Friday, October 26, 2018

Launching into a driveway...

Grandpa's bad rocket
Cael's good rocket
Marc's newest thing with the grandkids is rocket launching. He likes watching their reactions when the rockets take off, fly high into the sky and then float down again with the parachute fully deployed.
The only problem is the rockets — depending on the weather, the wind, the craftsmanship and the battery power — are unpredictable.
You never know for sure if, at the end of an enthusiastic countdown, the rocket will sputter and shoot off or if it'll just sit there, disappointing the crowd and the builder.
My brothers launched rockets when they were younger and my oldest son today puts on little shows for elementary school classes.
I remember my dad trying to help insure a successful blast-off by wiring the rocket to the car battery.
We had rockets that took off into outer space never to be seen again.
We also had a box full of pieces left after the rocket blew up or simply came apart for no apparent reason.
So when we took 5-year-old Cael to the park for a rocket launching we knew it was a gamble.
We had just spent part of a day in northern Utah where we had two brilliant launches and two complete duds for unimpressed grandchildren.
This was a chance to figure out what went wrong.
We headed to the park by a nearby elementary school. The sun was out. The winds were calm.
We handed Cael a green and yellow rocket and showed him how to press the ignition button on grandpa's command.
We taught him the countdown procedure. 10-9-8... and we were a "Go!"
The rocket took to the sky and looped over a little to the west. The parachute deployed and Cael and Marc ran over to catch it.
Success. Easy Peasy.
But the next try didn't go as well. The pretty little red and yellow rocket refused to lift off.
Marc tried new igniters. He adjusted the launchpad and wiring. He cussed.
Cael got restless and started looking over at the playground equipment nearby.
Then Marc decided to try a fresh battery and that worked!
The rocket flared and flew way up high, so high it couldn't be seen for a few minutes. Then it came down, fast and straight with no parachute out and no way to stop it.
It appeared to head into the nearby yard so we trooped over to find it.
We peered through the holes in the fence and into the trees.
We couldn't see it.
We walked around to the street and the house's front yard. I wrote a note explaining our plight and Marc stuck it in the door.
Then I saw a few pieces of red rocket on the side driveway.
It had a broken nosecone and part of the body blown out. (Apparently the engine was too big or Marc had forgotten to pack in the wadding. He swears he remembered.)
Back at the launch site we discovered a hole burnt into the metal launch plate. Wow.
Marc and I discovered a new appreciation for science and its rules.
Cael decided it's important to back the "good" rocket!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A fit bit fit...

British Airways has earned back my respect, though it took a while.
We were on our way back from Spain when we ran into trouble.
We were in a long, long line waiting to check in on Iberian Airlines (one of their partners).
A harried-looking man was working the line and didn't seem to be having a good day.
By the time we got to him, his patience was gone.
He looked at us, at our tickets and waved us away.
"You need to go to British Airways," he said and shut down his desk.
We trudged about 10 feet over and go into another long line.
It was getting late for us as our connection flight was going to board in about 15 minutes.
We got to the front of the line again.
There was the same unhappy man.
He glanced at the same tickets we'd shown him earlier.
He looked at me and my luggage.
I had a cute little red suitcase I had bought just because it was small and guaranteed to fit in the overhead bins.
"You'll have to check that!" he said curtly.
I started to protest.
"Go see if it fits," he said, indicating a baggage cage a few feet further over.
I picked up my case and started to fit it in.
"No! The other way," he said.
I turned it around. Pushed it. Looked at him for mercy.
He put his hand out for my credit card and charged me 75 euro which translates to about $85 in US dollars.
I didn't have time to argue further so I let him take my little case (which had thus far made it from the United States to England and from England to Spain and back without incident).
I fumed though, especially as I watched passengers board with really big carry-ons.
I'm known for being a problem customer so when I got home, I took care to keep track of my receipt and contacted British Airways.
I explained that I felt I was treated unfairly and needed some redress if I was ever to travel on their airplanes again.
I got the boiler plate replies: "This is our policy." "We have to treat everyone the same." "We can't make an exception."
I seethed.
I wrote again and pointed out that my little bag is within the required dimensions and we were flying internationally so we had one free bag allowed.
Again, the polite "We're sorry" replies.
Finally there came one that said basically, "Fine. Send us your routing number and the name of your bank and we'll see what we can do."
Then radio silence.
I figured I had taxed the PR person's patience beyond the limit.
I kept up my campaign however, advising them that I would not travel on their airline ever again.
I could see a $25 or even a $50 fee but $85?
I didn't see why I should pay for the guy having a bad day.
Today I received an email that said they would be returning and depositing my $86.16.
Only three months and 15 emails later.
I win.
I think.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Marry in the park...

