Bible Bowl 2008

My daughter Ruthie experienced emotions at Bible Bowl 2008 that ranged from despondency to delight, and we who joined her (with her brother and teammate, Joe) for the five days of competition all got to experience those same highs and lows with her. It was quite a dramatic week that started with great difficulty.

I’ll get to the story in a bit, but first here’s a little background. Bible Bowl is a competition similar to the now-defunct College Bowl or Quiz Bowl, but with subject matter taken from selected books of the Bible. This year the text was the Gospel of John as well as his epistles (1 John, 2 John, 3 John) and 1 Peter and 2 Peter. The strongest players have memorized and can recite the entire text (1,178 verses). More demonstration of that in a bit.

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Georgia Aquarium

On Monday, before the Bible Bowl competition really started, I got to take my youngest son, John, to the Georgia Aquarium. It’s billed as the largest aquarium in the world.

Here’s some video from that afternoon, in which John (in red and white) got to touch some rays and a hammer head shark:


John is a pretty sentimental little guy; as we walked back to our hotel he got a little bit quiet and thoughtful and when I asked him why he said, “We probably won’t ever see any of those animals again.” When I said we might go to aquariums in some other cities (as we did in Baltimore a few years ago) he replied, “But we won’t see any of those animals that we saw today.”

I guess the bonding from touching these aquatic creatures with two fingers went a little deeper than I thought.

It was a precious afternoon.

Restaurant Nightmares

As we traveled to Atlanta on Sunday, after having spent the night Saturday in Mount Vernon, IL (which was decidedly non-mountainous) we saw a billboard on I-24 in Tennessee advertising the presence of an A&W restaurant near one of the next exits. My daughter Rebekah, who works at the Austin, Minn. A&W, thought it would be fun to see how they run the restaurant in another city, so she prevailed upon us to stop. I captured her excitement as we arrived at the counter (she had offered to pay for our meals out of the proceeds of some of her roadside strawberry sales from the previous week.):


Then we waited. And waited. Not in line. At the front of the line. There were maybe three tables filled with customers, but no one was in front of us in line. Yet employees walked back and forth in front of us, carrying brooms, or towels to clean trays (they had two people on that job), or wandering aimlessly, but exactly 10 minutes after recording Rebekah’s enthusiastic arrival, I recorded this:


I’m sorry I didn’t keep the camera running, but as we were leaving one of the two tray-clearers asked “Why are y’all leavin’?” and seemed perplexed that it would be a big deal that we would wait 10 minutes to have our order taken: “But we haaaiid to clean traaays!”

That evening we decided to order pizza from our hotel room at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, and when we called Pizza Hut they told us they were currently about 2 1/2 hours out on deliveries, so we called Domino’s. We were informed it would be 22 to 32 minutes, I gave my credit card for payment, and then we waited. And waited. After about an hour I called Domino’s again to check status, and the phone rang continuously for five minutes with no answer. So I hung up and tried again. Same deal. I called another Domino’s and asked whether they were under the same ownership, and the guy apologized but said they were a franchise and this other one was corporately owned by Domino’s. I told him this behavior reflected pretty poorly on all Domino’s…and he agreed and apologized, but there was nothing he could do. He said he had gotten several other calls about the phone not being answered (three hours before closing time) at the other restaurant.

So I was thinking I would probably need to call the Georgia Attorney General Monday morning about having my credit card charged and no pizza delivered…but just as we were heading to bed (more than an hour after we were told the pizza would arrive, and after the phone had gone unanswered for a half hour), we got a call from the delivery guy, from 40 floors below us. He said they had been overwhelmed with orders, and that whereas the Pizza Hut phone was answered by the local restaurant (so they could gauge the time), Domino’s had a call center taking the calls and didn’t realize how swamped they were.

Note to corporations: even if you’re not outsourcing your call center to India, it can be a major dissatisfier to customers if those taking the calls aren’t plugged into your business realities. If we would have been told it would be 90 minutes, or if someone had answered the phone to tell us they had been overrun and were just behind schedule instead of leaving us to think we had been defrauded, we would have been frustrated but understanding.

In the whole scheme of things, these have been minor annoyances, not major hardships. But in the new world of blogging and social media, your unhappy customers don’t just leave a note in your suggestion box. They can publish their experiences to the world. And in the case of the South Pittsburgh, Tennessee A&W the billboard expense wasn’t just a waste; it led to a negative result.

Our culinary experiences since Sunday have been markedly better.

More reports from the Aase family vacation 2008 coming later today.

Blogging Vacation

No, I’m not taking a vacation from blogging…I’ll be blogging about vacation…to the extent I can. We’re in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis for Bible Bowl 2008, where my daughter Ruth and son Joe are competing in this national competition. I blogged about the Bible Bowl experience last year; it was pretty amazing. I’ll have some highlights and dispatches from the competition over the next couple of days.

Another amazing feature about our Atlanta trip is this hotel. Here’s a taste of the elevator trip to the 41st floor, where we’re staying.


Some of my family members get a little nervous about the heights, but the view from our window (at the top of this post) is pretty sweet.

The sweetest part is having all of our remaining kids together (the ones who aren’t married and/or college graduates) together for this week, and to have my parents along for the trip. We wish Jacob and Rachel (and Kyle and Evelyn) were along too, but we’re thankful for this nice getaway week.

