Sunday, April 27, 2008

Baptisms and New Callings

As the old saying goes, the only constant in life is change and that has certainly been the case recently here. It is true in any aspect of life, but it seems even more so in the church. I have had the opportunity to be part of a few changes in our fun little Rootstown Ward these past few weeks that I thought I'd share!

The first was just over two weeks ago with the baptism of one of my sister Katie's best friends, Caitlin Vanderground. Caitlin, known mostly by her nickname "Gizmo," met Katie when they both worked at Camp Ledgewood (a Girl Scout camp in Peninsula, Ohio) for a few summers. It's always a neat experience to see someone learn about the church and then decide to join by way of baptism, but even more so when it's someone you've known for a long time! Granted, I haven't known Caitlin that long and for the most part our meetings have been in passing when she has come over to visit Katie at various times or when we saw each other at Bowman Hall on the KSU campus. I didn't even know her real name until just recently, plus it took me forever to figure out which one was "Gizmo" and which one was "Re-run" (another camp friend). I would just lump them together ("Gizmo and Re-run").

Caitlin started meeting with our wonderful sister missionaries a few months ago after she started attended church with us in February. I'll never forget it because Caitlin came with her "Mormonism for Dummies" book and was reading and checking it during much of the meeting. I thought it was cool. I didn't really do much with the discussions (the missionaries teaching) since I didn't really need to. Katie is also a former full-time missionary, plus the missionaries we have had here do such a great job relating to people and teaching them. On top of that, my relationship to Caitlin is much more of a casual one, so no need for me to crowd the discussion! Honestly, I thought Caitlin might join the church down the road, but I never expected this. What a wonderful surprise! I know it made my sister Katie incredibly happy too! To add to my surprise, Caitlin asked me to baptize her, which I did. I hadn't actually baptized someone since 2003 when I was on my mission. It's been awhile! The baptismal service went well and I thankfully didn't mess up the actual baptism either!

The next day Caitlin came to Kirtland with Katie, me, the missionaries and some friends from church. We had a lot of fun seeing the sites again (we'd all been there before) and seeing the Joseph Smith movie. It's pretty good!

In other news I officially got my new calling at church. I found out last week (April 20) that I was being relased as pianist and called as the teacher for the 10-11 year olds. I was pretty disappointed to be released as pianist as it has been the best calling I've ever had. I don't think I've ever had a bad Sunday since I've been pianist, even when I've struggled with some of the songs (which happens frequently). I was sustained in sacrament meeting this past week, though I have not officially been released as pianist yet. Even if I am formally released, no one has been called to replace me, so I will still be acting pianist. Because Primary is divided into two one-hour sections, known as Junior Primary for the 3-7 year olds and Senior Primary for the 8-12 year olds) I won't be able to play during Junior Primary because that's when I'll be teaching my class, though there is a possibility we could go back to having just one Primary, in which case I would be able to play piano for. In addition to my new calling, there were several changes in our ward as we got new presidencies in both Primary and Relief Society (women's organization). In fact, our new Relief Society president had been the Primary president (go Sister Horning!)! We also got three new teachers in Primary (including me). I'm excited to be a teacher again even though I will greatly miss being full-time pianist. I haven't been a full-time Primary teacher since 2004 when I taught the class with the 6-8 year olds (all of whom are now almost 12). I'm hoping I can apply more of what I know about teaching into my class and use more resources to make it more interesting. We'll see how it goes!

Notes on pictures: 1. Oliver Lamprecht, age 3, in Junior Primary pondering a question on April 21; 2. Caitlin and me just before her baptism on April 20; 3. the group in Kirtland, Ohio inside the historic Whitney house; 4. Me happy behind the piano in Primary!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guess who was in the Stater today?

Well, not only did I get a new digital converter yesterday, but I also made a quick stop at Kent city hall to look over potential plans for what has been referred to as a "multi-modal facility," tentatively planned for the area bordered by Haymaker Parkway, East Main, East Erie, and South DePeyster Streets, adjacent to downtown Kent. The area is currently home to a row of fraternity houses on East Main and a few small businesses on East Main and South DePeyster. It's also a very hilly piece of land. Anyway, this multi-modal facility is better defined as a transportation hub. Basically, it will be a small parking deck that is surrounded by retail and also has a bus stop and places to leave bikes. It can serve as a transfer point to the various transportation systems in Kent, which are PARTA (Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority), the Portage Hike & Bike Trail, and of course cars and walking. I wouldn't be surprised if PARTA decided to route one of the campus buses up there too along with the Interurban line that runs between Stow and Ravenna.

