Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipping the voicemail instructions

You've all heard been here before. First, you wait ring after ring to get a hold of the person you are calling. Then, you hear the person's personalized voicemail telling you to leave a message. On a sidenote, as technology is, this voicemail message is pointless to me. You know the person unavailable--that's why they didn't pick up. So what is the point of the voicemail unless it is detailed enough to give you information that you didn't already have about the person. As Google is getting more and more integrated with cell phone features, I wouldn't be surprised if a feature for Google status updates allows for you to sync the updates to your voicemail. So you can say on your status update that you are in Beliz, and if someone tries to get ahold of you, that information can be communicated to the caller. Anyway, back to my voicemail rant. Finally, as if it wasn't enough waiting, you proceed to hear an automated woman's voice tell you instructions on how to leave the message. A nice way to bypass all this hoopla is by simply pressing #. It sends you straight to voicemail. However, some phones (I don't know if this is a network issue or phone-specific) are not in tune with this nice feature. Instead, it prompts you to enter a passcode, not allowing you to enter a voicemail that call. This needs to stop Verizon (or particular phones). Get with the program.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

All set?

"Are you all set?" It was a question I started liking towards the beginning of this year. I liked how simple and direct the wording was and how the person asking the question doesn't have to provide any details of what he is asking because the context makes it relatively straightforward. However, like most cool things, I have seen this question's enchantment decline through overuse. Just the other day when standing in a bakery, A+ and I were looking at the menu. The employee looked at us after a while and ventured, "All set?" What did that question even mean? The most obvious interpretation was that she was wondering if we were ready, but since we were still glancing at the menu, the context did not make her intent obvious. A more effective question would have been, "Do you have any questions?" or "Are you ready to order?" That would have been nice.

Take home true principle: use cool phrases selectively and in moderation.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some popcorn guidance

As the holidays come upon us this year, thoughts inevitably turn to one way that we celebrate and spend time with loved ones: eating good food. It's also a time when lots of people are trying to make every dollar count.

This season make homemade popcorn. If you can splurge, make caramel popcorn. You will save money by making it yourself. The one thing I'd recommend is to not scrimp on the kernel quality. Unlike other goods that you can substitute an off-brand without noticeable difference, with popcorn you can tell. Get jolly time popcorn, the kernels get so big it's crazy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The almond experiment

Steve Jobs is now famous for saying that consumers don't know what they want until they are shown. This same principle is equally true for food.

I am spending a lot of time at home working. This means that whenever I have a craving during the day, I'm covered. This post is in no way meant to brag, but our home is filled with good snacks to choose from, including mucho candy. While you can usually find me munching on some pretzel m&ms, lately I've switched things up. Every time I want to grab some candy, I instead go for the plain almonds. It doesn't seem like that glamorous a snack, but every time I go almond, I find that I really did want to eat almonds. Not to mention, I feel healthier too.

So my take home is that your brain can deceive you in what you want to be eating.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Dude Guy

When I was around 10 years old, my brothers and I found ourselves searching for things to do in the summer time. With the help of our dad, we eventually hatched a most brilliant plan to set up a candy stand. In my opinion, the candy stand launched each of our young work ethics. One day, business was good, and then all of a sudden a jeep shows up. Out jumps this guy in his 20s without a shirt and a long blond pony-tail. He ordered some candy from us and then paid with a $20. The only to this order was that we didn't have that kind of change. We scrambled to give him all the change we could, pouring $7 of coins into a cup for him. His cheerful response, "Dude!" started an instantaneous friendship between us. From then on, this guy would drive past and he always enthusiastically honked at us as he drove past and we'd all yell out "Dude!" This dude was far less worried about getting his money's worth for his purchase. He probably cared more about just taking from life what life would give him. We fast forward a couple decades. The Aimers and I just had a little trip to Maine. Maine is a really great place, in case you are not familiar. As hectic and as crazy as Boston is, Maine is equally relaxed and laid back. I think our hike guide was the epitome of Maine. This guy Bryan graduated in Geology a few years back and rather than sell out to corporate America and "make rich people richer," he decided to keep doing what he loved, being a guide in West Forks, Maine. And this guy was good. He was smart, interesting, and very personable. In my opinion, this guy could be making a lot of money if he wanted. But we found out that the rafting business and tourism in general in Maine is not doing very well right now, so this guy was literally scraping by. It struck me that he didn't seem concerned about that at all. He instead seemed completely at ease about it. He constantly reassured us that we didn't need to rush on our hike, but that we should take our time. My favorite part of the hike was Bryan's comment at the end on how nice of a hike it was, especially at the summit where we could just "chill." The comment showed that he genuinely loved his job and was content with life. I like a lot of types of personality, but I have an especially soft spot in my heart for people who are totally chill about life.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Thai restaurant you can't not try

