I've done a lot of embarrassing and stupid things during this quarter of culinary school. There was that time I caught my apron on fire, for instance. Or the time I gashed my hand boning chickens and didn't notice for about fifteen minutes. Once, I was told to roast red peppers and ended up making a muddle of it all, not blacking them enough and almost losing one to the gaping hole of the range. But it's not even that high-level stuff always that flummoxes me. Based on my performance in class, you'd think I couldn't: 1. fry an egg, 2. remember that metal pans in the oven get hot (I've burned myself three times on this oversight), 3. soft-boil an egg, or 4. make steamed rice.

I'm not sure what it is, but it seems that as soon as I cross the threshold of the kitchens, I lose basic culinary skills. I become all thumbs and sort of dim-witted. I think a lot of this has to do with feeling totally intimidated by all the other students who seem to have some sort of native skill set that I don't have. It's the skill set that allows them to salt entrees perfectly or cut allumettes that don't look like a blind two-year old was in charge. Good thing I've not really planning on trying to compete with those people for jobs, right?

The single most humiliating experience happened earlier this week, though. We were making some stewed beef and needed beef stock. The stock we had to work with was in this huge container, probably holding about about 4 gallons. The stock had been frozen and then thawed...sort of. There was a huge chunk of ice in the center. The chef instructor told me to remove the ice and then scoop out the stock I needed. So, I went to, grabbing the block of ice. I got the cube almost to the top of the container when it slipped. And it fell. Back into the huge vat of stock. I'm sure you've seen where this is going: there was an explosion of beefy juice EVERYwhere. It looked like a scene in a movie where an underwater charge goes off and sends spray from heck to breakfast.

I got drenched. I soaked the floor. I even got stock somehow between my apron and coat. I reeked of cow parts and onion the rest of the night. Fortunately, the other person who got hit by beef splash just found it funny and everybody else was not paying close enough attention to notice what I had done.

I keep telling myself that it'll get better, that once I'm in the world of flour, sugar, creaming and the baked goodness that I love; that things won't turn out so poorly; that I'm not a totally lost cause. I hope that's true. I also hope, someday, to put on my chef's coat and not suddenly wonder where that demiglace smell is coming from. I'm not sure which of those hopes is the easiest to fulfill, but I'm not ready to give up on either just yet.

Most of the time, I feel the way about love that Alice does in the novel The Romantic Movement when she's decided to break up with Eric. He tries to convince her to stay by saying "I love you" and she thinks:

So many hopes surround the word, one may with confidence take love out of its packet in the midst of almost any crisis, and count on it having a miraculous effect, a complete loss of critical faculties accompanied by salival, beatific grins.

“May I ask why you’re currently making my life insufferable, abusing my credit card, polluting my bathroom, wrecking my kitchen and playing pin-ball with my mind? Ah, I see. It’s because you love me. Oh, well now I understand, in that case, fine, go ahead, and don’t forget to burn down the house and hit the other cheek before you’re done.”
But lately, and much to my dismay, I've been lonely for some sort of romantic interest. Though, interest isn't exactly the right word, since there's lost of people floating around that I'm interested in. So, a romantic counterpart, perhaps? Someone to spend time with, to share my affection, to be on the same team with, and, of course, annoy and be annoyed by, hate occasionally and care about in that way that only really comes when there's a combination of emotional and physical ties.

I fear I'm feeling a bit desperate about all this, but hopefully not acting it. Also, I'm so hideously shy in this arena that I'm basically paralyzed and stagnating. It probably doesn't help that fewer and fewer of my friends are single, in the sense that they're married. Maybe the mood'll pass, right? And then I can go back to being the person who's (almost) mostly alright with living and dying solo.

Over the Ledge...

As most of you know, I have no love for Sen. Chris Buttars, who recently won re-election for reasons I have yet to fully understand. You might call me a lousy liberal who just wants to crucify this man for his backwards, stupid, bumbling word choices. However, I'd like to hope that a recent vote in the Utah State Senate highlights how absurd this man's view of government is.

Robert Hilder was up for appointment to Utah's court of appeals. He had some of the highest marks on jury and lawyer surveys of any judge in the state. And he was rejected by the senate. It seems like the reason behind this was a ruling a few years back where you allowed the University of Utah to forbid concealed weapons. This is, of course, an affront to gun rights advocates who find it necessary to attend SOC 1100 packing heat.

Some of the concerns of Sen. Buttars, though, are more fundamental. He claims there should only be one "sovereign" in the state: the Legislature. Wait a minute...checks and balances? Judicial review? Maybe the Leg is just good enough in Utah that they don't need anyone to tell them what they did is unconstitutional or just plain wrong.

During the hearings, Buttars also said, "I've been on this committee for six years. I have never received, in all of the hearings, the e-mail that I've received for this case - well over 1,000. What's fascinating, is you can divide these among citizens who say no, and judges and lawyers who say yes. And, I'll tell you something else, if I get any issue and there's 1,000 lawyers on this side, and 1,000 citizens on the other side - I'm going to go with the citizens."

So, lawyers are no longer citizens, it seems. Also, heaven forbid that you listen to people who may have actually worked with the judge, or have some sort of informed opinion about whether or not he can do the job well. I just...don't understand Buttars' political viewpoint. At all.

In other, slightly depressing Utah government news, Margaret Dayton was appointed to head up the Senate Rules Committee, the one that decides if bills are passed on to vote. Why is this possibly a bad option? Because Sen. Dayton, you may not remember, is the one who raised questions about the "international" nature of the IB program in Utah high schools.

Sometimes, I think it'd be interesting to live in a state where rabid conservatism isn't seen as a step in the right direction. Maybe, though, just maybe, the probate bill will pass and gay couples in Utah will have a few rights. I'm not holding my breath on that one, though.

So, Mallard Fillmore doesn't really make sense to me. Is it ever funny? But, more pressingly, is it ever appropriate to compare the controversy surrounding cartoon mascots to the holocaust?

Sitting on the sidelines

World War I, I think, wins the award for Most Earnest Propaganda, a title that is pretty impressive, given the nature of propaganda in general. We know that WWI came about in part because of the jingoism of the European monarchies, but did they have to be so chipper and positive about it all? One of my favorites is the one shown above. A young girl asks her middle-aged father what he had done to fight back the Hun scourge. Apparently, his blank expression tells us that, rather than risk trench warfare for England, he had done something dishonorable, like working an office in London rather than dying horribly in a trench in France.

There's a powerful sense in this poster that Britain knew it was involved in shaping the history of tomorrow. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option, you've got to man up and become part of the planned glory of victory. I also like the insecurity that's being played on here. Men seeing this poster are supposed to be shamed into signing up. But shamed by the possibility that, in the future, their as-yet-unborn kids will think less of them for not carrying a gun. It takes a certain kind of personality to be urged to get involved by this thought. And, apparently, I have that personality.

The current fight over gay marriage seems to me to be what we will all look back on as my generation's Vietnam. It's the major social issue that is spurs intense political action and ire from both sides of America. And I feel sort of like I'm sleeping through it. I'm frustrated by my church's involvement in the anti position enough to complain to everybody I cross paths with but not enough to sign a letter to the first presidency decrying it or to show up for a rally at Temple Square. In fact, the fallout of Proposition 8's passing has, unaccountably, put me on the defensive for Mormonism. Not so much for this particular PR nightmare, but for all the things on the periphery that seem to be roiled up by the issue. I'm halting between two opinions (which is the second half of my personal narrative after being designed contrary to happiness). And, being lukewarm, I'll be spewed out by both sides.

And it's not an issue that I want to be on the "winning" side, I don't think. As far as I can tell, there's no winner here. If the Church gets its way, gays are second-class citizens. If the civil rights wins, the church loses (though what they lose is entirely unclear to me). I still firmly believe the Church should just let it alone and that gay marriage is actually the right answer. I'm just a little hesitant to move myself to anything that might actually include any effort on my part. It seems like the only explanation here is some uncovered fear I'm holding onto. What, I wonder, am I really afraid of? And, at the other end of my life, what will I have to say to those people who ask me, expecting an exciting, brave story, what I did during the great war for equality?

Oops...too soon

I guess the LDS Church does want to pass the buck, sort of. The Catholics have our backs, it would seem.

Also, this from an email from Equality California and whole bunch of other No on 8 folks:

We achieve nothing if we isolate the people who did not stand with us in this fight. We only further divide our state if we attempt to blame people of faith, African American voters, rural communities and others for this loss. We know people of all faiths, races and backgrounds stand with us in our fight to end discrimination, and will continue to do so. Now more than ever it is critical that we work together and respect our differences that make us a diverse and unique society. Only with that understanding will we achieve justice and equality for all.
So, churches are bewildered and begging for respect, and gay rights organizations ask for civility, and yet people show up at Temple Square to protest. As my friend Hannah keeps pointing out, nobody's winning here and everybody's getting hurt.

Pointing the finger

There’s a fairly well-known set of bronze doors on the cathedral St. Michael’s in Hildesheim, Germany. The colossal bronze doors have on one side the story of the creation up to the murder of Abel and the other side highlights scenes from the life of Jesus. About half-way down the Genesis retelling, there’s a depiction of Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden. God, understandably angry at His creations for failing to keep a very simple rule, points forcefully at Adam. Adam, in turn, claims it’s all his wife’s fault. Eve, hunched to hide her nakedness, points no less insistently to the serpent. It’s pass the buck, 5000 BC-style. This post could be read as that same story being repeated, not the part about pissing off deity for failing to grasp his reasons but rather the share the blame bit. That’s not really my intention, but I guess part of being Mormon is having an apologetic reflex.

