Friday, March 21, 2008

Where in the World is Emily Sandiego?

Here's something fun and easy that will make you feel as smart as Chloe O'Brien:

I made my phone trackable. Any time you want, you can see where I am. For free!

Today I'll be going up to Salt Lake City. Then tonight I'm flying out to the Newark, and I'll be spending the next 9 days in New York City, Washington DC, and a little bit of VA.

If you want to watch me move around, go to and register. It's free, and they don't send you junk. Click on "Buddies/Groups" and then "Add Buddy" and my username is "emi255".

[NOTE: As I was typing this I realized I have a referral code. It is 5B5B5C5A5D5B . If you want to enter it, that's great. I get referral points. If you don't want to, that's okay too, because that wasn't the reason I was telling you all about this.]

It will ask me if I approve of you adding me, and I'll approve anyone who adds me. And then, whenever you want, you can click "View" to see where I am. It uses cellphone towers to track where I am through my cellphone. I've been watching it track me on my phone over the past few days and it seems like it's usually accurate within 5 blocks or so. I think that's close enough for it to be fun to watch, but far enough for me to feel entirely unconcerned about being trackable.

My phone has another feature that is really cool. If you want to talk to me, it will find where I am, wherever I happen to be, and it will let you talk with me instantly! Amazing. And you don't even have to register at all for that. Phones these days!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Taxes (reprise), Commercialism, and My Life (in general)

I was going to say that this has been a good week, but really it's only been a halfway decent week. That's fine. Not every week has to be the best week. It wasn't a bad week, anyway.

On Monday I went to file my taxes at BYU. The accounting department at BYU has a service that they offer during tax season, and they'll file your taxes for free. One of my friends told me about it last year, and it worked out well for me last year, so I went again this year. EXCEPT, last year they didn't accept appointments, and this year they started accepting appointments. Which I didn't realize. So everything fills up way faster because they have fewer "stand by" openings. And even though I went as soon as I could, they were done accepting people. Too bad.

I went back on Tuesday, and put my paper on the stack of papers before they were even open. Even though I left my house right after work, and got there pretty early, my little paper (which I had pre-filled-out) was nowhere near the top. It said that the estimated wait was about 3 hours, so I grabbed a sandwich from Subway. I sloooowwwlllyy ate my lunch, and then I went back to the accounting lab on the first floor of the library to wait and wait and wait.

Every really not so often, a girl would come out of the lab, look at the list of appointments, go to the bottom of the stack of standby papers, and call the next person. And then! She kept coming out of the lab(!) and ended up calling a few people instead of just one!

And the last time she came out, she looked at the appointments, and rifled through the stack of standbys, and she just stopped and stood there looking kind of confused.

A girl near me started laughing. (We were about 25 feet away, I'd guess.) The girl near me had gotten up and walked past the stack of papers (and the people waiting over there) about 20 minutes ago. "He put a paper in there to ask her on a date!" she told the people at her table. The girl calling people turned around and started talking to the guy waiting there. I couldn't hear what they were saying. After about four minutes or so, she went back to the stack of standbys again. "Samuel?" she called, grinning. She looked around at all of us who were waiting. "Sorry about the delay." AWESOME. It made me happy. It also made me wonder a lot: did she know him already? She was pretty. It could have been some random guy. Did she actually accept and go out with him? Who knows.

And then on Thursday something else happened that was wonderful. I passed by a Goodbye! party for Thirdmango. While I was there, Optimistic told me about a blog that I needed to be reading but had never heard of. And when he told me about it, everyone else was like "Emily doesn't read it? OHH." And everyone started telling me the basic idea behind it. It's called The Leila Texts, and it turns out, it actually is something that I love. Basically, it's this girl who-- by some random Verizon technology twist-- receives tons of texts meant for other people with her name. If you have never read it, you should. It's really excellent. She copies all of the texts she receives onto her blog and then writes really funny comments along with them. And if it had happened to, like, a grandma, it probably would have been less funny, but it's this 23 year old girl. Super.

AND, at the same party, I saw Mr. Keith. He was the first person I knew to get an iphone. And he let me play with it at Happy Pirates when it was still really new. Anyway, he had seen my Gchat status (16GB of AWESOME!) and had guessed that I had one too, and we talked iphones for a little while. Fun! He really strongly recommended me getting an Invisible Shield on my phone.

Now here's the thing about Invisible Shields: I really didn't know much about them before my chat with Mr. Keith. I knew that my mall has one of those like, carts in the middle of the walkway for Invisible Shields, but frankly, I always sort of thought they were lame. I kind of compared Invisible Shields with Ab Rollers and Magnet Bracelets and other Infomercial treasures.

