Thursday, May 29, 2008

People are still good (reprise)

A couple days ago I took a call at work from a man who had some free time set up and suddenly had something he really wanted to research, but he was having problems accessing the site. He told me he is 84 years old, and not very good with computers.

I had him start up his computer, and we went through the whole process of helping him find our site. It took about 15 minutes to get him in, but the call was really fantastic.

He mentioned at the beginning that his wife had died two years ago, and he had stopped doing research then. As he turned his computer on, he signed on. His computer password was his late wife’s name. It was really clear that even though she had been gone for two years, he was really grieving. He missed her so much. “You know, not many people are married fifty-four years and still madly in love with their wife,” he told me. It was really obvious how devoted he had been to her; his world revolved around her.

Aside from the deep underlying grief, the man was really funny. He said he’s 84 years old and not very good with computers. “I should be in the circus!” he said as he was explaining how funny he must look as he was trying to use the Internet while he talked to me. He had to hold the phone to one ear, because he was nearly deaf in the other ear and wears a hearing aid. (It buzzes if the phone is next to the hearing aid, he explained.) His computer was a laptop, so he had the computer on his lap, and was not very good at typing but was trying to work the computer with his hand that wasn’t holding the phone to the specific ear. It was all a balancing act.

It was funny how he described it, too, so I was laughing, and I could tell that he was amused by the situation too. Jokingly he said, “Stop laughing! They’ll have you on tape!” (There is a message at the beginning of the call saying that calls may be monitored or recorded.) I told him “You’ve got to stop making me laugh!” and we continued laughing as whatever page we were waiting for loaded on his computer. “Probably so,” he said, a little bit more serious. “But life’s for smiling, isn’t it.”

We talked a little bit more during the call, about how he was a pilot in World War II, and about some other things. (One other funny thing that I noticed: he was talking about his computer and said a mild swear, and he said “Excuse my Chinese.” I’ve only ever heard people say “Excuse my French” to downplay swearing. I wonder if calling it Chinese is more common in the UK since they’re right next to France? It could have been just him, or just me, but I thought that was interesting.)

At the end of the call he said, “Everyone has problems, you know, and they’re best kept to themselves. But if you can make someone smile, you’ve…you’ve done well.”

I’ve thought a lot about that, and I like it. Especially from him.

People are still good.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ted Mosby Is a Jerk !!! and other (real) fake websites

One of the many reasons that I love How I Met Your Mother is that they mention specific websites on the show. And then they create them. They may have to, legally. I don't know. They do a fantastic job with it all, though.

For example, there is one episode where Barney had told one of his girls that his name was Ted Mosby (which is the name of the main character in the show). After he leaves her a generic letter and takes off, she makes a website: . It's an excellent site. It has a picture of the letter (which is great), it has portraits of "Ted" which are actually pictures of Barney, and it features a 20 minute background song about Ted Mosby being a jerk.

Interestingly enough, someone created the site from the perspective of Victoria, who is a girl that dated the actual Ted Mosby on the show for awhile. Her site is funny, too. It has a page of testimonials from other girls that know Ted on the show. Then it has a page suggesting that the "Ted Mosby" from is actually Conan O'Brien. I don't remember this site being mentioned on the show, so I don't know if it's something Conan had created, or what.

Another site created for the show: (although this one doesn't seem to exist anymore).

And then there's which they mentioned on the show recently. Marshall suggests they start and Lily jokes about the other URL, which they check on the episode and discover exists. Marshall's URL links to an auction (of HIMYM stuff) to benefit the LA Children's Hospital. Lily's URL does exist, though. It's a French slideshow with a song all about a guy forcing his wife to wear a garbage bag. At least one of the pictures (I noticed) was taken on a HIMYM set. The lyrics are in French someone online has translated it. The beginning starts: but Darling, I want you to wear a GARBAGE BAG Please, for three years, only a GARBAGE BAG Darling, it’s prohibited not to wear a GARBAGE BAG Please, for me, wear this, wear this GARBAGE BAG...

I would be very interested to know about other fake websites created because TV show episodes.

Anyway, it's Monday evening and of course there will be no How I Met Your Mother this week, but here is some happy news: Season 1 had 22 episodes. Season 2 had 22 episodes. Season 3 had 20 episodes. Season 4 has order for...26 episodes!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yesterday - Twitter, Elder Holland, and Summer Party #1

Well, yesterday was a pretty good day.

1. When I first got my iphone, a guy I knew told me all about Twitter, and every time I check out the new programs listed on Installer, the Twitter client shows up. And theotherdrummer keeps posting about it, too. So finally, yesterday I set up a Twitter account. It's fun. I think I almost need to start carrying my charger with me, because I'm constantly checking it. I tried to update my status once, and it turned out that Twitter was down for a couple hours. That was lame.

