Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pinewood Derby and Orchestra Concert

Tuesday night Will competed in his first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. A few weeks ago former neighbor Mike Burt used his expert woodworking skills (he helped build one of the podiums in the LDS Conference Center) to cut out a car shape designed by Will. Will then picked out the paint colors, sanded it and painted it. Dad pounded in the wheels.

Since all of the three wards that meet in our building have limited numbers of 8-10 year old boys, they have combined to form tri-ward wolf, bear and webelo dens. Thirty-six boys were there to participate. Cars came in all varieties.

When I served as bishop, the job of the bishopric was to come up with creative awards (during the racing) for each of the boys. Unfortunately we were not very creative. This time around, because of triple the amount of boys, the cars were weighed and turned in last week and then the scout leaders had the whole week to come up with awards and print them out. Will got the boldest design award.

Each car raced in four heats--one run in each lane. Will's red car is in the lead in the right lane. To the amazement of his dad, Will's car won the first three heats and took second in the fourth. Applying graphite lubricant to the wheels seemed to do the trick. The average time of these heats earned Will fourth place! Will is the second boy from the left in the front row of chairs.

Second heat win--Will's car in the the right track.

The next activity of the evening was attending the Springville Jr. High 9th grade Orchestra concert.

Sarah's favorite songs were the Irish folk song For the Star of County Down and the Korean folk song Arirang. Conductor Dr. Tsugawa explained how in orchestra class the students have learned not only the music but also something about the divided island of Ireland and the divided peninsula of Korea. The Irish tune had the cello players stamping out rhythm with their feet at one point followed by the violins doing a similar thing with pencils hitting their stands. During another section of the song, the whole orchestra swayed to the music while playing. It has been fun to watch Sarah's interest in the cello grow this year. She is also excited to have finally graduated to using a full size cello. Listen to the Irish tune here This is by another orchestra, but you can ear the beautiful cello melody Sarah plays at minute 2:45.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


It has been a cold January with a long yucky inversion. That hasn't kept us from being anxiously engaged in good things. This past week Will rediscovered the joys of bubble baths.

On Saturdays when he is not skiing, Joel (#13) continues to be the leading scorer for his indoor soccer team.

With Church meetings now from 9-12 on Sunday mornings we have enjoyed Sunday afternoon game time. Joel got Risk for Christmas. In this photo dad (yellow cubes) is besieged in the North American Southwest by his non-merciful kids.

For most of this past week, Marie was down for the count with a bad case of the flu. That left me as chief cook for dinner and morning sack lunch maker. To liven things up I used a different writing style each morning to label their sacks. First day I used balloon lettering that I learned from dad years ago, then shadow block letters that I learned in Mr. Jorgensen's fifth grade class and then finally Arabic that I learned in Arabic class at BYU.

Today the Spring Creek Stake held a Book of Mormon family activity day. Members and wards were encouraged to submit activities, displays, art work etc with a Book of Mormon theme. The Young Men in the Spring Creek 18th ward spend several of our Mutual nights creating a wall with Samuel the Lamanite prophesying on top. read the story here

The stones on the wall were decorated with favorite Book of Mormon scriptures for all of the young men and their leaders. Will joined in to help on Wednesday night (when Marie was sick) so he also got to add one of his favorites (that we read prior to his baptism).

Joel's favorite scripture from the Title of Liberty.

Chad and Will's favorite scriptures.

We made small bows and straw arrows for the children to try and shoot at Samuel. We had thought, but didn't, to have plexy glass in front of Samauel to deflect the arrows and stones (to make it true to the story) but instead every child tried to skewer the prophet! Oops.

The big hit was a reenactment of Lehi's Dream in which believers hold to the iron rod (the word of God) while being tempted and tormented by unbelievers in a "great and spacious' building" across the mist of darkness. read the dream by clicking here

While traversing the "strait and narrow path" and while holding on to the iron rod, we were further tempted by offers to sit on a couch and play X-box games, gamble for prizes and eat tempting treats (which we were later told were full of salt and pepper).