Mr. Keith told me all about them though. They make phones grippy, instead of super slippery. I've worried about that since I got my phone. He let me look at his. Hm. Grippy is good. AND, they protect the phone. Mr. Keith said he didn't want any scratches on his phone at all, so that was important to him. He could slide his iphone across the floor and with the Invisible Shield it wouldn't be scratched at all. You wouldn't even be able to tell. No way, I told him. He said he'd done it before. And his phone wasn't scratched. Hm. He said it was worth every penny, and that I should get one. So I (of course) immediately wanted one.

And I got one on Saturday. So far I really like it. Another benefit of the Invisible Shield: my phone fits better in my pocket, since it isn't a bulky case.

I can think of a few things that people have strongly recommended to me: Tilex (which is a bathroom cleaner, and WORKS), and The Magic Eraser (which is another cleaning product). I haven't bought any Magic Erasers yet, but I have had multiple people strongly recommend them to me. And I promise, I really don't go around talking about cleaning products with me. So for them to come into random conversation with someone my age, from multiple people, I expect them to be amazing. Also, pork salads from Cafe Rio. I used to get steak. Now I only get pork salads there. Someone strongly encouraged me to try that, and there has been no going back.

I asked one of my coworkers if she had ever bought something because someone else had really talked it up. She couldn't think anything at first, and then she said that she went to MAC because I recommended it. It's true. I do recommend MAC. Whenever people compliment my complexion, I always tell them it's actually just that I do a good job with my makeup. Which is also true. I hadn't realized that she went though.

So I have a question for all three of my readers: What have you bought because someone else made it sound like you should really get it?

I realize that people have had experiences like the one that LJ had with her Jambalaya, but surely you've bought something good because someone recommended it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Done with CERT

Last Friday we had our final CERT meeting. It was actually our mock-disaster, and it was excellent!

It was held on Friday evening because the in-charge-ish captain from the Fire Department wanted to be there and couldn't come at our normal Tuesday night class time.

He picked four group leaders, and they each stood in corners of the room and took turns picking people from our class to be on their teams. I am proud to report that I was the second person picked out of our entire class. It was like public school physical education classes, where people from the class are chosen one by one. I used to always be picked last for that stuff, because I don't have an athletic bone in my body. Or muscle either. So I felt kind of bad for the last people picked, because I would have been happy to have any of them on our team. And being picked last sucks.

And now, an aside: something funny about our class is that there have been some funny issues with people's names. One lady who almost always sat in front of me was named Diane. (She still is, actually.) We had a fire fighter who started calling her Dinae (rhymes with Janae), though. And he didn't just do it once or twice, either. He name-dropped like crazy, as though he was trying to make her feel good because he was using her name, except that he had it wrong. And she corrected him once, and he made some excuse, and winked to keep it light-hearted. But then he went back to accidentally calling her that. So for the last few classes, a lot of us have called the lady Dinae, just because it's funny. She smiles about it too.

The other funny name thing is, we had a guy named Jeffrey. Jeffrey's an interesting guy. Anyway, our fire guy (for several weeks) was called Jeff. And before Jeff's second class, we had a conversation about names. (The firefighter Jeff remembered my name, because his wife is also an Emily (whose isn't?), but I hadn't remembered his name from the week before.) And Jeffrey from our class started talking about how he likes to be called Jeffrey and not Jeff, because his name isn't Jeff, and people shouldn't be lazy and shorten it. And the firefighter Jeff (who was actually really a Jeffrey but goes by Jeff), couldn't understand why Jeffrey was making a big deal about it, but even if it was kind of weird, Jeffrey was really clear about it anyway. AND THEN! Our firefighter Jeff obviously forgot all about it, because he shortened the guy in our class's name every time. It was really funny, because he wasn't doing it on purpose, but it obviously bothered Jeffrey even though he didn't mention it again.

Anyway, same guy in our class, Jeffrey, has also been really odd. He's from the singles ward that participated in our CERT. He's told us a few times about how he didn't kiss anyone until he was 29. And he has made a lot of winning comments like, "What if I can't touch anyone? Am I going to be able to do this in an emergency if I can't touch anyone? Because I really can't touch people. This one time, a lady was having [I forget what emergency] and I was right there, but someone else had to help her because I couldn't touch her." Or, "Last year, I made $9000, and I was only homeless for three days!... I lived with my girlfriend a lot that year. She was my fiance, but we didn't get married." Or, "I paid a lot of money to DeVry, but they wouldn't give me a degree because I'd never heard of algebra. Since when are numbers letters? Numbers should just be numbers. I was in special ed, and we never did algebra. I'd never heard of algebra before. So it was a waste of money. I have a high IQ, I just don't see things like other people do." Or, another time, someone asked everyone in class how they were doing, and he said "I have high blood sugar!" It was really very funny. The other people from his ward had heard all of his stories about 15 times, so they rolled their eyes a lot, I think. He was a nice guy, anyway.

