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Italy trip 2011 – entry 2

La bella Toscana, if only the weather would stop getting in the way. It isn’t really that bad, early morning sunshine promises a beautiful day but shortly after lunch the skies are dark with intermittent drizzle but then it clears up somewhat by late evening just before dark for some nice sunsets.

Again we are braving the roads, this time in 4-wheels which opens up even more destinations but also provides less room to squeeze by on narrow streets and fewer places near Centro (center of town) where you are allowed to drive and park.

The narrow roads, fast driving, and other things we aren’t used to actually grow on you pretty quickly and, like most things you do when driving, begin to become automatic. The problem with having a car in Italy so that you can get to more places and on your own schedule, is that you want to go more places and you may never make it back to your hotel! By the time we made it back to Siena we were just desperate to find any place to eat, and it just so happened that the first place we found after parking ended up being some of the best pasta we’ve had so far on this trip (and that is saying a lot!) – freshly made spinach-stuffed tortelli with a savory pumpkin sauce, buonissimo!

Church on Sunday in Siena was great. We showed up and the branch president said that when he saw us he got excited that maybe a new family had moved in. There is a group of BYU students living here in Siena for the summer, and they are helping conduct music and other things, so the branch is happy to have some extra members for a time.

Next up, Firenze and shopping, which a member of the branch told Kerry to make sure I know about and to let her do some shopping to which Kerry responded: “Si, lo so!” because she has had that activity on her itinerary from the beginning.

Italy trip 2011 – entry 1

This and subsequent blog posts will be the very summarized version of events. For complete details feel free to inquire, but I don’t desire to be so exhaustive in this accounting. Instead I just want to touch on some highlights and share some images (higher-resolution images will be on the photo site once we return home).

Flying to Europe just isn’t all that fun. It has gotten better over time with better preparation and now with personal video entertainment systems on most aircraft and in-seat power for laptops/MP3 players. I should say, it isn’t all that fun if you aren’t in Business/1st Class, which most people are not. Regardless, we arrived in Rome early on Easter Sunday tired and with plenty of travel ahead of us to make it down to the Amalfi coast south of Napoli.

Flying to Rome

The Amalfi coast truly is as beautiful as everyone says it is, but being that the main draw are the communities that cling to the steep, rugged, coastline makes for a lot of walking up and down steep grades and lots of steps. It also makes getting around more difficult than other places in Italy. Choices are taxis/buses on narrow, winding, roads or boats/ferries between towns. And walking, did I mention the walking?

Edge of the town of Positano

Ischia is a little island off the western coast of Italy (closest major city is Napoli) and is about 4 miles across with its highest point being 2,519 feet above sea level at the top of an old volcanic mountain, Monte Epomeo. Here is my basic summary of Ischia: a beautiful little island that is best experienced on motorino (scooter). Rent 125cc or 150cc scooter and explore wherever the road takes you (except for the zona di traffico limitato, you don’t want to get a ticket).

With proper transportation and a little bit of hiking, it is possible to go from sea level to 2,500 feet in less than an hour and be rewarded with spectacular views and cooler winds.

In Italy (and most of Europe I presume), a Mini Cooper is a regular-sized car.

More updates will be posted as time and internet access allow. Ciao!

Beatiful time-lapse of nature and speed climbing

I highly recommend watching this video in full-screen to really appreciate it.

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

This one is just plain crazy, Ueli Steck solo-climbs The Eiger in Switzerland in 2h 47m!

Here’s a link to an article about the ascent: Speed climbing Eiger

What Star Wars was supposed to be

Not that all aspects of the Star Wars universe are all bad, but it is a far cry from what George Lucas set out to create back in the late 1970′s.

Here is a video someone created and posted to YouTube where many short clips from various old serials are cut together to create a fake preview reel for The Empire Strikes Back in the style that inspired George Lucas to create the original Star Wars (Episode IV – A New Hope).