I don’t want you to think that I am actually defending the position of the Mormon Church and their involvement in Prop 8. The position they took, surrounded by sketchy logic, and connected with the statements that they don’t oppose same-sex couples having the rights of marriage without actually getting married doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. It’s either confused or evil or just half-baked. And, barring some revelation that the Brethren have yet to share with us, their fervor is grounded, not too subconsciously, on the cultural mores of a bunch of men seventy years and older. Nor do I feel all that sorry about the protest yesterday outside the LA temple or the one planned tonight for Temple Square. The Church surely knew they were going to raise the ire of a whole bunch of folks by opposing marriage equity. Also, these protests, sadly for those of us who are hurt and annoyed by the church, will probably do very little. Mormons love the sense they’re being persecuted and calling them out like this will only galvanize them further.

But, did Mormons really protect marriage in California? The data seem to suggest that, really, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There’s the obvious fact that Mormons donated a staggering amount of money to the cause and the time and energies of devoted members who manned phone banks, knocked on doors and stood outside polling locations can probably never be quantified. The Church also made public statements outlining its reasons, called special meetings for the Saints to hear higher ups urge them to get involved and willingly signed up with a bunch of people who think we’re all going to hell just to maximize their efforts. On the flipside, the money donated by opponents is also astounding, as was their devotion and volunteer hours. Both sides were highly engaged. The question is which side was more effective. The opponents’ ads, it turns out, had more impact, according to polls. People who had seen both ads agreed that the No on 8 campaign was more persuasive. Of course, given the disparity between exit polls and actual returns, that could be more social desirability bias coming through.

The real answer, as most media outlets are coming to, is that both sides were blindsided by the nature of the electorate in 2008. African-Americans, who turned out in record numbers, voted in favor of banning gay marriage seventy percent. The reasons for these citizens showing up at the polls are complicated, but have a lot to do with the big push of the Democratic Party to get the vote out and the fact that, for the first time, we were voting for an African-American president. I doubt the Dems will soon be changing their publicity materials to include the unsavory fact that getting people involved in democracy can backfire. The efforts to flood the polls with Obama-supporters, though, surely helped the opposition to Prop 8 camp as well. After all, young, first-time voters showed up in droves, and that group is generally more accepting of gay marriage. Unfortunately, though, the African-American and, to a lesser degree, the Latino vote gave marriage “preservation” a lead that couldn’t be surmounted. I find it sad and troubling that the group that should know the most about laws curtailing rights turned out to do the exact same to another group. Of course, we could talk about kick-the-dog syndrome, but I’m not really sure that African-Americans are just picking on a group with weaker social protections. Basically, I don’t get the rationale of African-American voters who said no to gay marriage and I wouldn’t try to guess.

So why, then, given these complications are Mormons getting all the blame? Surely they do deserve part of it if they convinced anyone sitting on the fence to vote for the ban. However, I think four main factors play into the rage. The first has to do with the way the story was reported in the press. Before the election, most reporters seemed to agree that, if Prop 8 passed, it would be because the Mormons have deep pockets and a knack for organizing. [I find it interesting, somewhat as a non-sequitor, that most press kept referring to the “Utah-based Church”, while we never saw “Rome-based Catholic Church” or “Georgia-based Southern Baptist Convention”.] Like everyone else, these reporters didn’t fully expect the African-American voting patterns. The second reason for Mormons getting the blame is that they are an easy target. They have a cohesive structure, they failed to admit that members disagreed on this issue (they sort of did, in their press release response), they have these big temples, they were very vocal and so on. The third, connected closely with being an easy target, is the fact that a lot of the protestors were already upset with the Church for any number of reasons, most of which are quite valid. Prop 8 fallout is just another reason to go picket, or the straw that broke the ruminant.

The fourth reason is the most interesting, at least to me. There’s been quite a bit of talk, ever since Mitt Romney’s bid, about acceptable biases in society. Anti-Mormonism is still a very comfortable bias for most Americans. After all, these people are weird. They believe in becoming gods, polygamy, extreme communalism, secret temple oaths, and they don’t even drink coffee! Even people who don’t openly hate Mormonism don’t have much good to say for it. However, anti-African-American bias is definitely not cool any more. So, all the frustration of the gay rights groups has to go somewhere. Since angry signs and yelling in African-American neighborhoods or in front of heavily black churches would be viewed with repugnance, that bloc of voters isn’t being held responsible. So, instead of pointing the finger accurately, these groups opt for a course that provides an outlet, real blame and a socially acceptable target.

I am glad that the Church has yet to try to point the blame elsewhere. They are taking these protests the way they always do: with silence to suggest dignity and an underlying belief that it’s just one more sign that we’re the chosen people (when, in fact, they should maybe realize that their position is questionable). I’m also happy to know that not all is lost in the fight for marriage equity. There’s a court case with new, compelling logic to be settled (a case that forces the Supreme Court of California to either admit they were wrong a few months ago or claim that it’s kosher to let fundamental rights be taken away from a specific group) and, failing that, it’ll be back on the ballot in 2010. There’s hope. Maybe by that time, the leaders of the Church will have learned to not get involved. But even if they do, it looks like all the time and money in the world don’t make that much difference when all’s said and done.

Sure, you can, if you really want to.

Throughout Salt Lake, there are ads that appeared about a month ago. They are for the Utah Republican Party, which as we all know is an organization that really needs to sell itself to its target audience. I mean, Utah is, after all, a battleground state.

These ads are a play on the fact that Republican contains the words "I can". (Those GOPsters! Their wit amazes!) They finish out that sentence with things like "I can start my dream business", "I can prosper", or "I can dream big" (democrats, it appears only squelch dreams. Because they're Marxists.) I think, though, to be fair, we should expand the options of finishing this setence to some other things that the Utah Republican Party supports.

Here's some examples to get started:

  • I can work four jobs and still not afford health insurance
  • I can marry the person I love, unless that person is the same sex as I am
  • I can adopt children (assuming I'm married)
  • I can pray at school events
  • I can work way past retirement age, because social programs are a sign of weakness.
  • I can get an abortion, maybe. And only after my husband's been notified
  • I can pay less tax and still complain when the government doesn't run smoothly
  • I can expand offshore drilling
  • I can fight an unwinnable war for decades

Got any others to add?

Every Walker, I will go with thee

Yesterday, I wore a cardigan, a bow tie and my tortoise shell plastic glasses to church. I could not have looked more poindexter-y if I were actively trying. Though, my intellectual garb did help when I was glowering over the speaker who spoke in favor of Prop 8.

I also spent a large chunk of yesterday watching episodes of Brothers & Sisters. I rather like this show, but I started noticing with the second season how each of the characters really only faces one issue. Justin is the addicted war vet, Kitty is the politico, Sarah is coping with family/work balance as a working, now divorced, mother, and Kevin is a relationship-phobic gay man. Whenever we see the characters, they're either coping with their topical trouble or are interacting with other family members on theirs. Because I've just noticed this (I'm nothing if not an indulgent viewer), they're starting to seem a bit flat. Even now, when they're trying to pull other dimensions to these characters' lives (like Kitty's Kinderlust), they don't come off as entirely authentic.

I wonder, though, if this isn't the appeal of the show. Rather than being a show about a single person coping with a wide-range of life challenges, B&S manages to make itself identifiable on a level that transcends personality. Viewers aren't forced to agree or identify with a real human, but with a shorthand version of a personal struggle, something they've probably faced themselves in a slightly different twist. In this sense, it's sort of like a well-crafted, disguised modern morality play. It helps that the writing is crisp, the acting spot-on and heartstrings just sufficiently tugged.

If I were a real cultural studies type, I'd probably spend some time writing academic articles about this series. One thing that'd be really interesting is to track is the amount of time spent on each Walker family member. If the show runs for several seasons (which it should, since it's one of the best serial dramas on right now), you could then even watch the evolution of issues across time and the concerns of the general public. Or explore which two characters/issues interact the most and what the intent of the writers is in doing that. Sigh...I really should just go back to academia, shouldn't I?

The deck's stacked against them

I had a very typical alea moment yesterday in church. Our Elders' Quorum lesson focused on home teaching. Of course, there were the standard comments that we need to do it so that the sisters have the priesthood in their homes (a problematic position, given the fact that brethren also need that same priesthood and because I feel like giving blessings is a fairly minor function of the ward teaching effort). So, basically, it was the same lesson you get about once a year in EQ.

Some background first: I'm at a point right now where I'm not too keen on the Church. In fact, I'm sort of Jack Twist-y about it all, what with wishing I knew how to quit it and all that jazz. In my current mood, I was convinced that I would turn out a home teaching route. I think it'd be better for all parties involved, plus I'm not sure I'm even allowed to have a route right now. The lesson, therefore, wasn't really high on my list of things to care about.

Then, at the end of the hour, the president of the quorum read off the companionships. My name was not included. I felt a bit angry about that. Then, just as I was heating up to it, I realized that, really, my ward had no way to win with me on this one and I was being silly. I ought to just back off, I figure. Though, maybe I should allow those irritations to grow, because the awesome Sunday School teacher that had pretty much kept me active with her lessons left the ward yesterday. It's a sad day to be sure.

See, I'm even too lazy to come up with a title.

A couple days ago, I finished the book The White Tiger. It's been long-listed for the Booker this year and is a nice mixture of really funny moments and terribly sad ones. Well, the whole novel is run through with a sense of despair, so maybe there's just some really funny ways of looking at all that degradation. Should some enterprising grad student need a topic for a contemporary fiction class, take this one: Compare the attitudes and modes of service found in the servant character-narrators of Remains of the Day and The White Tiger. (Can we just pause for a minute to smile at the fact that, in England, literary prizes are part of the provenance of bookies? And that there are odds for presumed winners?)

