Thursday, July 27, 2006


Today I've been using Google's new online word processor, which is called Writely.

I'm having fun with it. So far, it's by invitation only.

I think I have unlimited invitations.

If anyone is interested in trying it out, just leave a comment (or let me know somehow), and I'm happy to share.

That's all.

Memory Lane

I started packing today. I mostly sorted papers. I found a lot of things that I had forgotten all about. Pictures from high school. An extra-special Publications Pass that I could use to get into anything (events or games), or out of anything (class). Scripts for conversations with the boy that I had a crush on all through high school (I'd get nervous!). Letters from my host-family to my mom, in amusing English (for example, a letter about a "put-luck" that we were going to). A note that I passed with one of my sisters during a sacrament meeting, all about my first kiss.

I found a bunch of fun things.

Some of the best things that I found were in the marginalia that I'd written during a couple of my classes.

I present, for your entertainment, four entertaining education-themed stories or lists of quotes. I'll present them in chronological order, I guess.

1. Science class, 6th grade.
I had a teacher who didn't like me. I was too much of a goody-goody, by her standards. One time we were doing group work, and we had to switch stations and solve a scientific mystery. My group was not working on stuff at all. They were gossiping about their friends, and discussing weekend plans, and that sort of thing. We were running out of time and didn't have our work done. I told them nicely (but a few times) that we should focus, so that we didn't lose points. The teacher got mad at me for asking them to get back to our assignment. Other times, the teacher would pick her nose, and chase students around the room, trying to wipe her booger on them. If she decided she didn't like someone in class, she would shout "Raise your hand if you think Johnny's a looooooserrrrr!" And she'd raise her hand and everyone was supposed to raise their hands. I'm sometimes sensitive, but she made me cry on more than one occasion. I would complain to my mom, who would complain to the office. My mom came on a field trip because she couldn't believe my wild stories that I would come home with, but the teacher behaved really differently when parents were around. The school assigned me to a 7th grade science class that she taught, and I think that was the beginning of me choosing my own schedules even when they were set for us. The next year, she was gone. I don't know what happened.

2. English class, sophomore year of high school.
My high school was a competitive one. For the statewide standardized-testing, we had weekly school-wide test-preparation classes. During sophomore year, everyone (and I do mean everyone) learned to write essays well. Really, I think it was the only thing I learned in high school. My teacher was also the drama teacher, and she was very dramatic. In everything. The way she spoke, her behavior...everything was dramatic. As I was sorting papers, I found an essay from her class with a comment that reads: "D+ (Would have been an A- except for that "could" in your final paragraph.)" I used the word "could" in the very last sentence of my essay, and so my grade dropped from an A to a D! (It was actually kind of funny, too, because the essay was about my trip to Chicago. Yeah. A trip that I never actually went on. She would give us stupid prompts, but didn't mind if we made things up.)

On another occasion, the same teacher made me move my desk to the front of the class, and sit facing all of my peers for 2 or 3 weeks. I'd forgotten my rough draft at home when we were supposed to have it, so she told me I was not allowed completing the essay and instead would do grammar exercises as I faced the class.

At the end of the last day of school, about half of the people in my class started packing up their things early. They left probably 5 minutes before the bell rang, excusing us. She did not like it at all, and told those of us that stayed (for the last 2 minutes of class) that we should get out a piece of paper and write a haiku. It was our "final assignment" and it was worth 500 points; much, much more than the final exam had been worth. All of those people who had gotten up and left...well...too bad for them.

3. Civics class, senior year of high school.
I had an old, short, bald man who had attended Harvard and was brilliant. He was...Persian maybe? and had a big accent. He had a doctorate. He knew everything about the government. He really did. He believed in hard work. He was also a democrat, and had the sneaky habit of stating his opinions as facts. I called him on it one time, and he agreed with me. And after that, whenever he said something that sounded like opinion but was based on real evidence, he would finish it deliberately "Miss [Mylastname], that is a fact." During the year, Bush won the election (for his first term as President), and I brought celebratory cupcakes for my whole class. They were "confetti" style with red dots on the inside, and had red sugar on top, and BUSH! written on them. He let us eat them, and even ate one himself.
But anyway, I found quotes that I'd written down in my planner...

"The US Steel Co...The President told him to go to hell, in essence."

"If you mix up these scantrons you will pay a hell of a consequence."

(while reading grades) "You have a C." [some girl "C?"] "C. You know like sea like the ocean sea."