The three raccoons that tripped along the road toward us were right at home in the park where the wedding reception was.
The rest of us were somewhat uneasy being in the middle of nowhere after dark.
Marc had accepted the invitation to attend the wedding for a co-worker.
It sounded like fun at first. The ceremony was in one canyon and the reception was in another.
We like an adventure so off we went, gift in hand on a sunny afternoon.
We found the place next to a pretty little pond and took a seat.
The sun started to set as we waited for the groom to arrive.
Apparently the traffic on I-15 had slowed him down and he was a hour late by the time he showed.
(Good thing it was his wedding day and his bride-to-be didn't get upset.)
The ceremony started and it was sweet with tiny flower girls and ring bearer boys and plenty of romantic touches.
But it was nearly dark when it ended and we hadn't had dinner.
We hurried back over to a restaurant and then started to try and find the reception.
The invitation was clear: head to Exit 134 and turn left to a park in the woods.
We tried to do that but the road we took was dark and lonely.
Marc figured we had missed something so we headed back into Salt Lake.
He wondered if we had taken the wrong exit and felt bad for missing the chance to wish his friend well.
We turned around.
This time we carefully counted exits and made sure we were taking off on Exit 134.
We again found ourselves on the dark and lonely road into the forest.
We turned off into a entry point to consult our GPS.
A tiny sign bore the name of the park we wanted.
We started off down the road and turned and twisted for a while. We found a pavilion but it was not the right pavilion.
We got back in the car but not before some elderly people in the same parking area asked for our help in finding the wedding.
We wished them well and agreed to let them follow us if they wanted though we didn't know where we were going.
At the end of more unpaved, windy road, we saw lights and heard music.
We'd found it.
All was well though the trio of raccoons thought we were nuts.
I'm pretty sure I agree with them.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Evermore surprises...

Three years ago I interviewed Ken Bretschneider who had a crazy, ultra-expensive idea.
He wanted to invest millions of dollars and put tons of long hours into putting a fantasy/theatrical/reality amusement park together.
He had the land.
He had $91 million and plenty of interested investors.
He wanted to share his dreams.
Being a skeptical reporter who had heard lots of big ideas including one for a Six Flags/Disneyland-like Park in the same area, I wished him well but doubted whether he could pull it off.
I looked at the model and listened to the ideas he had, from a pirate treasure ship moored in a man-made lake to the   spooky woods full of magical, dark creatures.
It would be kind of like a Jumanji game come to life.
I came close to seeing the vision but it was so revolutionary and would take so much talent and money to make it real I couldn't totally buy into it. (This is even after I tried the virtual reality helmet and took a journey into The Void which was breathtaking.)
Nevertheless, I persuaded my editors at The Deseret News to run a story and a rendering.
And waited to see.
The months and years passed and I read a few stories about the success of The Void which was making money, news and waves.
I saw the ground broken at the site and construction start.
Bretschneider had a Halloween party on the grounds. It was lively and brought in a crowd.
I crossed my fingers for him.
Then my husband saw a notice about Evermore auditioning for people to be part of the scene.
He got a part.
We heard about an opening date.
We learned they were having a party to announce themselves and teaming up with Fan-X to create some buzz.
This weekend we bought a ticket to a soft opening on a night when my husband was not in the show so I could see for myself what it is.
And it is...different, quirky, magical, a little spooky and very adventurous.
There are lots of visual treats, plenty of creatures with stories to tell and agendas that require a little investigation.
It's a unique kind of venue.
We met vampires, witches, a dragon, an owl, zombies, gypsies and a great big king with a weird voice.
I bargained with a vampire to get information I needed to help a sick lad. I visited with a fortune teller, traded with a potion maker, successfully avoided a scary acolyte. (Didn't know what it was until my husband told me.)
It's like nothing I've seen before.
It's breathtaking.
I don't understand all of it. I think there's more going on than I know and I think I'd like to go again.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mini-Movie Reviews...

