Ramadan 2009

»  mark    22 Aug 2009 @ 02:02    

The holy month of Ramadan is here again and I’m faced with the question that I posed after observing Ramadan last year: Would I ever do it again?

Decisions like this can’t be made overnight, of course. After considerable thought and consulting my wife, I’ve decided it would be valuable to participate, even though I won’t attempt the 30-day fast this year. In the spirit of the month, I am going to set some goals like last year and modify my daily routine in the hope of spiritual improvement. So here are my goals.

  • Change in diet
    While not the same as fasting, I think a change in personal diet will help to remind me of other commitments. So, for the next month, I’m going to limit consumption of sugar (desserts, ice cream, etc.).
  • Charitable donations
    Just like last year, I plan to donate to humanitarian causes during this time.
  • Prayer
    I will strive to pray more frequently.
  • Scripture Study
    Once again, I probably won’t read all of the Qur’an, but I’d like to focus on getting through another book of revelation, the Doctrine and Covenants. We’ve been reading segments of it throughout the year at Church, but I haven’t been very faithful at my reading assignments. So I’d like to read this work in entirety during the next month.
  • Refrain from worldly influences
    Many advocate limiting television, movies, and music to make time for more prayer and meditation. Once again, I will be trying to do without media and add to that the goal of retiring to bed each night by 12 o’clock.

This will be a big challenge for me, but I’m excited to try. Ramadan 2008 was a life-changing event for me. What more could I hope for this year? Ramadan Mubarak to all!

Changing jobs

»  mark    22 Aug 2009 @ 00:39    

Did you ever sign up for something only to find that things changed out from underneath you? Olya and I were talking about this tonight and feeling like this happened to me at my workplace.

For those who weren’t aware, I have been working as a training consultant at LDS Church Headquarters for the past 5 years with the same manager. This has set numerous records for me including:
– longest continuous employer
– longest continuous supervisor
– longest job with the same team/job title
– longest job at the same general location

I’m not complaining of course. I loved all of those things about it, which is why I’ve stayed there so long. Over the course of the last two months though, I lost my manager (promoted), my team (transferred), my job title (switched), and my work location (no longer at Church HQ).

I’m still working with learning management system and e-learning tools, but I’m now officially an Application Systems Engineer, which means I’m focused on deploying, configuring, and maintaining enterprise applications. A week from Monday, I begin working at the new Riverton Office Building, the new home of the Church IT department (ICS). My new commute is 22 miles instead of 3.1, which I’m not too thrilled about, but it still should be less than an hour, even on mass transit. And I can’t complain. I have two coworkers who are moving to ease the transition. Another just added 20+ minutes to his already one-hour commute.

Anyway, lots of change in the wind, but most of all I’m glad to still have a good job with a great employer. And as for our family’s location? For the present, still in Salt Lake. Come visit!

Zion’s Camp 2009

»  mark    18 Aug 2009 @ 00:51    

For the 5th year in a row, I had the privilege of joining the brethren of the Wilson Ward on an overnight camp last weekend. This year, Elijah and I traveled with the small group to Little Deer Creek Campground, about 40 minutes southwest of Heber. We had a great time and I desperately wish I had taken a few pictures.

It was almost not to be, though. We took a wrong turn at Cascade Springs, just 10 minutes from our final destination and went down what must have been a jeep trail, because it was rocky, uneven, and remarkably close to the edge of the flowing streams nearby. I remember our fearless leader had told us to expect a few large rocks in the road, but this was something else. Elijah, who had slept the hour before that, woke up from all the jolting, looked out the window and said simply, “This is the wong woad.”

Well, Bob Brown and I who were navigating the vehicle were beginning to come to the same conclusion. Of course, we didn’t take Elijah’s word for it. We waited until we had driven 5-10 more minutes and were about to give up on the camp. Then Bob offered a prayer, we took one more look at the map, and decided we needed to go in exactly the opposite direction.

From that point, everything fell into place and we arrived in camp shortly afterward. I was hoping to see some meteors that night as this is usually a pretty favorable time of year, but the stars mingled with clouds, and our barbecue dinner was greeted with a few sprinkles. But that didn’t damper our spirits too much. I found a piece of aluminum foil and pressed it onto Elijah’s head to make him a waterproof helmet that he quite enjoyed as he didn’t have a hood on his coat.

