Friday, March 27, 2009

A Bisection of a Year

Yesterday, 26 March 2009, was a special day for me as it marked six months since I returned home from Massachusetts. What have I done during this time? Let's take a quick look.

For a few days I worked for a man in my neighborhood installing sprinkler systems. The labor was difficult, but the pay was good and it gave me something to do before I found a more permanent solution. I continued searching for work - unsuccessfully. Then one day, my neighbor called me with a job offer at the church office building. I jumped at the offer, and until the end of the year I worked in the church history department. I made many good friends there and learned a lot about church history and archives and conservation. I had some great work luncheons there too.

At the beginning of January my job in Salt Lake ended, but the friendships I made there helped me get a job in Provo. I now work in the Harold B. Lee Library, repairing books with scalpels, presses, guillotines, and glue. It's quite enjoyable, and using all those tools is oddly satisfying.

In November I went to Las Vegas with my family to see my younger sister's soccer tournament. I didn't see much there due to the demands of the tournament, but it was just nice to spend time with my mom and sister (my dad was sick in the hotel). Surprisingly, we made it through the trip without any feuds, slap battles, or tense negotiations with elevated voices. Wait, that's a lie.

Yesterday I bought my plane ticket to Brazil. I leave on 18 June for a study abroad program (not exactly vacation) and return on 16 August, a week after the program ends. I don't have solid plans yet, but I plan to visit a few places around the country and meet up with friends during that week. Maybe I should get a tan before I travel around the country, alone.

I've spent time with a lot of my old friends, but most of them live lives apart from me. Fortunately, the relationships I returned to are even stronger now, and I've made a lot of new friends in new environments. I usually always have someone to talk with/play with. I've gone on... dates.
...and we'll leave it at that.

I've had a lot of fun reconnecting with friends from the various periods of my life. Provo is a good place for that. Yes, I've had many of those "Hey Elder!" moments on campus.

My academic standing turned out to be much less of a problem than I orginally thought. My unpleasant freshman past is no more than a memory, and my sophomore present is looking good. I still haven't settled on a major, however. I'm considering sociology and possibly an mls degree; I've been researching the fields and exploring carreer options. Blah Blah Blah.

I learned about Newton's laws and the periodic table this semester, as well as pre-modernism, modernism, post-modernism, the quickstep, and the waltz. I learned quite a bit about Jesus too.


These six months have not been without challenges, but all in all they have been happy and productive. Looking back, it's hard to believe that so much has happened in so short a time! Assuming that I continue at this rate until the end of my days, my life should be pretty awesome. I think I'll stick with it for a while.

And I want to give a special thanks to anyone and everyone who has helped me along during these last six months. Without your help and support and friendship, I would not be in so favorable a position. I would probably be really weird too, most likely working at a grocery store and spending all of my free time playing Dance Dance Revolution. Ha! Like I would ever do that!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Splitting the Pie: observing a cultural artifact

As I have begun thinking more about gender issues, I have seen some interesting things. I wish to write about a pie that I saw today.

My Physical Science professor brought a homemade pumpkin-pecan pie to class today in response to an anonymous student comment, who in a note complained about always being hungry in class. The pie was cut into 12 equal slices and offered to students who answered questions correctly. Out of the seven pieces given away during the lecture, only one went to a female. At the end of the lecture, five pieces remained. The professor said that anyone who wanted a piece could come and get one. Within seconds, all of the pieces were in the hands of four eager males.

But weren't there five pieces left? Yes, one man was carrying two pieces. It's not what you think, however. When this man reached the table where the pie sat, he turned to his sister and asked, "do you want a piece?" She nodded, and he took a piece for her.

Now, how does this relate to gender issues? I think it's a good example of what is happening in many parts of our society today. In many issues, men and women have equal opportunities, at least in theory. Like my story, the pie is cut evenly is offered to each person. Why then does the pie end up in so few female hands? Do women not like the pie as much as men? Are they not as hungry? Perhaps, but I think the answer is more subtle.

When a suppressed party gains freedom, does it automatically become a 'normal' functioning member of society? Are there no traditions, ideas, or behaviors that carry on? Perhaps for some this is the case, but for the majority, change is slow. In other words, women, who were seen as inferior for so many centuries, may still be hesitant to take advantage of many of the freedoms and possibilities granted to them because of the culture from which they came.

Consider females in the classroom. While there is a small number that participates in class lectures, the majority remains silent. In my story, only one girl received a piece of pie by participation. (And I should point out that there is no shortage of women in the class.) When the five remaining pieces were offered to everyone, only men took them. I know that running to get free food is looked down upon by many people, both male and female, but could it be that females also are reluctant to compete with males for a piece of the pie? Was it lack of interest, or lack of confidence that kept them from claiming a piece of the pie?

I don't think we can point the blame to any one party, but I do believe that both can improve the situation. Like the male who offered his sister a piece of pie, men should be more understanding and mindful of their female counterparts. They should encourage women to stand up and speak out and claim a piece of the pie. To overcome cultural artifacts, they must do more than cut the pie evenly and offer it to all. They must prove to the women that they really do care about equal opportunity and reassure them that it exists.

Women, on the other hand, need not be afraid to claim a piece of pie. If there is something you want to do, do it! If there is something you want to say, say it! If there is something you want to be, be it! There have been many courageous women that have reached out and taken their own piece of the pie. Women can follow their examples and make an increased effort to get what they want.

