Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 30 Page Ballot

After tragically getting rejected at the voting booth two days ago, I decided today that it was probably inspired as I haven't really checked out any of the issues I would be voting on and the only thing I was sure about was my choice of presidential candidate which I've been pretty solid on for several months now. I guess the rejection will probably require some explanation: When I tried to register to vote I forgot to sign the form so about 2 months later it was sent back to me in the mail (I have no idea why it took 2 months to get rejected but I'm sure it has to do with some pernicious scandal). By the time I got it in the mail it was like the last day to register so I had to run it down to the Provo city building and turn it in in person. Well it turns out that you can't vote early if you registered late so after driving all the way down to the voting station and standing in a long line (ok the voting station is a 3 minute drive and there were only 4 people in line), I was told I can't vote until election day. I was mostly bummed because I really wanted an "I voted today!" sticker but they wouldn't give me one because apparently those things are a hot commodity that scream "VIP" so they don't just give those out to voter rejects. (Consequently I asked for an "I tried to vote today but I got rejected because I was too flaky to register on time" sticker and the girl did NOT think that was funny).

I was so excited to vote because I've never participated in a presidential election and I feel like I've put WAY too much time and brain power into studying this thing out over the last 12 or so months (sometimes bordering on obsession . . . ok always bordering on obsession) to not vote. Plus I feel it's an honor to get to vote and I'm doing my patriotic duty by engaging in the system even if I'm not overly thrilled about any candidate. Now to answer all of your disgusted gasps when you learned that I've never voted before: during the last election I was on my mission on the other side of the world. Yes I could have gotten an absentee ballot but I hadn't been in the states for a year and a half and my mind was far from politics at that time. I didn't even know who was running against the incumbent and by the time I realized it was election time it was too late anyway. The election before that one I was too young to vote (yes I'm a baby).

So today I decided, despite DESPERATELY needing to study, to get online and check out what I was going to be voting for. What I saw invoked emotions in me that I didn't even know existed. Let us begin:

Presidential Candidates:
After reading through all 65 names of candidates that I had never heard of, I was already feeling a bit ignorant of the whole process. You know what I'm talking about; these are the candidates that have a nickname in quotation marks next to their real name as if the nickname will somehow manipulate enough people into thinking that they know this person so they might as well vote for them (Example: Dale Bardene--"Dale the Rockstar!", Peter Barthollondecker--"Pistol Pete, the one-eye treat"). So by the time you get past all the "nickname candidates" the next set start to look pretty legit. The next set are the people who knew their name was diverse enough sounding to get a few votes so they got someone else to run with them who had the same quality. There are 7 or 8 of these (Example: Sergei Littlefoot Tonga and Maria Sayeed Johanson). You will be tempted to vote for one of these candidates in order to make yourself feel exotic. Then you get to the perennials; you know their names because they've somehow made it onto every ballot for every election in every state at every level for the last 30+ years, as if eventually the entire nation will freak out and elect them out of pity. Ralph Nader will always be found somewhere in this section; I believe even after he's dead they'll still accidentally put his name on the ballot out of habit. Then you get to Bob Barr and you almost vote for him because of how fun it is to say his name. Then you remember his campaign commercial which provoked no strong emotions in you other than the desire to play canasta and eat Cornflakes while talking about the good old days. By this time you've got to the only candidates that you're really familiar with (enough to dislike wholeheartedly) so you pick the less crappy of the two because you can't look at the other's name without wincing; or you'll write in Ron Paul on your way out to start your revolution because you're positive that 75% of the country is as addicted to him as you are because he got 110% on the latest Youtube poll.

Wait, Utah has a constitution? Well it must not be a good one because this ballot has 12 pages of proposed amendments. Each amendment has pages and pages of explanations that you'll never fully study out. You'll just vote "yes" or "no" based on what kind of a mood you're in that day. Or you might do an every other thing or whichever pattern you choose. Nonetheless, if you're under the age of 75 you won't have studied these out as efficiently as you should have, whether you want to admit it or not. I read up on most of them today and finally just assumed that politicians created them to make their jobs easier, something I'm not really interested in supporting as I'm not a huge fan of politicians right now. I'll likely vote "no" down the board so I feel like I'm sticking it to someone. (By the way, one amendment had to do with starting sessions a few weeks later so "people" could enjoy MLK weekend more without having to go back to work on Tuesday. So is the amendment going to let me have the week or two after MLK day off as well?).

