Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I am only assuming that nobody is really checking up, but if you are, or will be in the next few days, know that I hope you have (or had) the merriest of Christmases this year.

There's no better time than the holidays to just feel tremendously grateful for all of the many blessings of which we partake. This week has been so fun seeing friends and family, shopping for Christmas presents, and just killing time in general.

Last night I got to play Wednesday night soccer as has been going on for the last 3 or 4 years, and I can't think of anything I love more than to play with my friends and just have that time with the guys, playing sports and just making stupid jokes. I've been staying with Dave, and it was a chilly night for California, and when we walked into his apartment, I honestly felt just so grateful to be able to walk into a warm home. My first thought upon entering was reflecting on how sad it is that not everyone has that available to them. It's a little corny, I know, but still, that's reality and I'm grateful that mine allows me to have a warm bed and reside with people that I care so much about.

My brother has been hounding me about playing soccer with my niece when I got back here so this morning I went out with her to the park, and it was honestly one of the highlights of my last several months. She's 8 years old now, and just so chatty. She managed to beat me in two of the three games we played, but I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to take her down next time around. My favorite, though, might have been the walk to and from the park, and just asking her about her friends and school and everything under the sun. Her mom told her that if she scored a goal in her next game that she would get a pet hamster. I asked her what she should name her hamster when she got one, and she exclaimed, "I don't know! Squiggles?" I just thought it was the most darling little kid response I could have gotten to that question.

Every time I come back I'm always surprised at how much fun it is to be around the kids here. I even had a dream about seeing Mason last Saturday before coming out here, and that's not something that ever really happens to me. Doug's boys are so much fun to hang around. Cameron and I played Xbox after playing soccer today. It's just awesome, awesome stuff.

Anyway, I think I'm becoming an adult. Christmas time has evolved from being about presents and much more about people. I'm so grateful for the gospel, for the Savior, and for my knowledge of all of these things. I have the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.


(Don't get me wrong, I still love presents, so don't hold out.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rocket! Yeah!

Do you ever wake up and just know it's going to be a good day? Last night I was watching Karate Kid 3 while taking a study break, and then I ended up having a dream about it. In the dream, I ran a half marathon without any real training, which of course made me feel awesome, and then I had to fight the ridiculous long-haired guy who is the real owner of the Cobra Kai dojo that also owns a multinational company that pollutes the environment with toxic chemicals (can you think of a more villainous character?). I win the fight, even after having just run the half marathon.

Then on the way to school this morning what song comes on during my drive to school this morning before my final? Def Lepard's Rocket. Awesome. I'm so stoked on the song that I even stay the extra two minutes to hear the end of it even though I'm running a little late to my last final.

I think I'm becoming more of an adult. When I got up this morning, way too groggy to really understand what I was up for, I was at least coherent enough to think that I needed protein and fresh produce because I needed to jump start my metabolic system so that I would think more clearly, and so that I would have sufficient energy to exercise once I finished all my school stuff for the day. I didn't have any other thoughts than that when I got up. Isn't that weird? Oh, that and kicking ass in my Karate Kid dream. Yup, still feeling awesome.

One of the things I ate this morning was a banana. Did you know that monkeys open up bananas by pressing on the bottom of the banana because there is a little air pocket there, and not by using the stem? That's how I open my bananas now. I figure if I'm supposed to be descended from them, I may as well start behaving more like them. It's a little too cold these days and I'm not hairy enough to go without clothes, but next time you see me I might be throwing my feces at you and then laugh about it. Maybe.

I still have my dating survey project that I have to finish up, but I should be done pretty soon. Upon completion I will then play upbeat music while cleaning, and then working out, at >100 decibels of volume.

I gotta say, today was (will be) a good day. Much love to you, Ice Cube, but since I already featured your song once on here, let's go with TWDY.

Peace, and be blessed, y'all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Real Dangers Await While Leaders Talk Global Warming

In Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus column this morning, he made this great point:
Every now and then, reality breaks through dreamland, as in this bit of news: “Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West.” Iranian missiles that can hit Europe: Will this development concentrate the European mind, no matter what that mind thinks of Israel?

I have quoted from this report. It goes on to quote Britain’s prime minister Gordon Brown, who said that the Iranian test showed the need for tougher U.N. sanctions. Well, best of luck with that. Brown said, “This is a matter of serious concern to the international community,” blah, blah, blah. And he made his statement, according to the report, “after talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon in Copenhagen.”

That is just perfect. The panjandrums of the world were in Copenhagen to talk about global warming, and the alleged giant threat that comes from the same. But there is a definite threat, an urgent one: the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the threat of rising, armed Islamofascism generally.

I remember being at a particular Davos meeting where everyone was gravely concerned about global warming, saying we had to act now now now. A nuclear Iran and its associated menaces seemed to be an afterthought, at best. In other words, the wolf was at the door — but the world’s elites were looking past the wolf to some gauzy threat out in the blue.

I made this observation, at the time: Confronting global warming is relatively easy, because it means confronting good Western capitalists and industrialists. Confronting Islamofascism is much harder, for some: because it means confronting Third World radicals, about whom good Westerners harbor all sorts of myths and hopes.

In August, Ban-ki Moon said, “We have just four months. Four months to secure the future of our planet.” What did he mean? He meant that there were four months until these climate talks in Copenhagen. If only the world’s elites felt half the urgency about a nuclear Iran. Our priorities, and sense of reality, seem terribly askew.

It is interesting to hear Iran’s defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, on television — on Iranian state TV. He said the following about his country’s new missile: “Given its high speed, it is impossible to destroy the missile with anti-missile systems because of its radar-evading ability.” True? I wonder what the state of U.S. missile defense is at the moment — and what it would have been if we had gone all-out after Reagan’s original call. I wonder, relatedly, how Israel is doing in this field.

One more thing, before I leave this subject. Iran’s new missile is called the Sajjil-2. And, according to the report I have linked to, “the name ‘Sajjil’ means ‘baked clay,’ a reference to a story in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, in which birds sent by God drive off an enemy army attacking the holy city of Mecca by pelting them with stones of baked clay.”

These are interesting times, ladies and gentlemen, and, of course, all too interesting. (Pardon the triteness.)
The emphasis is my own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gandalf Tells A Joke

Some of you will think this is dumb, and others of you will think it's pure genius. Mike showed me it this afternoon and I was in tears.

Angels Talk

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond to your email. Here goes...

This has been a particularly rough offseason for Angels fans not only because our two biggest free agent players have signed elsewhere, but they have gone to rival teams.

I was reading an article yesterday that was talking about how the Angels didn't make a big push to sign John Lackey when they had a chance last offseason, but I distinctly remember them making the effort to get him to sign an extension, but he was set on testing the market. I also read earlier this week that the offer they had given him was for over $70 million, so not completely off the $85 million that he ended up signing for. I think it was always about money for him. He was going to squeeze every last dime out of his next contract, and that seems to be what ended up happening. I think 5 years for a guy that's already 32 years old is too long. Even Halladay's extension is for only three seasons. I think the Gary Matthews Jr. contract given out several years ago still has them filled with regret to giving out a contract too lengthy for a guy that is on the downside of his prime. This leads to both Vlad and Chone.

I was all for bringing Vladimir Guerrero back, but I'm almost positive that he was looking for something with guaranteed years beyond what the Angels were willing to give him. The guy is already 34 and had a pretty big drop-off this season, albeit, due mostly to injury, but still, I think in two seasons or three he will have a severe drop-off to the point where he will hardly be playing at all. Hideki Matsui is a year older, also has injury problems, but they only signed him for one season. That's the difference and I think the entire reason why they signed him instead. He's also a lefty that provides some balance to the order.

