Thursday, March 31, 2011

the national jamboree


One of the pivotal experiences of a young nerd's life are the three weeks in which he is allowed to attend the National Boy Scout Jamboree, held at Fort Holy Cow I've Never Felt This Kind of Heat in my Life Before and I Want to Die Now, Virginia.

For most Utahns, this is the farthest they will have ever been away from home, unless they happen to be like all of my older siblings that got to go to Florida on trips with our parents, until they decided to stop that tradition when they realized they would be stuck going somewhere with Chris "I almost drown in waters with the ferocity of bathtubs" Perry.

For two weeks prior to the Jamboree, the young nerd and the set of older bullies, known collectively as a "Scout Troop", tour the Eastern seaboard of the United States, seeing such places as "I need to pee so bad and they're going to beat me up if I use that mangy toilet at the back of the bus", and "Is that the price of lunch, because I think my parent's house cost that much", all while wearing the best deterrent to being thought sane, the scout uniform.1

One of the highlights of this trip are all of the many instances wherein you can act as an ambassador from your home state, and convince East Coasters that yes, you are all freaking crazy, and why are you wearing a sash.

Of course, as luck would have it, most Easterners aren't even aware of the existence of, let alone the names of the states in flyover country.2 As luck would not have it, the few that do have less-than-stellar appraisals of the area.

Which is okay. Being from a state whose sole reason for settlement was the complete, utter, and total desolation that was thought to prevent anyone from coming after and persecuting a religious minority,3 you sort of expect to get a bad rap in those places where people have "rain", or "the color green", or "seasons where the moisture isn't sucked out of your skin to an extent that your knuckles crack and bleed from open sores".4

At the end of those two weeks, you are allowed to go to Fort AP "Birthplace of the Tick" Hill, Virginia, wherein you spend a week being brainwashed by adults of questionable sanity as to the benefits of trading badges with other scouts, which you will then place in storage and feel physical pain when viewing in your later life, realizing how you could have gone BMX Bike Racing instead of trading for that ever-so-valuable badge from Nowhere, PA.

The highlight of the week in Holy Crap, This isn't Rain, This is a Falling Bathtub, VA, is the visit by the President of the United States. I still remember sitting there, somewhere in rural Alabama, straining over the heads of sixteen thousand scouts, hoping for the chance to boo Bill Clinton, because my self-righteous self was so enraged that he lied under oath.

Oh, how far we have come in fourteen years. If lying under oath were the worst of a president's sins, I would kiss his feet right this instant.

Which brings me to my final point: Bill Clinton, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so judgmental. I would take your presidential terms back any day of the week, and twice on Sunday. Please bring them back.5

And if you do plan on attending the jamboree, might I recommend building up an immunity to cold showers and scouts peeking in on you.

Just sayin'.

1. Seriously, whose idea was it to dress kids up in khaki and army green and parade them around downtown New York?
2. I was in my mid-twenties before realizing that term applied to my home.
3. Which didn't even work, I might add. We still got an army after us. Though I'd like to here brag that my great-great-grandfather helped build fortifications to defend against the attack by the United States army. Which we subsequently abandoned, but hey, it was something.
4. True story.
5. I'm talking about the unbridled prosperity and unprecedented geopolitical stability, of which, admittedly, you had little to do with, but still, bring it back. Do not, however, bring back anything at all related to my personal life. I'm much happier with the current millennium.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

night trains

One great way to travel is via night train. Instead of having a nice evening in a hotel and a stressful journey to your destination, you could have a stressful journey to your destination along with a crappy night in a moving closet.

Of course, the first key to success is to forget the horrendous night traveling through Italy wherein you were verbally assaulted and marched up and down the aisles of a quickly-moving train in your pajamas in the middle of the night, all while your travel companion was being questioned by border police for suspicious connections to a suspected Afghani terrorist. You can also forget that stellar 12-hour train journey through Nevada two years previous where you ended up eating your backpack in desperation.

Your second key to success is to ensure you push every button like a little six year old when you get into your compartment, so you can see what they all do. This means you can think that the blue night light shining conveniently in your eyes for the next nine hours is just a feature of the cabin, and not controlled by the switch immediately above your head. You are then free to discover the mechanism for turning off the light the next morning amid what can only be described as "excessive language".

And your last key to success is to ensure the train attendant speaks broken English, thereby rendering it impossible to figure out why exactly he buzzed the alarm at seven, instead of dropping by with breakfast as you expected. You can then attempt to stow the bed to sit on the seat beneath, but get stopped by the best of German engineering, and spend the rest of the morning with the door closed, starving, rocking back and forth in a delusional haze on the two-inch mattress, hoping nobody will notice you failed to get everything back in place.

vote for jess!

So my buddy Jess was just selected as a finalist in the International Video Contest for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!!! You can see the video below!!!



