Sunday, June 29, 2008


I think I might start collecting propisms. I'm using the word propism to designate a malapropism that turns out to be not so "mal"-- that is, in some way maybe more appropriate than the intended word. For example, tonight I asked my son to aldentify the pasta.

My favorite so far, for those of you from the same religious community as I, is "steadfast and removable." That describes me. Removable as in replaceable. As in, "Johnson, you go in for Williams. Williams, siddown. Better yet, go take a shower."

I like to think of my self as steadfast and removable. I'm on God's second string team, going in now and then to give the starters a rest. Good place to be, on the bench, watching the first-stringers work their magic. Keeping the bench from floating away.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Icelandic Karaoke

Well, another Iceland Days celebration has come and gone. This one had several high points:

1. A talk by a native Icelander about how to get along when you visit Iceland. Among the tips: Bring plenty of money, don’t try to drive yourself in Reykjavik, let someone at the hotel know where you’re going before wandering off to explore, and for heaven sakes take a real shower before entering a public swimming pool. Where were you raised, a barn or something?

2. Pönnukökur, or Icelandic pancakes, which are getting to be a family favorite. They are thin pancakes sort of like crepes or what my mother called Swedish pancakes, but of course Icelanders will tell you they are really much better, especially their grandmother’s recipe.

They are traditionally cooked in a special pönnukökur pan which can be obtained by mail order for 90 Canadian Dollars (remember that hint about lots of money?) but they are good, filled with strawberry-rhubarb preserves and whipped cream and folded in quarters. Just Google pönnukökur and you can find a recipe. Use any pan you’d cook crepes in.

3. Kleinur, or Icelandic donuts. They are fried and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. At least ours were. Pretty good.

4. Pylsur, or Icelandic hot dogs. Very much like American hot dogs, but made with lamb in addition to beef and pork. I like the way they were smoked, but they reminded B of the smoked sheep’s head we had at Thorrablot, so she didn’t care for them. We had ours with mustard and French-fried onions.

If you order one in Reykjavik, ask for pylsur “eine með öllu,” that is, “one with everything.” (And by the way, thanks to my recent linguistics class, it is easy to see the relationship between “eine með öllu,” and “eine mit alles” or some similar German phrase.) Then you will get one with ketchup, remoulade, French fried onions and mustard, and sometimes raw onions.

5. Ever notice how many of my “high points” deal with food?

6. We sold a lot of Icelandic paraphernalia, including rune pendants and imported ceramic dolls in native costume. My favorite was a book about Viking warfare. We still have one baseball cap left; let me know if you want it.

7. Of course, the highest high point of all was my entire family singing Smaladrengurinn, an Icelandic folk song about a shepherd boy and his sheep. It is a testament to the power of Icelandic folk music that my entire family was up there, singing in public. As I pointed out to the audience, the family that sings Icelandic folk music together could very well be up there on stage next June instead of us.

All in all, a very satisfying Iceland Days. Sjáumst!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parents of the Year? Nah.

OK, we're probably not the world's best parents. It has recently been brought to our attention that all four of our children can pinpoint the exact day that they had the argument.

It started innocently enough. Really, it was just a joke, but one that served our purposes as parents. One night when I wanted to convince my oldest daughter to take a bath, I told her that she had to scrub between her toes to get rid of the toe spiders. See, I had this vision of it being so long since she took a bath that the spiders had built webs between her toes. Sort of my version of my mom telling me that my ears were so dirty she could plant potatoes in them.

But she believed it, and toe spiders passed into the pantheon of imaginary entities of our children's world: the Jellybean Fairy (who was sometimes discovered to have left a jellybean in Dad's office during the next visit, and who later lost all restraint and started leaving them all over the place), the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy, and so on. As with other members of the pantheon, occasional expressions of doubt about toe spiders were met with the embellishments and excuses necessary to keep the story plausible. They're pretty small; you're keeping your toes clean enough that you don't have any now. Any little unidentifiable speck between the toes could be a bit of web, you never know.

To be honest, it occurred to us that if this belief went on too long, say, into the upper elementary grades, it could prove to be a social liability. But we felt that, like the Jellybean Fairy, toe spiders would have the good grace to just fade away when the time came.

But no. As it turns out, each of our children told us, some months or years after the fact, that they had had arguments -- serious arguments -- with good friends about whether or not there were toe spiders. They all lost, of course. And eventually they realized that their parents were liars. I think they've all accepted it as a character flaw that isn't entirely our fault: we probably can't help ourselves. But we notice they look at us with funny expressions when we tell them they actually need to file tax returns every April 15, or that it takes 30 years to pay off a typical mortgage. You can see them thinking: Is this another one? If I tell this to someone else, will they laugh in my face?

