28 April, 2010

I feel pretty good about what I have decided to do with my life.

I really like teaching. The more hours I spend in the classroom I am volunteering with at Room Nine, the more convinced I am that this is the vocation for me. That being said, I am glad I majored in something else for my undergrad, because I think I will fit in better at the UW's teaching program than BYU's. Assuming I get in. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, today I was helping some fourth graders prepare for the writing section of the MSP (which used to be the WASL, which used to be something else ... which is just one symptom of the disease that plagues public schools these days ...but that's not what I'm here to talk about). I took three of them into a tutoring room to help them do a practice worksheet for the narrative writing section, where they give you a prompt, ask you to write a creative narrative piece, and then grade you on it. Super counter intuitive. But again, beside the point.

I thought it would be a helpful example, and also only fair, if I participated in the dreaded exercise with them. The assignment is to take the open-ended prompt they give you, do a pre-writing exercise, write a first draft, and then write a final draft.

Here is the prompt.

"One day you receive a special gift. It is a very old watch. You put it on. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens."

Inspiring, yeah?

I talked through my pre-writing process with the three ten year-old boys I was working with. Here is what I came up with at first.

1. Get present (in the future).
2. It's a watch.
3. Watch explodes.
4. I get hit by a truck.

The truth is, I am a ten year-old boy in a twenty-five year-old woman's body.

So anyway, in the first draft stage we talked some more about my story and agreed that it was super awesome. However, it still needed the following additions:

1. An alligator.
2. A dinosaur.
3. A veterinarian.

And now, I present to you the story I wrote for the fourth grade Washington Skills Test. I imagine it would get top marks. Maybe even extra points for being so awesome.


It is the year 3000. The world is a very different place than it was the year I was born. For starters, man now lives to be several thousand years old, which has its good points and bad points. I certainly appreciate the medical miracles that allow for such lengthy and pain-free lives, but the monotony of day-to-day life over so many years can get tedious. Also, I have way too many relatives.

The only thing that really keeps me grounded nowadays is my pet alligator, Robert Palmer. I call her Bertie for short. She has a very genial disposition and always listens to me. Feeding her can get expensive, but when she gazes at me adoringly with her beady yellow eyes, it's all worth it.

Today is my birthday. I am 1016 years old. After so many years I have completely run out of birthday party themes: pirate, cowboy, French food, Salem witch trial reenactment--I've done them all. Plus most of my friends are dead or cryogenically frozen. I decided to just have a quiet birthday dinner, me and Bertie.

Knock, knock. A visitor? Nobody ever visits me. Not even door-to-door missionaries. the "BEWARE FEROCIOUS ALLIGATOR" sign is a bit misleading, but I don't feel too bad about it.

It was the Fed-UPS driver with a package for me. After a retinal scan to confirm my identity, he handed me a small package. It was from my Uncle Eugenio. He and I have never gotten along. What was his angle? Maybe he was trying to make nice. I quickly tore open the package.

It was a calculator watch. The kind I had when I was a pretentious 25 year-old hipster, almost a thousand years ago. I couldn't believe Eugenio would get me a present I actually liked. I put the watch on.

KA-BOOM!! The force of the watch's explosion sent me flying through the air, over my front lawn and into the adjacent road. Stunned and slightly singed, yet unhurt, I staggered to my feet just in time to see the truck barreling towards me.

The next thing I remember, I was on my back in a white room, Bertie at my side, and a dinosaur in a lab coat was shining a flashlight into my eyes.

"Good afternoon," she said somberly. "If scientists hadn't proved the non-existence of luck six hundred years ago, I would say you are the luckiest person who has ever lived."

Dazed, I tried to sit up, but she pushed me back down with one three-fingered hand. "Nope. Rest. It's a good thing Ms. Palmer brought you in immediately. I don't believe in God, being a dinosaur, but somebody deserves to be thanked."

"Thanks, Bertie," I mumbled weakly. She nuzzled me with her snout and nipped affectionately at my silver space pants.

"You can go home now, or whenever you want," Dr. Rex called over her shoulder as she bustled out of the exam room. "I need to attend to a few solar panel burns. Feel better!"

Bertie and I ambled home slowly, her pausing every few seconds for me to catch up. I felt sore all over, like I had been hit by a truck, which made sense. But as we were finally within sight of my house, I saw that familiar sinister van parked in my driveway. A white van with no windows. Uncle Eugenio!

