Thursday, December 24, 2009

It’s A Wonderful Christmas Eve

Christmas is full of tradition in our family, as it probably is in yours.  This year nearly the entire family made the trip back to the Mormon Mecca, coming from Canada, Seattle, and even Korea.  In the heat of battle with a billion other fellow procrastinators, we somehow found time for some of our Christmas traditions—yes, including lunch at Arctic Circle.  Apparently they just built one in Draper.  After being served a slightly gray-hued hamburger by a girl with Gummi Bear (© HARIBO) eye shadow, however, I wish I could go back in time and change this tradition to a more palatable establishment.  Then again, I do owe them at least a little loyalty for inventing the sweet nectar now affectionately called “fry sauce.”  Bless you and your tinted burger for that, Arctic Circle. 

We spent Christmas Eve with the Holley side of the family.  I saw Aunt Shannon for the second time this year.  I believe that makes my quota.  The Korean part of the family was there in living color, Kevin playing an absolutely gorgeous song on the piano called Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.  It makes me think of peaceful winter nights … and skiing, for some reason.

Being together like that, back in the town my ancestors helped found, reminded me again of how amazing my family really is.

As the day was winding down, my planning-savvy family all headed home to kick up their feet and call it day.  Not me.  No, it was back to the battlefield with me where my fellow procrastinators were frothing at the mouth in panic as some cowardly (or maybe just wise) WalMart employee was threatening to close the registers in 20 minutes.  After several unsuccessful attempts this week, I finally found the bottle of perfume I was planning on giving my sister but couldn’t give it the final sniff of approval since it was sealed in a plastic box <???>.  Annoyed, I asked the woman shopping next to me, “How am I supposed to tell if this passes the test if it’s sealed up like this?”  She laughed and replied with a sly grin, “Well, you unseal it!  I’ve never been caught!” and she haughtily ripped the package open and produced a sweet-smelling bottle from within.  Just unseal it—how foolish of me.

With shopping now completed I returned home where Jimmy Stewart and Bedford Falls were already awaiting me on the television.  I watch my favorite movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, every year on Christmas Eve…usually alone.  I really love that movie and all of its little lessons.  This year I noticed, for the first time, what Clarence wrote in George Bailey’s note at the end of the film, “No man is a failure who has friends!  Thanks for the wings –Clarence.” Fantastic movie! 

As I type, stretched out on the sofa in front of the fireplace, feet up, my now-empty glass of egg nog on the sill, silhouetted against the frosty window, I can’t help but be grateful for life.  George Bailey was allowed to see what the world would be like without him and found that his little, everyday influence had shaped his small town in incalculable ways.  I wonder how often I judge someone, forgetting that I can in no way comprehend their potential.  Do we know our own?  Christ the Lord never traveled more than 100 miles from His home, where He was born in an animal’s stall, was never formally educated, and probably never wore anything nicer than a pair of sandals and rough cloth.  I wonder if He meant to teach us something by coming to the world He would save through such humble means.  In any case, I’m grateful for this season named in His honor and wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Passing of a Friend

A sad event has occurred which has resulted in the passing of a good friend, my Dell Inspiron laptop. Sigh... After three years of wonderful companionship, my good friend has finally seen his day. At first, I thought it wouldn't be difficult to fix a broken monitor hinge, so I took out the screws and opened the case up, disconnected the display cable and the LCD lighting cables, removed the broken hinges, marred up the metal with a screwdriver, and gorilla glued the crud out of it.

Apparently Gorilla Glue isn't as strong as it's proponents tout because the hinge support broke right off again. After a few tries, I decided to weld it back together, which did work but the when the metal settled, it had slipped under the clamp and hardened crooked <@!%#>, so my laptop is now essentially a desktop and I found myself in the market for a new one. At least this is a good time of year to be buying something like this, right?