Anyway, so I went to this public meeting at city hall, which was basically a chance for the public to see four possible schemes and to have the opportunity to leave comments on what they liked and didn't like of each one. Schemes 1 & 2 were almost identitcal as were 3 & 4. The differences were in which direction the traffic entered and exited the facility and 1 & 2 had a small amphitheater-like part on the east end of the facility and 3 & 4 had a more open end. The company doing this also had a meeting at Kent State earlier in the day to get feedback from students in the student center. While I was at city hall, a reporter from the Daily Kent Stater, KSU's student newspaper, interviewed me about it. If you'd like to read the article, click here. I thought it was a pretty good article, though my brother wished there had been some more background on the project and some pictures included. I guess the Stater figured that most of its readers would know that stuff since this is not the first article on it. I thought, though, that I'd include some background info on the project as best as I know, and of course, some of my own thoughts. The one thing I didn't like about the Stater article was that it made it sound like Kent was trying to implement an entire new transit system with this project. Like I said earlier, this is being built as a hub to an already exsiting transit system tying together bus, bike, car, and pedestrian.

The first time I ever heard any reference of the "multi-modal facility" was in the early part of the 2000's when the city released the Bicentennial Plan, which had an overall plan to address some of the city's struggling areas with plans for redevelopment. Among them was the controversial "Campus Link" neighborhood, which is the neighborhood sitting in between downtown Kent and the KSU campus, most of which is rental houses and some small businesses along East Main Street. Part of the Campus Link plan was to construct a hotel and conference center and what was deemed a "multi-modal facility" which basically looked like a parking deck next to the hotel. Campus Link became very controversial because it involved such a change in the makeup of the neighborhood and many people, landlords in particular, were opposed to a major change like that. The overall idea seemed to die (I'm not sure on the actual status of the Bicentennial Plan right now), though the hotel/conference center idea is still alive for other possible locations (and still very much needed in my opinion) and the multi-modal one is as well obviously. The Bicentennial Plan, which was done by 2005, can be seen in its entirety here and the Campus Link visual can be seen here. The "multi-modal facility" is identified as #3 on the map, which describes the facility as a "600-space parking structure and transfer facility for reconfigured bus routes and the Portage Trail, a planned regional bike route through the City of Kent." The "Portage Trail" is now the Portage Hike & Bike Trail, which is still being built in phases. The phase through KSU is done and part of the trail through the city is being worked on now to connect the KSU portion with the portion running along the Cuyahoga River.

So in the last few months the "multi-modal facility", now known as the Kent Central Gateway, has gained some momentum as a firm was actually hired to come up with a best location and get some designs out. It's been going on well over a year with public input from the very beginning as well as cooperation with city, university, and PARTA officials. Here are some of the stories that covered it, all from the Record-Courier by Matt Fredmonsky:

  • 29 March 2007 Multi-modal facility plans move ahead
  • 26 April 2007 Multi-modal idea gaining momentum
  • 3 November 2007 Kentites to view Gateway plans
  • 8 November 2007 KSU, Kent seeking public input on plan for multi-modal facility
  • 9 November 2007 Kent community gets look at multi-modal projects
  • 11 April 2008 Kent Public viewing of multi-modal plans set for April 24
  • 25 April 2008 Open houses showcase plans for transportation facility