I realized, after listing this book in my journal of books read, that I somehow managed to go the entire month of July without completing a single novel. How did this happen? I blame Gilmore Girls, mostly. Because, see, my family and I are working our way through all seven seasons. Now, if I were watching them by myself, this would be a three week project. As it is, we've spent a solid two months chipping away at them, one or two episodes a night. So, that saps my evenings. Then, we've got the new morning church, so that cuts into my Sunday am reading. Also, being in class two nights a week doesn't help.

Really, though, I think I'm getting sort of intellectually lazy. I don't think as much, or as thoroughly, about anything any more. I've been ruined and I'm not sure what's the culprit. Maybe it's my working life, where I've just this week been informed, will now include doing financial aid appointments with students. Apparently, running a library, riding shotgun for student affairs, pinch-hitting in the bookstore, ordering textbooks, chairing a scholarship committee and being the errand boy for the academic team adds up to "having a lot of free time" and "being able to help out during this crisis". I have all sorts of bad things to say about this, but I'll probably just get too worked up if I start. On the plus side, being trained in yet another area will make me that much more employable, if suddenly all those predictions come true and libraries cease to exist in five years.

At any rate, I should get back into the habit of reading. Especially if I'm hoping to get all the Booker longlist read before they announce the winner. And then, I can scoff when Rushdie has another accolade. Because, c'mon, doesn't anyone else deserve a little something-something, Man Group?

beat me, daddy

In Sunday School this week, someone brought up the fact that, if we want to see a good example of fatherhood, we should look to our Heavenly Father. Now, I'm a fan of God, in particular the Mormon conception of God, but let's think about this assertion. Imagine for a minute that you're going to pattern your life as the head of your household after him. Here's some things you should probably do:

  • Never show up in person
  • Expect seemingly impossible things of your children
  • Only be willing to accept your children if they do precisely what you want them to
  • Demand that your way is better and require submission to it
  • Don't communicate openly with them
  • Give them examples of seriously injuring your other children as an impetus to shape up
  • Make arbitrary rules, and change them from time to time
  • Make your oldest son do most of the work
  • Allow all sorts of bad things to happen to your kids, because you can't stop their siblings from being mean to them
It's pretty obvious I shouldn't go to church when I'm a snarky mood, right?

An unending chaing of flesh-craving ancestors

So, imagine for a moment you've baptized your ancestors by proxy. All is kosher and recorded, and they accept it and all that jazz. If the same folks have their corpses re-animated as zombies, would they be members of the church? Would we give them callings? What sort of first presidency missives would we see?

The theological concerns aside, I smell a good Mormon gothic novel here. A mysterious source turns the dead into zombies, but only the dead who haven't had their work done for them. What's that you say? Let the dead bury the dead? Well, if you don't get your genealogy done, it'll be more let my dead eat you! That'll light a fire under the saints' complacency, won't it?

Relatedly, I wonder if this is the real reason the church won't let us do ordinance work until one year after a person dies. I mean, surely the zombie window expires once the corpse isn't a fleshy creature. Granted, what with sealed coffins and embalming fluid, bodies stay bodies far longer. Thus, maybe the lesson we should learn here is that modern mortuary practices are a tool of the adversary.

They, monogamy, and extending the priesthood to all races is pretty much a sign of the apocalypse.

I'm going for a leeching tomorrow

I'm a tv on dvd junkie. I seriously cannot get enough. To me, a weekend can rarely be better spent than watching an entire season of this or that. The trick, in my current situation, is to find shows that invite my family's participation. Well, this is in addition to the trick of finding shows worth the emotional and chronological investment. For instance, my mom and brother could not get into The Closer, despite it being totally hilarious (if you don't think a police procedural can be funny, you need to rent a few discs of this). Yet, at the same time, my dad balks over Veronica Mars. And Battlestar Galactica is out, because my mom won't attempt to watch sci-fi. We did all get into Psych, and Law & Order is a good standby for our evenings. Part of the problem is that my parents won't watch most PG-13 movies, so a lot of shows are "bad" in their eyes. That means I won't be consuming the Sopranos with them and Six Feet Under is right out. Hell, even Dead Like Me can't make the cut.

So, in my recent trying to find something new, interesting and relatively clean, I decided to try Gilmore Girls. I have some friends who are big fans, friends whose taste I trust. I had also heard that the dialogue is lighting quick and that they pack in more cultural references than any normal person could pick up on. I scoffed at the latter. I mean, sure, I may miss the popular music ones, but I'm pretty in-the-know. Surely the writers are playing to a denominator that is slightly below mine. Mercy was I wrong. I feel, at times, that watching episodes require the viewer to have handy access to wikipedia. The allusions are so dense, so fast and furious, so arcane that no one short of a demi-god could get them all. However, and here's why I think the show works so well, the jokes are throwaways. You never need to catch them all to follow the plot, understand the argument or even enjoy the show. Sure, it makes me feel sort of dumb, missing so many things that clearly I, as an educated person, should know. But, it's such a wonderful program that I'll keep watching.

Also, may I recommend the following:

  • Zooloretto: Spiel des Jahres 2007 in which you're building a zoo. It's fun, not too time-consuming and a great combo of luck and strategy
  • Interacting more with your coworkers: last week saw me out of my library a bit more and I had a lovely time of it
  • Posting angry pictures of yourself on social networking sites. Apparently, this draws more interest than smiling ones.
  • Not getting your hopes up that the LDS Church is becoming more progressive. They'll just crush you a couple of weeks later with a statement to the contrary.
  • Brown bagging it

two book reviews

Library Journal is an odd beast. What is it? Is it a professional journal? A mouthpiece for the publishing industry? A source for quality book reviews? I'm continually confused by what it thinks is news (the merger of huge technology companies shows up alongside minor legislation from a tiny town in Alabama). However, there is one thing to be said for it. If you get a review published in LJ, it's probably going to be a positive one. Even when they slam a book, they still recommend it for purchase (hence why I think the publishing industry may be paying some reviewers under the table).

Take this review snippet I read today: "Unfortunately, what lies between the covers is epic only in its absolute failure as a novel of substance and entertainment. The writing is clumsy and derivative, riddled with cliches and plot holes so large one doesn't care whether the family's secrets are revealed at all. And when they are, it is a huge disappointment." Our reviewer closes out his panning with "Recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries only."

I wonder if this is a strange realization of the ingrained librarian ethic that we no longer are responsible for passing "quality" literature onto our patrons. But surely there's a difference between "quality" and "functioning", non?

The second one here isn't a review so much as a blurb. It comes from Tidal Wave Books, a self-publishing venture based out of Utah somewheres (I assume Utah County, which will be clear in a second). This book, Capitan of My Soul is about a personal transitioning out of homosexuality. I'm weirded out by the ex-gay movement, mostly because nearly all of its proponents seem to be from a different sphere of existence than the one I'm used to. Here's the blurb:

A young LDS man’s true story of being stereotyped and abused by peers as a child, lured into same gender internet pornography during his high school years, and recruited into cursory homosexual experimentation with older men while at Brigham Young University. Shows the undeniable link between internet porn, chat rooms, sex addiction, and homosexuality and the deceitful and predatory nature of the “gay” lifestyle. The story ends happily with his subsequent deliverance and healing through family support, expert professional counseling, truth, and repentance through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

"lured"? "recruited"? "undeniable"? I feel like there are some assumptions here that need looking into. It makes me even angrier because the first book on this topic, written by the mother of this boy, talks about how he was cured in something ridiculous like 12 therapy sessions. I'm pretty sure that sexual addiction takes a bit longer than that. Also, from a Mormon perspective, isn't it weird to lay so much blame on others for our own sins?

The fact that I get paid to read reviews, though, is still pretty sweet.

cluttered desk...cluttered mind

Today, I undertook the monthly "cleaning" of my desk. What this really amounts to is the shuffling of papers from here to there, hoping they'll somehow disappear in the process. I keep a notoriously messy desk, so this is quite a process. Usually, however, I am derailed several times when I come across a post-it note I wrote to myself. I live and die, professional speaking, with the post-it note. I have, at any given moment, twenty-five post-its with information floating around. Some of these are personal in nature (mostly lists of books I come across in my duties that I want to read later), some are vital information (vendor account numbers). But most are a sort of note-to-self Frankenstein: half a to-do list, items checked out from the library (I'm still on the pen-and-paper form of library automation), phone numbers with no other information, random quotes and so forth.

Theoretically, these things help me to remember. However, they are failing me and, by extension, I am failing. So, I get flummoxed when I unearth things like I did today. To give you an idea, here are the contents of three post-its I uncovered today that I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out.

Number 1 contains a series of ISBNs. I have no idea why I wrote these down or what I was hoping to do with them. I assume they're to be purchased, but they must not have been that critical, if I didn't take the time to enter them into the online system we use for book buying. Solution: placed aside to consider later.

Number 2: three items. A. Smith written twice, once with a þ and once with a ð. B. A call number in the NA range and C. the phrase 'art with wax and beads...Toltec?'. Solution: thrown away.