After his movie made him and the studio so much money the direction for the subsequent sequels (and ESPECIALLY the prequels) drifter further and further from this style. Like I said, this isn’t all bad, but I think keeping this in mind provides some context for why the prequels ended up the way they did (to a certain extent).

George Lucas has stated in numerous interviews that when Episode IV starts you are meant to feel like you are being dropped into the middle of a story that you don’t have all of the context and explanations for, like missing the earlier episodes of a Saturday Matinee serial. He did this on purpose! So then as the sequels progressed and people became increasingly eager for more explanation, history, back story, world building, etc… George and the studio saw there was money to be made in telling a much more expansive story. The prequels are ret-cons and after-thoughts.

For people that love Star Wars (e.g. ME!) this is a great thing as we get to see more awesome technology and mythos and characters. But, for people that love Star Wars (e.g. me) we cringe when we have to deal with Jar-Jar and midichlorians and Boba Fett not dying in the Sarlac pit. I am unabashedly a huge Star Wars fan, I just have to focus on all of the great things that we have because of it (moviews, toys, video games, novels, comic books and graphic novels, costumes, story, environments, etc…) and ignore the admittedly very few parts that are annoying

BYU vs Utah Football 2009

I don’t really want to say much other than it wasn’t the greatest of games by either team, and BYU was lucky to get the win. But there is this event, and more specifically this image, to really capture the memory of this game.

Enjoy, or not, as your persuasion may be.

Tackling, youre doing it wrong

Tackling, you're doing it wrong

Workplace homogeneity

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Another link to a KBYU-FM Thinking Aloud discussion that is interesting and worth a listen.

You may have heard of this study that came out from research by a professor from the Marriott School of Management at BYU (together with another professor from Stanford University). In short, it says that diversity in teams is a good thing. For the purposes of this post diversity refers to variety of personalities, backgrounds, opinions, and/or approaches to tasks.

Though we may feel more comfortable when we work with individuals that share our background and/or point of views, those teams are not the ones that are likely to be the most productive. Having an “outsider” on a team forces everyone to be a little sharper, to question more, and in a selfish way strive to analyze decisions and actions in a more logical and less emotional way. Here is a bit of Adam Smith (invisible hand) at work in team effectiveness.

Groupthink is a terrible thing. Group-what? There are many examples in history of groupthink, my favorite (because it is so obvious how it happened, yet the consequences are not nearly as tragic as some military and political examples) is the Abilene Paradox. Human nature is to be accepted and validated. There is a reason we praise the thoughts and actions of the various types of pioneers (whether they be a covered-wagon type, or a new-thinker type). Those willing to branch out, leave comfortable dwellings (be they physical or scholastic), and do something different often succeed in bringing about new conditions, new realities.

The principles discussed in the study are applicable to our workplaces, churches, community groups, and even friendships and families. The study doesn’t say that there is inherently anything wrong with SOP (standard operating procedure) per se, but team diversity helps us to think more critically and evaluate decisions we make to ensure that we are in fact doing what is best.

One might wonder if you can have too much diversity, if there is a point where it becomes a hindrance due to lack of ability to find common ground and such, but that will have to be the subject of another study.

Roman persecution of the Christians

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The above link is an audio file originally broadcast on KBYU-FM (approx. 30 mins). It is a very interesting discussion about one specific topic, though it tangentially addresses a second one. I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it.

The primary topic is how often the Christians were martyred by the Romans (answer: not very often). The reason the Christian world believes that the early Christians were being martyred left and right by the oppressive Roman tyrants is largely the result of some propaganda and the fact that it was a desirable bit of mis-information (desirable by Christians as a rallying cry and for the “poor me” attitude) and the group who would have sought to clear up the misunderstanding (the Romans) was crumbling in upon itself and did not persist long enough to set the record straight. The offended (or affected, as you choose) group saw the benefit in not correcting this incorrect assessment of reality as time went on and so the oral tradition grew unchecked.

