Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I usually never, never, never respond when people tag me in their blogs. Especially here. That's because blog-tagging is the new chain text, which is the new force-pointless-Facebook-applications-on-your-friends, which is the new chain e-mail, which is the new chain letter. It is perhaps the greatest travesty of our times that only one of the devilish practices mentioned above is illegal. All of them are, of course, the collective arch-enemy of leave-me-alone-and-let-me-post/text/arrange my Facebook page/e-mail/write-as-I-please.
However, I decided to cave in not only because I have been tagged by several millions of people within the past week (and I am afraid that the Internet at large might explode if I don't appease the masses), but also because the tag in question actually might be in line with the purposes of this blog: to prove to you that white people and/or Mormons (read: me, the antithesis of Whitedom and Mormondom) aren't boring. I'm going to say sixteen random facts about myself, like the tag says, but I will not be tagging other people. As an American, I honestly don't want to tell you what to post. So here we go:
Sixteen Random Facts that Will Convince You that Cecily Jane and All White and/or Mormon People are Definitely Interesting
1. Whenever, and I mean whenever I go out in public, I pretend that I'm a B-list celebrity who's going incognito. I'm very good at not getting recognized.
2. Because I consider myself the creative type, I try to avoid ever saying, "I never even imagined that this could happen to me/I never even dreamed that this was possible." I do this by systematically imagining every contingency in the universe. And yes, I'm pretty sure that I would know what to expect if I fell into a cosmic whole that spit me out into a parallel universe where I was an out-of-work ninja.
3. If I could get away with it without being improper, I would wear colorful pajama pants every second of every day.
4. Whenever I see roadkill, I compulsively pray for the poor thing. I'm not sure what I expect God to do about it, though. This comes in part from the fact that I generally appose zombie-animals.
5. I can't stand wearing flip flops. At all. Whenever I see a guy wearing flip flops, I resign myself to the fact that we can just be friends.
6. When I was growing up, my parents had a total of somewhere around five CDs, including the South Pacific soundtrack, "The Singles 1969-1973" by The Carpenters, the soundtrack to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and "Greatest Hits" by Cat Stevens. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have probably listened to these CDs hundreds of times each.
7. I never pierced my ears because I just don't see the appeal in putting artificial holes in my flesh and dangling metal through them as a form of social ritual. To be fair, I also feel the same way about neck stretching.
8. I suspect that people who wear Santa hats in public are of questionable character.
9. I don't go for guys who don't keep the hair on the back of their necks neat and straight. And I can't help it.
10. I haven't had television in my home for almost five years. That means that I sometimes stay on my computer until three or four 0'clock Friday mornings because I'm waiting for the latest episode of The Office to come online.
11. I'm kind of embarrassed of being a Lost fan because I don't consider it deep enough. And yes, that does mean that I think The Office is deeper than Lost.
12. I have imagined every contingency in which I have magically become a character in every television show I have ever liked.
13. I once tried eating sea urchin, and I will never, never do that again.
14. Whenever I'm bored in class, I try to guess what my teacher/professor is like at parties. I've figured out which ones sit in the corner reading Dickens, and which ones end up with the lamp shade on their heads. It makes class one heck of a lot more fun.
15. My favorite word in the English language is "yarmulke."
16. I'm pretty sure that my penchant for confessing my own secrets, resulting in this post and perhaps this entire blog, has something to do with my thousands of years of Catholic ancestry.
Regards, best wishes, and yes, this is all true,
Friday, December 19, 2008
I wrote this a couple of years ago, so it may not be as great as stuff I've written recently, but I decided to post it anyway because I think that it captures a part of humanity that isn't documented often. Or something.
Rachael was cutting celery in the kitchen when she heard the familiar jingling of keys outside of her door. She placed her knife down gently, rinsed her hands, and quickly walked to the door. Turning the knob, she found Sarah standing in the welcome mat, shuffling through her backpack in the search for keys. Hearing the door open, Sarah looked up, saw Rachael, and frowned.
“You don’t have to keep the door locked all the time, you know,” she said.
“I know,” Rachael replied, sighing to herself a bit, “but I was home alone and, well, you can never be too careful.” Rachael stepped back into the apartment, closing the door and making sure the door was locked.
“So, how was your day?” Rachael asked as she went back to her celery. Sarah waited until Rachael was too far away to see her unlocking the door, and then flung herself on the couch.“Oh, you know, the usual,” she said, taking a deep breath and resting her tired eyes for a second.
“You don’t sound very convincing,” Rachael replied with a smile, “did you have a rough day?” Sarah rolled her eyes and scowled.
“I said it was fine. Just an average day. Nothing out of the usual,” she insisted.
“Well, if it was just and average day why are you . . .”
“I said it was fine!” Sarah interrupted as she angrily got up and stormed to her room. Rachael sighed again as she watched Sarah leave. There was obviously something wrong, but why wouldn’t she talk about it? Why was she always so cold and unresponsive? They were already two months into the semester, and yet Rachael felt they were practically strangers. How would she and her other roommates be able to gel as an apartment when Sarah was always either gone or in a bad mood? Would they just have to tolerate each other for nine months, or would they become actual friends?
Lying on her bed, Sarah closed her eyes, took deep breaths, and tried to calm herself down. She hated Rachael’s constant questioning and goodie-goodie attitude. Her other roommates didn’t demand to know what she was doing at every single minute, so what was Rachael’s problem? Sarah was an adult, after all, and she answered to no one. So who cared if she had just broken up with her boyfriend or not? And why did she have to report it to anyone? Rachael is nice and all, Sarah thought, but sometimes she can be just . . . intolerable.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The worst thing that could have ever happened to Salem, OR, happened this Sunday.
Oh, yes. A whole two inches. Sufficed to say, the city was in chaos. You see, it's illegal in Salem to use the best weapon we have against icy roads: salt. Salt is great for getting rid of snow, but it's not so great for the roads themselves, and I guess that Salem lawmakers decided that it wasn't worth it. So when we got a crazy, out-of-nowhere snow storm on Sunday, we were all in for a big heap of trouble. The roads were so slick and icy that, according to HermanaMayor, "If you aren't driving like a grandma, you're going too fast." And the roads were like that for all of Sunday. And Monday. And guess what, it's like that today, too. My guess is that the one snowplow in town just hasn't made it to our street yet, which is too bad because we're on a hill so steep the we literally had to park a block away and walk home.
After living in Utah for the past few years, this whole thing just looks ridiculous. If this happened in Provo, the streets would have been clear within an hour, and life would have gone on as usual. Instead, we're essentially waiting for the sun to give us a bailout. Stores are closed, not to mention the schools, and there are literally abandoned cars parked along the streets. You know what I think about when I see abandoned cars along the road? Apocalypse movies. You know, like the one with the alien, and the one with the meteor, and the one with the polar ice caps? All of those had similar conditions to what I've witnessed over the past few days, though on a smaller scale, and all of them made a particular mention to abandoned cars.
And that got me to thinking: what if the real apocalypse (you know, the one that John the Revelator told us about) was kind of like this? What if the major catastrophes that are going to befall us are actually avoidable if we are just prepared? What if the epic events come, and we have all of the tools to fix the issue, but we are stopped by artificial rules that we have placed upon ourselves, like the law against putting salt on the roads?
It's just a thought. After all, we were told to be prepared multiple times by multiple sources, and HermanaMayor is also famous for saying that the Lord doesn't waste our time. What if people who take the time to prepare themselves spiritually and physically for the real apocalypse end up to be what Salem would have been with a better contingency plan?
Either way, I've got this strange mental picture of all of these angels watching us from the Heavens during the end of days and saying to each other. "Oh golly! Why didn't they just get those extra snowplows like John told them to?" Try it, Gentle Reader, and if you always picture angels like the Family Circus guy draws them, then picturing them will help you giggle your way through whatever life throws at you.
Regards, best wishes, and Boy Scout mottos,
Friday, December 12, 2008
Here's that short story that I promised back in October. Enjoy!
The red carpet was so crowded with stars and paparazzi that some reporters had to put their hands over their eyes to shield themselves from the constant flashing of cameras. Two or three photographers buzzed around each couple as the actors were interviewed, testing the composure and professionalism of all involved. When another limo pulled up to the carpet, the flashes started even before the passengers came out from behind the tinted windows.
When the limo door opened, and the flashing got worse, Roland Burns had to squint as he waved. When he turned back to help Mina Needham get out, he held his hat out so it could cast a shadow over her eyes. Mina smiled graciously and called back to Brendon Everill, who closed his eyes completely as he stepped out into the swarm of reporters and photographers. She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
Mina’s cream, tea-length gown would no doubt be splattered all over celebrity magazines in the next few days, with commentary on its elegant simplicity and what it meant about her career and character. Her cream shoes, pearled handbag, and dark curls would get a similar treatment. The same would probably not be so for Roland and Brendan’s black tuxes and bow ties, but that didn’t seem to calm Brendan’s nerves as the trio was inundated with questions.
