The Wrath of Grievances

"Free" Phones

I guess complaining about cell phone companies is nothing new, but here goes anyway. Our two-year contract has long expired and Verizon keeps dangling free phones in front of our noses to entice us into sign a new one. Our old phones are actually getting pretty worn out, so we finally went to a Verizon store to look at our options. As it turns out, nearly every phone in the store isn't compatible with our "legacy" plan, and to get one we would have to pay an extra $10 a month to upgrade from 500 to 700 minutes (even though we have never even topped 200). I guess the old adage really is true,"There's no such thing as a free 3G smartphone with touch screen technology and WiFi."

Labor Dispute Signage

Every so often, while driving around town, I will notice a large banner on a street corner calling shame on the adjacent business. I never really know if these poor folks braving the elements have a just cause or not because, frankly, I'm too busy wondering why all their banners look the same. Seriously, the layouts are always identical—"SHAME ON (COMPANY NAME)" in big red letters, then the smaller words "LABOR DISPUTE" angled on each side. Is there some all-encompassing Labor Dispute Banner Emporium that produces these? And more importantly, what happens if they have a labor dispute?


Speaking of street corner signage, I'm dying to know the origin of the recent explosion in shakerboard advertising. I mean, is there any actual market research to prove that paying a lurpy teen minimum wage to strut, dance and play air guitar on the sidewalk with a Hot-N-Ready Pizza sign is more effective than, say, staking the sign in the ground? Really, they should just go down to the Labor Dispute Banner Emporium and get a large banner that says "SHAME ON YOU FOR NOT BUYING A HOT-N-READY PIZZA."


Only You Can Cause Forest Fires

Out by the back fence of my childhood home in New Jersey, there were some large trees that hung over a small cement patio. This secluded spot was the perfect location for my brother Rob and I to hold top secret meetings (at least after we got too big to assemble under the dining room table). Due to the classified nature of our discussions (including such important topics as, "Which came first, Transformers or GoBots?"), we found it necessary to protect our turf with a booby trap. We dug a large pit in the dirt—a few feet wide and maybe a foot deep—then camouflaged it with sticks and leaves.

I'm not sure who or what we were hoping to ensnare in this pit of ours. A prowler perhaps, or better yet, a tiger like on Swiss Family Robinson. I think the only victim was our mom, who unwittingly stepped in it while trying to tend the adjacent garden. Eventually the pit fell into disrepair, but there it remained for months and eventually years. Now, as Bill Cosby used to say, I told you that story to tell you this one.

One lazy Sunday morning, Rob and I were lounging around in our karate pajamas waiting for afternoon church to roll around. In our boredom we did something all young boys do while trying to entertain themselves—get the matches. We adjourned to the back patio and started making small piles of sticks to ignite. The longer we were out there, the bigger the fire got. Soon we were seeking more aggressive expansion, and our mischievous eyes turned to that old pit we had dug. It was already filled with sticks and leaves, so all we had to do was add the match.

Even junior pyromaniacs like us were surprised how quickly the fire blossomed. In no time it got bigger than the two of us could manage. So we did what any reasonable person would do in that situation—we covered the blazing fire with a piece of sheet metal (previously acquired from the garage) then went in the house, hoping no one would catch the hint of smoke on our pajamas.

Adding potentially serious danger to our foolishness was the fact that just past our back fence was several acres of undeveloped forest, or what we had simply come to call "the woods." Luckily, one of our sisters noticed the smoke before too long. Dad was at church meetings, so Mom ran outside in her strawberry print breakfast coat to douse the flames before the whole forest burned down.

I have little recollection of the aftermath of this incident, if we were even punished and how severely. All I do know is that even after all those public service announcements, we let Smokey the Bear down, and that's really all the punishment a young boy needs.


Light My Fire

My good friend Scott is getting married in a few weeks. He asked me to design his wedding announcements, and of course I was happy to oblige.

Scott works for the Kaysville Fire Department, so the engagement photos (taken by his fiancé's sister) are fireman-themed. Using this as a starting point, I wanted the layout to have an old fashioned, almost western feel, but with a contemporary touch.