He stepped out of the car slowly as soon as we arrived at the sidewalk. His golden teeth glinted in the sun, as did his greasy mustache.

"So, you survived my birthday present," he snarled out that last word.

"Why, Uncle Eugenio?" I asked, choking on the term that indicated we were of the same blood. "Why would you want to kill me?"

"Why?" He screeched. "WHY? Because our grandmother died and left her massive fortune to all her descendants! Split evenly! Do you know how much I received?"

I racked my brain, trying to recall how much my share had been.

"A dollar?"

"FIFTY CENTS!" He sputtered, flecks of his saliva striking me in the face. "Millions of dollars amounted to nothing for us all! Why? Because there are TOO MANY OF US!"

"So ... "I began, trying to figure out where this left him and me.

"So I am going to destroy every member of our family until I receive a decent inheritance. You rabbits," he said, cocking a pistol at my forehead. "I will now finish what I started with you, you alligator-loving bunny."

Before the shot was fired, however, there was another sound. A sickening crunch, like burning logs. I looked down and saw Bertie, with Uncle Eugenio's leg from mid-femur down, in her mouth.

Robert Palmer continued to work her way methodically through her meal on my front lawn. I watched for a few seconds and then went inside to fix a cup of herb tea, guiltless.


I expect a letter regarding my Hugo Award sometime in the next week or so. If you want to ensure I get the recognition I deserve, go ahead and submit my name for me. I won't be embarrassed.

24 April, 2010

Five Times of Many

When I Miss Pamela Yukish

1. Whenever I drive past a Village Inn.
2. Whenever I listen to Jay-Z's Black Album or anything by Tilly and the Wall. Especially this song:

It's a cool video, but maybe don't watch it at work?

3. Whenever I see a hardwood floor, especially one of darker wood.
4. Whenever I watch a movie on a Sunday afternoon on the couch in my pajamas. And that. Is. Often.
5. But when I get wax stuck in my eyelashes, that's when I long for her most of all.

I cut it out with scissors. It looks ridiculous.

Still, it's not as bad as this incident, which happened long before I met Pamela.

23 April, 2010

On Curious George.

The day the Nazis invaded France, hours before the soldiers arrived, Margret and H.A. Rey fled the country on bicycles.

That is so punk rock.

19 April, 2010

I don't think it's called "retweeting" outside of twitter.

Which I don't use. Twitter, I mean. Well, I have an account, but only so I can read the inappropriate, cruel and hilarious one-liners of one Robbie X Pierce on my cellular telephone.

The point is, I have been listening to this song over and over like a crazy person since Friday or so, and credit for this (the song, not the crazy) should be given to David X Bisson. My life would suck without that guy.

Also, the video is pretty cool and references lots of genres I really like.

16 April, 2010

Are you aware that when I upload a lot of pictures I actually write the blog entry BACKWARDS?

I used to want to be an editor. I like marking up papers and being right, and it's the only thing one can do with a Bachelor's in English Linguistics without going to graduate school or learning how to program computers. It was pretty much my only chance to be employable, so I went with it. Then I took an editing class where we practiced editing real material, and I hated it more than I have ever hated anything in my life.

I think it's because people can be real idiots, and I have no patience for it. If you can't write, why are you writing a book? No, your writing is terrible. YOU shut up. My career as an editor would have been short-lived. Or I would have become an agent within a matter of weeks.

Seemingly unrelated tangent!

Have you ever heard of the infant literacy program Your Baby Can Read? It's like the poor man's Baby Einstein. Although unlike Baby Einstein, YBCR hasn't been sued for false advertising ... yet.

Basically it's a really expensive set of videos and books that you show to your baby in an effort to jumpstart his or her reading abilities. You're supposed to show your baby this video EVERY SINGLE COTTON-PICKING DAY and supplement the little angel's intellectual development with the books and flashcards (not included). In both the video and the books, they show a word, then a picture of what the word represents. That's it. Also, the program is much more expensive than a gross of post-its.

