Monday, October 25, 2010

Stolen Identity

The following narratives are based on actual events:

My friend's dad (to whom I shall henceforth refer as Mr. Parker) was once pulled over for a mild speeding infraction. As the officer approached, Mr. Parker rolled his window down and the usual license and registration jargon proceeded. Upon obtaining the necessary documents, the officer went back to his cruiser. Mr. Parker sat and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The officer stayed in his car for an unusually long time.

At long last, the officer got out of his cruiser and began walking back toward Mr. Parker's vehicle.

Carrying a pair of handcuffs.

The officer brusquely ordered Mr. Parker out of his Astro van.

"It seems, Mr. Parker, that you have been avoiding arrest over the past several months in no fewer than six states," he stated as Mr. Parker confusedly began opening his door.

"What?!" exclaimed Mr. Parker. "That's ridiculous! There must be some mistake!"

"You are Gary Parker of 12345 Oak Drive, are you not?"

Mr. Parker gave a hesitant nod.

"Well, my report says that you were last seen in Kentucky robbing a jewelry store."

Mr. Parker gave a hysterical laugh.

"I've never even BEEN to Kentucky."

There followed a pause in which Mr. Parker began pulling out his mustache (his heart-rate all the while accelerating) while a look of pitying comprehension began to dawn upon the officer's face.

"Well, sir," said he (eyeing Mr. Parker's faithful and rather delapidated Astro van with a look of understanding belief), "I'm afraid you are a victim of identity theft."


Yesterday, I was at work. (surprise)

A fellow grad student walked in and asked if I had registered for classes for Winter semester yet.

I had not.

So of course I immediately went to the BYU website and began sifting through the classes I was interested in taking. Upon finding the first one for which I wished to register, I clicked the "Add" button. The usual pop-up box appeared.

But then I realized this was not the usual pop-up box at all.

In glaring red letters, the system was informing me that the class for which I wished to register was not added due to a hold on my account.

I racked my brain, wondering what the reason for the hold could possibly be.

Did I have library fines?

I quickly checked.

No, no library fines.

Was something amiss with my BYU financial account?

I clicked on the financial account link on Route Y.

The page began to load. And load. And load.

At last, the page appeared. My anxiety was only heightened.




I owed BYU four-hundred ninety-five stinking dollars?! But for what? I clicked on the details.

First item: a five-dollar testing center fee. I racked my brains. Had I taken a test last week? Yes. In fact, I couldn't forget that test if I tried. Three large blue books, three essays, three hours. But I hadn't taken it on a late day. There hadn't even BEEN a late day. Had there? Did my professor cruelly make the last day a late day and then not tell us?

But wait.

The day listed on my account was not even the day I had taken the test!


Second item: apparently, I had recently decided to purchase a bus pass. In the amount of $100. Ridiculous. Not possible. I can name the cities in which I have ridden public transportation (in the United States, anyway), on one hand. And none of those fingers is called Provo.

More confusion.

Third item: $390 in unpaid tuition. At this, my panic did a little flaring. I had definitely paid my tuition for fall semester. Months ago. On time. Using nearly all my summer savings. This couldn't be happening! No. I wasn't going to let those forty hours per week spent in the library stand for nothing. If someone was stealing my precious BYU identity, I wasn't going to let them get away.

I dialed Financial Services.

A voice recording answered, as usual.

I pressed "0" to just skip right to the part where I could speak to an assistant. But alas, no such luck. I sat through the entire voice recording, which seemed to have to inform me of every minute detail regarding financial payments, scholarships, grants, and other forms of pecuniary assistance. When the recording was at long last concluded, my delight was only furthered as my ears were subjected to a rendition of that beautiful, rare, and always well-performed composition: Fur Elise.

After a few minutes of waiting--during which I realized Fur Elise might never again be un-stuck from my head--a cheery voice answered the phone and asked me what she could do to help me. Dispensing with the niceties, I got straight down to business and gave her my student ID number so that she could pull up my account and shed light onto my dire situation.

"All right," she said, "I'm looking at your account. What seems to be the trouble?"

"The trouble," I replied, "is that none of those fines are mine! I didn't take a test in the testing center that day, I never ride the bus, and all my tuition is paid!"

There followed a puzzled silence.

"I'm not quite sure I understand what you're saying," the assistant finally replied.

"Those fines!" I said, slightly exasperated. "They're not mine! And now I have a hold on my account, which means I can't register for classes. What am I supposed to do?"

Another perplexed pause.

"I see no fines," she said.

"But..." I said.

How could this be?

Who was clever enough to fine my account mysterious amounts of money, and then make it look as if nothing was amiss when the financial office viewed it?

What could I do?

And then, I saw it.

The answer to all my problems.

In fact, my problems were not mine at all!

At the top, left-hand corner of the screen was written a name. The account holder's name. And that name was not mine.

"Aha!" I cried euphorically. In my head.

Realization was dawning. Had I ever actually logged in? No. The computer had kept the previous user logged in. I had simply not noticed.

"Let me try logging out and logging in one more time, " I said aloud to the patiently waiting assistant.

I logged out.

I logged in.

No fines.

No holds.

No stolen identity.

I was free!!!

"Well, never mind," I said, "There's nothing wrong with my account at all."

"Great!" said my assistant. "Have a nice day!"

"Oh, I am!" said I.

I am.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


As I am an aspiring pianist, it is not surprising that my fingernails and I rarely agree about what is best for my health. After spending a few hours locked away in the vault (or any practice room, for that matter), my nails inevitably begin to protest. Chipping, cracking, or downright crumbling, they constantly attempt to impede my practice. But, lo! I am not one who gives in easily. There have been very few instances in which I was forced to heed the remonstration of my digits. My general rule of thumb (no pun intended) is to halt only when blood makes an appearance. Unfortunately, this is what happened yesterday.

I had clipped my nails in a very short fashion, mainly due to a certain trill in a certain Mozart sonata that I had decided must be played on the extreme tips of the fingers if I wish to play with the appropriate articulation and clarity. My second finger was quite tender (maybe I'd gotten slightly carried away with the shortness of my clipping), but--as a seasoned pianist knows--if one merely ignores this fact, the tenderness is replaced by a certain amount of numbness after a half hour or so, which in turn makes the remaining hours of practice entirely bearable.

And so, I finished my early-morning practice session with a slightly numb finger, but none the worse for the wear. I proceeded with the remainder of my day in the usual fashion: teaching, going to class, and then heading to the good ol' HBLL. (Well, to be technically correct, I was already in the HBLL, as that was where my class happened to be.)

Little did I know that my mistreated fingernails had taken upon themselves the arduous task of teaching me a lesson. Plotting and scheming, mulling over their less than pleasant allotment in life, they at last found a way to get back at me.

An hour into my shift, I went to look for an item for a patron. I bent down to grab a book, and the next thing I knew, my finger was searing with pain. A book with a cardstock-paper type cover had found just the right angle to insert itself between my fingernail and the skin underneath said fingernail.

Yes, it hurt a little bit.

Blood started gushing out by the pint, and before I knew it, I was lying on the ground pleading with my fingernails to forgive me of my horrific wrongdoings. Never again would I cut them so short! Never again would I practice till all that remained were chipped, sad excuses! Never again would I so heartlessly ignore their existence!