Anyway, so the fire guy in charge of our CERT event picked four people, and he picked Dinae, and Jeffrey, and two other random people from the class. And of course Jeffrey picked me first for his team. So the whole event was really exciting. Jeffrey was supposed to be our team leader, and he didn't really do anything, because he was nervous about it all. Poor guy. At one point, he used special ed as an excuse. I told him, though, "Jeffrey. There is no special ed here. It's just CERT. And you're on CERT, and I'm on CERT, and we're all part of CERT, and we're all equal. And we just do our best, and don't worry too much, and you can do this. " So we had a little pep talk and kept going.

Basically, the way that the event worked, was, there were volunteers (mostly youth) who had fake injuries. Really good makeup fake injuries. So they looked like burn victims, and bruised, and bloody, and they were hidden all around the church building. And we had to find them, and organize things as though there were a real emergency and we were responding. There was search and rescue, and medical stuff, and so on. So we had 12 minutes to respond, and then the whole situation reset, and our group switched to a different responsibility. The first time, our organization was awful, and we totally didn't find all of the people, and were not very efficient, etc. By the fourth rotation, we did a pretty good job. I think in a real emergency, we would get the hang of it, even if we weren't completely organized until 15 or 20 minutes into the emergency.

My favorite part of the whole thing was using fire extinguishers. Which we finally did.

We took our pictures for our cards, had some final conversation about how things went, and CERT ended. Now I have a green backpack full of emergency response stuff, some interesting friends, a bunch of memories, a little bit of preparation for if there were (or when there is) an emergency, and free Tuesday nights.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Music! (To me.)

Suppose you order something out of stupidity. You forget to cancel something that renews. You click the wrong button. Whatever. And then you think that an easy to get out of having to pay is by contesting it with your credit card company. Well, you can do that, and they can try to process a chargeback, but you really did order it (we have your name correct and your address correct, and your email address, and your cellphone number etc etc etc) and so you lose anyway. To be nice, some card companies will call to check into things before they process a chargeback. It's cheaper for us and for the card company, and for you the consumer. And the card company will ask if we're willing to set up a refund for you, since you didn't mean to order it, and usually we are, and things are ok even though you're not the brightest.

So for my job, I every few weeks or so will speak to someone from a card company. And usually they talk to me about it, and have our customer on hold, and they switch between talking to them and me, and then connect the two of us. Fine.

Today I talked to someone from American Express. And while they had me on hold for a little bit, I heard a song that I really liked. So I Googled the part that I remembered, "someday you're going to realise" "right up" and found it! It's "Fill My Little World" by "The Feeling", which is a British band from Sussex. I didn't think I had ever heard of them until I listened to one of their other songs, "Sewn," which was massively popular. And I did know that one.

So now today, I am just loving "The Feeling". Fun. Hooray for British hold music as a way for me to discover music.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Another Story Involving Police

Today I worked at my mall job. Partway through the day, a couple of girls from our store went to get soda. They had to go to the food court, because one of the places offers 'mall drinks', which are the huge size of cups, for $1 instead of like $3 or whatever large mall sodas cost.

They were gone for quite a while, and when they came back, they came from the wrong direction. We asked about it and they said there were a bunch of police out in front of our store (well, to the side a little). They said we should go peek. They were really curious about it.

I went out and walked around the whole scene and came back to report. There was a blond lady sitting on a mall bench, and one police guy was standing kind of near her. There was a group of police talking with a guy in a polo shirt, and another policeman with a Hispanic man. The incident stretched around half of a cellphone sales kiosk in the middle of the walkway.

What could it be, we wondered. Maybe sexual harassment, one of my coworkers thought.

We saw one of the policemen start questioning the lady. A little while later, they all left. They walked all kind of in a line, with the Hispanic guy in front, wearing handcuffs.

And like that, the situation dissolved. My coworkers kept wondering aloud what it was all about. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not curious at all and 1o is extremely curious, I think I was probably at about a 2.5, and my coworkers were at about a 7.5 or an 8.) My coworker suggested I go out and ask the guy in the phone kiosk. And so I did.

What had happened was, the guy tried to steal shoes from a popular athletic shoe store in the mall. There had been someone following him, though, so they caught him. He was taken to jail for it. And get this: the blond lady was his girlfriend?/wife? and she's pregnant with his kid. Due-in-five-days pregnant with his kid. And he's in jail now.

So here's the moral of the story, kids: don't steal. Especially if your girlfriend is about to have a baby. Because that's just sad. If you can't afford shoes, buy some at DI. Or steal them from somewhere that isn't in a mall. (Have I written about how I feel about malls in that regard? I don't think so. I'll have to do that sometime.)

Also, this week I gave notice that I'll be finishing my work at the mall. This month marks one year of mall-working thrill and I think I've had my fun. I'm just too busy for it these days. I have three shifts left as of today.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Entertainment brought to you by the IRS: Tax Quotes!

