Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post-Christmas with Televised Nonsense

I’m sitting in a love sac, sipping a 50/50 blend of cranberry and orange juice (try it—you will be converted) while the TV drones on. It’s a showcase of Southern Californian groups all singing creative renditions of Christmas songs that PBS shoved behind the more, uh, palatable Austin City Limits. So far we’ve had mariachi bands, bell choirs, an all-Asian choir whose director looks like SeƱor Chang, and now the most interpretive of them all. Currently, some group is doing a break-dance rendition of A Christmas Carol, including Tiny Tim spinning on his head while Jacob Marley and Scrooge krump around him. Yes, this is the kind of tribute Southern California gives to Christmas which just goes to show that Compton has no idea what Christmas is all about. Or Dickens’ books.

This just feels like an entirely appropriate way to wind down after the holidays and get ready to close out the year right. After all, things got pretty crazy toward the end. I’ve been going through the interview process with Apple which, while fun, is a bit mentally taxing. After an interview with a rep at a career fair, then a very long interview with a project manager, whose name I couldn’t even pronounce, at Apple in Cupertino, I think my brain had exhausted its ability to reason soundly. I say this because, among other things, I decided to grow a mustache. This wasn’t a total disaster (like my 2008 debacle) as nobody told me I looked like an ice cream truck driver. Someone did, however, tell me I looked like a bomber pilot. Conclusion: success.

The fun was short lived, as I needed to shave it off to cut weight for all the walking I would be doing while Christmas shopping. I hate shopping. The Catholic Church used to pop their opponents’ fingernails out with a wooden chip for punishment. . .I think I’d prefer that. Hey, you try shopping for my mother! I would like to give effusive thanks for a successful trip to my friend Erica, and the driving mix my brother stuck in my car stereo. We easily found stuff for everyone in the fam and had a pretty good time. In all the fun, I almost had an out-of-body experience in Bath and Body Works. I generally have a terrible sense of smell, but I’m apparently like a wolf in that store, picking up the scent of coconut lime verbena, sweet cinnamon pumpkin, cool citrus basil… What is this place?? After the mall I even went 4th grade and made my mom a Christmas card, but being rushed in adding the finishing touches, I forgot a letter. So, next to the cute illustration it read “Feli Navidad.” And just like that, my card went from being cute to embarrassing (to explain the goat, my mom wanted someone to buy a Peruvian family a goat for her Christmas gift).

Christmas was fantastic! Far from a white Christmas, it was green and warm enough to play in t-shirts in the back yard. Uncle Robert and Aunt Hyun-suk came from Korea, bringing a camera crew in tow. Uncle Rob is a television celebrity in Korea and wanted me to give a Christmas message to all the Thais in Korea. According to his producer, it should air on Korean national television sometime mid-January on their version of “Good Morning America.” I’ve always laughed at those guys wearing the “I’m big in Japan” t-shirts, but on second thought, maybe they really are.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Observations

I've spent several days on end coding up a webcrawler, which is easily the most code I've written before. Between 1 and I'm-going-to-gnaw-my-own-arm-off crazy, I'm at about an 8. It's been a while since I've written and I'd better take a break before I become a 9 on the aforementioned scale, so here goes.

Just four gallons of milk ago the weather was still warm and I still woke up to the darn sprinklers under our window. Now my face hurts when I ride my bike and I sleep under 36lbs of blankets, curled up like a potato bug with a 4 year-old prodding it. Classes are intense (please see above paragraph) and, as always, fall has allowed for all sorts of amusement. For example:
  1. The kid in computational theory who always sits next to the podium, right under the professor's nose, and plays his GameBoy (I guess we just call them "DS's" now?) wears a safari hat every day. Real name: unknown. Suspected name: Christopher. Name that Joe and I use: "Safari."
  2. The furniture in my apartment is really just termites holding hands. I accidentally broke the back off a kitchen chair with my chest. So we have four full-backed chairs and now a stool as well. Variety is good.
  3. My roommate leaps off of the bunk bed in the morning. The bunk bed already on cinder blocks. 150lbs falling 6.5 feet onto old plywood covered in lint labeled as carpet is hardly quiet. This made him about as popular with me as the WNBA. For a while there, I thought I was going to have to resort to booby traps.
  4. A mystery roommate leaves large enough wads of hair in the tub drain that I feel obligated to name them...just before going to great lengths to throw them away without any skin contact.
  5. Tuesdays can be made enjoyable despite starting work at 4 am. This was accomplished by me establishing "Documentary & Crock-pot Tuesday" in the office. We watch a new documentary in the early hours of our shift, while preparing lunch in a crock pot, which we cook all day. It's great working with the smell of slow-roasting pork and pepper; however, the scent seems to overpower any cologne and leads to increased attention from hungry girls.
  6. Difficult tests in a large room with hundreds of people collectively making absolutely no noise can be perfectly nerve-wracking. They can be made worse, however, proven by Dr. Rodham who puts you in a room with no Internet and randomly selects one of this semester's lab projects for you to duplicate from memory in three hours.
  7. The Yankees lost to the Texas Rangers. Let's not talk about it. Still too soon.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, America

Technically it’s the fifth of July, but I’m going to count it. This is my favorite holiday of the year. I absolutely love my country. The sheer excitement of the day got me out of bed at 6 to meet my family at the Provo Balloon Festival. Sidenote, the Provo Balloon Festival is apparently one of the largest in the nation, although Albuquerque’s is still larger. Sadly the winds were too strong, which resulted in the five-story Coke bottle balloon—located between Smokey the Bear and the portly pig—tilting wildly and collapsing on a suddenly frenzied group of parents. People started grabbing for their children like football players for a fumble while the balloon leered overhead, falling fast.

