What the Family Learned this Week

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Goodbye, Mr. Letterman!

I've been watching David Letterman since I was 11 years old. I had a Top Ten list in my high school paper. I gave a Top Ten speech at my high school graduation. My family had "Late Night" Christmas pajamas. The first phone conversation I ever had with Tim was about David Letterman. When I moved to Boston the first thing I did was send away for Late Show tickets. I sat in the theater catatonic, stunned with the amazingness of it all. I've spent the last few months showing my kids YouTube highlights and trying to get them to understand the genius that is David Letterman. I'm staying up tonight for the first time since the invention of the VCR and DVR to watch the show live. So if I'm tired and sad tomorrow you will know why! 
Here are just some of the gems that will stay with me forever!

Dave at Taco Bell

Dave and Rupert Annoy People

Dave Letterman & Zsa Zsa's Fast Food Car Trip

Outdoor Adventures

Fun with a Car Phone

How Many Guys In Bunny Suits Can Get Into H&R Block?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQXDs0AOpGc&list=PLCJLiJ8uSJrBGts3qhcVt042PpqoHwQ7U&index=32

Seriously - just Yout
ube it and lose yourself in his comedic genius. 

And some interesting articles that provide context and retrospective.





Remember it's only an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering.

What about that guy indeed!

And here are some additional Family Top Ten Lists that how our allegiance to Mr. Letterman.
Dad's contribution to his high school reunion....

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned in the Journey Since Orem High

10 – If you leave the state of Utah and BYU, and go to graduate school at Cornell in New York, during the turbulent 1960’s, you do not, ever, have a chance of becoming a Tea Party member (or a Republican for that matter).

9 – There is a combination of luck, good fortune and divine destiny when one gets assigned out of Naval Officer Candidate School to an Army Base in Albuquerque, rather than the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam, and there you meet your vivacious spouse of 41 years (Marilyn).

8 – With 6 remarkable, enjoyable married kids, and 14 grandkids, one realizes that the credit goes largely to their mom, and ‘who they were’ before arrival.

7 – When one works as an HR professional for 20 years for ‘The Man’ in corporate America, 10 years for elected politicians; and 15 years as a consultant assisting persons in their claims against ‘The Man’, the latter is by far the most gratifying.

6 – When one continues to drive the same car for 32 years (a yellow, 1973 VW, The Thing), one can safely deduce the owner is a cheapskate, stuck in his ways, nostalgic and believes convertibles make you feel 25 years younger.

5 – Regardless of your level of faith, family size and/or church responsibilities, Mark Twain best captures Sundays in his Diary of Adam and Eve, when he writes again and again for every Sunday, the same two words, ‘Pulled Through’.

4.  If your visible home furnishings include antiques, memorabilia, an old gasoline pump, framed rock’n’roll albums, and an original Muhammed Ali - Joe Frazier fight poster, you know the decorator is not from Deseret Book.

3.  You seem to want to get better acquainted with people who are fond of Sondheim, the Gershwins, American History, Aaron Sorkin, Ken Burns documentaries, baseball, and the driver who put this message on the back of his semi-truck, ‘It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses’.

2.  If you and your wife leave idyllic southern Oregon after 25 years, and move to Idaho Falls, even to be nearer the kids and grandkids, expect people familiar with the climate to look at you and think to themselves, ‘decision making is not their strong suit’.

1 – When you get to a certain age you notice yourself adhering more and more to the Charles Barkley adage, ‘I may be wrong, but I doubt it’.

A Mother’s Day Card Hand Made by Kirse in 1990 that has been on the refrigerator now for the past twenty-five (25) years.