Now that everything has kind of played out with our major guys, Lackey and Figgins, I think the biggest regrets we should probably have concern both Chone Figgins and Roy Halladay. From what I heard, the biggest sticking point for Halladay during the summer was the fact that Blue Jays were supposedly dead-set on getting Erick Aybar, whom we value very highly, but the recent trade for Halladay didn't include any shortstops. Although that may be due to the fact that Toronto's asking price had to come down from asking for the moon and the stars. Still though, we were apparently a major partner in the Halladay talks, we need a front-line starting pitcher, so how in the hell did we miss out on Cliff Lee moving again, also?

With Chone, I think he ended up getting a four-year contract upwards of $40 million, give or take a few million. Why did that seem unreasonable to them? Did they think at the time that they still had a shot at re-signing John Lackey and so that's why they passed up on him? If Lackey had signed before Figgins, would they have made the investment and ponied up and signed him? Maybe. I think it has more to do with the way they value their prospects. They have Brandon Wood whose only option is to come up to the big league level. He has hit his ceiling in the minor leagues and needs a shot to play everyday. They probably thought they would bring him up, find a cheaper alternative in another player (enter Matsui), and explore a trade for another starting pitcher either now or during the regular season. This is the only way any of this makes sense to me. Signing Matsui is purely a DH move, so now we still four guys to rotate through three outfield spots - Abreu, Hunter, Matthews, and Rivera. Matthews has been wanting to go, and sooner or later, we'll be getting rid of him. Unfortunately, we'll probably have to eat much of his contract in a similar way that the Red Sox were going to pay for nine of the $12 million still owed to Mike Lowell if he did end up getting over to the Rangers.

I'm nervous about this upcoming season. Somehow the Mariners transformed into a very serious contender and may even be the favorites now to win the division. This offseason has pretty much played out exactly as I expected it to. You just have to hope that our young guys will continue to step up. Last year we didn't get any major signings, and then Kendry Morales and Erick Aybar had monster seasons, and all of a sudden we were two games away from the World Series. Who will be those guys for us this year? Brandon Wood? Howie Kendrick? Joe Saunders? Jeff Weaver?

My roommate, who works for the rookie team of the Angels, told me last night that Mike Scioscia will be coming in January to speak to the team and to anyone else interested enough to buy tickets, i.e. ME. I think I'm going to ask him about Figgins. If you have anything else you're dying to know, send me your questions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sympathetic Nervous System

The nervous system is normally divided into two main parts, the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System, which includes the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is further divided into two more parts - the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. In times of emergency, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is what initiates the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response includes:
  • increasing heart-rate (so more oxygen, nutrients, and adrenaline are delivered to the organs)
  • increasing the breathing rate (thus providing more oxygen)
  • dilating the pupils (resulting in greater sensitivity to light)
  • moistening of the palms (thus providing better grip)
  • reduction in digestive functions, including salivation (putting them on hold) and
  • relaxing of the bladder (suspending another function not crucial for an emergency)
I always think it's interesting when SNS gets activated, and I wonder whether I'm the fighting type or the flighting type. Because most of what we face in our lives isn't life or death kind of ordeals, the SNS has also adapted to other situations that we identify as "emergencies": public speaking, taking tests, etc.

Almost a year ago, I posted about a run-in I had with the guys from downstairs. I don't know if they did it as much last year, but this year they've taken to pounding on the floor whenever they think we are too loud, which turns out is all the time because they're pounding like 4-5 times a week. It'll be for things like Rock Band, karaoke stuff, but then also if we (I) are cleaning and moving some chairs around, talking too loudly, or just walking around in church shoes. It's the most obnoxious thing in the world really.

So last night my roommate and I were watching a movie a little loud when the one guy comes over and asks us to turn it down. I let my roommate answer the door knowing it was one of the guys downstairs, paused the movie, and listened to the conversation. My roommate is a really nice guy, and has talked about how he was going to let him have it, which I thought would be interesting. To his credit, he didn't back down, but was still really nice about asking the guy to cut us some slack. I thought the conversation was nearing an end, but then the neighbor started getting belligerent about it. I couldn't believe my ears. He just started becoming really rude and insulting, and that's when I felt like I had to join in.

I reminded him of the several recent weekend nights when we were woken up to screams of "help me" at 2-3 in the morning because someone is tripping on something they had taken, how every time our windows are open we have to smell them smoking out in their apartment, and how we never complain about a darn thing. I said that we would be happy to oblige, but that he was going to have to be more discriminating about those times when he was going to bang on the floor. Then he finally started to back down.

The conversation ended well enough, but I thought it was interesting that I felt all of my fight responses ignite - quickened pulse/breathing, moist palms, etc. It took about ten minutes for the parasympathetic system to kick in and tone everything down.

I just think it's funny those times when you've reached your limit and you don't feel like holding your tongue anymore. All of a sudden something snaps and things that you had been letting go just cannot be tolerated anymore, then boom! Mt. Vesuvius erupts and anyone in your vicinity is covered in the ash of your indignation.

I have really unkind feelings toward those guys. And you know what else? I even shoveled snow off their sidewalk and driveway last week to try and counteract some of the hostility I had been feeling towards them. But that's it, I'm through with them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Look Out Now, Angels

John Lackey has reportedly signed with the Red Sox for five years, and the Phillies are receiving Roy Halladay and sending Cliff Lee to the Mariners in a three team trade.

Next year is gonna be a tough season.

The Moth

I was listening to This American Life while running the other day and the episode was about Infidelity. I don't think there has been a time when I wasn't feeling engrossed in a TAL podcast, but after listening to the first act I was feeling pretty disgusted, not that it was explicit or anything like that, but the subject matter was just so disheartening. The problem, however, was that I still had about another thirty minutes to go and I had deleted or listened to everything else on my Ipod, so I just kept going with it.

I'm glad that I did. The next story was about a married couple traveling in Germany who met a pair of sisters in a train station that they spent the rest of their vacation with. As always with TAL, the storytelling was fascinating and real, and it's told from the perspective of the husband who is in complete agony the whole trip because the reason they even started traveling with the women was because he couldn't stop staring at one of the sister's because he thought she was the picture of beauty. At the end of the story his wife parts with one of the sisters back to the hotel, while he is left with the one that he is struggling against. As the two of them head back for the hotel, he fights every urge he has to indulge in the opportunity of adultery, and heads back to his wife with the satisfaction of not having cheating, but the disappointment of the total awareness of his weakness. I just loved that story, I guess, just because it felt so real.

It's kind of one of those times where you absolutely know what the right thing is to do, and you summon the strength to do it, but even in victory over your darker half, it still feels like defeat. In the moment, sometimes doing the right thing still feels like you've done the wrong thing. It's not until some distancing has occurred when you realize how right that decision was.

Anyway, that particular story came from The Moth, which is a storytelling group based in New York. They have had some rather famous people come and perform stories, and of course, they have to be the hyper-liberal crowd whose world views I largely disagree with, but there are a lot of other contributors who are really great. They have a free weekly podcast that you can subscribe to.

I just thought I'd put that out there for anyone interested.

Man, I love me some good storytelling.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Master of Time and Space

If I could have any super power, it would be that of Hiro Nakamura from Heroes - master of time and space. Aside from all of the obvious fun you could have from being able to stop time and travel through it, I think practically it's a pretty useful power to have.

It is always the thing I have the most trouble doing - knowing how to properly allot my time to the things that matter the most to me. A big problem I have is too much energy going in too many different directions. I'm interested in everything, so I tend to get easily distracted. Elder Packer calls it "getting caught in the thick of thin things."

This next week will be a good exercise for me on this very subject. I think I've been doing a better job recently of not wasting all of my time. I do a lot of good things - study scriptures, read, exercise, go to class, absorb as much as I can out of my education - but I'd just like to maximize on all of these things a little bit more.

I found this blog the other day and I just love all of the author's advice. He is a PhD student at MIT who is working on his doctoral dissertation, submitting a manuscript for his third book, and managing multiple side projects. So that's impressive, right? But what's really amazing is that he does it by strictly adhering to a 9am-5pm work schedule, M-F, and then Sunday mornings. His doctoral defense is the week before the due date for his next manuscript. And the guy never works outside of those hours. His blog is devoted to helping people achieve the same in their own lives, improve efficiency, etc. Go to this post here if you're interested in learning a bit, but here's an excerpt:
Fixed-Schedule Productivity

The system work as follows:

1. Choose a schedule of work hours that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.
2. Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.

