Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Executive Chef

Technology is crazy.  To quote the eloquent Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "bat crap crazy."  I mean, I can talk to my Xbox and navigate through screens using methods I still think belong safely inside a sci-fi book.  An iPhone can monitor your heart rate.  You don't even have to go to the bank to deposit a check (if you're a Chase customer... c'mon AFCU - get in that game).  We recently got set up so we can adjust our thermostat through an app linked to our home security system.  And to think faxes still amaze me. *shakes head in bewilderment*

So if it can do all that, I want this (and if it exists, please let me know):

Software Name: Executive Chef
Side Note: Of course I expended the mental energy to title my fictitious software.  And here's why I chose "Executive Chef."  Having watched at least a few cooking shows with my cooking-show-obsessed other half, I've observed that the head chef's job could be summed up as, "everything but the cooking."  And that's what I want my program to do.  But to verify my inclinations, I headed to Google with a quick search for "head chef."  It returned "Executive Chef," which I liked even better.  And, as you read on, you'll see that what I want this program to do very much resonates with the responsibilities of such.  ["spot problems and resolve them quickly and efficiently"  "delegate many kitchen tasks simultaneously"  "maximize the productivity of the kitchen staff"  " ensure that quality culinary dishes are served on schedule"  "modify and create new menus"  " perform many administrative duties, including ordering supplies and reporting to the head of the establishment" (]  Yep.  Executive Chef it is.
Step 1: Importing Recipes

Raise your hand if you consult a cookbook to find a new recipe.  Emailed recipe newsletters?  Pinterest?  Most of us are finding our recipes online these days, which often results in a great recipe that I forgot to bookmark and can never find again.

I want my recipes consistently formatted and indexed, but I don't want to have to do all that re-typing.  I figure if there are a whole bunch of free websites where you can paste a YouTube url and it will spit out a downloaded video in a variety of formats, I should be able to paste a recipe url and get a beautifully extracted recipe complete with ingredients, directions, and preparation time.  I also want the online picture and a nice little place to store the url so I can accurately give credit when someone compliments my cooking.

Step 2: Menu Creation

I want a click-and-drag interface that allows me to select from stored main dishes, side dishes, and vegetables to create weekly menus.  I want intuitive software that notices if I've planned beans three times this week or if every main dish features chicken.  I want it to kindly point these out to me and be easily ignored if I really wanted beans three times.  I want the software to learn from my choices so I can use its "auto" feature for the menu creation and have it create menus for me based on its knowledge that I usually pair "beans" with "fried pork chops" (they just look pretty together).

Step 3: Shopping List

Since all my recipes are in one format and the software knows my menu, I want to be able to just click over to the "Shopping List" tab and print out the list of all the ingredients I need.  But wait, that's only dinner.  I want to be able to bring up a list I've made of staple ingredients and click to add those to the list.  And if I choose to click the "reminders" tab, it will ask me questions preset like, "Does Adam have enough school snacks?" or "Do you still have plenty of Scrub'n'Bubbles?"  This feature should learn from me, too.  It should notice if I put cat food on the list every other month, and it should ask me nicely when it thinks I've forgotten.  Of course, I want the option to print my list or use the integrated App to check off items on my smart phone.  (Which I don't have... another thing for the wish list.)

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I want this list organized.  Not alphabetized.  Not grouped by food type.  I want to be able to select my preferred grocery store, select my route, and have it organize my items accordingly.  "Too much..." you think?  I don't.  If Google can do this...

...well, I think Google can come up with a grocerystoreproject, too.

Step 4: Recipe Display

Okay, the menus are created, the shopping is done, and now it's time to cook.  Assuming I've a tablet (I don't...), now I want to convert that to function as my cook book.  I want lots of display options.  Step by step, voice commanded?  That would be pretty cool.  Or maybe it would read out loud to me.  Also very cool.  I could settle for a regular display, provided that I had readily accessible conversion tables and substitution lists.  And when I'm done cooking, I want a button I click which tracks how many times I've made a certain dish.