Number 3 is the densest and most confusing of all. It has what appears to be a to-do list with the following items on it: labels for shells (presumably, I meant shelves), new library handout (was I supposed to create one? distribute one? find one? the fact that it is not crossed out leads me to believe this was not done and now, sadly, never will be), check for insight (now, I know that insight media is one of the places we buy stuff from, however, when I first saw this, I thought I was reminding myself to assess my professional learning. Good thing I'm not doing that, as I can't see much that I am figuring out). This note also contains a phone number, in foreign area code, with no explanation of who or what it might be for. Hopefully nobody's expecting a call from me. Meow planning, as I've written, is probably menu planning, a reminder to buy books in the category. My inability to read my own handwriting led me also waste valuable time trying to remember why I would be following up on K's locks for her. While not beyond the realm of possibility, once I made it out to read books instead, all was much, much clearer. Sex & Bacon, while an interesting name for an album of my fictional band (the Graham Greene Catholic Quartet), means nothing now and probably never did. "The devil's in his diocese and all's right with the world" is evidently a quote from something (the quotation marks are on the original). It is kind of a nice turn of phrase, but I've no idea the source or why I wanted to preserve it. Solution: Wrote a blog entry, hoping for clarity. None came. Decided to leave it as is and call it a day.

I think I'll stick with Library 1.5, actually

I should probably start with a little caveat lector: this post will deal with pretty rarefied librarian issues. The fact that I can get so worked up about them probably says something about how I choose to expend my energy, but for the non-librarian, it'll be pretty boring.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was at the ULA conference last week. Whenever you get a group of librarians together, it is only a matter of time before certain topics crop up. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act is one of these items. For people unfamiliar with the full version of this legislation's name, that's the USA PATRIOT Act. Another thing that is sure to be addressed is google and wikipedia. What do they mean for libraries? How can we fight them? In essence, this is the great librarian panic: becoming obsolete. Connected with this panic is, of late, the discussion on tagging. The idea here is that Library of Congress Subject Headings are out of date, unwieldy and opaque to the casual user (facts I have no problem readily agreeing with). Instead, we should tap the collective skills of all users and allow them to categorize works, vote on other peoples' labelling, and thereby create a folksonomy instead of taxonomy.

Sounds like a great idea, right? However, most librarians are unsettled by this and, not just for job security reasons. Where I become particularly antsy is where tagging is proposed as a replacement for subject analysis by librarians and other info pros (I'm cool with a supplemental tagging scheme, though). Anyone who thinks about it for long enough for the gee whiz! to wear thin, see some obvious problems here. To wit, you've got the issue of controlled vocabulary. Person A make think a given book is about death, Person B prefers dying, Person C passing on and Person D (who, apparently, is stuck in an earlier version of English) wants decease. Proponents of tags say, 'well this gets sorted out by having the most popular tag win the day on each item'. Trouble here, though, is that Book I could be tagged with death as the most popular and Book II with decease. Rather than forcing these to agree, you've created lacunae that people who think differently won't be able to find and, because there's not professional oversight, they cannot turn to a solid source for tracking things down.

Another problem with tagging is the lack of hierarchy. Sure, LCSH can get pretty long when it's things like Jews -- Indiana -- Muncie -- History -- Video recordings. But, at least here, you can trace the breakdown. Tagging might lead to situations here where things like Indiana or even something as basic as history are left out. This exmple's perhaps not the best for my case, but there are times when it'd be nice to be able to backtrack through your subject headings. Like, drop Video recordings to find books, then history to find all treatments, then Muncie to find stuff about Indiana Jews in general and so forth.

As usual, most of the advocates for the change come from outside the library world (or are so managerial that they don't quite get the hesitation about the innovation). Librarians then get accused of being old-fashioned, resistant to change and so forth. Maybe I'm just a library nerd (and we know I hate the change), but I'm glad of this facet of libraryland. Doesn't it take your breath away that you can search in Yales's library catalogue or the library catalogue of Sitka Public Library using the same terms to find similar books? The hesitation to split apart something that makes libraries so delightfully interoperable should be seen as a good thing.

All this spewing came about not only from the talk at the conference, but also from an analogy I came up with as I tried to vocalize my trouble with folksonomy. Subject analysis and classification are really, when all is said and done, the professional service that makes librarians librarians. To assert the public driven tagging method is more effective, more useful and generally better use of resources than traditional aboutness readings is like throwing out the entire knowledge base of medications and interactions and telling people to just treat their diseases in the way that the general public (or even, the engaged, informed but non-trained segment of the population) decides works for them. Obviously, finding that book about poodles and lace making in Belgium is no where near as serious as life and death, I think the analogy about public- versus professional-driven methods holds. Plus, we all know that being a doctor's way easier than they make it out to be, right?

See, I told you it'd be boring. By the way, this post was brought to you by the heading Classification, Library of Congress -- Popular works.

Snoozefest 2008

Last week, I skipped out of work to attend the Utah Library Association Conference. I had forgotten how terribly boring these sorts of things can be. I had not, however, forgotten how uncomfortable the whole mill-about-and-network scenario makes me. Mostly, I've learned tactics to avoid this, like removing myself from the conference venue during long breaks or carrying a book with me. Nothing spectacular came out of my attendance. I did, however, have a few amusing situations which I would like to share.

It takes a very special kind of person to open his or her conference session with self-written poetry. Especially if this poetry is modeled after Dr. Seuss, involves the anthropomorphizing of various birds, and quotes liberally from the Bible. What's even weirder is that this session was on providing books to prisoners. It was sort of jarring, but gutsy, I'll give him that. And yes, the cage in the metaphor was the jail. But it's ok, because the prisoner found Jesus...or something. I got lost after the fifth type of bird was introduced and so I'm sort of unclear which was behind bars, which was the guards, and who was the public who can send books to inmates.

Secondly, it's reassuring to know that intellectual freedom fighters are the same everywhere: slightly off-kilter conspiracy theorists who can turn seemingly innocuous facts into evil plots by the government to destroy our freedoms. I can't remember the exact question that was asked in the session on the history of free speech, but it was along the lines of having a discussion in a cataloguing class about the possible uses of sound recognition software to jam subversive radio broadcasts in communist countries.

Lastly, I attended a session on life post AACR2. Cataloguers are an easy group to spot. Apart from their obvious awkwardness in social situation, there's the way they look. They all dress in this odd combination of flashy and dowdy that I can only describe as MARChic. Generally, the ingredients are an unfashionable pair of glasses, orthopedic shoes, and some garish garment that was of questionable taste even when it was in style fifteen years ago. I'll readily admit that librarians are not the most fashion forward types, but I think being sequestered from public services makes cataloguers even more susceptible to poor sartorial choices.

In other job-related news, I've been buying fiction for my library. Mostly, because I can and I have the funds. Fiction is so incredibly cheap for libraries. Granted, the collection here will be pretty scattershot and heavily biased but my own tastes, but I've long since given up pretending that I have professional skills to overpower my own inclinations.

Invasion of the Beardy Snatchers

I've been growing my beard back out since Easter. Since I am not a particularly hairy person, it takes about two weeks to slip from the "oh, he must have forgotten to shave today" response to the camp of "ah, it's a beard he's angling for". Having a beard is nice, particularly because it means I don't have to shave. I know I shouldn't complain about shaving, especially since I have an electric razor which works, more or less, and there's no social taboo equivalent to non-shaved legs on women if I get some fuzz. However, anything that makes for excuse of sleeping in later, however infinitesimally, is gold in my book. It's already hard enough to get to work by 8.30. [I can't imagine what it'd be like to have a real job where tardiness isn't accepted. Hopefully, my current employer will keep me around for a bit longer.]

At any rate, Sunday was my two week mark and I'm looking like a quasi-bearded dude. My sister and her kids came over for dinner. The first thing O., a five-year old and my sister's oldest son, said to me, even before "Can we play Super Mario Galaxy" was "How come you don't look like Uncle Lovey?" I guess I look entirely different with the beard. Also, all three of my local nephews are frightened of touching my facial hair. I don't know what they suspect will happen if they do, but it must be pretty terrible.

Relatedly, it's really easy to make young boys a fan of you. Two words: video games. It's fun to have young nephews, not least because I still act pretty regularly as if I'm in kindergarten. I'm on their level, if you will. Though, I have a beard now, so I must be an adult, right?

I seem to find myself regularly requiring a trip to the post office. I frequently will take the second half of my lunch break and run over to the one local to my work. There's this really funny Chinese woman who works there. I share her ethnicity both because I'm a xenophobe and because the stories about her are much funnier if you imagine her dialogue with a thick accent. Her trademark, at least according to me, is the hard sell on stamps. Every time you buy a stamp, she's always pressuring you to buy more and giving dire predictions about how you'll run out. It's almost as if she works on commission or something. She also recognizes people regularly and will joke with them (apparently, there's a crew of us who show up at the post office the same time with regularity). To one, it's a joke about coming on her lunch break. To another, it's gentle jibes about his ebay business. The problem is, she obviously finds herself much funnier than we do.

At any rate, I was over there a couple days ago, mailing a job application. It's to the government, so of course there's no virtual option. I hand it over and let her know I'd like to send it first class. She looks at it and say, "Human Resources. You sure you don't want to send it first class? Show them you care? Show them you're really interested?" I tell no, first class is fine. She comes back with, "How about delivery confirmation? I would send it priority if I were you. Then they'll know you want the job."

After a couple more times of this, she finally accepted the fact that it I really didn't want it sent faster than regular mail and accepted my $1.35. I love the USPS. Say what you will about America's foreign policy or social services, but I will fight to the death anybody who says we don't do mail right. It makes me feel more patriotic than anything else. I'm not joking.

A collection of random, short nothings

I love when I have some sort of weird ache or pain without apparent cause but then discover the solution and feel better. It's like being a doctor, which would be gratifying, I suppose. Until you failed to discover the cause for some problem one of your patients was dealing with and had to them there was no hope for them getting better.

Today is orientation for next quarter's students. Therefore I am wearing a bow tie. I always feel more official with neck gear. It's like being a grown up and having a real job and so forth. I also tend to waste less time. Though, presently, not wasting time looks a lot like shuffling this stack of papers to that corner of my desk and back again.

