Monday, March 31, 2008

Working For A Living

I have a couple of work stories.

I really do like my job. I like 98% of the people I work with, and I enjoy about 80% of what I do. Inevitably, there are times when it is going to be work, and there's pretty much nothing I can do about it. Sometimes I feel so put out with interviewing, but I had some good ones on Friday.

My favorite one was a pretty young kid who came in for our entry-level leasing position. He had been recently laid off from his previous job, and was mostly just looking for something sales related that would be pretty stable. He couldn't have been any older than 23, max. I went through the normal questions I ask, and the last one I always ask which I think always feels the most telling about who it is that I'm actually interviewing is "what are you most proud of? personally or professionally." Throughout the duration of the interview this guy felt very genuine. I expected this answer to be similar in tone, and I wasn't disappointed.

He started off by saying that admittedly, he was not feeling too proud at that particular moment in his life. To put that in context, over the last 8 months of being in this position, nobody has ever answered that question by bringing up a negative. I also probably interview around 15-20 people a week, so that means in about 480-620 interviews, I've never had that answer. That's about 0.5% of the time. And that could be attributable to his youth and inexperience, but I think it had a lot more to do with his candor. He felt that way because he just wanted to be able to support himself and his wife, but he couldn't without a meaningful income and he was feeling pretty low from being laid off. What melted my heart, though, was that he followed up that part by saying that "Well, I got married not too long ago, and I know that we're young, but I'm in love with my wife. And I love the Lord." I wish you could have heard the tone of his voice. If I could have, I would have hired him right on the spot. If only every husband could say those words with the same kind of sincerity that he did on Friday.

My other I'm pretty tight with our Wednesday-Friday receptionist, Brandy. She can be found here. I don't think that I've given her the deserved credit she deserves. I actually look forward to the second half of the week like you wouldn't believe just because I think she's so cool. She'll definitely be one of the people/things that I'll miss most about my job when I leave this summer. throughout the day when she's around, I'll usually pop in at her desk and we'll chit chat for a minute or 30 and then I'll go back to blogging or chatting online. That's a pretty honest assessment of a lot of what I do at work. So last Thursday was no different. I dropped by toward the end of the day, and she had a little story to tell me about the CFO of our company.

First, he made a joke about how he was standing in my spot because I guess I'm up at reception (or the Wooden Fortress, as it's affectionately referred to as) so often that people associate me with that area of the office. She gave him a courtesy laugh, and then he asked her "do you think Chris is gay?" I couldn't believe my flippin' ears when she told me that. For a long time now, I've been a little offended that no gay dude has ever tried to make a pass at me, not because I'm actually gay or anything resembling that, but because I'd like to be considered a hot enough piece of meat to appeal to both sexes. But never has anyone ever confused me for being a homosexual. She responded "No! He can't be. He's mormon." To which Scott replied, "but don't you think it's weird that he's so old and not married? It's weird isn't it?" Something to that effect. I'm not sure if he asked my age or not, and when that might have happened in the conversation if at all. And I couldn't think of anything else for the next 15-20 minutes.

I should probably be more embarrassed about it, but I thought it was worth sharing because I'm so obviously not gay, right guys? I mean considering all the chicks I sleep with, and the love affair I have with boobs and NOT weiners, it's pretty safe to say that I'm as straight as they come. Maybe he just wants to prod me into sharing my vast appreciation and knowledge of sports more, or share some secrets with him about developing relationships with the opposite sex because I'm so apparently successful with it. Or maybe he's the gay one and trying to coax me into asking him out. I dunno, but I thought that was pretty funny.

Running On Empty

I might have posted this commercial previously on here, but I just love it to death. There really is something so great about getting out and exercising when it's the last thing you want to do. It doesn't hurt that I happen to love the AC/DC song that accompanies it. What is it about exercise and being active in general that gets me so revved up? I guess it's all the endorphins that are doing their jobs. I always had heard about the effects that they have, but I bothered actually looking it up and found this information from Wikipedia both pretty explicit and pretty interesting:
Endorphins are endogenous opioid polypeptide compounds. They are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during strenuous exercise, excitement, and orgasm; and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well-being. Endorphins work as "natural pain killers", whose effects may be enhanced by other medications.

Sometimes, though, it's just so damn hard to get myself going. I get home after a full day of work, and inevitably I want to just decompress, as one of my old girlfriends used to call it. Maybe I had a long day at work, or I just slept poorly the previous night, but the hardest part is making the movements toward actually getting myself out the door and moving.

I think I like running just for its simplicity. It really is just such a raw kind of exercise. All it takes is a pair of shoes and you're off and running, so to speak. I think I've finally started to cross over into a world that I never thought I would have previously - where I would actually appreciate just the experience of running for its own sake, and not so much that it had to be directed at helping me play other sports better. I love that every experience is so singular. I can run the same route 100 different times, but the feel of it is always so unique, whether it just has to do with the thoughts that I'm having during that particular run, how much energy I end up having, or the different parts that might be aching for that particular day.

When I first started to get back into shape a couple of years ago, running ended up being one of my points of emphasis in my workouts because it is a challenge to make yourself run for a predetermined interval in spite of however hard it might be. As I first started doing it, I would set out running to reach a certain distance in a specific amount of time, and at some points I seriously would start to black out. And even today when I ran, I'm in pretty good shape as it is, but I still had lots of different body parts that felt like they were being gnawed upon. My left lower back wasn't feeling strong, my upper right shin felt like it was separating muscle from bone, but it is such a great feeling to get from start to finish and not let anything get in my way.

There is a pretty cool website - Walk, Jog, Run - where you can go and put in your home address and plan different routes to walk, jog, or run. Obviously. One thing that I really want to do this summer is bike down to the beach. When we were in junior high, we rollerbladed down several times, and then we'd take the bus back. The bus trip was always longer than doing the rollerblading. I know you're thinking that only losers rollerblade, but you're totally wrong. The posse used to rollerblade, and we did it everyday for a year during 8th grade. I'm so not joking. It was the best year of my life. Anyway, I think that would be really fun and I just mapped it out - it's only 15 miles from my house down to 46th street in Newport Beach. I think I would even like to run that one day. I can't believe I just said that. Can you believe that? 16 year old me would be laughing hysterically at that thought. Anyway, I think Greg would be down with that. Anybody else?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

First Dates

I don't really like that song, but I do like the line "please don't hint that you're capable of lies." There is a lot of hope that accompanies the experience of the first date. In spite of however I might loathe the first stages of dating, the hope and possibility always keeps me coming back. I hate measuring up a person, and then measuring myself against whatever other competition there might be. I hate the surface level, superficial small talk that prevents me from really getting a feel for what the person is like. But I love the friendship that can arise, and I just love the excitement of getting to know someone new, and how exhilirating it is to connect with someone on a real and personal level. It's probably kind of corny to put it in those terms, but it's the truth. I think everyone really craves making that connection, no matter who you're talking about.