Black Friday is so much of what I'm all about: unrealistically awesome prices, early hours, enduring freezing cold temperatures, and pulsating crowds of people foaming at the mouth over the piles of steeply discounted merchandise. Ah yes, and this year I didn't intend to merely peruse through countless shelves, but I had a real need and I was shooting to kill. I got off work at midnight and promptly joined my friends Nate and Thomas who had reserved a patch of sidewalk out front of Best Buy with what had become a quivering sea of shivering people and tents which stretched to the end of the block and out of sight.
To make the stay a bit more bearable, we got some extension cords and a power converter at WalMart, and some burritos at Betos (a bad choice), and hunkered down between some dude with a kerosene lantern and two guys reading Treasure Island in a tent . We ran the extension cords from Nate's car to the sidewalk where we huddled under sleeping bags and blankets (thanks to Nate for letting me use one of his sleeping bags because I didn't have one in Provo) and watched Star Trek on a laptop.

One of my friends, who happened to be at the front of line, snagged a voucher for the Sony VAIO I was looking for and brought it to me. Andrew, I owe you big time for that. After an hour and a half in line, I finally snagged my new Sony VAIO laptop. While in line, I met a nice guy from India who was incredibly happy that I understood his accent (my roommate is from India and I work with several Nepalis). I found out he has met the missionaries a few times and, by some incredibly random chance, I had in my pocket a pass-along card that I had picked up off the ground the night before, which I gave to him. As we paid for our stuff and headed out, he said, "It is very nice to meet you, Wes. Can I have your number? I would like to get in touch with you soon and ask you some questions." I hope we stay in touch.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mid-semester Pit Stop

Winter always feels long. Whether it's the temperature being below 40 degrees for six months, the fact that you can't have any prolonged activity outside without protective gear for your epidermis, or BYU's staunch opposition to taking school off for any reason that makes the winter seem so eternal, I don't really know. Fortunately, with the advent of Christmas break's younger sibling, Thanksgiving break, we find ourselves with a week or so to take a breather. I think this is the longest Thanksgiving break BYU has had in years. I guess we do deserve a little something for having to start school in August.
I come from a pretty big extended family, rooted in age-old family traditions. Thanksgiving, particularly on my Dad's side, is an almost sacred event where everyone goes overboard in preparing for it (example, last time we had 14 people bake pies on top of their normal food assignment ). I absolutely love it! This year, however, things were a bit different. With Grandpa still in the hospital recovering from recent surgery to remove some cancerous tumors, the family decided to eat at our house this year. With a decent portion of our family living between Washington and Edmonton, we had a smaller turnout than normal. but it was still fun.

What's a get-together without a friendly YouTube-off, showing ridiculous videos which millions and millions of people had seen yet we had never heard of. Afterward, my cousin Russel and I got roped into playing a game of Smash Brothers, which verified that neither of us have any game at all. Stevie Wonder could probably beat us. For real. We both had so much damage that the game stopped counting.
So this Thanksgiving wasn't our typical large-family feast, but it was still a welcome breath of fresh air from fall semester. My mom put together a slideshow of Thanksgiving, available at:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween of Epic Porportion

Ask any of my friends, I love Halloween. With still-warm days giving way to cold evenings, trees maintaining an increasingly pathetic grip on the last few leaves hanging there, and a sudden proliferation of bare sticks and dead foliage scraping along the streets in the wind, it almost seems like Nature makes a decent attempt to make Halloween as creepy as possible. Every year my friend Chris Beyer and I do what we can to spice this time of year up a bit, mainly by finding the scariest movies we can manage to get our hands on. On Halloween we show our favorite pick to a bunch of friends and relish in the horror that follows. This year, however, was absolutely epic.

I spent a good 45 minutes watching YouTube instructional videos and trying repeatedly to tie a respectable turban on my head for our ward Halloween party. I donned full Indian dress robes strangely resembling silky lingerie, slapped on a beard which could easily be mistaken for a dead cat, and partied hearty for a while. We were sure happy Cousin Abdel (green shirt) could get work off at 7-11 and join us.
(same costume, different party -- I'm the moron blinking on the far right)

Later, my roommate Ricardo wanted to show a group of us friends a scene from a horror movie he found. We got sucked in and ended up watching the whole thing. Now we've watched a good number of these things over the years, but this was the first that left me tense like a two-day onset of rigamortis. We literally had to get up afterward and walk around to shake the lingering suspicion that something might be behind the couch waiting to eat our faces off. By this point we had a good-sized group of friends in our living room and decided it was Halloween, gosh dang it, and we're going to live it up! We slipped over the tall, spired fence around the city graveyard, with minimal injury (RIP Dara's hoodie), and played hide-and-go-seek among the tombstones and trees (bad luck in pretty much every culture, I'll bet).