So it's our fault that our children had these difficult and somewhat embarrassing exchanges with their friends. But we couldn't help but laugh a little -- actually, a lot. It didn't help our case much.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Man's Feast

Perhaps I am not a man of passion. I know some. A friend of mine since childhood is passionate about guns. Growing up in a small town in eastern Utah, I’ve done my share of shooting tin cans and old pop bottles with BB guns and .22's. Old toilets are best to shoot with .22's, of course, because they break apart in such a satisfying way--but that’s another story. I’ve even gone to the shooting range with my friend a few times and tried my luck with his .45 and his .357 (do you own a .357? Forgive me: I can’t remember). It was fun. I can understand the appeal and appreciate the skill involved. I hope to go to the shooting range again sometime. Heck, I might even enjoy skeet shooting if I ever tried it.

But I don’t love guns the way my friend does. I don’t love the feel of them. I can’t get the same pleasure out of just holding them and field stripping them and oiling them and reading about them that he does. I don’t fear them, and I’m somewhat inclined to think that if guns are outlawed, well, you know the rest. But they just don’t interest me enough to keep any around, or learn how to use them safely. So I don’t own a gun. (Criminals please note: Not really. I have a loaded M1911A1 with semi-jacketed hollow points by my side at all times.) (Local Police please note: Just kidding.) (Maybe.)

And of course, I own a bicycle, and I enjoy riding it. I was one of the first three kids in my town to have a ten-speed when I was growing up. Granted, mine came from Western Auto and was not as cool as my friend’s Schwinn Varsity. Nor did my brother give me a box full of parts and force me to clean and assemble my own ten-speed, as happened to my other friend. But the point is, I was an Early Adopter (that almost NEVER happened to me when I was young, so I like to dwell on that whenever possible), and I’ve been riding and shifting and getting my chain caught between sprockets and swearing and adjusting brakes and fixing flats and kicking at dogs for a long long time. Today, I own a 17-year old Trek mountain bike. I can appreciate the difference between it and my old Western Auto, and I’m sure there are bikes out there that would be a lot smoother and lighter and more wonderful than mine. I would probably enjoy them even more than I do my Trek. Still, the Trek gets me everywhere I have guts enough to go.

But again, I’m not passionate about it. I don’t own a single pair of black spandex shorts (or whatever new miracle fiber they’re made out of these days) or any special racing-style jerseys. I can go on a Saturday morning bike ride without having to look like Lance Armstrong. My neighbor, a real bike enthusiast and participant in numerous races, once told me he wouldn’t let a bike shop touch his bike – he did all the repairs himself. I not only let them touch it, I pay them good money so I won’t have to. I can’t imagine a possible universe in which adjusting my own shifters would be that important to me.

And of course, there’s my canoeing friend. I’ve been canoeing exactly once. It was a gentle and peaceful float along the Wisconsin river. I got the worst sunburn of my life and had a really wonderful time. I can easily imagine doing it again. I think it would be great to take a canoe down a wide, slow river, listen to the water and the wildlife, and just take a day away from the existential hum of daily life. Very appealing.

Of course, I can’t imagine doing it enough to justify owning my own canoe, nor can I imagine getting anywhere near the Class V rapids that my friend would likely find so appealing.

All I can say is, my life is never going to even vaguely resemble a Mountain Dew commercial. My friends will have to take all my adrenaline hits for me, and welcome to them.

So I am not a man whose passions for toys are easily stirred. If I could afford some four-wheel drive vehicles and the gas to operate them, things could be different. Even then, I suspect that my actual use of them would be far exceeded by my grand plans to use them. Someday, I hope to put it to the test. I’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time, I just want to make one last point: You can have my perfectly balanced high-carbon steel Forschner 8-inch chef’s knife with the Fibrox handle when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What Can Brown Do for You?

I really can't answer for you. But I can tell you what it does for me.

1. Gives me both a reason and a means of getting up in the morning.

2. Gets my heart rate in my "training zone" while I'm still sitting at my desk.

3. Connects me to my great grandfather Nephi, who loved Coca Cola.

4. Helps me survive Sundays, sometimes even without a headache.

That's what brown does for me. And I say, "God bless it."

PS. Also Mountain Dew.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Face of Jesus Appears on Local Girl’s Leg

A local girl recently involved in an airbag-deploying collision has been the center of attention in her neighborhood as the image of Jesus has appeared in a bruise on her leg. In the picture below the image of Jesus is clearly visible in the middle of her thigh.

For those of you less spiritually in tune, the second photo shows exactly where the image is located. As you can see, the likeness is uncanny.

Local political leaders are studying the phenomenon to see if there is any way to turn it to their advantage.

When asked about the heavenly sign, the girl said, “I knew it was going to be a good bruise, I mean, really color up and everything, so I was pretty excited, but I never expected this. My Mia Maid class will be sooooo jealous.” She also commented that she thought it was a sign that “Jesus wants us to ride around in cars with boys; he’s telling us all that it’s OK. Also that I need a cooler cell phone.”

Her father was unavailable for comment.