2. Anyway, yesterday my roommates and I threw a party. I wanted to have a casino night and mocktails party because I have one of those daiquiri mixes in my freezer, and I love those, but it seems lame to drink alone. (Even non-alcoholic drinks are lame to drink alone.) So we planned to have this party last night. And Thursday, my roommate went shopping for party stuff. She found some recipes for mocktails online, and just went to like Walmart or somewhere to get the stuff. It took her five trips from her car to bring all the stuff upstairs.

She told two funny things from shopping. First, she was in the alcohol-mixer-things section, and someone asked her if she knew if they also had wine. (She told them she had no idea. But it was still kind of weird, because the random person just assumed she was a drinker because she was getting that stuff.) The other telling little story from shopping was, her cashier asked her if she was "stocking a bar". She kind of went all out. I thought we would have 5-6 drinks that we would plan on making...but...she chose seventeen mixed drinks. I really do think we had enough stuff for like 150 people to have 2-3 drinks each.

We emailed yesterday to discuss other things that still needed to be done, and final stuff to pick up from the grocery store. She forgot fresh mint, and we still needed cups and beverage napkins, and a few more snacky things to put in bowls around the living room.

3. I went to the grocery store after school, and as I was leaving, just walking along the sidewalk in front of the store, I passed Elder Holland! His car was parked in the first row of parking, up along the sidewalk that I was walking on. He was closing his car doors, and going towards the driver's seat. "Hi!" I said. "Hi, how are you?" he asked me. "Good. How are you?" I told him. "Good." He said. "Thanks." He was like 5-8 feet away from me, and it was just him and I there, exchanging pleasantries. That was kind of fun, because the other times I've seen apostles, it's always been with thousands of other people, and from far away. Also, I was very pleased that I recognized him.

There was this seminary story, probably from an Ensign or New Era, about a lesson some seminary class had. The teacher put on clips of different popular music, and the class had to name each artist. The class did great. They knew all the popular songs and stuff. And then, the teacher put on clips of conference, and the students were supposed to try and name the apostles who were speaking, and like...they didn't do very well, at all. And the idea from the lesson and the story about the lesson was, it kind of shows us where our priorities lie if we can identify all the actors and singers and we know all that stuff, but then we can't recognize the voices of the Lord's apostles.

Being from California, people see celebrities all the time. I've met a bunch of them. And I always kind of wondered if I would be able to recognize an apostle. Back in high school, I definitely would not have been able to. So I was really pleased that my priorities have shifted enough that I'm more familiar with the apostles. I can't name music artists, or actors, either, but the point is the same.

4. So yeah, the party was fun. A bunch of people came, but not as many as we had hoped. We should have advertised it sooner, and we should have also considered that a whole lot of people go out of town for Memorial Day weekend. Eh well. I think everyone who came had a smashing time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"I'm Greener Than My Garden," or "CFLs"

Last night my mom and I were chatting about how popular it's become to bring your own bags to the grocery store. I have one of those bags, which I (almost) never remember to take with me to the store. I bought it at Maceys, kind of a while ago. I see the ones at Smith's all the time. My roommate stopped by Dressbarn, and they have their own reusable shopping bags. (Theirs fold up nicely, which is cool, except that going into that store with my roommate was the only time I've ever been. So I'm not really into the idea of carrying a dressbarn bag places. Even if it folds up nicely.) There's a girl in my ward who has one that says "Paper or plastic? Neither." And I covet hers a little bit. And then there are the stylin' ones, which I also adore. My mom has a bunch that she got from work.

Apparently, even though I see these bags everywhere, the bring-your-own-bags thing is even trendier in southern California. A bunch of major grocery stores will give you a 5 cent discount for each bag you bring. And five cents isn't huge, but it definitely adds up. And it's not such an unusual idea: in Italy, most stores charge you 5 centesimi for each bag you want. (The bags that you buy are better than the scripture-paper-thin bags most stores have here.)

Even though I think reusable bags are a great idea, I have absolutely found the new cool way to go green. It's all about compact fluorescent light bulbs. I really started thinking about using compact fluorescent bulbs when I read someone's blog post about how you could start saving money. It started with buying compact fluorescent bulbs, which cost next to nothing, and save you a whole lot of money. Then you take that whole lot of money to buy something else that saves you more money, and it was a whole chain. I can't remember where the original post was. But it got me thinking about buying these bulbs.

And then all of the light bulbs in my room burned out.

So it became a good idea to replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs this time around. I can remember my parents buying some back when they were new and a big deal, and they were really spendy. Now, that isn't the case at all. I can't remember where I read this either, but Walmart is big into promoting compact fluorescent light bulbs. Like, I don't know if they have a goal to sell some certain number, or what, but I had read that they had good prices on them.