“Roland! Are you and Mina a couple?”
Roland had to put on a smile as he shook his head, and the three of them walked a little ways down the carpet arm-in-arm. They separated as they were interviewed about their upcoming movies, though Mina cast a few concerned glances in Brendan’s direction.
“I think that this role was very important to me, because it let me flex a few muscles, as it were,” she let out a small laugh and apologized for the pun. “It was great to take a break from my usual characters—you know, the girls-next-door and such—” She stopped as Roland put his hand on her shoulder and whispered something in her ear, then excused herself. It was too noisy to hear what they were saying, but the cameras followed them as they made their way back to the beginning of the red carpet, Roland looking more and more worried. When they stopped on the curb, one of the sound technicians was able to put his boom mic close enough to pick up some of their words.
“What do you think is wrong, then?” Mina asked. Her tone was strangely genuine.
“I don’t know; it’s just a weird feeling. Like something bad’s about to happen. . . oh, no.”
A camera was able to follow Roland’s gaze fast enough to catch the flash of a knife going into black leather, only a few feet away. As one man sunk to his knees, the other took his weapon and fled.
Without a word, the stars sprinted off in two directions, and while Roland managed to catch the man before he hit the ground, Mina kicked off her high heels and chased the stabber barefoot across the busy street. She was going at top speed, with her dress and her hair flowing behind her, dodging cars left and right. When she caught him, she pulled his leather coat with her left hand and clenched the arm that held the knife with her right. He went down like a roped bull, and Mina was able to get the knife out of his hand quickly. It took a few seconds before the police caught up to them, and she wiped her forehead as she walked away, an army of policemen handcuffing and reading rights behind her.
“Mina! What just happened?”
Mina rubbed her temples as she tried to guarantee everyone that things were under control and that she was definitely not a hero. As she explained the martial arts she had taken in preparation for her latest role, she heard a familiar voice call her name, and saw Brendan put his hand on his upper arm and point to hers. It was only when she looked at her own arm that she realized that the knife had grazed her, and that she was bleeding pretty badly. She excused herself and went towards Brendan, who was undoing his bowtie.
“I talked to Roland; the guy will be fine,” he assured her, taking his tie and wrapping it around her wound. “He was able to stop the blood, and the ambulance is on the way. It’s a good thing that you were there.” He winced as the cameras started flashing in his face, and Mina suggested that they should tend to the large number of actors who were probably feeling very neglected.
When they left and it seemed that there were no eyes on them, he was able to finish stopping her blood. She reached out her hand and touched his arm as a gesture of gratitude, and suddenly, after a full year of playing opposite her, Brendan finally found the courage to plant an unscripted kiss on her lips. She returned the kiss with even more appreciation.
From the window of a nearby hotel suite, two children watched them in amazement.
“It’s just like a movie,” Katie squealed, watching the chaos unfolding down below.
“Well, it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!” Mikey said.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Okay, I think that the new Batman movie has been out long enough for me to talk about it, right? I've been postponing this post for a long time in order to ensure that the timing would be appropriate, since I talk about some things that would probably spoil the plot for you if you are still waiting to see the movie. I also talk about the last Superman movie, but I'm not going to be nearly as spoiler-y. Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that you should read the rest of this post at your own risk.
Well, I saw The Dark Knight in theaters, which means a lot coming from me. I went with a bunch of friends during the day because evening prices are exorbitant. And let me just say that I was glad that bright daylight greeted me as I left the movie theater, because the movie was just about as much dark as I could handle at the moment. They definitely titled that movie with care! And while there was a lot in the film that I didn't like, the things that Batman said at the very end really made me think. If you recall, Batman is put in a terrible position--his friend, Harvey Dent, the hero of the city, essentially goes insane and does a lot of really, really bad stuff. Like kill people. And it turns out that if people find out that the incorruptible Harvey Dent did it, that it would severely damage the morale of the people who once believed in him. So Batman decides to take the blame. All of it. Even though he is guiltless, he is taking the sins of another upon himself for the good of many. And that made me think a little bit about someone else who took upon Himself the sins of all mankind, at a very great cost.
But I'm sure, Gentle Reader, that if you were looking for a superhero that was very much like the Savior of the world, you would probably think about Superman before you think about Batman. The reason is fairly obvious, especially if you saw Superman Returns. It's almost like they're trying to force-feed the parallel to Christ to you, what with Jor-El saying, "Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you . . . my only son." I mean, come on! And he's coming back for a second time. And he has abilities to do things that regular human can't do. And he's so darn pure, supposedly.* They should have just titled the movie Superman Equals Jesus.
But Superman never did what Batman did. Superman always had a great public image, and he always managed to find a way to do the dirty work and keep his hands clean, which is great, don't get me wrong. If Christ had lived his life the same way, He still would have been as perfect as He was. He still would have used His abilities to perform just as many miracles, and He still would have been a remarkable historic figure and a great example. In fact, I would say that if Christ lived as Superman did, He definitely would have deserved the secular Christmas that many celebrate. Batman, on the other hand, chose to suffer unjustly in order to make things work. He went beyond the mark, sacrificing himself for his friends. We are profoundly blessed that Jesus Christ did the same for us, and more. Not only did He bleed at every pore, and not only did He choose to die to atone for the sins of everyone who lived, is living, or will live, but He conquered death, rose again, and offered the gift of ressurrection to all of God's children. So, I guess saying that Christ exemplified the best of Batman and Superman seems a little trite. There really is no comparison. After all, what Christ did was real, while the other two were only fiction. Christ was the kind of real that makes Him more than worthy of our devotion and worship. It makes the true Christmas, the religious holiday, a wonderful and precious thing.
Most of all, it proves that Christ is, quite literally, the best superhero ever.
Regards, best wishes, and a true Christmas season,
*That's what I hated about the movie--that he had a secret love-child with Lois? Are you kidding me? This is Superman, and first of all, he wouldn't do that, and second of all, are we absolutely sure that an alien and a human can even reproduce? I mean, seriously. I thought this guy was supposed to be a role model.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Fiction Fridays are back! The return to Fiction Fridays will be kicked off with this Emily Dickinson-inspired puzzle-poem. True to puzzle-poem form, you have to figure out what the subject of the poem is based on clues in the text. (A great Dickinsonian example can be found here.) This particular poem is structured that way because I think it adds to the feeling of the poem, not because it's hard to figure out. In fact, it should be pretty obvious.
Anger and I, we work as a team
He turns them red, and I turn them green
I whisper that something they love has been lost,
He keeps them worried, and shaken, and tossed
I make them fear that their love's on a hinge,
He makes their hearts burst and cry for revenge
I lie to them about what they deserve
He lies of audacity, gall, and of nerve
We work well together, dear Anger and I
So no lover can love, despite how they try.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I didn't make it to 50,000 words this time. I didn't even make it to 40,000. Or 25,000. Or 15,000. This year, after being so psyched about writing my second 30-day novel, I finished at a mere 12,000 words. Pathetic, I know.
Of course, I did write about 10,000 of those words in three days, which I find pretty awesome. I guess that that means I can write a novel in fifteen days, which you must agree, is impressive. And on one of those days, I was driving down to California and sharing a single source of computer juice with my three brothers*.
You see, there is this little thing we have in America called Thanksgiving. I celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about being with my family and remembering my personal American heritage by, among other things, consuming various New World foods and proclaiming thankfulness for the sacrifice of others. It's hard to write 40,000 words while doing that.
It's especially hard when you have a family like mine.
Madre's side of the family, the most of which live in the Sacramento, are just about as Mormon as you can get without putting egg whites in your hair. There are somewhere around fifty of us, if you don't include the second cousins and great aunts that are normally there on the fourth Thursday of November. And there are more children than you can shake a stick at, though we generally choose not to try. And yes, we are all Mormons and we love just how Mormon we are.
If you do not have the experience of a large family, picture this: a smallish three-bedroom home that was bought so long ago that it's actually paid off. Now, imagine people filling every nook and cranny of the aforementioned house, and that each of these people seem to have an odd-but-keen desire to separate into groups by age and talk to each other. Five to ten percent of the time, one of the adults or teens will break into song. About sixty percent of the time, all parties are erupting with laughter. The rest of the time is divided between eating a sample of fifteen different dishes served from fifteen mismatching pots and going bananas over whoever happens to be the newest baby. Meanwhile, a pack of children that resembles so many wolves roams through the house, though they mostly go unnoticed until one of the wolf-children starts crying.
