Friday, April 25, 2008

My Gypsy Feet...The Movie...

My mom says that my brother and I have gypsy feet. It's not meant as a negative statement against gypsies. It refers to the nomadic lifestyle that gypsies traditionally are associated with. Granted, I think that I have seen far more of the world than the typical ethnocentric American. But any travel of mine simply pales in comparison to my brother, Kris.

Since I was the age of 9, my brother has been in and out of my life. Usually I only saw him long enough for him to make a pit stop traveling. Not all of it is backpacking. Some is work and some is just every day life for him. I have heard only jots and tittles of his adventures. Just recently, he discovered a website called TravBuddy. It's like Blogger, but it's dedicated to travel blogs.

I have always thought that he should put together his life experiences and make a movie out of it. Now that I've read his travel blog, I know that's true. If I didn't know my brother as well as I do, I'd think he was making some of this up. It's just too amazing.

Kris has gone to all but a handful of the countries in the world and has some sort of comical or exciting story behind each one. My favorite thread on his blog is what he calls his "Long March." It's a rather long thread of posts, but it spans the most amazing two year trip that you could imagine. I've read a few posts a day and have to force myself to save some posts for later and get back to work.

If you are a movie producer looking for a story idea, check it out. It just keeps getting better the more you read. And if you are looking for a younger version of Kris to play the lead in the movie, I would be willing to offer my talents...

Monday, April 07, 2008

General Conference: The Worth of Every Soul...

For you, the 178th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints all over. For me, things just began.

I think it may be of interest for you to hear what goes on behind the scenes here in the pacific to make sure the isles of sea are not forgotten in this world-wide event.

Of my various technical duties for the Church here, one of my most important is the semi-annual work on conference. In Micronesia there are many unique languages. Of them, we have 6 translated live, Marshallese, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Kosraean, Palauan, and Yapese. We also have people from other islands and Asia that would like to hear conference in their language. We show live sessions in Tagalog, Japanese, Korean, Samoan, Tongan, and of course, English.

We have the largest receiving unit of the Church in the whole world.

Satellite Rack

Without seeing the spaghetti of wiring that I manage, it's hard to imagine the complexity of what I work with.

Wiring Spaghetti

Wiring Closeup

And yes, I have spent hours single handedly wiring each one of those. And that's just what it takes to get the languages into the building. Then I have to find a way to take each language of each session and get it to the islands that cannot watch conference any other way.

The old system used a bunch of DVD recorders. Each of the 5 sessions are two hours long, the same as a disc's capacity. So you'd have to be there to start recording exactly on time. I quickly changed that to DVD recorders with a hard drive so I could have some buffer and record all sessions without having to be there to change discs. Timers were also a must. Conference comes down at 2am in Guam. I don't want to be awake to record it.

HDD + DVD Recording Station

That method also proved a bit tedious. So I got approved to build a super video-making computer. I put together a system with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 terabytes of hard drive space, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, a liquid cooled system, and the ability to record 8 languages with video simultaneously. Without going into too much techy detail, it's a very well performing machine.

Computer System

Using that system and some moderately expensive software, I make custom DVD's that have unique menus and multiple language tracks. One disc can now contain all 8 languages that we need to send out. That reduces the number of discs made by a factor of four or more. The computer paid for itself in one Conference. After the master disc is made, it's time to make copies.

To duplicate, we once had a device that read the master disc, and made 5 duplicates at a time. That was time consuming and impractical. To label the discs, we had printed images to stickers that needed to be pasted onto each disc one at a time. Also not ideal.

Since, I have added a duplicator that makes 11 discs simultaneously and invested in a printing system that can be fed as much as 100 discs at once and prints directly to the disc. It is controlled by a dedicated laptop.

Disc Printer, Duplicators, and Laptop

After the discs are made they are placed into mailboxes and mailed to each branch in Micronesia. The whole process takes me every working hour (and then some) for one week.

So, one might ask, why does the Church go to such great length, cost and effort to send people a copy of a few talks? Simple, because the worth of every soul is worth more than every dollar or hour it takes to send them the word of God. And for one week every six months I'll gladly spend my time to be a small pebble in the boulder of the Church rolling forth to the isles of the sea and the world at large.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Wife vs. Slave...

Ever since my infamous post called "American Woman..." people have been second guessing my attitude toward and perception of women. I've been accused of being everything from an activist to a zealot. General consensus usually lands on chauvinist.

It dawned on me years ago that people assume that about me when they see Anna and me in public. When we are alone, Anna is always quick witted, free spirited and surprisingly verbose. But in a group, even among friends, she becomes more reserved. So, all people see is this white dude walking around with a silent Asian geisha that does his bidding.

I'd like to tell myself that I don't care what people think, but who wants to be known like that? From this small electronic soap box I get to defend myself from time to time. Having been married over a year now I'm confident that while I may not be the worlds best husband, I'm a pretty good one. I'd like to think that I'm fairly on par with modern gender equality.

I don't think a wife is a slave, nor should be one. In fact, while talking with Anna about this the other day, I had an epiphany that even Oprah couldn't disagree with.

There is a big difference between a wife and a slave. A slave does whatever you want leaving you with no guilt. A wife has you do whatever she wants and manages to make you feel guilty.

Can I get a copyright on that quote?