10 – I do and I do and I do for you kids and this is the thanks I get!
9 – I’ll take you out for ice cream if you let me buy you that new outfit.
8 – You’ll shoot your eye out!
7 – It is better to look good than to feel good.
6 – It’s December 26th.  Don’t you think this will make a good present for next year?
5 – I have my Sunday headache.
4 – Kevin Costner at the door.  It would take me about two seconds.
3 – I could write this stuff!
2 – Who do they think they’re dealing with?
On the Inside of the Card it Reads
1 – Hey, Don’t I deserve a Mother’s Day card?!?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What I Have Learned from Teaching Online

For a little over a year now I have been teaching an online course. Teaching might be stretching the truth a bit - more like a glorified teaching assistant with very little power over the curriculum, assignments, or design of the course. But after looking for about 3 years for some sort of part time job that was related to my degree and not too disruptive to family life, it's worked well. I would prefer to teach in a real classroom and teach my own course, but if wishes and buts were candies and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas. I'll take what I can get. 

Here are some observations about the non-stop thrill ride that is online teaching. 

Students who Struggle Just Keep on Struggling

Although I wish in my heart of hearts it wasn't true, and as much as I try to help them, students who are struggling at the beginning are still struggling by the end (or they have dropped the course). And for some reason it's never the high achieving students who have their computers die, or their apartments flood, or their kid get sick, or who lose internet access. I'm not sure if it's poor planning, or bad luck, or an unfair universe, but students who fail tend to fail on multiple levels. This was also true when I taught in a real classroom, so it may be a truism of life. 

Students Think the Past is Simple

On the discussion boards and writing assignments, most students are very fond of blanket simplistic statements that by themselves have utterly no meaning whatsoever. For example - "The colonists wanted freedom." No, not exactly. Which colonies or colonists are you talking about? One-third wanted to stay loyal to the British Crown. What type of freedom? What about African slavery? Or this one - "The North hated slavery." Most Northerners hated the spread of slavery into the western territories, but the immorality of slavery itself, unless you were part of the abolitionist minority, was not a pressing concern. "We should follow the Constitution." Okay - which part? How do you interpret it? Who gets to decide what an amendment means? 
My mantra for the class is "the past is as complex as the present." Of course some of them don't think the present is complex, so maybe that's part of the problem. If my students are more confused leaving the class than they were when they entered, I've done my job. 

Some Students Don't Understand Technology or Email Etiquette

My all time favorite email was from an older student. The email read - "May? Are you there?" I'm not sure if this student was under the impression they were texting, or if I could read their thoughts. Other students write emails as if they are texting - without any formality or editing or clear objectives. I try to model back the way I think they should be composing their emails. And they respond with uncapitalized sentences and hard to read messages. Yikes.  And there are always problems with technology. I shouldn't judge, since at the beginning of this adventure I was asking Tim all the time for help. But I keep thinking that these younger people should be more tech savvy. 

Poor, Poor International Students

Here's a big surprise - students from other countries don't know a lot about American history or institutions. But they are required to take this class. They are at a distinct disadvantage in two ways - usually a language barrier, and often the utter lack of background in the subject matter. Although sometimes, through perseverance and Google, they manage to do just fine (sadly often better than my American high school graduates. I weep for the future.) 

Despite the challenges, I still think talking about and teaching about American history is the best! I still remain a very large history nerd. And I keep slowly and steadily changing the course in tricky small ways to make it more like how I would teach if given the opportunity. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Into the Woods - The Obsession Returns

The fascination began, unnoticed at first, in 1996.  Two of the kids, Brinn and Whitney, became cast members of the South Medford (Oregon) High School production of the 1987 Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods.  Other than hear a group of traveling BYU students sing one very cool song from the musical (Ever After), and see the show win several Tony awards, South Medford’s annual musical choice was just a broadway show we knew nothing about.

The next step down the path was simply doing what dutiful dads do, get involved in your kid’s lives.  With the music/drama teachers reporting the musical as ‘very difficult’ for high school students, with fast/clever/overlapping lyrics (the very definition of Sondheim), it seemed a good idea to listen to the songs and, because of the complexity, that meant several times.  Looking back, that was the fateful decision;  the musical should come with a warning label, “this show is not responsible for the results of over-exposure to the lyrics and tunes.”

For most people, after watching each performance, the experience would be over, just a pleasant memory.  Not so much.  For me, it seemed that the exposure was just a start; to really enjoy the musical, one should obtain and read a copy of the script.  