Step 5: Fun Stuff

  • Want feedback from the fam?  Clicking the "dinner is served" button sends a survey to all the cellphones and/or facebook accounts of family members.  Make it again?  Scrap this one?
  • Reports - get reports on anything and everything.  How much butter you ate last month.  When you can expect to need to purchase toilet paper.  Data on who likes which recipes.
  • Suggestions - much like GoodReads or Netflix suggests books and movies you'd probably like, I want recipes suggested to me based on my likes and dislikes.
  • Integration - with Facebook and Pinterest for sure, but I'd also really like it integrated with the major online cookbook databases.
  • Social networking - shouldn't be a major part of the process, but I'd like to be able to have "friends" and see what they're cooking.  Share recipes, etc.
I know I present this somewhat in jest, but in reality, I am doing most of this by hand.  The recipe tracking.  The menu creation.  The shopping list with staples and reminders.  And it takes me so. much. time.  In all reality, if this software/site/app combo existed, I'd happily pay up to $100 to own it.  (I might unhappily pay up to $200...)  

So is anybody out there smart enough to create me my Executive Chef?

And - bonus question - what must have features have I left out?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Imagine me, circa 1991, lying on a trampoline with my cousin and cousin's friend, laughing as they try to get me to say words like "crap" and "shoot".  For real - those actual words.  They really just weren't in my vocabulary, and I felt (and sounded) ridiculously unnatural trying to use them.

By high school/college, that had changed, and I could pseudocurse with the best of them.  I've always been partial to the word "crap," using it when I forget something, drop something, feel stressed.  It's my go-to word, evidenced by the fact that Adam has adopted it.

I can't say I've never used the real curses.  A few friends who shall remain unnamed did encourage my occasional swear, but I'm pretty sure that's only because I sound ridiculous when I swear, and it makes everyone laugh.  I'll stick with the pseudos.

It's funny to me, though, how the pseudocurses morph over time.  Just as every generation comes up with new slang for "cool", there are also new pseudocurses that didn't exist when I was in high school.  At the top of the list: "Eff."

I'm pretty sure we said, "flippin'" back in the day.  At some point, that morphed to "freaking," its lazy cousin "frick" and the counterpart, "friggin'".  And now, common especially in LDS speech patterns, you'll hear, "Eff this," "What the eff?" as well as the adjective "effin'" and plain old exclamation, "Eff!".

I'm a late adopter of most fads, holding off until their just on the cusp of not being the thing anymore.  I don't know why this is, but it holds true for clothing, music, and apparently popular slang.  And it was certainly true of "eff."  It just sounds stupid to me.  And yet I've recently found the when I drop something or realize I have a ton of homework I just don't want to do, the word I think is, "Eff."

What happened to "crap?"  Well, that's still the one I say.  I'm not comfortable enough with "eff" to say it out loud all that often.  I mean, it's a freaking letter.  (Yep, just said freaking.)  If it wasn't for all the digital communication, I wonder if it would even have an adopted spelling.  Really, it seems quite silly as a pseudocurse, and I feel quite silly saying it.  Yet, I do.

And then there's the "it's not a curse because I used an acronym" curses.  LMAO or its stronger statement LMFAO.  Kirk uses these.  They're easy for me to avoid, because I don't usually even LOL.  I'm more of a "hahaha" spelled out kind of girl.  But they always seem to present some moral dilemma for me.

I say "Oh my gosh," all the time.  So I could legitimately text "OMG," right?  But I don't, because I worry that the person on the other end with think the other OMG, and I've caused them to take the Lord's name in vain.  And does the acronym take on its own, new meaning?  If I say LMAO, does it just mean "I'm laughing pretty hard here," or does the person on the receiving end deconstruct it to its whole-word parts, arriving at a curse I'd never have used out loud.

