Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chris and Amy's Summer of 2010

With some of my extra time I put this together. Just a photo slideshow. Here you go!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Decline of Western Civilization

The other day I started buying up several different Christmas albums while I was killing some time. I've been a fan of the first few Now That's What I Call Christmas albums and a friend of mine had mentioned the other day that they were up to five Nows, so I decided I might check some of them out. I didn't really recognize many of the track listings, and I was surprised to see one in particular - Lady Gaga's version of Christmas Tree.

It sounded weird to me. Lady Gaga did her own take on O Christmas Tree? So it piqued my interest, I listened to the snippet, and I got really annoyed. I'll spare your eyes from its obscenity by posting the actual lyrics, but if you can't help yourself, click here.

It's probably not even that different from most contemporary music out there, but labeling that piece of garbage a Christmas song had an especially grating effect on me because you couldn't get any further from the actual meaning of Christmas than by having something so incredibly offensive as this song is.

On a similar note, I downloaded the Glee Christmas album without even listening to anything off of it, assuming that I'd like most of it anyway (when it costs so little, it's pretty easy to just put down a little money and get whatever). Then I noticed that their version of Baby It's Cold Outside is sung by two guys, and I got grossed out again.

I jumped off the Glee train a couple months ago. I just can't stand how much Finn gets vilified because he's the only person that has any problem with Kurt's flamboyant and over-the-top homosexuality. If any heterosexual were that blatant and obnoxious about his sexuality, it would be just about as off-putting as Kurt's homosexuality is. I just hate it. And, again, I just can't stand the amount of criticism that is leveled at Finn because of his beliefs. How's that for tolerance? Anyway, just annoying is all.

That's enough of my ranting.

Moving on...Amy happens to like really nice, well put together Christmas lights. I think I'm mostly on board with that, but sometimes when I see an incredibly ugly, haphazard Christmas light arrangement, it kind of just really warms my heart. Am I alone here? There is this house over by our place where the lights are just kind of thrown on the bushes and trees and it looks so funny to me. It really looks like it was put together by some overly-annoyed teenager who was forced to do it. It looks like the kid just threw the strand of lights as far as he could up on the tree and then just plugged it in. I want a picture of it. Anyway, so I thought it was funny to see this paragraph in an article I was reading last week:
In cultural news, is it me or are Christmas decorations becoming distressingly tasteful? With each passing year, TMQ observes fewer homes lit up with gaudy multicolored flashing lights, more homes alight with softly glowing, tasteful white lights. Tuesday Morning Quarterback strongly opposes tasteful, and not just as regards cheerleading outfits. Overdone displays of garish pulsing colored lights helped make this country great. Inflatable flashing Santas are good too -- right now there's an inflatable abominable snowman on TMQ's lawn. Tasteful holiday lighting is another sign of the decline of Western civilization.
Back to music: I did end up finding some pretty good Christmas music. I got some Michael Buble songs, and I was surprised that the crooner hasn't put out his own Christmas album yet. He has the right kind of style for that, doesn't he? I also bought some of the Nutcracker arrangements. I am really interested in seeing that one next year. The music is just amazing. Any recommendations on other Christmas albums? I've already got David Archuleta's, Andrea Bocelli's. But anything else? Let me know.

I think my favorite song this Christmas season has been It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. In church someone played a violin arrangement of it and it was really good. There are some pretty interesting versions of this song, the funniest being Aaron Neville's. Anyway, here is one version by Ella Fitgerald:

Have a great week, dear ones!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Good Writer

No, this is not a creative writing post. I wish it were. Maybe I'll write something over the holiday break. This is back to politics, the root of this blog.

This is about Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe. I don't remember how I came across his stuff, probably over at Real Clear Politics, but he's a really great writer. His pieces are clear and to the point, and never more than a few minutes worth of reading. And, what's more, he's as solid as they come when it comes to morality and decency, which it turns out, I really love in my columnists.

He's written a few articles recently on "Islamophobia" (the quotes are very much on purpose) and the American disinterest in genocide. One that I really thought was good was this one you can find by clicking here about Atheism and its aggression against religion. Here's an excerpt:
For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees "Thou shalt not murder." It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone. One might reason instead -- as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned -- that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause. Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak -- and that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit.

To us today, believers and nonbelievers alike, it may seem obvious that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. But would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai? It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. "We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal," wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that "it is not anger but reason" that justifies the murder of handicapped babies.

The God who created us, created us to be good. No, reason alone is not enough to keep human beings humane. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is no more than a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. Who are we to say they were wrong?

The God who created us, created us to be good. Atheists may believe -- and spend a small fortune advertising -- that we can all be "good without God." Human history tells a very different story.
And here is the article. Anyway, he's just really good. You can subscribe to his column via his website (here) and he sends out an email about once or twice a week that are really, really good reading.

Incidentally, atheism is the oddest thing, isn't it? One of my friends, her dad used to say "if you've decided to leave the Church, why can't you just leave it alone?" Anyone who spurs any religion tends to harbor a great amount of resentment and automatically become pugnacious preachers against the cause they used to so readily believe in. Atheists are just as guilty of this as anybody.

In any case, if you're looking for your local atheists in the Provo area, they meet up at the Coffee Pod off of Bulldog Tuesdays at 8pm.

Which reminds me of this dialogue:

H: Are you an anarchist?
A: You mean, am I a member of...
H: An anarchist group, yes.
A: Anarchists have a group?
H: I believe so, sure.
A: They assemble?
H: I don't know.
A: Wouldn't that completely defeat the purpose?

I just love that. Anyway, if you have a minute, check him out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Remember Blogging?

There was a time when I felt compelled to blog at least once a day (weekdays, at least). It's weird to think that I have just kind of fallen off when it comes to my blog. I think it used to be a way of reaching people that I thought I maybe wanted to know, but didn't yet. I liked the thought that I had a voice that reached further than just hearing distance, but to people I haven't before seen or met, or heard, for that matter.

I would write about politics and sports and whatever else I fancied. I really did write about almost everything. And not only did I keep up with a steady stream of posts daily, but I did it for a very long time. I'd say up through this past summer I had been steadily dishing out posts since I first started this blog, and that may have been somewhere around 2007, maybe even earlier. I was kind of obsessed.

That's just a part of my personality. I get really excited about things. I get into something and I stick with it for a good while. I'm not sure what that may be lately. I'm back into running. I've been creeping around 20 miles a week now for a couple weeks, and I finally feel great again when I run. I was in marathon shape back in the beginning of October, but not running at all consistently for about 7 or 8 weeks has a way of deleting all fitness that you have. It goes away so fast, but thankfully, I feel like I'm back. I don't have a marathon picked out yet, but I'll find something.

School is otherwise good, and my life is very good. Actually, yesterday I had lunch with Elder Zwick of the 70 for our department Christmas devotional. Maybe I'll talk about that at some point.

This is very journal-ly, but I feel like I owe it to my adoring public to let them know of my blogging status, and it is this: lazy.

I used to write down my ideas for posts, and then I would always get to them within 24 hours. Now I don't want to write opinion things, and I don't think I'll ever really get into blogging as a form of keeping people updated on me, but I still do want to write and keep up that craft. And the thing that intrigues me the most is...creative writing.

But who knows if I'll ever actually devote a sufficient amount of time for that.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

At Long Last, the Engagement Story

Okay, so this is long overdue. Inquiring minds want to know, and have been asking the last couple of days. In my defense, I’ve just been really busy. Amy and I went back to California over the Thanksgiving weekend and we had a pretty tight schedule the entire time, so I never had an opportunity really to sit down and type this all out. I don’t really have much time now either, as I’m on my lunch break, but here goes…

We’ve been talking about marriage for awhile now, and we went ring shopping towards the end of October. In using my ring hook-up, however, that part of the process got delayed and it actually still isn’t resolved, but more on that in a bit. In my mind I knew that this had to happen before Thanksgiving, ring or not, so that we could start openly planning for the blessed nuptials and get the show on the road. She was really anxious for it to move, but had been really patient in not bugging me too much about having the engagement actually happen. With the days passing by and Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, I decided that I would propose the weekend before. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, but I didn’t schedule my helper in time and she had to babysit the Friday when I wanted to do it. So it got pushed back to the following Monday.

