Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Place Where Spam Comes to Die

During my last semester of undergraduate work, I recall complaining to a friend about all of the huge (and I really do mean huge) flies that would come into my room, settle into my light fixture, and die. "It's like frickin' fly Shangri-La," I told her. "All of the flies seem to instinctively know that it is the place to settle down and die." She laughed and told me I was projecting.

Well, recently, I've been thinking that at least one of my e-mail addresses must be spam Shangri-La, because I get an awful lot of it. Thankfully, that e-mail address is forwarded to my g-mail account . . . which is then smart enough to promptly file it in the spam folder. Astonishingly--and depressingly--I get about five times as much spam in any given day as I do e-mail from regular human beings who actually want to communicate with me.

(And if you want to send me an e-mail, I welcome it. Especially if it's an e-mail that isn't asking me for something. I tend to get a fair few of those . . . usually from siblings and friends who perform the equivalent of e-mail small-talk and then get to the real question: "Could you help me with a resume/cover letter/paper/musical number?" Not that I mind helping. It's just that sometimes I get terribly excited when I see e-mail and then terribly disappointed when I realize they don't really want to know about me . . .)

Anyway, I thought that surely I must have been projecting again. Surely, surely I wasn't getting such inordinate amounts of spam I could call my spam folder Spam Shangri-La. (Even though it has a certain ring to it.)

But today, friends, I have arrived. Because now, I'm not only getting spam in English. No, indeed. (I know this, because periodically I scan through the spam folder to make sure that non-spam messages don't end up in there)

As of today, I've also received spam in French, Spanish, and--get this--Russian.

I obviously have no idea what the subject line for the Russian spam says, and I probably don't want to know. I've got a pretty good idea of what the subject lines for the French and Spanish spam said, though.

And I'm rather saddened that the French and Spanish spam isn't much different than the English spam. I was hoping they somehow got more inventive with theirs . . .

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things I Had Forgotten about University Life

(In honor of my first day of graduate school)

  • The handy little planners with the University's name, all crucial dates (including football games--because football here actually is kind of crucial to a lot of the students), and advertisements for the school's newspaper on every other page.
  • The sheer number of people. I arrived for work at 7 this morning and was astonished to see four times the number of people I'd seen on campus the whole summer wandering around, acquiring parking permits, buying books, and doing those things students generally do.
  • The people persistently glancing at me on public transportation. (I used to think I had a rather unique face; it turns out that, after all, I have one of those faces that belongs to just about everybody.)
  • The utter revoltingness of the bathrooms. Now, all of a sudden, I remember why I used to run over to the Institute building at Weber whenever I needed to go to the bathroom. They were the only ones in the near vicinity with any semblance of clean . . .
  • Getting lost. This isn't something I plan on doing, but I didn't plan on getting lost in the Languages and Communications building when I attempted to find Orientation last Thursday, either.
  • Looks of perpetual sleep deprivation. On the first day, no less! But not me. Even though I woke up heinously early (5:30 AM), I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
  • The hurried pace. People are heading to where they're going quickly. Probably because they think once they get there, they're going to be lost.
  • Free food. How on earth had I forgotten about the free food? (But just this first week. Come next week, I'll have to bring a lunch or actually pay for one.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just in Case You Were Wondering . . .

. . . what I wrote by way of introduction to that class, here it is:

I’m a native Utahn—born, raised, and usually not terribly ashamed of it, either. I’m a first year American Studies student, and I’m leaning toward a Rhetoric and Composition emphasis. Working at the Weber State University writing center sort of addicted me to the idea of teaching writing in one way or another for the rest of my life. I graduated WSU in 2006 with a B.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry, and I’d discovered by the end of my tenure there that I loved it when I could find ways of making theory and creative writing meet. Then when I started registering for courses this fall, ta da! This one appeared. It seemed more a less a given, considering what my interests are.

Right now, I’m rather adamant about having a loosely defined life plan. Ultimately, I’d like to teach college—but I’d also like to find other things I like to do in the meantime. Unfortunately, this process has worked, so far, by means of process of elimination. For example, I do not like to try to bum it as an unemployed person, I do not like working in an office environment, and though HR involves people . . . well, the fact that it’s called Human Resources should have said something to me in the first place. (Seriously, who likes being called into the boss’ office and being told, “You are a good skill set”?)