Oh, how 10-year-old Andrea would look at me disdainfully.  "You're far too intelligent to fill your sentences with meaningless fluff.  Try an adjective that actually means something," she'd say, laughing at her horrible attempts at using the word "dang" correctly in a sentence.

To which 30-year-old me says, "Eff that."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Review of Reviewing

Watching a show and analyzing what I liked and didn't like?  Yep, sounds like a typical trip to the theater to me!  That's why I was ecstatic when the Utah Theatre Blogger Association (UTBA) replied favorably to my application to be one of their reviewers.

It's not exactly a paid gig.  But I do get 2 free tickets to the show I review.  Translation: free date for me and my theater-lovin' husband.  Considering that tickets for Xanadu, my first review, ran for $10 to $24 each, I'll consider that adequate compensation.

But writing the review wasn't quite as easy-breezy as I'd anticipated.  Here are a few of my thoughts, post-review.

  • It's weird to take a notebook to a show, and it's really difficult to see what you're writing.
  • Paying such attention to detail made me feel like I missed out on the big-picture feel of the show.
  • Writing for a public site is much different than writing for my own blog.  In many ways.  Bigger audience, harsher critics, people who don't know and love me already.
  • Writing a critique knowing that the people you're writing about will read it = an exercise in balancing honesty with humanity.  I've been the actress waiting eagerly for the review.  It was different to be the one writing it.
  • I'm not accustomed to sending my work to an editor.  This was the most stressful part for me, especially since I thought I'd be getting an email back.  3 days with no email, and I finally decided to just check UTBA to see if they'd just run it.  They did, with not a single edit!  *phew*  That part will be less stressful next time.
  • I don't like coming up with a title.  It's one of my favorite parts on my blog, but it was really awkward for this.  My title was lame.  I wanted to use the word "Grand" in it, since that's where I saw the show, but decided that was probably overdone.  I wanted something that gave a nod to the show's content without being just plain stupid.  I went with a pretty lame title hoping maybe the editors would fancy it up.  They added "Grand," (should've gone with that), and it is still a lame title.
  • I thought my name was going to be posted with the review.  I've sent an email to see what I have to do to get to that level, because my ego demands seeing my name in print next to my review.  **UPDATE - they fixed it.  See what happens when you complain on the web?**
  • I'm anxious to do another!
And if you didn't already follow the Facebook link, here it is:

Monday, May 14, 2012

My First REAL Mothers Day

I'd planned to wait a few days, letting a bit of life cleanse our collective palates after the traditional outpouring of generic Facebook wishes that we each have a Happy Mothers Day.  But mine was so great, I just couldn't let it sit for a few days.

As with so many of my stories, this one has so many beginnings.  I tried to convince myself to start at the Sunday-morning moment when Adam whispered to Kirk, "Dad, you need to get up and help me make breakfast for Mom," for once sparing the details I seem to always indulge.  But I at least have to back up to Saturday night's bedtime.

Adam: "Mom, can you please stay in bed tomorrow morning?  I need to do a surprise for you."

Me: "Sure, that sounds nice."

Adam: "Oh, but Mom... could you maybe set my alarm so I don't wake up too late?"

Me: "Okay.  I need to be out of bed by 9:00 or 9:30 at the latest.  What time should I set your alarm for?"

Adam: "8:30.  But can you set it to radio so it doesn't freak me out?"

I tried to set it to radio, but as an old discarded alarm, it's pretty finicky and I had no success.

Me: "I'm just going to have to set it to the beeping, but I'll try to turn the volume down.

Adam: "Ok.  Oh, Mom... can you just try it right now so I can see if it's going to freak me out?"

So I set the alarm for 9:08 and we waited for it to buzz.  It turned out that I couldn't control the volume.

Adam: "Could you try plugging it in across the room?  Then it won't seem so loud?"

I denied that request but suggested stretching the cord as far as we could and setting it on the floor to let the carpet absorb some of the noise.  Deal.

Adam: "Oh, actually, Mom, could you set it for 8:10?"

So with alarm set for 8:10, he went to sleep.