The thing that was most important to me was just making sure that it would be a surprise. Unbeknownst to me, she had assumed that I was just going to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to do the deed so she had resigned herself until that time. So having it be on a Monday, not even a weekend night, worked out in helping maintain the surprise.

So the week before I began coordinating with Mike and Lauren about where we would set up (Lauren’s family cabin in Sundance) and what the setup would look like, how the night would unfold including conversations and how to get everyone out without arousing suspicion, all of that. The problem that I ran into for that Monday was that Sunday it started snowing a pretty good amount. I wasn’t sure how much at the time, but I kind of just went on assuming that it would work out and we would be able to do it there. Now came the time to tell her about the evening so that she could plan for it and be available.

On the drive home from her brother’s place up near Kayesville, I pretended to check my phone for a voicemail message that I would say was from Mike. I picked up my phone, held it up for a minute, and then closed it, and asked her if she wanted to do an FHE with Mike and Lauren and some other friends the next night up at Lauren’s cabin. She asked if I wanted to skip our ward FHE for it, I kind of just brushed it off, and didn’t bring it up again until we parted ways that night, confirming that we should go and that it would be fun to go up to the cabin.

The next day went by in a rush as I tried to figure out whether the cabin would be feasible given the snow from the previous day, and what kind of backup plans we could have in place if it wouldn’t work out. I resigned myself to not using the cabin, then resolved that I would check it out and see if there was any way that we could do it there for that night. The thing about the cabin, or any cabin for that matter, is that for Amy and I, cabins are special places. We even have joked about that throughout our relationship. My friend’s cabin is where she and I really first noticed each other in an attractiveness kind of way while playing ping pong, and the next trip we had up there was where we first held hands. Cabins hold a lot of sentimental value for us as well as just being a nice locale for the event, right?

Well I left my office hours early to drive the road up to Sundance. It wouldn’t work. Just before the resort my car lost all traction and I was barely able to turn myself around and get back down the mountain. Then I called and texted several people to see if their vehicles were all wheel drive, and if I could borrow theirs. Most people didn’t respond, and the ones who did either didn’t have all wheel drive or were weird about letting me borrow their cars, so scratch the cabin plan.

The alternative was to do it at another house that Lauren’s family owns on Center Street in Provo. I had full confidence in Mike and Lauren to set everything up because Lauren is in love with anything wedding/marriage/engagement related and has helped a number of other people with their events, and Lauren has impeccable taste. I had her and Mike buy flowers and get the dining room set up, and then I went out and bought Amy’s favorite meal, and some other items.

They texted me to let me know they were done setting up and I went and picked up Amy. This part was crucial. I had to sell her on this being like any other evening and that we were simply going to go hang out with some friends and play games, no big deal. She told me later that the thought that this might be the night didn’t cross her mind until right before I picked her up: “Wait a second, a cabin? Cabins are special to us, could this be it?” I walked up her stairs to get her and she asked if she should grab anything. I hadn’t told her the change of venue till then, so in my most casual voice I told her no, that we would be dropping by the other house to pick up games because we couldn’t go up to the cabin that night because of the weather. That appeased her and she decided it wouldn’t happen that night.

I still wasn’t sure if she was unsuspecting yet, so to put it beyond all doubt, in the car I said to her, “just to set your expectations about everything, because I know you’re anxious to get things moving, and I am too, but I talked to Kevin today and the ring won’t actually be ready until two weeks from today.” Which was true, at the time. She got quiet, and I even heard a sniffle. I reached for her hand like I normally do in the car and she was totally unresponsive. I sensed her sadness and then I felt a smile start to creep over my face. Mission accomplished. She has no idea what’s about to hit her.

We arrived at the house a minute later. I asked her to come in with me to pick some stuff out, and we entered in through the back of the house into the kitchen. The dining area is completely blocked from view so when I opened the door, she walked into the room and saw the candles and flowers and whole arrangement, she knew exactly what was happening and the tears came immediately thereafter. I had my speech prepared, but at that point it didn’t really matter what I was going to say. I knelt on one knee, asked her, and she said yes.

I don’t have pictures of the setup yet, and we’re actually still figuring out the ring part of it, so those details you’ll have to wait for, but we’re looking at the end of March, specifically March 19th.

To get just a little gushy about my girlfriend and now fiancée – Amy is the greatest girl and best fit that I could ever hope for. There have been other times and other girls that I’ve dated where I thought that I had everything that I would ever need or want, but in her she has filled needs and done things for me that I didn’t even know I needed. She makes me want to live a better life, however grudgingly I might want to do so sometimes, and it has everything to do with me feeling like with her, I am moving towards and becoming the person I hope to be. However foolish I have been, am now, or will be, she still seems to really love me in spite of it all and I’ve never felt so lucky to know someone like her and be able to maintain her constant affection. I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for coming this far.

UPDATE: Here are Amy's additions.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On the Road

You know what's an unnerving feeling? Falling asleep on the bus and waking up with most of the bus occupants gone and in unfamiliar surroundings. Yes, that happened to me this morning.

Whenever I don't have to leave early or when I have other places to stop, I always take the express bus between Provo and SLC. I forget how much I love public transportation until I get the chance to use it, and this is the first time in years that I've been able to utilize it. $100 for a bus pass for the entire year and I can use any part of the bus system and Trax? Yes, please!

What's doubly nice is that because I usually leave so early is that the express bus is nice enough that I can get comfortable enough to fall asleep (which may not be saying much as one of my super powers is being able to fall asleep ANYWHERE) and I can get back another hour of sleep before coming into the COB. My fear, however, was realized this morning when I was completely out and I opened my eyes to realize that I was in unfamiliar territory.

No matter, though, because I was only a few blocks passed Temple Square, the morning is pleasant with the sun just beginning to peak out over the mountains, so it was actually a pleasant little stroll.

That little jaunt gave me time some time to think about some of the random experiences I'd like to have someday:
  • Hitchhike a significant distance in the US. I've done it in Chile for brief stretches, but it'd be neat to try and hitch a ride for a lengthy distance. Although my idea of hitchhiking might be romanticized by my reading of On the Road.
  • Move somewhere completely foreign without any kind of contacts. One of my friends from high school kind of did this in college, moving to Spain and working as a bartender and tow truck driver. I'd kind of just like to see how I'd handle a situation like that. This next one is kind of similar...
  • Adventure-mode a whole vacation - I think it'd be cool to just show up at the airport with no plans, several days free, and pay for the next available flight at the ticket counter and just go somewhere and do everything on the fly (yup!). Wouldn't that be cool? You'd have to just show up in some random city, talk to random people, and just kind of figure out as you go along. The vacation is the experience.
Those are just a few things I'd like to do. Maybe I'll miss my exit more often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hitler Reacts

I saw one of these months and months ago on another guy's blog about Hitler reacting to something about crayons. And then I saw another one today, and I realized that there are probably dozens of these. A few for you:

Funny that so many people have caught on to this. That's all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pick up your trash, please

I was watching ESPN while home for lunch today and I saw this story on Outside the Lines that actually put me to tears. Just a couple posts ago Laura made this comment:
emotions people get from sports has always been such a crazy phenomena to me. we get so upset, elated, etc for something that we can't control at all and doesn't personally effect us at all in our lives. don't get me wrong, i love it, but it is a funny thing. whenever the lakers win and matt is super excited i always tell him what a great job he did and how proud i am of him and how he cheered so well. because, you know, it is funny.
I'm taking this out of the context of her comment, but I just wanted to say that sports has a tremendous effect on our personal lives. If I could write one book in my life it would actually be about the far-reaching effects that entertainment, and sports in particular, can have in our lives. For those who won't follow that link above, which is probably just about all of you, it is the story about a little boy who is suffering from a disease that affects 1/4,000,000 people, that causes a child to age prematurely, at 10x or more the natural rate. But this little boy was just the sweetest little guy, and the only thing he wants to do in this whole world is play baseball.