By year end, it was clear the obsession was not leaving anytime soon.  The 1996 family Christmas letter (copy below) contained twelve quotes from the musical play, one for each month, tailor-made to either a family member, or events of the year.  The holiday letter begins with this explanation:  ‘Kent has become obsessed with the musical play, Into the Woods, and insists each month of 1996 include a quote.  Let’s add one more, “sometimes I fear you’re touched.”

The family did not seem to realize the seriousness of the malady and actually enabled the condition.  Marilyn gave a framed copy of an original broadway poster for Christmas.  The poster, of course, went to work, and has similarly hung in every work office since.

After that, the obsession remained somewhat dormant.  It would reappear when the local newspaper would advertise a performance that became a ‘must see’.  And, an eleven hour, one-way drive, to Salt Lake City, to see a touring Broadway performance, was captured in Act 1, Scene 1, “I thought I had been more than reasonable.”

That takes us to Christmas Day, 2014, when Disney introduced the film version of Into the Woods to the world.  To avoid a family crisis, the family went the day after Christmas.  And again, two days later.  It then seemed to me once should re-read the script and see the differences between the play and the movie. 

The play begins the same, “once upon a time—in a far off kingdom”, and ends the same, “into the woods, then out of the woods, and happy ever after….I wish.”  In between, “despite some minor inconveniences” (Act 2, Scene 1) the movie was a masterpiece.  It would have been nice if the closing song of Act 1, Ever After, was in the movie, 
“And it came to pass, all that seemed wrong was now right, the kingdoms were filled with joy, and those who deserved to were certain to live a long and happy life. Ever after!”

And, if would have been nice if the song No More were also included in the movie.  It contains a wise old age proverb, “How do you ignore….the false hopes, the goodbyes, the reverses.  All the wondering what even worse is still in store…No more”

I wonder what birthday present I will get this year?

1996 Christmas Letter

Sunday, October 12, 2014


BY: Kent Granat
 I.  Prologue
My interest in BYU football has been pendular.  It began with an upward swing when the family moved from Grand Junction to Provo/Edgemont the summer before 7th grade.  I switched from listening on Saturday afternoons to the Notre Dame football radio broadcast (technology could not transmit the TV signal over the rockies from Denver), to listening to BYU football.

It did not take more than a couple of losing seasons to have the pendulum arc swing downward to a ‘loss expected’, and then downward further to ‘disinterest’.  You can only have your heart broken so many times, somewhat like teenage dating (see Jeanette, Sandy, Kathryn).  My college sports allegiance switched to BYU basketball, in part because Stan Watts was the coach and our Edgemont neighbor, and partly because his teams were consistent winners.  During my four years at BYU, I cannot remember attending a single home football game, or ever missing a home basketball game (getting in line early, spreading a blanket, playing hearts/card game with friends).

The pendulum was pretty much stuck there for a long time, with a handful of memorable exceptions.  There was the 1968 BYU-UTEP game with my dad (the only live college game we ever saw together), when we watched UTEP, what else, come from three scores behind to win 31-25;  there was the 1970 BYU-Western Michigan game that Marilyn and I saw with our dear friends, the Longs, driving from Midland, MI to Kalamazoo (you guessed it, BYU lost 35-17);  and, finally, there was driving from Redlands to San Diego to the 1983 Holiday Bowl game against Missouri when BYU scored in the last 23 seconds with QB Steve Young catching a pass from running back Eddie Stinnett (21-17).

Fast forward to the year 2008.  My son, Brinn, and I decided to attend the Idaho high school football 5A championship game played at the ISU Mini-Dome in Pocatello, not because we knew anything about the teams/players, just because we thought it would be fun.  Highland high school out of Pocatello, was playing Eagle, a suburb of Boise.  What we noticed was that the Highland QB, #3, was also the punter, punt returner, extra point/field goal kicker, kicked off and played in the defensive backfield.  An ESPN high school web site reported, “QB Taysom Hill was sensational with 17 carries for 114 yards and two TDs, and completed 14 of 19 passes for 188 yards and two other scores leading his team to a 28-7 win” (or, as we know now, just another day at the office).  When Taysom began playing QB for BYU, the pendulum arc swung upward.