This sounds simple. But think about it for a moment. Satisfying rule 2 is not easy. If you took your current projects, obligations, and work habits, you’d probably fall well short of satisfying your ideal work schedule. Here’s a simple truth: to stick to your ideal schedule will require some drastic actions. For example, you may have to:

* Dramatically cut back on the number of projects you are working on.
* Ruthlessly cull inefficient habits from your daily schedule.
* Risk mildly annoying or upsetting some people in exchange for large gains in time freedom.
* Stop procrastinating.

In the abstract, these all seem like hard things to do. But when you have the focus of a specific goal — “I do not want to work past 5 on week days!” — you’d be surprised by how much easier it becomes deploy these strategies in your daily life.
From a related article by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, he mentions:
One day, Rochelle pointed to my ferocious work pace and said, "I notice, Jim, that you are a rather undisciplined person."

I was stunned and confused. After all, I was the type of person who carefully laid out my BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), top three objectives and priority activities at the start of each New Year. I prided myself on the ability to work relentlessly toward those objectives, applying the energy I'd inherited from my prairie- stock grandmother.

"Your genetic energy level enables your lack of discipline," Rochelle continued. "Instead of leading a disciplined life, you lead a busy life."

She then gave me what I came to call the 20-10 assignment. It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

That assignment became a turning point in my life, and the "stop doing" list became an enduring cornerstone of my annual New Year resolutions — a mechanism for disciplined thought about how to allocate the most precious of all resources: time.

Rochelle's challenge forced me to see that I'd been plenty energetic, but on the wrong things. Indeed, I was on entirely the wrong path. After graduate school, I'd taken a job at Hewlett- Packard. I loved the company, but hated the job. Rochelle's assignment helped me to see I was cut out to be a professor, a researcher, a teacher — not a businessman — and I needed to make a right-angle turn. I had to stop doing my career, so that I could find my real work. I quit HP, migrated to the Stanford Business School faculty and eventually became — with some remarkable good luck along the way — a self-employed professor, happily toiling away on my research and writing.

Anyway, it's just gotten me thinking is all. I'd very much like to be a more efficient person. There are a ton of things I want to do next semester, and doing them all would require a lot more discipline and efficiency to get them taken care of. Sometimes I wonder if it's really possible. Like today, for instance, I was trying to convert the dating survey data from last week into a format that would work on the statistical program that we use, and what I thought would take about a half hour ended up being about three hours of my morning. And this was while working with two other students on the project. And I swear we're all pretty smart kids. I just wonder sometimes if I'm even smart enough to not have to take the roundabout three hour route to cull enough time to make my work fit the schedule I'd like to live by.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


  • I took my first final today and I finished in about 10 minutes. Yes, it was a graduate level course. Know what else? I'm pretty sure I did awesome on it. Now just the data analysis from the dating survey, the final for that class, and a couple drafts of my thesis to try and crank out. Should be a pretty light week for me next week. Really.
  • You know what's funny about the difference between my friends here and the friends I have at home? I can be SO sarcastic with my friends at home and they ALWAYS get when I'm being sarcastic, but here my friends don't always pick up on it. I think what makes it funny is that I think I am mostly a pretty nice person, so when I say something super absurd or mean-sounding, I would think that they would realize that it's out of character for me and realize that it's just me making a joke. Instead, they think I'm moody and then I have to explain that I'm not a total idiot.
  • Today, for the first time in more than a month, I ran without any pain during my run or immediately following it. I didn't have to cut it short at all because I thought my knee would buckle because of the pressure I was putting it under. I wasn't walking around outside following my run wondering if I might have to call my roommate to pick me up or walk over to a friend's nearby house because I wasn't sure I could make it the one or two blocks to my place. It's so nice to run without pain. Sometimes when I was running these last few weeks I thought I might have to find some other form of aerobic exercise. Turns out that I'm pretty much fine now. I ran five miles today and it felt like a breeze. So nice.
  • Our ward choir has been desperate for male voices and I've been meaning to go for awhile, but other things kept coming up so I haven't gone, that is, until last Sunday. We had an extra practice on Monday for the pieces we'll be doing in sacrament this Sunday, and I just love it. I love hearing everyone sing their parts separately, and then hearing everything come together, and then you're like, oh, there it is! It's really cool. Singing hymns is a really, really fun thing. It's only been in the last few years that I've figured out that I really enjoy singing. I wish I would have known sooner. Music is really fun.
  • Lots of sports stuff to comment on, but I haven't really felt like it. Actually, blogging for me in general lately has felt a little bit forced. Not that I have any trouble still coming up with ideas to post about. I think I'll be going on hiatus over the break and recharge my batteries.
  • Get this - I've been tracking my expenses for the last 12 weeks. My method has been crude - just a little notepad where I write down everything I spend each day at the end of the day. Here's what cool about it: I am so conscious of my spending and all of my inputs and outputs that I do a much better job of restricting my spending. Mostly. I still suck sometimes like over Thanksgiving with friends in town and eating out constantly and doing a bunch of fun things, but still, it's an improvement. What's come out of this is a Christmas present spreadsheet where I have a budget and allotted amounts for everyone I plan on buying presents for. I kind of love it. I have a budgeted amount, actual amount spent, and then a summation formula, with a tax multiplier next to it. Typically, my heart is larger than my wallet, but I think with this system I'll be able to reign in my spending, while still feeling like I'm taking care of my loved ones. Cool, huh?
  • How about some Christmas music to end with? Try this on:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Very Own Research

Yesterday I had a really productive meeting with my committee chair about my thesis. This whole time I've been taking this approach that is pretty consistent with the literature, and trying to look at sexual harassment using written scenarios and then asking participants their thoughts on whether or not the scenario constitutes sexual harassment. This approach is what is being done in the research, but it's also incredibly boring, even more so given that the only reason I've considered studying sexual harassment is because it's one of my professor's interests, and not my own.

Well in the meeting last night, I was giving him some of my ideas about how I wanted to look at things and he ended up asking about behavioral studies looking at sexual harassment, in other words, creating real life scenarios of harassment and then observing behavioral responses. I immediately lit up. I had thought about that approach, but shied away from it because I thought it would be too difficult to carry out logistically, and then also to get that kind of thing approved by the Institutional Review Board at BYU. With that suggestion, I feel like I have new life breathed into me and I have so much more motivation to try and tackle this thesis.

I need to develop an idea and research question, but the basics are this: my interest within sexual harassment is same sex sexual harassment. I'll need to look at more specifically what it is that men find harassing, and what women find harassing, and then try and target those differences and see how that is revealed behaviorally. There are things that guys can do to other guys that would be sexually harassing, but from a women doing the exact same thing, it would probably be flattering.

If you have any ideas about how to carry this out and what things to observe for behaviorally that would manifest a person's inner feelings, I'd love to hear it.

Also, with the dating survey I'm really excited to pursue that topic and see the breakdown on all of the different groups. In less than a week we got over 400 responses just between the three of us asking friends and acquaintances. At church and my ward activity on Saturday, I probably had a dozen or so people approach me about the survey, and through the Facebook messages I sent out, about ten people responded wanting to know how it all turns out. I love the interest it's gotten from everyone, and I think the findings will be really fun to work out.

I'm hoping that this initial survey can serve as a springboard into doing qualitative interviews with people, particularly those over 25, and learn more about their dating experiences in more detail.

What's really fun about all of this is that it reminds me how much I enjoy all this analysis and trying to understand people. Sometimes I still feel inclined toward applying to counseling/clinical psychology programs once I'm done with my thesis, but this research stuff also can be really fun. My friends in the other therapy-based programs insist that I have a great temperament for the practice. I don't know, but it's at least fun having viable interests that can hopefully earn me some scratch while keeping me at least somewhat intrigued.