This is what I have taken part in at least once a month for the majority of my life. I started out as the newest baby, and worked my way from a wolf-child into a teen, and this year I rose to the rank of potato peeler/English expert, which is actually pretty high on the family ladder. Some day I expect to be promoted to adult, though it seems that my bachelor's degree and twenty-three years of experience at living have failed to qualify me for the position. But of course, HermanaMayor has two more years of experience, served a mission, is applying for law school, and still isn't considered an adult, so maybe I'm counting my chickens a little too early.
I actually brought my laptop, a cantankerous lady that I refer to by the name of Eris, and fooled myself into believing that I could actually make myself finish my novel while all of this family was going on around me. And then I decided to take Thanksgiving off from writing, if only to catch up with my relatives that were older than twelve and make sure that my relatives younger than twelve know what my name is (going to college tends to make this a challenge). And then I realized that children under the age of twelve were going to be involved, including as few high-profile babies (the terms "high-profile" and "baby" being synonymous).
And just so you know, when babies are put into the mix, the Cecily does not get any writing done at all. So, I didn't really get my novel done, but I don't mind. I'll try another novel next year and I'm hoping that: a) Thanksgiving is earlier in the month and b) I'm not such a slacker between November 1st and November 23rd.
Regards, best wishes, and a pack of wolf-children,
*And as several of my aunts will tell you, my brothers have an ever-increasing dependence on computer juice. Sometimes it's kind of like my brothers have turned into a large, three-headed Mr. Hyde, and computer juice is the only antidote.
Monday, November 24, 2008
As of ten seconds ago, I have decided to keep my word and actually finish my second NaNoWriMo novel. It was kind of a hard decision to make, since I have less than seven days left to reach my goal of 50,000 words and I only have *gulp* 2,096 words right now.
Am I crazy, you ask? No, no I'm not. I'm eccentric, that's all. The difference is fairly simple: crazy people get locked up, and eccentric people win Newberry medals and have very entertaining personal lives.
It's probably going to be an awful novel. I have officially ceased to care. It's 50,000 or bust! So the posting might be a little
If you have interpreted this post as a tight-lipped plea for help, you may not be far off of the mark. And while you can't write my novel for me, you can become an official follower of my blog (i.e. click the link to the right that says, "Follow this blog") so I can know that you care.
Regards, best wishes, and 47,904 to go,
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Okay, so I really thought that this blog would steer clear of politics after the election, but something came to my attention that was just too good to pass up. It turns out that upon being sworn in as the President of the United States, President-Elect Obama is going to have to give up his precious Blackberry and e-mail accounts. A trivial matter, you say? Not to the newsmedia, it's not.
Check out this outrage that Lester Holt* (of NBC's Nightly News) has expressed on the subject. (Fast forward to 2:10 in to get right to it):
But to be serious here: this is a stupid issue. What else do we need to know about our president and future president? Their top ten sitcoms of all time? Which leg they put in first when they're putting on their pants? What puppy they are planning to adopt? Never mind.
So why, then, would so much attention be spent on the issue? I had to think about that one for a second, until I realized that these journalists, despite their medium of choice, all have one trivial thing in common: they all use Blackberrys themselves. And if they all happen to be just as addicted as Obama is supposed to be, then it's easy to see how they would think that this is an issue that everyone actually cares about. Kind of like how the majority of those same journalists were so in the tank for Obama that they thought that we wanted to know just how much they loved him. And oh, did we know.
And here's the irony: Remember how Senator McCain was so harshly criticized for not knowing how to e-mail? Remember how people tried to make you believe that it mattered if a presidential candidate could e-mail or not? HA! Who's laughing now? (The answer: Cecily. Cecily is laughing.) So this begs the question: if the presidency means no Blackberry, and if a Blackberry is so important to a person like Obama, should Obama step down as president-elect and let someone who can handle going four years without e-mail take the job?
Regards, best wishes, and a bias-free media,
P.S. Just to be clear, that sentence about Obama stepping down is a joke.
*By the way, as my claim to fame, my Madre went to high school with Lester Holt. It's true!
**And I have to say that me favorite headline of the day was the one from the New York Times article: "Lose the BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe ." So clear. So concise. So bold. That's why this newspaper is the king of all American newsmedia, you know. You must henceforth address it as "Your Majesty." Kissing the feet is also appropriate.
UPDATE: Here's another video on the subject (fast forward to 1:46):
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The post-graduation job hunt is not going very well! I've been pulling my hair out for the past few weeks and months, but I got my first interview yesterday for a glass/window place. It was great just to have an interview--after sending in so many resumes, and after searching through so many job listings. Of course, the job was going to be an hour away, so it was a long shot, but interview experience is worth the trouble.
When I got there, however, it was a little different of an experience than I had anticipated. The interviewer looked through my resume and immediately told me that I should try to work at a bookstore. Odd, I thought, that he had given up on me so quickly, and then something came out of his mouth that I never expected.
"So I see that you got your graduate degree* at BYU, so it seems that it would be obvious--or maybe not so obvious--that you're LDS," he said. I nodded. "So you have your sabbath on Friday night and Saturday . . ." he continued.
WHAT? What the what? "No," I said, "I think that you're confusing me with Seventh Day Adventists or Jews. My sabbath is Sunday." He backed down quickly, and I was grateful that I didn't get caught up in a "Yes, you do" "No, I don't" belief-battle as I have been in many a time before. Still, it was a weird interview. He ended up offering me a job as a door-to-door window salesperson, which wasn't what I applied for. I thought back to the month I spent as a struggling telemarketer (i.e. soul-seller), and I decided that I'm going to have to turn the job down.
At least I got a story out of it, right? Feel free to post your own weird interview or belief misunderstanding story below!
Regards, best wishes, and employment,
*I don't know why he got the impression that I have a graduate degree, and he didn't seem to understand me when I tried to tell him that I have a bachelor's, he kept going on about this graduate degree that I don't have.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Today, the citizens of the United States of America, exercising the power given to them by the Constitution, elected Senator Barack Obama to be their 44th president. Since Barack Obama is a man of African descent, this is a remarkable turning point in the history of our nation, and I cannot help but be proud of my nation for it.
Sure, he wasn't the guy I voted for. He and I share some fundamental ideological differences, and he had less experience under his belt than any president in years. He also has yet to prove himself to the world, but he has captured the hearts of a nation, and I commend him for that. And I can admit that a President Obama can offer Americans two things that they desperately need: confidence in their President and respect from the nations of the world. This post is not a conservative turning tail; it is an American facing the facts and the future. When you believe in the system, and the system overrules you, you can still believe in and support that system.
I still stand by decision, and no matter what anybody says, I still believe in Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. Yet, even as I'm typing this, I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to explain this to my children-to-be, that I voted against the first black president. I suppose that I have a while until I figure it out.
In the meantime, I realize that Barack Obama has a sea of expectations to fill. He's been called a "Messiah," and if you will recall, the last Messiah we had rose people from the dead and atoned for the sins of every person who was, is, or will be. Sure, Mr. Obama is supposed to be a political Messiah only, but that kind of rhetoric means that this next president has even more challenges to face than John McCain would have had. This means that if he doesn't part the waters for the American people, he's going to be in a bit of trouble. Of course, if he does manage to part those waters, I won't complain one bit.
It's kind of a weird feeling to have your guy lose, especially since this was my first time voting. But at the same time, I feel privileged when I think that in my short twenty-three years of being on this earth, I have seen the destruction of Berlin Wall, the unity of the nation after the attacks of 9/11, and the election of a black person into the highest office in the land. I hope that this victory is more than simply cosmetic, and for the sake of the land I love, I pray that Barack Obama turns out to be the best president that we ever had.
Regards, best wishes, and change I now have to believe in,
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Things are going to change a little bit in November, since it is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It's essentially a group of writers who get together online and motivate each other to do an amazing feat: write a 50,000 word novel in only thirty days. The idea behind it is that everybody has a novel inside of them, but some need a little bit of help to get it out of their brains and onto paper. I know that this is true by experience, since half of the time I tell people about my almost-done novel, I find that they have a novel that they want to write, too.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who don't think of themselves as writers. I wonder if these same people would feel more capable if they thought of it as storytelling. All you really have to do is tell a really, really long story. I think that the sweetest part of NaNoWriMo is that it doesn't matter if your story is awful; it's just about finishing. It's a race, and it's hard to get to the finish, but your only competition is yourself. And even if at the end you've written the worst novel in existence, you still get that sense of accomplishment. It's that special feeling you get when you are sitting quietly by yourself and think, "I'm a novelist."