The only downside for frequent blogging is that the daily charge for Internet access is $12.95, which is a bit pricey for family vacation. But in the food court across the street at Peachtree Center there is free wireless, so I’m just coming over here a couple of times a day to sync my computer and post updates. Probably good on vacation to not be doing too much computer activity, but this does make it nice to capture some of the moments, so that when we do our Christmas letter (as we did last year and the year before), we have some photos and videos to which we can link to tell the story of the year.

So some of the coming posts will be of a more personal nature, but for SMUG students they are:

A) A way to get to know the Chancellor and his family a little better, and

B) An illustration of how you can use your blog for multimedia family updates instead of sending photocopied Christmas letters. Not only will this method save you money (at First Class postage rates of 41 cents or whatever it is now…it’s probably been a year since I’ve purchased stamps), but the product is much richer and more interactive.

365 Days of Memories

Just as companies may choose to use a fiscal year that doesn’t coincide with the calendar year, I’ve decided that my annual Aase family year-in-review should go from December 30, 2006 to December 29, 2007. When I did my first on-line Christmas letter last year (around Thanksgiving), we were only looking forward to one of our family’s major milestones. It seems only fitting that this special day should be the starting point for any review of the last 365 days, and that I should be writing about it on the one-year anniversary of the event.

Walking Rachel down the aisle
A year ago today I walked my eldest daughter Rachel down the aisle for her marriage to Kyle Borg. If you’re in Facebook, you can go here to see the highlights. My brother, Mark, took a lot of candid photos and did a great job. We’ve thought about starting a little weekend business doing wedding photography and video, and that may get going in 2008. But for now, we’ve both been really busy with our regular jobs. So I videotaped four weddings in the last year (including Rachel’s and, as a bookend to the year, Mark’s daughter Allyson’s yesterday) to help friends and family and to get some experience. I set up a Facebook group to display some of our work, and then also a Facebook fan page when that became an option in November. Perhaps in 2008 we can make some time to update our Facebook presence by getting more video and photos added. I do think Facebook would be a good way to market a business like this.

In May, we had the unique event of having both my 20-year old son, Jake, and my brother Mark graduating from college on the same day. Here’s a post about that special day and Mark’s commencement speech; Rachel followed Jake in graduating from UW-La Crosse earlier this month. Jake worked at Camp Shamineau this summer, co-leading the high school counselor program. Now he’s working in La Crosse as Rachel and Kyle spend their last year there before Kyle graduates and they move to California for him to attend seminary. We’re glad Rachel and Jake are so close and that Jake and Kyle are good friends, too.

In early July we had a fun family trip to Kansas City for the National Bible Bowl Tournament, where our youngest daughter Ruthie did extremely well as an individual and led the team that included her siblings Joe and Rebekah to a 10th-place finish. Ruthie and Rebekah are both high school juniors this year, taking all or most of their classes at Riverland Community College through Minnesota’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options programs, which enables them to take college classes for high school credit. This is the plan that enabled their older siblings to graduate from college before age 21.
Bekah made honorable mention all-conference in volleyball as Austin’s middle hitter, and is starting on the Packer girls’ basketball team that’s off to a 6-2 start. As I discussed here, we’re using a Facebook group as a way for team members, parents and fans to share photos and video highlights, and to link to newspaper coverage. She’s almost 6’1″ and is barely (for now) taller than her 13-year old brother, Joe. That won’t be true next year.

We (mostly Lisa) continue to homeschool Joe and John (9). Lisa’s good homeschooling work has been validated by her early college graduates and how well Ruthie and Bekah have done on their ACT and PSAT standardized tests. While in my work I tend to get more immediate feedback on successful projects, Lisa’s is more of the long-term variety. I think she has good reason to take immense satisfaction in what has resulted from how she has given of herself for our children.
John has zero interest in sports, but is a sharp student and more of an artistic/creative guy. Joe plays in orchestra at the middle school and also is involved in football and basketball. It’s really special that he plays on both teams with his cousin Tom, Mark’s son, and that my parents get to attend all of their games (and Bekah’s.)

I often say we have a Norman Rockwell kind of life, with three sons and three daughters being raised in my hometown, near both sets of grandparents. Lisa and I are so grateful for all of these blessings, and for my job with Mayo Clinic that has made it possible for us to live in Austin.

Speaking of my work, 2007 started with separation of another set of conjoined twins from North Dakota. When they went home in February, it capped a one-year period in which three sets of conjoined twins were successfully separated at Mayo Clinic. Our team coordinated the media involvement for the families and medical teams.

New Media, also called social media, are becoming a more important part of my job. We launched a series of Mayo Clinic podcasts in July. This blog and my Facebook exploration have been keys to my social media learning process. It’s interesting to me that a year ago my familiarity with Facebook was indirect; four of my kids were in Facebook, but I wasn’t. Now Lisa and I both have Facebook profiles, and we’re “friends” with Rachel, Jake, Bekah, Ruthie and Joe. I’ve also enjoyed meeting people with common interests through this blog and through Facebook, and at several conferences throughout the year.

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I hope this personal digression won’t make you irregular. 😉 For you, I’ll be following up with a post about how blogs and social media can do a better job than the traditional Christmas card/letter at personal updates to extended family and friends…or how they can make an annual update unnecessary.

And if you’re a family member or friend who got this link from me as part of our annual Christmas letter, I hope you’ll join Facebook and “friend me” so we can stay connected throughout the year.