The first time I went to a Thai restaurant was surprisingly only about two years ago. My love for the food took off instantaneously. Maybe I have Thai in my blood somewhere in the lineage. Two days ago, I went with a friend to Aiyara Thai Cuisine in American Fork. It was the best Thai food I've ever had. I ordered this super creamy coconut, lemon grass chicken soup. It was amazing. I also had this green curry chicken dish. I was in heaven. To top it all off, we had a mango sticky rice dish with ice cream on top. I didn't know anything could taste so good. And it couldn't be that bad for me, with dairy, fruit and grains included, right? If you are in Utah, or frequent the state every once in a while, you need to try this restaurant out. It's kind of secluded, so you may not find it just browsing for restaurants. But here's the address. Find it and eat there. It's very affordable. 224 East Main Street American Fork, UT 84003 (801) 756-4775 www.aiyarathai.net/

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Tonight was movie night featuring Limitless. The film was interesting, action-packed, and had some really unique cinematography. It's got Russian, which always makes a movie just a little bit better. Plus, it's got Robert De Niro. What's not to like about Robert De Niro? I would really recommend the movie. It's at the RedBox and on iTunes. ;)

If you haven't heard of the movie, the plot focuses on this kind of deadbeat guy who gets a hold of a drug NZT, which makes his brain function at full capacity. Can you imagine all your neuronal synapses connecting like a perfectly lubed machine? Or everything that you have learned (even subconsciously) at your disposal when you need it most?

The reason why I loved this movie is the same reason why I love any movie. It allowed me to escape reality but connect truth from this imaginary film into my real life. It absolutely fascinates me to think about someone condensing the pain of learning into one productive learning session. I guess I like the concept of operating at maximum capacity. Haven't you ever had your brain on super-productive mode? Or been able to complete a giant list of tasks in a short amount of time? Have you ever felt like you were on top of the world? The life of the party? All your jokes were funny and all your conversation was interesting? Okay, these last items don't happen too often to me. But I do get little brief glimpses of them.

Lately I've been trying to figure out why people have only glimpses of their brains operating at 100%. The majority of the time, your brain seems to be in "blah" mode. I've noticed for me one reason is that it allows me to be humble. I am a creature that needs to be forced into humility. It is then that I realize that I'm not better than other people. In fact, I'm more willing to interact and reach out to people when I am in a humble state, potentially building them up. I found it interesting that the movie only focused on the glamorous components of using your brain, like knowledge, power, money, without touching on the virtues that the brain can learn. Isn't it true that the brain can digest the benefits of living the precepts of wise leaders throughout the ages? Food for thought.

My other reason for why we are so designed sounds like a good reason, but I don't know if it's true, so I'm interested in what you have to say. Maybe life is more rewarding when you experience what you can't have. You see that elusive destination, but at the same time you are so far from it that it ain't even funny. We as humans need to be ever-progressing. We can't just reach a level and be content. That's why the Matrix initially failed. That's why we play RPGs. Have kids. Coach. It's fun to see the progress in ourselves and in others, but if there's a point where we have "made it," that becomes boring. That's all I've got for now, my brain is now dead.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August is the month of stories

In order to share a story, you have to be in the right mood. I think I've finally gotten into the right mood for this story. It all started yesterday...