At last, after losing at least another twenty pints of blood (yes, I know the human body actually only contains 8-10, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it), I crawled back to my post at the reference desk and used the last bit of my strength to climb into the chair, cradling my injured finger in the opposite hand.

"What am I going to dooooooo?!" I moaned to my friend Joseph, who was sitting nearby on a couch.

Dear, kind, sincere Joseph looked up from his laptop and said, "I've heard soaking it in lemon juice really helps."

"Really?!" I asked both desperately and deliriously.

Of course, the ridiculousness of this statement dawned on me a few milliseconds later.


In other news:

Did you know the word 'gullible' has five 'l's in it?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque*: An informed answer to a difficult question

There exists a fundamentally common principle linking Islam and Mormonism: both religions are widely and often vastly misunderstood. As a part of my undergraduate degree at BYU, I was required to complete a minimum of 14 religious credit hours. In doing so, I chose to take several classes in which I studied non-Mormon religions. I began with a class that surveyed many religions--everything from Jainism to Judaism. I do not hyperbolate when I say that my eyes were widely opened.

I enjoyed this class so much that I decided to dive more deeply. I took another class whose focus was solely Judaism. And another class whose focus was solely Islam. As I progressed through these courses and eventually had opportunities to travel to places where most of the population is not Mormon, I began to meet people who had never even come in contact with a true "Mormon" before. People asked me questions that seemed absolutely ridiculous until I realized that they were simply drawing from the only knowledge they had--usually sparse and misinformed hearsay. (The first time I went to Czech Republic, I met some people who were under the impression that "Mormon" and "Amish" are pretty much synonymous, which, for the record, is quite incorrect.) However, to get to my main point: I've come to realize that a lot of the strife that exists in the world today could easily be done away with if people were thoroughly informed before formulating opinions and biases.

This morning, I read an excellent post on BYU's 100-hour board (an unofficial website run by a group of anonymous students/alumni on which anyone can ask any kind of question and be guaranteed a response within 100 hours) regarding the controversy of the Ground Zero mosque. I've pasted the post below, because I know a lot of people don't bother clicking on links, and I'd really like you to read it all the way through. (The link is:

Q: Dear 100 Hour Board,

Re: Board Question #59042

As much as I respect him, I feel that Sauron is completely wrong, but as this is not my forum I will not diatribe as to why. To clarify his position on what is constitutionally right vs. what is a good idea, I would like to see his opinion on a couple of situations, both hypothetical and real life. Would he support a Christian church in, say, Atlanta building a church on the spot of an abortion clinic that one of their own congregation bombed, if they legally purchased the land? Would he support the LDS church building a temple at Mountain Meadows? What does he think about government memorials at places where the U.S. Army massacred Native Americans, places like Wounded Knee and Bear River?

-Just curious, not going to follow up antagonistically


Dear Just Curious,

Thanks for this question. These hypothetical situations provide a perfect opportunity to clarify and illustrate my point about the difference between the "tiny minority of jihadist Muslims" and the "entire, heterogeneous population that adamantly opposes violent jihad." I hope to show you why putting the Park51 mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is not at all analogous to the hypothetical situations in your question. And there appears to be no end to such analogies.

Let's start with a few facts.

There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world—that's almost one out of every four people on earth—living in many nations and speaking many languages. And just like there are many different denominations of Christians, there are numerous divisions and subdivisions within Islam.

Here's a little chart to give you an idea of the vast diversity of the Muslim world (click here to read more on Wikipedia):


Pop quiz: Does Al-Qaeda belong to (A) the exact same Islamic denomination as the Park51 Muslims, (B) a related denomination, or (C) a completely different denomination of Islamic belief?

Do you know? Do you care? Does it matter?

To answer the question, and to illustrate, let me quote one blogger who relates the different factions of Islam to the branches of Christianity:

Pretty much all of the terrorist organizations in the world that are focused on the United States are Wahhabi, funded and trained by our allies in Saudi Arabia, and often closely coordinated with our allies in the Pakistani military.

Wahhabism is a crackpot fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam. Think of Sunni as being like Protestantism, a relatively liberal branch of the religion overall, and Wahhabism as being like the Protestants who dance with snakes and talk in tongues.

Meanwhile, most of the rest of the terrorist organizations in the world that are Islamic at all are Shi’ite. This is the largest of the three branches of Islam**, and the most basic one, with an older lineage than Sunni Islam. Think of that as being somewhat like Catholicism…most Shi’ites are peaceful, but you have the crazies, like the Irish Republican Army is for Catholicism. You can’t really blame the rest for those nutjobs in the IRA targeting other peoples and religions.

And then you have the Sufi. These are a bit like the Mormons are to Christianity. They’re a “third way” sort of group, very peaceful and focused a lot on mysticism and spirituality, not the practical mechanics of the Big Two. No terrorist organizations, in the whole world, are Sufi. Some Muslims say they’re so different that the Sufi aren’t even Muslims, at all.

The people building the Park51 community center across from the World Trade Center are Sufi.

And, incidentally, the Sufi have been the targets of attacks by the Taliban. Do you see why treating the Muslims of Park51 as if they were in the same congregation as the WTC terrorist hijackers is a really stupendous logical fail? Are you starting to see why The Economist wrote that "Every single argument put forward for blocking this project leans in some way on the misconceived notion that all Muslims, and Islam itself, share the responsibility for, or are tainted by, the atrocities of 9/11." And, finally, can you see why the hypothetical situations you posed highlight the central logical fallacy of the anti-Mosque crowd?

So let me make some adjustments to the hypothetical situations you posed, taking into account denominational differences.

  • Would you support a Christian Scientist church in, say, Atlanta building a church around the corner from an abortion clinic that a Catholic bombed, if they legally purchased the land?***
  • What do you think about the government building forest ranger outposts and fish hatcheries at places where the U.S. Army massacred Native Americans, places like Wounded Knee and Bear River?
  • Would you support the Episcopalian Church building a chapel at Mountain Meadows?

Doesn't that just take the wind out of the sails? How would you get anybody to show up for the protest?

Okay, now, you specifically asked about hypothetical situations in which killers belonged to the same denomination. I'll indulge you with a similar hypothetical situation:

  • What if after Timothy McVeigh—a born-and-raised Catholic who received his last rites just before execution, and who claimed his "bible" for the attacks was the violent anti-semitic Christian Identity book The Turner Diaries—bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, various Christian denominations built memorials within two blocks, and the Catholic Church itself built a memorial shrine right across the street? Would there have been a huge controversy?

Sorry, did I say hypothetical? This actually happened. The Catholic memorial is called "And Jesus Wept." The First Methodist Church, across the street in the other direction, built the Heartland Chapel. And, no, there was no controversy. Rightly so. Maybe because it's easy for us to see that despite his religious influences, McVeigh's violence is incompatible with the teachings of any mainstream Christian church. In fact we might reasonably say that McVeigh wasn't really a Christian at all, and look for the ways in which his actions contradict the teachings of the Bible.

We might even go so far as to say that any true Christianity strictly condemns any such violent acts, and that no Christian terrorist is actually Christian.