So instead of shopping at good 'ole Maceys, yesterday, I went to Walmart. I was shocked, figuratively. They cost almost the same amount as regular incandescent bulbs! I decided to get a pack of 6 bulbs, 13 watts (which is a 60 watt equivalent). It cost me less than $10.

The box boasts: LASTS UP TO 9 YEARS!* (* if you use it like 3 hours a day) Save $47 in energy costs per bulb** (**based on the way that they tested it, comparing to the normal 60 watt ones).

Holy cow! I'm saving $47 in energy costs per bulb? I replaced three bulbs today, which will save me approximately $141 in energy costs. The three bulbs cost me less than $5. PLUS, I get to feel warm-fuzzies for knowing that I'm "lessen[ing] greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere."

I'm telling you what, after everyone saves Maceys $3 in plastic bags by bringing their own bags, this is going to be the new trendy thing. It's all about the CFLs.

"No More Starving Artists"

I love my job at Ancestry.
We have something really cool happening at work. It's our most recent charity project. We're doing a canned food drive. But we're not doing the lame kind of canned food drive, where there are a couple boxes and a few people bring things in because they feel like they should.

We're having a competition. But we're not having a competition to see who can collect the most, either.

No way, our company is far more creative than that.

Our company has been divided into six teams, and each team has a leader. The company is giving each team a certain amount of money, which they are to spend on canned foods... to build GIANT SCULPTURES! How fantastic is that?

We can use tape and stuff that's easy to take apart, but the scupltures have to be free-standing. No framework or anything like that. No perishable foods are allowed. No damaging the cans or their labels. They have to fit within a 10' by 10' square, and cannot be taller than five feet. For ideas, they suggested we visit .

Each sculpture needs a title, a description, and a list of all of the foods that are included, and how many cans.

They especially encourage us to use peanut butter, canned tuna, powdered milk, canned beans and chili, canned stews and soups, 100% fruit juice, and canned fruits and vegetables. The food bank wants those things the most.

I'm way excited to see how the sculptures turn out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Garden Post #6

Now that we've had a few days of sunshine, my garden is finally growing. Sort of. I'm having three problems with it, though.

1. So far, the harvest has been about as exciting as waiting in a long line. I've had about six little strawberries. They were each amazing. They tasted completely different from store-bought strawberries. But, I have had no fresh vegetables at all.

2. I keep wanting to pull the carrots out, check to see if they look like carrots yet, and replant them. I think this may not be ideal for them, so I haven't done it. Yet.

3. Since everything is taking so long to grow, I keep having to think hard to remember what was planted where. Except for the strawberry plants. Everything else just looks like little green sprouts. Lame.

I just realized, I haven't seen Uffish's garden at all. She just kept planting more and more stuff, and she doesn't have a balcony that only gets sun for a little part of the day, so maybe hers is growing better. Uffish? How's your garden doing?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blue Bikes!

One of the first things I noticed when I started going up for school was a bicycle across from my TRAX transfer stop in Downtown Salt Lake City. It was blue! But not just like any blue bicycle. It was ENTIRELY blue. Including the handle bars, and the bike chain, and everything. And it had sign kind of like a street sign attached to it with a nice message about riding bikes. Neat.

AND THEN, I noticed that they were all over the place. Apparently, May is National Bike Month, and Salt Lake City has painted a bunch of blue bikes and scattered them all along downtown Main Street. I don't know much about it. Do they do this every year? Are they places other than along Main Street? I haven't a clue. But I like it. (In fact, I liked it so much that yesterday I caught myself thinking, hey, I could bring my bike up to Salt Lake and ride it. And then I was like waitaminute. Taking a bicycle on two buses and two trains so that you can ride it to nowhere is just silly. But when I live up there, maybe I'll ride my bicycle more.)

On Fridays I only have my one class, so I decided to walk along Main Street and take pictures of some bicycles for this blog post. One neat thing that I noticed was, each of the bikes is chained to a bike rack-ish thing, or a parking meter with an actual bike chain. There are different kinds of chains and bike locks, just like there are different kinds of bikes.

The other thing I thought of, was that it kind of reminds me of Chicago's cows.

Anyway, here are some of the pictures that I took. After I felt like I had a ton of pictures, I started just writing the little phrases. The other ones I saw said:

"Remember when we had fun?"

"Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride." - John F. Kennedy

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Wheelies not included.

Because an SUV with a card in the spokes just ain't cool.

The thing that it says at the bottom of the signs is:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

School Stories 2 - Investments!

My Investments class was really fantastic today.