At this point I suppose I should return to telling the story of Mothers Day, but I have to back up a bit more to a family party earlier in the day.

Grandma Fife: "Adam, are you going to get up and make breakfast in bed for your mom tomorrow?"

Adam (dripping with the annoyance of a surprise nearly spoiled): "I can't tell her if I am or not... that would ruin the surprise."

And to the previous night...

Adam: "Oh, Mom, on Sunday, can you please not get out of bed for a little while?"

Kirk's Dad told our nephew that Mothers Day is not wife's day.  It is not a day when the dad is supposed to spoil the mom, but a day for the kids to get to say thank you.  In that sense, this truly was my first Mothers Day.  It was the first time that one of my kids grasped the idea all on his own and went out of his way to make it special.

With Daddy's supervision, he made my eggs.

He was the ringleader and tray-holder of the procession into my room.

 In addition to breakfast, I got a great card Alex made at school, and an adorable Pickle lying on my pillow.

Even with Adam stealing the Mothers Day show, Kirk did a pretty awesome job.  It's nice to have a husband who religiously reads my blog, because he knows about this, this, and helped me accomplish #33 on this.  What better gift than a well-loved, stolen-from-the-library (he paid the replacement fee) copy of The BFG to start my used book collection?

And, knowing I'd want to blog about it, he documented the whole morning.

I'm kind of liking this whole REAL Mothers Day concept!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Makes a Home?

Due to some road closures, Adam and I ended up taking a different route home from school yesterday.  Fairly confident I could get us through my old neighborhood without too many wrong turns, I chose Wakefield Way as our alternate.

"Do you want to see where Mommy used to live?" I asked him.

"Sure.  Did I ever live there?"

"Nope.  Mom lived here when she was just a little girl.  Like your age."

"Did Aunt Michelle live there?"

"Yep."  (But if he'd asked, "Did Jack live there?" that answer would have been no.)

I tried to think of some great story that happened while I lived in that house, something by which I could define an era, but I quickly realized I could think of very little.

I had a birthday party once.  I sat at the kitchen table making stained glass trinkets with a few neighborhood friends.

I stepped on a nail when my dad was finishing the space above the garage.  It went through my white Keds shoe and right into my foot.  I had to get a tetnus shot.

My sisters and I turned the basement into a school room.  I gave them homework and kept grades and everything.

And that's about it.  The rest of my memories of that time period happened elsewhere.  School.  Friends' houses.  Dance.  Piano.  Church.  Arizona or Idaho.  The 215 and I-15 from Kearns to Sandy.  It seems very little of my life actually had to do with home.

I guess for me, home has always been that place where you keep your stuff, where you rush in for a meal and a bit of respite with your family, where you sleep.  Home is for relaxing.  For breaks.

But when it comes to living, to making memories, it seems like I usually did that somewhere else.  And at first, I thought the connection to "adult me" was all too apparent.  Some of my favorite memories with the kids are of camping, vacations, moments at school, performances, rehearsals, time spent at the park.  It's true that I like being on the go.

(Thanks, Google Street View for a picture of my own house. )
But I can also look and see that I've managed to form plenty of memories within the walls of this home.  This is where all my babies learned to walk and talk.  This is where our friends come to play games.  This is the home we've shared with various friends and family.  This is the home I've painted and decorated and repainted and redecorated.

Yes, it's still a dropping point for me.  Yes, I'm still usually anxious to get back out there.  But I'm grateful to have so much more than just a house.  I'm grateful to be home.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Odd Combination

Reading Ender's Game this week already had me thinking deep thoughts about agency.  There's a passage in there that says something to the effect of "people are free until humanity needs them."

Okay, I just had to look it up and get it right.  From page 35:
 "Human beings are free except when humanity needs them." 
I was pretty close!

Well, that quote and the subsequent pages during which 6 to 10 year old Ender fights for the good of humanity with little choice in the matter got me to thinking a whole slew of rambling thoughts which I convinced myself had no place on digital paper.

