Friday, July 28, 2006

post the eighty-eighth

She left this morning. 6:40. I drove her up to her grandparents' house and left her there last night so they could take her up to the airport. She's gone, and for a whole year.

Stick with me here. I have a point to this besides the whining you might expect from me.

I'm finding myself in a period of major change in my life, and it's coming a year earlier than I thought it would. It's come as a big surprise to me. I didn't think all of my friends would be disappearing and the like until I actually left town and went out to seek my fortune in the lone and dreary world. It turns out this process has started this summer, albeit slowly. I have to admit that I should have seen this coming. I knew my friends would slowly disappear on me when the summer started. One of my roommates left for Washington, D.C. after fall semester. Another left for Chicago after winter term. Robert Poste left for an internship after spring term. And now Petra's gone off to Indonesia. Looking into the future, I see that a lot of the people I associate with now are going to be leaving within a month.

Here's why this is such a worrisome thing for me. I came back to Provo last summer because the girl I was dating at the time was coming back from a program in Nauvoo and I preferred being with her to working at home. Unforseen to me, though, we broke up about a week before I left to come back to Provo. My reason for coming back now gone, I set about creating a new reason for me to be in Provo in the summer. A friend of mine had introduced me to the 100 Hour Board in March, and so I decided to take another look at it. I enjoyed it so much (it being one of the few things that I did at the time) that I decided to read the entire archives until I found how to become a writer. I did, and I succeeded. Once accepted as a writer, I decided that this coming year would be the Year of the Board for me.

It has been the Year of the Board. Most of the people I closely associate with are people that I met through the Board (or its cousin, Blue Beta). I don't spend all of my spare time answering questions like I used to, but I do spend a great deal of my spare time with the people. There were a lot of new people to deal with at first, which worried me. I have a hard time with new people, since I'm terrified of making a poor first impression. (In my defense, I'm startlingly good at making a poor first impression. I'm amazed people stick with me sometimes.) However, slowly but surely, I found a crowd of people that I fit in well with. Strangely enough, a lot of them belong to what I had dubbed the "poetry crowd," whom I thought I would never have anything to do with. Go figure.

The group I really like spending time with are mostly what you might call intellectuals. I can make jokes about John Updike with them and not have to provide background explanation. It's really nice, and I really like being with them. The only snag is that nearly all of them are graduating or have already graduated and are going back to grad school in the fall. That's a drag for me, since I've worked so hard to build up this new corps of friends, most of whom will be abandoning me within a month, have they not left already.

Mind you, I don't have all that much to complain about. My roommates are coming back in September. I still have people here in Provo that I like being with. Perhaps most of all, I'm still living in a country where people speak my language and share my culture (sorry, dear Petra). Still, I wasn't expecting this paradigm shift to come for another year. If this year is like this, I can't even begin to imagine what next year is going to be like.

Life is change, though. Pity I didn't know that when I signed up. I hate change, good for me though it may be.

Friday, July 21, 2006

post the eighty-seventh

Lately it seems like most of my posts have been stories from work related to poor English usage. In that tradition, I present this post.

An actual and not made up conversation I overheard from two guys at work:

GUY 1: I would describe that with a word like "luscious" or "voluptuous."
GUY 2: "Voluptuous?"
GUY 1: Yeah, "voluptuous."
GUY 2: Don't you mean "volumptuous?"
GUY 1: Um...maybe.
GUY 2: I'm pretty sure you mean "volumptuous."
GUY 1: Oh, okay. I always mess up words like that.

In case you were curious, a Google search for "volumptuous" turns up 21,000 hits, although it asks you first if you were meant "voluptuous," which turns up 5,170,000 hits.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

post the eighty-sixth

From an actual sign that I saw while eating at Panda Express yesterday:

Panda Values
  • Proactive
  • Respect/Win-Win
  • Growth
  • Great Operations
  • Giving
I had to take a couple of looks at this sign to make sure I was reading it correctly. Almost every item on this list is phrased differently. Do the powers that be at Panda Express have no respect for stylistic conformity? It still confuses me looking at this. Did they not have an editor, or even just a regular person, read this first?