You know what the problem with Biblical inerrancy is? That you have to take the Bible as it stands and somehow fit all it says together into something meaningful. There's no allowance for cultural factors and so on. As a prime example, check out this video. I stumbled onto about a week ago and I still find myself chuckling about it. Mostly the line "the editors of the NIV pee sitting down". Brilliant!

I have a lot of money left in my library coffers. I have to spend it in the next two months. I have no idea what to do. You'd think this would be easy (shopping spree!). Truth of the matter is, when your job is buying books, even buying books becomes a bit wearying. I'm thinking I'll just pocket the money. There's nothing ethically dubious about that, right?

Man, if my face were in need of spite...

When my otolaryngologist told me that, undoubtedly, I had broken my nose at some point in my past, I didn’t really believe him. I mean, sure, I had a few run-ins with things hitting me square on the sniffer, but surely nothing bad enough to cause the deviancy my septum had got up to. The one time that springs most forcibly to mind was when I was a soccer player. Yeah, I played in a rec league when I was ten or so. This was before I established my firm anti-spherical object position (this story gets more typically alea later). One of our games was held at a elementary school at the mouth of a canyon. We arrived at the field at some unearthly hour (probably 7.00 am), only to learn that the other team just wasn’t going to show up. So there we are, sleepy, freezing cold from the wind tearing out the mouth of the canyon, and opponent-less. Instead of just packing up and going home, someone thought it’d be fun to have a father-son match. We split into two teams and went at it. Things were going beautifully. That is until I made a sort of dramatic exhibit of throwing myself on the ground in frustration (see, I told you it’d be more like me later). I was cold. I was still bleary from the early rising. I was exhausted from running. So I just sort of sprawled myself down. A father, playing on the other team, got the ball at this point and, without looking, kicked it as hard as he could. Sadly, my face was in the way. Oh, and he was about a yard from me. Sure, this hurt, but I didn’t bleed or anything. I’m pretty certain the game kept going even.

I mean, other than that and various other times during sports playing, I didn’t think I’d hit my nose all that hard nor often. However, I’m beginning to wonder about my memory. In the two weeks since the surgery, I have had three nose-related accidents. The first happened when I walked into an open cupboard. Now, this might be excusable if I were rounding a corner or if someone opened it right before I hit it. Nope. I was standing, facing the cupboard for a good minute and a half, talking with my brother who was rummaging inside it. Then, for no real reason, I took a step and, whack! A nose full of maple. I blame my sketchy depth perception here. Well, and my brother, because I can.

Second time was in bed. For some reason, since my surgery I cannot sleep past 5.00 am. I always wake up, realize the time and try to get another hour and half (or three hours) of sleep before getting up for work. So, one night after waking up, I was trying to smooth my covers (I tend to spasm and twist and convulse in my sleep). My comforter was all entangled, though, so I tried the trick of pulling really hard to get it out from under me as I titled. Unfortunately, I didn’t need to yank nearly as hard as I did. So, I ended up throwing my whole body, seemingly nose-first into the wall. Let's just say I didn't end up falling back asleep that night.

The third time took place in my bed as well, making wonder about the safety of my sleeping arrangements. I have a bookshelf-headboard thing. Since it’s too full (I can never get enough shelfing), I have my dvds stacked on top. They’re in a paper box lid, so they’re stable, more or less. At least I thought they were until, once again at five o’clock, I wake up and roll over only to have a veritable cascade of hard plastic shower me with knocks and bumps. After swearing and laying stunned in pain for a moment, I stacked them up and removed them from my bed. The next morning I counted. No fewer than eleven single dvds and three boxed sets had smashed into my face. Frankly, I’m a touch surprised I didn’t bruise.

I guess I should have more faith in the judgments of my doctors. Apparently, I’m rather rough of my nose. I should bake it a cake or something. But knowing me, I'd probably bash it with the beaters as I mixed.

The pleasure it brings

I watched the film Marion Bridge last night and rather liked it. It was precisely what I want from my movies: quiet, introspective, and laced with shattered aspirations. Since it was a Canadian film, it was set in the Maritimes (I'm convinced that part of the country is over-represented in Canadian cinema. Maybe it's just an excuse to use "Song for the Mira", which is fine by me). What we basically get is segment of the lives of three sisters as they cope with the death of their mother. One of the most powerful aspects of this film is how the back story is only hinted at, mentioned briefly or in pieces. In that manner, it feels very natural.

Of course, the death of one parent is never considered enough to sustain a film, so we've also got some other things going on. The main character is a recovering addict, returned home to Sydney, NS from Toronto. Her older sister is reeling from a marriage in failure and her younger sister is totally isolated to a degree you wonder what's wrong with her. Add to the mix a daughter given up for adoption fifteen years ago, and you've got a sense of players in this movie.

About twenty minutes before the end, I realized that no men had been present in the film in any meaningful way. Molly Parker's character does get drunk once in the company of a couple of men, but they don't have more than four lines collectively. I think it's a testament to filmmaker that this conceit went almost entirely unnoticed.

At any rate, I think this is a film worth checking into.

Just talk

I really like this description of worshipping God, found in David Maine's The Preservationist. The conversation is between the daughter-in-law of Noah (the narrator) and the boat captain who has reluctantly been conscripted to ferry her menagerie across the waters back to Noah and his boat.

"Now," says Ulm, "tell me how to go about worshipping this God of yours."
"Just talk to him," I say. "It's what he seems to enjoy."
"And does He answer?"
"He is fond of riddles and double meanings, and things are seldom clear."
"Figures," says Ulm. "What do you say to Him?"
"Just let Him know you haven't forgotten Him, and tell Him thanks. He loves to hear you say thanks. He hates it when people forget that, I think, more than anything else."
"No sacrifices? Animals, prisoners, virgins?"
"Nothing like that, no."
"Nor tributes? Gold left on mountaintops, anything?"
I shake my head.

Es-que tu penses que je suis de trop pédant?

My expectactions from Entertainment Weekly are probably too high. However, they seem like they want to be the kind of a magazine that can open a story with a sentence including the phrase "fin-de-siècle". So surely they're willing to hear some criticism on the matter. If you're going to try and be clever with French phrases, stick to the same language. You cannot, as they have done in their latest issue, insert 20th into the middle of it. If you must tamper at all, you really ought to say "fin-de-XXe-siècle. The whole sentence, for the curious is "When Rent opened on Broadway in 1996, the story of young artists dealing with poverty and AIDS in fin-de-20th-siècle New York City shook the blue-haired theater scene and spawned a cult of obsessive repeat visitors known as Rentheads."

I am glad, though, that they included the accent grave.

We're number 34!

As I was driving to work today, I noticed a new billboard. At least, I think it's new. Maybe all this oxygen I'm now getting thanks to my non-deviated septum is heightening my awareness to all new levels. I'm not sure what the purpose of this billboard is, but it's advertising Sandy, the fifth-largest city in Utah. It reads: "Relax. You're in the 34th safest city in America."

Now, I can take a moment and realize there are a hundreds of cities across America and that coming in 34th is a pretty good accomplishment (even, if what it probably means is your city is also almost entirely suburban and white). However, it doesn't seem like the highest selling point, at least to me. Especially when you learn that Orem, just a twenty-five minute drive to the south is the 13th safest.

I'm guessing Sandy's not feeling much love these days, after bungling the whole Real Stadium thing and lobbying hard to get a Broadway-style theatre for "family-appropriate" touring shows. So maybe these billboards are just an attempt to feel better about themselves. The previous billboard in this spot read something about Sandy having the lowest taxes in a major city in Northern Utah or something equally arcane. So, from what we can tell, Sandy assumes the people of Utah like low taxes and gang-free neighborhoods. Don't let Draper, know, though, or they'll throw a hissy hit that'll make the whole no-DI east of the freeway look merely humorous.

In unrelated news, my sister learned this weekend, in a one-on-one conversation, that Cesarean sections are part of the adversary's plan. Because, I suppose, Satan's got a vested in interest in there being more birth-related deaths and stillborn children. I must have totally misunderstood the Plan of Salvation, or something.

None, not even the lumbering dolts, shall offend them

My family was present at the burial of President Hinckley. Along the with rest of the extended family, we stood across the cemetery road, looking on as the Quorum of the Twelve and the children of the 15th LDS president paid their very final respects. Then, before the grandchildren all laid a single flower on the casket, the Apostles left. Their cars were parked on the street we lined up along. As they drove past, some of us waved to them and most waved back. Elder Bednar did not, but kept his face straight ahead, looking very serious. His lack of acknowledgement for people all but eighteen inches from his car offended my aunt. Of course, if we are to believe Elder Bednar, it's all my aunt's fault for taking umbrage at his actions.

Surely, there's some truth to the idea that we choose how to react to the stupid, bumbling, inaccurate, and rude things people around us say and do. But, am I the only one who is worried that the general conference talk was not on the subject of minimizing those actions but rather, sucking it up and accepting them? The unstated implication seems to be that we, as Church members, don't really need to consider our actions, as we can't really do anything offensive. Nor do we really need to minister to the needs of individuals, just get them back into activity. It becomes an excuse for us to blame those who have chosen, sometimes for valid reasons, usually after devastating emotional battles, to disengage from Mormonism.

This talk ends with a call for fellowshipping, but, as usual, Mormons are missing the boat. For some reason, there's this sense that only when someone's in trouble or weak or new do they need the comfort of feeling ministered to, accepted and needed by the kingdom. When we approach community building from this angle, it makes every act of fellowshipping look like a reactivation or retention project. Instead, shouldn't we focus on helping all of God's children feel comfortable, respected and useful?

