weather.  Unlike last year, most of the days it rained a little, though there was always some sun, but on the day we booked a trip to the Phi Phi Islands the weather was gorgeous!  We took a speed boat for 45 minutes to the smaller island, swam around in a cool little inlet, then boated around the island and went snorkeling/swimming/monkey watching/sightseeing/frolicking.  Lunch was on the large island, then we stopped by another island on the way back for more swimming.  The water on the way there was full of thousands upon thousands of pink jellyfish!  But I only saw a couple of them while swimming.  The coolest fish I saw were the rainbow wrasse, all iridescent purple and blue and green and orange.  Rather than explain any more, here are some pictures:


From the top, this is the first island as we were about to arrive, my favorite picture of the little inlet where we swam first, one of the monkeys we threw fruit to (they were remarkably good at catching, even with the little baby monkeys hanging on their stomachs), and our boat while we were stopped for lunch.  I got a nasty sunburn on my back, but it was worth it!

Some other random pictures from Phuket:


After a week of swimming, surfing, eating great food, snorkeling, biking, and lazing by the pool, I can safely say that Phuket is one of my favorite places on earth!

English title: Thailand?  Can eat spicy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

我的祖先的心可能很感动。。。

Hi there!

So it's been over a week since my last ramblings.  The most exciting thing that happened in that week was our tornado on Saturday night!  Saturday was on the whole pretty normal; the kids went to Maple Grove Days and got lots of free stuff, I slept in and ran a few errands, and we were going to go to the fireworks show at 10 pm.  Around 7:45, however, the tornado alarms started going off.  I had no idea these even existed until that point, but now I'm a believer.  Everyone headed downstairs; I grabbed my computer and a few other things to do and followed suit after a minute of not grasping the seriousness of the situation.

Once downstairs, we turned on our emergency radio only to hear that there were in fact two tornadoes that had been sighted, both within a few miles of us.  The Twins game had just finished, and thousands of people were just leaving the stadium.  That probably worried me more than our situation.  Madison, Chelsey, and I continued with our card game (Spaced Out, a classic that Chelsey found at D.I. for $1.50), Uncle Matt listened to the radio, and we waited.

Thankfully, the storm blew over and the warning lifted after about half an hour.  It was intense while it lasted, though.  Afterwards, Chelsey, Madison, and I went outside and took pictures and splashed in the puddles; huge streaks of lightning were still flashing horizontally across the sky and completely lighting it up.  When we first came up, the sky was a strange dark orange; the sun hadn't set yet.  In the park, we saw amazing oranges and pinks and yellows and blues with the sunset, and the clouds were all kinds of colors.  Bizarre yet beautiful.









Sunday was my last one here; I'll be sad to go.  I've really enjoyed my time here, especially being in a really good ward.  I was corralled into playing a musical number in sacrament meeting, so I played an arrangement of "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" and "The Army of Helaman" that I started writing last Sunday.  I started it before they asked me to play, but I knew it was coming, so I headed them off at the pass and volunteered instead.

Today I got in the mood for family history, so I researched some of my ancestors and learned things that I had either forgotten or never knew, which was fascinating.  I wish I had my own personal book with a chapter about each of my ancestors; I guess I'll have to make it myself!  One that I read about today was my great-great-great grandfather, Christian Daniel Fjeldsted, who joined the church in Denmark and moved to Utah, returning five times to serve missions for a total of seventeen years, serving as mission president three times.  He was also one of the original Presidents of the Seventy.  I also learned that a great-great-great-great grandfather was a sharpshooter under the Duke of Wellington and fought at Waterloo.  He also played the french horn, violin, and bugle, apparently very well.

I haven't posted my itinerary for the next few weeks yet, so here goes!  This Saturday I leave for Phuket, Thailand.  I leave here at 6 in the morning on Saturday (blecchh...) and finally arrive (after four connecting flights) in Phuket close to midnight on Sunday night.  My family and I will be there for a week, then returning to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I'll be there for a little over a week, and then Hannah and I are going to Cambodia (2 days), India (Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, 6 days), and Guilin, China (4 days), followed by a flight to Minneapolis and the drive back to Provo!  If it sounds grueling, it probably will be.  I don't care about that, though; I'm so excited!  I've never been to Cambodia, India, or Guilin, and I can't wait to go to China for the first time in probably ten years.  I saw a Taiwanese family at a restaurant eating lunch yesterday, and talking to them made my day.

I definitely won't spend much time on my blog while I'm gallivanting about, but I'll write at least one post on each place I go.

English title: The hearts of my ancestors may be very moved...

Monday, July 12, 2010

對照教會跟公司

As I headed down to lunch, I had an interesting idea, namely to compare the church (that is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) with Medtronic (that is, the company I work for this summer).  I have a feeling they're about the same in size, although comparing churches with multinational medical device companies isn't exactly apples to apples.  Thus, I will need to make some interesting assumptions.  Having somewhat intimate information about Medtronic's finances due to working in the treasury, I will rely on the company website and Wikipedia so as not to say anything I shouldn't.

Let's start with size: Medtronic has 41,000 employees.  I wasn't expecting to find employee information for the church, but lo and behold the church has a LinkedIn profile!  It states the 'corporation' has approximately 10,000 employees.  However, the church also has over 28,000 congregations, each with leadership that spends many, many hours each week volunteering to meet the needs of members, along with nearly 52,000 missionaries, so round one goes to the church!  Other estimates of size: Medtronic operates in over 120 countries, while the church operates in 176 nations/territories.  Medtronic has more than 250 manufacturing facilities, sales offices, research centers, education centers, and administration facilities, while the church has 131 operating temples (it seemed the most straightforward comparison between large functional buildings, although the church also has universities, office buildings, and thousands of chapels as well).  In terms of people benefited, Medtronic serves about 7 million patients yearly, while the church has nearly 14 million members.  It could be argued that each family member of a Medtronic patient benefits, however, so it's not clear from the numbers alone which is the larger impact.  However, the church's humanitarian aid programs benefit millions more, so once again this probably goes to the church.

How about in dollar terms?  This one is tricky: Medtronic is a publicly owned company and as such reports on such things, but the church is a bit more closely held.  However, there was an article in Time magazine not too long ago that attempted to grasp the big picture.  So we'll lift some information from it.  As of April 2010, Medtronic reported total assets of slightly more than $28 billion.  The Time article from 1996 estimated the church's assets as over $30 billion, although the church said they were grossly overestimating.  The church had a point - much of that would be in the form of buildings, especially chapels, that likely would never sell on the market for what they cost to build.  Nevertheless, they are comparable, and the church data is nearly 15 years old.  What about revenue?  Time estimated (emphasis on estimated) that the church took in $5.9 billion a year ca 1996, while Medtronic's revenue for 1996 was about $2.5 billion.  Today, Medtronic's revenue is nearly $16 billion, and the church has not tripled in membership since 1996, so Medtronic may have passed it up in revenue.

Well, hmm.  That's a whole lot of useless information.  Interesting, though.

English title: Comparing the church and the company

騎死了!

New Format: For all four of you who read this blog, what do you think of the new format?  Do you like it?  Prefer it to the old one?  I used one of the new templates Blogger provided, although sadly it's not nearly as customizable as I had hoped, especially considering their touting this in the introduction as a big step in personalization.  For example, you have to choose from one of the stock photographs for your background, rather than uploading one of your own.