After a satisfying couple of rounds, we headed up toward an abandoned hotel sitting all alone next to the insane asylum (mental health hospital, for those in need of a politically correct translation). We parked behind a dark warehouse and crept in the inky night up the hill to the shadowy, monolithic structure looming above. I'm not making this next part up--as we approached the hotel, the voices of inmates singing in the hospital wafted through the trees which were shuddering in the frigid breeze. Could it have been creepier? Someone had pulled a board off a window leading to the basement where we dropped in. Inside, every sound transformed itself into an echoing footstep, never failing to deliver petrifying results on the group. Rats scrambled through the walls as we crept up the winding, creaking wood staircases by light of cell phone. With every breath of wind from the mountains, ominous groans resounded throughout the catacombs of rooms through which we were cautiously moving. I should have checked my jacket sleeve for nail-marks where Melissa was hanging on for dear life.

Afterward, we shared scary stories in the bed of Ricardo's truck behind the warehouse before driving home and watching another Halloween favorite: "Coming Soon." Of course, like any gathering of friends with a computer, the night wasn't complete without sharing a few YouTube videos with millions of hits that none of us had heard of. Yes, this Halloween will go down in my memory as the best yet. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From the Archives: Los Angeles

This is a little tribute to summer I never posted...

With the advent of finals each April, I start to salivate at the potential of summer. This year, while pining for the return of summer's buoyant, liberating relief from overcrowded lecture halls and long nights thumbing through tired books, I began giddily compiling a list of activities to complete. Standing on the cusp of four months of freedom and adventures untold is like holding a blank check in your hands. The world is your oyster...for four months. August, on the other hand, bears the exact opposite feeling. My summer cruise ship is slowly making its way back to port--a very morose, boring, academic port, I might add. So, to spruce up what's sure to be an otherwise-depressing August, I went to Disneyland.My last trip to Disneyland was over ten years ago. In that duration of time, the child in you could easily grow up, which would really be too bad. My return to Disneyland was pretty much everything I thought it would be, but I found that I did carry some baggage from my last trip circa 1998 when my dad took me on Splash Mountain. Let's just say the drop at the end was slightly unexpected. The picture was deemed "priceless" enough that they actually purchased the picture, which much to my chagrin, they gladly show to people upon request. I have hated that picture for years and this trip was my chance to avenge myself and show those blasted roller-coaster cameras who wasn't terrified to be there!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day

So a few days ago my mom emailed me with an interesting request. She wanted me to write a rap for Father's Day. Okay, I said, why not? Dear reader, please hold your arguments--that was a rhetorical question. Besides, keep in mind, I was alone and bored at the time with no one to speak sense into me. Now, I'm not from the hood (my neighborhood is about as menacing as the Sandlot), but I saw some crazy stuff in high school and I lived in Bangkok for a few years, so I felt qualified.

My mom and sister went to some pretty sincere effort to get thugged out (which I'm pretty sure mainly involved shopping at the local second-hand store and getting chain from Home Depot, but maybe that's how real thugs do it too).

My plan was to show up unshaven and without a belt, throw down a few lines, and stand to the side looking like I'd just taken a few jabs to the ribs. It's a difficult look to master, but every true rapper does it; I'm fairly sure it's a requirement for CD covers. Otherwise their CD will have to be sold in the same section of the record store as David Bowie and Prince, which, of course, cannot be tolerated by a legit rapper.

Then no one would believe your lyrics about stealing rims, taking a few shells, or life in the infamous, yet seemingly nonexistent, "hood." Fortunately, my stuff will never be found mis-shelved behind old Beegees albums--not with a CD cover like this anyway. No, we could at least be in the same part of the store as the Black Eyed Peas. Even if nobody bought our album, I would be content with just being able to say I'd cut a record.