I "won" NaNoWriMo last year, and I intend to do the same this year. I've got a mystery/thriller-ish novel lined up, with some characters that I've been working on for years. Here's a cover mock-up that I put up on my profile page, under the pseudonym of TheOtherOne:
The biggest change that I foresee in the next month is that I will be posting a count of how many words I've written so far. The next change is that I will post an excerpt of my novel every Friday, which means that yes, I will resume posting every Friday.*
I would really hope that you would take this challenge on with me, Gentle Reader. I'm always here if you need some encouragement. Just go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and sign up. I promise it will be worth it. Either way, you'll get to see where I am come November 30th.
Regards, best wishes, and 50,0o0 words,
*And I've got a great story lined up for this Friday, by the way.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I've already posted more on politics than I ever thought that I would. At the same time, I feel that there is at least one more thing that I need to say on the subject, so please consider this post on California's Proposition 8, which would ban homosexual marriage in the state. In short, I absolutely, completely, support Prop 8. I think that voting to pass Prop 8 is the moral, ethical, and wise thing to do. Period.
Now, you may be wondering, Gentle Reader, why a person who is registered to vote in Oregon has anything to say on the matter. The truth is that I almost didn't, because this is a state matter, and because I'm not a resident of that state. But I used to be. I was raised there and I still consider California my home. In addition, I was in this fight from the beginning, and I want to see it finished.
This all started back in 1999, when I was a freshman in high school. That was when an initiative called Proposition 22 was on the ballot. Though I was barely fourteen at the time, I knew how important it was that the proposition be passed. And it was a really, really big deal for everybody. Kids at my school wore Prop 22 signs as shirts. We put up signs everywhere, and we put up with the consequences, such as nieghbors and friends who called us intolerant to homosexuals, among other things. We told them that it wasn't about tolerance at all. It wasn't about hating gays, it was about our religious views. (Our religious views, by the way, prohibit us from hating gays.) It was about our belief that each child has the right to be raised in a home with a mother and a father. It was about our belief that both motherhood and fatherhood are so sacred, and so important, that their combined influences on a child cannot be duplicated by any other social organization. It was about our belief that the role that traditional marriage has in society is elementary, and if tampered with, will have horrible consequences. Why do Mormons consider this a religious issue? Why do we feel it appropriate to allow our religous beliefs to influence our vote? President Gordon B. Hinckley said it best at the same time Prop 22 was on the ballot. The folowing is a quote from his address given in October of 1999:
"'Why does the Church become involved in issues that come before the legislature and the electorate?'
I hasten to add that we deal only with those legislative matters which are of a strictly moral nature or which directly affect the welfare of the Church. . . . We regard it as not only our right but our duty to oppose those forces which we feel undermine the moral fiber of society. . . . Such is currently the case in California, where Latter-day Saints are working as part of a coalition to safeguard traditional marriage from forces in our society which are attempting to redefine that sacred institution. God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will find themselves answerable to God.
Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality. Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family. We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out.
Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.
I commend those of our membership who have voluntarily joined with other like-minded people to defend the sanctity of traditional marriage. . . . You are contributing your time and talents in a cause that in some quarters may not be politically correct but which nevertheless lies at the heart of the Lord’s eternal plan for His children, just as those of many other churches are doing. This is a united effort."
What better words could be said on the subject? What better words could be said on the issue at hand? President Hinckley, a man who I personally regard as a prophet of God, a man whose addresses lifted and strengthened me in the darkest times of my life, spoke true and eternal words that day, as he did every other day. We listened to his words back in 1999, and we passed Proposition 22 along with 61% of California's population. And as soon as we found ourselves in victory, with our values protected, an official or two decided that the people's voice wasn't valid. So, in short, we have to finish the fight we started nine years ago by passing Proposition 8. This isn't about tolerence; it's about protecting our values, and protecting marriage and the family. Period.
For better words than mine, visit http://iprotectmarriage.com/, http://protectmarriage.com/, and http://www.preservingmarriage.org/.
Regards, best wishes, and morality,
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I was into my twenties before I ever actually read Frankenstein, and even then, I only read it because I had to. Ironically enough, I read that bulk of it on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean, which made the experience even more strange than it had to be.* Of course, I knew all I had ever wanted to know about Frankenstein already: the green monster with the bolts on either side of its neck, the maniacal laughter, the hunch-backed assistant, and the excessive amount of lightning. You probably have that same information buzzing through your brain right now, and you may even think that you know everything there is to know about Frankenstein. Here are some things that you probably don't know:
- Not only is Frankenstein the name of the guy who created the monster, not the creature itself, but creator's name is not "Dr. Frankenstein," as he was kicked out of the university before he could complete his degree, and rightly so.
- Mr. Frankenstein is creepily in love with his adopted sister, the one that his mother adopted specifically for the purpose of grooming her from infancy to become Mr. Frankenstein's bride. The monster kills her because Mr. Frankenstein is an idiot.
- The monster taught himself to speak and read, and is probably better-read than you are.
- There is no Igor!
- The story is told in a series of letters, beginning and ending in the Arctic.
- Reading the book is just as pleasurable as eating the book.
In the end, it turns out that the Frankenstein we know exists only in pop culture. Weird, huh? It's almost as weird as reading a horror novel while on a tropical getaway.
I thought about Frankenstein, and all that he means to us, when I talked to Petite Soeur a few days ago on the phone. She's in Paris on a study abroad, and when I asked her if she'd visited the Eiffel Tower (i.e. the one in Paris), she responded in a way that I didn't expect. I asked her to write down what she felt in her own words:
"It was my first free day in Paris and, having no previous engagements, I decided to hike up to the Eiffel Tower. Why not? I was in Paris, and I had to do the Eiffel Tower sometime, and then was as good a time as any, I thought. I wish I hadn't gone. Walking up to the tower was a bit awkward to say the least. There I was, an American girl walking alone, and all around me were couples sprawled all over the Champs de Mars. After all, Paris is the city of love, and the Eiffel Tower is the most recognizeable symbol of Paris. So most people then feel that the Eiffel Tower must be the most romantic place on Earth. And why shouldn't they? I'll tell you why. I climbed up the Eiffel Tower myself, and you know what? It's really not that big of a deal. Sure, you get a really nice view of Paris, but the structure itself is rather ugly from the inside. It's like climbing up through miles and miles of brown scaffolding. I found it odd that, with all of the lovely spots in Paris, this clunky, masculine structure was the one most associated with love and romance. This moment of disollusionment didn't help to ease my lonliness at having come to the tower alone. I climbed down the tower, defeated, having discovered that the Eiffel Tower held no romance and that Paris was a lonely place."
And as I listened to her talk about it, I for the first time realized that despite what I had previously thought about the Eiffel Tower, it was really just an interesting-looking landmark. In fact, there was nothing incredibly romantic about the structure at all, especially considering that it was built to celebrate the very bloody and unromantic French Revolution, and that one of the other designs considered for the structure was a giant guillotine (thanks, History Channel). In fact, the only reason that we associate the Eiffel Tower with romance probably has more to do with our associating Paris with romance. And perhaps, after everything, that link between Paris and romance could be just as artificial as the cultural Frankenstein, who is in reality just as artificially constructed as its literary counterpart. Essentially, it's a load of fiction that we accept as absolute truth. It's a fiction that can even change the way we behave.
And that got me to thinking: what else is there in our brains that is completely artificial? Are these Frankensteinian assumptions just about trivial things, like towers and fictional characters, or are they also about things that are more important? Do we think Frankensteinian thoughts about things that make a difference in our lives, like who runs our country, or which food is good to eat, or how we should treat others? How often do we base our judgements on completely stupid criteria? I suppose that there is no way of knowing, unless, of course, we achieve omniscience. Or unless we ask someone who is omniscient and we actually do some fact-checking on the few things that we can actually verify. And all of a sudden, my entire reality seems just as strange as I felt on that cruise ship reading Frankenstein.
I hope that the feeling will pass soon enough.
Regards, best wishes, and the definition of reality,
*Not only because I was in the Caribbean and reading a horror novel (the term "horror" being applied loosely here), but also because I'm not the type of person who normally goes to the Caribbean (or anywhere outside of California, Oregon or Utah, for that matter), much less reads horror novels. It was incredibly odd on all accounts.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I just have to say that I am one of those new Sarah Palin fans. I'm going with the crowd, I know, but I just can't help it. I have this weakness for strong, incredibly feminine women. Show me a woman who has that unmistakable boo-yah quality without sacrificing her femininity, and I become an instant die-hard fan. This explains my adoration for Captain Janeway, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, and Teri Hatcher's Lois Lane. While they may differ in personality, methods, and morals, all four of these women (fictional or not) are really good being themselves without trading away their ability to be powerful. I've watched all four of them as I was a little girl and in desperate need of positive female role models. I suppose that that little girl is still somewhere inside of me, waiting for another strong role model to come along and give me another spark of inspiration.* So when I watched Governor Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention, I was sold. It was hard not to be, because as I feel that you will agree, she rocked that house.