I still remember seeing Kirk Gibson's home run in the '88 World Series. I remember Francisco Cabrera hitting the single that won the NLCS for the Braves in the bottom of the ninth that scored David Justice and Sid Bream. I remember Bo Jackson ruining his hip against the Bengals in '91. I remember Scott Spiezio and Darrin Erstad hitting home runs to bring the Angels back from the dead in 2002. I remember Robert Horry hitting that three to swing the series back to the Lakers in 2002. I remember Jason Lezak closing in on the French from what should have been an impossible distance for the US to pull out that particular relay in the 2008 Olympics. Just to name a few moments.

Yes, my existence has just about nothing to do with the success or failure of an organization that is ultimately run for pure monetary profit, but how that team fares in its season of play has profound effects on the escape that I have from my day to day routine. It has profound implications for some person who might have little else to look forward to then the next morning's box score when that person will look to see if his team won or lost the night before.

I know that's not what you were really getting at, Laura, but I just wanted to make a point. It does matter. It matters a lot to some people, as it turns out.

On a different note, I loved this bit from Jay Nordlinger:
Finally, there is a long letter that I wish to share with you. I’ll do a little “Keep reading” thing, because, as I said, the letter is long — but well worth the time, I think. In Impromptus, I tell a story about a man who bent down to pick up a penny. This item has occasioned a lot of mail, actually. And here is the letter I wish to share:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

I had a father who almost always picked up trash on the street when he came across it. During all the moments I witnessed these acts, it never occurred to me to ask him why he did it (when virtually everyone else ignored the stuff).

Thirty years later, out on a run in my neighborhood, I saw some trash and was moved to pick it up. It happened that I had recently been fired from a position despite the fact that I had performed extremely productively. I was in a state of mind that had me wondering about my worth. It occurred to me that, despite being unemployed, I could still be a good father, husband, friend, and citizen. Before, I might have done what my father did, with regard to trash, unthinkingly. Now I was doing it to soothe my soul, so to speak. If all I did was improve my neighborhood an iota, I figured I was still “productive” and “worthy.”

A silly little mind game, sure. However, that perspective helped me manage my period of unemployment and, I believe, helped me in the interviews that finally secured a much more lucrative new position.

But that’s not the end of the story. I continue to pick up trash, which means I keep an eye on the ground. As you can imagine, I’ve come across a fair amount of coinage and also bills, which I’ve always considered God’s little way of “repaying” me (not that I ever needed such “encouragement”). Recently, I found a diamond earring. Unable to determine its owner, I gave it to my wife, who was happy to receive it, and wears it happily around her neck. Value? I have no idea, but what it represents to me is incalculable.

So I guess you could say my father’s humble civic actions turned out to be an immensely important gift to his son. It helped me get through my biggest professional challenge and led to a change in perspective which has fortified me for the last 20 years.

How do you like that? Not so much a letter as a testimony.
Before I was in high school, I used to think that it was hilarious to litter, and mostly in egregious ways. All my friends did, and I knew other kids when I went to college that thought the same thing. Then I served a mission in a third world country and I saw how awful it makes everything look. I basically grew up, and guess what was the first thing I noticed and was most grateful for when I got off the plane in Newport Beach, CA? The cleanliness blew my mind, and now I never want to be that person ever again. Then I worked as a janitor and later as part of the grounds crew at BYU and actually kind of liked trash duty and making things nice. Now I pick up stuff all the time around my neighborhood because things are always flying out of people's trash cans up here.

I think it matters. I think it all matters a great deal.

Lastly, I think it's a Bon Jovi weekend. Have a good one, y'all!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Give them an inch...

I saw this article this morning that I thought would be worth sharing. From the beginning of the article:
The Monday, November 8, 2010 edition of the Guardian featured an article by Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle entitled "Heterosexual couple make second attempt for civil partnership." The article begins, "A heterosexual couple will request a civil partnership - available only to same-sex couples in the UK - at a register office in London tomorrow, to take a stand against a system which they say "segregates couples according to their sexuality".

This unmarried, heterosexual couple is a part of a revolutionary movement in British society. The members no longer want marriage to be recognized for what it is, a lifelong union between one man and one woman open to the bearing and rearing of children. They are dedicated to making the State give legal equivalency to non-marital relationships, homosexual or heterosexual. Then, they want to force the rest of society to call what can never be a marriage to be a marriage (homosexual partnerships) by using the Police Power of the State to enforce their new order.
I wonder how many people saw that coming. The progression goes like this:

Gay marriage advocates want broad societal endorsement of their lifestyle --> They seek this endorsement through legal channels, such as equal rights --> In an attempt to appease LGBT groups, instead of simply redefining marriage, they grant a concession by creating homosexual partnerships (domestic partnerships/civil unions here) that provide for the same rights as married couples --> By exploiting the application of the definition of those civil unions, gay rights advocates will now use that as a means for redefining marriage, which is what they were really going for all along. It's brilliant, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sports Rant - Sometimes I just hate fans

This morning a friend of mine on Facebook said, "it's good to be a Jazz fan." So, naturally, I had to post the snarky remark, "but not in June, right?" when championships are won and lost. I was just teasing him, but then he came out with fists flying, talking about how the Lakers spend so much money, and how he prefers liking a team that takes its bumps and bruises and doesn't get favorable calls from the officials blah blah blah. Not being meek enough to just let it go I had to retort with how anyone would love it to be the favored team, no matter how they got there, and then I pointed to his beloved Utes as an example.

This is mostly what I wanted to rant about - what is it with fans being so self-righteous anyway? Because I happened to grow up in Southern California and therefore follow all teams from that area and now some of them are winning a lot, that somehow makes me a lesser fan than someone that grew up in a sports-poor area that has a small market team to follow? Newsflash: it doesn't make you more noble to be a fan of some team that loses year after year than someone that happens to follow a winning team. (Although it does matter somewhat whether you just happen to jump on the bandwagon because that's annoying to pretty much everyone.) But this is the thing about sports, and it's just like I mentioned to my friend, when it's your team that's suddenly in it until the end and all sorts of competitive, you're really not going to care too much about how they got there, just that they're there, so stop complaining when other guys are doing well.

Last year I was at a Halloween get together and a guy I know was going on and on about how much he hates Kobe and wouldn't even want him to come play for the Jazz. I held my tongue that time, but I thought to myself, then what kind of fan are you anyway? Why wouldn't you want one of the top-3 players in the NBA right now, and one of the 10-15 best all time? Why wouldn't you want a guy that can make your team an instant contender? It's not like Deron Williams is a saint but you still seem to like to pretend that he's in the running for humanitarian of the year. I can understand hating a team just because you see them as an obstacle to your success, but I just hate the false magnanimity that some people put on like they're somehow nobler because they stick with their team through thick and thin.

Incidentally, it's a good season for me. The baseball offseason is here which is great if you're an Angels fan because Arte Moreno has already vowed to try and get us back into contention, plus our division rival fell apart in the World Series. The Lakers are somehow a kind of quiet 8-0, and some people are talking about how they may be 15-0 before their mettle gets really tested. And this is the most surprising of all...the Raiders are on a three game winning streak. If you want to have a pissing contest about following your team through thick and thin, try being a Raiders fan in this millenium. Although it was good when this past decade started, they have set the mark for NFL futility the last seven years. The craziest thing is that I read the other day about how they could potentially get to the AFC championship game with this group that they currently have. It's still kind of insane that people are even considering that when we're only one game over .500, but it's nice to know that there is some reason to feel optimistic. Even BYU isn't looking nearly as terrible as they did to start the season.

In any case, your Jazz still stink, and they'll lose again to the Lakers in the playoffs just like they have for the last three seasons. Sorry.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ahhhh, the weekend

I am just diggin' on this song lately.