  • What do I think about all this? Well first, let me state the important fact that although Kent is so liberal politically, it is remarkably conservative when it comes to development. There is this core of residents who have a hard time with any type of change, but especially in development and even more so when that development involves downtown and/or Kent State is involved. There is a faction of residents who seem to consider Kent State the "evil empire" trying to push its will on the city, though I will be the first to admit that KSU has acted at times as if this were the case. That aside, at long last both city and university seem to finally see the benefits of working together versus the "go it alone" approach both have taken for so long. I think this project specifically is a good one, mostly because it isn't just a parking deck/bus stop like I initially thought it was (the College Park, Maryland METRO stop came to mind: a rail and bus stop connected to a parking deck), but includes retail and will extend downtown. On top of that, the retail surrounds the parking area, so it won't be obvious at all. Let's be honest, one of the bigest drawbacks for downtown is the general lack of parking close to businesses, so this will be a big help. I was surprised somewhat when I read quotes in the Stater from another Kent resident interviewed who said she wanted to see the parking deck more underground. Did she look at the plans correctly? The garage won't be visible much at all because it will be virtually surrounded by retail. On top of that the facility will be on the side of a relatively steep hill, so if it's too far underground, it won't be accessible from one side of the development. The plans also include a pedestrial/bike bridge over Haymaker Parkway. While I have already stated that the parkway is hardly a barrier for students to get downtown, if that aspect is built, it should help, plus it will make biking easier for those using the trail.

    The scheme I liked best was #1, which included the amphitheater feature on the east end. I liked it best because it was the only layout that did not direct traffic onto Haymaker Parkway or E. Erie Street. I'd like to see E. Erie be more pedestrian friendly in this development and Haymaker is already a 5-lane road, so adding entrances for buses and/or cars would just add more obstacles. I say keep Haymaker more of a through street and direct the traffic onto S. Depeyster and E. Main. That way it will be easier for both buses and cars to get in and out of the facility and won't require adding another traffic light to Haymaker.I also liked the terraced area that looked like an amphitheater on the east end because it fits with the land there and would provide a nice community area.

    It's nice to see some momentum on downtown Kent development. I see so much potential there, yet for so long it has languished. I try to shop there when I can, but most of what is downtown are things I either don't need or can get at a substantially lower price elsewhere. I've always thought that increasing the amount of living space would help as would more offices and just today I saw some long-awaited plans to do that to a few buildings along East Main in the heart of downtown. What a thrill to read that! This, along with the plans to redevelop the block bordered by East Erie, Haymaker, South DePeyster, and South Water show signs of improvement and hope. I just hope they all happen and don't go by the wayside as so many other projects have downtown. If only we could get that old hotel taken care of too...

    Notes on the pictures: 1. A picture of downtown Kent looking east from the Main Street Bridge, taken by me in December 2006. Another thing I'd like to see is Huntington Bank restore their historic building to fit in better and actually look as old as it is. It's the one with that green stuff all over the upper level right near the center of the picture. It used to be a stately three-story building...not sure when the third floor was removed and the coverings added, though it looks very 60's...2. View of scheme 1 from Dave Ruller's blog showing the upper level (all three levels were shown at the open house). 3. a 3-D view of the same scheme. The arrows indicate the traffic entrances for buses (orange) and cars (blue).

    Digital Dismay

    For those who don't know, come February next year, all over-the-air television programming will be broadcast in digital only as opposed to the typical analog signal. Currently, programs are being broadcast in both signals. By next February, though, anyone who doesn't have cable, satellite, or AT&T U-Verse won't be able to watch TV unless they have these new digital converter boxes, which convert the digital signal to an analog one that older TV's can read. Newer TV's (like in the past 3-4 years) already have a digital receiver. None of our TV's (newest was made in the late 1990's I think) have them, so all four will need this converter. Thankfully the government is stepping in and has offered vouchers to offset the cost, since the majority of people who will need them (those without a TV service) are poor. Each household is entitled to two $40 vouchers. Our two came the other day, so I decided that I'd go get one of the converters today to see how it works, plus the vouchers are only good until July.

    Well, I got it (paid all of $24 for it with the voucher!) and hooked it up easily. Before I bought the one I did at Radio Shack (pretty much the only one available here right now) I was amazed to see that some people had problems setting it up, but once they got it set up, it worked fine. It took more time to move the few things out of the way to get to the antenna cable than it did to actually hook it up...I guess I have an understanding of how antennas hook up that others don't? It was pretty simple as it's just an additional place the antenna cable has to go through. It comes through the converter, then to my DVD/VCR and then to the TV. Also, the new box is the tuner, so it has its own remote to change channels. The problem with that is in the rare event I want to record a TV program, I have to make sure the new box is on the correct channel, not the VCR (which will stay on channel 4 as will the TV).