I'm working on a special, top secret project which I find very interesting. (What else is new?) Because of this project, I discovered that the IRS has on their own website a list of Tax Quotes. And by 'quotes' I don't mean estimates. I mean things that people have said about taxes.

I'm shocked. I thought the IRS would be far too boring and serious of an entity to poke fun at themselves. Huh. Who knew.

My favorite quote from the list is: Actually, I have two favorites. They are:

“I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is – I could be just as proud for half the money.” — Arthur Godfrey, entertainer

“People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.”
— Unknown

Go on, see for yourself.

Fascinating, eh? Next thing you know, the IRS will be coming out with its own record label.
They can include this stuff on the first one:

1. The Taxes Song from the YT Debates <--- not bad.
2. Money (That's What I Want) The Flying Lizards<-- of course
3. TurboTax: The Rap <--- WOW!
4. Money Money Money; ABBA <-- also, of course
5. The guy done with his taxes music video. <-- huh?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Our food will make you 7% smarter. And nicer.

Something about healthy food, which kind of makes me laugh, is that there are quotes all over the place. Maybe they think that if you’re thoughtful enough to not be eating foods that hurt the environment, you’re a pretty thoughtful person, and they want to encourage that. I really don’t know. The brand names are exciting, and they put quotes on things.

Here is a quote from my box of wholesome, whole-wheat, vegetarian brownies:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

And another one from my vegan breakfast cereal (which, by the way, is delicious):

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” - Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Brownies have that quote, but the chocolate chip cookie box has a different one. And Wild Berry Crisp has Baba’s quote, but the Mango cereal has a totally different quote. And these are the only two I have on hand to blog about. Every day, all I have to do is eat, and I nourish my body AND mind. (Psh. And some people think they’re lucky to have word searches on the back of their cereal…)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Someone called the police.

Yesterday Erin and I went geocaching. [I'm so sorry that all of my blog posts are about caching lately! I promise that I actually do still have other hobbies! After this I have one more story to blog about that is half geocaching related, and then I'm done.]

I got a new phone which is really awesome because it lets me access the normal Internet from anywhere. Great! So the idea was that we would go to an area that I hadn't found much in, and then just look up stuff to find as we went.

We decided to go out by the Provo Town-ey Centre. And since we drove up behind it, we chose a particular cache in back to look for, and started looking. It was a BYOP cache (Bring Your Own Pen), which means that it's usually small enough for there to be no pen inside. Great. So it was probably going to be tiny.

The coordinates led us to a big power box out in the back of the mall parking lot, next to a kind-of busy road. There were also a couple trees the cache could be in, if it was really small, and really camouflaged, and the coordinates were a bit off, so we searched them too. Mostly we searched the power box, though, because it just had to be there somewhere. The difficulty was rated 4/5, which meant it was pretty hard, and someone had commented that it was clever.

We looked and looked, and didn't find it. And finally, right before we were about to give up, Erin found it. And it was clever.

And we walked back to the car, and I pulled up some nearby caches on my phone. And then we saw a police car going around the bend. "Oh, great," we thought. The police car pulled up near us, and the policeman got out and came up to our car. "What are you up to today," he asked after I opened the door. The mall security police van pulled up next to the police car. "Geocaching!" I told the policeman, and I held up my GPS and phone. He didn't say anything for a few seconds. "If it would make you feel better, I can show you where the cache is, " I offered, grinning.

He did want to see it. It was lucky that we'd found it, because otherwise I couldn't have shown him. He and I walked across back to the power box, and I showed him. "Do you get a lot of calls for geocaching?" "Quite a few. We had someone leave one in front of the police station, and of course if people leave a box in front of the police station, you don't just wonder about it. You call the bomb squad...." He told me about one time there was a cache out at Utah Lake where they had opened the box and were really confused with the contents "there's a deck of cards...and some papers and..." It was pretty funny. The police seemed to have gotten a big kick out of it just being geocaching.

Someone had reported us tampering with the power box, and they thought that maybe we were trying to turn out the power for the whole mall.

(Why would anyone even want to do that?)

Our final cache that we found yesterday was also exciting. It was one that required hiking. It took us about an hour to find it and get back to the car. Mostly because we didn't realize that there was parking about 50 feet from the cache. So we hiked a long way up the dried, rocky creek. About when we reached a big, fresh, bloody, furry deer carcass that smelled awful, we realized there was a paved road right along the creek on the south side. But it was too hard to climb out of the creek on the south side, so we climbed out on the north side instead. And then to cross the creek we had to hike up to a trail about 100 feet above us, at a very-upward angle. Then back down and across the whole thing at a part with a real trail.

I think if we had parked at the right spot it would have probably taken us 10-15 minutes total. Ah well. Hiking is good. And the weather was great.