We talked a lot about how it wasn't a GET RICH QUICK!!!!!!! class. And about how risky it would have been to buy Microsoft stock in 1986. (Our textbook mentions that if you invested $10,000 in Microsoft in 1986, ten years later it was worth $500,000.) She said that in 1986 Microsoft made personal computer software and like basically nobody had personal computers. So buying Microsoft back then would have been totally risky. And most of the people who had it would have sold it when it doubled, or whatever, so really not too many people actually made half a million dollars on it.

But she also said, "Should all of you have a million dollars at some point, if you want it? Definitely. And I'll prove it to you when we get to Chapter 4." I'm sure she's right, but that will be interesting.

She told us about a couple articles she had. In one, this grandma was doing a huge Easter egg hunt for her grandkids. So she fills these eggs with money. Some eggs have $5, $20, $100... and this is all for her grandkids. Except! She dies before her grandkids have their hunt. So the family cleans out her house and donates all the Easter eggs to Goodwill. And then, they're reading her journal and they realize she had this big money hunt planned and that they had just donated, like, her savings to Goodwill. So they put an ad in the paper saying, you know, this is what happened, and if you got the eggs, can you please be honest and bring them back. And the likelihood that people did is of course slim-none.

And then there was a second article with a happier ending. Okay. These people buy cooler at a garage sale. And they get it home, and whuddayaknow, there's a paper bag in the cooler. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in it. And they're shocked. They bought a $3 cooler, and it just didn't seem like they were supposed to get all that. It didn't seem right to them. So they took the money back. Turned out, it had been Grandpa's life savings. Nobody had known.

Both true stories. Her conclusion was, it's always better to have a paper trail.

She also gave us her first "Rules of Finance", which we're going to get all through the term.

Rule #1: You don't spend more than you make. "The fastest way not to accumulate wealth is to spend more than you earn."

Rule #2: Every investment has risk. If you're not investing, that is also a risk.

Rule #3: The more risk, the more you can potentially earn, and the more you can potentially lose.

I picked those out of the lecture, but she didn't give them all at once. (It kind of reminds me of that Office episode where Michael telling Ryan the "10 Rules of Business", which he is making up as he goes along. Except that her advice is much more sound.)

There was one other thing that I wanted to share. We were talking about the different types of risk in investments. Some of them are specific to particular businesses or industries, and others affect all investments. One type of risk, is "Financial Risk" (like companies that have too many loans out, and that sort of thing.) Another type is "Business Risk" (like start-up companies, or technology based companies, etc.)

One of the things that went along with that was the management. She said sometimes a company can have a really good product and it would do well, except that the company is managed poorly, or has too many loans and is always making payments, and so it never really makes money or is successful. This really made me think.

I think in that sense, people are kind of like businesses. If we are diligent, and have self-control, and do what we're supposed to (like studying when we're supposed to study, instead of playing), we have SO much potential. We can be great. We can excel in our fields. We can have such a positive impact on the world. Beyond just pecuniary interests, self-mastery can make us rich in anything. Spirituality is the same way. God made us as these individuals that are full of potential. And if we do the right things, instead of what seems enticing or distracting at a certain time, we can really develop that potential. But if we squander it, then it didn't really matter too much that we had it to begin with. There is greatness in everyone. It isn't enough that we have it in us, though. We have to really work at being our best selves.

Even really great businesses fail when mismanaged. Every decision we make is a decision to either develop our self-control, or not to. Ultimately, our greatness is determined by small but consistent decisions to do what we need to.

Something to think about, anyway.

School Stories 1 - English!

Today my English professor retracted part of the syllabus. It was the first thing she announced in class. She said she's decided she "won't be militant about tardies" after all. And then she repeated it (still using the word 'militant', which I've always been vaguely aware of but never used) for the tardy part of the class, too, so that everyone would know. Apparently the people who scheduled summer classes didn't allow any transition time between classes. So classes finish at 11 precisely, and other classes start at 11 precisely. Oops. Several of my classmates mentioned it to her, and so we don't have our intense tardy policy anymore. I don't plan on being tardy anyway, since my bus-bus-train-train schedule gets me there like 30 minutes early, but it still seems like a glimmer of hope for this class.

Also, the poems we were assigned (due today) had several that were kind of precursors to women's rights. So they're from a time where women had to do what their husbands said, and they were expected to cook and clean, etc, and expected not to think too much about things, and they were...not bitter...but ready for equal rights, if that makes sense. And it reminds me of this short story that we read in a few different years of English classes in high school.

The story that I remember is, there's this old lady. Her husband has died. I forget how. I think at war. And then pretty soon afterwards she finds out that, oh wait, someone got it all wrong, he was definitely still alive. And the old lady has a heart attack, I think, and she dies. And everyone's like "Oh, she loved him so much, she was so excited to find out that he was alive, that the shock and excitement of it all killed her. How sweet." But other parts of the story (that we know since it's told from an omniscient perspective) let us know that REALLY, the REAL reason why she died was because when she found out he had died she felt FREE. FINALLY. After years of having to be the wife. And she dreams, and hopes, and has lived for this moment. And then, in an instant, it's all gone. Because he's alive, and she still can't really be free. And grief of losing her freedom that she was so excited about, that was what really killed her. It's a really intense short story, and one that I like a lot.