But Sarah Palin is more than simply awesome. She also shares a lot of my values, and she is not ashamed of them, no matter how unpopular they are. In a world that equates femininity to being pro-choice, Governor Palin is one of the few women who are willing to stand proudly on the side of pro-life. And when you happen to be a pro-life woman, and when it it so important to you that it's a deal-breaker, that makes quite the impression. And I could go on, but this post would be too long. Unfortunately, however, the momentum that made Sarah Palin so darn awesome seems to tapered off recently, as a less-than-par interview (or two) aired. And as you probably are aware, these interviews were decidedly less boo-yah.
Actually, it was kind of like what I would have said if I was interviewed by Katie Couric. Or what I have said multiple times in class when put on the spot by a professor who gets pleasure out of life by dragging me down into the fiery abyss of a failing grade. Ironically enough, if I identified with Sarah Palin after I heard her convention speech, I was convinced that we were twins separated at birth (and by twenty years) after watching that interview. I have totally been there, though thankfully not on national television. I'm not being ironic here; that was my actual reaction. After all, I tend to be loyal to a fault, and if I could stand by Captain Janeway when she uber-evolved into a mutant lizard and had mutant lizard children with a guy who recently coughed up his own tongue, I can weather this storm. Think about me what you will, Gentle Reader, but I will stay on course, praying that my newest hero brings it to the vice-presidential debate later this week.
But if she doesn't, I'll still be there to see this through to the end. I guess it's just the fan girl in me. Strong pro-life women are hard to come by, you know.
Regards, best wishes, and a knock-out on Thursday,
P.S. I apologize to you again for the untimeliness of this post. I know that some of my multitude of readers are on the internet constantly every Tuesday from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., refreshing every couple of seconds as they wait for the newest post to appear. If you were one of those people, Gentle Reader, know that my life is insanely weird right now, and my posting schedule tends to reflect that. However, I will not allow this to excuse my behavior, and I hereby promise to turn and repent.
P.P.S. Is this short enough, Madre? ;)
* I have recently realized that this enthusiasm for strong female role models often comes off the wrong way, and unfortunately led my brothers to believe that I was a she-woman man-hating type of feminist. And that explains a lot of their behavior towards me in recent years, come to think of it. While I firmly believe in equal pay for equal work, I promise that I have never burned any of my intimates. Not even my brothers.
Friday, September 26, 2008
My Dear Reader,
I take great care in naming my characters, something that I share with J. K. Rowling (I believe that she said on her website that she "collects" names, which explains a lot). I know all of the best baby name sites, because I always need to know the meaning of the name before I brand a character, sometimes picking a meaning and working backward.* Sometimes, when I come up with a really good name, a character just springs out of it, which is the case with the following character. I don't know where I'm going to put her yet, though.
- White, primarily of English origin.
- Has dark hair that goes to her shoulder blades, which she wears in a ponytail.
- Early twenties, on the thin side.
- A little on the geeky side. Dabbles in games that involve logic and strategy. Has an above average sense of curiosity, which can get annoying at times.
- Well-read for her age. Loves epics.
- Switches off between glasses and contacts depending on her mood and the weather.
- Occasionally wears turtlenecks. Would probably wear one of those awful Christmas sweaters without realizing how tacky it is. Wears jeans, but never t-shirts unless it comes from some academic club. Even then, she only wears t-shirts on Saturday.
- More of a listener than a talker, mostly because she is more interested in learning about others than she is about talking about herself.
- Not very picky, and sometimes has a hard time deciding trivial things like what to eat or which movie to watch. Tends to let others make these decisions for her, making others think that she is a push-over. As a result, she finds herself drawn to people who are laid back and not egotistical.
- Is respected by many of her peers, but she doesn't exactly have any friends to do things with.
- Her mother was a beauty-queen type when she was Tracy's age. Tracy has to constantly deal with her mother's disappointment because Tracy is not the same.
- Has read The Holy Bible cover-to-cover and considers herself religious, though she doesn't belong to (or attend) any specific church.
- Absolutely loves the history of the British monarchy, and is somewhat sad that the topic doesn't come up often in regular conversation.
- One of those people who waits for others to come to them, and as a result, spends a lot of time waiting.
- Nervous tick: blinks a lot when she's nervous, and the more nervous she gets, the more she blinks.
- Gets almost giddy about the most obscure facts, such as Judy Garland's birthday or where Winston Churchill is buried. Gets these facts from her extensive study of Wikipedia.
- While she has a strong sense of morals, she will have no real desire to see change in the world until some kind of cause presents itself to her. After this happens, Tracy will shed her shy shell and become a fiery advocate for what she believes is right. This transformation scares Tracy, but it also makes other people like her. Which is the real Tracy?
*I wonder if I care so much because my own name means "blind son of Harry." I think this also might be why I like to include my middle name, because "blind God is gracious son of Harry" sounds slightly better.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
So, I've done something pretty new recently: I've started watching the news. I know. It used to be that the closest I got to the news was the small amount of space in my college newspaper that wasn't devoted to engagement ring ads (I didn't mind that much, since I was just there for the crossword). But something strange happened, in the form of me coming across the video podcast of NBC's Nightly News. I thought I would give it a whirl, if only to stop people from shoving their readership of The New York Times down my throat (you know who you are!). I was surprised to find that I enjoyed it; the host, Brian Williams, is pretty cool, and it lets me know what's going on (they're changing the design of the penny, don't you know!). The nice thing is that I can get it over the internet, since I haven't had any television in my home since 2004. In fact, if it wasn't for the Nightly News podcast, I probably wouldn't have heard about recent events in politics, especially the newest catch-phrases in politics.
Okay, so I'm a word-nerd. I'll wear the banner proudly, because I feel that I've earned it. It lets me take a giddy pleasure in things that other people see as tragic, like the recent events in the New York Stock Exchange.
Now, I'll admit that things are pretty bad over there in New York right now. The U.S. government has been forced to bail out certain failing companies in order to avert a second Great Depression, causing the national debt to rise to . Things are getting pretty crazy, and I don't want to pretend that the situation isn't dire, and I certainly don't want to criticize the decisions of those in charge, because frankly, at least they're not Hoover. But I will bring to attention a linguistic oddity, and that is all of this talk about "Main Street."
Now, it's quite possible that this has been around for a while, but this is the first time I've paid attention to use of "Main Street" as a metaphor for the average, everyday American. I first heard it in the recent addresses of President Bush, where he said that he was more concerned about how the recent crisis would affect Main Street than the effect on Wall Street. And since he said it, I noticed the same Main Street/Wall Street comparison being made by both presidential candidates as well as news reporters. It seems to me that everyone is jumping right on this Main Street band wagon, and I can see why: it sounds really good. One or even two rhetorical devices that I once learned but can't presently recall are being used in the phrase, and I'm sure that those who speak the words feel that it effectively explains that what happens on Wall Street affects people who aren't stock brokers, investors, or rich. And it does. But here's the thing: I think that Main Street is a bad metaphor for the American people or American small businesses.
In order to explain what I mean, please allow me to take you back over fifteen years to my first encounter with a place called Main Street--Disneyland. I spent my earliest years in suburbia, so my family trips to The Happiest Place on Earth were when I was first exposed to the name, and I have since then always associated Main Street to Disneyland in my brain. In fact, it's so strong of a connection that I almost substitute one name for the other in my mind. So this is what my brain's been hearing lately:*
"You know, you hear them talking about Wall Street and [Disneyland] -- well, this is Wall Street plus [Disneyland], and I'm worried about [Disneyland]." (President Bush, as quoted in The Washington Post)
"[Senator] Barack Obama urged the Bush administration and Congress to follow basic economic principles to return prosperity to not just Wall Street, but also [Disneyland]." (AP)
"This is Wall Street in big trouble and sucking in [Disneyland], now, and dumping all the bills on [Disneyland]." (Senator Ron Paul on CNN's Late Edition)
So, as you can see it's just not working. Of course, I won't make the mistake of assuming that I'm just like everybody else (because, as we know, Oprah is the one who's like everybody else), but my guess is that a lot of people also grew up in the suburbs, where there are no Main Streets. If not, they may have grown up in big city, where Main Street is filled with anything but Mom and Pop stores. In fact, those kind of Main Streets only exist in small towns where the population is less than 25,000, and that's not that big of a number.