Having seen this from the Christian perspective, can you see why many peaceful Muslims might say that Muslim terrorists are not Muslims at all?

The terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center were not members of the Muslim congregation in NYC. Quite to the contrary, Al Qaeda and the Park51 Muslims are religiously and ideologically incompatible with each other.

Here are some beliefs of Imam Rauf compiled by MediaMatters (visit the link for much more):

  • "We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it."
  • Rauf "has denounced church burnings in Muslim countries, rejected Islamic triumphalism over Christians and Jews, and proposed to reclaim Islam from violent radicals such as Osama Bin Laden."
  • Rauf "condemns suicide bombings and all violence carried out in the name of religion."
  • After 9-11, Rauf "categorically condemned suicide bombers."
  • Rauf is "pro-American within the Muslim world."
  • Rauf argues that "American democracy is the embodiment of Islam's ideal society."
  • Rauf: "The teachings of Islam are very similar to the teachings of Christianity, of loving the one God and loving thy neighbor."

These kinds of Muslims are the ones Bin Laden fears.

and Sauron

*The proposed “Ground Zero mosque” is actually a community center two blocks north of the site that would include, in addition to a public prayer space, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, and athletic facilities.

**It should be pointed out that when the blog post quoted says that Shi'ite Islam is the largest branch of Islam, it's wrong. In fact, most muslims are Sunni, while only about 10 - 15% are Shi'ite. Shi'ite muslims are however the majority in Iraq and Iran (maybe why the original blogger got confused in the first place).

***The Google Maps links I posted are accurate and show that this exact situation exists today, though I can't tell whether the Christian Scientist church moved to that location before or after the bombing. The point still stands: widespread understanding of denominational difference in Christianity ensures that this possibly-not-hypothetical situation would never make a national controversy.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Aha! You thought this was going to be another g-pod post, didn't you?!


Thankfully, it is not.

If you take a second look at the title of this post (though you probably don't need one, as it is blaring at you in all caps), you will notice that there is a suspicious appearance of these curious little things called quotation marks.

I know that almost every blogger and his or her dog posts a rant at one time or another about proper grammar and its usage (well, those people and their dogs who understand what proper grammar is, anyway). However, as grammatical atrocities seem to be nearing the status of "rampant plague" these days, it is in behalf of all humankind that I join myself to these ranks of grammar ranters, though I intend not so much to rant as simply to point out how very silly the overuse--or perhaps the more appropriate term would be misuse, though both words amply apply to the following example--of quotation marks is, and convey to you my continual astonishment at how these kind of horrendous grammatical deformities get themselves onto engraved signs and plaques.

Early this afternoon, I was on break up on the top-secret ___ floor of the library in the top-secret employee break room, eating my top-secret snack with my top-secret co-worker, who happened to be dining on top-secret enchiladas that somehow got snuck past security.

When she finished her enchiladas, I walked around the corner with her into the small, galley-style kitchen (top-secret, of course) so that she could wash her now enchilada-less container. What immediately assaulted my eyes is the picture I have posted below. I warn you: this picture is not for the faint of heart nor the weak-minded.

Don't be fooled by all of those quotation marks--this is not a placard to commemorate your elementary school's cantankerous lunch-lady's favorite sayings. This is actually a public-information placard posted in an educational institution whose specific purpose is to house and preserve the written word.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Monumental occasion

Remember last year, in early MAY, when I was worried about the possibility of being hunted down by FBI agents?

If I am shortly arrested and thrown into prison, the reason will be: I STILL haven't filed my taxes. This unpleasant job has been simmering on the backburner for nearly three weeks. By now, the overcooked unpleasantness of those irksome federal fees is beginning to exude quite the repulsive aroma. My sixth sense tells me that the concoction is going to implode at any moment, and FBI agents will suddenly burst into the music library, or violate the sacred silence of the deserted HFAC in search of me. My life will turn into a tale of hobbit vs. Black Rider--even my bedroom won't be safe, although to reenact the bed-stabbing, mattress-demolishing, feather-flying scene, my apartment would have to be a lot bigger. My room is so tiny that two FBI agents of smallish stature would barely be able to stand over my bed if they squeezed.

Yes, well, today (which we'll conveniently forget to mention is just two days shy of August), following and much surpassing the example I set myself last year, I finally filed my taxes.

Better late than never, eh? No, no, bad motto. (High, fake voice: "Bad llama!")

Maybe next year I'll get them filed by... Christmas?



Never mind.

P.S. These are the last words I shall ever write as a person who has lived her whole life in Utah and yet has never ventured within the state confines of Nevada. Yes, tomorrow I will in fact be discovering whether Vegas really does exist. Because who knows? It might be a hoax.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Part 2: The Hacker Strikes Back

Normally, when one receives an email from a person of questionable identity, one simply ignores said email and sends it the way of the cyber garbage disposal. Or, in the case of Ms. So Freaked Out Here, one has a good laugh before completing the above-mentioned steps.

However, my friend John (who informed me yesterday that he also happened to receive Ms. So Freaked Out Here's email) decided to take things one step further: he replied.

After about 10 hours from the time the initial email had been sent (7 hours, mind you, after her flight had left poor Teri behind, as she was still being held hostage at the hotel), John responded:

Teri, if you still need help, please write me back. I will be happy to help you pay your hotel bill...

Ms. So Freaked Out Here only too readily answered:

Glad you replied back,well all i need is $2,500 is just i promise to pay you back as soon as I get back home,my flight leaves in less than 3hrs from can have it wired to my name via Western Union i'll have to show my passport as ID to pick it up here. Here's my info below
Teri Shipps
33 Gloucester Place, London, W1U 8HY,England
As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the confirmation number and the full sender's name on the receipt. Let me know if you are heading to the WU outlet now and how long it will take you to get back from the western union outlet???

Pretty convincing, huh?

I'm thinking that Ms. So Freaked Out Here should meet up with with my good friend Tom, whom I actually had the privilege of meeting in person one night while practicing at the HFAC. Tom knocked on the door to the room in which I was practicing and proceeded to tell me the heartwarming story of how he was recruited off of the streets of NYC for admission to Juilliard after the head of the audition committee happened to pass by him whilst he was playing his guitar on the street corner. (FYI, Dr. Holden [my piano professor who earned one of his degrees from Juilliard] informed me that being "recruited" to Juilliard is about as likely to happen as a forest of coconut trees naturally sprouting in Antarctica).

While we were on the subject of his life, Tom also related to me the agonizing account of the long hours he'd spent composing the music for August Rush (a new release at the time), only to be thoroughly betrayed by the movie producer who did not pay him for his work nor even put his name in the movie credits.

Tom wondered if I'd ever learned how to play Fur Elise, a piece of music that he assured me was one of the great masterpieces of our time, and a big hit at Juilliard. He also made me a confidant in his plan to be married on 08/08/08, though upon my congratulatory remarks and questions about his fiancee, he admitted he had yet to find a willing companion.

Yes, indeed, Tom and Ms. So Freaked Out Here could be such good friends...common interests, common talents, common IQs...too bad 08/08/08 was two years ago. Tom is probably settled down into a nice professorship at Yale by now, married with a couple of kids.