Click here for the lyrics of our one-time-only concert and some pics from Father's Day at home. I want to thank my dad for all he's done for our family, friends, and me. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not long ago I read an article about Stephen Wolfram, a dapper British bloke who was publishing papers on particle physics at age 17, and who received his Ph.D. from Caltech at the age of 20. Well recently, between breakfast and lunch, our good chap Wolfram created "Wolfram Alpha." The self-dubbed computational knowledge engine went live May 15th. So, what is that you ask? Let's just say that if Wolfram Alpha and Google ever mate, SkyNet will be born and anyone who has watched Terminator 2 will never sleep again. Okay, back to the question; Wolfram Alpha is like a giant calculator taking input from your full name, a formula for a Taylor series (e.g., "taylor series sin x^2" - I wish I had this when I took calculus ), or genome sequences (e.g., "ACGCAAGCGAGC") to an RGB color (e.g., "rgb 127 255 212"). So, let's try it out!

Tell me about my first name, Wolfram Alpha...please. At this point I'm feeling a little like I'm on the bridge of the Enterprise, but before I can even push my glasses back up the bridge of my nose, Wolfram has an answer. Apparently 1 in 1499 people in the United States (0.067%) share my name. Some might call us a rare commodity. We should start a club. In 2007, "Wesley" ranked 195th in popular names in America with a lucky, yet slim, 0.093% of all newborns receiving their invitation to join our exclusive club. Hmmm, what else?

Wolfram Alpha? No answer. Tell me about "McDonalds" please. After a momentary pause while Wolfram Alpha scratched its surely oversized brain and flexed its fiberoptic muscles, I soon find myself looking at stock quotes, P/E ratios, price histories, crazy but impressively complex graphs and diagrams, and even an address of origin. Nice, but one more test is in order--just for fun.

Wolfram Alpha, what is the nutritional value of my "ham and cheese sandwich"? Wait for Wolfram to think. Total calories: 350, protein: 25 g... this is impressive and all, but what about something sincerely difficult to figure out? Wolfram gives me the "shame on you" face. Riboflavin content:
480 μg (insert diagram reminiscent of stuff I ignored in biology class), folic acid content: 4.4 μg., and the sandwich's likely size: 5.1 oz.

Well, my share of the 0.067% of Wesleys nationwide is very impressed. I spent a good hour grilling my new-found digital Rainman on a wide variety of topics. I'm just expanding my repertoire of useless information for the next time I get stuck in a long line with some food science majors, get lost in the ESC, or imitate Stephen Hawking (a surprisingly common occurrence). You see useless information isn't entirely useless!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A New Season

Burning the midnight oil is an activity all to familiar to a college town's population, however tonight's occasion comes far more welcome than that of months' past. I'm stretched out on my living room sofa under an open window. The cool April breeze has a refreshing quality which I seem to have forgotten after six months of bitter, frozen air. The living room is sporadically illuminated by small explosions of light as the first season of Prison Break plays tirelessly on the TV. Yes, this is exactly the kind of night my mind has dangled before me like a carrot on a stick for the past nine months--the kind of night where no due dates hang overhead, where no homework has overtaken my dimly lit desk in a sprawling paper forest, where I have no 8:00 am obligations tomorrow, and where I can lie here watching a season of Prison Break and listen to the birds chirp playfully outside. Yes, spring is back, and with it comes the delightful prospect of a thousand other things just waiting to be seen and done.

Out front of our apartment sits the big blue dumpster, sleeping open-mouthed, revealing his recently ingested spoils, having just gorged himself on the garbage of a hundred students preparing for their seasonal migration. Only feet away from our over-stuffed, slumbering friend, just beyond the reach of the fallen crumbs of used moving boxes and old egg cartons lies the curb, eerily lacking in occupancy. Where the street had once looked like a social club for automobiles, every free inch taken by some gas-guzzling patron, now resides nothing but the oil stains of its former residents. Much like the curb, the streets lie dormant and unused but alas...this is summer in Provo and I love it.

So what does this summer have in store? Another academic dynasty has now passed. Gone are the days of backpack-bruised apples and smashed, half-fermented PB&J's, and snow-covered sidewalks which have never seen a shovel since they were laid. Come are the spring evenings of movie marathons, guilt-free frivolous activity (e.g. just laying in a park with a book and enjoying the fact that there's a clear sky), fishing, fireworks, thunderstorms, and barbecues.

Here's a brief recap of last summer...