I love all foods ethnic—especially Indian, Greek and Thai. My roommate just introduced me to Aristo’s on 1300 East, and I’m not sure she knows exactly what she’s done. My siblings and I all play the piano (it was pretty much mandate in our household going up), so I tend to like music that has some cool piano/keyboard instrumentals going on: Keane, Ben Folds, etc. I also just discovered Even Elroy, and they are my now favorite band ever. (And not just because one of their songs is called “Wanna Meet Katie.”)

My family likes to joke I’ve never laid my hands on a book I didn’t like. But I’m a particular fan of Gregory Maguire, all of the Russian greats, Willa Cather, and a number of others. I have a serious addiction to books about books, and I love The Shadow of the Wind. I’d also be remiss if I neglected to mention Big Fish.

I’d like to find myself more open to different genres after taking this class. I fear I’m a rather homogenized reader who stays squarely in her comfort zone, purely because I think I’m going to read a new sort of work in the wrong way. (Which, I know, is pretty silly. Especially since one of the reasons I decided to study English is because it lacks the whole right answer/wrong answer dichotomy present in so many other disciplines.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blocked at the Pass

Sometimes I'm crippled by the need to be clever.

One of my classes has requested the students to write an introduction and post it online. As a preemptive strategy, I suppose it's good at getting rid of all of that annoying first day of class "please tell us about yourself" introductory hogwash. All we'll have to do now is go around and tell each other our names, and we'll have already read about each other online.

And while I certainly don't feel that my writing skills are lacking in any way, shape, or form, I find myself intimidated. Because now that I've entered a graduate program--an English graduate program--nobody else has writing skills that are lacking, either. The department would not have otherwise let them in.

(Incidentally, I keep having dreams that I get a letter from the U, indicating my admission had come in error and that I am not, after all, graduate school material. So sorry. Apply again next year. But then I usually feel better once I wake up and check my e-mail, only to see that the bulk of the new messages are from the graduate advisor and they are obviously not being sent in error.)

This is why I've already signed up for which book I'll present my seminar paper on. And I know what other book I'm going to write a review and summary of. (Understanding Comics, in case any of you were curious. I'm all for making my classes overlap, and since it's required reading for another . . .) But it is why I'm a little bit blocked when it comes to my introduction.

The one student who has already posted an introduction has invested it with a lot of personality. And she's published. And she sounds smarter than me. Also, I have the feeling I'm the newest of the newbies for this class. The subject matter interests me, but I'm starting to feel stupid and I haven't even attended the class yet.

I'm neither ineligible for this class, nor am I stupid. I know I'm not stupid. And I know I want to take this class. I also know I'll never forgive myself if I underestimate myself from the beginning. And I also know I need to start practicing what I preach and stop comparing myself to others. So what if more than half this class are admitted to the intensely competitive M.F.A. program. So what if more than one of the students is in the process of earning a Ph.D. I can be the smart kid in all my other classes.

(Unless, of course, I'm not. It's possible I might just need to learn to handle that.)

And in the meantime, I'm going to write an introduction full of my personality. Something that is vintage me. That may be clever or may not be clever. But I'm not going to try too darn hard from the outset. Because to quote a famous SNL skit: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it! People like me."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


"There's a face that we wear in the cold light of day, it's society's mask, it's society's way--and the truth is that it's all a facade." --Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical

Yesterday was not the best of days for me. The reasons why hardly matter; suffice it to say that the migraine caused by the ophthalmologist dilating my one good eye lasted all day and did nothing to improve my mood. (Neither, may it be noted, did the Reader's Digest jokes my mom read me as I sat in the waiting room. But it's been a longstanding tradition that any time she's at a doctor's office with me, she has to find the RD and commence reading any joke she finds funny.)

However, when I got home, I realized that sometimes--sometimes--I can be quite the actress. (Let's be honest: this doesn't happen often, since I have a hard time disguising my feelings.) Before I opened the door, I plastered a smile on my face. Took a deep breath. And prepared myself to be chipper.