Oh man, I'm so excited to be done with this week. It's been long in a number of different respects, and today's stuff ended sooner than I had expected it to. I'm excited for TCU to beat Utah tomorrow. I'm excited to just kinda hang out and do whatever. And I'm excited to work on my Dougie.

See y'all later!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Does Religion Kill?

Just a few things I wanted to note this morning:
  • I saw this really interesting article by Maggie Gallagher, Does Religion Kill? It talks about the way the media has been grabbing onto the supposed trend that religion, particularly the Mormons, are steering kids into suicide. Not true, apparently. How surprised are you about that? You shouldn't be.
  • So when I'm running late on non-COB days and I'm heading on to campus, I love getting the steel cut oatmeal at Jamba Juice. It's just heavenly, and I never hesitate to pay the $3 for it. Yesterday I went to buy my own because I thought it was ridiculous that I would pay that, and I totally balked at the $6 price for the full can that will deliver me probably 10 or so servings. Kind of silly, right? While I'm talking about breakfast...
  • Let me put in a plug for breakfast. Want to know of a good weight loss tip? Eat a good breakfast. It's been shown that people who consume a third or so of their calories in the morning tend to eat few calories throughout the day. You know what I hear from most people about why they don't eat breakfast? "I just can't, my stomach can't really handle it." Well, that's only because you're used to starving yourself until lunch, and then you eat big and that sudden influx of food to digest then makes you sleepy. If at any time during the day you went 8 or so hours without eating, you'd think to yourself, "I really need to eat NOW," right? Then why shouldn't the same apply from the time you go to bed to when you wake up. It jump starts your metabolism, you'll burn your food more efficiently, and having fiber in the morning helps keep you feeling more sated until lunch. I'm just saying.
  • How awesome are the videos by Ok Go? This first one was really shot with one single camera, took about six weeks to put together, and does not involve any kind of special effects. The next one is just kinda fun, and I really like the song. The one after that is just a random song I saw posted elsewhere that seemed catchy to me.
  • Have a great day, dear hearts.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Here's My Take On Yesterday

Because I know you're all so interested, here are some of my thoughts regarding last night's election:
  • The GOP killed it in state legislatures and governorships. They did not fare well at all in the Senate. They gained about 63-67 seats in the House, and so far only 6 Senate seats when most people were projecting 8-9. It looks like they'll get Alaska, and while Colorado and Washington are still up for grabs, and I mean, really up for grabs, somehow Dems always seem to eek out these extremely close races.
  • The Republican party itself is much more diverse than people give it credit for. Two Hispanic Americans were elected governors in Nevada and New Mexico, with New Mexico's being the first ever female Hispanic American to be elected governor in the entire country. Two Indian Americans were also elected governors who are convservative Republicans, and several African Americans were elected to various positions throughout the country in behalf of the GOP. The best of all of these, however, is Marco Rubio.
  • Marco Rubio is a Cuban American who ended up winning the Senate seat for Florida over former (current?) FL governor Charlie Crist. This guy is a rising star. Between Rubio and Chris Christie, the current governor of New Jersey, there are some real superstars rising in the Republican party. And I don't just mean charismatic and all that. These guys are hard core conservatives on all fronts and they are tough. There are dozens of videos of Governor Christie taking it to various people floating around on the internet. You can't help but get behind a guy like that, and Rubio is no different. 2016 and 2020 look really great for our Presidential prospects.
  • The referendum on gay marriage. Here's the interesting thing about gay marriage. Are you ready for it? In every case where gay marriage has been a ballot measure voted on by the citizens, it has always failed (I'm about 95% confident that is correct). The only times when it has been legalized in this country has been when judges have usurped the will of the people and asserted their own opinions as law. This was the case in Iowa in 2009, and you know what happened yesterday? The three justices who were up for reelection yesterday were all voted out. Normally it's just a formality, but that was a definite referendum on those efforts. Last month PEW came out with a poll showing that the American people are becoming more accepting of alternative lifestyles, but my gut says that those results are not truly representative of what's actually occurring. In people's opinions it is always easy to say that they are open and accepting to that point of view about homosexuality, but when it comes down to it, people always vote against endorsing that behavior. That was especially true in California. Polls showed that opponents to Prop 8 were always leading, but when it comes down to it, people don't ever really want to endorse that behavior. That's my gut feeling.
  • California reelected Jerry Brown to governor and Barbara Boxer to the Senate. Jerry Brown was the former governor of California back in the late 70s, and he is the current attorney general in California. He is the same guy who refused to defend the California constitutional amendment of Prop 8. Barbara Boxer is just an idiot. They were both reelected in spite of huge unemployment rates and fleeing businesses. Did you know the national unemployment rate is hovering around 9-10%, but in California it is upwards of 12-13%. It's just a terrible economy. I'm pretty sure that California will go bankrupt before the people really start to wake up to what's happening. Concerning California, Jay Nordlinger said:
    How bad does California have to get, before the voters turn from the Democrats? How dire does the state’s economy have to become? Going down the tubes, Californians still know how to do one thing: reach for the Democratic lever. As far as I’m concerned, that’s like grabbing an anvil when you’re drowning.

    And as the Republicans vote with their feet, California will become “bluer,” I’m afraid. Businessmen, entrepreneurs -- they’ve been hightailing it to Nevada, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina. They will probably hightail it further, seeking a state that will allow them to flourish.
    I wonder how long it will be until California is completely unsustainable. Sad thoughts. But still, it's a great place. (You're still the only person in the whole world that I know that would complain so much about living there. You know who you are.) Also from NRO:
    Why did the Republican wave stop at the California state line? There will be much speculation about problems with the Whitman and Fiorina campaigns, and some of it will be valid. Nevertheless, much of the answer lies in the makeup of the electorate.

    According to the exit poll, Democrats had a 13-point party identification advantage among California voters, compared with an even split nationwide. California voters approved of President Obama’s performance by a ten-point margin, whereas the national electorate disapproved by nine points. It’s just a different kind of state.

  • Harry Reid was reelected to the Senate. Say what you will about him. That guy had every reason to lose yesterday, but he knows how to maneuver. He's an excellent politician, but then again, his opponent was not very strong either. Republicans should have won that seat.
  • No matter how the results turned out in the places that you voted, it's always worth voting, if for no other reason than you're expression of faith in the American system of government. We live in an amazing country. The two-party system works, no matter how far off you think the government is from your own personal views. We get the most representative government in the entire world. If you don't think so, try living somewhere else for any amount of time and you'll see how wide-ranging the world's politics are. It will blow your mind.
  • I think the GOP is in a really good position. Sure, they only control 2/3 of the elected federal offices, but conditions are still not very good for the incumbent party. The economy is still dragging, and probably will for a while longer. Health care is a mess in spite of the major overhaul. The war abroad is still very nebulous and we haven't seemed to make much progress since the success of the surge a couple years ago. Housing prices are still leveling out. The stock market has rebounded, but the economy continues to lag. If this keeps up, then it will do no favors for the party in power. The GOP can make small strides and the country will too, and then they'll be poised for another strong showing in 2012. The only problem I have with with 2012 is I don't like any of the possible candidates for POTUS that we have in the GOP. I love Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Marco, but they all still need some more seasoning. I don't think Palin is right either, but not for the same reasons that most people dislike her. There are some other possibilities - Tim Pawlenty, Huckabee, and Romney. While I like a couple of those all right, the problem is, I don't think any are really nationally appealing.
And that's about all I got.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Let me tell you a little something about Halloween. This is what we did last month:
  1. Pumpkin patch
  2. Haunted Forest in American Fork
  3. Heber Creeper (or Heber Crappy. Seriously, that thing was so lame. Never do it. Not even for free.)
  4. Two costume parties.
  5. Thriller up at Kingsbury Hall
  6. Pumpkin carving with Mike and Lauren while listening to spooky noises?
  7. Halloween photoshoot (an Amy tradition)
  8. And topped it all off by wearing coordinating black and orange outfits to church on Sunday with a Halloween treat night at a friend's place
Let me also tell you about Saturday night since that is really actual Halloween here in Utah. Our stake had this activity up at Spring Haven lodge in Hobble Creek canyon. It's a really nice locale, with air hockey, foosball, ping pong, a gym, and other things. There was also a gym where a guy we know was setup playing music for what would later house the dance.