    I had high hopes since the digital signal is supposed to provide a better viewing picture than analog, even for stations that are traditionally weak, plus the digital signal allows stations to broadcast more than one channel. For example, here in the Cleveland market both WKYC (channel 3) and WOIO (channel 19) broadcast their regular programming (channels 3-1 and 19-1) as well as a separate weather channel (channels 3-2 and 19-2), so that's cool. The bad side is that the digital signals aren't much stronger than the analog ones so far. Both 19 and 43 (which are in essence the same station) have weak signals. 43's was better, but it still wasn't stable and kept going in and out. 19's was worse. On their main channel (19-1) there was no sound and the picture was a constant mess of pixels and lines. Other stations like WVIZ (channel 25) and WNEO/WEAO (45/49), our PBS stations, aren't being picked up at all. Thankfully the all-Spanish channel (channel 61) and the home shopping channel (67) are being picked up just fine...oh wait...I never watch those. The thing with digital signals is that there's no in-between. If the signal isn't strong enough you either won't get anything or you'll get a broken picture and broken sound, so you can't really watch. It reminds me of watching satellite TV during a snowstorm when the signal starts to get bad and starts breaking up. So, although we "added" two channels that we couldn't get previously, we have lost two and two more are unstable. That's really disappointing. But seriously, we're one of the only households left in America that still doesn't have cable or satellite. RRRRR!!! On top of that, another humid summer without air conditioning is on its way. Yipee.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    More on education

    It's that time of year where people really start to think about their education. Specifically, high school students get ready to graduate and head off to college and those like me get ready to (FINALLY) graduate from college and head to grad school. One thing that I've often thought about and commented here and there on is the choice of college. Growing up LDS in Ohio, the typical course for my fellow Latter-day Saints involved graduation from high school and then attending a church-owned school, usually BYU, and then somehow ending up out West either because of a job or a spouse. Of course not everyone ends up out there and not every LDS high school graduate chooses to attend BYU, BYU-Idaho, or any of the other church schools (BYU-Hawaii and LDS Business College). What concerns me is how most students seem to choose church schools based on very little information. Many never set foot on the campus before their first day of classes. Most seem to assume that because it is a church school, everything will be fine and there's nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, my own experience has found those notions are not correct, nor is the notion that the church schools are automatically the best places for a particular student to attend.

    Prior to Ricks College becoming a 4-year institution under the name BYU-Idaho, the "hierarchy" of Mormon education choices were 1. BYU, 2. Ricks College, 3. Snow College (not owned by the church) or a local school like Kent State. It is still largely like that, particularly for students in the east where Latter-day Saints are few and far in-between and living and learning amongst fellow Latter-day Saints seems like a dream. The difference now is the BYU-Idaho is much more of a "first choice" than it used to be (it was for me), though many in the church still seem to regard BYU-Idaho as a "minor league affiliate" or "little sister" to BYU or use BYU-Idaho as a way to get into BYU. More and more, however, choose to attend BYU-Idaho without giving BYU any thought. BYU-Hawaii, it seems, has always been much more apart from the whole process...meaning people choose BYU-Hawaii because of the opportunity to go to an LDS school in Hawaii, plus it offers many programs unique to the islands. In other words, I've never gotten the impression that members of the church go to BYU-Hawaii because they couldn't get into BYU (unless they happen to already live in Hawaii).

    Sure, everyone has their specific reasons for going to a particular college or university. Most choose a school they are familiar with or were impressed by in some way. Probably the biggest reason I originally went to Kent State is because it's VERY close, even closer than my high school, though I don't think I would've come back if I didn't think this school had something quality to offer. But even then, I was familiar with the programs Kent offered and with the campus itself; I didn't come here having never set foot on the campus. Quite the opposite; I knew as much as or more about the campus and the community than most students do. I don't see a lot of LDS students from out here heading to BYU with very much knowledge of what BYU (or any other church school) is like or how good the programs are for their specific area. Most know that BYU is a "good school." As my last post talked about, simply being an overall "good school" doesn't always translate into "best school for you." Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not saying a church school is for sure wrong for everyone; I'm saying it's not right for everyone, even Latter-day Saints. My own experience confirms that. I was never a fan of church schools before I attended BYU-Idaho as a student and visited BYU several times for various things. My experiences with them confirmed what I already thought about the extreme cultures that exist at both schools and the high levels of pride (i.e. not good "school pride" either). There ARE a lot of good things at the church schools too. I know many people that have gone and have gotten a quality education and had very enjoyable experiences. I had many wonderful experiences and great teachers at BYU-Idaho in the three years I was there, but I also had many not-so-wonderful experiences at many different levels: from fellow students all the way to the top of the administration that will forever shape my view of the school. Further, they were experiences bad enough to seriously challenge my testimony in ways no anti-Mormon garbage has even gotten CLOSE to.