I have temporarily moved back home to Orem, Utah to work for Novarad while the Aimers is gearing up for the school year in Boston. Living at home has taken some major adjustment on my part. Life is better elsewhere, but this situation will pay some bills.

Anyway, a couple days ago I drove my dad's Dodge Spirit to work. I am not too used to living in Happy Valley, so notwithstanding the fact that no one in their right mind would ever try and break into that car, out of habit I locked the car doors. But before I locked the last door, I made sure that the key I had could open up the door. After all, I wouldn't want to lock myself out of the car. Sure enough, the lock opened up the door and everything was fine.

The next day (yesterday), I drove my brother's Cavalier to work. It is a nicer car, but not nice enough to attract criminal conduct. After pulling up to the parking lot, I rolled up the windows and locked all the doors. This time, however, I did not check to see if the key I had would unlock the door. That minor detail would prove to be significantly important.

At lunch, I went out to the car to grab my peanut butter and honey sandwich. I put the key in the car and twist. Or, I should say, I tried to twist, but it wasn't twisting. I feared that I locked myself out of the car, but for good measure go to the passenger door and try. No twisting. I checked every door in hopes that I had forgotten to lock one. No such luck. I was locked out.

My brother confirmed my fears. Apparently, Race has one of those crazy cars that has a different key for the engine than the doors and trunk. His door and trunk key was inside the car. After a couple phone calls, I found out I could get a replacement key for $25, provided I show the dealership documentation with the VIN and my name on it. The problem was that I didn't have said documentation, Race would forget to call the bank to fax the dealership said documentation, and even if said documentation was received, I needed to be Race Ostler to pick up the key. It was too bad that he was going boating right as I called too.

So I decided to not worry about it during my lunch break. I went hungry and relied on a very kind fellow-employee that I got to know through my wife last year and very coincidentally started working with. He gave me a ride home and I was determined to get the key situation ironed out later. But my dad wanted to do it the next morning, so I waited.

When I was in high school, my buddy Ray used to lock his keys in his car so often that he would have a system to breaking into his car. Hey would pry the door open a little bit, shove his wallet in the pried area towards the top of the door, and then get out a hanger that he kept under his frame. If the lock was right, you could put a hook in at the end, put the hook under the locking mechanism, pull up and it would unlock.

I thought that I could do what he did and avoid paying fees and cutting bureaucratic red tape. Race had locks that appeared to be manipulatable by a hanger hook so the next day (today), my dad and I packed plenty of hangers and headed to where the locked up car was.

The process was not as easy as I had remember it. I could only fit one fold of my wallet in between the door, which didn't give us much wiggle room with the hangers. Tried as we could, we could not get the wires to come through from the top of the door--we had to settle on pushing the wires from the right hand side of the door. This could not give us the right angle. We made hooks into the hangers to latch on to the locking mechanism, but we could hardly touch the locker.

We then made a hanger guider, which was a glorified hanger loop that we threaded the hook through so that we could guide it closer to the locker. This got it much closer. Two times, my dad latched on to the locker, pulled, and moved it a little bit, but not enough to unlock the door. We just could not get a good enough angle from the entire other end of the door.

It was getting hot. I was very grateful that very few people were in the parking lot on a Saturday morning because we must have looked either very ridiculous or very shady. We had been so far unsuccessful at moving a wire to the other end of the door frame, so we decided to switch gears. What if we tied some string to the hook and navigated it over? It was worth a try.

After a quick drive to the nearest Circle K, we were tying waxed mint dental floss to the hanger's end. When that was attached, we shoved it through the usual door part and this time I navigated it to the opposite end of the door, closer to the locker mechanism. From this vantage point, I was able to stabilize the hook. But we didn't have much luck getting the hook coming in at the right angle. We tried, tried, tried and failed, failed, failed.