Eventually we made it to the Tree of Life (the love of God)  "whose fruit was desirable to make one happy."

Sarah and all of the Young Women in the ward made a pieced block replica of a poster of the Mother's of the Stripling Warriors. Sarah's block is first left column second up from the bottom.

Alma 56
 47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the aliberty of their bfathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their cmothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
 48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their amothers, saying: We bdo not doubt our mothers knew it.

The original poster from a set of scripture heros.

Three boys--one of them a soccer teammate of Will's- stood 2,000 tooth picks in rows to represent the 2,000 young men who were so well taught by their mothers. read the story here

The Primary children in the stake (including Will) all colored a picture of Jesus blessing the children.

The Stake Relief Society's contribution was to highlight the projects performed each week at the stake's humanitarian work center. Visitors to this display walked around the room filling up a plastic bag with hygiene items (toothpaste, soap, wash cloth etc.) found is baskets in front of wonderful Book of Mormon scriptures teaching us to take care of the poor. and to have charity. The completed hygiene kits will be donated to a local women and children's shelter.

Each kits even included a rubber ducky.


Lovely painting by Carl Bloch of Christ (the ultimate example of charity and compassion) healing a man at the Pool of Bethesda. 

It rained (isn't it supposed to snow in January?) all afternoon which happily is clearing out all of the haze and pollution. Joel and Sarah went to watch "The Hobbit" and Will and I went to watch "The Rise of the Guardians"--which was surprisingly good. The plot involves Santa, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, Jack Frost and Mr. Sandman trying to guard and protect children from the evil Boogeyman who wants to turn children's dreams to nightmares.  Believer Will loved it and was full of comments and questions on the car ride home. He even noted that the point of the whole movie was that we need to have hope and believe. Amen

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Indonesian Floods

Today was to have been a day of sunny and warm skiing at Brighton where we would escape the murky haze and below freezing temperatures of a long lasting inversion down in the valleys. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The last few days all three kids have been sick, Joel and Will with intestinal upheavals and Sarah with a high temperatures and an achy body (the Dr. today diagnosed it as the flu). While wanting to think that my climatic misery is really misery, I was reminded from Facebook photos and comments that friends in Indonesia are suffering in much greater ways. The annual January floods (banjir) are particularly bad this year.The Jakarta Globe photos and map below are of the recent flooding in Jakarta.  read more here

Seeing the photos brought back memories of my two flood seasons in Indonesia. I have written up one of those experiences for inclusion in my current book writing project on the history of the LDS Church in Indonesia. It goes as follows:

"I arrived in Indonesia in November of 1975 at the start of the rainy season. Some of the first words added to my limited LTM (Language Training Mission) vocabulary were very experiential: hujan deras (raining cats and dogs), payung (umbrella), bocor (leak in the roof) and bajir (flood). Initially the rains were mostly short lived afternoon thunderstorms, but by January they had morphed into what seemed like endless rain. Flat Semarang was no match for these rains and even the Dutch-built canals (now clogged with garbage, refuse and water lilies) could not channel the rains out to sea fast enough. For several weeks floods carpeted much of the city. This necessitated fancy maneuvers on the bikes: positioning the umbrella at just the right angle to keep at least the upper torso partly dry, dodging or riding out the big wakes created by passing trucks and buses, half peddling in an attempt to keep shoes dry (it didn’t work), and trying to determine in the sea of water where pavement ended and canals began.

