Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Distraught Karl brings Thug Life to Denver

DENVER, CO*—Frustrated with his team’s poor showing in Saturday night’s brawl at Madison Square Garden, Denver Nugget coach George Karl pulled the trigger yesterday on a deal to inject a little Thug Life into his squad. Enter The Answer.

“After Saturday’s press conference, I just sat down in the locker room and cried like a baby,” said Karl. “For hours after that whole mess, I just felt awful. What an embarrassment, what a (expletive) embarrassment. What we showed out there was the worst of professional sports, the worst of what this team should represent. We should have kicked those Knick (expletives) up and down the court.”

“I mean, did you see Carmelo take off across the court after that sucker punch?” continued Karl. “What a (expletive). You telling me he couldn’t take that (expletive) woman Collins? At least he threw a half punch instead of just rolling around on the front row with Mini-Me.”

Less than a week after Saturday’s already infamous brawl, recalling memories of the Malice in the Palace from two years ago, the Nugget organization found the remedy for their squad’s lack of toughness: former NBA MVP Allen Iverson.

“If there’s anyone I know of that can show Carmelo how to finish a fight, it’s Allen,” declared Karl as he slammed a clenched fist into a nearby locker. “You seen how many (expletive) tattoo’s that kid’s got? I heard he’s even got one under his left eyelid!”

The addition of Iverson will no doubt inject the Nuggets with a heightened street cred, which would have come in handy last weekend against Isiah’s Knicks.

“You don’t think I wanted to order a hit just like Zeke?” demanded Karl. “I think everyone would like to see that pretty-boy Marbury go down. Who am I going to send in? Boykins? I’d just get hit with an ACLU suit again if I did that. (Expletive), if Francis had been in there, I’d have done it anyway. I hate that (expletive).”

The trade ended days of speculation concerning the new destination for perennial All-Star Iverson, who recently demanded a trade from the languishing Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson will go to Denver in exchange for veteran point guard Andre Miller, two first-round draft picks, and some guy named Joe Smith.

“I’m (expletive) jazzed to go to Denver, baby,” says the newest Nugget. “No (expletive) disrespect to (expletive) Philly or anything, but it’s a (expletive) hole, man. Plus they’re coming out with another (expletive) Rocky movie, which is just embarrassing, man. I’m much more (expletive) happy to be going to (expletive) Denver, home to such NBA (expletive) icons as Fat Lever and Kiki (expletive) Vandeweghe. Man, I’m going to score fifty (expletive) points a game for those guys.”

Saturday’s brawl broke up a deadlock between at least three teams that were scrambling to acquire Iverson, including Boston and Minnesota. Some felt Iverson would be an ideal complement to former MVP Kevin Garnett in Minneapolis, and Boston had made serious efforts to get Iverson in green, though Philadelphia seemed hesitant to keep Iverson in the Eastern Conference.

“I love (expletive) Kevin like a (expletive) brotha,” says Iverson, “but Minnesota, man, that place is just too cold! Personally, I’m just (expletive) glad they didn’t send me to Utah.”

Sending Iverson to the already dominant Western Conference might be a concern for NBA Commissioner David Stern, who seemed tense in his comments early Wednesday.

“Well, at least you hacks might stop whining about an East Coast bias for a little while, huh?” said Stern. “I mean, who’s left? Who’s left? Shaq’s hurt, Dwanye’s bound to get hurt, and LeBron will be in LA in three years. You think I’m happy about this? You think I don’t lie awake at night, wondering if I can slip Charlotte down into the NBDL without anyone noticing? I got rid of the (expletive) ball, didn’t I? What more do you people want?”

Though the addition of Iverson to the West could further tip the winning scales, some critics have raised concerns about the idea of bringing Iverson in under Karl, a coach noted for his strict practice regiment.

“(Expletive) (expletive) (expletive) practice (expletive) man (expletive) (expletive),” says Iverson. “(Expletive) (expletive) Karl (expletive) (expletive) (expletive) Cadillac Escalade.”

Others feel Karl’s bigger challenge will be integrating Iverson onto a team that already features the league’s leading scorer.

“Obviously it will be to our advantage to have Carmelo suspended for the first few games,” says Karl. “That way, no one will be around to stop Allen from showing the guys how to keep it real. Then when Carmelo gets back, Allen can take him under his wing. I hear he’s great that way.”

“I can’t believe how excited I am to be playing with Allen Iverson,” said Anthony via cell phone from Barbados. “This is like a dream come true. With Andre gone, I’m finally going to get like fifty points a game.”