During dinner, I chatted away. Somehow the conversation turned to our high school friends and how all of our individual groups of friends had predicted who would get married off first. And I mentioned how my friends thought I'd bite the bullet long before the rest of them, purely because I didn't date much in high school and they thought I'd marry the first man who cropped up in my life. (Let's just say: my goodness, I'm glad that didn't happen)

But after dinner, when I retired to my room, I found myself sinking into that dark funk again. I can't hard my moods from myself, it would seem.

And as I did a number of things and I thought about it last night, I wondered why I think I need to hide such emotions from my roommates. Why I tend to overflow with good feelings, but I tend not to share the bad ones with the people who are right there and could help.

Is it a matter of pride? Do I not want to cause them to share my troubles? Do I think they'll misinterpret somehow? That they won't understand? That they'll tell me I'm being ridiculous?

I think it's probably a matter of that question. When I know I'm feeling low, and I think my reasons are ridiculous, I don't want to have anyone else pointing out the silliness going on there. Because I want to find my own way to talk myself out of the silliness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Adventures Going Home

Sleeping at my parents' house has become an adventure, in a way. Especially when my sister and her husband are over. (The ones, mind you, who don't have kids. It's even more of an adventure trying to find a place to sleep with munchkins underfoot. Although with nephews and niece as cute as mine, any annoyance quickly diminishes.)

Anyway, before my brother returned home from his mission, his bed was the officially nominated guest bed. And rightly so--it's a queen-sized bed. And it's also the only other bed confined to a bedroom. There's a hide-a-bed in the couch upstairs, and the leather couch in the basement isn't so heinously uncomfortable it's impossible to crash there. But it was nice to sleep on a regular bed.

Those days are gone. My little brother now gets to sleep in his bed. Last night, my brother-in-law and sister claimed the leather couch. My dad wakes up ridiculously early now that he has to work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days, so he's been relegated to the upstairs couch. And that left me smashed into the sewing room on an air mattress.

But at least it was the good air mattress. The big one. Not the twin size air mattress I slept on the last time I'd been home. When I slept on that air mattress, I turned just a little in the night, and found myself plunked on to the floor. And yes, I bruised as a result. (Thankfully, most of them weren't noticeable. And in regard to the bruise people did notice, I just told them I must have run into something. Technically--I did. I ran into the floor. But I wasn't about to tell them that.)

Still, I remember the days I used to have a bed at that house. That house carried a certain hint of permanence to it. For a short while, I was the boomerang child--I could move out of the house, but there was always a place to move back to.

That, alas, is no longer the case. My former bedroom is no more. My dad, my brother, and my brother-in-law knocked out walls to expand the front room . . . and my former bedroom has merged with the living room.

This means that though Centerville will always be home, I will never be living there again. It's kind of an odd feeling.

A minor change. Nothing I can't handle. But when Bon Jovi asks, "Who says you can't go home?" My response is now: my dad and his sledge hammer. Obviously.

Monday, August 18, 2008

School and School and I'm Funny Sometimes

I bought all of my textbooks today.

My arms are now numbishly tingly feeling. And slightly shaky.

I could have used someone with much bigger muscles than I have to carry my three bags of books . . .

But at least the cashier smiled at my comment when I deposited the heavy basket of books in front of her to be scanned.

"Such is the life of an English student: so many books, so little muscle."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Fall Schedule

Most people looked at me askance when I told them my plans for the fall: full-time work and 6 graduate credit hours. Many of them are concerned for my well-being (mental, physical, and otherwise). Some of them are concerned I have some complex that causes me to think I'm Wonder Woman. (Note: I don't.) And a couple of them are pretty sure they will have an absentee roommate in the fall. (Entirely possible: I'll be there, but I won't truly be there, if you know what I mean)

And if you were one of the people who thought I just may be crazy, well, you're probably right. Because it's no longer full-time work and 6 graduate credit hours. It's now full-time work and 9 graduate credit hours. Indeed, I'll be a full-time worker and a full-time student and a sometime sleeper, roommate, and friend.

No worries. I'm sure that, after August 25, I will still have some Internet presence. Procrastination has always been an essential part of my character as a student--and though I know I won't be able to get away with procrastinating in the monumental (and, I've been told, disgustingly unfair) fashion I did as an undergrad (My best grade was on a 10-page paper I wrote in three hours the night before it was due. I don't even recall reading over it for grammatical errors before I handed it in.), I have no doubts I will still periodically put off till tomorrow what I could have done two weeks ago.