Naturally, the first questions that pop to mind are, "what's the international video contest?", and, "who's Jess?", and, "what is this church thing?" And, naturally, the answer is, I have no idea!

Just kidding! About the Jess bit; I really have no idea on the other two. Church? Is that the place I flirt with women wearing flowing flowery dresses?1

But seriously, Jess is the girl with whom I played ultimate frisbee for two years without noticing that she only caught the disk with one hand because she has...wait for it...cerebral palsy. What does that tell us?

First off, that tells us you should vote for her, because she's obviously better than every other person with trials who went to the trouble of creating videos I did not watch, and second off, that tells us that you should not be like me and roll your eyes every time someone tells you to vote for something, and thirdly, that tells us that I'm a freaking moron.

The Jess-approved instructions are as follows. Gentle(wo)men, enjoy your voting.

1.) Go to http://classic.lds.org/visitorschoice
2.) Then click onto "Amateur - US & Canada (10 videos)"
3.) Click "Next" on the bottom right
4.) Then find our video, entitled "Our Hands His Hands, Our Hearts His Heart" somewhere in the mix. The video has a picture of a girl with curled brown hair.
5.) Click directly on top of the video (it should have a play button) to watch.

TO VOTE:
1.) Make sure the box to the left side of our video is checked, and everything else is unchecked.
2.) Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and click "Next" on the bottom righthand corner.

1. I've mentioned this before, but the second meanest thing I have ever done in my life was ask a semi-rude girl, "are you planning on going to the meeting or crossing the plains in that dress?" I'm sorry. It needed to be said.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

layman's terms

In the course of conversations it often becomes necessary to highlight to your conversant that you don't understand a thing they just said, and, instead of confessing your ignorance, you are allowed to give them the same signal by asking them to describe the concept in "layman's terms".

This refers to the layman, or a non-expert in a given field of knowledge. For example, instead of watching instructional YouTube videos on swimming, causing your coworkers no small amount of haughty amusement at your ignorance, if you asked someone to describe how to swim in layman's terms, they might respond by saying something like this:

Swimming is a sport in which one propels one's body through water occupied by people about whom one typically needs to make heroic assumptions about personal hygiene in order to swim next to without puking.1

It is spelled, and this is very important:

L - A - Y - M - A - N

It is not spelled, and this is more important:

L - A - M - A - N

This is because there is a figure in the Book of Mormon, the volume of scripture you likely consider heretical, named Laman.

Let me tell you: spending the majority of your life wondering why everyone wants things described in terms appropriate for a relatively obscure man living in 600 BC Jerusalem is a tad bit confusing.

I eventually reconciled the problem in my mind by figuring Laman's terms were concepts which would have been familiar to a figure in pre-industrial societies. So references to telephones, electricity, cars, etc., would all have to be stricken to appropriately qualify as Laman's terms. That, or, since Laman was an example of a particularly unrighteous man, they were crass or unrefined terms, maybe the sort of terms only wicked people would use.

The only outstanding confusion was why people with no connection to mormonism would make these casual references. This was a source of no small amount of speculation in my early life.

Imagine my surprise when reading the correct spelling. It made so much more sense.

In Laman's terms, it came to pass that it maketh more senseth.2

1. I will not, however, describe my aversions in layman's terms. Suffice it to say my allusion does not restrict itself solely to the washing of one's hands, or even the bloody bandage I swam over last night.
2. In related news, chaos is pronounced kay-oss, and it is not pronounced cha-ohs, and the two are not synonyms, one which you are familiar with by hearing, and one by sight. Hopefully you learned that before your senior year in High School. Just sayin'.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Big Dance

For all of you sports lovers, and all of you poor souls married to sports lovers, let me wish you a happy March Madness.

This is a great time of year. The weather is finally turning warmer. School takes a nice break. You get to scratch your head over the asininely complex jumble of ridiculousness that is the US Tax Code and hope you can finish before April 15th and your head explodes.

And you get to fill out a bracket. Let me state here that I hate the word "bracketology". Everyone, please stop using it.

Filling out a bracket used to be easy. You'd find one in the newspaper or print one yourself. You'd deftly calculate that there are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 brackets possible (two raised to the 63 power). Then you'd randomly pick teams and lose whatever bracket competition you entered because you forgot that not all nine quintillion brackets are equally likely.

Nowadays, though, everything can be done online. This has many repercussions. For example, it means you can e-file your taxes, which basically guarantees that you will spend several extra hours trying to figure out why the blasted IRS won't accept your e-filed return.