You despise the governor but you'll vote for him anyway because you don't want to vote for that whack-job that used to sell computers on TV. But you'll still complain about him and his creepy fake smile for the next 4 years.

The Rest:
I won't bore you with detailed descriptions of everything else on the ballot, mostly because it's all really the same. More people you've never heard of. Some people you have heard of and start to vote for but then realize their name is only familiar because you've driven past their overly large sign every day for 2 months and wondered what the heck it was for. You'll vote for your party on this one.

By the time you're ready to leave, you want that sticker; not because it looks nice; not because you just want it for your scrap book; it's because you feel like you just took a grueling test that you didn't study enough for which was probably irrelevant as there are no right answers anyway and you want some kind of gold star or recognition for doing it. And you'll wear that sticker proudly.

Well I better cut it off here. I've offended all 2 of you that are reading this (thanks mom and dad). I think I'll study up a little more on "Pistol Pete" and Bob Barr; there may be something promising there.

For your information and my validation, here's a link of everyone up for election: See if you can pick out my favorite nickname candidate (hint: he's under "Utah Constitutional Offices").

By the way, I'm officially awarding myself the "Tellin' It Like It Is Award" for this post.

I'm a sarcastic sap, and I approve this message~

~It Just Gets Stranger

Monday, October 27, 2008

11 Moscovian Facts

I absolutely should be studying right now but instead I'll take a moment to pleasure you with some interesting facts about Moscow (thanks Wikipedia!) as I, quite understandably, can't seem to think of much else today:)

1. Moscow is the largest city in all of Europe.

2. The warmest temperature ever recorded in Moscow was 98 degrees; this was in 1936.

3. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Moscow was 44 degrees below 0. This was in 1940. Thank heavens I wasn't around that year.

4. The average high temperature in Moscow in May (when I'll arrive) is only 65 degrees.

5. Moscow has been rated the most expensive city to live in for a foreigner for 2 years in a row now :(

6. Izmaylovskiy Park in Moscow is 6 times larger than Central Park in New York City.

7. The Moscow metro has the longest escalators in Europe (I can't wait to see that as the escalators in the metro in Kyiv already seemed impossibly long).

8. On December 20th the sun doesn't rise in Moscow until 9:00 AM and sets at 3:58 giving Moscow less than 7 hours of daylight on its shortest days.

9. On June 20th the sun rises at 4:44 AM in Moscow and doesn't set until 10:18PM giving Moscow over 17 and 1/2 hours of direct sunlight on it's longest days.

10. Nobody has a very good guess as to the population of Moscow. Census records show that there are 12 million legal residents but most assume the real number is much much higher.

11. The famous Orthodox church with the onion domes which I posted a picture of in my previous post was built in the 16th century.

Yay! Who wants to come with me? (Don't worry, I'm NOT going in December).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slip Slidin' Away

It's been a big year so far and with just over two months remaining I fully anticipate it to go out with a bang. It hasn't been all fun and games--it's actually been a pretty hard year for me in a lot of ways--but I can say it's been my best year. I've mentioned before that my biggest goal in life is to be able to say at any given time that the best year of my life is the last one I've lived; as you may have picked up as a theme of this blog, I believe we control that, no matter what may happen to us. The trials can be insurmountable or things can seem to be just smooth sailin' and under either scenario, it really can still be our best year. I have great friends who have had trials in the last year that would make many of us embarrassed that we ever complain about anything, but due to their ability to focus on the blessings, these are the same people that I'm sure would tell you that despite the hardships, they've had a really great year; of course they have--they've chosen to.

So despite some really big challenges, it's been a pretty darn good year. I am in the process of making a decision right now that, unless something dramatically changes or one of you calls me before lunch time Monday morning with a desperate plea to change my mind, I feel I've been guided into in some way. I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about what I'm going to do next summer in terms of legal internships. There are many options to consider but for a 1L law student who is still largely unsure about what he wants to end up doing, it's been a bit stressful. I finally found a possibility of a 5 week externship in Ukraine that I was pretty excited about and I had planned to try to get into that at the end of October. Two weeks ago I found out about a law and religion program through various legal offices of the church throughout the world. The offices deal with the legal issues the church is facing in various countries and also work with governments to promote religious freedoms for their people as we've been so blessed to have here.

Last week I submitted my resume and cover letter indicating my interest in the program. I wasn't really sure if it was what I wanted to do and the externship in Ukraine still sounded very appealing to me but I thought it would be good to consider. On Thursday I interviewed and I didn't think the interview went very well and so thought that the decision would probably be made for me. But on Friday I got a call from the law and religion center offering me a spot in their Moscow, Russia office next summer.