    I guess my point here is not to talk down the church schools, but more to talk up the simple act of truly investigating a school before going there and not just going there based on what some people have said. Find some third party, objective reviews of the school and if possible, your particular program. It may very well be that the program you want to study in is really great at one of the church schools; it may also be true that you would be better served in your field somewhere else. Like I said, many people have had wonderful experiences attending church schools, but many have also had terrible experiences. And of course this doesn't apply to just church schools; it applies to any school. Church schools are my main focus here because they are the ones I see students go to the most often with very little actual info about the school other than that it's a church school. I don't regret going to BYU-Idaho despite how my time there ended (it's well documented if you don't know!). My reasons for going there were FAR deeper than simply "it's a church school." (In all actuality, I am the kind of person that would use "it's a church school" as a reason not to attend a particular school!). In closing, make a truly educated decision about your education!!

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    Lots to talk about!

    I'm not really sure where to start as there has been a lot going on here and certain things on my mind. I'll probably end up making multiple posts today. First I'll just mention a few things that have been on my mind recently.

    Yesterday I was reading in the newspaper and online about a guy from Akron who donated $2 million to Kent State for scholarships for gay and lesbian students. OK aside from that part of the story, the surprising thing to me was that this guy, Harry Jackson, is an alumnus of the University of Akron, yet he donated his money to Akron's main rival. The Record-Courier made no mention of the fact that Mr. Jackson was an Akron alum, but the Beacon-Journal through its website sure did. I thought it was interesting how both papers presented the same story in completely different tones and main points. The R-C (Kent's local paper), the headline was "$2 million to aid KSU gay group" with the article focusing on the fact that this is the first such donation ever made to KSU and one of the largest ever made in the country towards a gay and lesbian group. The only background on Harry Jackson was that he was a former tax attorney for B.F. Goodrich and owns the Odd Corner, "a tobacco and gift shop in downtown Akron." The R-C article states that Jackson selected KSU "because of the campus environment" and also said "Kent State is more gay-friendly and progressive than other area universities..." Meanwhile, the Beacon-Journal (Akron's paper) focused more on the fact that Jackson was an Akron alum disgruntled at the University of Akron for using eminent domain to get the property his store is located on for construction of the Zips' new football stadium ("Merchant's bequest will transfer to KSU"). It also mentioned that Jackson's store also sells "erotica," something the R-C left out. OK so what ON EARTH am I getting at here? While I have issues with the whole gay thing, that really wasn't what I was mainly thinking about. If someone wants to donate their money to that, fine. On, I read the article and the comments that followed it. One of the things I really like about online news is how people can leave comments. Even though I've found that people will say some really nasty things since they can leave anonymous comments (so they don't have to actually face the person they are talking to), overall I like to read them because it gives me the sense of what the most vocal people are thinking in regards to this. Inevitably, conversations start via the comments as people respond to each other. Sometimes it's mean-spirited, other times educational, and at best comical. On this particular story, the debate came up as it always seems to when Kent State and Akron are talked about in the same story: which school is better? Of course the die-hards on either side had all the information in the world to "prove" that Akron was better or Kent State was better. While I certainly have a bias towards Kent State since I am a student there and I live in Kent, it is always my goal to look at arguments objectively and then to present my views as fairly as possible without riling anyone up.