*The content of this article is satirical. All quotes are fictional and intended to satirize public figures.

Local blogger thanks guy in Pittsburgh for boosting hit count

MURRAY, UT—A local blogger went out of his way Wednesday to thank some fellow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for boosting his monthly user statistics on sitemeter.com.

“I don’t know who this guy is,” said Josh from behind his desk at the USU Salt Lake Center, “but the guy spent like an hour and a half looking at my stuff, and that’s really going to boost my average visit length numbers for December.”

For the past eight months, Josh has been regularly updating The Wounded Mosquito, a free blog he started through www.blogger.com. Over that period, his own routine checks have represented about half of his total visits.

“I’d estimate that I’ve got a regular readership of about four people,” Josh says. “I know my friend Brad reads regularly, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got some family in Oregon that’s reading this thing every once in a while. That’s about all I can gather from my site stats.”

Thanks to a recent enlistment on sitemeter.com, Josh has been able to track certain traits of his visitors, such as where they are reading from and how long they are spending on his site.

“The site meter thing works pretty well,” Josh says, “but it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it will only register one hit for zero seconds, even when I know they’ve looked at more than that. I know because the reader was me.”

Ever since graduating from Utah State University in 2004, Josh has struggled to build the consistent readership he had as a columnist for USU’s Utah Statesman.

“I kept updating my own personal site, www.planetvenison.com, but I don’t think anyone was reading it anymore,” Josh laments. “I guess I’m just not all that good at the marketing end of things.”

Which is all the more reason Josh is overjoyed at the efforts of the unnamed visitor from Pittsburgh.

“Yeah, this guy was on Google looking for stuff about Elder Anthony Perkins, the General Authority. Not the ‘Psycho’ guy,” he says. “Anyway, the Google search led him to my site, cause last week I posted the priesthood lesson I gave on his General Conference talk. So he reads my site for a half hour, then links over to my Planet Venison site and reads a bunch of that, too.”

“The article he read was one of my better ones,” Josh continued, “you should check it out.”

The extended reading session is expected to boost the average visit time on sitemeter.com by about three seconds per visit. It is not expected to impact the daily visit average, which remains in the 4-5 range.

Josh’s membership on sitemeter.com has helped to satisfy a longstanding curiosity he’s had regarding his readership, even though there are limitations on the data.

“Funny thing is,” Josh says, “I keep calling this person in Pittsburgh a guy, even though it really could be a girl. I doubt it, though…the sitemeter listing said the visitor had connected through a Hilton Hotel network, which means it was probably just one of my four regulars on a business trip.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Anatomy of a power lunch...

For many of us working stiffs, the lunch break is one of our only sources of peaceful refuge, where we might escape the rigorous toil of our day-to-day jobs. Or, in my case, the irresponsible net surfing of our day-to-day jobs. How you spend that break is critical to your spiritual well-being, for a lousy lunch can put baby in a poo-poo mood all day if he’s not careful. I often opt for the power lunch, myself.

Now, since I’m not really “in business”, I don’t follow the rules of the typical “Power Lunch”, where a bunch of high rollers gather to discuss big market deals. I go for more of a lower-case “power lunch”, where two friends get together to talk about why everyone else in the world is stupid and how they are vastly underpaid to deal with them.

Here are some critical items to consider for your next power lunch:

Location - Choosing a location for your power lunch is the most critical element of the entire exercise. I don’t care if you cover the check, wear a three-piece suit, and discuss the insightful subtext of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” in the company of the girl of your dreams, if you do it at Beto’s you’ve blown your hour. Similarly, you could show up naked at Red Iguana at noon and talk about bullion cubes with your ex-wife and still have a spectacular experience. At least until the cops come.

Recommendations: Fortunately, picking a good location in Salt Lake is easy. There are many to choose from. You could go for the Chile Verde at the aforementioned Red Iguana, the calzones at Gepetto’s, or the best gyro’s in the state at one of three valley Greek Souvlaki locations. The best option of all might be the lunch special at the Thai Siam at 14th and State. For seven bucks, you get your choice of two different entrĂ©e items, each one generous enough to cover a meal on its own. Just be careful about asking out your waitress, ‘cause if you actually do take her out, it becomes very awkward to bring another date to eat there later.

Wardrobe - The vast majority of my power lunches are with guys with straight jobs, so they always have to come in business casual, often with ties. I go out of my way to dress as casually as possible, to reinforce the fact that while they may be making considerably more money than I do, I can at least dress like a slob at work. Viva the ivory tower. The exception is my buddy Ben, who manages to work in the law field in a half-buttoned shirt and corduroys. Truly the best of both worlds.