The topic that is touched on in a tangential way is the way in which we (collectively) remember history and how it is important to make sure that we don’t simply repeat hearsay as actual fact and to make sure that we consult recorded history as a means to maintain accurate perceptions of past events. I think about all the times we (collectively) claim history went a certain way and it is so widely accepted that we fail to feel the need to have or consult documented primary sources.

This is all the more true in our always-on internet connected twittering, facebooking, blogging society. We are able to spread information person-to-person much more quickly now (in the span of seconds and minutes rather than days, weeks, and months). Due to the amount of information we take in each day, events that happened only months ago begin to feel much further removed in the past and we rely on vague recollections of what we read from a text message or on a blog at one point. If we doubt our memory, we can search for the tweet or the facebook entry where we first read the new information, but how often do we consult accurate first-hand reporting of the issue at hand rather than what we read from some removed source?

Food for thought.

Summer Fun

We have been busy, or at least mostly Kerry has been busy, as far as vacations go. Pictures have been uploaded to the photo gallery.

In May we went to Zion National Park before it go too hot down there. That was a lot of fun, though maybe just about 1/2 a day too short. We hiked around, took many pictures of the amazing rock scenery, and just tried to relax from our typical routine.

Right after we returned from Zion National Park I finally took advantage of the paragliding lesson voucher that Kerry bought me for Christmas. It was quite a unique experience that I am interested in experiencing more of, though it can be a bit costly to get started (lessons & equipment). I have described my short flights as mostly akin to going down a zipline, the difference (and coolness) occurs when you catch a breeze and begin to actually rise a bit and slow down your forward speed – that is an amazing feeling, “whoa, I am actually flying now, not just falling in a controlled manner!”

In June, Kerry went with some of her cousins on a Carribean cruise. Kerry has been trying to talk me into going on a cruise for quite some time, so this was her opportunity to go do it and then see if she could improve her sales pitch to me – she had plenty fun, but hasn’t managed to get me any more interested in cruising.

Then came the 4th of July and then some camping with Angela & Co. Followed by Kerry’s trip to Disneyland with her family. I spent too many vacation days earlier this year snowboarding, so Kerry travelled solo again. Kerry reports that Disneyland was mostly the way she remembered it from when she was little (lots of fun) and seemed to be channeling her inner 8-year old during the trip (in a good way).

Tony graduated from BYU-Idaho in July, and since the whole family was coming out for the event, my Uncle volunteered to organize an extended family outdoor excursion. We met up in Stanley Idaho and then went whitewater rafting down the North Fork of the Payette River. We all had some fun, some adventure, and a little bit of sunburn. Kerry rode in a “round boat” and me and my dad each took an inflatable kayak. There was plenty of calm stretches to jump out and swim highlighted by some exciting class III-IV rapids that gave us plenty of adventure, even dumping me and my dad into some pretty exciting water (at the exact same point, even though we were in seperate boats no less).

Enjoy the pictures, and in case that incomplete story or more of the gory details you may hear from us has you worried about the risks of whitewater rafting, I found an interesting article from a medical journal that should help put things into perspective.

Big Rapids

Autumn is here

So Autumn is officially here. I like this transitional period we are entering. I’m not a fan of late Fall and by the time Winter has been dragging on I am ready for Spring and Summer, but there is just something unique and “circle of life-ish” to the beggining of Autumn.

Football, cooler weather, changing leaves, the approaching holiday season… good times.

Autumn Road

A couple of years ago Kerry and I went hiking around Sundance this time of year: Photo Album

Summer pictures update

I have recently posted up to the photo gallery a number of albums worth of pictures for some of the summer activities we have been up to in the last 6 weeks or so.

At the start of July Kerry’s family came out for the 4th and the Provo Freedom Festival (including the Stadium of Fire). Let’s just say that a stadium full of Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) fans was quite an experience, one that I hope to not have to endure again any time soon. We also went to a concert up at Sundance Resort where the Utah Symphony played, that was a great setting.

At the end of the month we went with Scott and Angela and kids to Uncle Jim’s cabin – Kerry couldn’t get over the wildflowers. I can get used to that kind of camping!
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