(talking about another teacher) "I called him a big haus[?]. He thought I called him a big ass. He wasn't very nice about that."

"Blonds have more fun. If I were a brunette, I would not agree. And we don't have any redheads in here. They have a lot of fun."

(someone asked a question and he looked turned to a different girl...) "Well, Blondie, you wanna tell her?"

He had a little card that was printed really nicely, not just hand-written, and it said "I don't know about that, but it sounds like BS to me." He would hold it up to respond to things we said, sometimes.

"You are a student and you don't give a damn. Then we get a society of citizens who don't give a damn. And a damn government. And then you b**** like hell."

He told us about an assignment "you may call it a project." and we mmmed and he said "Now that's tremendous enthusiasm for learning!"

4. English class, sophomore year of college.
I had a really funny lady, who was very direct. She would get mad if we didn't bring coffee to her class, or at least something to eat or drink, so that we didn't lose interest. She also taught us how to be good students by using "the thinking nod" and a look of sudden comprehension. She was very sarcastic with us, and was amused when we were sarcastic back.

"If you really don't know what the heck something means, then don't put it in the essay. Because then I read it and know that you don't know what you're talking about."

"Gosh, you're saying she's a fictional, imaginary person created by a dead Greek guy?"

"Soo, should you be a bas**** or be nice? [class replies, "Be a bas****!"] OK. That pretty much sums up that chapter."

"Wherefore: it's a fancy and pretentious form of 'therefore' that none of you are EVER allowed to use."

"By the way. Is following the rules in here [The Prince] a straight ticket to hell? Suuure! But it doesn't matter because politics and morality are completely unrelated."

To the class, about our final exam: "I showed it to my office mate and when he saw it, he said I should put mattresses in the parking lot so that when you fling yourself [over the third story railing] you'll have somewhere to land."

Good times.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I'm engaged! Kind of.

While I was on my mission, a lot of people that I know from church got married. I missed all of their weddings and receptions. And it was fine.

This evening my best friend from high school got married. She and her man had been engaged for exactly 1000 days today. She had a classic wedding. It was at a country club, but it had a gazebo, and the same clergy guy who married her parents. And everything was gorgeous. She was pretty. He looked nice. They had bridesmaids, flower-girls, and a live orchestra. After the wedding we all went inside for a huge meal. I brought my mom as my guest, and the little card told us that we were to sit at table 19. We cooperated. Our table also had two couples that my friend knew from college (including one weird guy who kept flirting with me and another girl), a girl that remembered me (that I didn't remember) from high school, and a guy, Trevor, that my friend had known for-ever, that she had actually thought she would end up marrying (but didn't.)

At first things were a little awkward. None of us were really friends, except for the girl who thought we were. Mom and I teased her because she didn't know which silverware to use when. Everyone talked about school, and what they were doing with their lives, etc. We all became good friends.

And after a couple hours, it hit me. I wanted a wedding. I wanted the pretty dress. And to be in love with someone. And to dance together. And have someone to go grocery shopping with, etc. I told my table so. It was a nice wedding, they agreed. A little bit later, when there was a pause in the conversation I looked at poor, shy Trevor and said:

"Hey, wanna get married?" I was going to ask him by name, except that I kept forgetting whether he was a Travis or a Trevor.

His eyes widened, he jerked up, and he said "WHAT?" or "HUH?" or something like that. He about fell out of his seat. The rest of the table stared at the drama that was unfolding.

I was kidding. And he knew I was, too, because I don't think we ever even talked in high school. We knew of each other, you know, but I don't think we ever had a single class together or anything. We never hung out together. I knew that my friend liked him, and he knew that I was friends with her. But that was really it.

My table got very excited about my proposal, though. The girl who knew me got really into the whole thing and asked him what his answer was or something. He looked at her, still shocked. It was really funny. I grinned. I told him I was kidding, he didn't have to marry me. He told her that we didn't have to call it off so fast--he was still deciding.

The rest of the night there were jokes about my engagement to Trevor. When there was the boquet toss, they announced that engaged people should still participate because they weren't married yet. My table made sure I'd heard that part.

And then, Mom drove him home. She had offered since we live relatively close and gas prices are high. There was no point in someone driving all the way back out to the country club when we would be going the same way home anyway. We were talking about something during the drive and he commented about how I was still partially engaged to him. I told him that yeah, he should keep me posted on our wedding plans. He said he would. I said "yeah, and if we keep talking as much as we have since we graduated..." and everyone laughed. I hadn't talked to him at all since we graduated. Not once in the past five years.

