Tuesday, July 20, 2010


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


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


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


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!