Sunday, August 28, 2011

steve jobs


In shock to everyone living in a magical world where cancer-surviving liver transplant recipients live forever, Steve Jobs announced his retirement as CEO of Apple, firmly cementing his status as "Most Awesome CEO Ever Ever Ever".

CEOs of all the other middling corporations nationwide observed a moment of silence after his departure, then, realizing the average intelligence of a CEO of a major publicly-traded company just dropped to salivating monkey level, approved another round of bonuses for themselves as a reward their relative efficacy.

Santa Claus Steve Jobs is known throughout the world for his generosity in spending his entire life making toys for children of advanced all ages. In a letter circulated to employees of Apple and subsequently forwarded to TechCrunch by every single one of them hoping to get in good so that their future startups will receive favorable reviews, Jobs announced:

"After revolutionizing approximately six hundred and three industries and building you the fantasyland you've all been dreaming about since the fifties, I'm going to take a break, kick back with some Pale Ale and watch humanity screw it all up."

Jobs is succeeded as CEO by Tim Cook, who was originally recruited to Apple by Jobs, reportedly after Jobs asked him, "do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and make a freaking bazillion dollars on options you tree-hugging insomniac?"

Though some have questioned the statement's applicability, as Cook was then working for Compaq, lore has it that he was manning his daughter's lemonade stand in Woodside at the time.

Apple released a statement on the transition, declaring its complete confidence in Cook to, "live up to everyone's expectations and perform with the same vision and ability as Steve Jo...oh, who are we kidding? ALL IS LOST! THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US!"

Monday, August 22, 2011

missions


As I have referenced before, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which you likely know as mormons.

Mormons are cool. We do cool things. We go to church on Sundays, make acronyms for everything, dress up in 1840s garb and push handcarts across Wyoming,1 and spend our days trying to convince people we aren't polygamists.

Another thing we do is serve missions, which are two-year stints most men and some women perform in their early twenties.2

Since I fall under the classification of "bad mormon", I usually make only very oblique references to my mission, because telling people you spent two years proselytizing usually makes them reach for a wooden stake and run away for fear that you'll try to convert them. Spending a couple years talking about Christ sounds about as normal to them as spending your evenings lionclothed, smothering tapioca on your face, and barking at pedestrians on University Ave.

Having said that, I would like to make an attempt to repent to some extent and instruct you all on the finer points of a mormon mission today.

Missions are awesome, and ex-missionaries will usually refer to their mission as the best time of their life, mainly because no mormon woman will date you if you don't, but also because it's the best time of your life.

While you can choose if you wish to serve a mission, you have no choice as to where you're assigned. If you're lucky, you get assigned overseas. And if you were less righteous in the pre-existence,3 you get assigned stateside.

Just kidding! Missionaries who serve stateside are wonderful people! Please don't send me hate mail!

The problem with being sent overseas is you spend the rest of your life complaining about the luxuries stateside missionaries enjoy, while you had to tract uphill in the snow. I, myself, served in Argentina. My little brother served in Oregon. This introduced a new dynamic in our relationship, one which I'll refer to as "me keeping my mouth shut".

In his defense, every missionary follows similar regimes of scripture study and tracting (walking around trying to get people to listen to you), and every missionary experiences difficulties in their labors.

For instance, in Oregon, you may have trials like getting flat tires on your bike, driving a car two years older than another set of missionaries, and occasionally being annoyed by the fact that kind members would weigh down your suitcase with gifts of new shoes from Niketown.