    I've found it's hard to say how one school is better than another because there are many factors in what makes a school great. True, not all schools are created equal, but a school that may be rated as a "great" school by some may not necessarily be the best fit for a particular student. It's not necessarily because they aren't a great student, but it may be that student doesn't like the environment or feels out of place or even something like doesn't mesh with that particular method (or methods) of teaching. In the whole Kent State vs. Akron debate, part of me says we're fighting over who is less mediocre than the other as neither school is well-known outside of the region other than Kent State for basketball and the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings. Usually when people argue about which school is better, they immediately turn to the holy rankings of U.S. News & World Report, which rank colleges and universities in several categories, from overall to specific programs within each school on a yearly basis. In searching that lightly last night, I also discovered other groups which rank schools, including The Washington Monthly, The Princeton Review, and the Carnegie Foundation.

    The U.S. News & World Report rankings probably get the most publicity and the average Joe really holds them high in comparing universities. Schools know this, so that's why they use them when they can. Comparing KSU and Akron with this ranking, however, doesn't do so much. Kent State is a "third tier" (third tier is the 25% of schools after the top 50%) institution according the the U.S. News rankings, while Akron is a fourth-tier. Hardly anything to brag about for either school, but at least one group thinks overall Kent State is slightly better than Akron. The Princeton Review lists both schools as a "Best Midwestern College," but it didn't seem to be much to that ranking or list at all. The one that surprised me was The Washington Monthly National Universities rankings which had Kent State ranked 56th in the nation and Akron 179th out of 245 schools. It was surprising to see KSU ranked that high nationally and way ahead of even Brigham Young University (121st) and other notable schools. The only in-state schools ahead of Kent were Case-Western Reserve (25th), Ohio State (27th), and Ohio U. (40th). Of course each group uses different critera to measure how good a school is. The Washington Monthly seemed to measure not only what a school was doing, but what their graduates are doing after they leave. They said it was measured by: "how well it performs as an engine of social mobility (ideally helping the poor to get rich rather than the very rich to get very, very rich), how well it does in fostering scientific and humanistic research, and how well it promotes an ethic of service to country." So, at least in those aspects, they think Kent State is doing well. That was nice to read. U.S. News bases their rankings on: "Indicators used to measure academic quality fall into seven broad areas: peer assessment; retention and graduation of students; faculty resources; student selectivity; financial resources; alumni giving; and (for national universities and liberal arts colleges) "graduation rate performance," the difference between the proportion of students expected to graduate and the proportion that do. The indicators include both "input measures," which reflect the quality of students, faculty, and other resources used in education, and "outcome measures," which signal how well the institution educates its student body."

    I guess in the end, people need to really study out where they want to go to school and not just assume that one is better because of a ranking. Even U.S. News states that readers should "use the rankings as one tool for selecting a college," rather than the only tool. Just because a school or program is highly ranked doesn't mean it will serve your specific needs the best or help you later on in life. Not all jobs are obtained solely because of the reputation of your school; many are made just by contacts or by evaluation of relevant experience. I see a lot of good things at Kent, from the world-class Liquid Crystal Institute to other things like an excellent nursing school, a business school that is frequently rated as one of the best in the country, a nationally known fashion school, a pretty good journalism school, library science program, physical education progarm, architecture school, as well as many other unique programs and opportunities and some really nice facilities. It's far from a perfect world, but I feel good about being here and being forever associated with the school and I feel like the experiences I've gained here (along with my time at BYU-Idaho) are going to help me out beyond my time in college.

    So, do I think Kent State is a better school overall than Akron? OF COURSE I DO! That's not to say, though, Akron is a bad school or that Kent State is better in everything than Akron (Akron has some really good programs like their polymer science program and some great new facilities), but it didn't fit what I was looking for in an education. It's nice to see that some objective third parties agree with my biased assessment! :)

    Check each school's website out for yourself!
  • Kent State University

  • University of Akron
  • Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Congrats Lynn and Happy Birthday Jesus!

    OK now that I have your attention...