I think I have a pretty wide range of different kinds of first dates. Here are some that I've had:

  • Dinner at Rosa's in Provo, followed by a BYU men's soccer game, then a party. That was a good mix of one-on-one time, an event, then a group thing with dancing. Fun.
  • Angel's games - twice. And two very different experiences. One of them was awesome, and the other was terrible. The first one I went on a double with a couple that I knew and I went with a girl that had just gotten home from her mission. She had these great dimples and we just chatted for the duration of the game. The other one I went with another girl and she pretty cool, but she ended up telling me about her ex-boyfriend who just turned out to be an awful person when previously I thought he was a pretty decent guy. I hated that experience.
  • Dinner at Baja Fresh. That's all it really was, but it was really fun. We just talked. I think that's pretty much all I need to be pleased.
  • Lunch at Rosa's. I think I've had three firsts at that restaurant, come to think of it.
  • Went and saw The Importance of Being Earnest at the Ahmansson. The play was awesome, the date was dry. Not so much due to her, but I just felt like the way we talked to each other was off.
  • Went to Cheesecake Factory and saw Incubus at Verizon. That was a fun one. Another good mix of interaction with the person, and then a really cool event.

I wonder what kind of stories you guys have. I don't think I've ever really had the quintessential terrible date. I had ones that I didn't like, but never one that I would share as the centerpiece of bad date conversations, know what I mean? More generally speaking, what are first dates like for you? I feel like, for me, it's hit or miss. I find the whole process of securing the first date to the culmination of said date just so interesting. I guess everyone has his/her things that appeal right off the bat. I can't say what it might be for other people that leads one person to want to ask another out, but for me it's just pretty simply that I have to at least find her cute and have something interesting to talk about.

From that point, the only thing I worry about during the first excursion is whether or not we'll have much interaction and if we can sustain a decent conversation. The second part of that sentence sounds simple enough, but it's surprising how difficult that can be for some people. And I don't even think it's necessarily a reflection on either person, but sometimes conversation patterns just don't always match up very well. One girl who I thought was super intelligent, that had tons of great insights both spiritually and secularly, was just really hard for me to connect with. I could never figure that one out. It never got past that first time going out with her.

The parts that always get me the most nervous are making the first phone call and the anticipation walking up from my car to the front door. I just hate both of those firsts. How is she going to be on the phone? Can I be interesting or witty enough to get her attention so that she'll yes when I ask her out? Or when I'm heading to the she going to hug me when I see her? One arm or two? Go one arm up and one down? Are her roommates/family going to answer the door? How is the night going to turn out? Once it all gets going, it's never that bad, but the anticipation is always the hard part.

Last night I had a great first. She was just great. My favorite part was everytime I looked at the time, it was SO much later than I had expected. We only had dinner and didn't really do anything else that I had planned on, but it was so much fun just getting to know her. I love when the person overshadows whatever events might be going on, or where I don't even care that nothing really panned out as I had been expecting. I think I've mentioned this before, but dating really is a lot like an extended job interview. When I do interviews at work, I'm looking for a fit between the person and the company, and the person and his/her specific work team, on a number of different levels that include work ethic, style of work, and personality. Dating has that same kind of feel; you want to make sure that not only do your perspectives on life mesh, but that your personalities do too. And just like trying to find the right employee, it's exhausting when you're just not getting the right people, but when you do find the right one it just works. I wish I could put it more eloquently than that.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Talk Dirty To Me

I finally got my first season of Scrubs coming to me on dvd. I'm pretty excited. Scrubs saw me through some tough times. I just love this episode, and the acapella version of the song.

And here is the real song for your viewing pleasure. I love that all the actors on this show seem to get to include their talents in episodes, like when Turk gets to do his dances, which I LOVE.

And then I've just been in an Air Supply mood lately. Have you heard the radio commercial with the burger that sings this song? I was watching the video yesterday and these guys have such a ridiculous and anything-but-sexy-look to them. And this video just makes me laugh. Almost as good as the gay bartender turned dancer in the Rick Roll video.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pirate Radio

I feel like this radio station needs to undergo some new formatting. Maybe instead of easy listening, let's go to some more rock and or roll. I don't know what it is lately, but I am just feeling a lot of apathy towards all things political. I'm not even listening as intently to my radio hosts nearly as often as I had been in the last couple of months, and I'm not reading as much either. Part of this is from my most recent attempt to be a little more focused at work, which I'm sure will last about another week or so. It is hard to be so invested, all of the time. And it doesn't help that my 3-4 loyal readers seem to care nothing about the political stuff I put up. Except for maybe Greg because he mentions it to me in conversation every so often. This video sums up how I'm feeling about all the politics these days, and maybe much of what a lot of you feel most of the time:

While I'm posting stuff from The Onion, maybe check out this article. If you've ever seen Save the Last Dance, or Step Up, then you should appreciate that reading.

Back to the new formatting topic...that's also why I wanted some new colors on the blog. I didn't really like anything I combined, and this color combo is no different, but I just think it needs to be something different. There is just something that is not working for me with the blog lately. It's been the last week or two. It's part of why I didn't post last week. So I'm considering doing a couple of things:

  • Sports post once a week
  • Politics post once a week that can sum up some of the things that have stuck out to me
  • Something church related for Sundays when I'm doing my pontificating
  • Something creative. I've been really wanting to do this for awhile now, and I've actually got several starts to stories in my head and I feel like they're all pretty interesting. I think I mentioned this previously, but something in me has been wanting to explore the creative side and since my only really artistic element seems to come from words and not anything else, I think I'll try it out.

I'll try all this for the next month or so and see how it goes. Oh...I have a great work story to tell, but I'll save that for later. It's really good. I probably should be more embarrassed about it, but I think it's worth the few laughs I'll get out of it. I'll leave ya'll with a poem that my friend Chris turned me onto just after I got back from the mission. It feels springy to me. Not like an actual spring springy, but like the season, dummy.

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

I've Seen a Million Faces, and I've Rocked Them All

When I first became friends with Dave and our posse of friends in junior high school...before I go there. I just remembered that we actually did refer to our group of friends as a "posse". And our gang sign - I don't really know how else to refer to it, because that's essentially what it was - was a closed fist with the pinky extended. Chris Cornwell even went to the extent of drawing a pictorial representation for anyone who couldn't remember or who were instructionally challenged. About that same time a movie called Posse came out, and although I don't think any of us ever saw it, that became our rallying flick. when we started hanging out, it was 8th grade so we were about 14 years old. As for most kids that age, most of our conversation focused on the opposite sex. When we talked about girls that we were really into, we would say Allison Rubino is rad, but we would draw out that word rad and put a lot of emphasis on it. So I thought Jennifer Meyerson was rad. For the last few years, I have had a hard time feeling like there were many girls that were rad. And somehow in the last couple months, I feel like I can't stop running into them. It's just fun is all I'm saying. There really are just a lot of great people out there, and I'm glad that I feel like I've finally opened my eyes up to that.

Life is good. I'll get into this probably over the weekend, but I feel like all around me so much travail has finally given way to the fruition of great blessings. People I love, who I feel like have been struggling with hard things, are finally able to see the payoff of all their heartache. I just love seeing that.