And now for the engaging, witty tidbits from my life that you have grown to love over the short time we've been together.  Or hate, although I doubt you would still be here if that were the case.  Either way, today's monologue begins last Friday.  It was a drab and dreary day in the office, although bright and cheery without, high in the mid-80's, sunny, breezy, and replete with all the makings of a gorgeous summer day.  The treasury group started the day already down two people, who had previously succumbed to erstwhile fantasies of the Bahamian beach, or possibly just the backyard barbecue.  Another coworker left shortly after lunch for a weekend in Chicago.  Business or pleasure?  Why, pleasure, of course.  By the time 1:00 rolled around, the ravages of a midsummer weekend were all too evident, and I, even I, gave in to temptation.  Actually, I had a meeting at another building at 1:00, and I had a sum total of nothing to do when (if) I got back, so I let my boss (one of the brave few who struggled through the afternoon) know (he was very supportive of my lax ways) (rather a lot of parenthetical asides, eh?) and left for home after the aforementioned meeting.

Upon arriving at said domicile, I decided (entirely within the bounds of reason, you would no doubt believe) to make the most of the beautiful July day by going on a bike ride.  There are three lovely lakes a short distance from downtown Minneapolis, and those were my ostensible targets, although I never actually fixed a permanent destination in my mind.  My estimated trip time was approximately three hours, an hour and a half there and back, looping around each of the lakes.  *Spoiler alert: I wouldn't have included the initial estimate if it wasn't far wrong!  More spoilers: I didn't take my wallet (who would need to on a couple hour bike ride?) or a granola bar (I thought of it, though).  I did, however, take a trail map of the Twin Cities and my iPhone (with accompanying GPS and music, of course).  The first hour was pleasant.  I had already biked these trails, and the rousing chords of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto accompanied me for a ways, followed by the violin concerto of the composer of the same name (who also happens to be the same composer).  Following this, I came to new paths that afforded more views of the delightful Minnesota countryside.  One of the side benefits of being here for the summer.  I came to Medicine Lake and followed its shore for a couple miles, and I finally reached Cedar Lake, the first of the three downtown lakes.

Whereupon followed tactical error number one: it had taken me slightly over an hour and a half to reach the first of the lakes, let alone bike around them and head back, and yet after I refilled my water bottle at a drinking fountain I felt poised to achieve yet greater heights.  And thus I reasoned that I could cut down on time by skipping the lakes and going straight downtown (only five more miles), then heading back up home by another route, at the same time biking along the Mississippi and experiencing downtown from a bike!  Brilliant.

The actual ride to downtown was very nice, mostly flat and tree-lined, optimistically designed for the bicycle commuter.  Cynicism aside, I would belong to this privileged class in a heartbeat, circumstances allowing.  Nevertheless, the trail was wide and accommodating, and downtown was mostly positive from a cyclist's perspective.  There were many bike lanes, and cars were respectful of me and the many other bikers out and about.  After muddling around for a little while (and realizing the folly of having left my wallet at home), I made my way to the Mississippi and biked up it, finally ending at my self-styled halfway point, Nicollet Island.  At this point I stopped to lie on the grass and contemplate the situation in which I found myself.  It was 5:30.  I had left home sometime between 2:30 and 2:45.  That meant I had been biking for almost three hours, and home was at least that far away, probably longer as I wasn't as fresh.  And I was starting to get hungry.  A far cry from the three-hour-back-in-time-for-dinner ride with which I began!

In dire straits such as these, however, my perpetual motto remains, "Chin up!"  And so I proceeded to lie there for 15 minutes with my head back and my chin towards the sky.  Following that, I began the long haul home.  About 45 minutes into this ride (approaching Cedar Lake once more), my legs, unaccustomed to such continual heavy use, gave out and I stopped to refill my water bottle and give quarter to my unrelenting legs.  Cramps don't even begin to describe my thighs!  After ten minutes of sitting there and briefly considering asking people at the park for a ride home, I told my legs who was boss and carried on.  Twice more on the return journey I likewise disembarked, but each time I was spurred on, partly by my Jazz History playlist (thank you, Dr. Harker!).  The last time this happened was around 8:00, nearly back to the trails I had traversed before and about an hour from home.  As I lay there faint with hunger (not a bite to eat since lunch around 11:30, remember, and this after over 5 hours of riding) and with aching legs, I wished for the Totoro cat bus (if you've seen the movie) to carry me home.  Nevertheless, I got back on my bike and was determined to remain there until I fell over or arrived home, whichever came first.  There were at least two prayers offered in my heart as well.  The last twenty minutes were actually easier than much of the rest of the ride, possibly because my legs were finally resigned to their fate of forever pumping up and down.  Or because my prayers were answered (they definitely were).  Anyway, I got home around 9:15 and pretty much collapsed in a chair and then decided to eat dinner.  Matt and Chaune were on a date and Madison was at a sleepover, Christian was asleep, and the other two were gone, so it was me and the dogs.  They got back from the date and went to bed, and I sat on the couch in a stupor.  About 12:30 I woke up, having fallen asleep in a most awkward position, and took a shower (not surprisingly I was pretty pungent) then went to bed.  Surprisingly, I wasn't sore the next day, despite being nearly crippled afterwards.

So, a six and a half hour ride on low fuel.  I refilled my large water bottle four times and downed it all (maybe a gallon) without ever using a bathroom, which means I must have sweat out a considerable portion of it.  It wasn't as bad as I've been making it out to be, though; my derriere isn't even sore.  Maybe I'll do it again this Saturday!

English title: Death by biking!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

時間飛了!

I can't believe it's already the 6th of July.  I have less than three weeks left in Minnesota!  I've enjoyed my time here a lot, and I hope I get to come back here some day to visit.  It's too far in the middle of the country for me to want to live here permanently, although I think I like it here better than anywhere else east of Colorado and west of Virginia.  I should go take this quiz again and see if anywhere in Minnesota comes near the top...

The Meldsteds are finally back!  The house isn't so quiet anymore and I'm not the dogs' only entertainment!  Jakob is at scout camp and Chelsey's at EFY this week, however, so it's not quite back to normal.  It's very nice having meals with people besides myself, however, and not having to do all the household chores is also a plus.  You forget how nice family meals are while you're at college; they're a small thing, but a definite source of happiness in my life.

Well, what did I do for the holiday weekend?  On Saturday we had an 8-stake YSA canoe trip down the St. Croix river, and it was some of the most fun I've had all summer!  Shanna, Cordelia, and I left from the church at 10 am, and it took an hour to get to Interstate Park (so named because it's on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin).  Thankfully, I corrected my GPS when it suggested we drive to the Interstate Park in Texas!  That could have been bad.  On the way we passed through Chisago, Minnesota, the signs for which played tricks with my eyes because all they wanted to see was Chicago.  Shanna looked it up as we passed, and it turns out Chicago/Chisago means "stinky place" in Algonquin!  Charming.  We got to the park, had hamburgers and watermelon and amazing brownies, and then launched.  We three adventurers ended up staying together on a canoe, so altogether we were buddies for six hours or so.  The day was gorgeous - mid 80's, but probably cooler with the breeze off the river, and sunny with only a few clouds.  I didn't wear a swimsuit for some reason, and neither did Cordelia, but Shanna jumped in the river the first chance she got.  An hour later, after picking her back up and letting her out a few times, I finally gave in to my envy and jumped in as well.  The water wasn't nearly as cold as I expected it to be; I had fun trying to catch up to the canoe, which moved deceptively fast (Cordelia and I had to turn around to go get Shanna more than once), and finally I hung monkey-style on the back for a little bit.  Also fun was the tree that hung out 20 feet over the river; the water was shallow enough to stand, so I jumped up and clambered on top of it until my canoe was a hundred yards downstream.  I could go on, but suffice to say it was a great day and I would love to do it again sometime.