"Elder Skousen was my companion. He was the sole missionary with a five-speed bike. The rest of us peddled one-speed, fat-tired, Phoenix brand green or black Chinese knock-offs. On Friday January 23rd Elder Skousen and I rode our bikes to an evening appointment with the Machsunun family in Kampung Sekayu Baru—just off the expansive tree lined main road called Jalan (Street) Pemuda. We entered the kampung (neighborhood) on dry walkways, but just as we arrived at the house it started to pour. It was then that we found out that the parents were at the hospital with a son who had been hurt in a motorcycle accident and so we were unable to teach a discussion. We thought to move on to our next appointment but decided it best to wait out the storm. After about an hour the rains did stop and so we decided to move on. As we walked out of the home into the yard we were greeted by a banjir of over a foot of water. I placed my bag with flip chart, scriptures and a film strip projector on the back book rack and rolled my bike out to the three foot wide walkway (gang) and prepared to ride off. As with most neighborhoods in Semarang, where sewage systems had not yet been installed, the gang was paralleled on both sides by dirt lined ditches that carried off both rain and refuse. However, under the rising waters these ditches were rendered useless and were no longer visible. I took the lead and climbed on my bike and started to peddle, but the cobblestones and flood waters threw me off balance. To keep from tipping over I put my right leg down. Down it went, but not onto the firm foundation of the walkway but into the muddy depths of the ditch which pitched me even more to the right. I quickly grabbed for a split bamboo fence to regain my balance but it collapsed with me into the waters. I went in up to my chest before regaining my stance. Luckily the projector was in a plastic bag and thus remained floating long enough for me to snatch it up. It was all quite entertaining to the members of the Machsunun family who were used to the annual floods.

'Realizing the futility of trying to ride our bikes out to safer cycling on Jalan Pemuda we started to walk our bikes through the water. I turned the corner from one gang to the next with Elder Skousen following behind. As he turned the corner he misjudged the width of the walkway and misstepped into an even deeper ditch hiding beneath the flood water. I heard a gasp and turned around in time to see Elder Skousen up to his waist in water. His ditch was deeper and muddier than mine. As he pulled his foot out I could hear the sucking sound of the mud trying to hold on to his shoe. The smell of the displaced sewage turned Elder Skousen’s face white. He knew what lurked down below and exclaimed that we had to get home quick. Once we reached Jalan Pemuda, five-speed Skousen set off at a record pace with one-speed Emmett lagging far behind. By the time I got back to the church/missionary apartment at Jalan Pekunden Timur, Elder Skousen was already enjoying the cleansing pleasure of a dipper bath (mandi). "

No photos were taken that night, but a few days later I took along my Pentax camera filled with Kodachrome film  to document the flooding. 

Here is Elder John Skousen with recently baptized Sister Suriyana and her three youngest daughters in front of their almost flooded home. Elder Skousen's five speed bike is on the left. My one speed bike with umbrella is on the right.

Here is the view from the front door of the Suriyana home--which was the highest home on the street. Most homes were inundated with at least a foot of water. I remembering reading in the newspaper that January about a woman in a similar flooded  neighborhood of Semarang who put her baby on a bed to nap and while she was in the next room cooking, the child rolled off the bed and drowned in the flood water. The people above are standing on the cement walkway between the two ditches that carried away the sewage. Good thing we had our cholera shots. The bamboo fence is similar to the one I took down with me during my tumble a few nights earlier.

The next January I was serving in Jakarta with my companion Elder Hardjiono (Charles) Tjan--one of the first local missionaries called to serve. One rainy/flooding morning we took the mission car (a small Toyota sedan) out on mission office business. We were able to circumvent the heavily flooded areas for most of our travels. It wasn't until we were just a few streets from the mission office that we met our match in this deeper than perceived intersection. I was driving and it looked no deeper than other roads we had traversed. But half way through the intersection, the deepening waters started to flow into the car through the car doors. The floor of the car started to fill up with water and then the engine stalled. Some helpful young men out enjoying some water fun volunteered to help us push the car back to the mission office. I then returned to the flooded intersection with Elders Sellers (who took the above photo) and Rigby (in the white t-shirt--he had been doing his midday exercising) to take some photos. I am happily waving as we helped the boys push a few other stalled cars on to higher ground. Notice the torso of the one boy who took a tumble into the water.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The joy of teaching geography to BYU freshmen.