Recommendation: Hot lunch spots will be filled with urban professionals in khakis and business suits. A floor-length white fur coat and a purple three-piece suit will make a statement they will remember.

Timing - I have many friends and colleagues that favor an early start time in these cases, often around 11:30ish. While I understand the desire to avoid the lunch rush, it makes more sense to me to wait until after said rush, say about one to two in the afternoon. The rationale is that the more work you get out of the way before lunch, the less you have to deal with when you get back.

Recommendation: Go around 1:30pm, and if your friend gives you grief about it, tell them you’ll buy them a souvenir shot glass and to stop griping.

Guest - Here we have everything from the old friend you haven’t seen in five years to the blind date you aren’t sure you can hack a whole evening with. Either way, picking the right location will ensure a good time. Most often I use the power lunch to stay in touch with my elaborate network of kindred spirits, but sometimes I’ll actually use the meeting for business or more intimate personal purposes, inasmuch as a blind date can be considered an intimate personal purpose. When you consider the fact that you will likely be hugging the person you are on the blind date with, in my book that is more intimate than the old buddy you give the handshake/half-hug/back slap thing to, even if the latter is more meaningful in the long run.

Recommendation: If he’s available, I’d call Don King.

To Drink or Not to Drink? - I’m not referring to alcohol, here. What I’m getting at is do you or do you not order anything besides water at a meal. If someone else is picking up the tab, probably not. If I’m paying, probably not. So when do you? When you’re at a place like Iggy’s, that has great custom lemonades that are almost worth the three bucks. Or when you just don’t give a rat’s, so you blow $2.50 on a Sprite.

Recommendation: Go with the water. You may contract any variety of microscopic illnesses, but at least you won’t have to endure the additional shame of having paid for them.

Conversation Topics - 99 times out of 100, conversation topics will be based in either the “catching-up” field (how is work, have you been on a date in the last six months, was the operation successful) or the “Seinfeldian” field of “topics that bear no relevance to our daily lives” (will Jack Black be dead within five years, a la Belushi and Farley). On the odd occasion I have a more business/progressive intent to the lunch, I may try to engage the friend into some sort of formal commitment, such as “if I e-mail this 214-page manuscript to you, will you read it?” or “if I show up at your office on Monday, will you pay me?” but these types of power lunches are few and far between.

Recommendation: Any topic that will attract the uncomfortable attention of neighboring tables is always a score. “Really, Bob? How long do you think you can get away with keeping that Amway salesman in your basement?”

Bill Coverage - My experience thus far has fallen into four categories:

1. Split the check. This one covers the lion’s share of get-togethers, and also creates the biggest hassles for our servers.
2. Trade-off. This is the mutual good faith gesture, where one friend takes the load off the other’s back for every other lunch. In some ways, it is used to prioritize an effort between the two friends to try to get together frequently.
3. I’m on a date, so I gotta pay. Self-explanatory.
4. Josh is really poor, so his friend picks up the tab every time and refuses his offer to chip in. Self-explanatory.

Recommendation: Go to the bathroom as soon as your server delivers the check. Stay for thirty minutes. If your guest gets annoyed, they will suppress their anger, assuming that “it must have been the food”.

Careful attention to the above categories can result in a pleasant experience for all involved. Careful attention to other inconsequential categories, like shoelace color and obsessive menu manipulation can result in confusion and/or revulsion for all involved. The important thing is that we show love and compassion for our fellow man, be it through unbridled zeal or those subtle gestures like a kind word or a touch to the elbow. And always tip at least 15%.

We salute you, Al...

I don't know...after hearing all this in the news about Allen Iverson's trade demands, I decided to look up the old "practice" clip from a couple of years ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about, enjoy it here.

Hugs and kisses, AI.


And while we're at it...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Would someone pay me to do this?


I wasn't planning on sticking this on the blog, but then last night I had a dream that I was talking to three birds in my friend Brandon's garage in Kaysville, and one of them kept taunting me by calling me by my last name in the same voice the blue and pink unicorns use to mock Charlie in the above video. Thus it belongs.

Monday, December 04, 2006

COPING WITH ADULT ONSET PESSIMISM

(The following is adapted from a recent lesson I gave on a chosen General Conference address...)

Pop quiz time: Which current General Authority has the same name as the actor who portrayed butcher-knife wielding Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho”?

The answer? Elder Anthony Perkins of the Seventy.