Sunday and Monday here were rainy and stormy, but at least it held off for fireworks on Sunday evening.  However, it was ridiculously humid, and I got introduced rather painfully to the state bird - the mosquito!  They were out by the hundreds, and two days later I still itch all over from half an hour of watching fireworks.  On a related note, bug sprays never seem to work.  Possibly because the only time I ever use them are when there are too many bugs for it to make a difference.  But I digress.  We began with our wimpy fireworks of grocery store parking lot origin in the driveway, but soon discovered that the people down the cul de sac had illegal Wisconsin fireworks, so we abandoned ours in short order.  I only lasted about 10 minutes there and retreated for the safety of the indoors after sustaining many wounds.

I'm suddenly swamped with work, which is funny because two months ago I wondered if I would ever have anything to do, and now I have way too much.  Everyone seems to have projects they want my help on.  I should be flattered, but I would prefer a happy medium instead of deadly doldrums and frenetic frenzy.

I leave here on the 24th of July, the anniversary of my return from Canada.  My mission president and his wife came home last week, and I don't get to go to their homecoming!  Oh well, I'll see them at their first reunion, I'm sure.  I have a lot of thoughts about that, many of them random, but they will have to wait for another post.  Until then, this is 龍年生子 signing off.

English title: Time flies!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

小心! 有名的鐘樓演奏者過來!

I've been on the phone for the last three hours...I think that's some kind of personal record!  Normally I hate talking on the phone.  However, that's neither here nor there.  When one is alone in a house with two dogs, one must take one's social interaction where one can find it.

So, the big news today is that I'm now world-famous!  Or at least Twin Cities-famous.  I played my second carillon concert of the summer at Central Lutheran church in downtown Minneapolis this morning after their worship service.  I practiced yesterday morning (well, just ran through my program, really), and the church public relations/media guy emailed me the day before and said there were going to be news cameras there from WCCO, the local TV station.  They didn't end up coming yesterday, because they had to get some coverage of some trees and houses knocked down by a storm Friday night instead (that's another post all on its own - that was a crazy storm!).  However, a cameraman did show up and film me playing this morning, so they put some footage of that on the news tonight!  So I'm a famous carillonneur now!  Here's the plug: go to wcco.com and search for me!  I'm there, stocking feet and everything!  On top of that, it was the Minneapolis Gay Pride Parade today, so downtown was full of thousands and thousands of people.  It took me forever to find a parking spot to get to the church.  I'm sure many if not most of them heard my concert, too, so they count as my fan base, too!  I (very) briefly considered apostatizing earlier today - musicians at other churches get paid so much more than we do!  Infinitely more, in fact!

I didn't actually like the console as much as the one I played at a few weeks ago, but it was better regulated, and having a larger audience was definitely a plus.  Wherever I settle down eventually, a carillon may be a factor.  Not that I want that as a career, but it's pretty much a side job for everyone who does it, anyway.  I would just like to play occasionally.  I'm hoping the concert experience this summer lends some credence to my GCNA (Guild of Carillonneurs in North America) application, at least.  Speaking of which, I should order the audition music and start looking at it.

English title: Watch out!  The famous carillon player is coming!

Friday, June 25, 2010

有一個叫做倉鼠迅速的原因啊!

Last night, I took the hamster out to play with him (in previous posts I may or may not have referred to him as a gerbil, which may or may not be because he is very small and I hadn't actually held him yet).  He is tiny!  At most a third the size of normal hamsters.  Yet very cute.  The dogs were downstairs, of course (Hailey killed a chipmunk in the yard a few weeks ago and brought it to show everyone after she had playfully mangled it a bit).  I didn't dare put him on the floor, not wanting to spend the rest of my evening recapturing him, but he had a little fun exploring the bedspread.  I picked him up to put him back, and he squirmed out of my hands, falling on the floor (I'm always amazed that little creatures can fall many times their height and come out unharmed - imagine falling 100 feet and being fine!).

After that there was no stopping him!  He scurried under the bed, with plenty of places to hide.  The whole room is lined with dressers and mirrors and curtains and other things, so I despaired of ever coaxing him out.  I removed some of the stuff under the bed, covering myself in dog hair in the process (the dogs sleep under the bed), but he wasn't there.  I found him to the left of the bed, trying to sneak out from underneath a side table, but he resisted all attempts at corralling him and ran the other way.  On the other side, it was a little more challenging, because the side table and a few other pathways for him converged.  We played cat and mouse for about five minutes before I finally grabbed him.  Then on the way to the cage, he squeezed out and fell again!  Crafty little fellow.  It only took a minute to corner him this time, in the same place.  I put him back, figuring he'd had enough excitement for the night, but then thought again and put him in his green plastic ball.

I carried him downstairs (no, I'm not sadistic enough to let him roll down them, although it happened to one of our hamsters in Singapore on accident and he was fine) to let the dogs see him without tearing him to pieces.  They reacted in the funniest way I've ever seen!  Hailey barked a lot and stayed by me.  She wouldn't get close to the ball, except for once when she went in and tried to bite it really quickly and then ran away.  Duke barked some, but mostly he whined like he was scared or uncomfortable.  I wish I'd had a video camera handy, because this would have made good YouTube material!  Duke, surprisingly, was the more aggressive of the two in making advances.  Usually he's the scaredy cat.  He would go up to it and whine and bark and lick the ball and try to bite it and tap it with his foot.  Speedy (the hamster) didn't seem to mind the dogs nearly as much as he minded me trying to catch him, but I guess the environment was completely different.  Me catching him was probably a lot more like a normal predator/prey situation, whereas he probably couldn't really see the dogs very well and contently rolled around in his ball despite occasional jabs from Duke.  He stopped a few times to do the little hamster thing they do with their front paws and face, rubbing all over, and Duke would just sit a few feet away and watch him until he started rolling again.

After we were done I put him back in the cage, and I took it down to show Duke and Hailey what Speedy looks like outside of a ball.  They didn't seem to care much; hopefully I don't go home today to a cage knocked over and bloodstains on the carpet!

English title: There's a reason the hamster's called Speedy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

酒船!

So much to say, so little time in which to say it...

Today is day 6 of the Fjeldsted family vacation, and thus day 6 of my solitary confinement (except for the dogs and gerbil, but they don't talk to me, so it amounts to the same thing).  There should be a study done comparing the effectiveness of canine companionship in staving off signs of lunacy when alone for long periods of time.  I bet dogs provide a kind of outlet for social interaction that helps keep otherwise isolated people from going completely bonkers.  It's not as bad as all that, but a few days have been rather boring.