My dad then had the offball idea of putting a loop of dental floss to the end of the hanger and kind of lassoing the locker mechanism. I knew that idea wouldn't work. It was almost like a joke. So I said, "Okay, let's try it." Miraculously, the loop didn't get caught on anything getting in. I used my floss to guide the hook close and slowly the lasso got closer and closer to its target. Then the lasso closed in around the locker.

At this critical point, I carefully moved my floss to the other end of the door so that both the hook and floss were opposing where the locker had to be pulled to be unlocked. We both pulled. All eyes were on the locker.

The locker pulled back. The loop then fell off the locker. I reached for the door handle, as I couldn't believe that the door was unlocked. The door opened wide. My dad and I burst into laughter. WE COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT HAD HAPPENED! That was the luckiest, flukiest thing. But it did happen. And I was glad.

We then made it home and Race was outside. He seemed happy to see his car back at home. He tried to show me where the key was that I had locked in the car, but it wasn't there. A little while later, he said, "Trent, here's the key to unlock the car doors. I had it all along."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The likability factor of Lebron James and others

I'm always interested in NBA playoffs. This whole season I have viewed the Miami Heat as overhyped and overrated. The Heat signed all the talent money could buy and still they didn't have the best record in the league. I have viewed Lebron James his whole career similarly as overhyped and overrated. Because of these two points, as you might imagine, I didn't want the Heat to go far in the playoffs. I wanted the 76ers to take them out. I did get some sense of satisfaction that at least it wasn't easy for the Heat to take out the sixers. Then I really wanted my Celts to knock off Lebron, but that obviously didn't happen. Now I'm glad the Bulls worked the Heat in Game 1 (and look to continue throughout the series) and it's made me wonder: What is it about human nature that wants to tear down something that is hyped up?

I watched the movie More than a Game and I'll have to admit that my perception of Lebron changed for the better. In the movie, Lebron comes across as very likable. He's just a kid who grows up just like everyone else, has struggles, and eventually starts succeeding - big time. But even as he is starting to really become famous, people at the same time are starting to tear him down even in his own town. This phenomenon happens with all sorts of types of people from movie stars to musicians to politicians. They are interesting as they rise, then once they are at the top, people crave more interest and so they try and expose faults, making them less likable. But why do we as people want to tear down something that has been propped up?

I think it has to deal with jealousy on our parts. We get happy initially for someone's success. It inspires us that we can also be successful. But then we don't want them to be better than us, we want them to appear more human, so we look for ways to tear them down.

As I mentioned, I am not as anti-Lebron as I was because I want to appreciate his talent. He has already done some incredible things in his career. Think about him with the Cavs. He basically had no one else on his team, and they won 66 games one season, 61 games another season, get to the finals, play in the conference finals. That is impressive. What's funny, is that he follows that up with 58 wins season with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Now that all my teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, I am now throwing my support behind the Mavs. My brother is living in Dallas this summer, so for his sake I am going to be cheering them on.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How I would change the written English language

One downside of putting spoken language to print is that inevitably the same emotion cannot be adequately expressed. For the most part, I think that a writer can do a pretty good job in English. But there is one area that the English language struggles and may very well be in need of a new symbol: emotional emphasis. A lot of times, putting certain sentences to print with a mere period punctuation makes the sentence look as if a robot is saying it. This is undesirable, especially when the subject matter is emotional.

So how most people compensate for this is by using an exclamation point. The exclamation point definitely has an emotional emphasis, but too often it is used with excitement, rather than just to stress heartfelt emotion. Imagine the context of me writing a letter to my professor. The words of appreciation with a period make it sound not very grateful, or robotic, or not very genuine. "Thank you for writing the letter for me." But because the whole tone of my email is serious and professional an exclamation point is out of place: "Thank you for writing the letter for me!" Keep in mind that I don't want to communicate excitement here, I just want to let her know that I am really grateful. If I did send her the exclamated sentence, she might be like, "Whoa buddy, you're getting a little bit excited there."

Another example is in the most recent Ensign magazine. Elder Quentin L. Cook, referring to women, wants to really express how wonderful he believes women are. But the editors of the Ensign clearly struggled with the same idea. Here is the text.