I'm sure I've remembered parts of it wrong. I haven't read it in ages. But here's the thing: we also always read parts from one of the books we're supposed to be reading later. And I think that might be the story that we read from that book. So all class, I wanted to tie the two together, because the sentiment of them are the same! But on the off-chance that it actually is the same thing we're reading later, I don't want to spoil it for my whole class! That would be awful of me.

Also, I realized that there are some poems that I like. I don't entirely hate poetry. I just hate over-analyzing it, and looking for things that aren't there, and wish the author would say what they meant. BUT, poems themselves are not always bad.

Our reading assignment for Friday is a little scandalous. When we went over the syllabus, there was a whole big paragraph about how there would be no "content accommodations" and that if any of the requirements of the course "conflict with our sincerely-held core beliefs," we should consider dropping the class.

Our first poem is called "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" and it's about how this couple has no privacy now that they have a kid, but even though the kid wants to snuggle with them it like, reminds them of their love for him, and their original love that brought him, too. And then one of the other ones is kind of graphic with female anatomy. Both are very tasteful, though. They're sweet poems, and not crude at all.

Still, though, when I read Friday's assignment and thought about the syllabus, I'm sure there are some LDS people who would find the assignment really inappropriate. There's just no way this kind of stuff would be chosen for a BYU class. In California, nobody would have thought a thing about it. It doesn't bother me. But it was another one of those things that reminded me that it isn't Provo, you know?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why I Hate Poetry

WOW! How exciting! This is a Choose Your Own Adventure post!

If you love poetry, poetry is your favorite thing, or you think poetry is the best kind of literature turn to page 64.

If you wrote a special poem for your aunt when she had cancer and it makes you both cry, turn to page 117.

If you won an award for your clever poem that you wrote in 7th grade, and the award is still on your wall, turn to page 14.

If you do not love poetry or are indifferent, continue reading.

I Hate poetry. Here’s why: I realize that people sometimes have difficulty verbalizing their feelings. That’s fine. I realize that words can be symbolic. That’s fine, too. I realize that love and death are intense, and that brevity is sometimes more powerful than lengthy writing. Okay. However: I hate that with poetry, we are expected to read into it all. In a story, themes are there, and I can see them, or infer them, but nobody expects me to make up basic facts relevant to the story. We would extrapolate the themes, or the feelings, or whatever, and apply them to our lives, but it would be all subjective and everyone would agree that it was subjective. Or, with allegories you may have completely other meanings, which are even symbolic, but it’s logical.

With poetry, you’re given basically nothing, and you’re expected to identify facts that you would have absolutely no way of knowing. It’s ridiculous. We read a poem in class, and discussed it. From the punctuation, we understood that the speaker’s brother had died really recently, probably the same day. From punctuation! Mind you, I love punctuation. I think semi colons are fantastic. When I am excited, I litter my writing with exclamation points. I am passionate about serial commas. I know that punctuation can seriously alter the meaning of text. I’ve seen that one letter that has the punctuation changed and it goes from a love letter to a hate letter. However, our interpretations based on the punctuation had nothing to do with actual, contextual meaning. It had to do with the feeling of the punctuation. Give me a break.

I do think poetry is occasionally respectable. I guess, I’m in favor of the privatization of poetry. If your dad dies, and you’re sad about it, by all means, write a poem if that does something for you. Share it with your family, and maybe maybe your friends since it will mean something to them too. But don’t give me your poem and expect me to guess that the “song of sunrise” actually meant that every summer you went fishing with him and you miss the way he would sing so that the fish would bite, and you wonder if he‘s fishing in heaven. It’s just not in there. Sorry. And that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like your dad, or that I think your poetry stinks. I just can’t understand it like you meant for it to be understood, because those words were your way of expressing your very personal feelings. I would have chosen different words. If you really want me to understand, graph it for me. Or use clear language. But the point isn’t for me to understand; the point is for you to learn something about yourself, or for you to find a way to express something for yourself. Whenever you write a poem, you’re writing it for you. Even if it’s a love poem to someone, it’s still a poem for you, because the whole point is that you want to express something that you feel you can‘t express (or which you choose not to express) in a direct method. It’s the same way that philosophically people argue that having kids is a selfish thing. Yeah, you give up sleep and make sacrifices, but it’s so that there will be more of you in the world after you die. (You can take that or leave it, but that is what some people think, philosophically, about people having kids.) So since I really do believe poetry is a personal thing, I don’t feel any obligation to guess at what it means.