And you know what else I love? Playing soccer. It wasn't even that great last night. I didn't get on very many good teams so I never had an extended run, but after not playing for the last few weeks it was so much fun to get out with the boys and just be aggressive and screw around and play. I seriously live for that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Best Part About Summer

I know. Spring only started a couple of days ago, but I can't help myself. I am dying for summer to start, and I think that what's spurring this summertime yearning from me several months early is the fact that one of my favorite things about summer - baseball season - is starting up next week. In just a few days in fact. Poor people not in Southern California have had to endure snow even as recently as over the weekend (Karen, sorry), but here it's been nice and moderate for a week or two now. One of the most treasured and hallowed places also associated with summer is the beach, obviously. What can make those two any better? Impossible you say? How about beach whiffleball my friends?

I can't even tell all ya'll how pumped I am. Yesterday I got into a conversation with Dave about how for whiffleball this summer, every person should have his/her own customized bat. It would be so awesome. There could even be a batboy and an on-deck circle. There are so many possibilities with this. At the very least we need to get a bunch of whiffleballs so that we can have a home run derby. I think we should even go so far as to have a prizes, or at least a crown for the HR King. Think it over...
I really wish I could explain better what it is that's so great about the beach and baseball. I think maybe it just comes down to the simple fact that while there are obviously dance-parties-a-plenty at the beach, they are both places that it doesn't really matter what your company is like, you can have a good time. It's as easy to enjoy a nice conversation at a baseball game or at the beach, as it is to watch the game or jump in the water. There is just a wonderful amalgamation (that's right, I just correctly used that word, what's up!) of being able to chill with your friends, or get totally wrapped up in what's going on around you. So let's kick off this spring by getting overly excited about this upcoming summer. Shaaaaaaa-wing.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jump Rope

So awhile ago I had bought a jump rope because I thought it would be kind of a cool way to exercise. I did it for a few days, then put it somewhere I couldn't find it for about a year and I kind of forgot about it. Last week I found it, and pulled it out and started jumping and I've done it twice. I am, by no means, any good at it at all. I'm lucky if I can get a minute straight without it getting caught on my feet. Tonight I finally got down somewhat consistently the crossover move, or whatever it is where you keep jumping while you cross your arms. I can do one foot, and switch, but not consistently and I definitely don't have the stamina to keep it going for very long at all. And flipping the rope twice for one jump, I just can't seem to get the timing or the swings right.

Anyway, I finally looked up a cross training routine that boxers do. It just consists of this:
Jumping rope is strenuous and may be hard to sustain for the 30 minutes that you need for a good aerobic workout. Try this routine, used in boxing classes:
  • Skip rope for three minutes. (A round in boxing is three minutes long.)
  • Take a minute off, and do as many crunches as you can.
  • Skip rope for another three minutes.
  • During the next minute between rounds, do as many push-ups as you can.
  • Back to skipping for three minutes
  • Do crunches for another minute. Repeat.

You can alternate rounds of skipping with crunches and push-ups until you've completed 30 minutes or more of exercise. After the second or third round of skipping, your heart rate wonít drop that much during the crunches and push-ups. You might not be able to do more than a few intervals of push-ups. Use any exercise you want during the minute between rounds. Try doing squats and lunges (with or without weights) to give your larger leg muscles added work. Do upper-body exercises with dumbbells during that minute. (Use proper form. Don't rush.) One more thing: Skipping rope emphasizes your calves, so be diligent about stretching them.

So that's all. And then I saw this video on middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. It looks like it's a joke how fast he's swinging the rope at times. I totally want to get this down though. I think it looks so cool, and it requires so much coordination. Not to hard is that work-out!? I'm trying it this week. Maybe I'll have a follow up, if only briefly.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easters!

My favorite line from Nacho Libre is when he serves the priest food and the priest complains "do you not know that I have had diarrhea since easters?" I love that line. Ever wonder about the etymology behind the word "easter"? Check out this link. Of course it's pagan.

I thought these were some interesting thoughts from this article on Easter over at NRO:

Given the solemn nature of Easter, which celebrates ot the happy birth of a child as does Christmas, but the awesome themes of suffering, death, atonement, and resurrection, it is always conceptually difficult to festoon the paschal season with the rounds of merrymaking that characterize the end of December.

Still, it is sad and disconcerting that the oldest and holiest of Christian festivals is simply ignored by the media (and almost everyone else), and that Christians have acquiesced to the near-disappearance of their highest feast day from public consciousness.

Though we may — like the soldiers who boozed and gambled at the foot of the cross as salvation unfolded before them — ignore the phenomenon of redemption, Easter is above all a feast of hope. And as Augustine of Hippo wrote, “We are an Easter people.”

Anyway, I've just been thinking a lot recently about how blessed I have been. This weekend has been kind of slow in comparison to the last few, but I have just been enjoying everything just so doggon' much. It's been great. It is interesting to me how when I've become most committed to the idea of Utah and BYU, I feel like I'm getting full exposure to just how great it is to live here in Southern California. In any case, while going through all of these things I've just been feeling so incredibly blessed and grateful for everything that is going on, and for everything that lies ahead of me. This Easter season is especially welcome because I think I've been privy to the grace of God. I think it has less to do with the fact that I'm being abundantly blessed, and more to do with an increased level of discernment to realize those blessings that have been there this whole time.

Last night I had a talk with my best friend's dad that lasted a couple of hours. For so long I have worried about him and his situation. To say the least, it has been a rough couple of years for him, but for the first time in a long time I really felt like he was starting to feel some relief. I wouldn't have ever guessed that before talking to him last night - not ever. From my own recent experiences, coupled with what I heard in that conversation, it really just amazes me how much the Lord works in our favor. While it may be so hard to see when surrounded by walls of despair that feel like they are collapsing inward, nevertheless, it is so comforting to know that behind the scenes there is a perfectly loving being who is working in our behalf.

A couple of talks that speak to this point come from General Conference addresses. I think I've posted this one before, but this is from Elder Holland talking about the High Priest of good things to come. From the talk:

No, it is not without a recognition of life's tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God's love and the Savior's power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us--as well as the sea--to "be still."Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to "be of good cheer." Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!
I love the reassuring line from Elder Holland when he says that "the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them." Sometimes when we're going through those rough patches, it's hard not to feel stupid or weak, but those feelings of inadequacy are not uncommon to even the greatest people. The other talk I wanted to post was by Elder Wirthlin, Sunday Will Come. And then this quote from the talk:

On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled. It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world's history, that Friday was the darkest. But the doom of that day did not endure.

The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind. And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.

Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.

Recently I have felt like Sunday has already come, many times over, and in ways that I never expected. Happy Easter everyone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March Madness

I'm going to allow for that post title to refer to more than just the wonderful bliss that is the NCAA Men's basketball tournament that starts Thursday. There has been a lot going on in the world of politics, finance, and the like. I am sorely disappointed in myself that I haven't been posting more, because there definitely has been a lot to talk about. In so many different areas. But I'm going to keep this limited to a few topics, hopefully.