I echo that sentiment today. Our LDS women are incredible!

By reading the text of this excerpt, it would appear as if Elder Cook was raising his voice, or at the very least has an excited tone. But the video shows quite the opposite; the tone is very level, the exclamation is merely being to infuse emotion into his words.

So there's the dilemma. You want to sound emotional, but not overly excited. To solve this problem, we should come up with another symbol to distinguish the two cases. The exclamation point should be used in contexts of high excitement, like when you are at a basketball game or rock concert, while another symbol should be used for emotional emphasis. There are quite a few symbols available on the keyboard that we don't commonly use in English print, but the checkmark symbol √ seems most appropriate. The checkmark is simple, and it gives the reader the impression that you are giving emphasis to this sentence. And that is usually the context of when the exclamation point is inadequate. "It's nice to meet you.√" I'm really happy to meet you, I'm not bored and I'm not a robot, but I'm also not one of those overly excited types either.

There may be times when the exclamation points can be combined with checkmarks. For instance, what if you were trying to stress emotional emphasis and really excited at the same time. You could couple the checkmark quite easily with other punctuation; the checkmark will just come last. "I love you!√" This is like combining question marks with exclamation points, completely acceptable. For example, "Are you serious??!" But most often, the checkmark symbol will stand alone, I imagine.

The exclamation point is currently used to stress emphasis. However, because the exclamation point is also used for excitement, this leads to a confusing conundrum. That is why introduction of the new emphasis symbol, the checkmark, is so vital. I really think we should adopt this system.√

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The dilemma of the Provo dater: A guy’s perspective

In my college physics class, my cousin Andrew and I came up with a theory on the ideal age for a guy to tie get married. We based our theory on the assumption that guys want to marry the right girl at the right time in her development. To support our theory, we compiled two graphs. First, there are three characteristics that a guy is looking for in a girl, to one degree or another: pretty, interesting, and spiritual. These characteristics tend to increase and decrease at different points in a girl’s life so the goal for the guy is to maximize. Second, the availability of girls diminishes rapidly due to the environment of Provo. A perplexing tension thus exists, our theory held, for the guy to choose between the girl’s ideal age and her availability. Here are the data:

Graph 1. The x-axis represents age, and the y-axis represents an arbitrary scale from 1-100. You may be wondering why my graph starts at the age of 17. There happen to be 17-year olds that attend BYU. I have a story about that.

The first characteristic that every guy looks for to some degree in a girl is physical beauty. This characteristic peaks in the early twenties. However, it remains remarkably stable for a long period of time, well into the early thirties. There is a big window of opportunity for a guy looking for prettiness in a girl.

The second trait is the spirituality. The guy wants a girl who he can go to church with for the rest of his life, someone who can help bring him up when he is feeling down and vice versa, and also help him raise kids in the gospel. Generally the late teens and early twenties are a period of finding oneself. Away from family for the first time, the Utah valley culture and influence of the church provide opportunities to learn and grow and be challenged in ways they never have before. This leads to much spiritual growth during these years. After a few years of this, many girls choose to serve a mission, which further increases the spiritual factor. This spiritual growth tends to plateau as missionaries come back home to enter the real world, graduate from college or otherwise head off to get absorbed into a career or grad school. Rather than being encouraged to keep up their spiritual lifestyle, they tend to get influenced the opposite direction. Unless they have great faith, they will tend to throw out tenets of their belief system. After a few years, however, of once again finding oneself outside the bubble, the girl recognizes that in some regards she “threw out the baby with the bath water” and finds again elements of her beliefs. After this second period of finding oneself, steady spiritual growth ensues.

The final factor is how interesting the girl is. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of guys—having a funny personality, having an ability to carry on interesting conversation, an being able to play an instrument, or just having a passion in something. The graphs show that girls’ level of being interesting generally increases throughout their lives as they accumulate experiences, talents and other interests. As the guy’s “interesting” factor increases, this in turn increases the girl’s interesting factor. It takes interesting to perceive interesting.