II.  The October 3rd, Utah State – BYU Football Game
By the fall of 2014, my son-in-law, Daniel, had become a member of the Utah State football staff.  He was able to acquire three things for my brother Kirk and I to attend the game:  one Aggie side line pass, one general admittance ticket near the school band, and one Utah State coach’s polo shirt.  Since Kirk and I have a knack for finding enviable seating once inside a game (i.e. once, at a Jazz-Rockets NBA playoff game, we successfully carried in two folding chairs found under the bleachers, past the ushers, setting them up at the end of a row court side).  The challenge was for us to be together on the sidelines. 

Top Game Memories:
– Kent wears the side line pass around his neck, Kirk wears the coach’s polo shirt, and we ‘game the system’, walking past the security guards like we belonged there;  five people standing near-us during the game were asked to leave, but not the official looking Granat brothers.

– Growing up in Provo/Orem/Edgemont we thought we might bump into someone we knew;  we did, it just happened to be Bishop Rushing from my daughter Kirse’s home ward in Vancouver, WA who I had sat next to five days earlier.

– Before the game started, Daniel escorted us to the elevator (which has a seismic button), and to the press box with two long rows (where, who knew, there is a buffet meal for the press and side line pass groupies).  From there, we went to the top of Lavell Edwards Stadium.  The view is spectacular if you do not suffer from vertigo;  one is outside on a three foot catwalk with a minimal guardrail, that leads to the video/camera room with three enclosed sides. 

- Family TV viewers saw us on the screen three times, sending text messages and pictures.  They seemed surprised to see us on TV, but not surprised to see we had figured out a way to be on the sidelines together. 

(the Forrest Gump shot - I think this looks like they are photoshopped into football history -ed.
-The up close sights of the game were remarkable:  three lighted skydivers flying directly overhead;  Taysom throwing a 53 yard pass, seemingly coming right to us, and then 4 plays later, hurdling a defensive back to score;  the Aggies scoring three times directly in front of us;  and, being near ESPN’s ‘pleasant on the eyes’ sideline reporter.

– Jim McMahon received BYU sports hall of fame honors at half time, having to first finish four classes for his degree (telling the crowd it was not easy at age 55).  It was vintage McMahon, dark glasses, noting he and Coach Edwards “had their time together”, every Monday morning, having to report on his weekend activities after the game.

– If there is one thing we will never forget is the sound;  not the loud, loud sound of the crowd, but the rumbling footsteps of large blocking offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs all converging at the same time, and at the same sideline spot, as the ball carrier.  The ground shakes/the sound rumbles and reminds one of a stampede in a western movie on a short start and stop sequence.

– If you stand on your feet from about 7 pm until midnight (except for sitting during half time on some borrowed defensive linemen chairs), your body says, ‘you are old and not used to this, are you?’ while your head tells you, ‘I would do this again in a heartbeat’.

– Aaron Sorkin, in his first TV series, Sports Night, captures in a different and yet surprisingly similar way, the feeling of being on a college football sideline.  In one particular Sorkin episode, Dana is given tickets to her first Broadway show, The Lion King.  She returns to the broadcast room and reports - 
     "The lights go down, and this woman with a voice like thunder, this woman, she summons all the animals of the jungle to appear and honor the birth of the new lion king. You know what? It was…it was….it was really something." 