The first full day they were gone, last Wednesday, I managed to lock myself out of the house!  Here's the account firsthand from an email written not long ago: "I found out by midday, because the neighbor kid who comes over to let the dogs out during the day called my aunt and uncle and told them the door from the garage to the house was locked.  It turns out that I unlocked it, but not completely, and it snapped back to being locked when I closed the door behind me.  Anyway, I got home around 4:30, and looked around the house.  Doors locked.  My aunt texted me and said that one of the windows on the second floor was probably unlocked.  However, we didn't have a ladder in the garage that went that high (maybe 14-15 feet, pretty high up).  So, I had to borrow one from the neighbors.  First house I tried (because they were the only neighbors I had met), no one was home.  A lady across the street was out watering her plants, so I approached her, introduced myself as the nephew staying for the summer, and asked her if she had a ladder I could borrow.  I really think serving a mission works wonders for forcing yourself through awkward situations, because that was pretty awkward.  "Hi, I've never met you before, but I need your ladder to break into the house across the street that I've locked myself out of.  Thanks!"  She looked a little confused and awkward herself, but her genuinely nice and neighborly nature won out and she graciously let me borrow their ladder.  Off I went to the back yard to put it up against the house.  I climbed up only to discover that I would have to stand on the very top of a skinny ladder perched precariously against the wall several feet off a brick patio to even attempt to reach the window, and on top of that there was a bug screen on the outside of the window.  Scratched that idea.  Climbed onto a section of roof jutting out to try opening another window with a bug screen, couldn't get the screen off.  I then went around the ground floor windows (without screens), trying to open them.  I tried pushing on one of them to get a grip so I could then push up to open it, and it fell in the house!  Only diagonally - the bottom of it was still in the windowsill track and lifted up a little bit.  So I returned the ladder and clambered awkwardly over the jutting window.  This whole time, the dogs were barking furiously, having not been let out for 10 hours.  They weren't angry with me; in fact, I was their hero.  They spent the rest of the afternoon/evening following me around and making sure I wasn't going to leave them.  Anyway, the window got put back in properly, and everything was fine, but it was an awkward 20-minute adventure!  Imagine me presenting the neighbor lady (I didn't even ask her name) with a chocolate souffle after that..."  The context of that last sentence will remain forever unknown for those to whom the email was not addressed, but apart from that, it was quite an experience.  We all need things to keep us humble, right?

Saturday was spent mostly doing chores and yard work; I also hatched a plan to invite people from the YSA over for dinner.  I discovered the complete recipe for Cafe Rio Pork Salad on someone's blog a few weeks ago (rice, beans, pork, dressing, everything completely authentic), so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have some people over so it wasn't just me and the dogs all Sunday afternoon.  I remembered how much I love gardening - driving to the grocery store I saw a greenhouse/nursery and stopped to browse.  I ended up buying some herbs and pots and potting soil, of course.  Not very sensible since I'm only here for another five weeks, but there you have it.  It's one of my primal urges.  I was wondering what to do with myself around 8 pm when I got a text from Kurt in the ward, asking if I wanted to come hang out and go on a boat cruise.  Very fortuitous.  He lives on a lake a few miles away.

It ended up being a 'booze cruise'!  Not exactly, because although the chips and popcorn and marshmallows were almost certainly real, the booze was sparkling cider and pear and pomegranate Martinelli's.  There were four girls and me and Kurt in the boat, and we cruised around the lake and snacked and rocked out to Jason Mraz (I'd never heard of him until a couple of days before, and then that's all we listened to - isn't life full of coincidences like that?).  I really like his music; I'll have to buy a few songs.  The marshmallows were strawberry and regular flavored and about 3 inches in diameter and 3 inches tall - we had a mouth stuffing contest, which ended up with two being spit overboard and the rest swallowed after much laborious maneuvering!  We stopped after an hour to pick another guy up, and then we had a dance party in the middle of the lake for a bit.  After that ended around 11 pm, Kurt tried to start the boat, only to find that it was dead.  Bother.  None of us was dressed to plunge in the lake (not that we wanted to anyway), and for a time it seemed that the booze cruise was destined to keep us there all night.  A great excuse not to be at church!  Kurt had a charger for the battery at home and an oar, though, so he ended up having his brother drive the charger around the lake to us while he paddled to shore with his singular oar.  And thus the day was saved.  There are pictures on Facebook...

Church yesterday was great.  I've grown to really love the ward here, and I'll miss it when I'm gone.  I already feel more at home in this ward than I did in either of my BYU wards last year, and I've only been here a few weeks.  Maybe part of it is that it's smaller and more tight-knit, and that I have multiple callings and opportunities to serve, but whatever the cause, I hope to be back in a ward like this one soon, either at BYU or elsewhere.  Throughout church I invited people to dinner, but it seemed like no one was going to come!  It being Father's Day, most of the people from the area were going home for dinner.  I then focused on the summer marketers, but one group was having a company barbecue and the other was heading to an uncle's house.  Desperately I continued the search - as tasty as Cafe Rio salads are, I couldn't eat ten by myself!  Thankfully, I ended up having five other people over - Matt, Victor, Lauren, and the elders.  Matt just got here from BYU as a Target intern, and he knows at least three other really good friends of mine.  We were in Helaman Halls the same time.  Funny how paths collide.  Anyway, they enjoyed dinner and we played some Apples to Apples afterward.  Then, half an hour after they left, some summer marketers who couldn't make it showed up to hang out with a couple other people from the ward.  We played pool (I dominated until my partner scratched on the 8 ball!) and crud and then some more Apples to Apples.  Crud is so much fun - I didn't realize how much I missed it until we played last night.  There was an apartment on my mission with a pool table and we would play at least a couple times a week.  I lost the first round or two, but after that I was unstoppable - three in a row!

I've discovered in the last couple years how much I enjoy helping people be happy and have a good time.  I get it from my mom.  She's always helping everyone and she loves the YSA and she has people over for Sunday dinner pretty much every week!  She's always been a mom to anyone and everyone who comes under her roof.  I feel the same way - I love cooking for people, I love it when people enjoy my cooking, and I like being with people when they're having a good time and knowing that I helped.  So even though I still have a sink full of dishes to do (no time yesterday before I had to go to bed, no time this morning to do them either), I fell asleep last night happier than I've been in a while, because I made people happy by inviting them over when they didn't have anything else to do.  I don't think I'll become a professional chef or lounge host anytime soon, but it's nice to clearly figure out one of the things that brings me fulfillment.

English title: Booze Cruise!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

畢業? 不是我的吧。。。

I really can't believe how fast the time goes when one has a job; you think you'll have time to catch up on things on the weekends, but then you have errands to run or stake conference or you go out of town!  To unceremoniously wrap up my last post, my birthday only got better.  After work Matt and Chaune and the crew (sans Christian) took me out to dinner at Amici, a really quaint little Italian dive with great food.  I got insalate caprese and gnocchi with cream sauce, both of which were fantastic.  And to top it off, I got presents!  I wasn't really expecting them to get me anything, especially because they're really frugal, but they surprised me with a board game (Wits and Wagers; you bet on all the play...aaaarrrrghh!!!  Safari just quit on me and I was almost done and had typed five more paragraphs!  The autosave didn't kick in either! Oh well, time to quickly type what I remember of my post...ers' guesses to numerical questions), an iTunes gift card, and best of all, one of those cards on which you can record a few seconds of anything you want!