To the observer of this graph, it would appear that the ideal age at which to meet and marry one of these girls would be 29 years old. At this time, the factors are maximized at a central point. But here the second graph is introduced, which changes the selection dynamics altogether.

Graph 2. The x-axis once again represents age and the y-axis represents the percent availability.

Starting out, there is near 100% availability. As you can see by the following graph, Provo is a unique environment where girls start getting into serious relationships very young. Starting at age 19 and continuing until the age of 26, the availability of girls decreases exponentially. This in turn leads to fewer odds of finding that special someone that matches the guy’s traits.

Thus the paradox is that the longer the guy holds out for the ideal age for the positive traits, the less he has to work with and thus the lower these characteristics actually are.

Guys for the most part know about these graphs intuitively, but the majority of them don’t know how to resolve the tension. They don’t know when to hold out until while still getting a pretty good deal. That is why many of them do not get married for a while.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

If you saw money on the road, would you pick it up?

One of my young men told me on Saturday how he found a twenty dollar bill on the street. How nice, I told him. Little did he know that I love finding money. I consider myself quite good at spotting money and picking it up in all shapes and varieties.

You know the economics concept of opportunity costs? It goes something like this: the amount of time that you spend bending down to grab a coin on the street may not be worth your time, depending on how much you could otherwise earn. This is technically true with me. I have opportunities to make money making it possibly not worth my while, were I just to spend that time on working. But notwithstanding this knowledge, I'll still bend down and pick up a penny if I see one.

Why? I need to make known to myself and the universe that I am always on the lookout for ways to make money. Plus the times that I find such money is relatively rare so I can make up for the time in non-working times, like sleep. Plus, I'm not as rational as economic theory tends to assumes someone like me to be.

What is the lowest coin you would "stoop" to pick up?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

General Conference 2011 - The best ever?

Twice a year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds what is called general conference for two days. "Conference" includes multiple two-hour sessions of inspirational talks on a variety of gospel-related topics. The addresses are available for all to view either on TV, radio, Internet (lds.org), or satellite transmission at a local church.

For the past few years, I've done a good job of keeping myself busy during these April and October conferences. While still participating, during these times I would sometimes casually listen to the talks and otherwise not let the meaning sink deeply into my heart. This didn't let met extract as much meaning and value to my life! But this year was different. I decided to focus on conference and put aside my other tasks at hand. I focused myself and watched all 10 hours, which made a world of different this made for me.

For one, this conference really helped me think about ways that I can be a better person. There are a lot of ways that I can be better so liked how the speakers inspired without making me feel overwhelmed. I think this is the trademark of when you are being touched by the Holy Ghost. You realize that the gospel is simple and that you can tap into God's power through His grace and it makes you feel wonderful and optimistic. It was also good to regain the perspective of why I am on this earth. It's kind of easy to get weighed down by life, but you find comfort and happiness in knowing that God really is there for you trying to help you. I definitely felt Him these past couple days very strongly and there's no greater feeling. He will always be there for us, we just need to do our part to come to Him.

This has also been my first general conference being married, which also made for an interesting new perspective. Even though I haven't been married as long as Elder Scott, I can see that family life is paramount. There was so much good counsel about the gospel, especially the priesthood, that I want to study, study, study. There is so much to learn and so much to do that my work seems mountainous. But I find comfort in the words of Elder Bednar that we learn and grow line upon line, precept upon precept. I definitely recommend anyone listen to the talks on lds.org when they become available. Also, if anyone out there would like to learn more about the church, email me. I have gmail: (trent.ostler)

As an aside, I don't know why the April conference is termed "Annual" and the October conference is "Semi-Annual." Don't you have to have two semi-annuals each year to make it be semi-annual?