Sitting At The Computer Reading Jokes

For a couple years I 've been blaming it on lack of sleep and too much pressure from my job, but now I found out the real reason: I'm tired because I'm overworked. The population of this country is 237 million. 104 million are retired. That leaves 133 million to do the work. There are 85 million in school, which leaves 48 million to do the work. Of this there are 29 million employed by the federal government, leaving 19 million to do the work. 2.8 million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves 16.2 million to do the work. Take from the total the 14,800,000 people who work for State and City Governments and that leaves 1.4 million to do the work. At any given time there are 188,000 people in hospitals, leaving 1,212,000 to do the work. Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons. That leaves just two people to do the work. You and me. And you're sitting at your computer reading jokes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Obedience and Compliance

My brother sent me a compilation of news stories about the McDonald's hoax wherein a person called posing as a police officer, and asked the store manager of the fast food restaurant to strip search one of the employees to see if the employee had stolen any goods. You've all heard of this, right? Apparently it happened at a number of different restaurants, a number of times, approximately 60 different instances.

Before I jump to the story itself, please refer back to this post that I put up last year talking about the Milgram experiments. The briefest summary I can give is basically this: people came in thinking they were there for a learning and punishment experiment, when really it was a study on obedience and compliance, in reaction to the war crimes perpetrated by the Nazis. The end result was essentially that people will do just about anything when ordered to by someone they see in authority.

What's really interesting about this case of the guy calling in and having these employees perform these incredibly devious and perverted acts was that they are the perfect real world examples of the Milgram findings. I wish I had a direct link to articles, but some cutting and pasting will have to do.
She was a high school senior who had just turned 18 -- a churchgoing former Girl Scout who hadn't received a single admonition in her four months working at the McDonald's in Mount Washington.

But when a man who called himself "Officer Scott" called the store on April 9, 2004, and said an employee had been accused of stealing a purse, Louise Ogborn became the suspect.

"He gave me a description of the girl, and Louise was the one who fit it to the T," assistant manager Donna Jean Summers said.

Identifying himself as a police officer, the caller issued an ultimatum: Ogborn could be searched at the store or be arrested, taken to jail and searched there.

"I was bawling my eyes out and literally begging them to take me to the police station because I didn't do anything wrong," Ogborn said later in a deposition. She had taken the $6.35-an-hour position after her mother lost her job. "I couldn't steal -- I'm too honest. I stole a pencil one time from a teacher and I gave it back."

Summers, 51, conceded later that she had never known Ogborn to do a thing dishonest. But she nonetheless led Ogborn to the restaurant's small office, locked the door, and -- following the caller's instructions -- ordered her to remove one item of clothing at a time, until she was naked.

"She was crying," recalled Kim Dockery, 40, another assistant manager, who stood by watching. "A little young girl standing there naked wasn't a pretty sight."

Summers said later that "Officer Scott," who stayed on the telephone, giving his orders, sounded authentic. He said he had "McDonald's corporate" on the line, as well as the store manager, whom he mentioned by name. And she thought she could hear police radios in the background.

Summers shook each garment, placed it in a bag and took the bag away. "I did exactly what he said to do," Summers said of her caller.

It was just after 5 p.m., and for Ogborn, hours of degradation and abuse were just beginning.
What followed is much worse than you would ever think possible. I'll leave the rest of the details up to your imaginations, but the caller got everyone involved to do exactly what he wanted.

The reactions to the acts are typical, from total dismay and disgust to sympathy for those involved. From one of the stories:
Across the United States, at least 13 people who executed strip-searches ordered by the caller were charged with crimes, and seven were convicted.

But most of the duped managers were treated as victims — just like the people they searched and humiliated.

They all "fell under the spell of a voice on the telephone," wrote a judge in Zanesville, Ohio, in an order acquitting Scott Winsor, 35, who'd been charged with unlawfully restraining and imposing himself on two women who worked for him at a McDonald's.

Chicago lawyer Craig Annunziata, who has defended 30 franchises sued after hoaxes, said every manager he interviewed genuinely believed they were helping police.

"They weren't trying to get their own jollies," he said.

Many of the supervisors were fired and some divorced by their spouses, Annunziata said. Others required counseling.

But the duped managers have been condemnedby others.

"You don't have to be a Phi Beta Kappa to know not to strip-search a girl who is accused of stealing change," said Roger Hall, the lawyer for a woman who won $250,000 after being strip-searched at a McDonald's in Louisa, Ky.

A Fox-TV commentator asked how the managers who went along could be so "colossally stupid."

While the incidents were triggered by a "perverted miscreant" wrote a federal judge in Georgia, the managers "still had a responsibility to use common sense and avoid falling prey to such a scam."

Though the Milgram experiment may help explain why supervisors went along with the caller, even Milgram's disciples say it doesn't absolve them of responsibility.

Just as one-third of the participants in Milgram's study refused to shock the subject, some supervisors refused to go along, including a supervisor at McDonald's Hillview store, who hung up on the caller the very night of the Mount Washington hoax.

"Nobody held a gun to their heads," said Blass, whose book about Milgram is titled, "The Man Who Shocked the World."

"They had the critical ability to decide whether to carry out their orders."
It's easy to judge all those who allowed everything to go so far, but we really underestimate how powerful a force the demand of obedience is. Everyday we live our lives completely dependent on the fact that people are going to do and act in the ways that we are all supposed to. We drive to work or school in safety (for the most part) because we can assume that people will obey traffic laws. Everything we do is dependent on some level of order, and without that assumption, then everything disintegrates into chaos.

I just think the story is really interesting. Yes, the people involved do bear personal responsibility for the things that they did, but I feel a lot of sympathy for them also just because some awful, awful person took advantage of a characteristic in them that in almost any other circumstance would be the right path to pursue.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Help Thou Mine Unbelief

It's funny, I always want to get up and bear my testimony now whenever there is a fast and testimony meeting. I think I started to become that person in the Irvine Ranch Branch and everyone seemed so reluctant to get up and bear testimonies. There was a string of about 4-6 months in a row when I would consistently do it every month. And it never felt contrived for me, like I was making up stuff. I guess I've slowly become a person that has something to say about everything now, although I'm still pretty good at keeping things to myself.

Anyway, I've been wanting to bear my testimony in this ward for the last few months, but I always feel like it's overkill to do it when I also teach a Sunday school lesson the same day. Both of my roommates got up to bear their testimonies, and I would have gotten up to bear mine, but then a dozen people got up before I decided to and we ended up finishing late as it was. And I never want to be the person that makes everyone stay late because I just had to say it.

Anyway (again), this is going to be my forum for the thoughts I would have shared today...

Recently I have been reading a lot from the gospels. I'm actually working on getting through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John before the end of the year. I guess I just kind of feel it's the appropriate season to be reading about Christ's life. Additionally, I've also been reading the General Conference edition of the Ensign.

As I've been reading recently, what I've really been impressed with is just how much hope these different sources of scripture give to me, and I just love it. I love reading the words of our modern day prophets and for whatever reason, I've been finding it really comforting to hear the specific counsel they give to guard ourselves, our thoughts, etc. I think because it reminds me that I'm not alone in my struggles, and that it's not out of the ordinary to have weaknesses and to sometimes - and maybe even frequently - feel doubt.

Last night I was reading in Mark 9, and probably just like everyone else, I love when the father of the sick girl asks Jesus to heal his daughter, and Christ says, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
I can only imagine how much that must have tugged at the heart of the Savior to hear that father's desperate and entirely humble plea to heal his daughter. Lord, I believe that you can heal my daughter, but please, help me so that it's enough that you can work a miracle for her.

