Circular Breathing

Two weeks ago, we held Stake Conference at church.  For those not of my particular religious persuasion, that is a twice-annual, joint meeting of area congregations.  In our “Stake” there are 15 congregations, organized by geography, which makes us a relatively large Stake (about 5500 church members).  Due to our largesse, we decided we would try webcasting our meeting over the Internet to two other chapels in the Stake, enabling the entire Stake to meet at once and greatly reducing the need for travel for those who live in the eastern congregations and the organizational pain associated with holding multiple sessions of conference in one day.

Due to my calling as the “Stake Technology Specialist” – the job was mine to do the webcast.  But webcasting isn’t what this blog post is about.  For those who’ve been following Facebook (or me in real life), you’re probably sick of me talking about the webcasting thing.  Understandable.  No, this post is about a group of people I got to know while webcasting – and a gift they possess that I didn’t really understand until now; the Spanish language translators.  This group of people simul-translated the meeting, as it was occurring in English, into Spanish.

While people thought I was impressive for being able to technologically offer both languages, I was more impressed with their ability to actually do the translating.  Since I know Portuguese (and can understand a good deal of slowly-spoken, church-related Spanish) I spent a good portion of the meeting listening to the Spanish side of the webcast rather than the English side.  I was incredibly impressed with these people’s ability to do this great service for the Spanish-speaking people of our Stake.

As I was considering the incredible talent they must have to hear a new sentence in English at the same time the speak the last sentence in Spanish, I remembered a skill I learned in my band days called “circular breathing”.  Circular breathers are an impressive set of musicians who can sustain a note with the wind trapped in their mouth while they breathe through their nose and refill their lungs.  It’s a pretty special skill that is quite difficult to do with finesse.

Kenny-G holds the Guiness Book of World Recrods for the longest note ever held using circular breathing: 45 minutes, 47 seconds holding an E flat on a saxaphone

This was the exact skill these translators have.  They seem to be able to hear in one language, process it in their brain, and repeat it in Spanish – all in real time!  I can’t imagine how they do it, and with such incredible fidelity.  Even obscure poetry and cultural anachronisms they seemed to translate with ease.

I wish I knew their names or was able to take a picture of them in action (I was a little preoccupied with my own video production responsibilities), but I suppose – like most service in the church – they continue to be largely unnoticed, except in the recesses of my little blog.


Santorum Scares Me

So, with my only 45 minutes of free time today, I watched Meet the Press and was left speechless after the Rick Santorum interview. I really can’t believe that the GOP seems to be turning to that clown.  I don’t know what made me feel that way today more than before.  The talking points were largely the same, but he sounded more confident and determined than ever.

Maybe it’s this string of southern primaries and caucuses? Or maybe it’s the fact that one only has to drive through the state of Kansas, observing the hyper religious pro-life signs all over the sides of the roads, to realize that, yes, there is a religious-right in the Republican party who really thinks Mitt’s religion is so untenable they’d vote for a washed up Senator who couldn’t post a win in his own district or a deluded old Speaker who seems to be marauding the countryside looking for a second shot in the post-neocon era, despite what any numbers seem to say.

And that same religious right would go so far as to make this election about social issues – when the winning strategy was clearly to make this about economics.

Look, I think Mitt is a clown in his own way as well, but much less of a clown than those two. I even consider Ron Paul less of a clown than Santorum and Gingrich.

But here’s my real question when it comes to this whole process: When is the Republican party going to stop shooting itself in the foot and start making President Obama run for reelection?  The longer this draws out, the more rope the challengers are giving the President to hang them with, and the more President Obama goes laughing to the bank.

It’s a well-known fact that independents and moderates in a few critical states (which BTW, Santorum is terribly weak in) are the only way to win in the fall.  The GOP needs to realize that they aren’t getting that vote with Santorum; the guy who has completely alienated that demographic AND the women voters as well.

Right now, I see very little chance for a GOP win in the fall.  People are talking about how the GOP convention will be a “reset” for the nominee, but I don’t think so.  I think in Romney you have a base that will be less motivated to turn out, and in Santorum or Gingrich you will have a critical group of voters completely turned off from them as a Presidential candidate.

…Just my humble opinion…


Since WEJr’s first birthday last week, it seems like our toy collection has rapidly expanded.  We got him toys, both sets of grandparents got him toys, and a couple of friends also contributed to the growing pile of stuff.  It’s quite cute, because he is now old enough to actually entertain himself with toys for a short period of time.  Mostly, he just carries them around, chews on them, or otherwise misuses or abuses them.  When he plays with them correctly (in the way they were designed), it’s completely by accident.  It’s so fun to watch him figure them out, and even have preferences for certain toys.  Before, it was always us trying to entertain him or distract him, but now it’s him doing it to himself.  Who knew he’d become a real-live person?!?!

With the newfound collection of toys, though, I’ve come to a new depth of understanding about the toy world.  Originally, I was holding the line at “no toys with batteries”, though I’ve now completely lost that fight.  I now understand there are really a lot of other types of toys parents should fear and dread just as equally as battery-powered toys:

Toys that have batteries:  The frustration here isn’t just that you have to replace the batteries, it’s that the time span where the batteries work and the child wants to play with the toy never totally coincide unless it’s the day the child receives the toy.  Beyond that the batteries are always dead at the worst time.  If you’re lucky, the toy will have some inherent value without the battery operated feature, but this is rarely the case.  Prepare for tears and sadness when the toy does not function.

Toys that are in pieces or sets:  With these toys, the minute the plastic wrap is removed, the toy falls apart into a million lose-able pieces.  The joy of toy is for the kid to put the toy together in various configurations, but the frustration of the toy is for the parent to keep those pieces out from under sofas, coffee tables, and in the same room.  Invariably, the parent ends up putting the puzzle together, putting the legos back in the bin, or putting all the other pieces away, just in time for the kid to come and dump them out all over again.

Toys that make noise:  These are the toys parents regret having the most.  Whenever the child figures out the noise-making capability, there will come a day when all you will hear – over and over – is that same noise.  You will hear it everywhere you go.  It will haunt you even when you are away from the toy and the child.  You will start to hear/speak in voices of the toys until, one day, you are driven so mad that you freak out and take a sledge hammer to the toy (my approach) or quietly throw the toy away (Aud’s approach).

Vintage toys:  Who doesn’t love the vintage, simple toys; blocks, trains, balls, bats, etc.  These are definitely my favorite toys because of their nostalgia and because of their hipness (I’m real hip).  WEJr is at the point, though, where his enjoyment of vintage toys is limited to chewing on them until the vintage, antiqued paint chips off into his mouth and teeth – which leads me to wonder if they were safely/non-toxically made…

As you can see, there is no perfect toy.  All toys are meant to make a parent’s life miserable.  But, they are extraordinarily necessary to keep your kid sufficiently distracted from your more expensive, adult toys that they seem to gravitate toward naturally.