And then I had the chance to attend the temple twice which incited my usual curious thought regarding Adam and Eve.  It's a triviality which doesn't affect my faith or testimony and one which I assume I really won't get in this life, but which still rattles around in my brain from time to time.

I get why Adam fell.  It's in the scriptures, and I'm pretty okay with the "that man might be" explanation.  But the why behind Eve's fall has always kinda bugged me.  And the resurfacing of that rattling question plus this week's rambling thoughts from Ender's Game just made for an odd combination which resulted in my inability to neglect said rambling thoughts.

So here they are, the inner workings of my brain which I truly have no desire to sort out (so while many and varied opinions are welcome, please resist the urge to offer finite solutions):

When it comes to the big, history-defining choices, were those people really free?  I mean, take Joseph Smith for example.  Could Heavenly Father afford to put someone in that position unless He knew, I mean really knew what choice he'd make?  And if there's truly only one possible outcome, and Joseph was at that point a cog in the plan, is there really choice?

Maybe some of that choice happened before we got here?  Maybe there were some things that Heavenly Father knew just had to be done, and maybe there was some huge sign-up sheet.

In the book, people were able to use Ender for good because of a specific set of personality traits.  Is that how Heavenly Father is able to put certain people in the right place at the right time?  And if so, how does that affect the concept of agency?  I mean, yes, I know we always can choose, but I think we're all predisposed to make certain choices and when faced with certain situations we can be counted on to act pretty predictably.

Take my mom for example.  She sees the world in straight up right or wrong, black or white.  I think Heavenly Father can pretty much put her in any situation and know she's hardwired to pick "right."  I think that makes her a pretty effective tool.  Much better than I am, seeing all the shades of gray and being much more likely to choose a few degrees to the left.

So when He chooses her, and she chooses right, I think maybe the world becomes a little less random.  Which leaves me to wonder how many, if any, strings He actively pulls.  Does He put the Hitlers in place, or is that randomly generated by the aggregate poor choices of the world?  Does He pave the way for the good?  For the bad?  Or are we a world left truly to our own agency?

Are some of us more free than others, with maybe a little more generalized plan for life on earth?  Do some of us get the instructions, "be good... endure to the end" while others are sent here with a more specific agenda?  Are human beings only free unless the Lord needs them?

I think maybe I'm thinking of "free" as something a little different than "free to choose."  In every circumstance we get to choose our actions and reactions.  But we don't get to choose the consequences, and maybe that's what makes the good people a little less free.  Good people can see that good choices end in good results for themselves, for their families, for humanity, or maybe even for the broader purpose of God's plan.  While a lesser person might have seen a difficult choice between persecution and peace, I think Joseph Smith saw the big picture.  And knowing how great that big picture was, how could he not make the choices he made.  Are good people, just because of their goodness, limited in their range of choices?

"Human beings are free except when humanity needs them."


Friday, May 4, 2012

When Thirty-Four is Cool

I've been thinking this week about the first cool thirty-four year old I ever knew.  Take note of the careful wording there, because now that I'm only a few years away from that age, I know tons of cool thirty-four year olds.  But back when I was nineteen, and thirty seemed a lifetime away, Keeley Watkins was in many ways my idol.

When dropping out of college led me to the receptionist's desk at Mansell and Associates, I got to work as part of a small, three-person office staff consisting of nineteen-year-old me, Sharon (whose age never occurred to me, but who I always stuck in a "grandmother" type category), and Keeley.

Sharon's smokey voice and insistence on placing a piece of tape between my eyebrows to discourage me from furrowing my brow are two memories I'll always carry from Mansell.  And now I even have the wrinkles Sharon didn't want me to get - which prove her tape really made no difference.

But when Keeley was hired, the office had a whole new sort of energy.  She seemed to be friends with everyone.  With Sharon.  With the agents.  And even with me, which I thought was crazy since there was a fifteen year span between us.