There are a lot of ways in which I can express that exact same sentiment. Lord, I believe that you can:
  • Help me to get through the rest of my program and build up a significant body of work to put on my resume
  • Help me overcome my many, and sometimes, all too glaring personal inadequacies
  • Help me find meaningful and relevant work
  • Help me to get out of my own way so that I'm not single for the rest of my life
  • Bless my family so that they can receive the gospel
  • Heal my mother's/friend's broken hearts
But, please, help thou mine unbelief.

What's so wonderful about the gospel is that we are so not on our own. There is an abundance of earthly resources and people available to us to help us overcome, but more importantly, we have the Lord who is ever present and ever desirous for our success and eventual triumph over the obstacles that face us.

And I have to believe that God is always waiting and yearning for us to seek out his help in our struggles. I love the frequency of the injunction that he issues to us - ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

The blessings are there and they are available, but we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to allow him to tip his hand and help us. Not only the asking part, but just like the father of the sick child, we need to be asking for that additional strengthening as well, and doing what we can to make our faith manifest, however small that offering may be.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Legion of Extraordinary Dancers

This season has been kind of weird for me and SYTYCD. Sometimes I could care less, but then a particular routine will jump out and just blow me away. I'm not really a fan of anyone in particular. They're all pretty decent. I like Kathryn just because I think she's super cute, same goes for Noelle. I think Jakob is by far the best dancer, although the other guys are all pretty good also.

Anyway, this week I just loved loved loved this routine by the dance group whose name graces the title of this post. I was looking through some of their other videos and current contestant, Legacy, actually used to be (or still is?) a member of the group. My favorite guy is the one dude doing all of the stuff on his hands who smoothly spins to a stop at the end of the routine. I just can't believe how fluid he is, and the variation he has in his speed. Just amazing. But the best part has to be the part in the middle with the perfectly synchronized martial arts moves.

As an added bonus, a friend of mine sent me the trailer for this independent film, Babies.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Arabs Also Weary of Obama

I read this interesting article this morning about how Arabs have gotten tired of Obama's oratory. I won't go into any detail about it, but I did like this excerpt:
Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one's own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger," goes one of the Arab world's most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

Even in his speech on Tuesday night announcing the addition of 30,000 troops, he started off by speaking ill of President Bush and the previous foreign policy that had been employed, also refusing to acknowledge the difficult decision Bush made to endorse the original surge in the first place, and then he went on to close his speech by talking about how we need to move past partisan politics. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sleight of Hand

The Ward Historians asked for contributions from the ward members, and this was mine. Of course, me being a moron, felt like this was such a condensed form, but I never know how much people really want to know. I always feel like I have so much more to say, but I'm not sure if everyone wants to deal with the full brunt of Chris-force coming their way. Anywho...

In all of the scenarios that I had imagined for myself when I had gotten home from my mission 8 years ago, I never thought that I would be still single and still in school at 29 years old. And never did I think that I would be doing Round 2 at BYU, but someone once said the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him about your plans. In spite of the setbacks and pit-stops I have had to take along the way, I know that God’s hand is still guiding my life, and in great abundance this past year.

Currently I am finishing up the second year of a four year program in Applied Social Psychology at BYU. I am in a program that I love, that gives me valuable experience, where I get to work with professors that I have great relationships with. More importantly, in my second go-around in Provo, I feel like I have been able to establish new relationships that make me feel like are the pieces that complete the puzzle that is my life. After I first came back here from California, when I was hoping just to make some new friends, some people in the ward invited me over just to watch TV with them. It was a small gesture and required little of them, but it went so far in helping me just to feel that I wasn’t alone even though in a lot of ways I felt like I was having to start all over in finding new friends. I don’t think those people know how much that simple act meant to me.

In Matthew 7, it says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

A lot of times when I think I’m asking for bread and fish, and all I’m getting are stones and serpents. However, given the experiences that I have had, I know that the bread and fish have been coming, but I haven’t always been able to see them for what they are. The answers are there, and maybe not in the ways that I would typically expect, but I know that Heavenly Father is always there giving the good gifts, and when I have had eyes open to see, then I’ve been able to recognize the answers for what they are – His ever loving hand guiding my life.

Dating Survey

For one of my statistics classes we are doing a dating survey to try and find some factors that predict dating satisfaction. This survey is for non-married people, and if you're interested in taking it, you can do so by clicking here. It shouldn't take more than few minutes, and the results are completely anonymous. Please forward that url onto anyone else who you think might be interested in filling it out. Thanks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Heart Will Go On

*UPDATE - I meant to post a different clip. This one is the updated one that has an additional scene after the first one in the hospital.*

I love Elliot. I think the actress who plays her, Sarah Chalke, is just hilarious and plays the crazy side up so well. This post doesn't really have anything to do with the clip. I just happened to be watching the episode last night and I thought both of those parts were really funny, and I love that someone combined the two.

No, what this post about is resiliency. Sometimes it surprises me. A friend of mine was asking around the other day about whether anyone would be willing to throw his/her kid off of a cliff for a million dollars, and you could absolutely guarantee the safety of the child. I said absolutely, and actually everyone she asked said the same thing, and her husband and I had the same response - kids are remarkably resilient, much more than we ever give them credit for, and if you know that the kid is going to be safe, then you may as well just take the money. They'll get over the betrayed trust part later, especially when that kid is enjoying the million dollars too.

In fact, there have been a number of studies that suggest that kids are resilient even in the face of pretty serious abuse, but the findings fly in the face of what you'd normally expect, and what happens is that journals won't publish the work because it's too controversial. People thought that if they published those findings, that some might use that as an excuse to worry less about child abuse, which is valid. True story. Anyway, kids, and people in general, are very resilient.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was searching through some of my old emails for what, I can't event remember now, but I came across one of my old emails to a girl that I had several years invested in. (This is a sidenote, but do you want to know who the best pen pal in the world is? It's me. If I feel like you're at all interested in me or what I have to say, I am uh-may-zing when it comes to correspondence.) But I was just reading the email and it was, as you can certainly imagine, so long-winded and incredibly detailed. I forgot until I was reading that email that I would spend at least two or more hours every Tuesday night writing her while she was serving her mission, and I did that for the duration of her mission. Never missed a week.

Reading that email got me thinking about all of the history that I had with that girl, about the fact that I thought my life began and ended with her. If things weren't going to work out with her, I just saw no other way of going on with life. Not that I was suicidal ever, but it was like outside of her, the only thing I could see was blank space, if that makes any sense.

About a week before she left on her mission, we were just sitting around at my house listening to music, and we were for the most part feeling a lot of happy feelings that night. Then Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes came on and I started singing it to her, and when I got to the part where he says, "and this emptiness fills my heart," I just burst into tears. Everything that I had been trying to push to the side came to the surface and spilled out of my eyes, and then she pulled me over, sat me on her lap, rubbed my back, and started crying with me.

We have easily hundreds, and maybe thousands, of just the sweetest memories together. While we were together, she was my best friend. She didn't know me better than Dave, but I certainly gave myself over to her more than anyone else in my life. And when things ended with her, each time it happened, I just felt the worst kind of pain, and it was so prolonged too. I thought it would never end.

I don't know. I guess it was just weird last week, reading that email, thinking about the memories I had with her, how hard it was to get over her, and think that it almost feels like I'm looking at another person's life when I think about that time. I just feel so removed from all of that now, to where there is no sense of loss when it comes to her, or that I somehow missed the only chance I would have at happiness. It was weird to think that there was this person and this relationship that I had so much invested in, and now I can look back on it and not feel a thing, at least none of what made it so difficult. Reading that email may as well have been like reading about events in some history book.

And that's what amazed me about how resilient we can be. People can, and must, learn to deal with grief and loss all the time. Sometimes it comes in more tragic and devastating ways than others, but in the same way that time can feel so brutally slow when you're in the middle of everything and just want to leave the pain of the present all behind, it is also miraculous in how it allows us to heal and soften the memories of difficulty to where it goes from feeling acute, to opaque, to simply an event from the past that served to shape the present. Time, coupled with the Atonement, provides everything that's necessary to heal. It's amazing to think about how that actually works. It's real.