What was annoying about that part was that being in the gym, and not having a lot of people there, people were using the gym like it was a gym, and not a dance floor. The lights were all on, guys were shooting hoops and a few people were hitting around a volleyball, that is, until they hit the DJ's $4000 piece of equipment. Some people are so dumb. This is the second (or maybe third) year in a row he has done the stake Halloween event, and he's always done it for free, just as a favor to everyone. Amy and I were ready to turn that mother out, so we suggested that we turn out the lights, and get all those nerds with the balls out. It's so funny to me that turning lights off is like an automatic call for people to come to the dance floor. And it was no different in this case.

We started the dance party, and went through about three different groups of friends who filtered in and out through the evening, while we stayed for the next three hours until everything ended with the B-52s, classic church dance song, though not my favorite.

I kind of love that Amy and I outlasted everyone there, and even better, I just love that we can dance the whole night and not give a care as to who else is there with us. Sometimes we mixed in with our groups of friends, and other times it was just us two off to the side, or outside while it sprinkled and we were trying to cool off, but not ever stopping because the rhymes he was kickin' were quite bootylicious (name that tune! not sure anyone who reads this can).

And you know what else? Maybe I shouldn't, but I get legitimately get annoyed and upset with anyone who doesn't like Halloween or doesn't properly celebrate it. What's wrong with you people? Do you not like fun? or happiness?

So to all those who enjoyed the holiday in full effect, I salute you. It's just about my most favorite month of the year.

(As always, you can find more photos on Amy's blog linked on the side.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hey Party People

I have gotten away from blogging and I actually really do miss it, but it's a busy season for me. A few things:
  • I just got back some fresh data at the COB, and this is my first project that is all on my own. Since I started here I've been working on projects that the other intern hadn't finished yet, so I feel like this one is kind of my baby, and I am really excited about it. It's just really cool to be tapping into the pulse of the church, you know?
  • I was feeling entirely overwhelmed yesterday and stayed up until way-too
    -late-o'clock last night, but somehow today I feel rejuvenated. It's nice to feel empowered, and I know that I have higher powers at work to thank for that.
Two nights ago Amy and I went to Salt Lake and ate here:

It was very tasty, very affordable, and very quaint. Then we went and saw this:

This is fast becoming my favorite Halloween activity, besides the blood and guts and dressing up of Halloween itself. The show is always so fun, it's in an awesome theater, and it is just really entertaining. Worth the price of admission. We would have gone here following the show (probably my favorite little bakery in the world) with some friends, but then winter happened.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Round-Up

A couple of awesome things from around the web:
  • Check this out. A student Rick Rolls his professor by hiding the lyrics of the Rick Astley classic along the entire left side of his paper.
  • And this from an old Bill Simmons' article where he creates a vengeance scale.
    In 1988, Harden knocked out two of Largent's teeth with an illegal hit and put him on the IR for a bunch of games. The next time Seattle played Denver, Harden picked off a pass intended for Brian Blades and looked like he was going to score, but Largent scorched his way across the field and just destroyed Harden with a devastating and perfect-form tackle. Largent hit him so hard that the ball came loose and Largent recovered it. The hit was so nasty that it was a part of NFL telecast montages for years afterwards. Later, Largent called it the favorite play of his career. And this guy is in the Hall of Fame. Whenever sports vengeance is mentioned, that hit stands out for me. Totally legal and totally bloodless.

The hit comes at about 0:09 and the replay where you get the full feel of the impact comes at 1:14. My favorite part is that Largent was so focused on destroying Harden that it takes him a second to notice that he jarred the ball loose, and then he gets up after the play is dead and stares him down. Just so awesome.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Bane...

A guy I know virtually stalk, posted his thesis hideaway:

I guess every grad program has its own type of grueling test to overcome. Lawyers have the bar. Accountants have their CPA exams. Medical school itself is its own beast, although I heard the actual certifying exams have a really high passing rate, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that those people are already in med school anyway, so it's not like they're people who let themselves fall behind.

Mine is the thesis. Thesis this year. Dissertation next year. And I hate it.

I hate it hate it hate it.

I tried telling Amy about this the other night, just how much it weighs on me, this constant dark cloud that makes it hard for me to sleep at night when I know I'm not progressing like I should, that forces me to kick and scream and run and hide whenever I actually have to start working on it. I feel like I can keep up with everything else, except for this most major part of my program. I just hate it.

I've become pretty good friends with this other girl I work with and we were talking about our thesis work yesterday. She had a meeting with her advisor about it and her goal was to make it through the meeting without crying in front of him. The funny thing is, she's totally smart and capable, but like just about everyone else I know, her thesis makes her whimper and crumble too.

She came back to our chat declaring "unsuccessful!" And I could only laugh at her plight. I typically don't release my emotions in that way, but it certainly takes its toll on me in other ways.

To try and find some sympathy, I took to the interwebs to find a forum of like-minded individuals who also hate their theses/dissertations and I happened upon this site - PhinisheD. Know how I found it? I searched "thesis support groups." And I kind of love this site. There are thousands of members, and they have threads on just about everything you can think of. The thing I like most about it will probably be the different goal setting groups and other people to hold yourself accountable to (because apparently myself and my committee chair aren't enough).

Anyway, I just love it, and I think it'll be a tremendous resource.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Can't Wait

Last night I kind of unloaded on Amy all of the things that I had been feeling burdened by recently - school and my calling, mostly - and it was just nice to have someone listen. It's a busy season in my life, and while I know that there will be breaks here and there, I kind of think that it's only going to get more busy and more crowded with things to do so I better just learn how to get it all together now while it's still not so bad.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on top of everything when it comes to my calling, and then there are other times like this last Sunday when I feel like I'm dropping balls left and right. We need to be doing more formal PPIs. I need to visit these new members in the ward. These girls haven't been home taught in months, so what's it going to take to get her home teachers out to see them? There is FHE on Monday, home teaching set up for Tuesday, institute on Wednesday, ward temple night on Thursday, and the stake retreat on Saturday, and then visits and meetings on Sunday. But you know what? I'm in a very active singles ward, and for the time being, I don't have to worry about the real problems that leaders face in family wards. No families are going through a divorce. If someone loses his/her job, it's much easier to handle because it's not a whole group of individuals who are dependent upon one person. Nobody is dying. Nobody is really sick. Nobody has any serious problems. So I should enjoy this time while it lasts, right?

I don't know if school will ever really feel better. I was reading a friend's blog, and she mentioned her husband was working an 80 hour week that week. I'm having to do this without three kids, a mortgage, and a host of other real responsibilities. Sometimes it's just about perspective.

But you know what? I'm so grateful that I can get up each day and have another chance to get it right. I died as to the person I was yesterday and the events that unfolded then, and I can get up, say a prayer that I can get it right today, and I can have another chance to try and catch up a little bit on everything that I didn't get right the day before. I died as to that person, and I'm reborn as to this new one who can try and set it straight today. I just love that symbolism.

You know what else I'm grateful for? 80s music. I have a playlist with over 300 80s songs, about 2 GB worth, and it just makes me happy. This is my most recent fave.

Okay, let's try and get it right today. Go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Broadly

Last night I had some training with our Stake leadership and they had us do some reading on some remarks by Elder Bednar. The piece was actually the transcript of a "conversation" with Elder Bednar, and he covered some topics of leadership, and at the end he opened it up to questions. Probably the neatest thing about the article was just how real he was about everything. He was just really frank, and not so full of the niceties that are so common in the church.