I can understand how dissecting poetry can help us create symbolism, and watch for subtleties in writing. I can also see how poetry can sometimes be fun. I like some poetry, when I make it mean something new to me instead of trying to guess why the author wrote it. I do also enjoy the challenge of creating poems with particular rhythms. I like funny poetry. I think that some poems are kind of like a collage of senses; they can combine smells and imagery and those sorts of things, and that’s kind of interesting and even occasionally powerful.

Generally, though, I think poetry tends to be a big game of “Guess what I’m thinking!” and I hate that game. I’m not a mind-reader. I think a lot of people who get excited about poetry are really pretentious. This possibly comes from believing that they actually can guess what other people think. I’m not sure.

It looks like the first three weeks of my English class we’re studying poetry. I plan to do what any self-respecting person would do in my situation: BS my way through it. I’ll have just enough of an opinion about the poems to get my class participation points, and to have something to write about for my essay, and hope that time passes quickly so that we can get started with real literature.

I usually try to keep my posts very positive. I realize that hating poetry leaves me in the minority. (A Google search of “I hate poetry” returned 7,320 results. “I love poetry” returned 9,190 results. "Why I hate poetry" returns 200 results and "why I love poetry" returns 2,130.) Still, I feel so strongly about this today that I wanted to write about it.

My First Day of School

Yesterday was my first day of school. BYU last summer was fun, but restarting school yesterday was even better, because this time I am a Real Student instead of a visiting one.

It was sort of like back in elementary school, when we would be all excited to go back to school, and to have new teachers. Sewing Barbie clothes, and training the cats, and camping in the backyard is fun stuff, but after a few months of it, school starts to sound really great again. We used to get new school clothes, which we were absolutely NOT allowed to wear until school started, and like two weeks before school started they would post The List. We were always anxious and really excited (and occasionally disappointed) to see The List of Classes.

Now that I’m older and some of my friends are teachers, I’m sure that classes are carefully assembled. I’m sure they divide up the obnoxious kids so that nobody has too many of those, and maybe they even sometimes put friends in the same class. Back in elementary school, The List was like a revelation though. It seemed entirely random, and I guess it kind of was, anyway. It was always fun to see what teacher we had, and which friends were in our classes. Back in the elementary school days, older kids would talk about which teachers were hard, or fun, or whatever, and that was kind of like our old-school (ha) version of Based on what we heard, we were especially excited, indifferent, or terrified.

And on the first day of school, my parents would take our pictures with our teachers.

I knew I would probably blog about this, so I really had to resist the urge to get a couple nervous-excited with-my-new-teacher pictures to post along with this.

I registered for three classes, and I am going to keep two. I’m still working full time, and commuting to Salt Lake, and I have other projects, and it’s summer, so I decided that two classes is fine to start with.

My first class is my first English major class, and my professor seems fun. I immediately liked her, because she’s really cute and one of her first comments was “it feels a little bit more like late October than May,” which I completely understand, since my California upbringing makes me especially unforgiving towards unseasonal bad weather. My favorite thing about her is that she holds her office hours at the Museum of Art CafĂ© instead of in her office. My least favorite thing about her is that she seems to really like poetry.

Actually, things kind of went downhill after the part at the top of her syllabus about her office hours. The rest of the syllabus was intense. If you text in class, she asks you to leave. Three tardies (after 5 minutes) count as an absence. And even after that, she writes “Your mere presence in the classroom does not automatically qualify you as present.” Holy cow. I hope that it’s just establishing commonsense rules, but a whole lot of commonsense rules is still a whole lot of rules, even if they’re ones that I’d usually follow without actually thinking about it. (Kind of like commanding someone to keep their body temperature between 98 and 99 degrees. Most people will do it anyway, but it’s still an extra rule and one more thing to think about and be concerned about.)

And then there’s the fact that I’m not excited about any of our reading. And we’re reading Italo Calvino, who is Italian, and the professor pronounces his name wrong. I know we’re not reading it in Italian, but usually people -try- to pronounce authors’ names correctly. And if she knows the text well enough to have chosen it, she should really know better.

Plus there was a “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” feel to the class because we had to introduce ourselves to the class with our name (fine.), our last book that we read (fair enough, since it’s a literature class), and a song from when we were growing up (oookkay). I knew like…2 people’s songs. And like 3 people’s books. Frankly, I think almost all of my class is kind of stuck up, in the coffee-house, make-a-statement kind of way. I hope I’m wrong.

And I knew it wouldn’t be Provo…but…it’s almost like un-diluted non-Provo-ness, instead of just a normal mix of people.

The class wasn’t awful. I just felt really out of place, and started to worry about the next two years. Hopefully I’ll end up liking it. I could. Aside from the strict syllabus, the professor does seem very nice.