Now, before someone misinterprets my point, let me clarify. I am not suggesting that women should compete against men. I am saying that just as men compete for a piece of the pie, so should women, with the men. We are obviously not there yet, but if men acted with more understanding and thoughtfulness and women acted with more courage, we would be well on our way. Doing so would break down the cultural artifacts that continue to suppress women in our "equal opportunity" society.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Fine Day... to eat George Clooney

Introducing: Clofu!

Yes, friends. Edward Cullen's fantasy is now available to you. You can eat the heartthrob of your life, and it's totally O.K!

Now, I don't like to poke fun at people's morals, but honestly...

"Newkirk, a big fan of Clooney, told us yesterday that the towel was offered by a PETA supporter with the idea of auctioning it off, but she immediately thought of using his perspiration for bean curd." (emphasis added)

Okay, yes, that's great that you have George Clooney's towel, but what kind of person sees, "sweaty towel" and thinks, "bean curd!"? Sounds like someone's starving, or has been reading way too much Stephanie Meyers.

And poor little George... Peta certainly wasn't very ethical towards that particular mammal.

I wonder how much clofu sells for, anyway.

Monday, March 16, 2009

In other news...

I found my autographed poster of D2 The Mighty Ducks, the movie that sparked my fascination with bubble gum and Iceland. It will have a place on my wall.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I attended a very enlightening career exploration class last week that I've been wanting to write about ever since. It's not one of my typical topics, but I feel that it deserves some focus.

At the beginning of the class the students were divided by gender. Men sat on the left, women sat on the right. Our professor sat on a desk at the front of the classroom and faced the women. He initiated a discussion about gender roles and forbid the men to participate.

I took two things away from that discussion. First, feeling that your voice isn't wanted is an awful feeling. It has been shown that the large majority of female college students keep their mouths closed during classroom discussions. There are different reasons for this, but in class it was suggested that perhaps the student feels like her comments are undervalued, or perhaps the professor subconsciously prefers to call on males. I found this hard to believe, so I asked several women from my class as well as outside my class how they felt about the issue. Although a few said that they felt comfortable making comments in class, the majority said that they did indeed feel some degree of anxiety.

The second realization came to me by listening carefully to the discussion at the other side of the classroom. Before coming to class, each of us read an article written by a professor of then-Ricks college. In the article, she says that many young women, influenced by mormon subculture, plan their futures according to an as yet unrealized life with some husband. In other words, they do not plan for careers, but married life. But what about the large number of unmarried/divorced/widowed women? What are they to do when they must join the workforce to support themselves? What about the women are married, but still have to help support a family, along with their husbands? The author suggests that women prepare for careers, and by doing so, they will be better prepared for life ahead. If a man indeed comes along, plans can change accordingly. If a man doesn't come along or is lost to some tragedy, then she will still be capable of supporting herself.

My purpose here is not to argue one point or another. That was the purpose of the in-class discussion. What I want to point out here is that for the first time, I was able to see the real issue that women and mothers struggle with their whole lives. Women seek education and prepare for a career, and yet keep in mind the possibility that they might never reach their professional goals because of motherhood. Those mothers are satisfied with their choice, but every now and then, perhaps they wish to have been able to do more. I gained a lot of respect for young women preparing for the future, as well as single women and mothers who had to make difficult and decisions.

Even though I grew up with four sisters and a mother, I am starting to understand that there is a whole lot more to womanhood than I ever imagined, hidden in the supressed voices of its own.

As a man, I say that such understanding is humbling.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


We all know that falling asleep during lecture is bound to happen from time to time. How many times a day do we see Susan gazing into the eternities of the blackboard, her eyes unfocused and her jaw slightly dropped? How about Bobby, whose sloppy notes are used to soak up the pool of drool expanding from the corner of his mouth? How many times have we been Bobby or Susan? The picture below is a scan from my Portuguese workbook. I attend that class at 8:00 AM, and occasionally I behave like the sleepy Susan (thankfully, I usually don't share Bobby's symptoms). Let's take a closer look. You may need to click on the image to see the full resolution.

1. I fill in the first blank, and then a sudden heaviness falls upon me and disturbs my equilibrium. I fill in the second blank, though not without significant effort. I circle the vowels several times, just to be certain that I wrote the word correctly.

2. Realizing that I am losing consciousness, I snap awake and answer the question with a sudden burst of energy. All is not right, however. My handwriting fades as I progress through the Sentence. The sentence, translated as, "the children didn't know that the adults were tired," beautifully foreshadows of the next stage,

3. complete unconsciousness.

4. ...

5. Caught in transit between Neverland and BYU (accessible via pixie dust), I attempt to copy the answers as they float by me. The writing is difficult. I don't want to write. I just want to fly. Fly and think happy thoughts.

"When I was young I always went to bed at 8:00 O'clock."

6. My last happy thought fades and I touch down at BYU. Still not quite fully conscious, however, I'm hit with a bout of dyslexia and write not Portuguese, but Greek.

"Where did you get such beautiful pants?"

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Introduction to Chemistry

In nearly every science class I have taken the professor has reproduced the exploding balloon experiment, much to my satisfaction. This time, I snapped a couple photos.

Notice the burn marks on his shirt. Where did they come from?