Similarly, in Argentina, you may experience difficulties related to:
  • Eradicating parasites4 from your system.
  • Spending your first few weeks annoyed that the jubilant Argentines decide to light off fireworks every night and keep you awake, until you are able to appropriately differentiate the sound of gunshots and fireworks, and suddenly lose your annoyance at being kept up, and find gratitude for being kept alive.
  • Ensuring the man pulling a gun in your face does not, in fact, shoot you.
  • Fleeing from a mob of stone-throwing dudes.
  • Making sure you are never left alone with the missionary who spends his free time attempting to create a fireball by focusing his mental powers on his hands.
  • Hunkering down while the police and a gang engage in a firefight directly outside your house employing sawed-off shotguns.
  • Jumping over the live sparking downed electrical lines in the street.
  • Enjoying the bliss of counting eighty-eight visible mosquito bites.
  • Running fast enough so you could jump and clear the open sewage ditch on your morning commute to your area,5 then running fast enough to jaywalk across the six-lane highway without getting hit by rush hour traffic.
  • Probing for open sores on the lower half of your body during flood days so as to avoid infection from thigh-high water contaminated by the area's ditches.6
  • Feeling a strong guiding hand stopping you from walking down a dark path one evening, and returning the next day to discover a man was murdered with a screwdriver through his neck down the path the night before.

So, as you can see, missions are pretty similar across the world.

In both Oregon and Argentina you try to find people interested in hearing about the church. In both Oregon and Argentina you teach people who are interested and invite them to join the church through baptism. In both Oregon and Argentina you help them understand what that means, and as a last step before baptism, the interested parties are interviewed and asked a series of questions to ensure they understand what they're getting themselves into.

In Oregon, those interviews are usually conducted in the privacy of one's home, or perhaps a church, and are often deeply spiritual experiences. In Argentina, those can be conducted in one's two room home, and, if you're lucky, the neighborhood bully might come by with his horse and cart, whipping the horse furiously until the horse gives out directly outside of the house while the interview is being conducted. The man could then get a large wooden staff and begin beating the bleating horse as it writhes in the most horrific pain imaginable, which sound and sight could cause you nightmares to this day, and he could beat it to its painful and horrific death in front of you, while the interview is in progress, and, as the interview finishes, the neighbors could all crowd around cutting away pieces of the horse for food.7

The structure of missions across the world is pretty constant as well.

Missions are typically made up of 50 to 200 missionaries, grouped up into pairs, or companionships, though if there's an uneven number you may find an unlucky triplet out there. Two to four companionships make up a district, which has a leader, and two to four districts make up a zone, which has two leaders. The entire organization is guided by a mission president (older dude) and his wife, along with two assistants to the president (APs), who, like our stateside missionaries, were also less valiant in the premortal realm.

Just kidding! About stateside missionaries that is. The APs are totally legitimate targets.

In Oregon, a district leader might spend his time mentoring the missionaries, and trying to work through difficulties in interpersonal relationships. In Argentina, a newly-minted district leader might show up to his area the week the entire country descends into a state of near anarchy and political crisis, try to navigate through the riots and lootings, and finally get in touch with the sister missionaries in a nearby area, and beg them to STAY OFF THE STREETS FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING HOLY AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT DIE ON MY FIRST WEEK ON THE JOB.

While missions are pretty similar, you might find the occasional small difference in modes of transportation.

In Oregon, you might bike or drive to your appointments on paved roads. In Argentina, you might walk on dirt roads as kids with wrist rockets shoot rocks into the back of your head, or you might escape to an abandoned railroad track, featuring sections where the foundation has been excavated out some six feet and filled with jagged rusted metal, and your companion may taunt you for being too sissy to walk the lone remaining rail like a tightrope, with certain death a mere one slip away.8

In Argentina, if you do find yourself on a paved road, you might be driving a van of five other missionaries to a conference in the Southwest corner of the mission, and you might be doing this somewhere around 5:00 AM, and you might be doing this on a fogged-in highway with about twenty feet of visibility. And you might be doing seventy, because you might be out of your mind. And you might approach a barrel on fire, and, as you pass it, you might notice the road disappear underneath your van, and you might notice this because the van might suddenly plummet four inches and fishtail on a loose gravel road bed.9 And you might realize that the left lane was still paved, and so you might take quick action and jump the car onto the left lane so as to continue on pavement. And you might not tell the drowsy missionaries that you are currently speeding down the wrong side of a country highway in pitch black completely fogged-in conditions. You might continue this way for five or so minutes, sweating bullets the size of ducks, until you pass by another barrel of fire, and find the right line returned to its rightful place. And you might not tell anybody what you did for several years.