A little background.  A few weeks ago it was Aunt Chaune's birthday, and Jakob asked me how to say happy birthday in Chinese so he could say it to her.  I told him, "Shengri kuaile!" and he proceeded to imitate me.  However, he kept getting the tones wrong.  He wanted to say a second tone and a fourth tone for kuaile instead of two fourth tones!  That was very irritating, but after a lot of coaching and coaxing, he and Chelsey got it down.  So I opened up my card, and the entire Fjeldsted family shouted from within, "Shengri kuaile!", of course with the wrong tones!  So now I have some bad Chinese to make me smile whenever I need a pick-me-up.

I left on Thursday evening for Maryland to see my brother Andrew's graduation.  He's been attending McDonogh School, a boarding school outside of Baltimore, for the past two years, playing lacrosse.  In recent news, he got into BYU and is going to play lacrosse there!  Awesome!  My plane was delayed an hour, so I didn't get in until after midnight.  Early Friday morning, Andrew, Daniel, and I left for the school first so I could meet the school carillonneur and practice for a bit before the ceremony.  It was my first time at McDonogh.  The school is truly beautiful.  It's situated on a large tract of rolling farmland with fields and woods, at the center of which is a campus of Federal style brick buildings, some very large.  Many of the faculty live in houses right there on campus, and they all know each other.  I can't imagine a more picturesque location for a boarding school.  I played the carillon for half an hour as prelude music before the ceremony started and then for a few minutes afterwards; Mr. Lyon-Vaiden (the carillonneur) even got my name on the program!  The service itself was very nice.  The guys who were graduating were all dressed in jackets with the school crest on them and pants and school ties, and the girls had white dresses with bouquets of flowers.  It was held outside on the lawn, and it couldn't have been better weather.  It was sunny with some big white puffy clouds, breezy and warm but not too warm.  Best graduation ever.

Saturday we went into D.C. as a kind of birthday outing for me.  We went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw many famous portraits of notable Americans, including Joseph Smith and George Washington!  They have the famous portrait of the Prophet Joseph, and many paintings of President Washington, among which is the famous life-size one of him standing in his office.  Afterwards we went out for dim sum - this place was legit!  It still had the carts; the servers push around carts with hot, fresh dim sum and other dishes on them so you can take whatever you want and it's always just been cooked.  The shrimp ones were soooooooo good!  And the gailan (green vegetable) was heavenly!  Mmmmmm...best meal of the last three months, hands down.

I came back to Minneapolis Sunday night.  It was a short trip, but I really enjoyed seeing my family and Maryland and our house and getting to play my piano!  It may be the last time for a few of those, at least for a while - my parents have put the house up for sale, so I probably won't have a reason to go back to the East Coast for a while, sadly.

This week at work has been really great.  I'm finally getting acclimated to the office culture and used to everything, and I feel like I can contribute a lot more than I could a few weeks ago.  My main project at the moment is putting together the financial operating plan books for the senior leadership - basically I go through all of the business and geography accounts for Medtronic and assimilate the data into a readable format, then put together binders that only about 5 people in the company will receive.  I have access to all the financial information of a Fortune 200 company!  So basically I know as much about Medtronic's finances as anyone in the company, and I've only been here 6 weeks.  I promise I only use my powers for good.  Seriously, though, it's very interesting being able to see how the company manages its money.  I go to meetings with Dr. Oesterle (the man who got me this internship, Vice President of Medicine and Technology for Medtronic) occasionally, and one I attended last week was really cool.  It was a ten year strategic planning meeting for Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management, the largest and oldest business unit at Medtronic, and I was the only one of about 20 people in the room who wasn't a senior executive for the business, which would be a Fortune 500 company just by itself!  Intimidating.  It's humbling being able to have experiences like that, and I've really learned a lot in the short space of time I've been here.

Matt and Chaune took the kids on their summer road trip vacation yesterday, so I'm left alone in the house for the next 3.5 weeks.  Exult or go crazy?  Maybe a little of both.  It's nice in some ways, but I was enjoying having playmates on demand and coming home most nights to home-cooked meals.  I have at least one thing to keep me busy, though: importing all of these CD's onto my computer!  I bought that set before my mission and it sat in Maryland for three years.  I reclaimed it last weekend and now I have 170 CD's to import and organize and catalogue.  Fun!  I'm listening to lots of Mozart, believe me.

Well, hopefully I remember to do this again soon so you don't have to read an interminably long post such as this again.

English title: Graduation?  Not mine...

生日快樂!

It being my birthday, I thought it appropriate to embark on a lengthy discussion of the meaning of life (mine specifically), employing various deep thoughts as foci from which to build my arguments and lull all visitors here into a pleasant, placid state of contemplation.  In other words, I have half an hour still at work with nothing to do and decided this was a most productive way to spend my time.

Each birthday, I find, brings with it a unique aura.  This one feels slightly more austere than usual, mostly because I'm nowhere near friends and family (although I get to leave for Maryland tomorrow to see the family) and I'm certainly not expecting gifts except for the cards from grandparents and aunts and uncles and the bike I bought myself.  However, that can be a good thing, because it means I can more easily focus on the deeper nature of my birthday as a starting point for the next year and the conclusion of the last, rather than be distracted by (the admittedly fun) fluff.

All seriousness aside, I've had a great day!  I woke up this morning to my aunt and the dogs singing happy birthday, and proceeded to find various computer printouts wishing me a happy birthday with tantalizing pictures of cake all over the house, placed there by house-elves, no doubt.  I'm sure I have many Facebook posts wishing me a happy birthday (not being able to access FB here at work, I have yet to feel the joy of reading each and every one of them), and the Fjeldsteds are taking me out to dinner tonight!  Probably the best feeling, though, is the anticipation of leaving for Maryland tomorrow.  I love traveling, and staying in one place, even for just a few months, is stifling - especially in the summertime.  Seeing the family is a plus, too.  I also get to play the carillon at Andrew's high school on Friday for his graduation!  How cool is that?

I'll probably finish this after I get home...I can't type in Chinese at work and I can't upload pictures, so half of the excitement of blogging is gone right there!  Farewell until ca 8 pm.

(This was meant to post on June 9th, but due to a weekend vacation, it has taken a week to navigate the treacherous waters of my Blogger outbox...so sorry)

English title: Happy Birthday!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

好久不見!

I don't recall exactly when I posted last, but I think it was almost two weeks ago following the Hamelin concert (disregarding the multiple-choice question, which hardly counts as a post).  Since that time, my world has been turned completely upside down!



Just kidding, but it's as good of an attention-grabber as any.  The news in brief: last weekend, being Memorial Day weekend, was long.  In my case, it was extra long.  At work on Friday, I was about to go to lunch when my boss came up to me and informed me in a roundabout way that I could leave whenever I wanted to.  I took his words to heart and left as soon as I was finished eating (had I not brought a lunch, I likely would have left upon finishing our conversation!).  Thereupon followed a lengthy bike ride.  We live in the northwest corner of the Twin Cities, with basically wilderness on three sides of the town, and there's a nature reserve a couple miles away with biking trails and paths, so I biked up there.  Within the confines of Elm Creek Park Reserve, I biked past a frisbee golf course (if I had anyone around to play with, I might go - maybe I can plan for that as an FHE activity!), a lake (no one was on it, but I guess the weekend hadn't officially started yet), several horse trails (marked specifically 'no bicycles'; sad day!), and various woodland creatures.  I was sunburned, but that didn't stop me from going out for rides on Saturday and Monday as well.  For those forays I took different paths.  There are so many paths here I could probably go on a different ride every day of the summer.