I'm reeling from being accepted into the doctoral program. Seriously. I told a friend earlier today that I keep checking the acceptance email over and over again like it's going to say something different every time. It hasn't, and for that I'm so grateful. As I start to put together more and more plans for BYU, the more real it's becoming and the more excited about it I'm feeling. It is the right thing for me to do, and the right place to go, even if I'm going to ache from missing the people here and my beautiful southern California.

I have mentioned that I have been reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I don't think you all realize just how beautiful his writing is. It's really just perfect. And the guy is the grandmaster of the semi-colon. I'll include my favorite excerpt here that comes pretty early on in the book:
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was on distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that's why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.

I just love that last line. It's so perfect, and such a great summation of being a crossroads and having that kind of strange out of body experience where you know that you are at a significant dividing point where you're about to be injected from childhood to adulthood. I think throughout life we have many moments like that, where if we're aware enough, we can briefly realize the transition steps from one point in life to another. This is going to sound dumb, but I think it relates; when I was about eleven or twelve years old, I can actually remember asking myself when I was going to stop watching exclusively cartoons and playing with toys. When I asked myself that, I abruptly realized that by even asking the question I was stating my newfound perception that such things were childish, and a kid doesn't think about being a kid, you just are one. Does that make sense? It's a weird sort of realization to have about yourself and where you're at in life. I love that line...dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future. Perfect.

I was reading some of Larry Kudlow's observations on the burial of Bear Stearns yesterday, and he made some interesting general observations about the economy:
While the media is trying to make pessimism our new national pastime, the president is right. The U.S. has faced numerous credit crunches down through the years and the free-market economy has survived very well.

What’s more, while the usual clamor for more government action is coming out of Washington, let’s not forget that it’s the private sector that drives our great economy towards success. Prosperity-killing actions from Washington, like tax hikes, trade protectionism, or massive over-regulation, would certainly stunt the long-run health of the economy.

Ultimately, market prices in the housing sector must adjust. That is the only viable solution. And while some families will be forced to become renters, other families will have a chance to purchase a new home at affordable prices. Capitalism is all about winners and losers, and it’s the market that must drive the adjustment, not the government.

The market is going to go through it's adjustment period. Does this mean we're going into a recession? Not sure. I read this thought elsewhere, but I think it's very true, that the best measure for the effect of the state of the economy on the average person is not how he perceives it as a whole, but how he feels about his own personal economic situation. Are you having trouble making ends meet? Other than gas prices being high, are you struggling more now than you were a year ago, or two years ago? That should tell you a lot about how things are going.

On another sucks that BYU got an eight seed that happens to run into probably the second best top seed in the tournament, right? Have you all filled out your brackets? If you need an invite, let me know. I know some people...

And lastly, I did it. I registered for the Chicago marathon. $110 later, I'm slated to run 26.2 miles on October 12th in Chi-town. Greg, I can't believe you're going to make me run this by myself. Does anybody else want to join me?

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Kryptonite

Any idea what it might be? If you ever want anything from me, don't try and butter me up. Don't even bother trying to just ask me nicely. What is the one thing that I'm just completely powerless against? What will break down this hulk of a man of steel? Door to door salespeople. I am completely helpless against. It doesn't matter what it is, how good or bad the salesperson is, if I'm in a rush, or if money is tight for me. Just make a sales pitch, knock at my door, and then I'm dunfer. I'm sure you're wondering what kinds of things I've bought from these people:

  • Newspaper - Daily Herald. Yup, bought it as a student while in Provo.

  • Some kind of metal cleaner - this really charismatic (at least as I perceived it) black guy came and he started polishing the brass door handle before I could tell him don't. I was so impressed that I bought it, but didn't have enough cash so I even started scrambling around the house for enough change to pay the $40-50 it cost for the product. What's more is that I couldn't have been older than 14 years old at the time. And I'm pretty sure that I had my shirt off the entire time during the sale, and during the runaround the house search for change. I miss those pregarment days. Remember the no-shirts club? If you're a girl, you don't fully appreciate this, but guys probably spent entire summers with their shirts off as kids, like we're from Uganda or something. I also don't think I wore shoes - EVER - as a kid. One time I got some sores on my feet, looked at our medical guide that came with our encyclopedia and was sure that I had gotten hookworm. So when you see all those third world pictures of kids with no shirts and shoes, it's not so much because they're poor as it is that those things are just really restrictive. Anyway, that black guy must have told everyone about time I sold this crappy metal cleaner to a little boy with no shirt! Top that!

  • A coupon sheet with Ducks tickets and coupons, and then like 30 free tickets to the dollar movie theater. It was from a guy about my age, 25 or so at the time. He was just really cool, and when he said "I just like going door to door, talking with people, and shootin' the s***" and when those words came out, I was sold. How many of the tickets did I use? About 4 of the free tickets to the dollar theater, and none of the Ducks tickets.

  • Some apple-based cleaner. Another funny black guy. Why are they only limited to the cleaners? Still have a full bottle in the garage.

  • A coupon book for restaurants that I never ever go to, and did not bother using. But you should have seen the sweet, old lady that was selling the coupons. She really had to be in her 60s at least, and I saw her kids drop her off. What kind of adult children are making their geriatric mother sell coupon books door to door? Mine was the first door that she tried, and it just broke my heart seeing her doing it.

  • And yesterday it was another coupon book for a bunch of restaurants and car washes that I'm sure that I'll never use. But it was a kid at my door, with a backwards UCLA cap, and he was terrible. Gawdawful at doing it, but I really just wanted to encourage his initiative.

I'm sure there is a bevy of other things that I've purchased that I can't think of right now. Pretty much, if you come to my door and want me to buy anything for me, I'm looking for reasons to buy it the minute I open the door. It's ridiculous. And I've always been this way, but I think got even worse since the summer I spent selling alarms door to door. One kid that I bought from, I can't remember what it was, I actually heard him celebrating the second I closed the door.

I think it's the same reason why yesterday I stopped to listen to some dude drone on and on about Laroche, some third party candidate for President, and call Cheney and a bunch of other prominent Republicans fascists. It's such a buzz-word right now, fascism. It's dumb. But I think I just always want to encourage those kinds of things, whether it's just that initiative to approach people who can be hostile, but who are at the very least predisposed to saying no to anyone who approaches them at their residence, or others who are campaigning for something they believe in. And I'll even want to encourage that from people who I completely disagree with because I just think more than anything, just the fact that they care enough to do anything at all is really important to me.

Or maybe it's nothing more than just the simple fact that I don't know how to say no.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Kite Runner

Soccer got cancelled last night. Consequently, I have all my male angst building up inside that will probably bubble over in the next two weeks until I can play again (anybody up for some skeet shooting again?). Faced with this unexpected allotment of time, I decided to head over to the theater near the church and see a movie I've been wanting to see for some time now, The Kite Runner. This is a review from the guys over at Powerline.