Poor, poor Ms. So Freaked Out Here.
What a beautiful match it could have been.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

5 steps toward becoming a better hacker

I opened my inbox this morning and found a message impatiently waiting for me from Teri Shipps, the IMAP coordinator (IMAP = International Music Academy Pilsen, the program I've attended in Czech Republic the past two summers). However, this email was rather unlike any other I had ever received from her, preceded by a subject line that screamed "HELP" in all caps with a few dozen exclamation points added for emphasis. I opened the message and was immediately assaulted by tragedy and heart-felt pleading, as detailed below:

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down here to London England for a short vacation unfortunately i was mugged at the park of the hotel where i stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passports with me.
I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and my flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the bills,I'm freaked out at the moment.Got nothing left with me..i was mugged off all i got,can you please help me out with some cash?.I promise to pay back as soon as i get back....So freaked out here

Teri Shipps
Admissions Coordinator
International Music Academy Pilsen, Czech Republic
3098 Cross Creek Court
Ann Arbor MI 48108 USA

ph/fax 1-734-222-8003

Calling all hackers. If you're going to hack the email of someone in a professional position, perhaps you should be aware of the following:

A professional:
1) doesn't refer to him/herself as an uncapitalized "i," which is a morbidly unacceptable way to treat a first-person, singular personal pronoun in the English language.
2) doesn't use the words "freaked out" in written conversation (or spoken, for that matter), especially multiple times in the same paragraph.
3) doesn't construct sentences like "i was mugged off all i got."
4) knows that hotel managers are in fact neither hostage holders nor bounty hunters.
5) realizes that the best way to get help in a dire situation is not to find the nearest internet cafe and email random acquaintances on his/her email list.

Better luck next time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This is what I do at work

At the good ol' Harold B. Lee library, we have a chat system set up on the library website so that patrons can ask research questions from the comfort of their own computers. Usually, when a patron starts a chat, his/her question is directed to a general research assistant who then sends a ping to the relevant department and transfers the chat to someone with specialized knowledge.

The following is a verbatim chat conversation I just had with a patron:

(5:11:04 PM) Hey is there really a ghost in the Music Section?

(5:11:58 PM) Depending on whom you ask, there is either one or two.

(5:12:10 PM) Really? Can you hear weird noises?

(5:13:30 PM) I personally haven't experienced the "ghost", but...

(5:14:06 PM) one of the people who currently works here said that she was closing up one night by herself, and someone grabbed her wrist while she was in the Primrose archives

(5:14:14 PM) which is where the ghost supposedly resides

(5:14:32 PM) there is a chair that keeps reappearing even though we try to get rid of it

(5:14:44 PM) we physically take it out to the dumpster and throw it away, but the next day, it's back again

(5:14:51 PM) Holy crap! That's scary!! What time of night or day do things usually happen?

(5:15:25 PM) Usually at closing time.

(5:15:45 PM) Interesting. When is closing time?

(5:16:03 PM) 9pm during the summer, 10pm during fall/winter

(5:16:29 PM) Ok thanks

(5:16:38 PM) You're welcome.

Anyone want to take bets on what some random freshmen might be doing for their FHE activity next week?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Good-bye, Mr. Falcone (Fal-ko-nee)

My piano is gone.

And, I think


a little piece of me went with it.

Even though said piano sounded only slightly better than a harpsichord built of plywood.

Even though playing it with a "fine musician's touch" was next to impossible.

Even though it was a Falcone. ("What's a Falcone?" you ask. "Precisely." I answer.)

To its credit, it did look pretty. And it served me with all its might and muster for the first two years of its life (even if said might and muster amounted to that of a slightly squashed, overripe banana).

Yes, somehow, somehow, it successfully leeched onto my sentiments. And I therefore almost, almost, felt like I was betraying it when the movers took it out of my apartment today.



In conclusion:

Good-bye, Mr. Falcone.

Hello, saving moolah.

[at least until September, at which time the HFAC shall once again become populated and I shall no longer (il)legally teach my students there]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And that's what you call "ironic"

I took a quiz online today in which I was required to look at a world map--a rather small and squishy one, I might add--and type in every country in the world by memory (there are 195 countries, in case you are wondering). No, it wasn't for a class.


Yes, yes, this is what I do for fun.

(Addendum: This is what I do for fun aside from practicing, of course.)

And so.

I began. Though not required to do so, I decided to name the countries by order of continent, so as to be sure not to miss any.

I started with North America. With no trouble, I soon named all 23 countries.

On to South America, the easiest continent of all, with only 12 countries.

Then Europe. It took some thinking, but I got all those, too.

Next up: Asia. 44 countries later, I needed only two more. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what I was missing.

So, glancing at the ticking timer (the allotted time of 15 minutes goes by quickly), I moved on to Africa. Piece of cheese--all 53 countries in the bag.

Australia (which includes Oceania). Typing away furiously, I named those islands off like they were my own children.

I then looked at my country count: 193/195--perfect, but for those two illusive Asian countries. I racked my brains. I searched. I puzzled. I hmmmed and hawed. All the obvious ones were there--China, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, India. And all the not-so-obvious ones were there, too--Bhutan, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Azerbaijan, Qatar.

WHAT was I missing?

With baited breath, I watched my last few seconds slip away and then the two countries I had missed appeared in red.

Iran and Iraq.

IRAN. and. IRAQ.

Uggggggg. Here goes again...

If you also would like to conquer the world:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

G-POD the Second

I once lived in a g-pod. When I moved out of this g-pod, I did rejoice muchly. I entered a (mostly) blissful living existence in which my environment was clean, there was very little drama, and my roommates were kind and considerate of others.

But I should have known that such an ideal way of life couldn't last forever, let alone more than one semester.

With that introduction, we now begin the saga of G-pod the Second.

Beginning of spring term: my dear, wonderful roommate, Alice, moves out to head to Montana for a summer internship. Into her place moves Tiffany (*name has been changed*), whose previous residence was Heritage Halls. Though slightly apprehensive about living with a person who is still quite freshly out of high school and the freshman dorms, I don't immediately suspect that things will soon be not-so-very-pleasant. For the time being, all is fine and dandy.


A couple days later, I come home to find a stranger surfing the internet whilst lounging on my couch with a pillow and blanket, all of her worldly possessions stacked around her in what was once my apartment's small but adequate living room space. A folded mattress is stashed in the corner of the room, and a big green tote occupies the coffee table, its innumerable contents spilling onto the floor. A sleeping bag and several miscellaneous objects litter the other couch. I notice a hairbrush precariously resting on top of the refrigerator. A feeling of panicked anxiety enters my mind as my days of toxic rubbish smotherization (i.e. crumbled cracker crumbs, dirty dishes, used tissues, soiled socks, bits of trash, etc.) in the g-pod suddenly flash before my eyes.

"Are you one of my new roommates?" I ask apprehensively. "Did you buy the available contract?"

"Oh, hello!" she replies, seeming slightly startled. "I'm one of Tiffany's friends. And no, I'm not a new roommate." But before the rushing feeling of relief had quite calmed my racing heartbeat, she adds, "I'll just be staying here for the summer."