So the last two days have been a bit overwhelming for me, weighing pros and cons, and wondering how the heck this worked out. After talking to my parents, friends, and through a lot of prayer, I have decided to accept it (I have to give them my decision by tomorrow). So there it is. Looks like I'm going to Russia.

The internship is an incredible opportunity and I'm so thankful that it's available to me. I will spend about 6 weeks in Moscow (probably beginning around May 1st) and then I'll come back to Utah and work in the church's law and religion office for the rest of the summer helping research and write a casebook or something similar. Before then I hope to really improve my Russian as it's not that awesome right now:)

Part of me, the part I don't like as much, has really tried to get me to turn this down over the past two days. That part of me has gotten the best of the best part of me too much in my life, and as I watch another year start slip slidin' away (thanks Paul Simon!), I've decided to do something brave and take a bit of a chance (if you consider moving to an eastern European country that you've never been to by yourself with minimal ability to speak the language "a bit of a chance" as I do). So here I go! Gone are the days that I fail to sieze the day! Well . . . at least mostly gone; I can't give up laziness just like that.

It Just Gets Stranger~

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Every Child's Nightmare: A True and Tragic Tale Part II

By way of update: It's not me. It's him.

As you know, I am going through a healing process right now in which I'm learning to come to grips with the fact that this 10 year old despises me like the desert hates the rain (that was so poetic of me! I get really artistic when I'm hurting). But what you may not know is that I now have a witness to the abuse.

While consulting a dear friend of mine at law school about my situation after seeing her all but adopt her assigned 5th grader, I was told "I'm sure he doesn't hate you. Maybe you should just tell him a funny joke." I told her I tried that and got blank stares so she asked me what the joke was and I got the same reaction from her; it turns out that just because my 5-year-old niece just about got a hernia when I told her the joke a few weeks ago, I can't assume that a 10-year-old who has at least twice the reasoning ability is going to wet his pants over the same joke. I should have known that Kaylee was not a good test subject because right after I told her my joke and she laughed like a menopausal woman in the audience of "Ellen", she told me a joke that went something like this: "How many shapes are lights? . . . A LOT of colors!!!" She then laughed at her own joke at least as hard as she laughed at mine. At the time I thought that maybe I just didn't get it but now that I think about it, she may not be at the point yet where she understands the simple schematics of the common question/answer joke, the humor of which relies on some sort of organizational clarity or play on words.

So my friend Corey told me a joke, that was guaranteed to "kill", about a duck that visits the same store every day to ask for duck food. In the joke, the store-keeper tells the duck every day that they don't have duck food and finally threatens the duck that if he comes back again he'll "nail the ducks feet to the floor." The next day the duck comes back in and says, "do you have any nails?" The store-keeper responds, "no." So the duck says, "ok. Do you have any duck food?" Kills! Really. You're laughing.

Just after she told me the joke my 5th grader entered the room and plopped down in a chair, completely ignoring me when I said "hello." Corey gave me an encouraging look so I said "do you want to hear a joke?" He said, while rolling his eyes as if I just asked him to help me move and I hadn't even begun to pack when he showed up, "fine."

"So a duck walks into a store-"

"I've heard it!" (another roll of the eyes. For this I finally award child X the long overdue Tellin' It Like It Is Award).

I looked back to Corey whose eyes were wide, and she mouthed, as if she finally understood, "I'm so sorry. He really does hate you."

Corey, trying to help, said "maybe it's a different joke. How does yours' go?" He then said, "I don't remember." End of convo.

How am I going to make it every Tuesday until April? Maybe I should try Kaylee's joke on him . . . "A lot of colors." I think I almost get it.

PS- Uncle Will, I tried to tell him the Brown Chicken/Brown Cow joke (which is impossible to explain in print) but it didn't work. I think that may have been my fault though.

It Just Gets Stranger~

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Week Off?

This is my week off of school, so naturally I've been in school all day, almost every day this week. My professors were kind enough to leave insurmountable amounts of work for us to do, some of which most of my class seems to have hit a dead-end on, conveniently on the week that our professors are not around to help. As you can imagine, the mood is somber here at the Howard W. Hunter Law Library today.

I've been sitting at the same desk for 5 hours so far today with the exact same look on my face as you see in the top picture. I literally have forgotten every other possible facial expression; pages and pages of Utah cases about signing a contract under duress as well as in depth discussion of supplemental jurisdiction in my Civil Procedure case book have completely wiped my memory of any emotions that I may have ever felt. I don't suppose I'll ever recover.