The family is mostly in town. My Korean cousins brought some of their friends over from Korea. The conversation was all fun until the woman started speed-talking excitedly after I mentioned that I'm at BYU. Although I’m not sure what was said (my aunt would only say with apparent embarrassment, “Oh, don’t worry about that ”), the situation was strikingly similar to an awkward night at the market as a new missionary in Thailand when, apparently, I had accidentally arranged some sort of courtship with the shop-owner’s daughter. I mistakenly thought he was asking if the apples looked good and if I really wanted them.

After an unhealthy number of Holleyburgers, a good game of football (during which we found out Seth throws with a perfect spiral), some ice cold soda under the walnut trees at the farm and a little American television, it was time to watch as Provo assaulted the sky with fireworks. Last year my roommate Chris and I were on the pyrotechnic crew for Stadium of Fire so we knew just where to go for optimal viewing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much grass there and, due to long lines at Dairy Queen and the appeal of Blizzards, we didn’t have a lot of time to find some. So we sat on the police barricades running down the center of Canyon Road and University Avenue.

We ooh’d and aah’d as the fireworks filled our entire range of view. We were so close that when one exploded a little close to the ground, the purple sparks and ash lit up the pavement around us. It was like the closing scene of Oceans 11, when everyone is looking at the fountains of the Bellagio—we were in total mesmerized awe, caught up in the magic of America. It was a Sandlot moment where time lost all importance. At the end of the concussions and sparks, the crowd cheered and began chanting “USA, USA, USA!!” while Sam Yam rode his stereo speaker-mounted bike down the street blasting MGMT - “Kids” while the crowd followed him like he was the Pied Piper. It’s moments like that where you feel the almost tangible excitement and realize just how lucky we are to be in America. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s trying pretty hard in a lot of ways. As we all tromped down the street by the thousands while buzzing about how great the show was, how perfect the weather felt, how awesome America is, how awesome tomorrow is going to be, and intermittently chanting “USA” or exchanging smiles with strangers, we lived the blessing that is America. We live it every day. Happy birthday, America. God bless you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The End from the Beginning

Goodbye January. Good riddance too. I’m surviving, but I really wish I had noticed this note in my computer science textbook before the add-drop date passed:

CS Notes

The past 29 days might have been a lot more enjoyable. As usual, things have managed to stay interesting. We got two new roommates, one of whom called me “Chris” for the first few weeks of living here. I was going to see how long I could keep it going, but one day he heard someone say my name and, after a brief moment of silent embarrassment, my newfound moniker was gone. Being called “Chris” didn’t bother me too much since I mistakenly called him Paul for the first few days he was here too. In actuality, he’s Gary and I’m Wes. Pleased to meet you.

Each of my professors this semester are wildly different from each other. Dr. Bergeson reminds me of Animal from the Muppets. He has red hair and lectures with similar comprehensibility. Understanding his lectures is like trying to pick lyrics out of the Barenaked Ladies’ song One Week, and you’re left asking your neighbor, 'What was that—chickety-China??If I’m ever the one selected to diffuse a bomb or stop a virus, and he’s the guy feeding me instructions over a radio, we’re screwed. On the other hand we have Dr. Gee, a nice guy with an affinity toward the dockers-with-white-sneakers-and-windblown-hair look, who is so accomplished in Egyptology that he is cited in wikipedia. Someday I would love for someone to ask if I use facebook so we can be friends, only for me to politely decline and refer them to my wikipedia page. Baller. While Dr. Gee knows an untold number of languages, it baffles me how even after years and years of reading dusty volumes, he has never come across the word “comb” and wondered what it’s for. Then again, I should just consider myself lucky that my hair is tightly governed by cowlicks and never gets too muddled. It’s only been messed up a few times, like the bad haircut of 1998. <shudder>.

Speaking of hair, I’m sad that Conan and his foot-tall red wave aren’t on TV anymore. Instead there’s Jay with this foot-tall chin and unfunny jokes. Apparently Hulu users aren’t very happy about this transition either, as seen in this screenshot of Jay Leno videos. Ouch.


I feel bad for Conan, moving all the way out to NYC from LA only to be fired within seven months. He’s asked for a fish but been handed a stone more than once. When celebrating 10 years on the air, Mr. T presented him with a necklace bearing a giant “7.” When Conan pointed out that he’s actually been on the air for ten years, Mr. T responded, “I know that, fool...but you've only been funny for seven!” I suppose it’s further evidence that nobody knows the end from the beginning (except NBC producers). I remind myself of this when I think of my youthful vision a few years back, of spending my days with other aspiring accountants, reading the Wall Street Journal by the fountain, my left hand carefully poised, holding a French-dip sandwich. I usually remember this around 8 am while rubbing my bloodshot eyes and rushing to class in the Talmadge Bldg., my left hand carefully occupied with a madly overpriced textbook, bookmarked with a marred transcript. Sorry for dreaming, BYU. My bad.

Occasionally I do guess the end from the beginning with surprising accuracy. In the spirit of doppelganger week, I came prepared with an example. This is a picture of a friend’s daughter, who might not have facebook yet to change her picture to a celebrity lookalike, so I’ll do it for her. I just know this is what she’ll look like. Can you blame me?