On Saturday we went to the Mall of America.  It wasn't as big as I expected it to be, but I suppose nothing compares to the mall in the base of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.  It's four stories high, with a Nickelodeon theme park in the middle (complete with rides, though we didn't get to do any).  It was only moderately crowded, given the holiday weekend, but notwithstanding the crowds I triumphed at every store in my path!  In particular, I spent only $3 (on a pair of socks, 25% off) at Banana Republic, a daring feat with which I will regale my children and my children's children.  Other stores, unfortunately, coaxed a bit more out of me.  I went with Jakob and Chelsey, and Jakob needed some new shoes, but by the time Chelsey and I were done, Jakob hadn't even looked at shoes yet, so I went with him to Journeys and fell in love with some neon green Converse shoes while I was waiting for him.  I then spied some neon blue ones, and was suddenly stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I asked the salesgirl if I could buy one of each pair, but she was firmly opposed unless I bought both pairs, so I ended up going for the green.





In other news, I'm suddenly undecided on my recital program again.  I listened to the Grenados Goyescas with the score for the first time this week, and I fell in love with them, so now it's a toss-up between them and Iberia, where last week I was firmly in the Albeniz camp.  It may boil down to length, as the Prokofiev is 30 minutes long and I don't have time to play more than two of the Goyescas.  What to do?

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this on here, but I was listening to the radio a couple weeks ago and heard a piece for piano and harpsichord duo, a Tango by Asako Hirabayashi.  It was eccentric and fun, and she's a composer and harpsichordist who lives here in the Twin Cities, so I looked her up, emailed her, and asked her for a copy of it.  She very willingly sold me a copy, and I'm toying with including it in my recital as well.  Should I learn the harpsichord part, or have someone else (probably Dr. Bush) play it?  Or forgo it altogether?  It would be really neat to have pieces spanning the time from Scarlatti to 2010 (she wrote it in 2009 and revised it a little before giving it to me), and I can guarantee that no one in attendance will ever have heard it before...

Today was mostly uneventful: oil change, haircut, practicing.  I had stake conference (the evening session) tonight, and I mistakenly thought it was at 8 pm when it was in fact at 6 pm.  I arrived at 7:30 (half an hour early, or so I thought) to a full parking lot and was at once chagrined, but I went in, figuring that the last half an hour would be as valuable as any.  I was right - Elder C. Scott Grow of the Seventy was presiding, and I heard about five minutes of him speaking, and the rest of the time was members of the congregation asking questions of him and his answers.  I won't list all of them here, but it was amazing, because each of the questions had direct applicability to me, and his answers went straight to my heart and bore witness that he was a servant of God.  I'm so grateful to belong to a church with direct revelation and the fulness of the Holy Ghost.



I'm excited for tomorrow, which will be more of the same, no doubt.  I also get to go to my brother Andrew's graduation from high school in Maryland next weekend!  Two great things to look forward to.  Jakob is calling me for a game of Monopoly, so this blog will be adjourned until such time as is convenient for it to be in session.

English title: Long time no see!

P.S. If you dare, go to Sporcle.com and try to name the countries of the world!  Britny got me started on it, and now my fastest time is 5:03.  If you can't name all the countries in the world yet, start with each continent and work your way up.  Have fun!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

自行車很好玩!

On Ian's bike ride tonight, he
A) was hit in the face by (20/min*45 min) 900 bugs, at least one of which was swallowed and several others of which came close to going up his nose and down his throat.
B) realized what a weakling he is and resolved to join the gym posthaste.
C) saw a deer (boy, did he see it!  It was on the bike trail, and he got within a few feet before it leaped off)
D) forgot the helmet which he specifically went to Wal-Mart to buy not half an hour before said ride
E) all of the above

English title: Bikes are fun!

Monday, May 24, 2010

容光的音樂!

I promised Britny I would tell her how the Hamelin concert was, so here goes...

To begin with, the orchestra played Strauss' Don Juan.  I loved the program notes' description of the text Strauss used when he was writing it, because he captured every moment so clearly, right down to each love theme and Don Juan putting his sword down at the end to be stabbed through the heart.  I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.  The conductor was intensely experiencing every moment, but he also displayed some humor - every time the slightly frivolous adventure theme for Don Juan came back, he kind of smiled to himself.

Next was Hamelin!  He played the Ravel left-handed concerto first.  I think I've listened to it once before, but hearing it in person was a completely different experience.  For about half of the piece, I didn't think it was very technically difficult, but I realized upon trying to visualize the music in my head that it was probably incredibly challenging and it was only Hamelin's skill that made it look easy.  Two things stood out: his melodies came out in sharp relief against the rest of the notes, amazing when the hand was whirling all around the keyboard and only stopping occasionally to continue the line.  The other was his absolute control of the tone quality.  When he wanted the piano to sound like a harp, it did.  Each and every note was placed perfectly, with just the right amount of emphasis, and he masterfully backed off and let the orchestra take charge, then swelled to prominence again, doubly impressive while only playing with one hand.  The ending took me off guard, because I was so entranced.

After the intermission he played the Strauss Burleske.  The comments for the Ravel apply here as well, except playing with two hands he was twice as impressive, naturally.  Again he made it appear effortless.  The whole time he was on stage it looked as if his hands were the most natural thing in the world, as if the only thing they were meant to do was what they were at present doing, and it was impossible to imagine them hitting a stray key or causing a note to stick out.  If there were a physical manifestation of elegance commingled with strength, it would be Marc-Andre Hamelin's hands.

The audience applauded for so long afterwards that he reluctantly played an encore, the Chopin Nocturne #8 in D flat.  If I was entranced by his playing before, now I was off in nirvana somewhere!  I don't think my mind came back down to earth until the next day.  It was as smooth as glass, and the melody was breathtakingly beautiful.  The two previous pieces exhibited Hamelin's virtuosity, but this one took all of his emotional depth and threw it out into the concert hall.  If I could play like that, I would sit down and play Chopin for hours on end.

As soon as the applause began, I raced for the stage door around the side of the building to perhaps meet Mr. Hamelin (the concert had one piece left, but I wasn't sure if he would stay for that or leave before it ended).  The security guard checked with her supervisor and then said (all in a half-bored tone that was slightly incredulous at my ardor) that Mr. Hamelin would be signing afterwards and I could meet him then.  I said, "But I'd really like to meet him..." in a hopeful tone, glancing towards backstage in an attempt to persuade her to let me in anyway.  She didn't, so I ended up going back inside and sitting on the floor right outside of the hall to listen to the rest of Ravel's La Valse.  It was great from where I was sitting, so I can only assume the experience was fantastic inside the concert hall, but I can't speak from experience.  After that was over I went to the table to meet Mr. Hamelin first.  He came out, spoke to a few people, and then the moment arrived.  I handed him my program and told him I was a piano major about to begin my senior year and was choosing pieces for my senior recital.  We shook hands (!) and he said, "Courage, and good luck to you!"  And that was that.