The girl you see in the second picture has been directly in my eye-sight for these five hours. For a good portion of the last two, she has been in the position you see here. I don't know who she is but I imagine she and I could be great friends. She too has only displayed the one facial expression all day, other than one brief second around hour two when she looked like she was about to have a nervous breakdown--something much more intense than I've been capable of feeling today.

From time to time I look out the window and stare at the trees, now dropping their brown leaves to the ground. In my current situation, it looks almost as if the leaves are falling out of boredom. I also feel like that man in the short story who has decided to die when the last leaf falls, so someone goes out and paints a leaf on the wall so that he'll never die (The Last Leaf (?)). I don't have the stamina now to explain the whole connection but it has something to do with somberness, professors with paint brushes, and all 251 episodes of MASH used as a punishment for unproductivity.

Well I better get back to work before the last glimmer of personality I still have left completely disappears and leaves my mind entirely inoperable; because we all know that that would be an absolute tragedy.

It Just Gets Stranger~

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Gathering of Israel: True Stories of Southtown Mall

I can explain. No, actually I don't think I can.

I didn't intend to come away with anything other than a white shirt for church and maybe some shoes if I could find ones I liked. As we could have guessed, "maybe some shoes if I could find ones I liked" clearly meant "and DEFINITELY some shoes." But I had no intention of investing in anything herbal.

I had a gift card for Macy's which is the reason I went to Southtown mall in the first place on my way from So Jo to Lindon after watching Krisanda's kids for a little bit (another hilarious experience that I don't have time to detail now). The first odd thing that happened in the mall was when the rude employee told me I couldn't try on any of the white shirts unless I was going to buy them because he didn't want to have to put all the pins back in. I told him that I like to try things on to see if I want to buy them and asked why anyone would want to try something on only if they knew they were going to buy it anyway--well he finally reluctantly allowed me too. Of course, because I'm the easiest customer in the entire world, I not only bought the shirt despite the poor customer service but I also bought some really awesome shoes from him.

Then things got bad. I started walking around the mall because I had some time to kill (I have the week off of school by the way for those of you who were wondering what the heck I'm doing shopping at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Monday, 30 minutes from Provo). I should NEVER just start walking around a mall as it ALWAYS gets me into serious trouble.

Just as I was about to leave, I was stopped by one of those kiosks which I'm usually really good at avoiding; this one sort of just snuck up on me. A young girl with a strong accent that sounded familiar but not enough to place, proceeded to give me a very looooooong presentation of an entire series of herbal products and how each one was about to save me, heal me forever, and prolong my life 60 years (which means I may live to see 90). She started by throwing a 30 pound scalding hot harness over my neck while telling me something about toxins. I wasn't convinced as I don't really believe in all the herbal remedies that some people swear by, usually refusing to trust anything weaker than a double dosage of Lortab downed by NyQuil; but I stayed and listened to be polite having absolutely NO intention of buying so much as a paperclip (which I would have been more interested in than this garbage, if they were selling any).

After a few thousand packs and oils were firmly placed up my nose and on every other part of my body, this girl pulled out the lavender eye sleep masks and put them over my eyes. Knowing very well that I looked like a complete idiot standing there in the middle of the mall, while this girl used some kind of rollers on my back "to release the negative energy" I started wondering how the heck I was going to get out of there. Then this girl leaned in close, my eyes still covered, and whispered very suspiciously, "do you like surprises?" I quickly told her that I did NOT like surprises and not to do whatever it was she wanted to surprise me with. She told me to relax and before I knew it, she had placed one of those spindly wire contraptions on my head that vibrates, leaving a complete stupor of thought, for which I blame the outcome of the ordeal.

She finally started the sales pitch after I took a giant whiff of every herb in existence, some of which I was sure were nothing more than 99 cent car fresheners purchased at the local Walmart. She offered the entire package (one that looked sort of like the picture only much smaller) for only $300.00 or some absurd price. I told her I was not interested but would be happy to tell my mom about it so she could come and check it out later (not that she would). Then the bargaining began. Before I knew it, the manager had come over and we started bargaining prices until I talked him down to $80.00 after he told me things like "I do this because you're my friend. I'm happy if you're happy." Finally I asked him where he was from and he informed me that they were all from Israel, which explained why the whole situation felt so familiar, and explained why I seemed to have a natural instinct to argue prices with them for something that I didn't even want.