That said, the food was really good. I really like their orange chicken.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

post the eighty-fifth

I just recently came into two new albums that are both fantastic. It's very rare that I end up getting two new albums at the same time that are both so incredible. (The last time this happened was probably when I bought Radiohead's OK Computer and Beck's Odelay on the same day, although I might be making that memory up.) On Saturday, I bought Sufjan Stevens' The Avalanche, while Petra bought Thom Yorke's The Eraser. We made a trade, and I think both of us came off better for it.

I don't know how familiar you are with these two artists, so I'll just sum them up a bit for you. Thom Yorke is the lead singer of Radiohead. This is his first solo album. It's a piece of electronic genius, in my opinion. I've been listening to it nearly nonstop for the last 24 hours. It's marvelous. I highly recommend it if you like electronica at all. For that matter, if you like Radiohead at all, you really ought to listen to this album. You won't be disappointed, trust me.

On the other hand, we have Sufjan Stevens. His is a sort of folksy sound that is a bit trickier to describe. It has elements of country in it, but also of alt-rock. It's also extremely good. He jokingly started a project a few years ago of writing an album about every one of the fifty states. He's written two so far - one about Michigan, and one about Illinois. This album is a series of outtakes and extras from his Illinois album. I was hesitant about buying an album of songs that he made the decision to cut already, but it turns out that they're all very good. I've been very impressed with it. It's not just anywhere you can turn to hear a song all about two-time presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. I've been very pleased about it.

I only rarely bother to post music reviews on this blog, but these two CDs have been in my head so much recently that I couldn't help myself. Enjoy them, please.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

post the eighty-fourth

I had the chance to go to a funeral yesterday morning. A woman my family knows back at home died this last week of a prolonged battle with leukemia. She was only 26. I didn't know her at all, really, but since my family couldn't come out here (this woman died in Utah, where I'm at, and my family is in Oregon), they sent me as an envoy.

I've only been to two other funerals in my life, and both came when I was much younger, so I didn't really understand much of what was going on in either of them. My great-grandfather died when I was about ten. I remember going to that funeral, but mostly remembering that the service took a really long time. I also remember there being cookies afterward and eating them while talking to my cousin. I went to another funeral when I was about fourteen. Strangely enough, this person had also died of leukemia, although he died at the age of ten. I remember this boy's uncle giving a really nice eulogy and crying a lot at the end, but not much else.

This funeral turned out to be a very different experience for me. The LDS perspective on funerals is unlike what you'll find in most other places. Clearly it's a time to grieve and to mourn the passing of a friend, but there's an eternal perspective that you don't really find anywhere else. The back of the program for the service had the words from the song "Families Can Be Together Forever," which, if you're not familiar with it, go like this:

I have a family here on earth
They are so good to me
I want to share my life with them through all eternity
Families can be together forever
Through Heavenly Father's plan
I always want to be with my own family
And the Lord has shown me how I can
The Lord has shown me how I can.

They're really nice words, and I thought they were appropriate for such an occasion. I think that most people believe that death, while an unpleasant thing, is merely another step we have to take in life. We'll meet up with the departed later. The perspective was nice.

The thing that most struck me, though, was seeing a bunch of little kids running around during the service. My sister and I showed up a bit late for the service, since we got confused with the no directions that we received. (Even in Utah, where the addresses are listed with a coordinate system, one can get lost. Trust me.) Being late, we sat in the overflow section of the chapel, which opened up into a large gym. Several young children, all of whom were under the age of two, were running around in this gym entertaining themselves. Various people were speaking about the woman who had died and were tearing up, but I couldn't help but watch these little kids innocently amuse themselves. One boy in particular was crawling enthusiastically around some chairs, smiling and waving at people as he passed by. He eventually got up and started running, still waving and smiling periodically. I thought it was really neat to see life come full circle. On the one hand, there was a woman who had just left this mortal coil and was finished with her journey here. On the other hand, there was this little boy who was still relatively new here and was really enthusiastic about life.

The whole experience gave me a nice perspective on life. We're all at different stages, of course, and it was nice to see that all at once. I don't know if I'm doing a good job communicating exactly what I felt, but I can say that I felt pretty good walking out of that chapel. Who would have imagined that a funeral service would give me a boost like that?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

post the eighty-third

This job has turned out to give me way more amusing stories and anecdotes than I had anticipated. I'm really excited about it. This story is actually true and not made up in the slightest.