My second class is a Finance - Investments class. I actually completely planned to drop it. I was going to take an Intro to Business class, but thought I would sign up for the Investments class because it is a Business Minor requirement. I thought I would go just to check it out, but that would be it. Turns out, I love it. The professor reminds me a ton of Olympus. Except 15 years older. They really do look a lot alike, though. And, they’re both awesome.

My Investments professor kept interjecting with stories during our class introductions. I think the best two stories were the ones about how her family goes golfing really rarely, but they have an electric golf cart which they use like, every day. And one of her sons has this ham-board, which is a long board surfboard, except on wheels. So they hook a water-skiing line up to the electric golf cart, and the kids sit on the ham board and they pull each other around the neighborhood. Awesome! And then her other cool story was about this one time when she and her sister went to New York and her sister (who was from? Montana?) carried around this huge can of -bear- pepper spray, which they (unfortunately or fortunately?) never had to use. Random. And of course, everyone knows that whenever you have a fantastic professor who is really excited about their subject, you should keep the class because it will be amazing. We seriously laughed for half of the class. We already have a few class jokes, even. It’s going to be such a good class.

AND! It meets the math requirement that I still needed to fill. AND! I’m all curious now about my retirement investments, and what companies I have stock in, etc. I’ve always just kind of skimmed my quarterly reports without knowing what they mean. By the end of the class, I should understand that stuff. We also get to do a portfolio project, which I’m so excited about. (On Neopets, I totally made a killing on the stock market.) It’s at the most ideal time (eg. I don’t have a 6 hour break like I would with the one I was planning to take), and it’s right across from my first class. After all that, I definitely couldn’t drop the class. So instead, I bought the book.

And then for a bunch of my 2 ½ hour commute home, I did homework. And loved it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Netflix - one month free trial

Anyone want to try Netflix?

They always offer a two week trial online, but I just got a thing in the mail today saying "Thanks for being a member!" and including four cards with codes for a free one month trial.

I've been using Netflix for about six months now and I really like it. I tend to use it most for TV shows on DVD so that I'm not paying $4 per disc at Hollywood/Blockbuster. It's also really good for stuff that's usually hard to find. Foreign films and documentaries and stuff (and many TV shows on DVD).

If you've been wanting to try it, comment or let me know and I'll email you one of the codes and instructions. Or, you can have the little card if you really want it.

You don't have to keep a subscription if you try it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids All in a Row

You're probably all guessing that by now my garden has flourished. I probably had to figure out what to do with everything being crammed into tiny squares. Since I've got to be close to my 55 days to harvest or whatever, I should be eating fresh vegetables pretty soon. Right?


Unfortunately, my garden has not grown since I transplanted it, back whatever day that was. Fortunately, however, it hasn't died. It's just stayed the same. The beans have grown a little bit. Some strawberries have grown. (Stupid snow in April!)

I had abandoned the many carrot sprouts that were no way going to fit, and a couple sprouter things that hadn't grown, and was waiting to carry the indoor-greenhouse to the trash with everything else. A few days later, everything was dead except for a little tomato sprout that had grown and reached out in search of light. It really obviously wanted to live, so I moved it outside with everything else, though it isn't planted.

I also wanted to post today about a couple movies that were part of the reason I started a garden this year. Entirely coincidentally, after I saw the blog post about square foot gardening (but before I planted mine), I had two gardening movies come through Netflix.

It turns out, there aren't a lot of gardening movies out there. Today I Googled gardening movies, and basically a lot of people talk about the scenery in movies about other things (like, for example, Sense and Sensibility). But a few movies do come up on any list of gardening movies. Included are BOTH of the two that Netflix had randomly suggested because of other movies that I'd liked before. They were both clever, funny movies.

The first movie that I saw was Greenfingers. It's based on a true story. It's about some prisoners who get all into gardening, and go on to compete at England's huge garden show. It also has a kind of funny romance in it. I loved this movie. (It kind of reminded me of the Shawshank Redemption, although I don't think it's quite as clever. Still, the prisoners and the library/gardening projects struck some kind of a chord for me.)

The other movie came next after Greenfingers, and it was Saving Grace. The premise for that one is, it's this old lady whose husband dies. She finds out that he's left her deep in debt from his little get-rich schemes that didn't work. It's so bad that she's about to lose the house that they've like, spent their whole lives in. She's all into gardening, though, and her gardener gets her started growing marijuana. This one's kind of about that, and the way her town gets all into it. I worried that this one would be stupid, because marijuana makes people say and do stupid things. It actually wasn't a stupid movie, though. The plot flowed well. It ended differently than I expected. It's not one that I would buy, but I did really enjoy it. It was very funny. And it won the Audience award at Sundance.