Your Baby Can Read was developed by Robert C. Titzer, Ph.D., who is an infant researcher and most likely a super guy. I applaud his chutzpah in convincing helicopter parents to invest that kind of money in anything. But seriously, the program is a crock. It's not gonna hurt anyone, but it's not gonna turn your baby smart, either. You might as well be showing the kids "Days of Our Lives." That's on every day, too.

Here's the thing. Your baby CAN'T read. Humans don't develop the focus ability and brain matter to read until around age three. If you show your kid a video EVERY FREAKING DAY, of course he or she will memorize the symbols and associate them with the images that accompany them. But that's not reading, that's symbol recognition. Infants can't grasp phonics or any of the other complex mental processes that reading requires. Any parents within the sound of my voice: don't waste your money.

One caveat. I suppose someone could argue that showing your kid this video every day is technically better than plunking him or her in front of "As the World Turns" for forty minutes every day. I mean, at least he's being quiet and not subjected to any inappropriate material, right?

Point taken. But here's the thing. If you sit a child under the age of three in front of television, you must acknowledge what you are doing. You are trying to keep that child occupied. And that's OK! Kids are exhausting and it's hard to get stuff done when they are constantly underfoot. But don't try to convince yourself that your child is benefiting from any really expensive video more than he would benefit or not benefit from a Disney video or even a string of commercials. Kids like TV because it's flashy and keeps up with their attention span. It doesn't make kids smarter. The End.

Also, I totally use Curious George as leverage for good behavior with D so I have half an hour to make her dinner. See? But like I said, I own that. I know that's what I'm doing.

The Your Baby Can Read series, besides being obviously fraudulent, is entertaining in other ways as well. For one, the video was made on a minuscule budget, using youtube-quality clips of what are obviously the author's own children and the author's own home. The budget may have been blown on a three-minute piece of computer animation that accompanies "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." One can't say for sure.

The books are also unintentionally funny. Observe. Each page has a word, as shown.

When one lifts the flap with the word written on it, one finds an image defining what the letters stand for.

Not all of the images are this creepy, but you get the idea.

So the kicker is, while the good folks at Your Baby Can Read were putting these books together, it was obvious that they weren't really going for a sense of cohesion. For one thing, the words come in no discernible order. They aren't ordered by subject matter or difficulty or phonetics or anything. Each book gets, in a very unquantifiable way, progressively "harder," but within the books the words seem sort of tossed in without any rhyme or reason.

Since each word has another random word facing it on the opposite page, this leads to some interesting two-page spreads.

Some of them create a mental image that seems logical.

Or charming.

Or sorta funny.

Or REALLY funny.

(This is only funny if you are eight years old)
(Which I am)

The above one is good, but I do believe this one is my favorite.

Literally speaking.

Some of them sound like exotic diseases.

I'm picturing Joseph Merrick in dental form. Ouch.

This one can't be comfortable, either.

Or perhaps an ancient, obscure martial arts move.

Hi-YA! Chimpanzee kick!!!

Others just sound like playground insults.


Hey, four eyes!!
Shut up, cat toes!!!!!

Some of them seem even a little sinister.

Thinly-veiled subliminal racism, anyone?

Does this seem like a fat joke, or am I being hypersensitive?

P.S. Hi, Dr. Titzer! Google yourself much? Rest assured this is all in good fun.
P.P.S. But seriously, food for thought, right? Did this occur to your editor(s) at all?
P.P.P.S. Your daughters are adorable. I wish you and your family all the best.

12 April, 2010

Even More 2010 Books

Suzanne Collins is a cool storyteller/universe-creator, if that makes any sense. Like a female dystopian Tolkien. I enjoyed this book, but man, it drives me NUTS when authors cut the story off with a "to be continued" until the next book comes out. Meaning we're on the edge of our seats for what, a year? Grrrr. J.K. Rowling left mysteries unsolved throughout her series, but still managed to bring each novel to an acceptable ending point. We could all take a page from her book, figuratively speaking. She's a smart lady.

My employer has a lot of funny parenting books around that I read during my lunch break. Stop judging me. Right now. This was entertaining and made me feel less potential guilt about my child-rearing style. Nobody likes a helicopter parent.
P.S. By "slacker parenting" the author is not referring to neglect, but rather allowing kids to make their own choices, avoiding over-scheduling, etc.