A few of the points that I especially liked:
  • "If you haven't been rebuked by the Holy Ghost in your personal prayers lately, I'd recommend you improve the meaningfulness of your personal prayers. To be rebuked is to be corrected and counseled."
  • "When we fail to give needed correction or counsel, it's because we're thinking of ourselves. We normally think, 'Well, you know, I don't want to hurt this person's feelings.' No, that's really not true; you just want to be liked. And the reason I'm not going to tell you what really needs to be said is because I don't want to be viewed negatively or fall into disfavor. It is far more loving to appropriately provide correction and counsel than it is to duck the issue."
  • This was actually from Elder Richard L. Evans, "It's good to be faithful, but it's better to be faithful and competent."
And this one was my favorite point:
Questioner: When viewed by the outside world we seem very different. We think differently, we dress differently, we speak differently. So much of that difference is about us trying to do the Lord's work and build the Lord's kingdom, and not bring in the world, so we want to continue "being different" to move the work forward. Yet the Lord's put a lot of truth and a lot of good things into the world. So as a leader, when you think about using all the good things the world has to offer, how can one pick out the best of the world and use that towards building a more collaborative culture - see the goodness in the world and help that goodness to build the kingdom?

Elder Bednar - Well, the thought that comes to my mind is prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. I think we need to be looking broadly. Some of us have regular opportunities to travel broadly. And from that you see things that can be brought to bear in building the Lord's kingdom.
I just really liked this idea of living broadly. There are so many ways in which we live narrowly. Some examples:
  • Reading - off the top of my head I can think of a dozen different girls who read only the teen fiction types of books. It's Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, and nothing else. And other people, just not at all. And guys have their niches too.
  • Eating - some people are just meat and potatoes. They eat the same thing at the same restaurants every time they go out.
  • Traveling - some people just never go anywhere. Some people rarely go beyond the confines of their own homes. Do you have siblings or friends that live in different states or countries and have never visited them? Have you ever been to the east coast? Out of the United States?
  • Living - we do the same things every weekend, with the same people, at the same places.
I know that there are a good number of people who don't share these same kinds of philosophies, but I can see how from a leadership perspective, when we live narrowly and keep our experiences limited to a small number of things, we have less range in the kinds of people that we can relate to. When we have a small number of experiences and interests, then we also become really limited in the types of friends that we can have. And I think that's when the real tragedy occurs - just not being able to reach as many people as we might be able to otherwise, right? People bring richness to our lives.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I can't believe it's taken so long to get my inaugural October/Halloween post up. I must apologize for that.

Last weekend, Amy and I went to the Haunted Forest over in American Fork. Last year I went to Nightmare on 13th, which I thought was really good, but I think that this one was actually better. They had an opening little indoor haunted house, and then a huge waiting area, and then another outside one that is really long. The whole thing took about an hour and a half, with only about a half or so waiting in line. I hadn't been to this one in years...2003, methinks. There were a lot of good cheap scares. My favorite ones are always the ones where they divert your attention with one thing, and then surprise you with another. There was this one area where there was this circling light placed at about eye level, and then it went dark, and I had just assumed that it turned off. Instead, some shrouded monster type guy came right at us and he totally caught me off guard. Another good one was when two monster-guys were working together. You were so focused on the one that when the other surprised you, there was just no chance.

I really do love all things Halloween. What makes life even more grand is that Amy is totally into it too. We finally came up with our couples costume last night. That's actually been hard because not only have we been wanting to come up with something that is unique, but also well known enough that it's that something that most people can recognize. On top of that, her costume philosophy involves characters that she can act out and that are funny, and mine tends to the more scary variety. Well, we found a compromise and I'm pretty pleased about it. And no one else will find out until after we've donned our costumes. Sadly, it doesn't feature any makeup, but I'm kind of thinking that I need a second costume anyway, right? So maybe I can still come up with something else.

Still ahead on our itinerary: Heeber Creeper, Thriller by the Odyssey Dance Company, Scary Movies, Halloween get togethers, and so forth. Will keep you posted.

Stay scared!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last Year v. This Year

I'd like you to observe the difference between last year in Long Beach and this year in St. George.

Not wanting to die, mostly. Plus, you have no idea how good that protein chocolate milk was. This might become a yearly photograph now.

Bit O' Honey

You know what's weird? I just noticed that someone that invited me to be her friend on Facebook ended up defriending me. And she sent that invitation not long after she had invited Amy and I over for dinner one night. We haven't had any kind of negative interaction since then, but I have noticed a cooling on her part towards me. I thought I was just reading into it, but then I noticed that today and it just surprised me, you know? People are weird.

Hockey season starts today. The baseball postseason started yesterday. It's strange being so removed from the baseball playoffs. Usually I really look forward to this time of year, as the Angels are usually contenders, but they faltered badly this season. Their signings didn't work out.

Kent, you were right, and I was wrong. They should have resigned Vladdy. Hideki wasn't a good option, but if you look at his numbers, he actually wasn't bad either. It's just that no one noticed it with them playing so poorly. Losing Kendry was a huge blow in the early to middle part of the season. Their starting pitching was good though. Their bullpen was terrible. Lots of room to grow. You know why I'm really optimistic though? Because Arte Moreno is our owner. They'll bounce back. In the meantime, I'm rooting for the Braves and Rays.

BYU football is terrible. I don't care if I don't watch another game this whole season, that is, unless I get invited to the Cougar Club again. Mike?

And you know why I can't allow myself to care about BYU football? Because the Raiders are 1-3. I can't be a diehard for multiple losing football teams. My heart just can't take it.

I haven't exercised once this week and I love it.

I love several shows right now - Modern Family (like everyone else in the whole world, and rightfully so), Community, Running Wilde...and there are some others that I really like. But I watch those ones pretty religiously. Outsourced may have some potential.

How are world affairs? Okay, I guess. There is no end to dumb stuff that people and countries will do. Yale welcomed with open arms the President of Iran. I wish I could communicate how idiotic that is. The midterm elections are forthcoming and the beauty of our two-party system will reveal itself as the country will swing back to the middle.

You know what else? I'm dating the sweetest girl in the whole world. My roommates are awesome. I have wonderful friends. And it's October, which may be my favorite month in the whole year. A friend of mine pointed out on her blog that there are 5 Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays this month. How great is that?

Watch Stars Wars in 3 minutes through the timeless art of construction paper stop action filming here:

And this movie really intrigues me:

But I'm a little sad because I guess it's going to be a pirate movie and I haven't seen one of those in almost a year.

And with that, I'm back to work. Have a great day, dear ones!

Monday, October 4, 2010

St. George Marathon

Here it comes. The first post that I actually have been excited to write in months. This is a long one, so scroll to the second to last paragraph if you just want to know my time. Here goes…

I don’t know how clear it came across in the last post, but I had been feeling pretty down on marathon running for a little while now. The training for this one felt much harder than the previous two. I never had any really great runs that felt like I was really making some progress. I didn’t get in any of the speed training that I was hoping for, and I didn’t have the kind of consistency that would allow for a better race than my previous two. Or so I thought.

We arrived Friday evening in St. George. After putting some of our stuff away we visited the Expo to pick up my packet and take a gander at the different booths that were setup to attract the runners. The Expo itself wasn’t that impressive, about the same size as Long Beach. I wish anyone else could have seen Chicago and how big it was and how many different things were setup. I just loved that one. What was really nice, however, was how organized the packet pickup was. We could have been in and out of there in about 2 minutes if we wanted to, and that’s pretty impressive given that 7400 were running this race all showing up on that one day. The race shirt is a pretty nice long-sleeve shirt, which I’m pretty pleased with. That’s two weeks in a row with decent shirts at races. I would pay an extra few bucks to have more than just a screen-printed white cotton tee.