And I'm really glad that's the case.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Nice Little Weekend

I didn't realize until too late, but the top 5 finishers for each division for the Earn Your Turkey run on Thanksgiving day get either a turkey, pie, or ribbon. I finished 6th in my division. Dang. I was less than a minute behind the 5th place guy too, but the problem I've been having this last month is my lateral meniscus, diagnosed by Dave, so I have been running a lot less. Still though, I wish I would have known that I could have won a turkey, and I might have been feeling a little more competitive and run a little harder.

Yesterday was a pretty awesome day, though. We got up in the morning to go bunny hunting. We had several twelve-gauge shotguns, a twenty-gauge, a .357, and an assault rifle to boot. Unfortunately, we went to an area that seemed to have a little too much human foot traffic so we didn't see many bunnies, probably about 4-5 between the 5 of us in about 3 hours of walking around. Sadly, for one bunny, we did catch sight of him and blew him to pieces. I thought I would feel a little bad when we finally killed one because I'm also the guy who actually feels bad when he unwittingly steps on snails, but I forgot that I'm also the same kid who used to go out hunting birds with his bb gun as a kid. The formula we had yesterday was pretty wonderful - guy time with my friends who I think are hilarious and guns. What's not to like, right? My favorite line of the day came when Dave was driving his dad's S-class Mercedes on the dirt road and he says, "my worst fear is driving over some rock and blowing out a tire...scratch that, my worst fear is this car fills up with bees and you're trying to kill them using a chainsaw." I thought that was the funniest thing in the world.

I also went to my first ever Holy War game yesterday at home against the U. I'm surprised how easy it was to come by tickets. After we got ours, I knew at least four other people who were giving theirs up. It must have been the fact that it was Thanksgiving weekend that made it so easy. In any case, the game was pretty interesting. I forget until I watch sports with other people, but I have a very low tolerance for stupid comments about the game and this happens with an incredible frequency at BYU games. I couldn't believe the tension that could be felt from the other fans when BYU found themselves down by six points in the first quarter. And then everyone is ready to turn on their team at the drop of a hat. It's kind of unreal. I hate hate hate comments about refs stealing a game, or that the other team is paying them off, or whatever other inane comments people come up with. And then there are the people who think that every rushing play should be for a first down, every passing play should be for a touchdown, or that every defensive play should turn into a turnover or a tackle for a loss. Seriously? It's not the end of the world if we have to punt, and if we're only down by six points, it's still only a one possession game.

In any case, the game was fun. It ended up being closer than it probably needed to be, but they won in exciting fashion. I almost preferred them to win in overtime because it would have felt a little hollow if they won because Utah missed a field goal or something like that. As soon as both those Utah guys missed the tackle, everyone in the stadium realized the game was over and the place just blew up. It was pretty great. People started rushing the field, and wondering if I'd ever have another chance to do it myself, I decided to go down also. It was kind of funny, though, because once you got there then it was like, well now what? So I went to the middle of the field, slapped some of the football players on the back, was in the crowd that was floating Andrew George, the guy who caught the game winning touchdown, then I wandered off. I thought maybe I should look around for other people I know because I knew there were about a dozen or so other friends of mine at the game, but eventually I just took off.

There's been a lot of Mason time, lots of eating out, and lots of Rock Band. And I got Beatles Rock Band just for this weekend. Who knew that so many of those songs would be in my range? My favorite to sing is the Sgt. Pepper's/With A Little Help from my friends medley.

That was pretty much my weekend. I love these people. Truly, I'm so blessed.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

I just thought I'd post this Thanksgiving Proclamation given by Abraham Lincoln. Did you know that it wasn't declared a national holiday until his tenure as President? Well, that's the truth. I'm not going to cut and paste the whole thing even though it's pretty short, but here is a nice excerpt from it:
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Nevermind, that is the whole thing. You know what I love most about it? How abundantly he references God throughout it. Can an American President get away with that today? Probably not, and that's so sad to me.

Happy Thanksgivings!

Thanksgiving day run - check. It was pretty cold, but it really wasn't that bad. I hurt something in my knee a few weeks ago so I've been, for the most part, staying away from running so I couldn't get too competitive this morning, but I still finished the four miles in under 30 minutes. It was nice to have Dave and Mike come out and run, and I kind of love the t-shirt, which I'll be sporting all day.

So what's left for the day? Overindulgence, mainly. A nap. Mason time. Maybe go watch The Blind Side tonight. I've got a full plate, so to speak.

And what am I grateful for...the people in my life. That's always at the top of my list. For a loving Father in Heaven. For a healthy physical body that allows me to do most anything I want. For music. For the opportunities I have. For this website that we all spent about several hours on last night taking quizzes together. And for this one that has helped me to enhance my glide, which I've been getting pretty decent with.

Happy Thanksgiving, dearhearts! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Guys and girls of a certain age know how to show interest. They just do. I don't really know what girls do. Sometimes I feel like I get a pretty good read on girls, but then something goes awry and I'm at a total loss. However, I am a guy and I sure as hell know what guys do - we ask out girls on dates.

I'm pretty sure that it's impossible for a guy to be a member of the church of the Mormons, over the age of 25, actively participating, and not know that when he's interested in a girl, he has to ask her out on dates. Seriously. As often as they mention home teaching in Elders Quorum, the leadership in the church advocates that we go out on dates. In my ward we currently have a dating and relationships class as one of the options in Sunday school. For our ward conference, the priesthood meeting was dominated by discussion about loneliness and how it's the number one concern of our stake presidency, and how guys just simply aren't asking girls out enough on dates. The girls I know in the relief society presidency in my ward have told me that the biggest complaint they encounter is how the sisters don't go out on enough dates. Every one here knows that when you are interested in someone, you go out on dates. Dating dating dating! That's what much of the focus is on for the young single adults in these parts.

Then I guess the question is what constitutes a date. Elder Oaks mentioned the three P's criteria - planned, paid for, and paired off. I think I would have to also add that it be on one of the money nights - Friday or Saturday. No, lunch dates don't count. Guys would go out on a lunch date with that sister from their mission that they secretly thought was hot, but were terrified of spending too much time with for fear that they would get along too well with said sister (did I have one? You better believe it. Oh, Hermana Church! We had such chemistry on the mission when nothing could ever happen, but lunch at Rosa's when we were both home was SO incredibly awkward! I learned my lesson. Don't go out with sister missionaries from your own mission, but we'll always have Quilicura!).

This is what a lunch date is to a guy - a low commitment atmosphere that only requires about an hour, little thought (where's a good place to eat? Del Taco? done!), and is typically just an opportunity to put feelers out there. It's kind of like how in research they do exploratory studies to determine if there is something really worth investigating, only with a lunch date a guy knows he wants at least an hour with the girl, but he is not quite sure if he wants to devote an entire evening to her that requires both more time and more money. Voila! The perfect solution! A lunch date.

No, my friends, it's all about an actual date that is on one of the money nights, Friday or Saturday, because those are the nights with the real payoff. A week night counts if it's something truly awesome, or schedules are such that all attempts have been made for a Friday or Saturday night, but it just won't work, then you settle for a week night. But everyone in the whole world knows that all the events that you are really looking forward to come on the weekend. It's like that for everyone. No exceptions.

If a guy is interested, busy doesn't count as an excuse. Even if a guy is working two jobs and going to school full time and he's putting in 12-14 hour days, if he's interested in someone, he will set aside a Friday night (and work on Saturday if he has to, and maybe even Sunday) and go out with the girl who has piqued (or is it peek? or peak?...Karen ;) his interest. The shyest guys without any dating experience even do this.

If a guy is interested, even distance doesn't count as an excuse. Provided you are reciprocating, he will shower you with attention even when he's out with other people and never hesitate to respond to your prodding. Texting is an amazing (and annoying) invention that allows for this display of affection.