"Uh? What?" I ask, thoroughly confused by her apparently oxymoronic statement.

"Well, I'm doing this sort of camping study abroad thing."

"Camping study abroad?" I thought to myself. "What, camping on our living room couch?"

"Hmmm, okay," I said, deciding not to judge things too quickly and inquire further later.


Several days pass. The apartment becomes increasingly filled with rubbish. I ask illegal-roommate (Helga, for our future reference here, seeing as she is [as one of my coworkers put it] "practically a Viking invader") in a very nice manner if she could please clean up her (I was very tempted to use the word CRAP, but did not) because I couldn't have the apartment in such a state when teaching piano lessons. She kind of nods her head, but her eyes stay glued to the computer screen, and her earphones stay clamped on.

I come back from work just in time to teach one of my Friday afternoon piano students. He arrives for his lesson, along with his mother, but there is not even a place for her to sit on the couch, as nothing has been cleaned up whatsoever. I apologize, and realize that something has GOT to be done.

But then, suddenly, Helga disappears. Unfortunately, not all of her stuff disappears with her, but Helga has, for a few days at least, departed our abode.


A week passes. The apartment is cleaned up and livable once again. I begin to wonder if I had misinterpreted Helga's intentions about staying for the summer. But alas, no.

She returns.

How do I know she is back?

I come home Monday night and can barely open the front door for all of the revolting clutter lying everywhere in the living room. Piles of dirty clothes, smelly camping gear: it is quite awful, no exaggeration. Even G-pod the First doesn't compare. But things only get worse from here. I go to the kitchen to find something for dinner and open my cupboard. Food that had been there hours before has now mysteriously disappeared. I go upstairs to take a shower. My bathroom towel is not only soaking wet, (um, ew?) but also has mysterious pink stuff smeared all over it. What is the pink stuff? I don't even want to know. I retrieve a clean towel from my bedroom and take a shower. I climb in bed, (Tiffany dozing in the bunk bed above me, though she has left the light on), and glance at the clock: almost midnight. I wonder where Helga is, as she is not occupying her usual space on the living room couch and the hour is late.

A while later, my question is joltingly answered: the doorbell rings. As anyone who has ever visited my apartment or rang the doorbell knows full well, this particular doorbell is loud enough to awaken the dinosaurs from extinction. So, naturally, I grumble to myself about the complete lack of common courtesy some people seem to possess, turn over, pull my covers a little tighter, and assume Tiffany will get up and let her friend in. But, as the last tones of the doorbell die away and the ringing in my ears begins to grow fainter, no stirrings come from the bed above me. And then the pounding on the door and a voice yelling up at our window begins. Before I have time to pull back the covers, the doorbell rings again. I go downstairs and open the door, and Helga enters without so much as a "thank you." I go back upstairs to bed.

(Grammar alert: I'm changing tenses. Writing about the past in the present is officially no longer amusing me.)

Yesterday, while at work, I received a text from my other roommate, Ashley--one of the most mild-mannered, kind, thoughtful roommates anyone could possibly ask for. But mild-mannered, soft-spoken Ashley was no more. The text she sent me was a message that was nearly six texts long, an explosion from someone who had finally had the last straw. Her 21st birthday is today, so she had invited some friends over last night to celebrate a little early and obviously didn't want them to have to wallow in filth. So she'd asked Helga very politely to clean up her mess. But did she? No. Not only was the apartment still a filthy mess, but now also beginning to smell. No, not just smell. Reek. Is there anything more disgusting than the smell of ripe body odor?

Ashley proceeded to give the apartment a thorough cleaning. She stacked all of Helga's belongings in one corner (she was very kind not to put them outside), and left a long note telling her that we'd had enough and that she was no longer welcome to stay with us (though she hadn't even asked in the first place, anyway).

When I got off work and came home, the apartment was sparkling clean, and completely silent, though it still smelled. I opened up a window to get a draft of cool, rain-freshened air to begin airing out the stench, and walked into the kitchen, where I found Helga sitting silently at the kitchen table. No words were exchanged. I went upstairs where Tiffany was sitting in our bedroom. She was silently doing homework. I went to bed, and when I woke up this morning, the apartment was still clean. There was no sleeping Helga sprawled on the couch.

Though her stuff is still piled in our apartment, I believe she may have learned her lesson: when one is a guest, one should act like a guest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Squirm, wiggle, flinch, cough, gag

Have you ever seen a really corny engagement photo? And I mean really, REALLY corny? The kind that makes you embarrassed for the poor couple who thinks it's clever or cute? Well, I am here to tell you that the particular photo you may now be envisioning in your mind is nothing compared to what is about to assault your eyeballs. Yes, folks, "corniness" now has a new definition: engagement VIDEO.

(You'll have to be signed in to your facebook account to be able to view it. And no, I don't actually know the people--the video just appeared in my newsfeed because a friend commented on it.)


Or prepare yourselves for one minute and 36 seconds of squirming awkwardness.

Note: No offense intended.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I understand a secret code.

Okay, maybe it's not secret.

And maybe it's not code.

BUT. I understand it.

Haitian Creole.

Who'dve thunk?! Well, maybe knowing that nearly 80% of the vocabulary words in Haitian Creole are based on French, you might've thunk. But still.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In other news, yesterday I got some targeted spam email (here it is copy and pasted directly, minus the links--I hope you enjoy the glorious formatting, perfect punctuation and capitalization, grammatically immaculate sentence structures, and the impeccable spelling):

The Ultimate 2 DVD Collection

Musicteachers, Bands, Musicians Songwriters etc
This 2 DVD Compilation contains a goldmine of Information.
Learn to sing like a pro, Play spine tingling guitar riffs,
Learn how to Songwrite, and much more.
The Music Industry is an extremely competitive market,
this product will give you that edge needed to succeed.

Sheet Music (over 1 gb)
Complete Full Works of:
Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Chopin,
Debussy, Grieg, Hayden, Liszt,
Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Ravelli,
Scarlatti, Schubert, Schuman
Plus Many Modern:
Robbie Williams Celine Dion,
Beatles, Elton John,
Madonna, Avril Lavinge,
Phil Collins, No Doubt, Sting,
Christina Aquerilla and many more

Great Britain £39.50
Post & Packing/Shipping £4.50
United Stated $65.25
Post & Packing/Shipping $7.45
Australia $71.95
Post & Packing/Shipping $8.25
Canada $69.50
Post & Packing/Shipping $7.90
Euro E44.25
Post & Packing/Shipping e5.05


Hmmmm...seem a little iffy?

Yes, I think I'll order some Hayden, Ravioli--oh, sorry, Ravelli--and Schuman. Or--oops--was that Shoeman? And throw in some good ol' Avril La-cringe *cough* Lavinge while you're at it.

Possibly the person who wrote this ad had had a little too much Aquerilla to drink? Wait, no--my mistake--that's the name of a pop star, not an alcoholic beverage.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And it came to pass that I did receive an email

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dear Britny:

The decision regarding your application to Music MM is now available.

Please log in to the online application system ... blah blah blah ... Once you have logged in, you will see a link to view the decision. If you have been admitted, you will have instructions to indicate your intent to enroll.

Graduate Studies

And so I logged in.