I've been thinking about this recently, but stories can be compelling for two main reasons. Either the story itself is very engaging, or the actual storytelling is. I just recently wrapped up The Count of Monte Cristo (finally) and have just started On the Road by Jack Kerouac. These are two great examples of this. I love the Count of Monte Cristo because the story itself is just so great - prison break, revenge, redemption - but that it comes to English speakers as a translation, it probably loses some of the art that goes into the storytelling. On the Road, on the other hand, is amazing as far as the storytelling. The events in the story aren't that exciting, but the prose will blow your mind. I just absolutely love his writing style. I find myself underlining so many parts and dog-earring so many pages (and now I'm wondering...does anyone else do that to their books? I mark every part that I really like in the books that I read, but then again, I also am one of the only people I know who always carries a pen on my person. But this is part of why I don't like checking out books or borrowing them, I always want to buy them because I know there is always something that I'm going to mark, anyway...) and I'm only 50 pages into the book so far. His writing just really grips me though. I feel like the story behind The Kite Runner falls into the compelling story category, at least as far as the movie is concerned.

It is rated PG-13, but the content is very much geared towards an adult audience. The movie captures beautifully true friendship and devotion. I think one of my favorite things about it is how the main character at the end embraces and comes to grips with the past mistakes of his youth, as well as the equivocations of his father. Some other interesting things about the movie is how it portrays the Taliban, and the Afghani (not Afghan, right? I think that's just used to describe things like those blankets, not sure though) culture. One thing that inspired me about the movie was wanting to learn more about middle eastern cultures. Unfortunately I haven't had a lot of good experiences with middle eastern peoples, but I absolutely know that there is a lot of noble aspects to those people and their culture. So if you have any middle eastern friends, send them my way. I'd love to become better acquainted with the good that they have to offer.

Anyway, I wanted to commentate more on a variety of things, but I'll confine this post to just the movie. I think it's definitely worth watching, and now I have yet another book that I'd like to read.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Last weekend was seriously one of my favorites in years. I got to go see my two favorite bands in concert, and I got to go shooting. I don't think that I've been actually since before Mike Reid had left on his mission. We went this time around for Mike Liu's birthday. In addition to the shooting festivities, one of my favorite people from BYU happened to be in town over the weekend. I was lucky enough to get to meet him and his beautiful wife, and adorable baby boy. He had this really cute blonde hair that was just standing straight on end and he was really smiley. It was so fun to catch up with him, and recount to his wife embarrassing stories about him that he hadn't bothered sharing with her before. It was great. I think I mentioned before, but he even came to the show which was a surprise, also. I had a very manly day to compensate for the heightened sensitivity that I seemed to be experiencing last week - I had the two punk shows, shooting guns, changing trailer tires on my mom's boat, and gym session. Anyway...I mostly just wanted to put up the pic with the guns. Plus I think it's been awhile since I've put any pictures on here.

Love The Onion

Sometimes it kind of surprises me how smart the stuff is that comes from The Onion. And so funny.

I love this one. Why the fascination with Alyson Hannigan? It makes it that much better.

I could put up a thousand of these clips. Check them out on YouTube.

And I'm linking two more articles. This one I've posted before - Bro, You're a God among bros. And then this one - Eff everything, we're doing five blades. That's been a favorite line of both Greg and myself since we first read the article. It's perfect for when you're at your wits end. Not for the expletive-sensitive reader that last one.

Money Matters

I read a couple of items this morning that I thought were interesting. Some time ago I was listening to Hugh Hewitt's radio show on the way home and every so often he has some young conservative correspondents call in and serve as the voice for young conservatives in America. When asked about how she would help promote conservative principles in this country, the guest commentator mentioned that if we could just get a snapshot of the faces of every 16 year old kid who gets his/her first paycheck and look at the amount deducted for taxes, we would probably have a lot more people jump on board the conservative wagon.

If nothing else, fiscally speaking, the prospect of having a democratic president should be enough to make you want to vote for Senator McCain. Right now in Congress, representatives are passing budget resolutions and with the democratic leadership in power, they are looking to sidestep the Bush tax cuts that have fueled the country for the last several years. Speaking on the subject in this article, the editors at National Review point out:
When it comes to the Democrats and taxes, it’s important to look at what they do, not what they say. Very few congressional Democrats possess the candor to admit that they are in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, yet for the second year in a row the Democrats have put forward a budget resolution that assumes rates will snap back to their previous levels. This would constitute a $683 billion tax hike over five years...

These are the short-term concerns. The long-term concern, for the second year in a row, is that the Democrats have put forward a budget that assumes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will generate more than two-thirds of $1 trillion in additional revenue to pay for their spending sprees. It is important for conservatives to emphasize this loudly and clearly. One party’s nominee for president supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. The other party, from Congress to the campaign trail, will make no such commitment to staving off what would be the largest tax increase in American history.

Having democrats control both the legislature and the executive branches in the next several years is going to be disastrous for an economy that is already showing signs of a downturn, be they large or small.

Here is another article that I thought was worth linking to on here. It talks about the need to pass free-trade legislation with Columbia, and how that not only helps improve our economic position as well as Columbia's, but it secures them as an ally rather than succumbing to that moronic leader Hugo Chavez over in Venezuela. From the article:
But the isolationist fervor on the Democratic campaign trail has further exhausted Congress’s willingness to approve pending free-trade deals with important allies such as Colombia. Our Latin American friends have long complained that we treat them like a forgotten backwater. We sit on our heels, however, at our own peril. Our reluctance to deepen our economic ties with Latin America leaves a vacuum to be exploited by our adversaries. Venezuelan socialist megalomaniac-in-chief Hugo Chavez is making this point abundantly clear.

As Colombia and Panama anxiously wait for Congress to decide on free-trade agreements they signed with President Bush, Chavez ramps up efforts to export his Bolivarian revolution across Latin America. His brashness unleashes a wave of fear in capitals from Brazil to Mexico. In the hearts and minds of ordinary people across the region, the choices are clear: A Chavez-style authoritarian government that stifles democracy and looks upon America with contempt; or a politically open, democratic government that works with America to build prosperity. There is no better way to reassure our allies and reaffirm our commitment to region than to forge free-trade pacts. The more exposure Latin American countries have to economic opportunity, prosperity, and peace, the less attractive they will find Chavez’s siren-song of freedom-free socialism.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

He Hears Me

At my ward's last fast and testimony meeting, one of the members got up and bore his testimony about how he was looking for his keys and how he prayed, and then was able to find them. I didn't think much of it at the time, until I experienced something similar on Friday night.

Earlier in the week I had been thinking about some of my experiences with prayer over the last couple years. I couldn't immediately recall any significant answers directly resulting from prayer. I knew that it was mostly me being short-sighted, but it made me want to have an obvious answer resulting from prayer that I could easily point at and say, see? God is aware of what I'm going through. It was later that day when I would get what I was looking for.