It wasn't until I had been driving for 15 minutes that I realized I hadn't gotten a picture with him...bother.

Saturday I went to a Presbyterian church to practice their carillon (I'm playing a concert there this coming Sunday), attended a YSA activity, and made Thai food for my aunt and uncle, cousins, Dakin and John and their kids (Dakin is another cousin of mine), and the elders.  It was really good to see Dakin - I hadn't even met her two youngest kids, Zachary and Elizabeth, because I hadn't seen her for five years!  They're heading to Warwick, England, because John just got his PhD in mathematical economics and was offered a professorship at the University of Warwick.  Their kids were so cute; now I want to go to grad school in England a little bit more just so I can see them once in a while!

Yesterday was also good; I spent the morning preparing a talk and then gave it in sacrament meeting.  Everyone said it went really well, so I guess it went really well.  Other than that, not too much has happened over the last few days, but I'm liking Minnesota more and more.  Although it was 93 degrees and really humid today...ick.  Maybe I take that back.  Better than snow in May, however.  Anyway, there's a recap of the concert and the attending weekend.  I'm up half an hour past my bedtime, but this burden is off my chest and I can thus sleep with a clean conscience.

English title: Glorious music!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

不可想像哦!

Tomorrow night = Marc-Andre Hamelin!  See you on the other side.  'Nuff said.

English title: Unbelievable!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

一個小印第安人。。。


One down, four to go!  I'm sorry, that was facetious and ill-mannered, but Buddy the gerbil is gone, and now there are only four pets left in the Fjeldsted home.  I guess he was old, but he was there this morning and gone when I got home from work.  Time to shift my voodoo to the rabbit...



Actually, I mostly feel sorry for the rabbit.  She rarely gets let out of her cage, and it's so small relative to her size!  Still, she probably wouldn't know what to do in the wild, so there's not really another option.



I'm 80 pages into Ben Zander's book; it's pretty much just a fleshing out of his presentation yesterday, but it will be extremely helpful in remembering what I learned.  Like any helpful/transformational philosophy, so much of it coincides with the gospel, which is nice for streamlining one's philosophical idiom.



I discovered a really cool composer today!  It's amazing how many of them still lie in obscurity.  Michael Tippett (1) wrote four piano sonatas, and his first one is seriously in the running now with Prokofiev 6 for my senior recital.  A plus is that it's ten minutes shorter, meaning I can play something else as well, maybe Debussy or Dohnanyi.

Now go listen to some Tippett!

English title: One Little Indian...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

新觀點, 完美的生活



The only picture I got was on my phone.  Follow up on my last post: Ben Zander's presentation changed my life!  I love life!  It was 2.5 hours long and felt like half an hour, and so many things he said were the kind of things you want to write down and repeat to yourself for a week straight.  I can't even explain it, but everyone in the room was smiling afterwards because they were happy and full of potential.  He had us all sing Ode to Joy at the end in German.  A couple notes to myself, because I can't explain them fully, but hopefully you glean something from these.  When you make a mistake (in music, in life, anything), throw your arms up in the air, smile, and shout, "That's fascinating!"  What assumptions are you operating under that you don't even know you're making?  One example I thought of afterwards was the sons of Mosiah versus the rest of the Nephites.  They assumed that the Lamanites were wicked and irredeemable, and that informed their world view and influenced their actions.  The sons of Mosiah recognized the prevailing assumption, and then realized that it was false, and they went out to change the world.  Give everyone an A, because you interact differently with people to whom you give A's.  Life is made of downward (and upward) spirals - make it about vision and potential instead.  Success and failure are two sides of the same coin - focus on contributing instead of success at the expense of someone who did not succeed.  You know you're a good leader (anyone can be a leader - a parent, a conductor, a regular person) when the people you lead have shining eyes because they see the vision you espouse.  It's all invented!  The system, everything.  Play a different game from the rest of the world - the voice in your head telling you you can't succeed is in an entirely wrong paradigm.  If the people you lead don't have shining eyes, move the goal posts.  Have a perfect life!  Everyone can love classical music!  All it takes is explaining.  I got his book (they gave one to everyone who came to the meeting) and he signed it for me, so I'm sure I will post more as I read it.  Whoever you are reading this, I love you!  You get an A in my book for everything you do, and I appreciate your impact on my life.  Have a great night.

English title: New Perspective, Perfect Life

第三個召喚!

Brother Ostvig pulled me aside into an empty room before sacrament meeting on Sunday, and I had absolutely no idea what he could possibly want with me, but I soon found out.  "Brother McKinley, we'd like to give you another calling."  Okay, I thought, round 3, what'll it be?  "We'd like to call you to be our priesthood pianist."

 Go figure; I've had that calling, officially or not, for the last several years, so we might as well add it to the list.  I played last week anyway, and if it's official I might get more blessings out of it for magnifying my calling.  Or maybe I would have gotten more blessings for being anxiously engaged in a good cause and playing of my own free will.  Who knows?  So now I'm called to be a ward choir member (I played the piano for that yesterday too; maybe a fourth calling is in the works?), FHE dad, and priesthood pianist.  I felt like I fit in a little better this week, and the rest of the summer should be good as far as church goes.  In other news, I knew someone at church!  I showed up the first week half expecting to see someone I knew, only because the church is so small and coincidences like that happen all the time, but I didn't know anyone.  However, this week Sarah Metzger from my BYU ward showed up!  It turns out she's from here, but I had no idea, and she didn't know I was going to be here over the summer.  Funny how that happens wherever you go.

I finally got to ride my bike yesterday (we went mini golfing on Saturday evening right after I bought it, and then it was Sunday).  My derrière is now rather spoiled, this bike having much nicer shocks than my previous one.  It's still slightly sore, not being accustomed to the hard seat, but the bumps in the road were hardly noticeable!  I'll have to go on a longer ride on Saturday.  Minneapolis is, by some standards, the city with the most commuting bikers, and there are trails everywhere!  I could bike practically downtown and back without leaving a bike trail, there are trails along the Mississippi, and there are hundreds of parks and lakes with trails.  I'll definitely miss that part of being here when I leave.


I get to attend a meeting this afternoon with Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and member of the NEC faculty for 43 years!  He gives guest speeches on occasion, and he's speaking to the senior leadership at Medtronic, but the guy who hired me for this internship invited me to come along, so it will be him, the company bigwigs, and me.  Slightly intimidating.  I'll probably post something later today on his presentation.  He's one of the most acclaimed interpreters of Mahler, and some critics have even said his interpretations represent the pinnacle of late Romantic/early 20th century orchestral music (1).


English title: Third calling!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

滑溜溜的錢 。。。

Today was awesome!  It's really the first time I've had any fun since I got here, and it lasted all day long.  This morning started bright and early at 9:00 am.  Wait, I was supposed to leave at 8:15 for a YSA flower planting service project at the temple!  Whoops.  So my morning was a little more leisurely than it should have been.  However, that ended up being a good thing because it meant I had time to practice.  Almost done learning my Scarlatti, and I think I've finalized the choices on my Albeniz.  Now I really have to decide on the Prokofiev.  To play the 6th Sonata, or to spend my life wishing I had?  That is the question.