III.  Epilogue
As most everyone knows, Taysom Hill, regrettably, was injured in the game, and is out for the rest of the season.  With the injury, the pendulum has swung downward once again.  But, when Taysom returns next fall for his senior season, the pendular interest will return.  After that, the pressures from a divided football family, with Utah State and University of Utah grads, intensifies.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Insights from Entertaining International Visitors - Danish Edition

We recently played host to a lovely family of four from Esberg, Denmark. Tim knew Anne-Marie Grabe from his mission 20 (!) years ago. She has since married John and had two teenage children, Christoffer and Benjamin. They stayed with us for about 5 days, took a sojourn to the mecca of Salt Lake City for one week, then returned for another week of fun. Here are some of my observations.
  1. America is ridiculous in its sizes of everything. One of my favorite moments was when we took them to Costco and they had to take pictures of the couch they were selling - with cup holders! They couldn’t get over the cup holders. And the size of the watermelon we purchased filled them with confusion and dismay. It got to be a running joke about the size of everything - houses, cars, plates of food. “Crazy Americans!”
  2. If in Europe you have to walk everywhere, you soon realize that in America, particularly if you are in the Western states, you have to drive everywhere. It took some getting used to. When they were planning their trip, they asked whether traffic would be a problem on the highway between Portland and Salt Lake. As anyone who has taken that trip knows, traffic is not the problem on that drive (just the mind-numbing boredom of central Idaho). We took them to the beach, Astoria, waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge, and Mt. St. Helens. Denmark is a very flat country, so they enjoyed the varied topography and the ability to get above things and look down. 
    1. It is interesting to see what they wanted to eat that they couldn’t easily get in Denmark. Their main requests were chocolate chip cookies, anything Mexican (especially enchiladas), root beer, and Fruit Loops. They had never seen refried beans. They went home with two big bags of goldfish, 12 boxes of macaroni and cheese, and six cans of green enchilada sauce. As they were packing, they found an old bag of Danish candy that they left behind. It was the yummiest candy I have ever eaten. And I realized that if visitors stay that long, I run out of meals I make for company. We had spaghetti pie twice (by request). 
    2. When you host someone in your home who speaks a language you do not, you can’t help but always have the impression that they are talking about you, perhaps negatively. All of them spoke marvelous English, but when they spoke to each other they often switched back to Danish. For the first few days my brain kept switching to Spanish mode - like my mind was desperately trying to understand what was being spoken and was switching to the default mode of the only foreign language I sort of speak. By the end I could pick up a lot by context, and would often just pretend I understood what was going on. Tim still speaks Danish well, so he just loved loved loved having them here.
    3. Anywhere you go you are infinitely cooler just being with Danish people. I couldn’t get enough of telling everyone at Target, Costco, Winco, Best Buy, Sports Authority, Marshalls, and Fred Meyer that they were Danish (can you tell that one of their favorite things to do while here was shop?)
    4. The world is a crazy small place. At the end of a long narrow forest road south of Mt. St. Helens we stopped at Lava Canyon for a picnic lunch. As we set up, we could hear people coming down the path speaking Danish. They emerged and lo and behold they were people that the Grabes knew from their town in Denmark. One was a school friend of Christoffer, and the mom had been a teacher of Anne-Marie’s. They were also on holiday in the United States, but had no idea that they would be at the same spot at the same time. What are the chances? 
    I highly recommend having international visitors to your home if you get the chance. It is a fantastic experience, and they brought us five bottles of Remoulade! We hope that we get the chance to let them return the favor of hosting in the not too distant future. 

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    Some assorted things Kent and Marilyn have recently learned, and then smiled about

    1 – The word of the week is ‘risibly’, meaning:  deserving to be laughed at, eliciting laughter, ludicrous.  

    2 – The New York Times recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in the United States, and their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan TV show.  The newspaper ran a full-page memorial, containing the newspapers very first article that introduced the Beatles to America.  The opening paragraph read:  ‘Question - Multiply Elvis Presley by four, subtract six years from his age, add British accents and a sharp sense of humor.  The Answer:  It’s the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)’.

    3 - Comedian David Brenner, age 78, frequent guest host of the Tonight Show, with more than 150 appearances, recently passed away.  His family stated that, in his “final request”, he asked that one hundred dollars in small bills be placed in his left sock ‘just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going’.

    4 – A recent column in the Sunday NY Times was cleverly titled, ‘Religion for $1,000 Alex’, a take-off on the TV show Jeopardy.  The article pointed out how largely ignorant Americans are about religion.  The closing paragraph read, “we do not want to emulate the long-ago Texas governor who, in one of those stories that may be too good to be true, opposed Spanish instruction in the state because, ‘If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us.’