When a guy is interested, there is always time and there are always resources. Always always always. Even the President of the United States can find time to go to a party or a banquet. You're telling me that just because finals are in two weeks and he's feeling really stressed that he can't find a few hours on a Friday night to spend some time wooing you? I'm sorry. Is he the leader of the free world? Is there a war on terrorism with multiple fronts that he's managing while trying to push through major health care reform? If the President can party, a guy who's interested can party.

EVERYONE saves Friday or Saturday to do something fun. EVERYONE. If he's not spending it with you, I can assure you he's not at the library studying. I worked library security at the HBLL as an undergrad, and I did some of those weekend night shifts. The only people there until close on weekend nights are employees. That's it.

What time does everyone value the most? Okay, don't give me that cliche answer. Outside of church, what time? Weekend night time. If he, or she, is not spending the time that is most valuable to them with you, then they're spending it with someone else. And it's not something else.

This is way too long, but you can take all that to the bank.

I wanted something more relevant from this movie, but I love this clip mostly because the guys are using each other as stand-ins for girls so here it is. If you have any questions, read the book and then call me in the morning.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bit O' Everything

I had kind of a great weekend. Friday night I went to Velour, a local little live music venue where they were having a Cowboys and Indie music festival over the weekend. Imagine Dragons was the headliner on Friday, and I caught those guys before seeing Kelly Clarkson back in June. They actually won the Utah's Got Talent competition. They're an indie band from Las Vegas, did the Provo scene, and are now trying to strike it big. They're a pop-rock type band. The lead singer is very entertaining, and their music is really fun to dance to. Here's a taste:

Then Saturday morning my roommate took another friend and myself out flying. We were in a little 4-passenger plane, and flew over whatever these mountains here are called, over Hobble Creek, near Mount Timponogas, and just around the general vicinity. My roommate hardly ever mentions it to anybody, but I think it's the coolest thing to be able to do. He has a pilot's license and has access to a plane. Isn't that awesome? He let me take the controls for a bit. It was a ton of fun.

I've said this before, but don't you love those people in your life that you think, "wow, I would have just died tonight if so and so weren't around." I feel so lucky to think that I have so many of those kinds of people to count on.

This might come as a huge surprise, but I really place high value on time to think and reflect, but especially so when I'm engaged in some sort of physical task. I love running and not listening to music for that reason - just the me time and time to think. But in addition to that, I think there is something highly therapeutic about just getting on your knees and cleaning. Speaking of missionaries knocking on doors, President Faust used to say, "I know it's not the most effective method for finding people, but knocking on doors is good for the soul." I think getting grimy and dirty is good for the soul in a similar sense.

It's funny to me how representative people can be of their own gender. I was cleaning the kitchen (I guess I've been doing a lot of that lately) the other night, and my roommate suggested soaking the metal gratings from our stove top because they were dirty. I asked him if we had any all-purpose cleaner left, and he had no idea that sort of thing existed. Then I was making brownies, and another roommate saw me using shortening and flour to grease the pan and he had no clue what I was doing. Then I borrowed a vacuum from some girls down the street, and the one girl commented on how it doesn't really suck up very much, but that we could use it anyway. I turn it on this morning, and not only is the vacuum screaming loud, but the bag is beyond full. I don't feel like I'm particularly enlightened, but these incidents the last few days have kind of made me feel that way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Earn Your Turkey!

Anybody else interested in a Thanksgiving day run? There is the Earn Your Turkey Thanksgiving Day run in Orem. 4 miles, starts at 8am, registration is $27 and can be found by clicking here.

You want to do it. Trust me. It makes justifying overindulging yourself so much easier.

Yes, I'm registered. And you get a long-sleeve shirt. Woo!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dave S. Preston, Esquire!

Not only has this guy graduated from law school, but he passed the bar too! It's a Thanksgiving miracle! You have no idea how much he stressed over the bar results that were released yesterday, but no need now. It's a official. He's a suitor!

Bro, good job, bro! Next week will be the most fun-filled Thanksgiving ever.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Odds And Ends

So I guess this video below served as some of the inspiration behind the concept of the show Glee.

I'm no Gleek yet, but I've seen a couple of shows and it's actually pretty funny. There are a few things that bother me about it, but they're the subtle kinds of statements that the show makes that I am inclined to read into.

My roommate got Wii Fit, and so far I broke all of his records on there except for the ski jump. He's kind of a goofy guy because he loves talking trash even if he's not always in a position to do so, and I don't think I normally would get competitive about this sort of thing, but his need to tough talk fuels my competitive fire. So I broke his record earlier this week, and then he took it back the next day. I was going to let it go until last night when he made a point of telling me that he put some distance between the top score and my own. So how did I react? I waited until he went to bed, then I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. last night not only breaking his record, but then scoring so high and often that his name doesn't even appear on the top 10 list anymore. How's that for idiocy? And I did that in spite of still having to prep for today's stats lab that I had to teach that started at 8:30 a.m. That's the kind of person that writes this blog.

Amazingly enough, I have no plans in the near future to go see New Moon. I only saw Twilight a few months ago, and I have to say that seeing Bella on screen reminded me how much I dislike her character. Why would dreamy Edward ever want such a desperate high school girl? I don't care if her scent drives him crazy. You know what drives me crazy? Stupid girl that is overly dramatic that has no confidence in the love that the people around her have for her. At least this film looks like they spent a few more dollars on the budget, so it shouldn't be as bad as the first one. Hopefully.

In SYTYCD news, I have really been anti-Ashleigh and Legacy for most of this season, but they've actually been pretty impressive the last couple weeks. The hip hop number that started the show was really, really good. I really liked Travis' contemporary routine, and it was danced pretty well, but you know what bothered me about it? Ryan's body is just TOO big. It looks awkward because it's just way too bulky. He is nimble for such a big guy, but his is not a dancer's physique. He should be a bouncer or something. Like I said before, I haven't really cared much for his wife, Ashleigh, but she's been really good the last couple of weeks and I love her arms. I thought she looked really good, and really, her arms are pretty perfect, and she danced it really well. Jakob is super gay, so I don't relate with him all that much, but that guy can dance. He's been outstanding in everything so far. He's the best, in my opinion. I was hoping for more out of the Nathan and Mollee piece. They heaped praise on them, but I didn't think they were that great, and I'm a big Nathan fan. Anyway...

That's about all I gots for now. Have a great weekend, dear ones!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Awesome Commercial Actor

This is a commercial that's currently running:

You might remember him from this commercial from a couple years ago:

I kind of love the guy, that's all.

Nothing (Police) Beats This Column

Nov 11: A custodian reported an unidentified male depositing possibly hazardous material in a drain. Samples of the material were taken and the material was determined to be safe.

Nov 13: At 5:30 p.m. a woman was walking up Maeser Hill to the testing center when a Latino male walked up behind her, asked her the time, then grabbed her buttocks. The suspect then ran westbound on the path and the female began chasing him. The suspect then stopped., turned around, and yelled obscenities at the victim. The female reported the incident to the police two and a half hours later, after she took the test.
Please, Provo citizens, get in before dark and make sure to lock your doors behind you because you never know what could happen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh Yeah!

Dear Me,

Something about the time between Sunday and Monday left you feeling overwhelmed. Maybe it was tithing settlement and the Bishop's well-intended, but sometimes too direct approach with talking about dating and marriage. I know that you've been out on a few dates recently, and his pep-talk ended up making you feel like you need to decide now if you want to marry one of these girls or not, but that's not the case. You can get to know someone without having to decide within a few conversations whether you'll spend the rest of eternity with that person or not. There's nothing wrong with that. Or maybe it was the combination of conversations yesterday with another student in your cohort and then your committee chair that made you feel daunted by the task of your thesis. Or maybe it's just that you're feeling like you're in a spiritual lull lately and wondering why it feels like your reception for hearing the spirit is a little fuzzy. It's probably a mixture of all of those things.