And I saw this:

Decision Status: Available beginning 4/27/2010

  • Your application decision is now available online

  • Ah, the suspense.

    I clicked.

    And this is what I saw:


    Dear Britny,

    I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to Brigham Young University as a graduate student. We look forward to having you join us for your graduate studies and trust that your graduate experience will be both challenging and rewarding.

    Other stuff.

    Wynn Stirling, Ph.D.
    Dean, Graduate Studies


    Hooray!!!!!!!!!! Much relief and happiness.

    But have no fear, inhabitants of the mitten state: I will be back.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    An update on life

    My Europe-o-meter just crashed again. I literally didn't know Europesickness (as opposed to homesickness) could be so concentrated and extreme. To make my plight worse, three BYU students are going to Czech Republic this July to study at the Plzen Conservatory, and I am not one of them.

    Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not covet.

    My dear mother has reminded me that I have already had the privilege of spending two most excellent summers there, a valid and truthful claim. But... Now that I have to wait another year to see the inhabitants of the mitten state again, Europe and a steady dose of nothing but piano piano piano (with a dash of occasional road trips to Switzerland), not to mention an escape from all the past month's drama, seems to be all the more inviting...

    And speaking of the past month's drama.

    As I have not died, I have indeed been seriously contemplating the direction my life should take at this point on the map.

    Enter yet another miraculously unfolding story in the life of Britny Clark.

    Friday night after my senior recital: My teacher asks me if I'd like him to push for me to be in the master's program at BYU. I say yes. [Getting into the master's program at BYU--for which I was a tad too oversighted and, um, cough, high-minded (from which I have been repenting), to apply a few months ago, at the proper deadline--means: 1) I get to keep my fantastically flexible, by now decent-paying on-campus job; 2) I can continue to perform, take classes, "learn and grow" so to speak; 3) I can teach a class for BYU--very ideal when planning to audition for a pedagogy program; 4) and if for some awful reason I were to be rejected once again next year, I would have only a year left at BYU, and then at least have a master's degree to show for my efforts.]

    Monday afternoon: Yes, I am practicing. New repertoire. Enter Dr. Holden. Shuts the door, sits down. Tells me he has been busy all morning talking with the piano faculty who are all for me being in the program. (*warm fuzzy feeling*) There remains one obstacle. Well, technically two. 1) I have not applied to the program. 2) The director of graduate studies in the School of Music is one of those letter-of-the-law kind of people, and the graduate piano program is already full over capacity. Dr. Holden tells me to email Dr. Peery-Fox (who is head of the graduates in the piano department) to see what I can do about taking care of problem number one. I do so that evening.

    Tuesday morning, 6:30am: I awaken. Go downstairs and check my email. A message from Dr. Peery-Fox instructs me to fill out the online application. I log on to BYU's graduate studies website and begin the long and arduous process of graduate application submission. But, aha! Those thousands of dollars weren't spent applying to four other schools for nothing! I finish my entire application (including resume, complete repertoire list, statement of intent, etc.) in record time, and submit it all at 8:15am.

    Next hurdle: ecclesiastical endorsement. Lucky for me, today is Tuesday, which happens to be the day the Bishop has appointments. I call and somehow manage to nab the very last one available.

    Next hurdle: application fee. Slightly less hefty than the other schools, thankfully. But still not pleasant. Only payable online with credit card, which I do not own. (Yeah, I know it's high time I get one.) Call Dad. Dad answers. Phone drops call. Repeat 5 (five, yes five) times. Finally works. Dad is awesome.

    Next hurdle: three recommendation letters. I pick three professors. I corner the first one after class (okay, that sounds somewhat hostile...I actually found him in his office, with the door wide open). He gives me his condolences (about not being accepted to the other schools) and then totally makes my day (WARNING: major bragging moment straight ahead) by telling me that my senior recital was one of the top two or three he has ever attended. Within the next hour, I talk to my other two choices of professors who also both agree to write letters for me.

    6:00pm: I check my application status online. All three letters have already been submitted. (!!!!!!!!)

    8:20pm: I go to my appointment and have my ecclesiastical endorsement signed.

    Wednesday morning, 8:15am, a mere 24 hours after beginning this whole process: my application is officially complete as I figure out what in the world the FPH is (the building where Graduate Studies is located--'Former President's House'--the BYU operator whom I called for help thought I was a sadly-mistaken freshman, trying to convince me that I really wanted the SFH, which is to say 'Smith Field House') and drop off my signed endorsement. I am officially now the record-holder for the fastest-ever completed graduate application to the School of Music.

    Thursday: my file is circulated for signatures. 4:20pm, I talk to Dr. Holden. He says my chances are looking up--60/40. There is even scholarship money set aside, waiting for me. Now I just have to be admitted by Mr. Head of Graduate Studies.

    And now: I pray.

    And wonder if a certain person likes cookies...

    Friday, April 2, 2010

    When life gives you strawberries and whipped cream...

    ...for five years in a row, I suppose the lemons eventually have to come.

    Yes, this is a metaphor.

    And yes, this metaphor is in specific reference to a certain university in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


    Sonya Schumann is her name. The person who bested me and accepted the one shining, glorious spot that was available this year. (Very appropriate name for a musician, I do have to say.)

    So, what comes next? I am not a person who believes in fate. I am a person who believes in hard work. Hard work. Hard work. Courage. Determination. However, I also know that our lives are directed by a hand greater than our own.

    And so.

    I'll eat these lemons. Because even lemons are good for the health.

    Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    Not your average day

    Today I had my recital hearing.

    I passed.

    And Liszt and I, we made the piano faculty cry.

    Yes, literally.

    Monday, March 29, 2010


    My plans for getting Lasik this summer (mostly hinging, of course, upon the crucial necessity of discovering buried treasure or immediately becoming engaged to a millionaire) were severely foiled today. I was told by the optometrist this morning that I will not be getting Lasik for a looonnng while yet--my vision is now 20/725 (yes, that really means something 20 feet away looks to me like it's 725 feet away), degraded from the previous 20/625 of my last visit. Why my eyes have decided that 22 is an excellent age to change from 'quite awful' to 'significantly dreadful' remains an unpleasant mystery.

    BOO for being blind.

    And no, still no news from Michigan.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Oh, the irony. Ohhhhhhhhhhh, the irony.

    After receiving my letter from Michigan on Monday night, (or rather, after my mother read it to me over the phone, as it was sent to my permanent address), I called my piano professor to relay to him the rather unfortunate news. His initial reaction was speechlessness. After talking to him for a couple of minutes, he told me he would get in touch with one of his connections at Michigan to see if he could gather any further details/feedback about my audition, placement on the waiting list, etc. He received an email response just a couple of hours ago. This is the gist of what a portion of the email said, emphasis added:

    "Britny's audition was excellent. She played beautifully. [further feedback about audition] However, there is only one spot open in the program this year. We are still waiting to hear back from the student who is in Rank #1 as to whether or not he/she would like to accept the position. Britny is Rank #2.

    "We have tried to add a second position in the program this year, but the university will not approve said action (funding reasons, etc.). We will have to wait until we hear from Rank #1 to see whether or not we are able to invite Britny to study at Michigan."