    5 -  Donald Rumsfeld (Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, and Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush), both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense, sends a similar letter with his tax returns to the IRS every year.  It reads, “this note is to alert you folks that I know that I do not know whether or not my tax returns are accurate.” 

    6 - The local Idaho Falls newspaper is the Post Register.  Recently it contained an article entitled, ‘Lunar Eclipse to Cover Western Hemisphere’.  The article, about a future event began, “North and South America, get ready for the first eclipse of the year…on Tuesday morning”.  The article was printed the next day, on Wednesday, the day following the eclipse.  We will call this a predictable, ‘risibly’ article from our small town local newspaper.

    Thursday, May 8, 2014

    Our Travel Review

    BY: Brinn & Ramona Granat

    When traveling with our FOUR kids (just for you Kirse) we have come to the understanding that some adjustments will have to be made.
    1. The size of our accommodations (it’s hard to cram 6 people in a tiny hotel room).
    2. Ease of eating out with kids or the complexity of it depending where you go, which takes us to our next difficulty,  
    3. Type of food that we want to eat vs the type of food the kids will eat (kid food wins out most of the time, unfortunately).
    4. Price of food while out every meal for the duration of your vacation, even eating out cheap adds up.
    5. Drive time, how long can you endure sitting in a car singing nursery rhymes, constant potty breaks, kid movies (it’s odd the number of movies that I have listened to numerous times in the car but have never actually seen), listening to whining or illogical arguments from kids, sore muscles from craning your neck back to interact with the kids, and car sickness.

    We actually like traveling with our kids.  Some of our family adventures have included Mt. Rushmore, St. George, Boise, McCall, Coeur D’Alene, Kalispell, Alberta, Memphis, Nashville, Oregon Coast and most recently Vancouver Washington.  I do have to say that even though I did enjoy our low budget accommodations at America’s Best Inn (no really, it was adequate, quiet and it had a nice breakfast spread), our most recent trip to Vancouver Washington superseded our expectations.  Here is a copy of our review:

    May’s Garden Inn: Bed and Breakfast
    Guest Score:                                                              

                                                                             5 star Review
    All of our expectations were exceeded at our most recent stay at the May’s Garden Inn in Vancouver Washington.  It started out with a very warm and personalized welcome. We were greeted by name and the staff even took the extra effort in making us a welcome poster.
    Our two bedrooms and one private bath were more than enough space and exceptionally accommodating.  Beds were comfy and there was an abundance of extra blankets and pillows at our disposal.  Rooms were clean, water pressure was good, I cannot say enough about a shower with adequate water pressure.  D├ęcor was a mix of homey and eclectic pieces; some of the original pieces were truly spectacular.  It made you feel comfortable, not overly staged or sterile like you get at some big name hotels. 

    The food.  I am shocked I didn’t gain a few double digits from this trip.  Breakfast each morning with bagels and cream cheese one day, buttermilk pancakes the next, followed by French toast.  You will be planning your next meal while still eating your current meal- yes this is how this place rolls.  Thai take out from the food carts, gourmet pizza, fish tacos, the Gouda and Havarti…it will leave your taste buds tingling and your belly full.  They will even allow you to sample the Boston cream pie before it’s fully assembled!

    Hands on Concierge service. Enough said.  No really, their Concierge will even drive the car for you- which is a huge plus for us because it eliminates the possibility of getting lost and it also allows you to look around and enjoy the epic beauty that surrounds you.  Plus their Concierge has her doctorate in History so not only are you getting all the facts but you are also getting an education.

    We highly recommend upgrading to the Entertainment package.  It includes activities like band concerts, vocal performances, basketball games, a variety show, and many introductions to shows like the IT crowd and youtube hits like the FiveGuys “Oh My DAYHEM review… not to mention that there is an onsite basketball court and playground for the kiddies.

    Can’t rave enough about how much we enjoyed our stay and we would highly recommend the May’s Garden Inn: Bed and Breakfast to all of our friends and family.