Elder Perkins gave a talk in the most recent General Conference entitled, “The Great and Wonderful Love”. His talk dealt with the myths Satan uses to distort our understanding of who we are and what we are capable of. At the end of his remarks, Elder Perkins made a comment that applies directly to people in our stage of life:

“You will experience greater joy in life as you eradicate adult-onset pessimism and substitute childlike optimism.”

So what is “Adult Onset Pessimism?” Let us first identify the problem…

Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP) can be brought on by a number of life factors. Some of the issues that induce AOP include School, Work, Dating, Taxes, Kobe Bryant, people who drive too slow in the fast lane, and PC to Mac compatibility. Here are some common symptoms of Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP):

1- Slouching posture

2- Excessive drooling

3- Declining grooming standards—only washes “visible parts”

4- Stops wearing pants

5- Refers to self in third person, as in “Ricky don’t feel good tonight.”

6- Fails to move for long stretches of time in public situations

7- Only buys gas $5 at a time because “they’re gonna nuke us soon, anyway”.

8- Regularly explains low grade point average by pointing out that “grade assignment is a tool of modern class warfare whereby the Bourgeoisie continues to suppress the Urban Proletariat. And Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard”.

9- May or may not be breathing

10- Constantly makes negative comments, like “she’s out of my league”, “I could never do that”, or “watch me lie down in front of this bus”

So why do these issues make us feel pessimistic? What is the deeper fear/problem? Some might suggest that discouragement, fear of failure, despair because of past failure, unfulfilled expectations, and a lack of faith might be possible causes. Elder Perkins suggests that Satan uses three snares to perpetuate AOP:

1. The Snare of False Inadequacy—you are neither good-looking or smart enough to succeed.
2. The Snare of Exaggerated Imperfection—your best efforts are insufficient.
3. The Snare of Needless Guilt—the hole you have dug is too deep.

Have you fallen into one of these three snares? Here is a handy Multiple Choice Test you can take to find out:

Do you suffer from Adult Onset Pessimism?

1. The local gym advertises a special no-money-down, $9.99 a month six-month membership. Do you:

A. Sign up immediately after consulting your monthly budget.

B. Hesitate, wondering if the same gym will lower its rate to $7.99 if you wait a month or two.

C. Talk yourself out of it, figuring you’ll probably go for a week or two and then give up.

D. Go down to the gym and laugh in their pretentious, plastic faces, cause you would never stoop to working out with a bunch of shallow thick-skulled macho beefcakes and their surgery-enhanced groupies who wouldn’t talk to you if you paid them.

2. Your boss tells you he will give you a 20K a year raise if you complete a special one-year Executive MBA program. Do you:

A. Register immediately, grateful to finally have the chance to move up the corporate ladder.

B. Chuckle at your boss behind his back because you thought he said “NBA Program”, and is obviously a horrible judge of talent.

C. Pass on the opportunity, citing an obscure article you found online that claims MBA grads are going out of style, and that a degree in Hotel Managment is the new hot credential.

D. Go back to your cubicle and spend three hours surfing ldslinkup.com, because even if you did sign up for the stupid program, it would just prolong the already infinite amount of time you’ve been stuck in this pointless, go-nowhere black hole of a job.

3.A woman from your mother’s home ward that you met one time six years ago calls you and tells you she wants to set you up with her returned missionary daughter, who is really shy and doesn’t date much but can cook enchiladas like the Devil himself. Do you:

A. Go on the date. After all, who is to say when good fortune will come?

B. Go on the date, even though every blind date you’ve ever been on has been a catastrophic disaster, but because your parents met on a blind date, you always feel this sick obligation to give it a chance.

C. Ignore the invitation, make some kind of vague excuse, take the phone number but conveniently forget to take it out of your pants before washing them on an extended hot cycle.

D. Tell the woman to e-mail you a photo of her daughter and you’ll get back to her.

4. The 13th Ward weekly e-mail announces a joint Friday mingle with the 32nd Ward for the upcoming weekend. Do you:

A. Go to the mingle and dance like you’ve never danced before.

B. Show up to the mingle at 10pm after calling three different friends to find out if there are any hot chicks there, then leave after twenty minutes of routine conversations with the same three friends you talk to at every ward activity.

C. Blow off the mingle, disgustedly telling yourself that the girls in the 32nd Ward think they’re too good for you anyway.

D. You never saw the e-mail because you blocked 13th Ward messages from your inbox six months ago.

5.Your boss gives you tickets to the upcoming Brad Paisley concert. Do you:

A. Call up your fly honey and say, “Woman, it’s time for a night on the town.”

B. Debate endlessly whether to call your number one option at the last minute, and finally call option number six because you know she probably doesn’t have anything else going on.