    For starters, yes, April 6th is believed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be the actual date of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, though you will find little obervances of it anywhere in the Church. We still celebrate Christmas along with everyone else, even though we recognize that December 25 is not his actual date of birth. I think this falls into "spirit of the law" vs. "letter of the law," as it's not so much when we celebrate his birth but more that we do celebrate and remember it. Christmas is so much a part of world culture, it just makes sense to celebrate it then along with everyone else. Mormons aren't unique in our view of Christ being born on days other than December 25th as it is relatively common knowledge nowadays that the date of Christmas was fixed in December in the early Christian Church (earliest records show it sometime in the 3rd century AD) in order to replace the pagan winter solstice holiday that existed near then (the winter solstice is around December 21). In the LDS (Mormon) Church today, April 6th being the actual birthdate is more of a trivia answer than anything, though it is significant in the early history of the Church. April 6, 1830 was the day the Church was officially organized in Fayette Township, New York, near Waterloo. It is also the day the Salt Lake Temple was dedicated in 1893. The Church's annual General Conference is held on or near April 6th as well every year and then six months later in October (semi-annual conference). We just finished conference for April today, and it was a little different since it is the first conference with a new Prophet (Thomas S. Monson) and an entirely new First Presidency, plus a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was a wonderful conference and a historic one at that with all the changes.

    On a totally different note, I had a great experience last night with my Ridinger side of the family. My aunt Lynn was formally inducted into the Kent City Schools Hall of Fame along with nine others from the 2007 and 2008 classes. It all got started over four years ago when my mom was talking to Roosevelt activities director Emma Owen (Lynn's former high school field hockey coach) about nominating Lynn. It certainly wasn't an overnight process. My sister Becky took the lead in it (mostly by default as she was still at Roosevelt when the whole process started). She kept at it, doing some behind the scenes research on Lynn's career both at and after Roosevelt. My part was limited as I did some "undercover" work getting information straight from Lynn herself to include in the bio. Lynn's name had been in the nomination process a few times, but she did not make it to the "final round" until 2007, so it was during last summer that Becky was writing the paper about her and I did my covert questioning (I'd make a great spy!). We found out some time in June I think that Lynn had received the nomination and we were both thrilled, of course! The induction ceremonies are done now on a two-year basis, so Lynn was inducted in 2007, but the formal ceremony included both 2007 and 2008. The dinner before and the dessert after was wonderful (better have been for $35 a ticket!) and the ceremony itself was a lot of fun with Coach Nemec being the MC. He was hillarious.

    Lynn was inducted along with nine other honorees, six of whom are still alive. All have accomplished great things during and/or since their days in Kent and almost all are graduates of Roosevelt. I found it interesting that most of the honorees mentioned how the Kent community played a key role in their development and ultimate success. It certainly made me wonder what Kent would be like if more of our success stories were still in the community or returned. It's a great place to raise a family and go to college, but in between there is little that keeps the post-college graduates and pre-settled family people here, so many leave and settle elsewhere in nearby or distant communities, in search of a good job and/or a more active lifestyle that fits them better. That seems to be a problem throughout the state that we have a problem keeping our younger people, particularly in my age group.

    Anyway, the whole process of getting Lynn nominated actually originated with my mom several years ago. We always knew that Lynn was the first female athlete in school history to receive a full-ride scholarship to a division I school (Central Michigan University), so we figured that would be a good place to start. We got the ball rolling by talking to Emma Owen, the current activities director at Roosevelt (retiring this year) and Lynn's former field hockey coach. I remember the initial talk about that, but I dodn't remember exactly when it was. In any case, by the time it actually started getting serious with paperwork and the like, Becky was the only one left at Roosevelt, so she became the default ring leader of the nomination process. It didn't seem to get serious until this past summer, 2007, when Lynn made it to the "final round" so Becky had to write up a longer paper detailing Lynn's accomplishments. This involved some research from Grandma and Grandpa Ridinger and what was at the house, as well as my part in the "undercover operation" where I asked Lynn some stuff without her having any idea as to why I was asking, other than me being me. It worked perfectly and she made the cut for the class of 2007, which we found out after a rehearsal in Kirtland for the show we did last summer. In researching Lynn's accomplishments, we also discovered many things we didn't know, like how she coached a gold-medal winning team at the 1983 National Junior Olympics.

    Notes on pictures: 1. Katie and me with Lynn in front of the Hall of Fame after the ceremony on April 5th at Roosevelt High School in Kent; 2. Lynn giving her acceptance speech with her display at the ceremony; 3. Record-Courier page which had short bios on each of the inductees; 4. Record-Courier article in the April 7th issue about the ceremony.