However, I've run away from my initial intention for this post. Yesterday, in sacrament, this talk was referenced, specifically the aspect that when we are offended we are being petty, small-minded, un-godlike creatures. Then, later in the same talk, the speaker mentioned that we need to be careful to avoid those works which offend the spirit. Wait a minute, is the spirit becoming something to be acted upon here? Surely, if he's a member of the Godhead, he can get past these minor things we might do.

Once again, I'm only asking that we try to be consistent. I mean, in an ideal world, we'd recongize that offense is possible and that addressing the root causes is critical. But, I fear what will really happen is that we'll just revamp the phrase "offend the spirit". Since, after all, whatever is said in General Conference is scripture and supercedes logic, history or good sense. And that, to be honest, really bruises me.

Pas dans nos écoles!

Don't get me wrong. I'm just as much against world peace and mutual understanding across cultures as the next guy. Oh, and championing health care for the devastatingly poor and asserting the rights of women and children is for sissies, clearly. So I totally get why Utah State Senator Margaret Dayton is opposed to funding International Baccalaureate programs with their support for the "U.N. agenda". I'm not making this up. Those are her exact words (see here).

This is the sort of argument that no one could see coming. I mean, it'd be fine to say that the IB program unfairly singles out gifted children, or is a waste of school funds when there's a robust AP program. I have no problem with those, logically, as I obviously have problems with them politically. But to call the entire program anti-American? How do you respond to that? I wonder if it's the word Baccalaureate that's got this woman so freaked out. That sounds French, right? And we all know the French are the most anti-American people in the world. The number of French terrorists is staggering, really.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Utah is, to my knowledge, the only state with a town that is formally, per ordinance, not part of the U.N. I think it'd be really funny to get some blue berets and fatigues and go strolling down the main drag of La Verkin sometime. Even better, I could get some Francophone friends to head down there and chat it up as we stroll.

While this is perhaps not the lowest point for the State Legislature (I think you'd be hard-pressed to top the argument from one Solon who claimed that city folks just don't get the pressures in rural life that lead to bestiality), I think it really shatters any hope you may have of Utah being, you know, normal. On the plus side, our kids will no longer be forced to learn about China in schools. Because, as we all know, that's one of the signs of the apocalypse.

Who wants to visit Kansas?

I've written before about Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. They make me so angry, I can barely contain myself. I want to throw stones at them. However, that's not the best route (yet).

But, someone has organized something actually less-knee jerk: A Million Fag March. I'm sort of mixed about the chances this has of doing anything meaningful. On one hand, it gives the WBC more publicity, something they clearly live for. However, if the group of concerned citizens, gay or not, are willing to go and stand around this church and not do anything rash, it might show Phelps and his ilk that he's got more than just a handful of evil liberals to contend with. Either way, it's history in action.

So, March 30, 2008. I'm seriously considering buying a ticket to Kansas. Anybody want to tag along?

Sometimes, life-affirming novels just remind me how little there is to live for

I hate, or maybe secretly love, it when I read a book that is highly praised and turns out to be total tripe. To some extent, this is to be expected in genre fiction, so I can look past the folks who wet themselves over The Da Vinci Code, anything by James Patterson, or the latest Danielle Steele. But what about the philosophical novel? Surely the folks who line up behind these have good taste, non?

Apparently not. I finished reading Veronika Decides to Die a couple of days ago. I've heard several folks call this a favorite book and go on and on about how it changed their lives. If that's the case, maybe they need to read a bit more. Or, at the very least, learn how to pick books that Oprah hasn't endorsed. If these people read, say, an Iris Murdoch, would their heads explode?

The book follows the story of Veronika, an unhappy Slovene who decides to kill herself because life is the same thing over and over. Her plan is foiled when she wakes up in a mental hospital and is told she's only got a few days to live, the pills she swallowed having damaged her heart. She meets some folks in the hospital, none of whom are actually mentally ill. By half way through, you know what's going to happen by the end, so you're not really surprised when the young "schizophrenic" (apparently the Portuguese word for the disease actually means "spoiled, sullen young man who flees all responsibility and lets a young woman debase herself sexually in front of him") boy and Veronika run away and live, live, LIVE! Yep, the point of all this is that life is worth living. Of course, Coelho doesn't get mental illness at all, nor present us with characters who wouldn't have a reason for not living. Hint: if all your characters are beautiful, articulate, successful and, more often than not, young with no problems to deal with bigger than being told they can't be artists, you've missed the point.

The novel started out promising: a little PoMo authorial voice, a good pace, some interesting characters. But it fell apart, became banal and obvious and tedious. We learn such valuable lessons as the idea that insanity is just living outside the consensus. That's about as deep as the philosophy runs. While patently false, this also highlights Coelho's treatment of mental instability. Basically, there's no problem that some love, air and maybe a like-minded chum can't solve in his vision of a mental hospital. No one there has a real problem and it's unclear if anyone there is actually suffering from anything other than low-level malaise. The kind that usually ends with a drinking binge or a new pair of shoes, not a hospitalization. Aside from his terrible misapprehension of real psychological problems, Coelho also makes a scary case for dubious ethics in the handling of such cases.

It's heartening to learn that Coelho is mistrusted in his native Brazil. That is novels contain typographic errors and he's considered a bit on the fluffy side. So now I'm left to wonder why the rest of the world just doesn't get it. At least I've got a new litmus test for potential friends. After all, isn't that what education is all about: becoming charming enough for cocktail parties while learning which type of folks to avoid at the very same events?

Bye bye beardie

I had no fewer than ten people today ask me what happened to my forehead. They thought it was bruised. I'm not certain what they imagined me doing where I would have one small, very black bruise right in the middle of my forehead. In a vaguely cruciform pattern, even. Of course, over half those folks had no idea what I was talking about when I started to explain Ash Wednesday. Clearly, I'm working in a very cultured, well-informed environment. I ended up going to a mass in the middle of my work day. I figured I wouldn't be needed, plus the snow this am made me miss the 7:30 am service. Going at 9 did mean that I was there with the school kids (the parish church is part of a private school). Is there anything cuter than first graders giving each other the sign of peace? I don't think so.

I think I gave my entire face razor burn yesterday. The beard is gone, but I've had this odd sensation of heat radiating from my face all day. Hopefully I didn't damage the flesh too badly.

Lastly, I learned today that my library is going to become a shared service point for the current school and another school (owned by the same parent company) that offers degrees in business, education and psychology. I can think of only a few areas where the thought of collection development disgusts me more than those. And the thought of having to help students find the size of the bicycle market in Korea or other such nonsense is almost enough to make me break out in hives. Pursuant to this new tidbit, my growing dissatisfaction with life in general, and the increased number of job openings this time of year means I may try in earnest to find another job. If only it weren't so much work. Or rather, if only I were an attractive candidate.

So long, comestibles!

I just finished the last solid-food lunch that I will eat until Easter. I'm trying the Lenten fast again this year. It will be trickier given the facts that a. I "work" full-time now, b. I live at home in a place where i. cooking for oneself is frowned upon and ii. my parents are still trying out some sort of modified reduced carb diet (yep, there are still folks who do that, apparently) and c. my access to fruit source bars has been curtailed (though, I have located a substitute at Target, of all places). That last one isn't a major problem, but I did have a fruit source bar with every single meal last Lent, so it's going to change my routines. Fortunately, I've discovered the joy that are Lärabäre (my whimsical plural of Lärabar). These are, in a word, amazing. Too bad they cost so much. Or rather, more's the pity I'm a cheapskate.

I'm also shaving off my beard tonight and intend to stay clean-shaven for the duration of Lent. It's sort of a penance thing, I suppose. Though, since proper disposition ain't coming by Easter, the whole idea of preparing myself to be worthy for the body and blood of Christ is iffy. Regardless, I could use a bit of a spiritual jumpstart and nothing says dedication to God like arbitrary boundaries, right?

I am not, however, giving up movies this year. I'm giving up some other things that are, perhaps, not appropriate to share on this public forum. So I figure if I can keep it together for the fast and these other things, I deserve a flick now and then.

I love this time of year. The beginning of Lent means that winter's on the way out. It reminds me how far I fall from the intentions of God while still keeping the hope of Easter alive. And, it lets my little fanatic do what it wants for a while. If y'all haven't tried Lent before, I strongly recommend you think of something to give up. It'll really help to rededicate yourself to being a generally good person regardless of your pro- or anti-Jesus views. Seriously, this is best time of year in my book. Plus, I get to have waffles tonight, what more could I ask for?

YALSA controversy breaks out!

Imagine for a second that a beloved writer for young adults recently won an award. But, some folks are upset because this person has frequently and insistently protested about the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Or railed against the continuing denial of same sex marriage in the United States. Or maybe the author has openly attacked all religions as delusions and adherents as narrow-minded bigots. Now, he never did these things in his books, but in other media, his position is well-known to the folks who track this sort of thing. But not well enough known that everybody who hears the author's name connects it with the politics. Do you think there'd be a conservative backlash against this author receiving the award? And what would the debate around this look like? How long would it be before the more liberal would brandish the 1st Ammendment as if that closed down the whole conversation?

Now, here's what really happened. Orson Scott Card recently won the Edwards Award, a prestiguous award handed out by School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Service Association. Personally, I think he rightly deserves this award, as he's a skilled writer and has made many a young folk crossover, however briefly, into sci-fi. But, there's a backlash. Why, you might wonder? Because he's stridently anti-gay. I mean, hardcore. He's published articles about how we should still have sodomy laws, not to enforce them but rather to establish moral parameters. He also says that gays in America can marry, as long as they convince an opposite-sex partner to sign up with them. And so on. (see here for the SLJ article; and here for the most commonly cited opinion piece).