That night I got a good sized meal at The Pizza Factory, which nobody really seemed to appreciate, but at least I got my carbs in, and then it was off to bed at a somewhat decent hour (10:30). I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping much anyway that night, so I wasn’t too concerned about it. I got up at 4am to head over to the buses by 4:30 (thanks, Amy). And this is where the fun began…

I met up with Tyler, a friend from home, and who has since become my most enthusiastic disciple. We rode the buses up to the beginning of the course. It was crazy seeing how much of a descent there was throughout the entire course, but something that would be really welcomed later. This was my first time running a marathon where the start and finish weren’t in about the same spot, instead going from up north of St. George down into the downtown area of the city. The course descends almost 2600 feet, and that has to be one of the main reasons that so many people use it as their race attempt at qualifying for Boston. I’m sure it helped contribute to my finish time.

I knew going into the race that I knew of several other people running it, but it turned out there were a few more. The one that I was most excited about was my first young men’s leader, Greg King. I’m pretty sure it had been more than 10 years since I had seen him. I saw Charlotte up in the starting area. I saw Matt Paul in the finisher’s area. I saw another kid from a class that I teach. While running I passed up a girl in my ward who was retreating to a port-o-potty. It was so nice to run into everyone, but especially Tyler. I think that he and I will be running many more marathons in the future. We rode up on the buses together and talked the whole way about our training, how we were feeling, how we slept the night before, what time we were hoping to reach, and what marathons we’re looking at in the future. I can’t help but get all excited when I get around him. It’s infectious.

We arrived up there at about 5:20 or so. We stood around and warmed up around the fires they had up there for the runners. When it finally got to about time to start getting ready to go, we placed ourselves just slightly behind the pace group for 3:30. We started out in the dark, and it wasn’t long before the sun started creeping up over the mountains on our left. I have to say, it’s just so exciting starting out in those races with everyone brimming with anticipation. People are always so unbelievably friendly and supportive of one another. It’s a similar dynamic to how when a group of strangers is going through something together, something they may or may not enjoy, and they start interacting and building bonds because of the simple fact that we’re all going through the exact same thing. We’re all feeling a little jittery; we hope that can run the race well and that we don’t have any injuries; we all hope that we can get to the end still smiling. It’s really cool. Before the race started I started chatting with this older gentleman who was running in his 20th or so marathon, with more than ten of those being at St. George. He was running because his friend was running his 200th, and although he hadn’t run a marathon in almost ten years, he felt like he should be there for his buddy. He told me that if I could make it through the first 13 miles with some energy that it would be possible to have a negative split on the second half. That point in particular was something I was really hopeful for because my first two experiences running these I have had some significant drop-offs in time at the end, slowing more than a minute per mile in my pacing the last few miles. I really wanted to avoid that this time around.

So the race began, and Tyler and I stayed together the first few miles. Unfortunately for him, he had just gotten a cold that week so breathing was hard for him right from the start. He had to slow up a little bit, and whereas before the race I thought we would be running together, I now found myself alone. I continued on my pace, soon catching up with the 3:30 group. I had no idea at that point if I could keep up with them for the duration of the race, but I thought I would just stay with them as long as I could and hope for the best. By mile 5 or 6 I felt good enough to break off on my own, but I also knew that I was having some stomach problems. I wanted to create enough space between myself and them so that when I did feel like I would have to evacuate, I could finish in time that I could catch back up with them. At mile 9 I couldn’t wait anymore, so I went, finished my business, and came out about one or two minutes later, finding myself just behind the group.

I was so immensely grateful for that because the pace leader was a marathon vet, having run in a few dozen other marathons, having won a few himself. Tommy, from New York, was a talker, and he told stories from the time that I started running with them until when I finally left them. I couldn’t believe the amount of stories that he had, and it served as such a wonderful distraction. He would tell one story and by the time he was done, he would point out which mile marker we had passed and that he had managed to keep us distracted for that entire eight minute interval. One tip that he shared with someone that I think proved instrumental for me was not relying on Gatorade so much because that additional sugar leads to cramping. In my first two marathons, and with just about all of my long runs, I always have some pretty severe cramping that is pretty debilitating, so from about mile 12 and on, I only drank water. I didn’t have any of the same kind of cramping problems that I normally have.

At mile 20 or 21, he told our group that if anyone was still feeling pretty good, now was the time to take off, so I went for it. I picked up my pace, getting myself far enough removed that I could no longer here Tommy’s constant stream of consciousness. The crazy thing was, I was feeling great. Although I hadn’t really put in the miles or done any training to improve my pace, I was keeping up a faster pace than I had run all summer. The fastest I had gone on any long run was 8:11, and that was over only 16 miles. At mile 22 in this race, I had a real shot at coming in ahead of 3:30, which is an 8:00 minute/mile pace.

At 21, I thought I’d see Amy. I didn’t, but at 23 there she was, hooting and hollering and making me feel so good about myself. People really don’t know how much that means unless they have actually been through this experience. When I was at mile 20, and I thought i was at 19, some older black guy ran up by me and said, “you’re looking really good, keep it up, only 6 more miles to go.” That blew my mind, not only because I had a mile less than i was thinking I had, but just because he was so encouraging when he himself was doing the same thing I was. There’s always one or two of those kinds of things in these marathons that gives me exactly what I need.

Mile 23 also happens to be when you can start to really see the city of St. George and you’re still descending and you can look up and see about where the finish line was. At mile 24 I felt like I was starting to slow down, and sure enough, that was about when I started to hear Tommy gaining on me. His loud, east coast speech propelled me forward those last few miles.

There’s nothing like making what you know is the last turn of the race. This one happened to be on 2nd or 3rd North, heading east, with the finish line sitting on 4th east. Although the race is a closed course for the most part, there are plenty of people who are lining up the most difficult and most important part of the race – those last few miles.

I couldn’t keep a good, strong, steady pace until the end, but I was feeling good enough that I could put forth pretty significant bursts that got me close enough to see the official marathon clock ticking at 3:29 about a hundred yards or so away.

Apparently, my race supporters were all there to witness it, but I didn’t even notice them, although I reacted as though I did. I was just so happy to beat the clock to 3:30 that I didn’t really think about much else. I was wobbly at the finish line, but I didn’t need to sit down right away.

I really, really loved the post-race treats. In my other experiences, they are always serving beer after the race, and Tommy even mentioned that there is never a better time for a beer than after finishing a marathon. Previous to Saturday, I always thought that was such a dumb idea, but when the Coke truck was serving water and soda, I coolly asked for the Coke over the H2O. My favorite, favorite thing, though, was the chocolate and vanilla fudgesicle. I couldn’t believe how good that thing was.

I ended up finishing the race in 3:28:05. That’s a full nine minutes faster than my previous best. Without any real rigorous training, (well, I guess besides the whole marathon training part) I have been able to shave off 15 minutes from my marathon time. Now I’m 18 minutes from a Boston qualifying time, and now I’m all kinds of inspired to see if I can do it. I don’t know when that will be, but the motivation that I lacked before Saturday is suddenly back in full force. Also, I did end up having a negative split. I covered the first 13 in 1:46 and the last half in 1:42. That’s the thing that’s most surprising to me about all of this because finishing off a marathon is the one thing I haven’t been able to do before.

As always, emotions always get so close to the surface in these extreme physical circumstances, and the feeling that always rises to the top for me is gratitude. I am always so immensely grateful for my friends who come out to support, and for every person who volunteers their time to help a few thousand morons beat themselves into the ground trying to cover a pretty lengthy amount of distance. So thank you to Dave, Caitlin, and Mason. Thank you to that black man who told me I was looking good. Thanks to the girl who rubbed Icy/Hot on my calf at mile 22. Thanks to the organizers for putting port-o-pottys at every aid station. Thanks to Tommy who’s jibber-jabberin’ kept me going for about two and half hours of the race, and that was loud enough to keep me going through the very end. Thanks to all of the water-hander-outters. Thanks to Tyler and Greg and Charlotte and Matt and Paul and Melissa just for being there. Thanks, Elisha, for suggesting chia seeds. I really do think those made a difference in helping me maintain that push through the end. And most of all, thanks to my sweet, sweet girlfriend, Amy, for letting me say good night early on the nights I had to go to bed early and leave me alone to do my training. It looks like there is going to be some more of this.