Most semesters at BYU I teach a large section of Geography and World Affairs (World Regional Geography). Last semester I had a full classroom of 180 students and this semester I have a full classroom of 270 students. Most of my students are freshmen and many are taking the class to fulfill a GE requirement in global and cultural awareness. On the first day of class I give a map quiz for the fun of it. I ask questions like: label the largest Muslim country in the world (Indonesia), label by name the capital of Canada (Ottawa), label the Sahel region of Africa, label Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, etc. In explaining the answers to the quiz questions I always explain that Pittsburgh is located where the Allegheny (river on the left in the above photo I took years ago while in Pittsburgh for a Geography meeting) and Monongahela Rivers (right) come together to form the Ohio River--which makes it a great location for river trade.

Then over the next few days I refer back to some of these questions as examples of why learning geography is important and as examples of introductory geographic principles. I use the Pittsburgh question to illustrate how learning something about a place can have lasting benefits throughout your life in such things as finding a job, succeeding in your job, being a successful missionary or even in finding someone to marry. I explain how after my LDS mission to Indonesia it was always interesting to go on a first date and engage in a conversation something like this:

Her: "Did you go on a mission?"
Me: "Yes."
Her: "Where did you go?"
Me: "Indonesia!"
Her: awkward silence because she doesn't know where Indonesia is or anything about it to ask a follow up question.
Her: she is brave and asks: "where's that?"  followed by me explaining that it is the archipelago north of Australia and south of IndoChina and the Philippines which is then usually followed by awkward silence because she can't even picture such a place in the atlas of her mind. 

I then explain to the students how impressed I would have been if any of my many dates had responded to my answer of "Indonesia!" with something like: "Oh, was it hot and humid there?" (indicating that she remembered that it straddled the equator) or "Oh, isn't that the largest Muslim country in the world?"

I then ask the class it there are any students from Pittsburgh in the class (there seldom are). I ask that student or a hypothetical student, how impressed they would be if when on a first date the conversation went something like this:

Her: "Where are you from?"
Him: "Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."
Her. "Cool. Isn't that where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River!"
Him: thinking "Wow, I'm impressed. I think I may want to date her again."

It always gets a laugh.

A few years ago I received this e-mail from a student:

September 3, 2010

Professor Emmett:

I'm enrolled in your Geog 120 class and thought this would make your day. My ward had a speed dating activity this week and as fate would have it I ended up across from a young lady from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh of all places! Of course I said something like, "Pittsburgh--isn't that where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers merge to form the Ohio?" My "date" was practically breathless. She even uttered the words "I'm impressed." Yeah, Geog 120 really can improve your love life. :)


Jason Harrison

That letter did indeed make my day.

Today I received another letter that made my day:

January 17, 2013
Hey Professor Emmett,

I took your class last semester and loved it. Definitely one of my favorites at BYU so far. Anyway, I got my mission call last night and I have been called to the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission! I couldn't believe that one of the first things I could tell everyone about my mission is that it's the place where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River! I'm definitely proud of that fact that I can tell everyone who asks about Pittsburgh.

Just thought I'd drop a line and let you know that you made an impact on a very (newly) large part of my life! Thanks for being such a great professor.

McKann Hanseen (with her mission call below)

Both Jason and McKann gave me permission to use their stories and photos in class so I hope they don't mind me sharing them here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Will's Baptism