Now, his books are not openly homophobic and his views rarely enter his writing. They may contain coded homophobia (like the perjorative "bugger" for the aliens, if we are to believe some readers), or they may just be silent on the issue. But this raises interesting points about authorship, personal views, intellectual freedom and religion. Should we evaluate all authors based on their personal lives before granting them awards? Can only the liberal help children understand themselves? Should only the people whose politics you like be granted awards?

Personally, I don't see what the fuss is. I think this comes back to some wacky liberal version of the conservative bugbear that children aren't smart enought to sift through information. Apparently, those opposing this award seem to think that rabid teenage fans will google Card's name, find his anti-gay writing and confuse their love of his novels and style with the gospel truth, or something. I'd like to give kids more credit than that. Plus, if you call foul at things like this, don't you lose focus when you also try to draw attention to much bigger problems of anti-gay sentiment or behavior? Surely there are bigger fish to fry in this realm.

Of course, any librarian worth their salt knows that it's times like these where your intellectual freedom rubber has to hit the road: you've got to step up and defend something springing for a worldview you don't agree with. Maybe it'll help us all understand the fundamentalists who want Harry Potter out of our stacks a little bit better.

Taking the scenic route

If the recent storms to lay Zion low weren't enough to proclaim to you an impending apocalypse, consider this: on a list of GLBT films by so-called "experts" Latter Days came in third. That's right, apparently the gays have only made two better films about their plights. Though, to be fair, the highly overrated Brokeback is what took first place.

Said list is found in one of the books I recently acquired for my library. It's a sort of best of the best list by mood or time of life. And the authors were obviously told to flesh out the text. So, we not only get the standard Christmas, Easter, Graduation sorts but also a whole list for National Grandparents Day, another for Chinese New Year, a set of movies about buying a new house, and a group devoted to telling the ups and down of the Derby season. Yeah, this was published and thereafter purchased by my library. I'd be more embarrassed if I wasn't such a fiend for lists. I honestly cannot get enough. It may be pathological.

In completely unrelated news: I'm uppity about folks who use the title "professor" without having earned the distinction through the completion of a PhD and the struggle for tenure. Also, I'm as big a fan of President Hinckley as the next guy, but his death and funeral have been front page news in both the Tribune and the DesNews for the past three days and he still takes up over half the nightly news broadcast. I wonder when the death-of-a-prophet fatigue will set in.

Yeah, and then we're just a few steps from pedophilia!

It's been a while since I've posted a complaint about a church service. But yesterday's Elders Quorum was horrific. We were focusing on a talk by President Packer about how our church uses a lay ministry and that no one is better than anyone else, regardless of the calling they hold. Of course, any discussion of Mormonism's clergy, or lack thereof, frequently turns into a game of Whack-a-Pope. That is, those involved will take pot shots at how traditional Christianity runs things, back it up with quasi-scriptural notions, and then laugh at how silly those wacky professional clergies are.

Basically, the teacher asked why we have an unpaid ministry in our Church. This lead to the idea that, if you're being paid, you're much less invested, more driven by results, more likely to fudge doctrine in order to be popular and so on. This lead to one member opining that he doesn't get how other Christians can expect to get marriage advice from a celibate priest. (I mean, it's not like Mormon bishops are out of their depth dealing with, oh, spousal abuse, homosexuality, mental illness, right?) And, of course, getting paid to do God's work leads to corruption. Just look at what a mess there is in Catholicism right now! It makes me so sad that Mormons just seem to assume that all ministers are crooked, sad men who are hungry for glory and gain. And of course, the whole situation showcased the irritating habit the Saints have of making assertions about Christianity that simply aren't true. Such as the idea that Mormonism is the only Christian group without a paid ministry. Um, have these people no idea about the Quakers? And that's even a well-known group. Surely there are other models out there that profess Jesus but don't write a salary check to their leader.

What was not addressed, of course, were the liabilities of having a lay ministry. These could include having untrained men lead a group and wreck havoc, the jockeying for position caused by all being eligible, the social stratification that is caused by having certain members being lifted over others, and the abuses that are perpetuated by fallible men because they believe God is directing them. That last one is obviously not unique to Mormonism, but if you have a system where no training is required and where you're basically told, as a priesthood leader, that you have final say, it's a recipe for ecclesiastical abuse. I'm not saying the Mormon system doesn't work. It does, for the most part with few problems. And there are definite advantages to it.

The icing on this cake, though, came when one member reminded us (or informed, if there were particularly clueless members there) that the Q12 and other high-level officials are, in fact, paid for their work. The resident apologist raised his hand quickly to give the standard explanation for this: that they're paid only for their basic needs and that they'd make more money if they were still pursuing their business pursuits. He did add a disturbing bit there about how God calls successful men. But, let's get back to the traditional excuses. If these stipends are really to just support their needs, why do they get cash at all? The Church could work out a system where their needs are addressed without payments. Secondly, the argument that these men would make more in the business world is valid when the men we're discussing are in their 40s and 50s. But, to assert that men in their 70s and 80s would still be vigorously working and receiving big salaries is ridiculous, right? I mean, if you're going to make arguments, at least make them non-idiotic.

I'm beginning to wonder if now, with the passing of President Hinckley, and various other issues at play, if it's not the perfect time for me to disengage from Mormonism all together.

First Eliza Day, film-filled weekend

A while back, I was faced with the need to establish a female equivalent of Joseph Day. You see, the traditional Joseph Day celebration is pretty male-centric, so we need a day in which turnabout can take place. Which leads us to today: Eliza Day. Eliza R. Snow, Zion's Poetess, Lioness of the Lord, plural wife of both Joseph and Brigham, was born January 21, 1804. I bet if she had her say, she'd totally get behind what I'm expecting to happen in honor of her birth. Though, I suppose, we might actually want to memorialize December 5, the day she died, to make it parallel with Joseph Day. However, since I'm the one making up these holidays, pretty much whatever I want flies, eh?

So, to crib a line from Mormon history, "Brethren, go find yourself a sister and do your duty." Seriously, get on that.

In unrelated news, I was a movie freak the last couple of days. On Thursday, I saw No Country for Old Men, which I liked, maybe even loved, but still wonder why it's considered the best flick of '07. Then on Friday, I headed to the LDS Film Festival, where I was impressed by the consistently professional look of the shorts, and the enjoyableness of the feature (I'll probably post a longer review on Errand of Angels, the feature film, when I get a chance).

Saturday meant Sundance. I saw four films that day, most of them rather depressing, either because they contained references to child rape and decapitation by mailbox or because they were so freaking boring. You'd think that a film about juvenile deliquents in a Russian prison would be fascinating, right? You'd be wrong. Alone in Four Walls didn't succeed if it wanted me to feel sorry for the kids. Frustratingly, it was hard to tell if that was the director's intention. She may have wanted us to think they had it better at this prison, which was really more like a reform school than anything. Plus, way too many shots of boys cleaning in their boxer shorts.

We saw a documentary on these linguists who do field work on highly endangered languages. It was well made for the most part (it sort of fell apart style coherence-wise towards the end). Dude, though, these linguists were nerds and really reminded me of some of my former ling colleagues (and I guess, if I'm being honest, of myself, too). Sadly, this film was preceeded by a 12 minute short that may be the worst use of cinema I've ever endured. It was bad in a way that words fail. Also, if this sort of stuff is what the Cree are creating as their cultural output, maybe that's one language we can afford to lose.

Yesterday, we filed into the Eccles Center, a theater that seat over a 1000, for a screening of Sunshine Cleaning. As most of you know, I love me some quiet desperation, and here we had it in spades. Amy Adams, of course, was great, as the single mother who decides to start a biohazard cleaning company with her aimless sister. With the help of a one-armed janitorial supply store owner, the two of them really start going places. So, the quirky family drama charmer is quickly establishing itself as a genre. While this film doesn't really cut new paths, it's definitely a wonderfully acted, tightly scripted, well-shot piece of celluloid worth checking out once it gets picked up and distributed.

Today, sadly, is filled not with screens, but snow. It took me an hour to make the drive into work. I'm so done with living in a climate that has winter.

tell us how you really feel

My sister is in town, visiting from Portland. She lives in a world where, when it's cold outside, you heat your house. Sadly, for all involved, this is not the case with my parents' house. They do heat it, but only between 6am and 10pm. In the night, the temperature plunges to the very low 60s. She was discussing this with my folks yesterday when my mom said to her, "E. maybe you're just not worth it."

Apparently, my mom meant to say that my sister isn't used to the cold temperatures. Still, though, pretty crazy Freudian slip there, huh?


Obviously, I'm not the most objective person when it comes to library theft (library theft is the legalistic term that means not only not returning your stuff, but also destorying, defacing or underlining items). I mean, not only was I raised with a deep respect for authority and other people's stuff, I'm also rather timid. Plus, I've been going to libraries with what some could call an appalling regularity since I was knee high to a grasshopper, if you will. Oh, yeah, and I'm also a librarian. But, still, here's what I don't get: why would you tear a page from a book in the library, fold it in half and then leave it...inside the book itself?

This happened to me today to me in my library. (Or rather, the book on which said violence was perpetrated was discovered today). It came as a bit of a shock. As did the realization a few weeks back that a copy of Web Designer (a British periodical that costs roughly 15 bucks an issue) had gone missing. At least the book makes a little more sense. Web Designer is over-priced, cluttered and not very useful. The book, however, was photos of nudes and the page ripped was two women with their arms wrapped around each other. But, it wasn't particularly erotic or explicit, nor were the women all that attractive (again, I fail here on terms of objectivity) and you can find much better stuff on the internet with much less effort. So why tear out this page? Of this brand new book? Have you no shame, sir?