Funny thing—the display typography was inspired by the lettering on a fire truck in the background of one of the photos—a shot we didn't end up using in the end.

I also designed separate insert invitations for the sealing ceremony and luncheon. Overall I was quite please with how everything turned out.


First Trimester

My first trimester is now officially over, so I think another pregnancy post is due. Overall, the pregnancy has been going pretty well. I haven't been too sick or tired even though I am busier than ever before. I started showing really early, so I feel like I am a monster, but I guess that is normal the second time around. The best part of the last couple of weeks has been feeling Morsel moving around. With Eddie, I didn't feel movement until at least 16 weeks. But the first time I distinctly felt Morsel was at 12 weeks.

Today I had an appointment with my doctor. Generally they do ultrasounds up to 14 weeks, but since they were running way behind, I just got to hear Morsel's heartbeat on the doppler. Everything sounds good. I was hoping to see the baby and maybe catch a glimpse of the gender, but I will have to wait 3 more weeks for that. On August 12, we get to do a gender check ultrasound and then there will be no stopping me from buying baby clothes.


The Harker Reunion

If you are a relative of the Harker persuasion who lurks on this blog, please take no offense at the following post. It is all meant in good fun.

My paternal grandmother is the oldest of 13 children. That makes for a pretty large family. I think that in most large families, the larger the family gets, the more people tend to branch off and go their own way. Such is not the case with the Harkers. The family has grown and grown and grown, yet still they cling together. Of course, with a group that large, an official gathering can only take place once a year. So every July since the world began, the Harker Reunion has taken place somewhere in the Utah/Idaho wilderness.

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the reunion. It was one of two times each year that we would see the cousins on my dad's side. It was always an adventure to go camping with 300+ obscure relatives. Their zany antics were amusing to say the least. Some of my favorite reunion memories include my cousin going headfirst down the water slide into the pond and losing his swimming suit (it was never found), and my grandma's relentless attempts to get people to eat breakfast cereal that had been expired for at least 5 years.

However, once I reached my teenage years, the reunion became less about forging 3-day friendships with second cousins twice-removed and more about avoiding awkward conversations with well-meaning relatives who don't know me from Eve, but like to pretend they do. My attendance has dropped off even more severely in recent years, so now I only see my cousins once a year at the annual Christmas party. But I'm not too broken up about no longer seeing the more distant cousins since very few of them knew who I was anyway.

With the 2010 Harker reunion on the not-too-distant horizon, I have started receiving emails about it, and have been passing the wonderful news on to Dave - who has only experienced the wonder of the reunion once... for one glorious night. This year's reunion is featuring such sure-to-make-you-cringe activities as a mustache growing contest and some sort of Mexican fiesta theme. Then there is the requisite talent show (which has even included belly dancing in previous years).

But no reunion would be truly complete without the pièce de résistance of the traditional dinner, "Harker Stew." For the unenlightened, Harker Stew is an ill-advised conglomeration, an unnatural hodge-podge of every type of stew, homemade or otherwise, that a Harker might think to contribute, mixed into one luscious pot of beefy goodness. As if beef stew isn't foul enough to begin with... we Harkers make it exponentially worse by creating a concoction that could very well be toxic (my brother once ate a generous serving only to mysteriously retreat into his tent, not to be see again for several hours). Of course, based on the average longevity of the family members, I would say quite the opposite. After all, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger... or slowly destroys you from the inside-out.


Ten Things...

...We Noticed at the Paul McCartney Concert

A friend of mine recently got hired as the designer for Real Salt Lake. As his first order of business, he hooked us up with free tickets to the Paul McCartney concert at Rio Tinto Stadium last night (thanks, Ben). I've never been a huge Beatles/McCartney fan, but Sir Paul put on a great show. All in all, it was a fun way to spend a summer evening, especially considering the only money we spent was $4 on a blue raspberry snowie. Our seats were obstructed view on the far left of the stage (not that I'm complaining since it was free), but our eyes were free to wander at times for some crowd watching. Here are the highlights:

10. The "cougar" with badly bleached hair, artificially leathery skin, halter top, and short denim skirt. She sang and danced the night away, much to the embarrassment of her adolescent son (or was it her grandson?).