Friday, October 1, 2010


I am a little surprised at how little I have written about marathons and running and marathon training in the last few months. It's obviously different now than it was the first couple of times, but it's still something that encompasses so much of my time and attention while I'm doing it.

This time around was much harder for me, training-wise. Maybe it's just being in a dating relationship, but I have been so resistant to running and spending as much time in the past to run this time around. As a result, I have no expectations when it comes to my time tomorrow because I really just don't know. I have had an incredible range in how I've felt on each of my long runs, and how I've been able to run that I really can't tell what this time will be like. Couple all of that with the different type of running course and I really can't say whether I'll be faster or slower, or feel better or worse when I cross that finish line tomorrow. The only thing I'd really like to have happen would be to finish faster than my PR of 3:37. If I can top that, then I think I should be pleased with myself, given that I've done absolutely no speed training this time around like I was hoping I would.

I do have under my belt three runs of about 20+ miles, and I have no injury concerns. Everything on my body feels just fine, and I went for a short run the other night and I have to admit, I feel really fresh. The taper is such a wonderful thing. It makes you feel like you lose all of the fitness between the time you have your last long run and the day of the race, but as it turns out, you feel renewed. That mud run last week was much harder than I expected it to be, but at least all of that soreness is gone now. I've even been able to get some decent amounts of rest the last few days, although that has been sprinkled with my early SLC days when I get kind of no sleep. I dunno. We'll see, I guess.

Like I said before, this time around is very different. When I finished Long Beach last year, I already had planned on trying another one this year, but this time I don't have similar aspirations. True, there are still some marathons I'd like to try out - New York, Arizona - but it's not the same kind of drive as I've had before. I think I need to do something different. That doesn't mean I won't be running, but I need an alteration in my approach or something. Again, we'll see what that means.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow though. Last year was my first marathon with someone I knew. This time I can think of four people off the top of my head that I know who are running St. George, so that's kind of fun. One of them, I'll be meeting up with tonight and we'll have our pre-game talk about everything. He's the same guy I ran Long Beach with last year. He's become my little protege, of sorts. We text about running all the time, and I kind of love him for it.

I won't be running with any music, as is my marathon custom, but this song will be playing in my head at various stages of the race. I wish I could just have an edited clip of Rocky quotes on an MP3 file:

Going in one more round when you don't think you can - that's what makes all the difference in your life.

Here goes nothin'.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mud Running

Okay, I guess I'll blog now.

I'll let you go ahead and head over to Amy's blog to see more pictures, but I ran the Dirty Dash this past weekend up in Midway. I ended up running into a few people from Irvine at the packet pick-up that were also running it. One of the girls I hadn't seen since high school, and Casey asked me if I was running it with anyone else. I thought I would be, but turns out that the only person that I knew that was running it would be running much later than I was. Hopefully next time around I can get some more interest.

The run ended up being much harder than I expected it to be. There was a lot of elevation change, and there was a pretty extensive deep mud section where I had to pick up my feet a lot. The next few days after I was much more sore following this race than I had been after any of marathon training runs.

This is my race review: few aid stations, not enough obstacles, no race photography except for the very end, should be run in June instead of September, great participants, huge slip and slide was my favorite, the mud put at the end was really great, mostly a pretty good race.

Next one is a 5k in May. Are you in?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Round-Up

In high school I was signed up for this surveying company that tested consumer response to a number of different products. Whenever they were testing my demographic I would get called in to try something and they would pay us cash for filling out a five minute survey. It was always pretty awesome for a teenager to get paid $30 for his thoughts on eating a chicken sandwich. That would be pretty awesome for me now, actually.

Anyway, this morning I was kind of realizing that I'm currently signed up for a bunch of things that give me pretty good access to free or heavily discounted things, and I know that I have some readers who might appreciate some of this stuff (if you know of anything, hit me up in the comments):
  • In the Utah area there is this text/email service that sends out a daily notification about an eatery that offers some great discount on a dining experience. It used to be called the Daily Skweez and was only offered around here, but it appears to have expanded (Boise and Lubbock, TX) and dropped the "Daily" and now is just called Skweez. They have one that fits my likes at least once or twice a week. Go here to try it.
  • This one is getting pretty big everywhere, but it's worth touting anyway - Groupon. How it works is they feature some daily deal as well and offer some coupon worth 50% off or more the regular price, provided that a set number of people buy into the day's Groupon. This week I bought a set of 4 movie tickets that have to be used within 90 days for $20, so that includes IMAX and evening showings of just about everything. Last week I got concert tickets for $7 to see Neon Trees which would have gone for $16 or more. They have awesome deals though, sometimes as much as 80-90% off stuff. They have this for all major cities. Go here to try it.
  • These two are similar - Gilt and Jack Threads. Gilt is a site that features daily sales on different high end clothing brands for both men and women. Jack Threads is for guys and features streetwear kinds of stuff. Gilt has really awesome deals, but it's for expensive items to begin with, so it'll have 50% or more off of items that are hundreds and even thousands of dollars. If you're vigilant though, you can find some pretty awesome stuff. A few weeks ago I was able to get a Maui and Sons anniversary t-shirt for $15 that normally goes for $40. If I would have seen the sale earlier, I could have gotten this Hugo Boss suit that I have been looking at for awhile now, MSRP $800, going for $388. The good stuff goes quickly, so you have to keep your eye out for it, but for guys at least, they have stuff from Hugo Boss, CK, Diesel, John Varvatos, and the like for awesome prices. I decided that when I grow out of my t-shirt phase and have a real salary, I'll do some wardrobe upgrading there. Jack Threads doesn't often have stuff I like, but this week they did feature RVCA and E's and Matix, so there is potential there.
  • And then there are all the Backcountry affiliates that most people know about that always have good deals on something - Whiskey Militia, Steep and Cheap, and all the others that you'll find linked on either of those websites. Each of them caters to a specific crowd, so you can find stuff for cyclists, MXers, skiers/snowboarders/surfers, basically anything kind of extreme/edgy.
  • This one I just signed up for - Mystery Guest. I imagine in big metro areas you'll have more offerings, but this one is what it sounds like: sign up to be a mystery shopper/diner, fill out a survey of your experience, and get some kind of reimbursement for it. You can sign up and accept or decline whatever assignments you want, follow the list of guidelines, and then they pretty much comp you for it. The one they have right now is for Cheesecake Factory, which I'm really excited about. They're just asking for 2 or more people to sign up, eat, observe a few things, fill out a survey by the next morning, and then they give a $40 gift card. Cool, right?
So that's all kind of fun stuff. Wanna another link? So I have a site meter for this blog, and it gives me the low down on who is coming here, how they get here, how much time is spent here, and then where they go. (Yes, I have a pretty good idea of who my individual visitors are. I'm looking in your direction, Waltons.) Anyway, someone earlier this week was referred to my blog through what I thought was a really interesting idea - We Feel Fine. This is their mission statement:
We Feel Fine is an exploration of human emotion on a global scale.
Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine's Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles' properties – color, size, shape, opacity – indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements titled: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.

At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what's on our blogs, what's in our hearts, what's in our minds. We hope it makes the world seem a little smaller, and we hope it helps people see beauty in the everyday ups and downs of life.
Check it out. It's kinda neat.

As is customary for this blog, I'll leave you with some music. When I was in my pit of despair a couple weeks ago not sleeping, I realized that I was way down on some of my 80s favorites. Back in the day, freshman year, my friends Laura and Brenna went and saw Depeche Mode which I thought was really funny, that is, until I was downloading a bunch of music and realized that I kind of love Depeche Mode. I was wrong for making fun of you, Laura.

So, Enjoy the Silence:

Incidentally, just one more offering...I used to use GoMusic for downloading music (9 or 15 cents a pop), but I've since switched to Legal Sounds. They have more music, it's cheaper, you get more free music, and it's better quality than GoMusic.

And with that, have a wonderful weekend, dear ones!