This book was funny but also kinda ridiculous. Basically, she argues that old-fashioned parents (the kind we envision in the 1950s) were in fact better parents because they were adults outside of their roles as parents and allowed the kids to be kids. I agreed with some of the sentiment, but not all of it. Still, she has an engaging style.

One of my new favorite books. Seriously, up there with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A young kid growing up in Nebraska tells about the town he grew up in and the young Bohemian immigrant he falls in love with. I love Bohemia. I love this book.

11 April, 2010

On Self-Awareness.

I realized today that my style of talking, especially when I am nervous, is a lot like improvisational jazz. Sometimes it turns out really awesome, and sometimes it's just really really weird.

That being said, listen to this. It's good.

10 April, 2010

Why this week was an inverse parabola.

Of course, I'm sure you all remember what an inverse parabola looks like.
But just in case.


Him: This week sucks.
Me: Agreed. TOTALLY sucks.

Next day.

Him: Guess what? I am driving to Yakima!
Me: No way! That is only a few hours from me!
Him: Come visit me please maybe?
Me: Woohoo!

The day after that.

Me: So, Snoqualmie Pass is really snowy and I don't think my little Korean car can make it.
Him: Then I shall come TO YOU!


Him: I must leave now.
Me: OK.

Car drives away.


But seriously, who else is awesome and spontaneous enough to come visit me for only one day and go for a walk and eat cupcakes and watch The Shining (and comfort me when I almost peed myself from terror 'cause that movie is SUPER SCARY) and eat breakfast and then leave?

Nobody, that's who.

He is the y to my y = ± √(x - h) + k

You know what I mean.

05 April, 2010

We can hold onto love like invisible strings.

I just watched this movie with David and Christina. It's such a great, timeless little film.

I sometimes forget about this song, which I think is one of the best songs to have been associated with the Muppets, though perhaps it is one of the more overlooked ones. It is better than The Rainbow Connection.

Oddly, I think this song sums up quite effectively how I feel about God, and love.

There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I'm going to go back there someday.

This song makes me ache, a little bit.

04 April, 2010


There are a lot of things I do not know. I don't know why sand is opaque and glass is not. I don't know how cockroaches turn onto their backs when they die. I don't know why puppets can get away with saying or doing things I would never tolerate from a human being. I don't know how to make anything cordon bleu, and I don't know why anyone would want to live in Tacoma, Washington, where the paper factory smells awful and the glass museum's gift shop is nicer than the actual museum. I also don't know the ins and outs of the church I have belonged to for seventeen years. But that's OK.

Here is some stuff I do know.

3 He is adespised and rejected of men; a man of bsorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we cesteemed him not.
4 ¶ Surely he hath aborne our bgriefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was awounded for our btransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his cstripes we are dhealed.
6 All we like asheep have gone bastray; we have turned every one to his cown way; and the Lord hath laid on him the diniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53)

14 But Zion said, The Lord hath aforsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
15 Can a awoman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not bforget thee.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49)

26 A anew bheart also will I cgive you, and a new dspirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony eheart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my aspirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36)

20 The soul that asinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bbear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the crighteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
21 But if the wicked will aturn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
22 All his atransgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
23 Have I any apleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? (Ezekiel 18)

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of aall these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the bearth, and call things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its dmotion, yea, and also all the eplanets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (Alma 30)

42 Behold, he who has arepented of his bsins, the same is cforgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. (Doctrine and Covenants 58)

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1)

36 ¶ And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
37 And, behold, a awoman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster bbox of ointment,
38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and aanointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred apence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly aforgave them both. bTell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are aforgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are aforgiven. (Luke 7)

I have a lot of questions, but the story above always makes me remember what is really important. On my mission, when I was often at my lowest and so sad I thought I would never recover, I found that story in my cheap Hungarian Bible with its tiny print, and I was overwhelmed for love for Jesus Christ and His love for me. I wanted to kiss Christ's feet. I still do.

Come celebrate His wond’rous birth, Alleluia!
For Christ shall govern all the earth, Alleluia!
With heart and mind and strength proclaim: Alleluia!
For Wonderful shall be His name, Alleluia!

Our Counsellor, our mighty God, Alleluia!
Our Father, our redeeming Lord, Alleluia!
Come worship Christ, the Prince of Peace, Alleluia!
May our rejoicing never cease, Alleluia!

--Marvin Gardner, one of my favorite professors at BYU.