It's funny to me how urgent prayers can be to find a lost object. You never fully appreciate the emergency of that kind of prayer until you actually lose something that you're just so desperate to find. I was just about to head out to go see Unwritten Law on Friday night when I realized that I didn't follow my normal rule of putting my concert tickets into my glove box in my car. And I even remember when I got the ticket in hand that I put it some place different, and thought that it would be a problem come the night of the concert. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. I started tearing everything apart in my frantic search for the ticket to a show that I had been really eager to see. I ran up and down the stairs in my house, looked through my room, and back to my car, only to repeat the process several times before I decided it was time to pray about it. I knelt down, said my prayer, told God how important it was to me to find the ticket, and then not two minutes later I found it. My favorite part was being in such a panic and rush to find the ticket and trying to get out the door because I was already running late, still had to pick up dinner beforehand, and get some cash, but I still remembered to kneel down and say another prayer of thanks. I loved saying that last prayer, because I really couldn't have been more grateful to find that ticket. One last similar experience while I'm at it...

Another thing I kind of think sometimes (even though I know what I'm about to say is not true, but the skeptic/cynic in me always wants to just attribute these kinds of answers to just coincidence) is that the stories about finding something after a simple prayer, is really just due to someone not looking smart enough or not looking long enough. However, I had one experience that gave me an answer, and it was only because I knelt and prayed that I found what I was looking for. I had purchased a gift for a friend. It was something that I had put a lot of thought into and went through some effort to obtain, so it was really important to me to find it to give to my friend. And I had been looking for it for weeks in my house. I looked all over, and in places where I thought would be obvious, and others where I thought it would have no chance of being. I had looked everywhere. Exasperated by my futile efforts, I finally just decided to kneel down and pray for help in my search right at the spot where I was at in the entry way, between the living room and the dining room in my house. I knelt, said a quick prayer, opened my eyes and then I saw it. It was underneath the dining room table in an area that we only use for holidays. Only because of my kneeling position did I have the vantage point of finding the present that I had spent so much time looking for.

It really does just feel so good to know that there is a God in heaven with an infinite number of creations, and children who probably have an infinite number of pleadings, who will still make the effort to answer my prayer, no matter how infinitely small I am, or how seemingly insignificant my request is. I've only really begun to fully appreciate these verses, but Matthew 7:7-11 has become one of my favorite scriptures, and more especially verses 9-11. If we're asking for fishes, He of courses wants to give us fishes and will do so just as soon as He can. Sometimes we just don't realize that when we think we're asking for fishes, we're in fact asking for stones. I'm just so grateful to know that He does hear me and answers me at every chance He can.

Two of My Favorites In One Weekend

This weekend was really pretty amazing. At first I thought it was going to be confined mostly to seeing my two favorite bands in concert on back to back nights. For that alone, I would have been pretty excited. I'll just start with the concerts though...

Friday night Unwritten Law played at the Key Club in Hollywood. They were filming a live show for a DVD that they'll be releasing. I was particularly excited about this show because I expected that it would mean that Scott (lead singer) would be more focused on performing than interjecting pointless talk in between every song that they played. And it turned out that I was right. This might sound kind of weird, but I think Scott was looking pretty good. He got his teeth fixed and I think he had lost some weight also because I seem to remember him having a pretty good sized beer belly from previous shows. The venue was tightly packed, and pretty small. Greg, Mike, and I got there in time to catch just one band before UL. Didn't seem like we missed out on much from the sound of that band, although they did have a drummer light it up with a number of facial ticks and constant reaching for his face even while he was playing the drums. I think I enjoyed the constant smile that he wore. Like Greg said later that night, it reminded me of Mugatu on Zoolander when he has the wordless conversation with his personal assistant where it's just facial expressions and then he turns and says, "yes, Derek." Unwritten Law sounded good. Scott had mentioned that it was the longest set they had ever played with 22 songs. It was the typical lineup of songs that I'm accustomed to at their shows. I really liked it.

Last night we caught Strung Out at the Vault in Long Beach. The venue is an old bank in downtown Long Beach that looks more like a government building than a concert venue from the outside. I think they pump up the of volume a little too much at that locale. It was the 10th anniversary of one of their albums so they played that entire album straight through from song 1-14. I thought it would end with that, but then they brought out some chairs and did a couple of acoustic songs. Then I thought that would be it. Then they played a few more, and yelled out "we have a couple more for you" and took a short break. They repeated that some process at least three times more. The banded started at 1130pm and didn't stop until about 115am. It was unreal. They probably ended up playing about 25 songs, with a good mix of songs from previous albums.

What I really loved about the Strung Out show versus the Unwritten Law show is that the crowd almost seems more savvy. And I would describe it in a way similar to sports fans. A lot of people say that, for example, St. Louis Cardinals fans are really intelligent, and just great overall fans. They can sense the big moments in a game, really understand their team and what is going on, and are completely dedicated. I would say the same is true for Strung Out fans. There was more energy at this show from the crowd than I had probably ever seen at a show. The band clearly was feeding off of it, but even when I was standing in the back, it seemed like EVERYONE in the entire audience knew every single word to every single song. There were a lot fewer casual fans in attendance at Strung Out as compared to Unwritten Law and I just absolutely loved it. The pit was ferocious, I just couldn't have asked for anything more. I thought Friday night with UL was amazing until I saw Strung Out last night and had my definition of amazing completely altered by that performance. It was wonderful. And I think my favorite line at any show like that is when the lead singer screams "get the (expletive) up!" and seeing and feeling every person in the whole venue react to that line. The energy is boundless.

I know one ex that I dated really doesn't care for punk shows, or even just normal concerts anymore just because she really feels that it detracts from being able to feel the spirit. And I guess that sentiment is endorsed by General Authorities, but it really is a funny thing to see the kind of camaraderie that is present at those venues. I know that there is drinking and swear words that largely accompanies those types of events, but geez...sometimes it's just so great to experience something so raw and just so packed with emotion. I wish I could explain it better to do it more justice. I think it's one of those things that really just reveals a side of humanity that is really worth experiencing.

Sometimes we use that word humanity and really I think we just mean to say flawed. Humanity I think encompasses a lot more than that. It really is about taking part in the human experience and indulging in the culture of which we are members. Am I going to go clubbing when I'm 45 years old? or am I going to keep on going to these shows when my kids are grown up? The answer to both of those is obviously not, but I think that's more because it's just not a part of what the culture is like for someone who is a little bit older with family and different priorities. Is it a part of my culture as a guy in his late 20s to go dancing, or go to shows and get really sweaty and scream song lyrics at the top of his lungs? Yeah, I think so. I love enjoying and indulging in that part of the world.

Oh, by the way, my hypothesis still seems to hold true that you can get into any event that is sold out just be showing up and going through the effort of talking to everyone you see about finding a way in. We had a friend unexpectedly show up into town over the weekend and his friend band happens to be Strung Out, but he hadn't planned on coming to the show with us. Greg and I convinced him to come, not even telling him that the event was sold out. So we showed up, asked around for some tickets, and then approached the guys working the door. We told them we only had three tickets for four guys. The guy heading it up picked up on our hint, let us in the door, and we slipped him $40 bucks for his trouble.