Thursday, March 03, 2011


It's hard to believe that this year has come to a close. So many things have happened to me since my last birthday--so many big, life-changing events. I finished one of the hardest semesters of my life, I got serious with a girl, I finished my law review note, I started p90x, I worked at a job that furthered my career and paid me for it, I got engaged, I made an iPhone app, I almost died, I saw my sister get married, I helped write an amicus brief, I finished the formal part of law school, I got the go-ahead to take the USPTO Registration Examination, I got married to a beautiful girl, I moved in with said girl, I started my externship, I filed my taxes after taking the class personal finance tax (Btw, big difference in understanding terms after taking that class), I experienced a sad passing with my grandmother, and I started once again maintaining my professional blog (click here to see). (My goal is to make my professional blog come up as the number one hit when you google Trent Ostler, but as it is now it's still this crazy blog.)

In sum, this year was CRAZY. But you better believe that's the way I like it. Life is not something that should be lived casually. You've gotta live it up to the fullest. That's what I did in year 28 and I show no signs of letting up. Watch out world, cuz I'm older and I'm wiser.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The General of the Ostler Family

My grandma passed away Saturday morning. I have had her on my mind ever since. I don't think I've known a better representation of the goodness of humanity than grandma. She she was always content with life, was the hardest worker you'll ever know, was patient and courageous in her afflictions, cared about people, and had class in all situations, even when dealt a bad hand.

She was always happy with life. When she was in school, the cool kids would wear their fancy clothes and my grandma wanted to fit in with them, but she couldn't afford it. So she would make spin-offs herself and be perfectly fine with it. She went her entire life with only one vacation. I sometimes get caught up thinking about exotic destinations and luxurious accommodations. My grandma probably had hopes of going somewhere nice too, but she was fine when that didn't happen.

My grandma always worked hard. Always. She started working at her dad's fruit stand and starting at age 12, she would even drive her dad's car to pick up supplies. Orem was a different place back then. I remember her looking after us shortly after my mom passed away. One time while my dad was away, she came over and cleaned the entire house. Then she just sat in the dining area while we slept because she wasn't tired.

Jennica was only a month old at the time of my mother's passing. My grandma and grandpa were preparing to go on a mission with my grandpa, but my grandma took it upon herself to raise Jenny.

When I got back from my mission in 2003, my grandma was in a wheelchair. A slip resulted in a series of surgeries on her knee, eventually requiring her knee to be fused. For the next 8 years, she would deal with the consequences of that slip. It was extraordinarily painful for her, but she hardly complained. She was a champion of champions. She was a fighter though, and showed us all what it means to not take life for granted.

My grandma had a humble sense of pride. She was always aware, even in her jazzy-ridden condition, of how her house looked. She would have me come over and take out the weeds that had overrun her bushes. You would think that at that point in her life, she wouldn't care about how the front area looked, but not grandma. She had us plant a patch of flowers right next to the garden, and directed where they needed to go.

At social gatherings, grandma wasn't the most prominent. But she did her work behind the scenes. She was the peacemaker of the Ostler family. She was intricately involved in her family's lives. She was on everybody's side, even when there were conflicts within the family. Everyone came to her with their problems and she gave her undivided attention.

My grandma had been struggling a lot lately and she's in a better place right now. But it'll still be hard going without her.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

DonorsChoose Shoutout

I love education. I love learning and gaining skills that can be used in the real world. It’s sad to see that much of the world does not have opportunities for getting an education. It’s doubly sad to see that right here in the USA kids are getting lousy educations. I’m sure that politicians will continue to talk about investing in education and improving our system, but the reality is that our education system has many problems and a simple silver-bullet fix is not possible. That being said, I recently came across a program that aids in one of the system’s problems: lack of resources for teachers.

Very simply, our public education system is funded by allotments of money based on how much money the taxpayers pay in that particular locale. This system leads to disparity in different communities. It also leads to some school districts without sufficient resources for kids to learn.

One program that allows for teachers to bridge the lower-income gap in some districts is “DonorsChoose.org.” Teachers who are in need of a particular classroom item(s) post the item and donors donate money to it. This lets you donate money to projects you think are a good idea . Plus, organizations help out in the funding. Bing.com, for instance, will donate $3 if you fill out a survey. I did this the other day, but you can donate according to whatever means you have. This program is a way to concretely help students right here in the United States.