Saturday January 5th  was a double banner day: Will was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we celebrated Marie's birthday. Emmett and Tueller family members, neighborhood and ward friends all gathered on a very cold morning at the Spring Creek Stake Center. The short, sweet service began with neighbor Annette Dyer at the piano playing prelude music. She chose to start out by playing "I Know That My Savior Loves Me" which is not in the Children's Songbook, but is known by Primary children from the 2010 primary program. listen to the song here or here I didn't immediately recognize it, but Marie certainly did. She knew it as the song she and our three children sang to Grandpa Emmett just before he passed away. Soon Marie was in tears recognizing Annette's choice of songs as a tender mercy that Grandpa Emmett, who never missed the baptism of a grandchild, was not going to miss the baptism of his youngest grandchild. Will was baptized along with Moira, a new girl in a ward, so our families shared program participation. From our side, Sarah and cousins Carly and Camilla sang "When I am Baptized" and cousin and soon to be missionary Isaac gave a wonderful talk about the Holy Ghost. Dad then baptized and confirmed Will with the closing prayer given by Joel. Baptizing a child is one of life's great blessings. It is one of the rare, wonderful and beautiful vistas along the slow, sooty train ride of life.

Marie and I were up early for two hours of cutting fruit and vegetables for our celebratory Rainbow Platter. I started the tradition a few years ago as a fun New Year's Eve dinner. We then decided that the rainbow is a beautiful symbol of God's covenants with his children and that it is also a great symbol of the cleansing power of baptism as described in the Primary song "When I am Baptized" so we have served rainbows for both Joel and Will's baptisms.

"When I am Baptized" by Nita Dale Milner  listen here

I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain
And ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again.
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.

I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away;
And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day.
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.

In addition to the many fruits, vegetables and jello in the platters, we also enjoyed hoagie sandwiches and chips with root beer floats (Will's favorite) and lemon cake (for Marie's birthday) for desert.

Will received lovely gifts (CTR-Choose the Right soccer ball tie tack, CTR gum, tie, scripture illustrations, Amazon gift card, etc). Most memorable was the traditional gift of scriptures from his Grandma Emmett--something his Emmett grandparents gave to every grandchild on their baptismal day. This set was different from all of the others. In his final year, dad misplaced his scriptures at church and somehow they ended up stashed in the home of an elderly sister for over six months. In the meantime Dad bought a new "Quad" to use. He did not have his name monogrammed on the front but he did inscribe his classic MD signature on the first page (John W Emmett--middle name William from whence Will get's his name).

The scriptures were hardly used. Grandma Emmett had WILL EMMETT inscribed on the front cover, placed it in in a soccer scripture case (Will had admired the case at Deseret Book while Christmas shopping), included a note and wrapped it up for Will. Will knew it was coming and had even wondered why he didn't get the scriptures for his birthday.

Later that evening Will had me find a red pencil to place inside his case for marking favorite scriptures. Then after reading to him at bedtime, Will pulled out his new scriptures to "read". He mainly busied himself using the tabs to open up to different books, and then figuring out that the bookmark ribbons "certainly" showed where grandpa Emmett had last read (Moses chapter 1). Still later that night as I checked on all three children I told Joel and Sarah (still up late reading) that my mention of them as good examples in the confirmation prayer was true. I had blessed Will that he would follow the good example of his older sister and brother. Both Joel and Sarah are very regular readers of the scriptures every night. I then went to tuck in a sleeping Will. It had been a great day. Willful Will was sweet and responsive and obedient all day long. There were no defiant "no"s to his parents, there were no delays at bedtime, there was no play turned to fighting with Joel. And then there on the floor next to his mattress were his new scriptures and soccer scripture case, nothing else. Normally his bedside floor is covered with a pile of books he has read before going to bed, but for today the scriptures were his only pre-go-to-sleep read. Happy day, a bonus beautiful vista. I think we should keep him.

The other highlight of the day was celebrating Marie's birthday with a matinee of the movie Les Miserables. We both loved it. What a wonderful story of love, redemption and mercy.

Today at church (we were up, happily ready (!) and in our seats five minutes before the new 9:00 AM start--Will sat up on the stand where he and Moira were presented as the two newest members of our congregation) Will kept busy fiddling with his new scriptures and case and during the sacrament he proudly announced to me that now he had something to do during the sacrament since I require that he not play with with his Lego figures or draw in his notebook during the sacrament--scripture reading/looking/exploring is OK.