The video below totally stinks, but it's Strung Out playing a song at the Vault from a different show that I've never heard live, but would love to catch one time. I actually kind of love that you can hear the guy next to the camera over Jason's vocals. A couple of last things about that particular know it's a good one when everyone exiting the concert is talking about how mind-blowing that show was. My favorite comment that I overheard was "I don't want kids, but I would totally have Jason Cruz's children." I wish you could have heard the earnestness in her voice.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

For every post I try and include an image and when I put the phrase "my cup runneth over" into the search engine, one of the images was a woman that was in a bra that was too small. "My cup (size) runneth over." Obviously I didn't include that, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

One more thing before I get into the meat of the post...I love how much meaning is packed into certain gospel symbols and phrases. It really is just so interesting. The title phrase comes from Psalms, but what is another common association that is drawn with the symbol of the cup in LDS culture? How about "would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink"? I think it is just so interesting that the symbol of the cup can have such a vivid and clear association with two things that are in such stark contrast to another, don't you? I was looking at the "word of Christ" or the how "the word" is used in the scriptures. That's a good one too. Anyway...

I'm just feeling especially grateful lately, enough to be able to use that phrase and not feel like my usage of it is trite. So I got accepted into BYU for the program I was hoping to get in and I have been reflecting recently that I'm just really so lucky and blessed to basically have a mulligan when it comes to grad school. Granted, the program that I first started out in wasn't necessarily what I wanted, and I was going through some difficult life moments that took my full attention away from the program, but I pretty much have a chance to have a do over. I don't think I fully realized that until the last couple of days. And I never end up actually fasting on the day of fast and testimony meetings because Sundays is when I can eat all my meals with family, so I fasted during the week this week, and I had a kind of a funny realization.

I had started with a prayer and for the most part the fast felt pretty ordinary. I ended with a prayer in my car before heading over to Quizno's for lunch. As I was waiting for my turkey, bacon, guacamole sandwich I was just overcome with feelings of gratitude. So much so that while waiting in line, and staring at the buttermilk ranch chips, but content with my choice of snickerdoodle as part of my combination, I started tearing up. Being the man that I am, I was able to surpress any visible signs of emotion because again, that's what real men do. However, there was no way to mute the very clear, and very tangible feelings of just immense gratitude that I was feeling at that moment.

The gospel is just such a tremendous blessing. And to be more specific, having the restored gospel as a part of my life has brought me more blessing and opportunity than I could have ever imagined. Sure, I did end up dropping out of school once already and having about a year's worth of school at Claremont did end up costing me some thousands of dollars that I still owe, but I fully realize that I have such a wonderful opportunity to get it right this time. And with all of those feelings that I was having, I also just felt so thankful for all the blessings I have, a few of which I'll list here:
  • Friends and family. I know I probably say this a good amount, but I cannot ever emphasize this enough - it is such a privilege for me to associate with the people that I do. I have a friend who at a word's notice this last week agree to help me get our boat ready to sell. Another friend doesn't even bother to ask me to come and eat with him and his wife, he just tells me to come over and partake. One person I know does the most amazing job at making me feel like every thought and feeling I have to express is important. It sounds small, and she probably doesn't even realize how good she is at it, but it means the world to me. I can go on and on about everyone I know, but if you personally know me and read this blog than I can guarantee that at one time or another I've thought something similar about you. Really.
  • Reconciliation. It is really such a release, from small things to big ones. All of it counts, and all of it can make a noticeable difference in quality of life. Just earlier this week I kind of blew up at my brother about some stuff that was going on, and I called him up later that day to apologize and it made such a big difference in the type of interaction that followed. It wasn't even of earth-shattering importance, but the difference was in just the attempt at making things right. That's another really interesting word right there, reconciliation, to sit with again.
  • Sports. Or even just physical activity. I'm grateful for competition. Grateful that I can play soccer every week, and that I'm even pretty good at it too. I'm grateful for the energy I have, and ability to be physically active. It's nice to actually feel more pained about when I miss out on opportunities to run or be active, than having to feel like it's such a chore to get myself to do it. And don't even get me started on professional sports...the Lakers, March Madness, opening day is coming much good stuff.
  • Living in Southern California. I'm really going to miss being here. This weekend I'm going to go and see my two favorite bands, and tomorrow morning I'm going to go shoot guns. I was even thinking it might be nice to go running on the beach tomorrow afternoon. How can you not love this place? There is so much to do.

And I always forget until I fast, but when I'm wrapping it up and say that final prayer just before I eat, there is never a moment in my life than that second when I'm allowed to eat again where I'm more grateful just that I can eat and have sufficient for my needs. It is a funny predicament that we have as Americans where our problem is not the lack of food, but having too much of it.

Fasting and prayer is vital to the worship of any faithful member of the Church. How can we expect to have control over our lives and our own creature when we can't even forgoe a couple of meals once a month? And I don't think there is a time when I'm more grateful for everything in my life than when I'm fasting. This is one of the posts where I don't feel like it has any relevance to any of you, but it means a lot to me, so thanks for sticking through to this point.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Iraq You Like a Hurricane

Getting around to writing this post has felt like homework to me. I just keep putting it off, and I know a lot of you aren't that interested in this, but there is a lot of good information to be had. Part of the difficulty in putting this post together is that the information that I have is voluminous, so rest assured that there will be plenty of links and reading that you can do should you so desire.

This mostly stems from a little blog comment conversation that I was having with a guy over on Taylor's blog. He's a hard left liberal, and the kind that resorts to the argument that Bush lied, the war is a lost cause, and we need to withdraw immediately. I wanted to do an exchange of information with him, but he never bothered to respond when I offered. I ended up gathering a lot of stuff and so I'm going to go ahead and leave it all here, and hopefully I can leave it at least somewhat organized. I've sacrificed a lot of quality of writing just for the sake of getting the content out. There is still a lot of underdeveloped thought in here, and hopefully that can be excused. Hopefully the excerpts and links that I've included will speak for themselves.

The war against terrorism began for us in about 2002. It wasn't just the President who authorized the war, he needed the approval of congress. Not only that, but at the time it was supported by our intelligence information and by about 90% of the American public. That's no lie. The notion that this is something that Bush waged in behalf of his father, or that this is some corporate scheme to hand over contracts to rebuild Iraq is just not true. Given what we knew at the time, it was the move that everyone supported. Some people contend that Iraq was better off prior to the invasion. That is patently false.

Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant. One of the crimes he was tried for was the genocidal Al-Anfal Campaign, where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered his regime. He set up concentration camps and used chemical weapons on his own people. A less circulated story, but tragic nonetheless concerns the marsh Arabs. This tribe of people lived on the marshlands that were among the largest wetland ecosystems in Asia. Not it's virtually gone because after an uprising by the marsh Arabs following the first gulf war, Saddam diverted the rivers the vitalized the marshlands and decimated the area, left thousands dead and homeless. For more atrocities committed by his regime, visit this site. Some people even go so far as to say that this war has only served to plunge the country into a civil war.

This post refutes that idea in a comparison between the Iraq conflict and the Spanish Civil War. Comparing the Iraq war to other civil wars, based purely on casualties, the number of deaths in Iraq is just over 1/10 of the number of deaths suffered in the US Civil War, and not even approaching 1/20 of what occurred in the Russian Civil War. There is just no merit to that claim. A terrible conflict yes, a civil war, not close.