Keeley was all fun all the time.  All I saw was smiley, energetic, and fun, and somehow I didn't seem to put two and two together that she was also frequently late for work, unreliable, and inefficient.

Keeley had just recently moved to Utah, so I was her first real contact with a bona fide Mormon.  She'd ask me all sorts of questions phrased in borderline sacrilegious ways, honestly curious but afraid to seem interested.  I loved to answer Keeley's questions, and it was always weird how I felt like the adult in those conversations.  I worked up a tolerance for the curse words that were never far apart in Keeley's vocabulary and honestly learned to start accepting people as they are.

And so it is that when I think back to receiving my temple endowments, I think of Keeley.  I remember the week leading up to the big day was full of questions I felt under-qualified to answer mixed with frequent teasing about having my special bag all packed and numerous references to my "Jesus-jammies."  But even though she teased, I could tell she knew it was important to me, and in her own quirky way, that made it important to her.  I remember packing up my things from work that day to head off to the temple, leaving Keeley behind to close up shop.

I wish I could say I remember other specifics about such an important day, but I really don't think I do.  I remember some feelings.  Like extreme concentration and worry that I was going to miss something important.  I remember the comforting feeling of knowing that my mom was right next to me and that she wouldn't let me look like an idiot.  I remember thinking that my best friend Emilee looked just like a pioneer.

But the strongest memory I have is of feeling that with all the things Keeley had going for her at thirty-four, I was ready to accept the blessings the Lord had in store for me, and in that way I was passing her up at only nineteen.  I felt sad that for all of Keeley's outward joy, I knew she didn't have what I had.

Keeley didn't stay with the company much longer.  The chance to replace her opened the door for my love of marketing and design, my story took off on its own trajectory, and I haven't thought much of Keeley. But as I was able to attend my friend Skyler's endownment session yesterday and as I tried to remember anything momentous from my own occasion, I remembered Keeley.

I thought about how I idolized her.  How I hoped to be cool and pretty and energetic when I was her age.  In some ways I am kind of like Keeley, but I realize now that none of the things I saw in her were the things I really should have been striving for.

If I reach thirty-four and can still be considered at least sort of cool and still have at least a fraction of my energy, I'll be thrilled.  But I hope there's more to me than fun.  I hope there's some evidence of something in me that someone might see and think, "I want that."  Even better would be if by thirty-four, I have the courage to say, "You want to know why I seem so happy?  It's because my Heavenly Father loves me, and He has a plan for me..."

I'm glad Keeley set the standard of "cool" so high, and I'm glad Heavenly Father has set the standard even higher.  Here's to hoping I can reach it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another Small Success

Dear Mrs. Fife,

I'd like to thank you for accepting me into the theater class.  I had a wonderful time.  With your choreography, the stage and actors lit up with excitement.  The moves were very fun to do.  I looked forward to seeing what new moves you'd come up with for a song.  I love your creativity in coming up with the dance moves.  My favorite set of moves was "The Hop."  I think you'd win a dance competition, guaranteed!  I'll miss you when school is over but we'll see each other next yaer!  I loved after school theater with you and Mrs. Casdorph.  I can't wait for theater with you next year!  You've inspired me very much, and I think I will choreograph some dance moves myself when I'm older.

Keep on dancing!  I wish you and Mrs. Casdorph a very great, stupendous summer!


P.S.: I think you and Mrs. Casdorph have lovely singing voices!  Please tell Mrs. Casdorph I want her to have a good summer, too.  I love your moves for "Razzamatazz!"  See you in music!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dreamers of the Day

I saw this quote on facebook yesterday and instantly thought of my Alex.  If I didn't think the phrase "dangerous men" displayed prominently in his room might freak him out a bit (and if I could afford all the vinyl...), I would display it on his E.A.C. wall just like this:

Not to remind him.

To remind me that this kid is capable of conquering the world if I'm willing to let him.  
To remind me to raise him up to be a Captain Moroni kind of dangerous.  
To remind me to empower his dreams and to encourage him to make them possible.