9. The middle-aged couple who sat stoically next to us through most of the show, but when "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" started, the wife popped out of her seat like a crazed teen.

8. The sign in the crowd endorsing "Paulygamy."

7. The young couple who got totally sloshed by the third song and attempted to redefine the term "public display of affection." Not with each other—with their Bud Light. Okay, that's not entirely accurate. It was more like a drunken foursome.

6. "Live and Let Die." I had only one requirement for the show—that Sir Paul play his theme from James Bond's answer to blaxploitation films. It was the second to last song of the main set, and the performance did not disappoint, complete with pyrotechnics that surely decimated every eyebrow in the first ten rows.

5. The old guy in the Hawaiian shirt dancing by himself in the aisle.

4. The sunset over Rio Tinto Stadium. This was our first time going to the venue, and I don't think it will be the last (especially if Ben can keep getting us free tickets).

3. The young woman a few rows in front of us with cleavage popping out on both ends. Her boyfriend was jumping up and down on his seat and waving his arms wildly throughout the whole show. He must really like Paul McCartney.

2. All the people who seemed more concerned about getting a lousy digital photo of the side of the stage with their mobile devices rather than just enjoying the show. If I had brought my camera, I would have used it on the young woman from #3. Just kidding.

1. Sir Paul's jowls gently swaying in the summer wind as he sang "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude."


Second Dam

In honor of several Barton birthdays throughout the summer, we enjoyed a pleasant summer gathering at Second Dam up Logan Canyon this past Saturday. We had all the family picnic staples like dutch oven chicken, potato salad, fresh fruit, etc.

Predictably, Eddie spent most of his time by the water, feeding ducklings, throwing rocks, and manufacturing as much mud as possible.

I photographed this bridge numerous times for various art projects when I was going to school. How about once more for old time's sake?

My sisters brought some jumbo marshmallows for s'mores. If you have never seen these before, they are about three times the size of a normal roasting marshmallow. I decided to exercise some restraint and tear one in half, but it was still more 'mallow than one s'more could handle. Pucker up...

Since we have been away from Logan for several years now, it's easy to forget how lovely the canyon is. It's nice to have regular reminders like this.


Scripture Power

Famed LDS artist Arnold Friberg passed away last week at the age of 96. His name might not have the same cachet as the prophets and apostles, but his Book of Mormon illustrations are instantly recognizable to all members of the faith. I have always been a very visual, artistic person, and when I was younger these paintings really helped the scripture stories come alive. Every corner of his compositions are so rich with detail, I could pour over them for hours. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

"Lehi and His People Arrive in the Promised Land"

Starting with Nephi, the scripture heroes were always incredibly ripped (even little Sam looks like he has started working out). Friberg explained this largeness of stature as "an expression of the spirit within." Nephi's descendants from later paintings also share very similar facial features, which I have
affectionately come to characterize as "the Nephite Face."

"Abinadi Appearing Before King Noah"

The prophet Abinadi also had impressive muscle tone for an old man, though I always wondered what the story was with his farmer tan. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out which of the priests in the background was Alma (and wishing I had a pet jaguar).

"Samuel the Lamanite Prophesies"

I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only Mormon kid to draw an invisible line with my finger predicting the trajectory of the arrows being fired at Samuel the Lamanite to see how close they might get.

"Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation"

This painting has always been my personal favorite for the sheer scope and tragedy it conveys (not to mention Moroni's totally awesome horns). The color scheme makes me think of Legolas in
The Two Towers, "A red sun rises... blood has been spilled this night."


We Heart Tacos?

Kristen and I have both been hankering some good Mexican food lately. Since we were heading to the family cabin for the holiday weekend and thought that Logan favorite Café Sabor had a Park City location, we planned to be passing through at dinner time. But when we arrived at the supposed address, there was no Café Sabor to be found. Apparently the Park City location didn't take.

We will eat at pretty much any hole-in-the-wall sandwich, burger, or pizza joint we come across, but have never really managed to establish a decent repertoire of Mexican places. I guess it's harder to take a risk on any old taco stand since making a mistake can be, for lack of a better term, explosive.