Now, I know that I'm not the Usage Police, and that I can't tell people what to say. I'm just humbly suggesting that perhaps the imagery that those who use the Main Street/Wall Street metaphor might not be what they think it is. It might just be imagery of a cartoon mouse with ridiculously big ears.
Regards, best wishes, and wordplay,
P.S. Sorry about the missed post on Friday. Sufficed to say, I'm no longer the boss of my internet use. I'll make it up somehow though, no worries.
* And yes, I do edit sentences with square brackets in my brain as I process them. I'm just that awesome.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Here is the second half of my list of A-making tricks. (Here's the first half, if you missed it.) I figure that I might as well write it all down before it all seeps out of my head.
6. Turn in everything, even if it's late, and do it right the first time.
This is another one of those basics that I talked about in my previous post. If you're not turning in all of your assignments, chances are that you're not getting your A. In fact, you might not pass the class. A successful student consults his or her syllabus often enough to know when things are due and what exactly the professor wants for each assignment. When you aren't sure what the professor wants, ask him or her. (Believe it or not, professors are generally not out to get you.) And when you forget, as humans tend to do from time to time, don't let yourself feel too anxious about it, just finish it as soon as you can. Most professors will let you get partial credit (which is better than nothing), and on rare occasions, they even give you full credit. You never know unless you try.
7. Act the part
Let's face it: part of getting an A is making your professor believe that you are an A student. If the professor believes that you are used to being on the top, he or she will generally assume that you have what it takes to get there. This assumption can only work in your favor. Part of this is being on top of things and turning things in. Part of it is participating in class (that's right--raise that hand!). Part of it is presenting yourself as a hard worker, as in not wearing t-shirts that say things like "Slacker" on them. You don't have to wear a tie, just don't brand yourself as an idiot. It's easier to look like an A student than you might think.
8. Befriend your professor
In my experience, I've found that there are lots of professors out there who are professors because they just enjoy teaching. In fact, I dare say that lots of them are willing to be buddy-buddy with you on some level if you make the effort. Having this kind of relationship with your professors has more benefits than you can imagine, an most of these benefits lead to getting that A. When I was at college, I knew that if my professors and I communicated regularly, it was easier to get out of scrapes such as missing a test or spending a week in the Caribbean. Professors are also pretty cool people, and will help you with your academic endeavors outside of the classroom. Never underestimate the value of a repor with your professor.
9. Visit your professor's office
If you really want that A, talking to the professor during class isn't always enough. Most of the time, it will be just enough to put you over the top. We English majors were strongly encouraged to visit our professors often, in fact, lots of our teachers required us to meet them in their offices on several occasions. And the more I understood how college works, the more I went to my professors to run my paper topic by them or ask them to edit my papers when I finished them.After all, who knows better how to get an A than the person who's giving the grades? At the same time, physically standing in the space that a professor works in will tell you more about that professor than anything else will, and that kind of knowledge is power.
10. Know your limits
Sometimes too much is too much. Sometimes it is more important to go to sleep than to stay up all night studying. Sometimes it's better for your brain if you take a break with your friends than if you work on a project for hours upon hours solid. And sometimes, your professor is asking too much of you. Remember that you don't have to get 100% in order to get that A--there's some room for you to wiggle in. It's perfectly okay to put a class on the back burner for a week or two while another takes precedence, in fact, it's healthy in some cases. Above all, never forget that college is supposed to be a pleasant experience.
Now, Gentle Reader, go out into the world armed with the knowledge I have lent you! Or at least, I guess you could just pass this on to someone who could use it.
Regards, best wishes, and that tasty little 4.0,
Friday, September 12, 2008
There are those who have said that my posts are too long; especially my Fiction Friday pieces. So, in order to drastically reduce the average length of my blog entries,* I will instead write you some six-word novels, a genre developed by Ernest Hemingway. Feel free to add your own (or title mine) in the comments.
Novel #1: I won. He lost. And died.
Novel #2 (or: Gone with the Wind): Two selfish people--one stupid movie.
Novel #3: He drank; she screamed. He stopped.
Novel #4: One man, one sacrifice. Mankind redeemed.
Novel #5: She's going to Paris; I'm unemployed.
Regards, best wishes, and brevity,
* And yes, I'm being sarcastic.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
As a college graduate, I feel that it is my duty to pass on the grade-earning scores that I have acquired over the years. It turned out to be a pretty long list, so I've cut it into two easy-to-digest installments. While I can't exactly say that all of these items are listed in the order of importance, I would say that these first five are the absolute basics, meaning that if you don't do these, you're probably not doing well at all.
1. Know Yourself and Plan Accordingly
Are you a morning person? Take early classes so you can get the most out of your day. Are you easily distracted when you study at a computer? Finish your pen-and-paper/book studying first. Everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses, and only time and experience will tell what they are. Capitalize on your strengths and find a way to work through your weaknesses. Making excuses for yourself doesn’t help anybody, and it sure won’t get you that A.
2. Befriend your Syllabus
Your syllabus can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. It contains all of the basic information that your professor expects you to know. In most cases, it also has your due dates and instructions for homework. Professors put a lot of care and thought into their syllabi, and they sometimes they get frustrated when you ask questions that they have pre-answered and handed you on a piece of paper. Then, if you miss a deadline or do something wrong, they have every right to hold it against you. You should read your syllabus all the way through on the first day of class, asking questions about anything you don’t understand. Then, pull out the syllabus daily during the last five minutes of class and review it quickly while the professor is droning on about useless nonsense. Trust me on this one; the more you re-read your syllabus, the better you will do in class, guaranteed.
3. Go to Class and Make it Count
You’d be surprised at how many people never learn this concept, but you really miss out on a lot of information when you don’t go. And it’s not just the lecture itself that you’re missing. As an English major, I knew that missing one class could mean that I would never know about due date changes, or I wouldn’t get additional instructions on papers or projects. Of course, things come up, and sometimes it’s better to spend an extra hour finishing a paper than to sit in class. So I allowed myself to miss only one class per test, which worked out fairly well. That way, I gave myself a little flexibility without letting myself get lazy, which is key. Also, don't forget that being there physically is meaningless if you're not there mentally. Trust me on this: if you let the material really sink in the first time you hear it, you can save hours of time studying later.
4. Take Copious Notes
I used to get compliments on my note-taking skills all of the time. “Wow!” they would say, “It’s like you’ve got the entire lecture written down!” People just couldn’t believe that I could get that much detail on paper. I did it that way because of the Humanities 101 class I had my first semester, when the teacher mentioned off-handedly that the word “Catholic” means “universal.” We didn’t think to write it down, but did it turn up on the test? Heck yes! Here’s the thing: if you take notes in class, you have a physical copy of the lecture that you can read over and over again until all of the information gets into your brain and stays there. Plus, it means that you’re paying attention and really soaking it in the first time. Don’t short-change yourself by only copying the board; everything that comes out of the professor’s mouth is fair game for tests. I know some people who take a tape recorder to class and listen to each lecture multiple times. It didn’t work for me, but you might want to try it.
5. Befriend a Classmate
I find it amazing how two people can sit in the same lecture and get two entirely different things out of it, but it happens all of the time. Even if you attend every class and write down every word, someone else is getting something that you’re not. If you make friends with that person, he or she will more than likely share that something with you, and you will be even more prepared than you were before. Besides, this friend can also give you the notes from the day you missed, or help you interpret the professor’s handwriting. You can never underestimate the power of teamwork in getting an A out of a professor.
And there you have it: the basics. Join me next week, Gentle Reader, when I detail some of the extra methods you can use to change an okay grade into a great grade.
Regards, best wishes, and academic achievement,
Friday, September 5, 2008
Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I've been moving to Oregon, and was unexpectedly without internet access for the past two weeks. Not to worry, however, as I will return next Tuesday as usual, with a post entitled: "Ten Ways to Get 'A's in College.*" It's a two-parter, so get excited!
Regards, best wishes, and see you Tuesday,
*As in the grade, not to be confused with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It happens.
P.S. I was going to wait until Tuesday to relate my internet difficulties, but I couldn't bear the thought of having those silly haiku on the top of my blog any longer. I hope you know, Gentle Reader, that I meant for them to be that un-poetic. I really can write good poetry when I want to, I promise.
Friday, August 22, 2008
In honor of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, I have constructed several haiku poems that kind of run together to form one big poem. It's not exactly Emerson, but I think that I caught the spirit of this year's games.
Yes, I know that haiku is Japanese.
If my team has more medals
But you have more golds
Than which team is the winner?
Well, since I can't change the past
I'll say that we win;
The one with the most is best.