We got the tent up and slept very comfortably thanks to Reed Watson’s many kind gestures, including his own queen-size air mattress, which he pumped up for us to boot. I thought we slept quite well, as camping goes. So I couldn’t help smiling the next morning when I asked Elijah if he slept well and he replied with a totally straight face, “No, I slept vewy badwy.”

Unfortunately, we didn’t pack up the tent fast enough and were pounded by marble sized hail for a few minutes after breakfast. Thank goodness for the refuge of our fine car. In all, the camp was a success, Elijah was at his best, and I can’t wait to go camping again real soon to retrieve my glasses that I folded up hastily inside the tent!

Cool as a cucumber

»  mark    1 Aug 2009 @ 10:17    

Listening to my two sisters of the Northwest complain about the heat wave they’ve been having, I decided to lend some advice. You can’t use the tricks Dad perfected in Utah. Nay, those are desert-climate near-a-canyon techniques that depend on two things: it gets cooler at night, and there is some reliable air movement day or night.

Two summers in humid Korea (without A/C in any of our apartments) taught me a few different strategies for the sticky, miserable, can’t-sleep heat. The key is to forget trying to keep the apartment cool and focus on keeping yourself cool within it.

Three simple steps do the trick: First, sleep on a linoleum floor. Second, use a fan, constantly. Third, change your diet. I’ll elaborate.

Sleep on the floor
Don’t sleep on your bed! Too hot and mattresses hold in the heat. You’re going to want to sleep where it is the coolest in the flat: the floor. One of the blessings of Korean flats is linoleum; Works great for the heated floors in the winter and is cooler than carpet by far.

So take a thin sheet and throw it on the kitchen floor (most likely spot for space and linoleum in a typical American abode) so you don’t stick to it, take a soft terry cloth towel if you have to have a pillow, and sleep there. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it. After 2 years of that, I preferred the floor to my bed. I slept there the summer I got home from Korea and two of the three years I was single at college (granted that was carpeted floor, not linoleum).

Use a fan
Get a medium-size fan if you can find one and point it right at you from down by your feet or up above on a chair so it covers your whole body. This is critical. Don’t make it turn side to side to cover you because then you won’t get the even coolness that sleeping right in the wind provides. I found it best if it was aimed just at the tips of my toes (sleeping on my back) because then it would hit my face too. Leave it blowing all night. It won’t be cool, but the air movement and drone of the fan will help you sleep and it actually cools the sweat a little bit which will cool you.

Cold showers are helpful especially before bed and, if you can’t sleep, 2 AM. I didn’t like them at first, but when it gets hot and muggy, they start to become refreshing. Some sisters in the mission reported that they were more effective with your pajamas on, but I was never that miserable. A cold, drenched washcloth sometimes helps, but then you have to get up and re-drench it every hour or so.

Change your diet
Lastly, NO meat. According to Koreans, meat is harder to digest thus making your body work harder and longer and raising your body temp while it does. I’ll buy that. I notice a difference when I consume less or no meat for a time. This is somewhat difficult in the States because people like to barbecue so much in the summer. But you can get around it by eating salads, fruit, and vegetables, which are also quite prevalent at summer parties.

Stick with fresh vegetables and fruit whenever possible. Get the ones that require minimal cooking so you don’t have to heat the house. Fruits are especially good. They don’t stay in your body as long, are wonderfully healthy, help to keep you hydrated, and are so plentiful this time of year. They also work great as desserts. You can also consume more ice. Fruit juice in the ice-cube tray or watermelon cubes in the freezer are a nice cool-down treat and less calories (which means less body heat) than ice cream.

One natural outcome from eating more vegetables and fruit and sweating a lot is weight loss. Hey, it works for wrestlers!

I sympathize, I really do. Last resort, don’t sleep. Many people in Seoul camp out by the Han River when it gets so hot they can’t sleep in their apartments. Turns into a big party. Moral of the Story: If you are going to be up at night anyway, go socialize with other miserable people in the park.

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