    Monday, March 22, 2010

    The Verdict

    USC and Rice: no.

    Michigan: waiting list.

    And life goes on.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    We regret to inform you

    So. On Monday, my friend (a violist) heard back from USC (one of the schools at which I auditioned and from which I have yet to receive a response). His letter went something like this:

    Dear Logan*,

    We thank you for your interest in attending the University of Southern California. However, due to the many qualified applicants and a very limited number of openings, we regret to inform you that we are unable to accept you into our Doctorate of Viola Performance program at this time.


    Two problems:

    1- Logan is applying for his MASTER'S degree, not his doctorate.

    2- Logan did not audition at, nor even apply to, USC.



    *name has been changed

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    The cruelest of all mathematical equations

    I have always wondered what exactly it would feel like to be an Olympian. To have a representation of years and years of training, sacrifice, and hard work encapsulated in just a few moments. To stand at the top of a steep hill with nothing but experience and two strips of carbon fiber and plastic between me and certain death. To see the competitor right before me have a perfect run. To sense the tension of the crowd, the critical gaze of the awaiting judges. To have a set standard of performance that is almost humanly impossible to beat.

    I don't know what it's like to be an Olympian, but I think auditioning for graduate schools is, in many ways, a pretty decent likeness. Now that both my auditions and the Olympics are finished, however, I have come to realize that there is one large and torturous difference between the two. The skiers get to look at the scoreboard as soon as they arrive at the bottom of the hill; the skaters receive their points from the judges within mere seconds of exiting the ice. Pianists, on the other hand, must wait. And wait. And wait. And WAIT. One month of human time = one bazillion katrillion quajillion years of waiting time. If it weren't for dear school keeping my brain so occupied, I would most likely have developed five ulcers by now. Possibly six. As is, I have yet to fall asleep at night without my thoughts inevitably dwelling upon the mysterious future. But, on the up-side, note to self: All one needs to do to acquire a plentiful supply of patience and endurance is fly all over the country and audition for a coveted spot in a studio full of ridiculously talented pianists.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    There is nothing quite so eery

    as coming home to an empty, locked apartment and hearing the music of "Phantom of the Opera" floating down the shadowy staircase. And upon further investigation, discovering that said music is originating from my very own darkened bedroom. Creepy, I tell you. Creepy.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Ode to the Hales Family

    I am related to nine of the awesomEST people on earth. Here are a few reasons why:

    Hannah: First of all, she is GORGEOUS. And I'm not just saying that because she and I have a certain love for Rapunzel-length hair in common. She also has dazzling eyes, and is one of the sweetest 11-year-olds anyone could ever meet. She puts most of her older brothers and sisters to shame when it comes to practicing a certain instrument with 88 keys, and she is also very smart and determined. Oh, and her middle name, Monet,, let me think *two millisecond pause*...yes, IS the coolest middle name on the face of the earth. (And let's not forget that her first name is a palindrome! Pure awesomeness.)

    Olivia: If all the horse encylopedias in the world suddenly went up in flames, no fear! Olivia is near! Whenever I have any sort of question about horses, Olivia is the go-to girl. I'm guessing that not even Google's 87,500,000 hits for the search "horses" contains all the information she knows. Seriously. Her knowledge is incredible. On top of that, she is an amazing artist. No matter what she sketches, it comes out a masterpiece. You may want to get her autograph now, because I have a hunch that she will be world-famous before I even own my first Steinway (which will be awfully soon, in case you are wondering.) And one last thing I love about Livvy: her cute hair. And one last last thing I love about Livvy: she is so much fun to talk to! And one last last last thing I love about Livvy: she has UBER fast fingers--she almost beat me at a speedy piano finger exercise. And one last last last last thing...okay, okay, I'll stop for now. But I could keep going, you know.

    Chris: Incredibly thoughtful polite good-looking Apple motorized vehicle vaccuum guru i-Pod collecting gentleman who also happens to be an excellent potter. Oh, and he'll probably live to be a hundred and five because he's very health conscious. Which would be kind of cool because he would live to see 2100. Anyway, expounding on my slightly adjective-rich sentence above, Chris is just the sort of person who is always thinking about others and what he can do or say to help them feel better. He always dresses very nicely, and he is certainly not the sort of person you would every catch belching at the dinner table, nor is he the sort of person who can say something sarcastic without apologizing within the ensuing five minutes, and, well, he probably has several gold stars racked up in heaven already. Chris was the cutest baby/toddler to ever walk the face of this earth, (or any other, for that matter), and his little blonde curls were the to-die-for kind. Not only is he still quite the handsome fellow (heehee, I'm probably embarassing him royally right now), but, ladies, get this: he likes to vaccuum! Yes, he'll be available for dates in only a year and a half.

    Sam: In a nutshell: trumpet playing, eternal shorts wearing, biker extraordinaire who somehow survives on nothing but rolls. Someday, this guy is going to win the Tour de France, I tell you. Lance Armstrong will be nothing compared to Samuel Hales. In fact, Sam will probably also steal the title for most Olympic gold medals from Michael Phelps, just from biking alone. Yes, I am aware that that many Olympic biking events don't actually exist. Yet. However, once the U.S. Olympic scout team finds Sam, they will realize that more events need to be created. And then Sam will win them all. And then I will say something along the lines of "I told you so," but probably in less colloquial prose. On another note, Sam also happens to be one of the most down-to-earth and just-plain-cool people that I know. Nothing can throw off his groove. And, oh yeah, when it comes to driving, Sam is one of the most, no, THE most patient non-driver's-license-wielding 16-year-old I know. I suppose being the fourth-born does have its downsides on having three older siblings who are able to drive everyone else to school, run errands, and lay claim to the currently-owned family cars. I feel your pain, Sam, I feel your pain. Though I am not a fourth-born nor sixteen, I, too, lack a four-wheeled form of transportation. The driver's license that I put in my pocket each day is a mere mockery to the debit card against which it rubs all day long. ANYWAY...moving along, moving along. Long story short: Sam rocks.

    Matisse: Mati is a Musician of the finest caliber. An Artist to rival her namesake. A Tremendously talented writer. An IPhone owner. Her Signature is one of the most elegant I've seen. Her taste in fashion is Sensational. Her Excellentness at all things awesome is almost incomprehensible. She makes cupcakes with moustaches. She drives a Honda Civic Turbo. She gives me rides to places in said Honda Civic Turbo. She has been to Europe. She has played a musical instrument at concerts in Europe. She owns and often sports red cowboy boots. She is the reason that the Thunderbolt (Timpview's newspaper) is no longer lame. She has opinions and has the vocabulary to express them. <--something not a lot of people can say for themselves... I love Mati.

    : Lexi does cool things like running races in Santa suits. She also happens to make the most incredible cakes imaginable. Lexi is a certified scuba-diver, as well as a professional skier. She decides she wants to do something and then she does it. Like backpacking around Europe, for instance. Just curious: how many cousins can say they met up with each other in, oh, say, the Czech Republic? Cool ones, like Lexi. How many people can say that they ordered fish at a restaurant and still had the appetite to eat it when it arrived in its entirety--bones, head, eyeballs and all? Lexi. Who invented the phrase "Awesome Possum?" Leximus awesomus. Another obvious trait that cannot be ignored is Lexi's taste in shoes. Though she lacks a thorough knowledge of the more practical areas of footwear (such as flip-flops), I do have to admit that she just about makes up for it with high heels. Name a color, brand, or material type and she has a pair. Cowhide? Covered.