About 11:15, I decided to go out on the town, so I plunked down on the couch and looked at what there is to do in Minneapolis.  I found a neat modern art museum, the Walker, and five minutes later discovered that I could get $20 student tickets for CATS if I bought them an hour before the 2:00 matinee!  With that, I zoomed out the door around 11:40.  It only takes 20 minutes to get downtown from here, which is practically around the corner, and the freeway goes everywhere in the Twin Cities so everything's really convenient.  The Walker was neat - mostly modern, and one exhibit entitled 1964 where everything was originally created/painted/sculpted 1963-1965, mostly in 1964.  A lot of it centered around the Kennedy assassination, and there was some Warhol and Jasper Johns (one of his American flags and a few other things).  One of the photographs in the museum from about ten years ago had a really cool concept.  It was of a Japanese woman in her living room looking out the window into the night.  This Japanese photographer went around and put notices in people's mailboxes asking them to stand in their living room during a specified interval one night with all the lights on and the curtains drawn so she could photograph them anonymously.  She never met them, but she just went to the house and if they were standing there looking out she took the picture.  Interesting, huh?  Anonymous portraiture.



The Walker also had a nice sculpture garden just outside, the coolest sculpture being a giant cherry on top of a spoon bridging a pond!  No climbing, unfortunately.  The cherry stem sprayed water.  The sculpture garden must be popular around here - a wedding party and a group of high school prom kids were taking pictures with the spoon and cherry while I was there.  I would prefer pictures with the temple, thank you!



From there it was a mile to downtown, so I walked to the theater and bought my ticket, then had lunch at a cafe called Cosi.  Was its inspiration Cozy or Cosi Fan Tutte?  Who knows?  It was tasty, though.  A few thoughts on CATS: it was entertaining.  It was more of a production than a traditional musical, meaning it relies more on special effects and big dance numbers than plot or character development/solo numbers, but you take that for what it's worth and it's still a good show.  I'd never seen it before, but the singing was decent for this production of it, and the dancing was excellent.  I probably won't see it again live, but it was definitely well worth my student ticket!  My seat was in the main orchestra, about a third of the way back in the center section, so also pretty good.  My favorite cat?  Mefistofelees; he didn't sing at all, but his dancing skills were fantastic.  He twirled on one foot for a good minute, and his costume was all black glitter.  Nice.



The show being over, it was time to head home, with one stop along the way.  My last bike was stolen before my mission, and I've really missed having one this year, so I tried some out at a bike shop last Saturday, and I found one I liked but had to think about it for a week, being a large purchase etc.  I think the beautiful weather today (70's, breezy, sunny, couple clouds here and there) convinced me that buying a bicycle is definitely a smart move, so I stopped on the way back and took a chunk out of my bank account.  It's gold, like the Golden Nugget!  Talk about coordination there.  I justify it by saying it's my birthday present to myself (3+ weeks early!).

But the fun doesn't end there!  As soon as I got back, Matt and the kids started clamoring to do something fun, so we ended up going to this mini golf place half an hour away 15 minutes after I got home.  I got second place, but only by one stroke!  Curses.  Ice cream after that (mint chocolate chip, chocolate brownie chunk, hot fudge, whipped cream), and that brings me to the present.  Not quite...a game of Ticket to Ride found its way in after mini golf, in which I soundly defeated my opponents with my Emden to Osterreich strategy (those passengers really make a difference, if you know what I mean).



Too much fun for one day?  No, it should keep me sane for the week ahead.

English title: Slippery money...

Friday, May 14, 2010

水,水在每個地方!

I went out with the missionaries two nights ago - the investigator we were going to see was sick, but we visited a less-active member of the YSA and drove around a bit, and it was fun.  On my way home, I couldn't resist taking this beautiful picture of downtown Minneapolis at 70 mph:
Going around a curve, no less, and on a freeway I had never driven on, at night.  Don't try that at home! In other news, it's been raining for a week straight, and the basement pump finally gave out.  Thus, the basement floor was flooded when I came home from work yesterday.  I spent an hour moving things and acquiring a shop-vac, then the rest of the evening helping to wring out the carpet and shop-vac it.  As of this writing, Uncle Matt's still downstairs with the vacuum getting the last of the water out.  The heat is turned all the way up and we have dehumidifiers and fans going like crazy.  I already fear the worst for tonight - sleeping with the heat blasting will be less than pleasurable.  Maybe I'll go donate some plasma and treat myself to a hotel room for the night...

Today, however, the sun is shining and spring is in full force!  Minnesota really is beautiful; lots of trees and even more lakes!  Everywhere you drive you see at least two or three.  I didn't believe it was the land of 10,000 lakes before I got here, but now I'm convinced.


I promised some pictures of my workplace, so here they are!  This is Medtronic World Headquarters, home of the largest medical technology company in the world.  Here it is from the front; there's a few buildings not shown here, and in the Twin Cities there are another 15 or 20 Medtronic offices and buildings.  Next is a view of the central building where I work with the company logo, "Humanity Rising".  It symbolizes restoring people to full health, part of the Mission of Medtronic.  Medtronic really has a sense of core values and is driven by its mission, which makes it a great place to work, because everything's about making people's lives better as opposed to making a profit.


Here's me with the logo; you can see my Medtronic name badge hanging from my belt loop.  Everyone (even the CEO) has to wear their name badge visibly whenever they're in the building...tight security.  We also have to swipe as we come in every morning.  There's a gruff German guard who says good morning to me every day.  I don't know if he gets tired of it, but he seems happy to be there, so I say hello back.

My legs almost didn't work today, due to running yesterday and then spending hours bent over like a contortionist with the vacuum in the basement, but I forced myself to climb the stairs at work and I might go hobbling later on (as opposed to jogging or running).  I should start a club - you want to go hobbling with me?  I should practice first, though.  Five more minutes on the computer.  It's a luxury staying in the home of a piano teacher (my aunt), because you can practice as long as you want and whenever you want and no one cares!  At home, my family complains if I practice for any length of time when they're watching TV or doing just about anything, but here I can practice at 10 pm if I want, even if everyone's in bed!  I don't, but Jakob does, and no one seems to mind.  Hurrah for practicing!  With that rousing battle-cry, it's time to go get the best of Albeniz.

English title: Water, Water Everywhere!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

密西西比河

I wish I had taken this picture of the Mississippi:



but that would be a lie.  However, I do get to cross the fourth-largest and tenth-most powerful river in the world (1) twice every day on my way to and from work!  I never thought that would be true about myself.  It's rather normal-looking up here in Minneapolis, much narrower than I remember it from crossing into Illinois, but then again that's 400 miles downriver from here.  I'll get a picture of it sometime, but for now I prefer to keep my eyes on the freeway rather than gyrating wildly with my hands out the window on the off chance that I take a prize-winning snapshot at 70 miles an hour.


Here are some that I did take:





They lived in Japan for a while, and their decor reflects it:



There's much more where that came from.  My uncle served his mission in South Korea, but he also speaks Japanese like a native (he studied linguistics and Japanese in college).

More later...

English title: Mississippi River

Friday, May 7, 2010

可愛的狗!
















Duke (aka Terry) took a little longer to cooperate with pictures - Sammy (new names from here on out) kept pushing him out of the way so she could be in the picture!  Here's a couple, though.  So cute!  We had a sheltie until she died a few years ago, and Terry acts just like her in so many ways and looks like her too.  It's like having my old dog back!


English title: cute dog!