Missions across the world are pretty similar, and it's this similarity that makes it difficult for missionaries like myself to return home and not engage in telling war stories to everyone they meet. People hear so many mission stories, they have zero interest in hearing yours. Which is a real shame, because I have loads more that didn't make the cut.

Having now read over this post a few times, I realize you probably don't believe a word I've said here, but let me tell you: it's all true. The stories and the gospel. I loved my mission. I had some pretty freaking good times. But there are many, many more missionaries out there with even better, even crazier stories, and boy am I jealous of them.

1. Confession: I live in fear of my coworkers coming upon a youth group reenacting the pioneer migration and asking me what kind of crack we are smoking. They're not as weird as they look. I promise.
2. To be precise, 18 months for women, and men can leave at age 19 and women at age 21.
3. In LDS doctrine, we all spent some time living with God prior to our birth, and it is a time-honored tradition among us bad mormons to call into question the righteousness of certain groups of people we wish to annoy.
4. Please note that I only briefly link to said parasites, and mercifully spare you the details. Should you wish more information, I am, of course, more than willing to describe my experience in depth, along with other gastronomical adventures, but, for once in my life, I shall refrain from revealing to you in full the disgusting specifics.
5. My poor companion did not completely clear it one day, which led to me about wetting my pants in laughter, and he needing to return home to change his shoes.
6. To this day I remember the smell of Santa Fe, Argentina. Every street is lined with sanjas, which are ditches that catch most of the wastewater (though these did not contain sewage) from the homes, and in those sanjas the water would sit and fester and house large rats until flooded with rainwater and you found yourself out knocking doors in three feet of the most disgusting mess you can imagine.
7. I promised I would tell you this story, so there it is. Now, we're not absolutely sure that was the same man that tried to shoot us, as the evidence is purely circumstantial, but we were walking by his house one night when we heard the shot and felt the bullet whiz by.
8. I've made a few decisions in my life that directly resulted in the preservation of my life, and avoiding that balancing act was one of them. But he always managed to execute it flawlessly.
9. Anybody know what it's like to wake up to a feeling of flying and fishtailing? I don't, because I was driving, but from the words that were spoken in a variety of languages, I suspect it was not entirely pleasant.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

backpacking


The other day a few avid marathoners, an iron woman, and an ex-green beret got together and asked me if I would like to go backpacking with them. Normally I'm able to get out of these situations by pointing to the obvious differences between me and people like that, highlighting the complete absence of physical achievements of any kind in my life, but, since these all happened to be family members, I was stuck.

Incidentally: how fair is it that I get born into the family full of super people? Seriously. There were a couple dozen marathons, a dozen century bike races, an ironman triathlon, and who knows how many parachute jumps into dark swamps between the rest of the crew versus a good ol' hey-look-at-me-pant-like-a-dying-horse1 Chris.

As is customary when we go on family backpacking trips, we spent our time trying to get me to hate my life through what my father calls torture therapy hiking into mosquito-ridden swamps eleven thousand feet above sea level.2 This we did while carrying lead weights camping gear on our backs, and attempting to whistle so that our sisters didn't suspect that their brother was about to collapse from sheer exhaustion after the first fifty meters just a little tired.

Incidentally: does anyone know how much oxygen is in the air at eleven thousand feet?

Well kids, let me tell you: None. I know this because I just spent a week looking for some. This was made most evident at around 10:00 PM on the first day when I realized I was lying in my sleeping bag. Panting. I hadn't done anything for an hour and yet I was wheezing like a four hundred pound man on a fifth floor walkup.