It was all pretty funny, though. When I'm around quiet people, I do a pretty good job of pretending to be an extrovert.

In other news, I met with a Mexican chef to learn how to make tamales. I took long and detailed notes as he explained how to make them. We bought all the stuff at a Mexican grocery store (where all of the loudspeaker announcements were in Spanish!), and I'm going to make them this Monday. He'll come over and help get me started. I love tamales.

I have a ton of other stories to blog about from this week, but I'll save them for another post. I have another talk to write for a baptism that I'm speaking at tomorrow.

The end.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Two Surprises

Over the past few days, I've knitted two scarves. Now, I'm working on a hat.

Scarves are all the rage in Italy; they come in every color you can imagine and people wear them all year long. Wool scarves are for winter, and normal ones are for the rest of the year.

Milan is known as the fashion capital of the world, so one might think that scarves are about to become a new trend throughout the world. However, in thinking so, one would be wrong. Scarves may or may not become fashionable in the future, but for Italians they serve an important function: they protect people from colpo d'aria, or in English a "hit of air."

Like many Americans, when I first heard about colpo d'aria I was dumbfounded. Could such a civilized people really have an established common fear of breezes? (They feel the same way about us when it comes to capital punishment: Could a first-world country really still be doing that?) And the answer is yes. Despite sweltering summer heat, air conditioning is rare in Italy. People do not use ice cubes. If you open the windows of a hot bus, there are some old ladies who will throw fits about it, even during the summer.

During an intolerable summer night, I insisted upon having a fan to cool me off so that I would be able to sleep. My companion was a girl from southern Italy, and she made me position the fan so that it was only facing my bed (instead of the whole room). In the morning she let me know that it absolutely needed to be readjusted--the air bounced off of the wall behind my bed, onto another wall, and then towards her bed. It wasn't very strong, but she could feel it. And that was enough.

When people would express concern for me (I usually don't like having things around my neck), I politely explained to them that as an American, I was born immune to colpo d'aria. "But, really?" they would ask. "Mhmm," I would assure them that nobody in America is ever affected by it. Ever.

I'm not so sure about that anymore. The same companion who didn't like our fan explained to me how colpo d'aria really works. She claimed it was scientifically proven, even. You see, it isn't so much about being hit by air, per se. It's more about sudden change of your body's temperature. And I've heard of that before, even in the States. So while some old ladies take the whole thing much too far (and my companion agreed that they do), the idea really is not so far-fetched.

In fact, I think I've gotten a colpo d'aria lately. I am sick! And I haven't been around sick people, that I know of. And it's summer, for goodness sake. But I have noticed big changes in the temperature lately. And I have been in and out of air conditioning, and in and out of the pool (mmmm... In-N-Out...), and slept with a fan blowing directly on me most nights (see my post about sunburns).

(I bet some people would really think it was funny that I brought an Italian superstition home with me.)

But hit of air or no, I woke up sick as a dog this morning. I faithfully pressed my snooze button every five minutes for an entire hour. I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to church. Or even leave my bed, for that matter.

I did, though. I made it to Sacrament Meeting in the middle of the announcements. I picked up a program and went to sit on a pew in the middle of the room. I sat down and opened my program only to discover that I was printed in the program as the first speaker. Oh boy. I had no idea that I was supposed to be speaking. They had asked me a few months ago to speak 'sometime in July' but had never told me the date or topic.

I got up and walked to the exit, and showed the program to my mother because she'd joked about me speaking today. We giggled for a few seconds and then I walked up and sat on the stand with the other girl who was speaking today. She told me that she hoped I had a lot to say because she had timed herself speaking slowly and her talk was less than ten minutes long. I told her that I had no idea that I was supposed to be speaking, and she looked at me with wide eyes.

My mom signed to me from the pews: "Should I call your sister and have her e-mail Duchess' talk to me, and go home and print it for you?" I grinned, and shook my head no. (You can read about why it was funny here, in Lavish's blog.)

So I said a little prayer for help, and outlined a talk while they finished the announcements and we sang the opening hymn. And then after the Sacrament I was supposed to speak. I got up and gave an amazing talk. It lasted just over fourteen minutes. Another guy from our ward is leaving on a mission and it was his farewell last Sunday with our ward, so I spoke about missionary work. And about following the instructions that Christ gives us in the New Testament. I started by talking about some things I'd heard on a BYUTV talk that I watched yesterday, and everything just flowed beautifully afterwards.