Of course, if it were reversed,
If more golds were ours
I would say that gold wins.
We have to win, even though
You cheat with your girls
Who are less-than-sixteen.
Though we are in your home, we
Hate your government
And must prove ourselves better.
We also hate that you cheat,
Though we did before,
And may cheat in the future.
Because, even though athletes
Stumble, lie, and steal
At least that scum lies alone.
While we feel this in our hearts
We will flash our teeth
Pretend Olympic ideals
But no matter what happens
We will say we win
Because we want to be best.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I love our language. I majored in it, after all. We have a stunning vocabulary and we have written some of the best prose and poetry in history. But as lovely as it is, it does have some flaws. Yes, I think that "flaws" is the word. There are some things that we don't just have words for, and I'm not just talking about a what we should call some new Chinese confection or how we should translate some phenomenon that only occurs in France. In some instances, we stumble trying to describe common, everyday situations, and as an English speaker I am often greatly frustrated when I am unable to fully express myself. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely three examples of gaps that I would like to see filled, such as:
- A plural "you."
In Early Modern English (i.e. the language of Shakespeare and The Holy Bible), there was a word for this, and it was "ye." You know, as in, "Hear ye, hear ye!" It fell out of usage, but I say that we should bring it back! I'm somewhat serious. "Ye" is majestic and bold, bringing to our remembrance the best words spoken by English speakers in days of yore. "Y'all" is the closest thing we have today, and though it is loved by many, I believe that you will agree that it doesn't carry the same oomph as "ye," I guess though, that while it's not my favorite, I'm willing to settle. After all, I'd do anything to stop those awkward, "I love you! No, I meant all of you as a group, not necessarily you personally. I mean, it's not like I hate you, but saying that you love a group of people means something different that saying that you love someone individually, and I don't even know you that well. . . I mean, I guess I could have said, 'I love you guys,' or something, but that always sounds so informal . . ." moments. Don't those bother you on a daily basis as well?
- Feminine and masculine forms of "cousin."
We have word pairs like aunt/uncle, mom/dad, brother/sister, grandma/grandpa, and etc., but "cousin" stands alone. Does that seem horribly unnatural to anyone else? Maybe I'm alone in this, but when somebody is talking to me about a family member that I haven't met, I like to visualize the person in my mind. How can I do that if I don't know which gender your cousin is? Besides, it leads to conversations like this:
Person 1: I wish to share some information with you about my cousin, whom you don't know personally.
Person 2: Oh, I'm not sure which gender your cousin is, and since it is awkward for me to ask at this very moment, I will hazard a guess.
Person 1: You used a feminine pronoun for my masculine cousin, and now I have to correct you without appearing confrontational so you don't assume that I am offended, even though I kind of am.
Person 2: I wish that you would stop talking to me about your family if you're going to be a jerk about it, but I refuse to say so to your face.
Person 1: This is awkward.
Losing friends because you confused the gender of their relations should be a thing of the past! The only way I've seen that people get around this is by using the terms "girl cousin" or "boy cousin," and both of those make you sound like you're still in kindergarten. Does anyone have an idea for an alternative that they would like to share?
- A gender-neutral pronoun.
In the days of political correctness, this is becoming increasingly problematic. As pointed out by Lemony Snicket, the old adage "He who hesitates is lost," is now horribly sexist. In fact, in The Grim Grotto, Lemony Snicket's characters spend the whole book trying to figure this one out, eventually coming up with, "He or she who hesitates is lost." Doesn't that make the statement seem so . . . hesitant? And let me tell you, when this is applied to that large scale, such as an entire paper which necessarily must have dozens of "he or shes" and "his or hers," things get pretty annoying. BYU's 100 Hour board has come up with a solution for this dilemma: "werf." One of the nice things about English is that when you can't find a suitable word, you can just make up your own. "Werf who hesitates is lost," still doesn't sound as good, though it is strikingly hilarious.
So, as you can see, Gentle Reader, our language has a few areas in which it could improve. Feel free to offer solutions to these dilemmas of dialogue or add your own items to this wish list in the form of a remark or comment.
Regards, best wishes, and ease in comminucating,
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I'm so sorry that this post was late. The truth is that with the craziness of my family coming into town and other stuff (like moving out of my apartment), I plum forgot. Worry not though, Gentle Reader, as I have something special prepared for you today. This is a small portion of the short film that I was going to make with my brothers and sisters before I left for college. It was supposed to be a parody of Pokemon, as I have three younger brothers, and during the time that the show was insanely popular I was constantly being bombarded with the phenomenon. Unfortunately, however, my hard drive had an aneurysm after I finished the script, and all of my hard work was lost. I managed to recreate some of it, part of which is below. I don't think it's that bad, considering that I wrote it when I was seventeen. In this segment, we join new Pokey-man trainer Smash Ketchup as he leaves home for the adventure of a lifetime and comes upon a rustling bush . . .
Smash: Now, lets see why that bush was a-rustlin’!
Nathan: (comes out from bush) Na-than. Nathan.
Smash: What is that? Some sort of lizard?
Smisty: (appearing out of nowhere) It’s a Pokey-man, doofus!
Smash: What’s a Pokey-man?
Smisty: Duh! Weren’t you just singing about them, like two minutes ago! A Pokey-man, as the name suggests, is a slow (or pokey) guy (or man). You catch them, and then train them to fight other Pokey-man.
Smash: Why would I want to do that?
Smisty: Well, when you train them and you get really good, you can battle against a gym trainer and win a badge.
Smisty: When you get eight badges, you get to compete in a huge tournament and you could become the best trainer ever!
Smash: (Pause) Why would I want to do that?
Smisty: (Sighs) The badges are shiny.
Smash: Shiny badges! Wow! I love shiny objects! Let’s go!
Smisty: First you need a Pokey-man. Gosh, are you really that dense?
Smash: Hey, why are you calling me fat? (looks at himself) I mean, I’m not an Olympian but I’m in pretty good shape if I say so myself.
Smisty: (smacks herself in the head) Just get that Pokey-man already!
Smash: Don’t you want it? Ladies first.
Smisty: No, I specialize in blue-shirted Pokey-man. That Pokey-man has a yellow shirt.
(both look at Nathan, who indeed has a yellow shirt and is staring at them blankly)
Smash: Okay then. Pokey-box, go! (Smash catches Nathan)
Smisty: Hey, if you don’t even know what a Pokey-man is, how did you manage to catch one? How do you even have a Pokey-box?
Smash: I got it over there. (Smash points to a stand with a sign that reads: Want to catch Pokey-man? Get your free boxes here! (Limit 500 per customer).
Smisty: (gapes in amazement and runs over to gather as many Pokey-boxes as she can.) Wow, I wonder why I didn’t see that!
Oswaldi: (comes out from behind the bush) Os-wald-i!
Smash: Now there’s a lizard, if I ever saw one!
Smisty: (Completely astonished) Oh my lucky stars and stripes! It’s Oswaldi, the rarest Pokey-man that ever existed! I thought they were extinct, since none have been seen by humans for a hundred years!
Smash: Watch out, Oswal-whatever. Ima gooona catchya!
Smisty: You? Catch the famous rare Oswaldi? Are you joking? It’s impossible to . . . (Smash catches Oswaldi) catch.
Smash: Yaaahooo! I dun caught me a good un!
Smisty: What? How? You?
Smash: Come on, little missy! Let’s ride into the sunset! (Walks off camera)
Smisty: (Still stunned) What? There was . . . Hey! Wait for me! (runs after him)
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
As most of you already know, I work at the cafeteria of the Missionary Training Center as a dishroom supervisor. Once every three weeks, I am required to work on Sunday. Let me give you a taste of what that’s like.
Since I work for the Church, there is a sacrament service provided for employees to make up for the one we have to miss. I always forget what time it's at, and end up rushing to get there on time. This week I had to wake up my visiting teacher and beg her for a ride. Thankfully, she was more than happy to oblige. She's just one of those people who are awesome like that. I made it on time, thanks to her. The missionaries are assigned to take care of the meeting for us, and after the sacrament was passed, an Elder came to the pulpit and thanked all of us for sacrificing our Sunday to feed him. It was a really nice thing for him to do, I thought. I saw the same missionary a few hours later in the kitchen trying to help us push some heavy carts of dishes around, so I know that he really meant it. Most missionaries tend to be anti-jerks like that.