Day two was made more enjoyable by the recurrence of my good old friend, the blister. Even more enjoyable was when I realized I couldn't determine if my feet had more blisters or mosquito bites. How do you get mosquito bites on your feet? I don't know. That's one of the mysterious joys of backpacking.

Protip: Avoid mosquito bites on your face by purchasing a mosquito net. Yes, you look like a weenie. Yes, it will spare you pain.

Proprotip: Don't sneeze while wearing a mosquito net. Trust me.

Unrelated: Anyone know if you can wash a mosquito net?

On day two we also managed to participate in another Perry family classic: bushwhacking.

For those of you not in my family, bushwhacking is a technical term invented by my father to describe the act of getting hopelessly lost in desolate rocky tundras after taking a "shortcut" through a meadow mere feet before encountering the actual trail you were supposed to take. It also involves using walkie talkies to track down all of your posterity to prevent them from getting lost and surely dying in an endless expanse of wilderness.

All in all, I'd have to say it was a successful trip. I learned a lot.

I learned how to start a fire with wet wood (get my dad to do it).

I learned how to navigate the backwoods using a topo map and the sun for direction (get my dad to do it).

I learned how to cook delicious camp food (get my dad to do it).

I also relearned a lot.

I relearned how to dig a cathole.

I relearned how degrading it is to use a cathole.

I relearned what it feels like to have swarms of opportunistic mosquitos bite you on your nether regions while you furiously swat and attempt to maintain balance over aforementioned cathole.3

And I also relearned what it's like to be humiliated by being the biggest sissy in the family.

Looking forward to next time, oh family. Boy am I looking forward to next time.

1. Lest you think I don't know what I'm talking about: I have actually witnessed the death of a panting horse. It involved a baptismal interview, a savage beating with a large pole, a man who attempted to shoot me, and a dozen hungry Argentines stripping the carcass bare for food. But that is a story for another day.
2. Sea level, of course, being God's altitude.
3. I also relearned that if you use the facilities early enough the sleeping mosquitos won't bother you...which means that I slept about two hours every night, trying to time exactly when I could take care of the essentials without arthropodic interventions.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

reasons to not pursue me


Upon extending beyond a woman in my attempt to reach some cookies at a recent party,1 I excused myself for being so impolite, and was excused by the woman, "as long as you are wearing deodorant".

As is typical when I get myself in those situations, I became unable to speak, as a fire hose of information overwhelmed my speaking senses. For most people, relatively simple interactions pose no problem. They simply say "okay, yes, that's fine with me because I am normal."

Fortunately, I rarely have such a problem, and am usually able to corner the woman for the rest of the evening, expounding on the finer points of subjects she never cared to hear about. This is what I call "flirting". Women love "flirting" with me. I know this because they usually "swoon", or collapse from utter and abject misery, when I "flirt" with them.

Which brings me to my point today. I feel guilty after having authored a list of reasons I have declined to pursue women. I think it's time the women got their chance to respond, and so, I provide to you, the incomplete, yet official, set of reasons women have declined to pursue me. I reserve the right to add to these as the occasion arises.