If anything should need to fall by the way side, it will most assuredly be my job. And they've promised to be understanding if that happens. But they think I'm so extraordinary that I can juggle it. Maybe I am extraordinary.

Or maybe I'm extraordinarily crazy.

Either way, I'm looking forward to my graduate student experience.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Lover of Books . . .

. . . will now proceed to tear one to shreds. Because really: what's the fun of reading if you can't periodically and systematically dissect the flaws of books you didn't enjoy reading as much as you hoped you would?

The book today, ladies and gents: Breaking Dawn. If you haven't read it yet and you'll hate me forever for revealing key plot points, stop reading now--because here be spoilers. And not even the this-particular-part-of-the-book-made-me-tingle! spoilers. Nope. These would be spoilers of the I-think-I-may-have-just-thrown-up-a-little-in-my-mouth variety.

A list of highly lame things I didn't like about Breaking Dawn.
  • The monster spawn. And even worse, Jacob imprinting on the monster spawn. And okay, okay. I know Edward is a good vampire and Bella was human while she carried Renesmee, so it's probably not fair to call her monster spawn. But she struck me as a rather lame contrivance to be able to carry on a story line if Stephenie Meyer should so choose. Also, her name is stupid.
  • Question: if all bodily functions disappear when Bella becomes a vampire (yes, Bella becomes a vampire--but honestly, it's not like you weren't expecting that), why is it that she manages to retain control when she realizes the Jacob situation until she discovers that Jacob's nicknamed her daughter Nessie? Because, um, wouldn't PMS have disappeared when she became a vampire?
  • In a completely non-plot-related note: Little, Brown isn't exactly a small publishing company. But whoever proofreads these books should be fired. Twilight was an engaging enough story to me that I could let all of the typos and errors go. New Moon and Eclipse didn't have that going for them. And Breaking Dawn was just as bad. I'm half-tempted to take a red pen to these books and send them back to the publisher with a note: why can't anyone on your staff seem to do this properly?
  • On a related non-plot-related note: The word is dependent, people. Not dependant. I recognize that our friend the dictionary says it can go either way. But seriously--who spells it with an a? (Schmet, you can say you spell it with an a, but I just won't believe you)
  • Meyer needs a new conflict-resolution model. Also a new plot model. She's the queen of the anti-climax. Of course, it didn't help that the major conflict didn't happen until more than halfway through this book. All of the vampires were gathering against the Volturi to witness that Nessie wasn't dangerous and she wasn't immortal and they were all geared up for a fight. And then . . . ta da! Diplomatic resolution. Possibly because one of the extraneous vampires willed it. Phooey. And seriously, could we just skip the la-la-la, ooey gooey Bella-and-Edward are in love and like to make out parts of it? Do they serve a purpose? Aside from the aforementioned throwing up a little in the mouth?
  • Also, let's see how many times Edward and Bella can have (implied) sex! That should be exciting! And then it should be really funny when Emmett starts throwing around innuendos. Because then Bella can arm wrestle him and kick a rock to pieces just because she can.
  • And it's official: she made enough comparisons to Greek gods that I wondered why there's nothing and nobody else she can compare these vampires to.
  • Those Romanian vampires? They sort of reminded me of those Muppet critics. (You know, the ones whose names I can't think of right now.)
  • Wow! Bella has a power to block people! Except wait . . . she could already do that as a non-vampire.
  • But also! She has such self-control as a newborn vampire that she doesn't need to worry about seeing her dad. How wonderful for her that she's such an anomaly. And now Charlies knows. Ish.
  • And Jacob comes to live in peaceful habitation with the vampires, purely because he imprinted on Nessie. One of the most gag-worthy lines in the book: "We always knew I was attached to part of you, Bella. Now we know what part." Or something to that effect.
  • Aw, Edward and Bella are going to live happily ever after. Forever and ever.
  • And in one last non-plot-related point, the publishers will be (conveniently) releasing an official guide to the Twilight world at the same time the movie is released. Coincidence? I think not. And I think it's kind of a lame idea, because it's not like there are a lot of intricacies to the world of Twilight. I can understand the concept of Harry Potter companions because--come now!--Rowling created a whole new world. Meyer used an existing one and stuck vampires in it.