Of the 250ish people that were there listening to my talk, over a dozen stopped me in the hallways to compliment me, or thank me for speaking. It was all just one more example of how when we pray God listens and really does help us; before I prayed I really had no idea what I was going to talk about.

During the second hour of church, I always teach a lesson on the Old Testament to my Primary class (of 9-10 year old kids). Today there were six kids instead of four. We talked about Naomi and Ruth, and about following Christ's example and being examples for other people. My kids are so much fun. I love 'em. (I'm going to be such a good mom someday.)

Anyway, that was my day.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

On Being Home and Returning Home

After talking with Lavish, I decided not to move to Utah yet. She will be coming to visit at the end of July and offered to take me back to Utah with her.

This is a better idea for a few reasons: I'll be in Provo instead of Salt Lake City, which will be more pleasant for me. I will maybe, possibly be able to work with her instead of getting whatever random job that people will hire me for, and that would be nice. Also, I'll still be in California in a couple weekends or whatever day it is that my best friend from high school is getting married. And considering that she's been engaged for like two years and will be disappointed if I don't attend, I want to be there.

So, while I was really hoping to meet Petra before she left and be friends with Tolkien Boy for longer before he moves; alas, I'm still in California.

Also in California are my father and my little brothers who returned from their three week trip to Minnesota. I heard my favorite story about their trip yesterday.

"What happened to your foot?" I asked Seven when I noticed some pinkish spots.

Part was from his sandal rubbing his foot wrong, and the other spot was from....a leech!

"WHAT?" I exclaimed.

"A leech. From camping." He had actually returned from swimming and then later someone noticed them.

"Huh." He didn't think anything of it.

"There were twenty," he added. "Only one big one, though."

"So you had twenty leeches on your foot?"

"Yeah, at least."

"Did they hurt?"


"What did they feel like?"

"Nothing." (And tonight he explained that when leeches first bite things, they numb the area so that what they're biting doesn't realize it's being bitten.)

"How big were they?"

"Um, the small ones were about the size... (he showed me something about an inch long), and the big one was about the size of (he showed me something about four inches long.)"

"How did you get them off?"

"Uh. Brian pulled them off. And one he had to kill and then pull it off." Apparently the little ones came off easily, but the big one was really attached. There was blood everywhere when they pulled it off.

A funny thing is, my brothers think nothing of it. They're like "oh, yeah, that. BUT a different time there was this HUGE STORM!!" and I"m like "uh huh, a storm. BUT tell me about the LEECHES!"

Who knew this kind of stuff actually happened?! I keep making Lake Lachrymose jokes that nobody appreciates. I enjoy them.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I'm probably moving this week. This Sunday, actually.

My aunt and uncle have pretty much talked me into moving up to Utah and staying with them. I had never even considered the idea. I think it should be good, though.

They're really excited that I've agreed to it. My little cousin keeps coming up with things for us to do together when I get there. My aunt and uncle are listing all of their city's most eligible bachelors for me.

So basically, I have until Sunday morning to pack everything up and organize things here. (This is all happening very fast.)

Really, though, it's not that crazy, I guess. The last five times I moved, I had only two days to pack my life into suitcases and prepare myself for change. Missionaries do that sort of thing for transfers. (I've been joking with my mom and telling her that I really don't even have to start packing until Friday.)

This should be interesting.

As an aside, the coolest thing happened on Saturday. We were at Home Depot to buy chlorine for the pool, and we found a baby bird that was learning to fly. It was hopping around on the floor inside (in the covered gardening section). It totally acted like a domestic bird, though. It let us hold it without trying to get away. I felt like Snow White! We moved it to an area where it was less likely to get trampled by shoppers.

By the way, "shoppers" really sounds too feminine for a store like Home Depot. Maybe their shoppers should be called "builders" or something. Calling them shoppers gives me a mental image of two buff construction guys with hard hats, walking through Home Depot and having a conversation: "Like, omigosh, that 2x4 would be way cute on that project of yours!" "Oh, I know! The other day I saw Billy with one, painted lavender, and I said to myself: I can't live without one just like his!" "You should totally get it. Just splurge."

Anyway, my sister used her phone to take a picture while I was holding the bird. So I'm actually in this picture. Kind of.