So now we turn to you for recommendations. Only one condition—please no Bajio/Café Rio-type establishments. Kristen used to crave Bajio, making me eat there at least once a week. I think I have tried everything on the menu... twice. Eventually it all just tasted the same. I never want to look at another Bajio burrito clásico or ensalada as long as I live.


My Little League Career

I played soccer for one season when I was seven years old—my team went undefeated and took first place. Much like Michael Jordan, I felt there was nothing left for me to accomplish in the sport, so I decided to retire and try my hand at baseball. Unfortunately, the same level of winning proved to be elusive. The time has now come at last to tell the story of the 8 years I spent playing America's pastime. As an added bonus, gracing this career retrospective are several little league photos taken from the heart of the universal awkward stage that unforgivingly touches everyone from the average age of 5 to 17.

New Jersey

1988 // A-1 Storage
The coach of my first team was a family friend, and he recruited my Dad to be one of his assistants. I don't know why, but the thought of Dad helping run a baseball practice is strangely hilarious now. In those early days even my grandma offered to play catch with me when they came to visit. Not realizing her natural abilities, one of her laser tosses grazed the top of my mitt and caught me square on the nose, bloodying it.

1989 // Roxbury Rotary
In New Jersey, little league teams were named after sometimes less than intimidating local sponsors. The best team always seemed to be the "Kiwanis Club" because their name sounded like the offspring of a poisonous snake and a carnivorous fish. It wasn't until later that I learned Kiwanis International is actually an organization that serves the less fortunate children of the world. Lame! Well... you know what I mean.

1990 // Nicholson Furs
I don't remember much from this year other than when the animal activists would disrupt our games by dousing us with buckets of blood. In my despondence I became addicted to Big League Chew.

Big League Chew soon earned "forbidden fruit" status in our house on the grounds of "appearance of evil."

1991 // Victoria Diner
This team was bad enough that I was actually considered one of its best players. At the end of the season I got selected to join a community All-Star team that played against neighboring cities.


1992 // Cardinals
My family moved to Utah at the end of 1991, so the next Spring I got to learn the ropes of little league in a new place. Gone were the local sponsor team names and bad trucker hats, replaced by honest to goodness Major League mascots and uniforms. Unfortunately, the change in scenery didn't translate to more victories.

1993 // Marlins
With the future Viewmont High baseball coach at the helm, this was my only team that finished with a winning record. We ended up taking 4th place, the closest I ever got to winning a coveted baseball trophy. At the end of the season I overheard some of my teammates grumbling that this was the worst team they had ever been on. Maybe they would have been more grateful had they played for Nicholson Furs.

Just think, the baseball trophy I never won could be proudly displayed at this very momentright next to my soccer trophy in the back of the closet.

1994 // Dodgers
My coaches were a pair of young, minor league wannabes (who, incidentally, couldn't even make it with the Ogden Raptors). One of them fancied himself a pitcher. He had decent velocity, but no control. This made batting practice quite an adventure as he would frequently bean us. This season also provided one of my all-time most embarrassing moments. I had just singled and was standing on first base. As the next batter hit a grounder up the first base line I ran to second. I heard the umpire yell "FOUL!" and saw the batter walking back toward home plate, so I turned and trotted back to first. When the pitcher saw me between the bases he suddenly bolted in my direction and tagged me with his glove. The umpire then yelled "OUT!" which to my horror sounded an awful lot like "FOUL!" I briefly argued but was soon heading for the dugout bench as my coaches and teammates stared at me in disgust.

1995 // Orioles
My final coach laid down the law at our very first practice. You would run a lap for every minute you were late to practice. You would run a lap if you missed an easy ground ball, and so on and so forth. Initially, I was cautiously optimistic. Maybe having a hard-nosed coach would mean a disciplined, competitive team. Nope, we were still terrible. Near the end of the season I missed a few games to attend Scout camp. After I got home I received a phone call from a player on another team asking me if I wanted to play for them since my team had disbanded. That's right, while I was gone they simply deciding they didn't want to finish the season. What a joke. And with that, my baseball career came to a rather ignominious end. At least I got an indestructible t-shirt.