    Spencer: One of the most courageous people I know. He is fighting a tougher battle than most people will ever have to fight, especially most 22-year-olds. Though he won't admit it, he also happens to be one of the world's best writers. I am anxiously awaiting his first book installment. Spencer is knowledgable on just about every subject, and speaks a good amount of Japanese. He is very quick to pick up and learn anything he wants. And, if Chris is the Apple guru, Spencer is the guru of Apple gurus. He is very generous and kind-hearted. Oh, and the epitome of cool: Spencer drives stick.

    Uncle Stephen: I highly respect anyone who can successfully run his or her own business, especially having started from scratch, and Uncle Stephen is no exception. His graphic design company (Stephen Hales Creative) is fantastic and highly successful. And better yet, at his office, he has an assortment of all things Zorro. Some people collect stamps; some collect coins; some, shiny rocks; but you've got to admit, there's nothing cooler than a Zorro collection. His is by far the awesomEST personal collection I have ever seen. Aside from his unique collection and being able to draw and design anything, Uncle Stephen is a marvelous chef. Sunday dinner at the Hales' home is like eating at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. To top things off, Uncle Stephen is one of the humblest people I know. If everyone had a boss or dad like him, this world would be a much lovelier, tastier place--aesthetically, socially, and the list goes on...

    Aunt Calli: I saved Aunt Calli for last because I have to write at least a 5000-page novel in order to begin to divine to you the pure and absolutely wonderful person that she is. Firstly, have you ever heard of a primary president who was so good at her job that she never gets released (well, probably until she becomes the General Primary President, that is)? Or a primary president whose spoiled primary kids complain that they don't want to have lasagna for lunch at the next primary activity? Aunt Calli's expertise stops at nothing. Her flower arrangements are fit for the celestial kingdom, her cooking divine; the perfection with which she accomplishes everything is stunning. She is a musician after my own heart, and one thing I absolutely love about her house is that "classical" (forgive my colloquial use of the word) music is almost always playing in the background. Those who have heard her display her talents at the harp are some of the luckiest people on earth, and I fear I shall sink into the depths of despair if I have to live much longer without enjoying this privilege. Aunt Calli's house is beyond description, so I won't even try to describe it. English words simply do not suffice. If you happen to have acquaintance with a certain Grandma White, you might compare the two houses and the immaculateness of the decor within. Also like Grandma White, Aunt Calli is very kind and generous--somehow, she never forgets about anything or anyone, and she always goes the extra mile in everything that she does. She is one of my heroes. Um, heroines.

    Danke, dear Hales Family.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    A morbid, mangled, murder mystery

    My iPod earphones have been brutally murdered. Here are the straight facts of the case:

    9:55pm: I walk into my bedroom in the basement of my parents' house, expecting to put my pajamas on and climb into my hundred-year-old bed (yes, the ancient piece of furniture on which I sleep is really a century old--my great-grandpa used to use the same mattress that I now sleep on whenever I visit my parents, poky rusty springs and all...but that's an irrelevant tangent).

    9:56pm: As my glance falls to the floor next to my bed where my laptop is sitting, I spot some string that is exactly the same color and length as my earphones, minus the earbuds. I bend down and pick up said object, my disbelieving eyes trying to convince me that what I am seeing is not actually the mangled remains of a dearly beloved friend.

    9:57pm: As I study the cord, I notice how very cleanly sliced each end is, as if the guilty culprit took a savage pleasure in doing his dirty deed as immaculately as possible.

    10:00pm: I trek back upstairs to find a superior detective and show him the corpse.

    10:01pm: My father studies the evidence and is completely baffled, as are my sister, brother, and mother.

    10:05pm: My father asks if anything in my room seemed out of place, and if all my valuables were still where I had left them last. Luckily, my laptop and its cord had remained seemingly untouched, and the rest of my belongings had been safely stowed away upstairs at the time of the crime.

    10:07pm: A suggestion is raised that my curious little six-year-old brother may have had a minute of alone-time with some scissors. Unfortunately, he is unavailable for questioning, as he was put to bed an hour ago.

    10:10pm: I return to the basement with a slight feeling of unease, but mostly a great sense of bewilderment. Though my dear brother can sometimes be quite an inquisitive little fellow, he very well knows the value of a pair of earphones, as he owns a set himself. Just in case, however, I look through the bathroom garbage to see if I can spot my earbuds. My efforts are in vain.

    10:13pm: I return to my bedroom and begin to write this blog post.

    10:16pm: Suddenly, a dark streak passes through my peripheral vision, and I look down just in time to see a small creature streak from under my bed to the slightly-ajar closet door and disappear inside the depths of the storage therein.

    10:17pm: "Aha!" I say to myself.

    10:18pm: I run up two flights of stairs to my parents' bedroom.

    10:19pm: "The murderer is a mouse!" I cry in distress. (well, maybe I didn't use those words or that tone of voice exactly, but let's not detract from the case)

    10:20pm: After raising the alarm that the crime-committer had not yet escaped, I bravely run back down to the basement, finding the courage to face my enemy as I think about my dear, mutilated comrade splayed on the floor next to my laptop.

    10:22pm: My father enters the room, soon followed by my mother, soon followed by my brother, soon followed by my sister. The room becomes a little crowded. As we begin unloading storage boxes from the closet, the room becomes very crowded. I retire to my bed and continue to watch the unfolding scene whilst contemplating the best form of revenge.

    10:30pm: At last, the closet is emptied but for a box or two behind which the murderer cowers. Sticky pads are set at strategic angles around the box so as to allow no possible escape route. My father begins to move the last box.

    10:31pm: Out springs the guilty one, choosing flight over fight. Almost immediately, his legs are snatched by the goo that awaits him. He struggles, pulling and chewing, but to no avail.

    10:32pm: A ringing cry of victory resounds throughout the room. But then, "Lo! What have we here?" declares my father as his sweeping glance comes to a halt at the corner of the closet. (again, these words may not have been exactly those that were spoken, but one must consider the inexorable distress of the situation at hand and the affect it had upon my experience of the moment)

    10:33pm: Out from the depths, my father pulls the sad remains of my dear, tormented earphones.

    10:34pm: As my father pulls the sticky pad, mouse and all, out of the closet, he laughs a slightly evil laugh. My mother suggests we might feed the guilty one to the cat. But my desire for revenge suddenly disappears as I see the poor creature with the big eyes struggling to pull himself free of the entombing goo of doom.

    10:37pm: After packing the closet back up, my father and brother take him and dispose of him. What his final end was, I do not know, and never shall.

    Case closed.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    For ye unbelievers

    If you weren't previously convinced by the loathsome descriptions with which I provided you of my G-POD living experience, I now have proof that I was not the only one who found the vortex of toxic waste quite disgusting: the first thing that one piano student's mother said today as she walked through the door of my new apartment was, "Wow! It's so clean!!!" followed by "You're very lucky you got to move."