Here's the thing you need to remember: you know how to get things done and you've done some really great things. Remember how you wanted to start regularly flossing and to stop biting your fingernails? Once you decided you wanted to do those things, then BOOM! Now your teeth are extra clean and your nails are trimmed and not scratchy. Remember how you wanted to start keeping detailed notes on all of your expenses and attempt to live within a prescribed budget? Well, okay, so you're not all the way there yet, but you're figuring that one out too. Those may seem like small things, but you've done bigger things too.

Remember when you joined the church and you were so worried about enduring to the end? I don't think you ever openly admitted that to anyone ever in your life, but that actually was the biggest concern that you had when you were baptized almost 12 years ago. It's kind of weird that as a 17 year old high school senior, that that was actually something that kept you up at night, but soon you figured out that you just had to take things one day at a time and not let the rest of your life overwhelm you before it had even happened.

Remember how worried you were about serving a mission and being able to stay focused and work hard for the entire two years and not just waste your time, or the Lord's time, for that matter? The length of time and amount of work didn't really hit you until you actually got into the country, but remember how daunting it seemed? Then you read that scripture in 3 Ne 13:34 - Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof - and that last phrase changed everything for you. You thought about it all morning while out proselyting, came back from lunch, went straight to your room and knelt down in prayer and just committed to just worry about today and let the Lord take care of the rest of your mission, and that's exactly what happened.

Remember how you came back home from your first year at BYU, and you had decided that you would go into psychology, so you talked to that professor at UCI about what it would take to get into the field, and instead of encouraging you, he actually tried to talk you out of pursuing graduate work? You thought, "to hell with that guy!" and then took everything everyone told you about what it would take to get into grad school to heart, laid out a careful plan for EVERYTHING grad school related, and then you got into 8 of the 9 schools you applied to, when statistics actually show that most people only get 1 or 2 offers out of 10.

Remember that Sunday when you decided that you were going to run a marathon? It was at a regional conference for church, and the thought had been floating around your mind for some time, but then some talk about Sabbath day observance mentioned the word marathon and you couldn't think about anything else after that. Then while still in the conference you texted three people who you thought might commit to running it with you, and they were all lukewarm, but you decided to commit anyway. You started reading about it, you bought your entry 7 months in advance, and even had a plan in place well ahead of the 18 week training program that you had outlined leading up to the day of the marathon. Then you had that first "long" run on the first Saturday of Week 1, and you realized that you had never run more than 6 miles at a time in your entire life, and then you couldn't get yourself out the door and moving for two whole hours because you felt so overwhelmed with getting to the point of being able to run a marathon. But then you just got out and moving and less than an hour later you were done. And 18 weeks later you finished the whole damn thing.

So's okay sometimes to feel a little overwhelmed by life. Everyone has their moments, and you know that you've had yours. The bad part isn't having those feelings of anxiety in the first place, it's letting them prevent you from accomplishing what great things you know you can do and that you know you're supposed to do. Remember, this is when you love Nephi's faith the most - his brothers were complaining and probably just really worried about where their journeys were taking them and leaving their whole lives behind, and Nephi chastises them saying:
Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record? Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him. And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise...
You have a couple of promised lands that you're looking for, so just do what you know you need to do - come up with a meticulous plan for accomplishing your goals like you always do and then just get to work. You know how to get things done, so stop stewing and get started. And don't forget this gem from Nephi when his brothers were mocking him for trying to build a ship when he had never even lived near the shore before:
And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. And now, if the Lord has such great power, and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?
The things that you want to do are righteous endeavors. You know that God is on your side, rooting for you every step of the way, and with him, nothing is impossible - not even a thesis, or dating and marriage, or regaining spiritual receptivity, or anything else you can come up with.

And remember Paul's counsel to the Romans:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose...What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
So get to work. You know what you need to do and what it takes. Go. Make it so that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mason Jennings - In The Venue

It was my privilege on Saturday to go see Mason Jennings perform at In The Venue. With my recent concert experiences I've been thinking a lot lately about how music is really meant to be heard live, in person. Obviously you can still really enjoy listening to recordings, but the experience of hearing music being played live is just different, much more tangible.

I went and saw him last year soon after he released his album, In The Ever, and so based on my two experiences with him, it seems to be customary for him to draw heavily from his most recent album in his performances. I guess this is his first tour even bringing an electric guitar. Last year he played about half of his set on just his acoustic guitar, without the rest of his band even on stage, so it was fun to see him rock out a little more this year. He alternated between electric and acoustic songs, and threw in a good mix of some of his other popular songs including Be Here Now, Crown, Jackson Square, Ballad For My One True Love, New Man, Bullet, and Butterfly.

The whole set lasted for about 90 minutes, and he came out for two encores. One of my favorite parts of the show was when he came out for his first encore and covered The Band's song The Weight, and having all four band members sing a verse from the song. That seemed to be a crowd-pleaser as everyone in the audience cheered heartily each time a different band member sang, seemingly surprised every time - or maybe that was just me. I loved it though.

The feel for this kind of concert is very different from what I'm used to with my usual punk show selection. With those ones the music is loud and fast, and it's easy to get swept up with the whole crowd. This one is a lot more relaxing, a good concert for a date.

This is Mason performing Jackson Square:

Friday, November 13, 2009

BYU Berlin Lecture - Dr. Lynn Hansen

On my post from Monday about the 20th anniversary of the Berlin wall celebrations, an anonymous commenter asked that I post whatever notes I could, so this is my best attempt at complying with that request. I didn't actually take notes, so this is to the best of my recollection.

Dr. Hansen's remarks centered largely around allowing the Lord to take you wherever it is that he wants you to go. That seems to be a theme that I've been hearing lately, as I was able to attend a different faculty forum later in the week where the professor's message was very similar.

He started out in the Air Force, and I can only assume that he served his mission for the church in Germany, because he had so much familiarity with the language and the culture. He recounted stories about his run-ins with the Soviets who occupied East Germany, and one encounter that he had while trying to help an East German citizen smuggle her brother across the border, only to see him taken away by Soviet law enforcement.

The main thrust of his remarks had to do with the familiarity he developed with the Russian armament system while serving the armed forces over in Germany. He applied for a few jobs with government agencies before eventually being picked up by one that dealt directly with the Russians, which eventually led to the negotiations that he took part in that helped to broker a reduction in arms between the former USSR and the USA.

Because of some promptings that he had about pursuing certain programs that had been largely set aside, and his extensive experience through the years in coming to understand how the Soviets functioned militarily, he was able to negotiate a hard-line stance with the Russians that forced them to negotiate down to the parameters that the US had set. What was even more impressive was that for the deals to go through that he helped to broker, it required also the approval of other allies, including Spain and Italy, which would have proved daunting for anyone else, but because of the familiarity that those representatives had with Dr. Hansen, and their understanding of his stalwart character, they signed off on the deals that he had negotiated.

When I write about that now, it seems as if he spoke in very self-aggrandizing tones, but this was not the feeling that came across as he lectured. What he communicated about himself and his role in everything that happened was that he was simply an agent in the Lord's hands, that God was able to work through in order to help bring about his ends.

Another thing that I appreciated about this lecture is how much of it seems to be in conjunction with President Reagan's stance with the Soviets: while so many people in the state department and in his cabinet thought it was absurd for Reagan to believe that he could defeat communism, they thought a policy of containment was the only realistic possibility. Reagan always believed that our country was in the right, and that through his foreign policy, he could make the Soviets kowtow to the American agenda. Dr. Hansen acted in perfect concert with Reagan's own personal policies on the matter, and was probably one of many pieces that helped bring about the fall of communism, which included the collapse of the Berlin wall.

After his time in public service, Dr. Hansen was called to church service as mission president over in Germany, and just last June finished up another mission following his time as mission president wherein he collected oral histories from German saints. Of all the time and accomplishments that he was able to achieve, he was most proud of what he was able to help bring about in the service of the Lord.

I'm definitely short-changing you on the details and the feeling that Dr. Hansen communicated, but hopefully that gives you a sense of the charmed experience that he had in Germany.