I'm pretty sure most of you out there value your money as much as I do.
So when it's spent on a lame movie, it's frustrating.
I'm going to try an experiment here and see if it works: I will post a mini-review of the movies we see and share what I think. If you find it helps you choose a good movie, I'll feel like I've made a mini-difference. If you disagree with me, that will be educational.
Here goes:

The House With a Clock In Its Walls. This is a dud and I can't understand why Cate Blanchett agreed to be in it.
It's all over the place with the plot and the actors don't have direction. The little boy is alternately scared and worried or unafraid of anything weird.
The house apparently has a secret in the walls but the things outside the walls are pretty odd.
This movie is either a dark comedy or a parody of something like The Munsters.
It just doesn't engage even after a dead guy breaks out of his grave and threatens to make a decent movie of this.
Skip it. Skip it and don't go there.

Crazy Rich Asians. Surprisingly entertaining this one. We went because we needed a movie fix and this was what was the most easily available. It's a trip through life with truckloads of money from first-class accommodations to parties decorated to the top of many towers. It's really lots of eye candy and for those of us who live in the real world, it's somewhat obscene. There's no limit apparently to what one can spend for a wedding the potential mother-in-law doesn't want and the simple economics professor didn't expect.
Here's one for the big screen because much of glitzy effect just wouldn't be nearly as effective in the family rooom.
It's also one not to take very seriously or it would be hard to come down out of the sky to do the dishes.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Good Story...

Donald Davis is a Master Storyteller

Karen Ashton
Almost 30 years ago, Karen Ashton began to try and bring storytelling to Utah County. The wife of WordPerfect founder and successful businessman Alan Ashton, Karen had discovered festivals dedicated to sharing all kinds of stories: stories with heart, humor, history, fantasy and reality.
She offered her backyard for the first festival and put together a committee who worked tirelessly to create a local venue for magic.
That first festival drew a couple of thousand people.
The 2018 Timpanogos Festival brought in more than 10,000 on the just the two Laughin' nights alone.
The tellers come from across the nation and across the ocean including longtime favorite Donald Davis (who tells stories from his childhood in North Carolina and from his lifetime of experiences from riding a mule down the Grand Canyon to standing beside his beloved wife Merle as she succumbed to complications of rheumatoid arthritis), Kevin Kling's witty descriptions of watching a Demolition Derby with his mother's Chevy Nova in the competition, Bill Harley's recounting of a T-ball season and Irish teller Clare Murphy's vivid tale of three women trying to make fools of their husbands for free rent.
Kevin Kling
Dovie Thomason brings her stories of animals, Apaches and the modern-day trials with the TSA ("It's my dog. His name is Rex," she said when the TSA agent wondered why she had a coyote skull in her suitcase).
Each is a master of words, of gesture and of expression.
There's no easy way to describe what the festival is.
I've tried for years as I've written advance stories for the Deseret News.
It's been somewhat frustrating as there's really no way to convey how it works and what happens without somebody actually being there.
I felt better when one of the tent hosts said she never could explain it either.
It's magical, real and unique.
After two days hosting and helping make sure people found their way into the story tents this year, you'd think I'd be weary of storytelling.
But, actually, I came away Saturday night marveling at the complexity and simplicity and creativity of the human spirit.
I realized that as different as the stories were, there was a common thread.
Every story and every teller recognized the value of people, the value of sharing experience and laughter and life.
They celebrate making and learning from mistakes.
They revel in falling in love and the triumphs that come from surviving mishaps.
A storytelling festival is art, reality and tremendous warmth.
I wholly recommend it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Close your eyes...

The sand and the see
When we asked the lady at the hotel desk for directions to a nearby beach, she wanted to know if we wanted a "Barcelona beach" or a good beach.
We wanted a beach in Barcelona where we were, of course.
We did not want to board a bus or train to a beach far away and we couldn't see anything wrong with the beach right in front of us.
It had pleasant sand, warm blue water, boats going by and plenty of sun.
We couldn't see any problems and we were totally enjoying ourselves in the water and on the sand.
It was also crowded but not too.
Many of the locals had left the city for cooler places during the hottest part of the summer.
We had brought water and snacks and towels and hats.
We laid back and relaxed.
"Oh, I see the problem," Marc said after a minute.
I looked around.
The guy in front of us seemed fine except for the fact that he wasn't a guy but actually a lady without a top.
And she wasn't alone in her world.
Apparently in Spain the stores don't sell tops with the swimsuits.
At least the ladies around us didn't have any.

Not a problem...just keep your eyes and mouth shut.