C. Call your roommate, cause there’s no way you’re wasting a concert ticket on some girl who will probably stop returning your phone calls next week.

D. Wait a minute, why would anyone want to go see Brad Paisley?

If you find yourself answering mostly A’s, you’re doing pretty good. But if you find yourself drifting closer to the D range of each question, you might be suffering from a nasty bout of AOP.

So now that we’ve identified the problem, how do we cope with it? Elder Perkins provides the cure for AOP—five suggestions to apply to your daily life. “For as a man thinketh, is he…”

I: See Yourself as a Precious Child of a Loving Father in Heaven

PERKINS QUOTE #1: Our children with confidence sing, "I am a child of God, and he has sent me here." Little children feel and know what perhaps you have forgotten. You are the beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father, created "in his own image”, and of immense value—so much so that Jesus Christ gave His life for you.

We need to understand that, contrary to what the world might suggest, we are the offspring of divinity, with wonderful potential. It might help to memorize this convenient little mantra:

"I am a valuable son of God with good prospects and a lot to offer despite the superficial misdirected social values perpetuated by the so-called ‘standards’ of reality television that inform me otherwise."

And here it is in French:

"Je suis un fils valable de Dieu avec les bon avenir et beucoup a proposer nonobstant le superficiel mal oriente valeurs sociale perdurer by chez pretendu ‘critere’ de realite television qui informer me autrement."

Or you could just memorize an actual scripture. That works nice too.

II: Place Your Burdens on Jesus Christ

PERKINS QUOTE #2: The Savior promised, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." As you "cast [your] burden upon the Lord," you will feel the peace of the Spirit.

This is a statement we hear often, but like the typical “pray and read your scriptures” response, I wonder if we’re getting deep enough. Exactly what does it mean to “place your burdens on the Lord”? I’m not sure it’s an idea that can really be put into words, but I know that one must come to the point where they are willing to let go of their worries—to stop dwelling on them, over-analyzing, fretting, pushing, demanding—and put themselves in a place where they are willing to accept the Lord’s will on the matter.

III: Forgive Yourself of Sins and Imperfections

PERKINS QUOTE #3: Jesus said, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." Start with yourself, and forgive others as well. If God will not remember our repented-of sins, then why should we? Avoid wasting time and energy reliving the past.

IV: Sustain Hope of Eternal Life

PERKINS QUOTE #4: If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder. Referring to his younger years as an immoral priest for the wicked King Noah, Alma admitted, "I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance." Yet Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life. As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions 3 and 4 are closely related to a concept I’ve been pondering lately. It seems that a lot of discouragement comes from the notion that the “present is permanent”, that any trial we are currently facing, or any fallout from sin we are dealing with, is a permanent condition. It is not. The present is not permanent. That’s the whole point of the Atonement. We may not necessarily be delivered from these trials, but even if we must pass through them—as is frequently the case—the point is that WE WILL PASS THROUGH THEM. They will end.

V: Find Joy Each Day

PERKINS QUOTE #5: One source of joy is service, for when you are busy helping others, you will have less capacity to agonize over your own shortcomings. The Savior wisely taught, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."

Adult Onset Pessimism prevents us from recognizing many of the wonderful opportunities of life. Years ago in Logan, I was given the opportunity to play drums for a Neil Diamond cover band at the USU Valentine’s Dance. I really wasn’t a very good drummer, and I didn’t know if I would be up for the task. Whenever I had performed with bands previously, I was pretty ragged at best. And yet, I wanted to feel the sublime power of “Shilo”. I wanted to share the eternal truths of “Forever in Blue Jeans”. I wanted to embrace the horrible reality of “Love on the Rocks”. So instead of succumb to pessimism and doubt, I thought, “nuts to it; If I go down, I might as well go down in flames.” Patrick Henry, one of the heroes of the American Revolution, said, “If this be treason, then let us make the most of it”. So I did. At first it was really hard to learn Neil’s songs, cause he just seems to write from a planet all his own. But eventually I caught on, and playing the Valentine’s Dance was one of the highlights of my time at Utah State. It even helped me meet this really cute violinist, who later rejected me, but at least I took a shot.

I think that the key to fighting discouragement and pessimism is to realize that when the Lord challenges us with an opportunity, He’s not really asking us to do it by ourselves. If we understand that we can let the Lord work through us, then there is nothing we cannot accomplish through His infinite capacity. Nephi said, “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” We hear that scripture all the time; but if we truly believe it, then there is no reason we should ever let discouragement, doubt, or adult-onset pessimism cloud our vision.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.