For a true sense of what is going on in Iraq here are some sites:

  • Michael Totten is a journalist entrenched with soldiers in Iraq. He is not paid by any agency or news station. He gets paid by donations only. This is his blog. It's a raw look from the ground level at what's occurring in Iraq. His most recent entry talks about Fallujah. You may recognize that name back from 2004. It was the city that saw the most violence at any point during the war. I'll post an excerpt from that post at the end of this one.

  • This is a NY Times piece that Totten wrote back in December. From the article:
    There's a gigantic perception lag in America these days. The Iraq of the popular imagination and the Iraq of the real world are not the same country. It wouldn't be quite right to say Fallujah is safe. You do not want to come here on holiday. But I'm a lot safer here as an American than any terrorist or insurgent would be...Everywhere I go in Fallujah, I am mobbed by smiling children who want me to take their picture. It wasn't always this way.

    "I didn't see a single kid out here in 2005," one Marine told me."If a kid popped out of the house, his parents yanked him right back inside."

    Women walk the streets by themselves now, as well, which I'm also told was unheard of not long ago. I'm embedded with the Marines. They keep me safe. If I spent too long in the city alone and without armed protection, terrorists might eventually find me. But any insurgent who shows up and announces himself in public won't be rolled up "eventually." He'll be arrested by the Iraqi police within minutes. Even the Marines are softer on terrorists here than the local cops are.
  • And Arthur Chrenkoff has written more extensive on the good news coming from Iraq than anyone. The work he did on this blog is a little bit dated now, but came on his own dime. After receiving a job he couldn't pass up, he move on from the continual good news updates, but if you visit his blog, he has 30+ lengthy entries about everything good coming out of Iraq. It's a lot more than you would think.

  • This article talks about the panic among Al Qaeda leaders. The following quote from an Al Qaeda leader was intercepted in a letter found by coalition forces:
    “We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.”
  • This post on Powerline covers the shift in public opinion among Muslims regarding Al Qaeda. An excerpt:
    Public opinion polls seem to confirm al Qaeda's suddenly low standing in the Muslim world. Wehner points to a survey in Pakistan finding that in January less than a quarter of Pakistanis approved of bin Laden, compared with 46 percent last August, while backing for al-Qaeda fell from 33 per cent to 18 per cent. And Pew reports that the percentage of Muslims saying suicide bombing is justified in the defense of Islam has declined in seven of the eight Arab countries where trend data are available. In Lebanon, for example, 34 percent of Muslims say such suicide bombings are often or sometimes justified. In 2002, before the Iraq war began, 74 per cent expressed this view.
  • In this NY Times article, Iraqi youth begin to voice their disillusionment with religious extremism. From the article:
    In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

    “I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”
  • And this last piece from Commentary covers more of the same.

The work our soldiers are doing over in Iraq is making a difference. Maybe you don't agree with the pretenses under which we went to war, but it's important to make that effort worthwhile. Not only that, but a secure and stable Iraq is essential to promoting security here in our land as well. We need a President who values finishing the job, and who will not disregard the immense progress that has been made so far.

Let's Talk About Leftovers

First, I think it is out of my comfort zone - Laura - because my whole life is here now. None of it is in Utah, and it hasn't been for several years. And the comfort of a steady paycheck is going to be quite a contrast from living on a student budget again. It's just a different Provo at 28 than it is when you're 18. Wow, as I typed that just now, I'm realizing that it will have been nearly 10 years since I went up the first time. That dates me.

Here is a post on a recent conference on global climate change. I like anything that basically states that global warming is a myth. The conference that has been ongoing for the last few days and reflects the most current research science has to offer on the topic. This is a graph from the conference:
Would anyone who lives anywhere it snows think that there is a trend toward warming temperatures? I'm looking up at you Utah people, and Karen who lives in the Algonquin good land. I would think not.

Is anyone else pumped for opening day? After strongly asserting that we didn't make it out last year for Opening Day at Anaheim Stadium, I realized today that I was sorely mistaken. We really should get out for it. Hot dogs and cookie ice cream sandwiches are calling for me.

I've been really digging on the 25th Annivesary edition of the Thriller album by Michael Jackson these days. Do you remember when you began your love affair with MJ? I think mine began when I was about 12 I got the Dangerous album and the Black and White video debuted on Fox following a Simpsons episode. Do you remember that? I liked him previous to all of that happening, but that was the first album of his that I actually purchased on my own. Do you think anyone is as comparably popular as he was back in the 80s and early 90s? I think the closest it comes is Justin Timberlake.

Pretty soon I'm going to post on the war and not just keep advertising it. I promise. You can bet that one is going to have tons of links. I know you're dying in anticipation right now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brett Favre Retires

This was announced earlier this morning via a voicemail message he left. He will not be holding a press conference, however, the Packers will be later this afternoon. I was listening to the radio this morning as so many football fans were calling in, and through their sobs, declaring how much they love Brett Favre and how much they're going to miss him. Of any football player in the NFL, this guy had to be the most enjoyable to watch. Not only was he capable of making great plays, but just watching his excitement for the game made it such a fun experience in which to partake. I remember earlier this season after touchdown celebrations giving the refs high fives, slapping them in the butt. He's just a guy you can't help but love.

The clip above gives a lot of sound bytes throughout his playing days and is so typical of him. This next clip covers the game he played against the Raiders in 2003 when he torched them for 4 TDs and 300+ yards. It was the only Raiders game I've ever been to. I've said it before on here, but that night was just amazing to watch. You only see it on one of the touchdowns in this clip, but the entire night the guy was throwing into double and triple coverage and he just could not miss. It was unbelievable to behold. It's one of those sports moments that you hate to see against your team, but that you're just so grateful to be a part of. I'm going to miss this guy.

Monday, March 3, 2008

So Good News

Dear Christopher,

I am writing to inform you of the status of your application...the admissions committee and faculty were favorably impressed by your application and credentials, and invite you to join our program in Psychology beginning Fall 2008. Congratulations!


So now that it's actually here, I'm feeling hesitant about it. Is this really what I want? During the waiting period, I started thinking about other options should this one not work out. I've actually got some pretty good plan Bs. Or at least one. I think mostly where my feelings of apprehension stem from is just having to go outside of my comfort zone. Staying here in California and going to Claremont was definitely in the comfort zone. Continuing work with a steady paycheck at a good company is definitely in my comfort zone. And Southern California is definitely a comfortable place to be.

This is definitely a nice pot to be planted in, but maybe it's time to see how much I can grow outside of the pot. I'm not sure yet. I'm going to sit on it for a week or so before I give my answer. At the very least it's nice to have options. I'm very grateful for that.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

How to Do the Thriller

Now tell me what you love the most about this video. I'll go first...I love the her totally rad friends totally suck at dancing. I'm almost embarrassed to even say I found this because I actually was looking for a video tutorial for Thriller, and this was the best I could do. I've committed to having it down by Halloween. Anyone else with me?