My co-workers and I were all filling out our time cards at the start of work when in walked our newest co-worker, who promptly said, "Is anyone else feeling languid today?" Languid, of course, isn't the sort of word one uses on a regular basis, but it's a word that I understand, and so responded by saying that yes, it was a hot day and I was feeling tired and sluggish myself.

The mere fact that I responded to this question unleashed an avalanche of comments from those with whom I work. Angry Girl immediately responded by saying, "You know that word?" Several others echoed with similar sentiments. Apparently it genuinely surprised these people that I would know a word like languid. The young man who initially said the word (we'll call him "Bryce") got defensive and said, "You speak English, don't you?" Things only got nastier from there. Angry Girl was insistent that while she spoke English, she wouldn't use weird words like languid in conversation. This went back and forth for some time, so I decided to excuse myself from the room, barely containing my laughter at the whole situation. Honestly.

Bryce, incidentally, was also blown away that I would be reading a book like Anna Karenina. I'm getting the impression more and more that I don't quite fit in with the people I work with. As long as they keep giving me entertaining stories, though, I'll continue to stay on.

Monday, July 10, 2006

post the eighty-second

I've started a project recently to read classic novels that I should have read ages ago. I've done fairly well for myself in the last few weeks, I think. Granted, I'm no Petra, but I've read plenty, and I'm feeling good about myself. My reading has been skewed slightly toward recent American fiction (in fact, skewed toward Kurt Vonnegut), but I'm making progress. Soon, I will have read every significant book ever written, and I'll be a fantastic conversationalist.

However, the problem with this is that I tend to read these books while at work. My job has me cleaning some houses owned by the university. I actually like the job - it's simple and physical work, which I really like. The snag, though, is that I have four hours to finish cleaning these four houses, and it only takes me two and a half hours (and that's if I go slow). I've taken to bringing my books to work so I'll have something to do. Yes, I could probably find something else to do with my time (such as cleaning other things), but the person who trained me also reads during our down time, so I don't feel terribly bad about it. We head to our first house at about 4:20 and finish cleaning it by 4:45 or so. We leave for our second house at 5:30, so I usually have forty-five minutes to read in that house. It isn't air-conditioned, though, so it tends to get warm and musty (as we're in the basement when we read, since it's slightly cooler than the upstairs). Almost without fail, I fall asleep while reading.

You're probably wondering why I think this is a bad thing. After all, what's the problem with a job where one can read and fall asleep and still manage to get paid? I'm certainly not complaining about that. My problem lies in the plotlines of these books I'm trying to read while I'm falling asleep. Take today, for instance. I was reading Anna Karenina, which, although long, has the redeeming aspect of a very slow plot. I was trudging through the fourth hundred pages when, true to form, I started to nod off. However, I didn't quite fall asleep. I was still somewhat awake, although I was falling asleep every few seconds. I just didn't quite realize that I was asleep. (I'm sure all of you can relate to this. It's that state between awake and asleep where things start to get weird. You'll see where this is headed.) During this twenty minutes, the plot started to change radically. I was reading about a horse race, when, suddenly, sharks started to manifest themselves in the story. I'm not terribly familiar with Russian literature and themes - my experience is entirely limited to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, also a good read - but I really wasn't expecting sharks. The characters started to become a lot more assertive, too. In fact, they were bordering on belligerent. They would yell at each other a lot, which was out of character for most of them. I would shake my head a bit and re-read passages, only to find that these characters had apparently changed their minds and retracted their earlier statements, becoming tamer and more docile, as Tolstoy had intended.

Such capriciousness on the part of these characters made for a difficult and confusing read for me. I put the book down at 5:25 and headed over to our second house. By the time I opened the book again at 6:40, the plot had reverted to its initial form. The characters were dignified and calm. There were no sharks to be heard of. Everything was as it should have been.

I'm tempted to go back and read that section again to see what on earth it's actually about, but I really just want to finish this book so I can be done with it and move on to the new stack of books I got today. Maybe I should find a less comfortable place to read at work so the plotlines of my books don't change on me again. Then again, those fifty pages were probably the most entertaining of the 450 I've read so far.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

post the eighty-first

Things that are hot: female tennis players in skirts. Mmm-hmm.

Oh man, I love Wimbledon.