On other shifts where I supervise, I have the chance to get to know all of the people I work with, including their strengths and weaknesses. It is my job to make sure that each knows how to most effectively accomplish the eight or so tasks that need to be done throughout the shift, and I work very hard to make sure that I have a cohesive, competent crew by the end of the semester. On Sundays, however, my crew consists of a grab bag of people from all corners of the cafeteria, and since the turnover rate in food service is so high, this list of people is constantly changing. Another challenge I face is the fact that some of my co-workers interpret the fourth commandment to mean that they are justified in ditching work** on Sunday, so I really have no idea if four or fourteen people will show up. I've supervised on Sundays with both outcomes, and let me tell you that it's not fun to stand there with your clip board and wait for people to disappoint you. This week, however, everybody on my crew who hadn't recently quit came and I was feeling pretty lucky.
My duties as a dishroom supervisor are as follows: get there fifteen minutes early, turn on the giant monster of a dishwasher and ensure that it is working properly, turn on the monstrous beast that turns wasted food into compost and ensure that it is working properly, assign people jobs and ensure that they do their jobs properly, and do paperwork. On good days it's fairly simple. On bad days the dishwasher gets something stuck in it every five minutes, and as I stick my arm into its bowels to dislodge the obstruction, we drown in incoming dishes. There is really no way to tell which way a shift will turn out, even if you have a decent amount of people. I ended up with twelve, which was more than I had dared to hope for but less than ideal. The lunch shift went pretty well, and I spent the time hopping from person to person and helping each for about five minutes at a time. It was during this period that I tried to do something that I haven't attempted in almost three months--load glasses onto the machine. We put the glasses into a large, square container-things that are about three inches high, a foot and a half long and wide, and hold thirty-six glasses a piece. It gets pretty heavy, and I've been limited as to how much I can lift and how high I can lift it since my surgery. Despite all odds, I was able to prevail, which was quite a relief to the two people who do nothing else but put dirty glasses into those container-things, because they were running behind. We have two thousand missionaries in the MTC right now, and I swear that they use at least three to five glasses each, so you can guess that we have a lot of glasses to take care of. We finished later than I wanted to, but everything went according to plan, and I excused them to get the free meal we get on Sunday as a sort of apology.
I don't know why I continue to do this, but each Sunday I get so excited about the free food that I eat enough to make myself sick. And though I tried this week to break the habit, it was chicken cordon bleu day, and I just couldn't help myself. After a leisurely and gluttonous meal, I still had an hour until the second shift started, and I felt awful. Then I was assigned to clean up some rotting ketchup, and I felt worse. Once you become a dishroom supervisor, people tend to throw sickening jobs at you on a regular basis. In fact, I honestly think that whenever something really disgusting needs to be done, the management thinks, "Hmmm, is there a dishroom supervisor that I can get to take care of this?" I essentially had to take a half-gallon bag of ketchup out of the dispenser and clean up the mess. The bag had gotten a lot of air into it and become bloated to the point where it was stuck, so I had to stab it with a fork to get all of the nauseous gasses out of there. The bag also had a hole in the bottom, so I had to scoop all of the escaped ketchup by hand, wipe everything down, and put a new bag of not-rotting ketchup in. It took a half hour, most of which was spent doing the afore-mentioned scooping of rotting ketchup by hand. I was covered with it by the end, just in time for me to start supervising again. It was quite lovely. As I went back into the dishroom to set up again, I saw a large bucket of grease that had a layer of hardened lard on the top, meaning that it was my responsibility to scoop out that lard like I had the ketchup. I saved that for later.
The second meal went smoothly to start out, though people continued to get backed up throughout the shift. I did my best to help them, and I thought it was going fairly well. Then I left the dishroom for five minutes to do some paperwork and came back to find mountains of dirty trays and towers of dirty glasses stacked just about everywhere. When we get really, really, desperate, we just stack things up, and we were just about as desperate as we can get. There were literally seventy-six glasses-things stacked, which translates into exactly 2,736 unwashed glasses. At this same moment, my friends who work in other areas of the cafeteria came into the dishroom to find out where all of the glasses had gone. Apparently, we only have about 3,000 or so glasses in the entire cafeteria, most of which were stacked and dripping in the dishroom, and all of which were my responsibility. At this same moment, the dishwasher had several waterfalls gushing out of it, which meant that we had to stop everything and clean out the food that was stuck inside while the glasses continued to not be washed. That took too long as it was, but when we were finished, the dishwasher would not turn on again. Whose fault was it? Mine. But you would be impressed at how well I respond under pressure, such as the weight of 2,736 glasses, a mountain of trays, and a dishwasher that makes your home dishwasher look like a toothbrush. It got fixed eventually, thanks to the help of my crew, and we worked really hard to get all of the glasses and trays washed. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
The miracle of it all is that not only did we get done, but we that we finished only fifteen minutes later than usual. I thought that we were at least forty-five minutes behind before I looked at the clock. By that time I was so happy to leave that I gave my crew a quick lecture on how to avoid this situation and dismissed them all. My ketchup-covered jeans were soaked up to my thighs, and my shoes and socks had standing water inside them, and as a squished my way into the dressing room to grab my things, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride. Walking the two miles home after you've spent all day up to your elbows in muck is just depressing. I came home ten hours after I had left, grateful that I have a bachelor's degree and will hopefully only be at the MTC for a few more weeks.
So, Gentle Reader, you now have a general idea what I do on Sundays in the dishroom. Despite everything, I've learned a lot about humility, service, and not being a jerk. I've also learned that I can do really hard and disgusting things, and that there are a lot of really hard and disgusting things that need to be done in this world. So let it be known that I, Cecily the Conqueror, can prevail against overwhelming odds and not-so-nice people, and I do so with the help of anti-jerks like that one missionary and my co-workers.
By the way, it wasn't until I was falling asleep that night that I remembered that I had completely forgotten about that bucket of lard. Oh, well.
Regards, best wishes, and anti-jerks,
-Cecily "The Conqueror" Jane
*This is a big deal if you happen to be Mormon and therefore believe in obeying all of the Ten Commandments, the fourth being that the Sabbath is a day for God and not work or entertainment. Mormons believe that going to work or spending money on Sunday is to be avoided whenever possible, and I am no exception. However, it turns out that missionaries still need to eat on Sunday, and that those missionaries' dishes still need to be washed on Sunday, and thus I have joined the ranks of Mormons who can't avoid working on the Lord's day, such as nurses, firefighters, cops, and those in retail sales. Do other Mormons raise their eyebrows at me? Of course they do. Believe it or not, some Mormons are jerks. Do some missionaries, the people I am sacrificing my day of rest to serve, look down on me for my service? Yes, though they are fairly rare. A very small number of Mormon missionaries are also jerks. I have met all of them. Fortunately, however, I am actually employed by the LDS church, and our prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, is very aware of what we do at the MTC. He even ate here on a Sunday not too long ago. So while I may not be saving lives, I consider myself to have the stamp of approval of the man who is God's mouthpiece to the world, and that's good enough for me.
**By the way, I hope that you truly appreciate the irony of being dishonest at work in order to please God. Madre and Padre took special care to teach me that skipping work when you have agreed to be there is amoral whatever the circumstances, and the more I work, the more I realize how right they were. I also see very clearly how this dishonesty affects others.
Friday, August 8, 2008
This should make you laugh.
The following poem is proof that when a writer has a deadline, she will sometimes come up with some of the craziest things that any human being has ever thought up in all of existence, especially if that writer happens to be a big fan of Dr. Seuss. I recently dug up this poem that I wrote for a class a few years ago, and I promise that I was completely in my right mind at the moment, though I might have been suffering from a lack of sleep and the desperation that comes when something is due in less than an hour. Just to be clear, it's really not supposed to make sense.
And here I am, posting it publicly. I wonder what that says about the kind of person I am.
On a bright summer’s day
You can see all the way
To the mountain of Diggery-Ding
There the bears and the trees
And the birds and the bees
Sit around by the campfire and sing
If you listen real close
You can hear the bears toast
To the creature they featured that day
Then, if you pay attention,
You’ll notice them mention
The travels of Malicious May
Who’s this person, you ask?
Why she had the small task
Of filling her pail at the well
But when May arrived there
She then found contrived there
A small group of Diggery-Dells.
Now, the Dells are a species
That sold Mitsubishis
On a strip mall by Macey’s and Smith’s
But May, on Mount Digg’ry,
Got scared as a Giz’ry
And forgot what she’d heard of in myths.
Running off, May then faced who,
If dells go and chase you,
Appears with his sharp claws and bells
It was Chase the Garezbra
Who’s striped like a zebra
And protects those afraid of the Dells.
But May didn’t notice
That Jeff’s brother Otis
Was chasing the Dells far away
So, she only saw Chase
And punched him in the face
And has never returned to this day
So when you climb the mountain
In search of the fountain
Don’t scream when you run into Chase
‘Cause he’s already scared
Of the fight that he shared
With the one we call Malicious May