After starting to walk away a few times but coming back because I'm a little out of practice, leaving me rather vulnerable to their attacks, the manager asked me to choose one thing there that made me happy. I chose the lavender face masks which he then offered me for $30.00. In the end, he offered me one for $19, and then another one as a gift because "you are my new friend and I want to gift you." Before I knew it, I was the proud(?) owner of two new lavender face masks. I walked away thinking that I got a steal of a deal until I realized that it's not really a bargain if you buy something that you don't even really want. Then I realized that I sort of just bought the stuff because I had naturally reverted back to searching for souvenirs, which I definitely don't need from Southtown mall.

FYI, you can negotiate prices at local malls.

Maybe this stuff will finally heal my foot disease which we mistakenly thought was permanently healed at the Dead Sea.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Every Child's Nightmare: A True and Tragic Tale

Nothing is more tragic than to find out that someone despises you. OK, there are many things more tragic than that but I've gotten very used to communicating primarily through sarcasm and hyperbole over the years so you just have to work with me.

There is a 10 year old who hates me and it is sending me into a severe emotional meltdown. I should have know this would have happened based on my history with children. Let me explain . . .

6 years ago I was a young freshmen full of ambitious goals to change the world starting with my community; so naturally my roommate and I signed up to be in one of those Big Brother/Big Sister mentor programs through the local YWCA. It sounded like a great idea at the time. And then came Joe (name has been changed . . . probably. I can't remember it now). Joe was 10 years old and excited, so I was told, to participate in this program and have his very own big buddy to rear him in the ways of life. Joe and I hung out, we went to a baseball game, played soccer, participated in some kind of arts and crafts class, etc. After about a month of noticing that Joe never seemed particularly excited to hang out, and in contrast to my roommate's experience with his little buddy which ended up looking like the model mentoring example with their matching baseball caps and dozens of inside jokes which always ended in a high five, Joe suddenly stopped returning my phone calls. Eventually I was assigned a new child when my friend who supervised the program told me in the nicest way possible that Joe was not interested in participating in the program anymore.

One month later the exact same thing happened with the new child who seemed even less enthused to spend time with me. I was stood up multiple times and finally this child stopped returning my phone calls as well. When I spoke to the YWCA, they informed me that this child wasn't really interested in continuing in the program either. When I asked if they were going to assign me a new child, I was told "um . . . well . . . we have many other service opportunities you could participate in." And thus ended my YWCA big buddy extravaganza.

Fast forward to 2008. The law school has a 5th grade mentoring program where each participant is assigned a 5th grade child to do homework with and play with once a week. I, completely forgetting that children have historically despised me, thought this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to give back (I'll spare you the discussion on how cliche "give back" sounds). It's been two weeks and this kid seems not only to be disinterested, but I believe he vehemently hates me. He won't make eye contact with me; when I say "goodbye" to him he rolls his eyes and looks away; and I can't get more than one-word answers out of him regardless of the amazing though provoking questions I ask. Of course this all looks great among all the other mentors who already have secret handshakes with each of their kids who practically sob their eyes out each week when it's time to go.

Well maybe he's just a disturbed child who doesn't really get along with anyone and you can really help him; right? Wrong. And here's the evidence to the contrary:

1. The teachers filled out evaluations of each of the kids so mentors would be aware of potential problems. This teacher wrote about my kid that he is the "brightest" in the class, "easy to work with," "friendly," "outgoing," and lastly "an absolute joy to have around!!!"

2. Yesterday, after he told me he was bored, we found the ping pong room in the law building where other children were playing with their mentors. He immediately joined the game and became the life of the party, even interacting with the other mentors.

Maybe I'm over analyzing this; but seriously, there is something wrong here. It seems that children are either terrified of me, bored with me, or just outright despise me. I somehow think this may all be linked to this picture my parents have of Micalyne and I when we were 2 and 4, respectively, where I had taken Micalyne's blanky, whose name is "Fluffy" (notice I say "is" in order to signify that she's still attached to this thing despite being 22 years old and married) away to which she was obviously throwing a tantrum. I can't really explain why but I'm pretty sure it's all connected.

I've always thought that these types of programs were an opportunity for adults to show a good example to children and really help them develop necessary social skills. It seems, however, that isn't really working in this situation, which makes me wonder if maybe I need a child to mentor me so I'm not such a terrible bore with children. If anyone is aware of such a program, please contact me ASAP; I've got my next meeting with this kid in a week and a half and I don't think I can handle rejection again.

It Just Gets Stranger~