Both came out in 2000. Netflix recommended them to me because I liked: Waking Ned Devine, Chocolat, Dear Frankie, Children of Heaven, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Amelie. So if you liked those movies, you'll probably like these, and if you hated those movies, then you probably won't like Greenfingers or Saving Grace too much.

ALSO, please note that you may want to use ClearPlay or find edited copies; they take place in the UK and one of them involves prisoners, soooo... there aren't blood and guts, or intense adult scenes or something, but there is a fair amount of bad language.

They're great movies, though. Non-stuffy gardening movies.

Well, that's basically it.

Except, when I Googled "mary mary quite" to be sure that I had my title spelled correctly, I found out a lot about that nursery rhyme. It's actually kind of gross, and interesting. Wikipedia has a page about it. I can't believe everyone teaches their kids this stuff.

And finally, this is my 100th post.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

People are still good.

I finally finished putting away stuff from my trip last week. Everything I really needed was put away a long time ago, but I put my travel bags up, and sorted souvenirs (keep it or toss it?) and that kind of stuff. I came across a big wad of fresh Kleenex tissues, which reminded me that I had wanted to mention something on my blog.

When I went to New York, DC, and VA for like 9 days at the end of March, I caught a nasty cold. After New York, I was sick for the rest of the trip. I was still a power-tourist with the rest of my friends, but I was constantly on cold medicine, and didn't feel great.

At the end of the trip, I was still sick. I had a cough that came and went, and my nose was sometimes-congested, sometimes-runny. And I felt not-great. It sucked. Flying home was no fun. I always hate leaving trips because everything I've been anticipating, and being excited about, and then everything I've been doing is over. Plus I always have to carry my own heavy luggage, which I'm perfectly willing to do, but it makes me grumpy. And I was leaving my best friends, knowing that I won't see them for a long time. And I was sick.

At the Baltimore Airport, I went to a bathroom to get some tissue from one of the stalls. Half ply tissue is no fun to use when your nose is stuffy-runny-stuffy-runny because it makes your nose raw, but it's definitely better than nothing.

I blew my nose in the bathroom, and a lady offered me tissue. I told her no, I'd be fine, thanks. She offered again, and told me she had a whole box. Well, okay, I told her. So she pulled out a full size box of Kleenex (not even one of the cutesy square ones), and yanked out half of the Kleenex. It was a huge stack of pre-folded, meant-for-faces tissue. I thanked her. She said I was welcome, and said again about having a whole box of tissue. And then I flew home. It was way more than enough tissue for my flights.

The thing was, though, she didn't even know me. And she didn't just pull out several sheets. She gave me half of her box. And I don't know if it was her good deed for the day, or if she even gave it a second thought afterwards, or what, but I was having an awful day and she made it much, much better with a simple act of kindness. Even thinking about it a month later, it still makes me a little teary.

Sometimes, when I help people, I'm more of a give them several tissues kind of girl, and not a yank out half the box kind of girl. I'm sure that's really normal, but I think I need to constantly look for opportunities to share everything and not just enough for it to count as sharing.

Anyway, my point was really this:
People are still good, and little things do make a difference.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Woopra is Super-a.

A little while ago, my mom and I found out about Woopra, which is becoming kind of popular because it's the first tracking thing that gives live statistics.

I have to say, I do love Google Analytics. I set up that back when registration was limited to businesses, and I had to pretend I owned a business. I have a lot of fun with it. I like seeing who comes to visit my blog, and from where. I like seeing what random stuff people searched for on Google that led them to me. My list of "things that makes me happy" gets a lot of hits, actually. Lately I get "Hot UPS guy" hits, too. And there are always a few crazy ones.

And to be quite honest, I really expected Woopra to be just another something created to be another something. (You know, like the 70000 social networking sites. Who needs Multiply or College Tonight when Facebook and Lymabean do that stuff so much better?) AND, my username on Woopra isn't "XX_x_IluvuBilly999x_x_XX", like you have to do with AIM and a lot of things, or even "emily25". My username on Woopra is "emily". Which either means Woopra isn't popular, or it means I'm a really early adapter. [Note, as I found links for the end of this post, I think they make it look like this sort of started 30 March, so signing up on 31 March is pretty early, I guess.]

And then today my mom shared a post on Google Reader that talked about people selling Woopra invites on eBay. Huh. That was how I got Gmail invites before everyone I knew. I signed up to have my site approved 31 March, forgot all about it, and finally got an invite to Woopra on 27 April. Today I set it up. Actually, I did about 40 minutes ago.

Not only is Woopra not "just another tracking site", it turns out to be really really amazing and fun to play with. I went onto my blog, and I could see that I was there.

SO, in conclusion: go visit some website that shows the features of Woopra better than I can, and if you're into tracking stuff on your blog, you probably want to sign up for an invite ASAP, since it sounds like they're getting close to being out of them for awhile.