For a brief moment when I found the page and looked at it, I thought maybe it was an overzealous censor hacking away at a generic photo book removing the naughty pics. But, then I saw it's a whole book of nudes, so that can't be it. Plus, this is an art school, surely there's nary a prudish artist in the world, right?

Of course, there's also the explanation that one of the higher-ups (highers-up?) blurted out without necessarily realizing what he was saying: "Maybe the person just got really excited looking at the page." This person had another such non-thought-through comment earlier in the day when he told a visiting dignitary to our grand opening event that he'd be glad to "walk or ride them upstairs when they're done signing in". [He meant in the elevator. But still, it was awesome.]

So what do I do now? Start kicking students out when I'm not on the premises? Review the security tapes and make the jerk-off (perhaps literal here) pay? Finally get around to buying that security gate? Post threatening signs? Booby trap books? Clearly, I'll probably do none of these. Just stew for a bit and then forget about it until the next time I see the book. I wish I could end here saying I have bigger fish to fry, but really, this is pretty much the most thrilling/terrible thing that I've yet to deal with as a librarian. And I'm trying really hard to not take the damage personal.

I'll take some fries with that and the latest version of Norton Antivirus

Yesterday, I was taking a different route home from work when I passed a Burger King. On its marquee, they boldly announced "FREE WIFI NOW AVAILABLE". I'm confused. Who goes to a fast food joint with the intent to spend enough time there to use internet. Also, who was in charge of this business plan? I can only imagine the meeting:

Suit A: We'll, we've noticed a steep downturn in profits, who's got any ideas for boosting customer loyalty?
Suit B: We could make the food better.
Suit A: Don't be ridiculous. We need a gimmick, not a solution.
Suit C: What if we start offering free wireless. The kids are all about this internet-thing these days.
Suit A: Brilliant! Johnson, get on that.

What was particularly perplexing about this WiFi-Whopper union was that the Burger King in question is located in the heart of suburbia. I could sort of see this making sense in a downtown-ish area or if they were near big office parks and could maybe just steal the WiFi but pass it off as their own. But the middle of Sandy, UT across the street from a mall and surrounding by one one, but three strip malls? This is odd.

In unrelated things, the ordinance of confession=awesome. I think this is an ordinance in Mormonism, right? I mean, it's necessary for salvation, it is overseen and approved by the presiding authority, and it effects a real spiritual change. Plus, it's a sacrament in traditional Christianity and I think I could make a pretty good case that all of the sacraments are really ordinances now. It might run afoul on the grounds that it lacks exact wording, but then blessing the sick is unquestionably an ordinance but doesn't have precise form, either. [Actually, now I'm a little curious if lack of prescribed form could explain why women were granted the right to bless the sick and afflicted for so long. Maybe it's not an ordinance at all. It's decidedly not a saving one. So, maybe this is how we should readjust priesthood...as the rightful conduit of saving ordinances only with endowed women welcome to participate or officiate in non-saving ordinancy things, i.e. blessing of health and comfort, settings apart.]

Also, we have to wear name badges at work now. Supposedly this makes the campus "more secure". Problem is, there are only about 30 of us who work here, so unless we have exceptionally paranoid students, what are we being keep secure from? I'm not pleased. Mostly because I feel goofy wearing a bright red, chunky lanyard. I'll probably be subversive and replaced the branded lanyard (everything here is branded...EVERYTHING) with a discreet chain. And, of course, I'll only put it on when I'm not sitting in my office. Which means I'll have to wear it, oh, 3 minutes every work week.

cross-border fruit relations

If there's one thing I miss about my Great Canadian Experience, it is the live-and-let-live-shrug-your-shoulders-if-that's-what-makes-you-happy approach to interaction. However, if I'm allowed two things, which I think is not an unreasonable demand, number two would be FruitSource bars. For my American readers, see the promotional materials here.

These little delights are essentially fruit that has been liquefied and then pressed back into bar form by the power of pectin. Pretty much, they are jam sticks. And, as you can imagine jam stick to be, they are delicious, sticky and satisfying in a way that no American-produced natural fruit snack can compare to. And believe me, I've looked. Or rather, I've tried the various alternatives sold by a number of local health food stores and consistently been disappointed.

I've wanted to get my hands on some FruitSource for a long time and my recent, annual streak of less-than-healthy nostalgia has put this into high gear. Not high enough, though, for me to cough up 48 bucks for 30 of them, as is possible through Only in Canada. That seems too closing to gouging for me. And I'd call the Canadian import store in Provo, but I'm not sure I can justify the hour's drive south. [You read that right, Provo, UT is home to what I assume is the only Canadian import store in the US. BYU, located in that town, has more Canadian students than any other university in the States.]

I guess I have two questions here: A. does anyone know of an American product that comes near to replicating FruitSource? B. Is anyone in Canada interested in sending me some and being repaid on a cost basis?

Omaha sounds nice

When I was in college (something that was over three years ago, a fact which makes me feel old), I had this ongoing joke with my friends whenever life would get me down. I was going to flee to Kansas. Just get in my car, drive off without telling anyone where I was going and making a brand new life without any history. And why Kansas? Not only do I find the whole swath of the Midwest sort of intriguing, but nobody in their right mind would go looking for me in Kansas, or North Dakota, or Nebraska. Of course, since I've now told this plan to basically everyone in my life multiple times, I'm guessing Wichita is precisely the first place people would look for me if I went missing.

Thing is, though, in college I would never do this. I had responsibilities and demands. And, I didn't own my own car or have sufficient funds to pull off such a stunt. And I had paid money for school. But now, life is just crumbling between my fingers, I do own my own car (well, the financing folks own it technically) and, thanks to living at home and working full-time, I've got plenty of cash burning a hole in my account. Oh, and I'm not that big of a fan of my job, which lessens the trouble I'd have to just up and leaving. Now, I wouldn't just disappear into the night. I'd probably quit my job and give two weeks notice and all that jazz. But I wouldn't tell my family or friends anything. Then, one day, I'd get up like I was going to work and just keep driving east (or rather drive east, as my job is technically south of my domicile).

I'm pretty sure I won't do this; I just don't have the balls for such a move. But, it's probably pretty telling that I've daydreamt about running away once every, oh, hour for the past week. All I'm saying, I guess, is if I do fall off the face of the planet, I'm probably just in a square state, working some brainless job. Don't try to find me.

A financier ain't nothing but a banker with pretensions

Today, on the way to work, I stopped off at my favorite French-inspired bakery, Les Madeleines. And by "stopped off", I mean "went entirely out of my way specifically to buy pastries". I've been yenning for a kouing-aman for quite some time now and figured I might as well go blow some dough on over-priced dough. Trust me, I was not disappointed.

However, I also picked up some other things: an adorable single-serving of tiramisu, the titular madeleine, a cupcake, and a pastry known as a financier. However, the shop girl had some trouble when I ordered that last one. Unsure of what it was, I asked, "what's the financier?" I pronounced this word like we do in English. She looked at me blankly for a moment, then to where I was pointing and said, "Oh, you mean the [finãsie]" before telling me what it is (for the non-IPA literate, that's fee-nah-see-eh, with the second syllable being nasalized. For the IPA purists, it was actually the back vowel, but I prefer alt codes to unicode IPA representations).

Two main things here: Is it possible that she really didn't understand me? That no one has ever come in and asked for fee-nan-seers ever? This seems highly unlikely given the fact that a)it's an English word, b)we are in Utah, and c) they are known for making a big deal about how you'll never be able to pronounce their pastry names.

The second question is this: My French isn't precisely what it should be, but I'm pretty certain that you'd say that final r. I mean, it's not a verb, right, and therefore, according to the frolic rule, it's a pronounced final consonant. So, even if she did feel the need to correct me, can she at least do it right, telling me it's actually [finãnsieR]? (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

In other randomness, if you want to be amused, slightly disturbed and have your belief that Nipponitude* is way beyond our ken, do a google search for kokigami. Just make sure you're someplace where you won't be embarassed by the ideal of genital puppets.

*a shiny new quarter to the man who can provide me with the actual Japanese abstract form of Japanese-ness

An inheritance

I have recently, as the phrase goes, come into some money. Not a whole lot of money, mind, but some. What is particularly eerie about this (besides the fact that it came as a complete shock and is entirely unlike my parents to do something like this) is that just the night before, I was talking to a friend. He asked me where in the world I would go if I suddenly had a few thousand dollars to travel. Now the real answer to this question for me is Omaha and Oklahoma (a long story which is neither interesting nor charming). However, you can't say something stateside in such a situation, so I gave my number three option, which is Beijing. And then, the next day I suddenly have the funds for just such a trip. If I believed in signs and destinies and so forth, I'd probably hop aboard a plane ASAP.

The trip's not going to be taken, though. The money will, sadly, most likely go towards something I've already purchased (either my car or my two years of grad school). I feel so responsible and bland. Particularly because I make more than enough money to satisfy my debts.

However, the making of said money is making me more than slightly irritated with the knowledge that I'll be working tomorrow until 7.30pm for orientation and that I have to come in on Saturday without compensation. I'm salaried, see, so these extra hours don't mean more money, just more time. Oh, and I'm confused at textbook publishers. Apparently, they need 24 to 48 hours to get a quote out to you. Since I'm 99.9% sure that this system is automated, why can't you just call up, have them punch in ISBNs and then they can email you the quote right then? Seems like it'd make life a lot easier for those customers, like me, who have procrastinated the day of their ordering textbooks. I'm not feeling it today at work, if you know what I mean.

On a unrelated note, if I ever do something deplorable to you (and know me long enough and I will), here is what you need to do to inflict the most pain on me in return: when I own up to the despicable act (or carry it out), just get really unemotional and silent. This will tear me apart. Just file that away for later, I suppose.