It also means that your bracket has to be online. Sounds simple, right? Like, how hard can it be to go to a website and use that website to choose winners of 63 games? And how hard can it be to calculate the number of games played in a single elimination tournament?1

Apparently too hard. Without going into detail, let me simple say that neither I nor my wife were successful (though she made it much farther than I did). We could humbly accept our defeat at the hands of the almighty internet, but this is America! I need someone to blame! So I have decided to write espn.com a letter and hint not-so-subtly that their web designers could use a course in web design.

Let's just hope my taxes go better.

1.If there are N teams, every team except the tournament winner must lose, so there are N-1 games. Thank you Math 501!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

triathlons


In today's episode of delusions of grandeur, let's talk about triathlons.

Some people decide to do a triathlon to accomplish a solid goal, something they can look back on in their later years and feel as though they did something in life.

Other people decide to do a triathlon because they're on a date with a beautiful woman and it becomes increasingly apparent that if they don't do a triathlon, there is no chance of her calling them back in any foreseeable future.1

And lastly, some people decide to do a triathlon because their sister just finished a freaking Ironman and now sends them text messages while they're at work talking about the amazing backcountry skiing she is doing at that precise moment in powder-filled Utah.

Triathlons come in three flavors: difficult, impossible, and sit down on the couch and start crying while eating donuts because there ain't no way you will ever do that.

Of course, that's just what the motivational training videos are trying to tell you when they show you models with what can only be plastic-surgery-enhanced six packs.

Seriously, though, if you want to do a triathlon, it's easy! Just follow these three steps:

  1. Run a lot
  2. Bike a lot
  3. Give up the first time you set foot in a pool, because you will never overcome the embarrassment of swimming four laps in the slow lane, getting lapped by the slow lane swimmers, and needing to take a 10 minute breather before your lungs implode

Which is unfortunate, because swimming is easy, right? I got the swimming merit badge for heaven's sake. It can't be that tough. It's not like I didn't do anything, and then paid off the camp counselor with a twinkie to sign off the requirements for me.

Oh, wait.2

Anyways, I discovered something about swimming last night: it sucks.

It's nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to make me look fat and pasty while panting and randomly thrashing my legs and arms and head, trying anything to figure out how exactly everyone else is getting air. Like, do they have snorkels or something? Because seriously, this swimming gig is a joke.

My family has a long tradition of participating in Donutman. I think it's high time I started training for that instead.3

1. Ahem, not that I, um, did that. Ahem.4
2. Just kidding! That was actually the fishing merit badge. In my defense, the deal was struck by a co-scout, Whit, and I a peer-pressured participant. My 13-year-old self spent about a year worried that someone would ask me how I didn't know the first thing about fishing when I had the merit badge. In hindsight, I'm not sure why that frightened me, because I obviously don't know the first thing about swimming, even with a valid badge.
3. Like the individuals I overheard the other night, talking about how they had eaten six and seven Krispy Kreme donuts that day, respectively. I don't have much to say about that beyond my expression of complete conviction that they will be stricken with Type 2 Diabetes sometime in the next forty-eight hours. Of course, I should at least here mention my good friend Brian, who once managed a dozen in under ten minutes.
4. It didn't help.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

things you should not sing when the CEO of your large multi-national company calls you to meet with him and gratefully informs you that you never say no to any of his requests


I'm just a girl who can't say no.1

That is all.

1. It would be wise to follow this course of action because you are a) not a girl, b) not a girl, and c) not a girl, and any indication to the contrary is just going to freak him out, no matter how great a musical Oklahoma is.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exercise

If you are like me, or want to be like me (and who wouldn't want to be like me?), then you probably put exercise a little lower on your priority list than it should be, somewhere between arranging furniture and going to the dentist. And to give you an idea of where that puts exercise on my priority list, I haven't been to the dentist in, count them, five years.1

This wouldn't be so bad. My body is in excellent shape, even if the shape is less than excellent (and my teeth really are just fine). But when compared to my siblings, I am the heaviest of heavyweights.

For example, my oldest brother had his body fat checked once, and he came in at 4%. Four percent! How can I compete with that? My breath has more body fat than that, though I could probably cut it down if I went to the dentist.

Now, not everyone in my family is running marathons and doing triathlons and cycling hundreds of miles. But even Chris, who likes to pretend he is not active, is much more active than me. The only sibling that is even close to my league is Nathan, and even he runs in the occasional Santa Speedo Sprint (I know you are curious, but trust me, you do not want to see photos, and definitely not video).

So imagine my joy when I found an article in today's New York Times about When Exercise Is Too Much of a Good Thing. Ha ha! You see? I've been right all along! The headline was so good I didn't actually read the article, but it probably says exercise is bad and you should all be staying at home in your warm cozy beds eating donuts for breakfast.

Once again, science comes to the rescue. Now I'm looking for a "Going To The Dentist Is Too Much of a Good Thing" headline.

1. And I NEVER arrange furniture, my wife does. Frequently. And she's about to do it again.