  1. Follows the philosophy of his good friend Kevin, and refuses to wear deodorant, in a misguided attempt to achieve the homeostatic state of "no smell".
  2. Attempts to make reason #1 look not creepy in comparison by referencing his use of a bidet.
  3. Too skinny.
  4. Balding.
  5. Had learned how to ride a bike by the time I was born, and did not find this creepy in the slightest.
  6. When driving me on our first date, made the horrifying mistake of shouting, "I'm going to kill you!", instead of, "We're all going to die!" when we were almost sideswiped by a large truck.
  7. Goes full days eating nothing but cereal. Calls them food holidays. Wears a special hat.
  8. Spilled Mountain Dew on his jacket in June. Of 2010. Still hasn't gotten it dry cleaned. Wears it occasionally. Hopes nobody notices.
  9. Eats the peel on oranges to weird out his nephews.
  10. Called me the name of another girl on our first date.2
  11. Too short.
  12. Joked about his inability to run in front of me, a world-class runner. I assumed he was serious.
  13. Is a Mormon.
  14. Too ugly.
  15. Not religious enough.
  16. Too religious.
  17. Too boring
  18. Moments before we were about to kiss, threw up due to sheer overwhelming anxiety.
  19. Moments after we kissed, threw up due to sheer overwhelming anxiety.
  20. Ignoring supremely wise counsel, wrote the previous two reasons.3
  21. Made jokes about my grandparents' death.
  22. Made jokes about my name.
  23. Made jokes about my height.
  24. Appeared unwilling or unable to desist from routinely insulting me. Called them observations.
  25. Sulked when I made fun of him.
  26. Referred to himself as "the funniest guy you'll ever meet." Proceeded to make bad puns the rest of the evening. Couldn't resist from a dam joke or two.4
  27. I asked him to be serious. He stared at me blankly. And quacked.
  28. Drove a bright red VW New Beetle in college. Kept a flower in the vase. Thought this was awesome.5
  29. I misunderstood his job function to be data entry.
  30. Took me on a date around Salt Lake City, wherein everything he planned failed. The "street fair"6 closed as we arrived. We missed the last film showing. The fountains we visited were turned off. And then I had to pee, so we spent thirty minutes racing around downtown trying to find a bathroom as we both panicked. He gave up and took me to a snow cone shop. I later married a well-adjusted former football player who still has hair on his head.
  31. Insisted on referring to himself as an old man.
  32. Insisted on referring to me as an old woman.
  33. Referenced me to his co-workers by the moniker "Porn Star".
  34. I saw him in a swimsuit. The ophthalmologist thinks my cornea will recover from the damage in a few months.
  35. I offered him gum for his ridiculously terrible bad breath. He politely declined. I informed him he should "always accept gum when a woman offers".
  36. He couldn't hack it with the guys, so they had him play basketball with the women in high school gym. I couldn't look him in the face ever again.
  37. Refused to wear stage makeup for a performance. Said it was against his "principles". Can sing Mary Poppins at board meetings, but can't wear stage makeup.
  38. Spent the sum total of our interaction quizzing me on my watch, asking me why I liked it and my reasoning behind my choosing it, then proceeding to express his complete distaste with that type of watch before another dude came and saved me from my misery.
  39. Utterly refused to share in my dream of someday renting a cabin with my friends for the sole purpose of "getting our children to marry each other". Put his foot down, and, speaking of my friend who had his wife hand write sixteen pages of a Christmas letter, writing a separate copy for each of dozens of friends, which thing took her a solid week, said, "it will be a cold day in hell before I let my children go anywhere near him or his children."7

1. Note to self: when attending parties celebrating things, figure out what that thing is before approaching the host and making a fool of yourself by asking what you are celebrating. Just a thought. Unrelatedly, research the etymology behind the supposed Christmas in July that "everyone" knows about.
2. In my defense, she actually didn't pick up on this. I think.
3. While I felt the need to include these reasons to be collectively exhaustive, let me be clear that this has not manifested itself as a problem in over a decade. Please desist from judging me.
4. Nothing is more sure to get Mormons laughing than a well-timed dam joke. Not Mormon? They go like this: ooohh, look, Jeremiah, it's a dam! Look at the dam workers! And the dam fish! And the dam water! And the dam car! Mother: You damn kids, there is no such thing as a dam car! You are all grounded!
5. And I still think so. I believe I am the only heterosexual male in the world to hold this opinion.
6. Basically: two run-down wagons selling garbage parked outside the horrifically bad restaurant I mistakenly suggested we eat at.
7. I know, I know, I'm sorry, I shouldn't judge a man based on one action. I'm sure he's a fine individual. But seriously, there are enough crazy genes floating around in my family already. We don't need those compounded.