My wife teaches eighth grade special education. Special education is especially hit hard when districts are already struggling to come up with the resources to distribute. This, for the simple reason that kids with mild learning disabilities require more time and tailored education. Amy’s DonorsChoose project involves getting a digital projector for her students. This will aid in better interaction and better learning. To donate to her project, click here. It is named "Make Us Equal!"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blog Post about My Blog

This is a short and sweet blog post about a recent change to my blog name. For the longest time, my blog has been called “My Stories.” Today I started thinking about my blog, and realized that a better name for it is “Me” because my blog really gives you a flavor for who Trenton Bradford Ostler really is. There are the philosopohical posts on life, the business-y posts, the spirtual posts, the stories of adventure, the posts on love and family, and the opinions on random topics. I would rename my blog to “Me,” but that's not too terribly creative so I decided to translate the word "Me" into Russian giving as an end result "Ya." I hope you continue to enjoy the posts.

My Business Advice for Customer Service Departments

I heard on the radio not too long ago that companies save huge amounts of money by not talking directly to the customer. It’s true. A company can save upwards of $6 per call. That is why automated directories are now widespread. But people still just want to talk to real live people to resolve their issues. I, for one, have gotten quite good at pressing the right keys to get to a person the fastest. The number 0 usually does the trick.

Today was different. I decided to try the website approach. You know those "email a representative" links on websites that nobody ever uses? Yep, I clicked on that and asked my credit card company a total of two questions, which were in turn promptly answered. This experience restored my faith in alternatives to calling humans. Indeed, using websites gives you access to more helpful and better organized information than is possible by talking to someone over the phone.

But here’s the problem: people are going to need an incentive to switch to addressing their problems online because it takes time to search the website, figure out their organization and wait for a response (which could take upwards of a couple days). The only reason I tried the email approach today is I was curious. Notwithstanding this problem, I think I know of a way that companies can incentivize customers to email them: pay them cash to resolve their complaints online. I know, you’re thinking that there’s no way to prevent abusers from gaming the system to get money. But the solution lies in making the price low enough that people won’t want to ask questions, but high enough that will attract people to go online.

I will be the first to say that I hate waiting for answers. When I have an issue, I want it resolved right then and there. But in reality, in a lot of instances, the problem is not immediate and going online can be much more efficient. I would be willing to jump through some hoops and be patient if the price is right. I think a lot of others out there are too.

Friday, January 07, 2011

That was scary

I nervously stalled in the stairwell. I knew the gist of what I wanted to say, but as I came to the second floor, I started getting nervous. I went over some thoughts that I wanted to say in my mind again. Then I started walking to his office. The door was locked--he wasn't there. Shoot, I'll try back later. After about 20 minutes, I got a text from him. "Come on over for a visit before 10." It was 8:50. I immediately started walking back over to the Benson building. This time I was not as nervous; after all, he was basically beckoning me to come over. I also had been thinking about things to say for the past half-hour. I made it to the second floor of the Benson. He was with what looked like a colleague and a girl who was talking about her engagement or something. I retreated out of sight. I was sure that he didn't see me because his back was turned on me. Then I waited until the conversation ended and I made my move. He was in his office, but was on the phone with what sounded to be his wife. He motioned for me to come in, and I sat down on the couch and waited for the conversation to end. Then it was me and him. We small-talked around for a little bit, but we both knew what we were there to really talk about. In essence, I told him I wanted his permission to marry his daughter. Then I waited for his response. And waited. It seemed like an eternity. I am exaggerating, but at the same time I'm not exaggerating because he seriously paused for about 15 seconds. Then he started talking about how I would be so good for Amy and that he is really impressed with my appreciation for his daughter. A wave of relief spread throughout my body. What a nerve-wracking experience! And even for someone that I thought had shoe-in support for me. It was at that moment that my desire to have girls began as I would have the opportunity to have lots of fun with their potential suitors!