If you loved it dearly and want to temporarily disown me as a friend, I'm cool with that. Because it's now official: if I want to escape to a fantasy world, I'll be visiting Hogwarts. Or the Discworld.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Changes, Changes . . .

The other day, as I randomly perused blogs and kept finding--much to my chagrin!--that it seemed nobody whose blog I had read had updated recently, I started feeling grouchy. These people, I thought, needed to update. How dare they go a week without letting me into a little corner of their lives?

Um yeah. I'm a hypocrite. Not that I think anyone is dying to see what happens in my own little corner of the world, but . . . I shouldn't gripe about people not updating their blogs for a few days when I haven't either. Pot, kettle, and all that jazz.

Moving on.

It looks like I'll be doing more moving on. When my roommates and I moved, we were quite cognizant our house no longer stood in ward boundaries. But since the boundaries to our particular ward seemed less a guideline and more a suggestion, we didn't feel terribly guilty about staying.

The leadership in that ward is due to change. The bishopric will be released this month, and they realized just how many outliers they actually have in the ward. So they're implementing the boundaries, to graciously acknowledge that the new bishopric should not have to be viewed as the bad guys.

I'm not nearly as sad about the switch as either of my roommates, although there are certainly people I'll miss seeing in church on a weekly basis. And I've learned that the Church is true, no matter which ward I'm in. Or not in. In truth, I'll miss teaching Relief Society. And I don't know how I'll handle making a new set of friends.

But I have faith I'll make them. Changes happen for a reason. Yea, verily, I believe there is a purpose to just how much my life will have changed by August 25. I just can't see the purpose yet. (And me not seeing things? Not that new to me.)

And to end on a completely random note: it's official. The only other big change that could happen to me this year would be for me to get married.

(But don't worry. I don't think I'm that much of a change magnet . . .)

Sunday, August 3, 2008


"And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God . . ." Alma 38:2

Every Thursday, I sojourn to my parents' house. I'm homeward bound for one reason. Or rather, I suppose, four reasons in one. I teach four different piano lessons on Thursdays. (One each to two little girls who live across the street from my parents', one to another neighbor closer to my own age, and one to my mother.) But coming home involves participating in small family traditions, especially now that my brother is home from his mission. One such newly revitalized tradition is family scripture study.

Before the lessons started, we read Alma 38 as a family. My mom read verse 2, and then as we read, she must have been thinking about it. She made the observation that Shiblon was a good son because he was steady. Then she looked up at me and said, "Katie's steady."

I found it an interesting statement to make. If anyone asked me to describe my character in five minutes or less, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't think of saying I'm steady. Stubborn, focused, happy . . . not steady. Facetious, smart, open . . . but again, not steady.

In fact, I admit that the word 'steady' brings to mind my physical balance when I first hear it. And in that instance, steady most certainly doesn't apply. (To wit: when we moved, I packed a box rather more full than I had thought. And when I attempted to carry it from the bedroom to the living room, I was tired, my balance was off-kilter, and . . . well . . . I more or less looked like a drunk. So much so, in fact, that the box--which donated kindly by Melissa's work once they'd removed the Dell computer that inhabited it--was thenceforth called 'the drunken Dell box.'_

My moods, too, tend toward the mercurial. As I've mentioned before, I've more Anne than Marilla in me.

I'm working on reaching conclusions. And the closest I can guess about what my mother may have meant is that I try to be unwavering in the things that matter. I'm steady in my church attendance. I try steadily work at my callings. In short, I try to establish good habits.

And perhaps that's all true steadiness is comprised of--habitually doing the things we know are good, true, and necessary for our salvation.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Some days I'm tempted to post a completely blank entry in order to see how people would respond. If people would respond. Because I am the sort of person who tends to analyze. At least, when it comes to anything written, I tend to analyze.

And if no context exists for some things, then I tend to invent context. So I know that if someone posted a blank blog entry, I'd find myself compelled to reading all of the other entries on that page.

Of course, it could be completely unrelated. But it would be blank. The only way to know the context I invented was wrong would be to say something about it.

In the course of recent communications, I've found that context is a funny thing. Whereas offense is a thing rarely given on purpose, but always taken---context is something both given and taken.

Thoughts, anyone?