Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crisis At Work

There's some kind of crisis going on at work this week. Apparently, a big-name client wants five major projects finished by the tenth of December, a full twenty days before the original deadline. My boss e-mailed me late last night and asked if I could help. Being the model employee that I am, of course I agreed. Also, as of right now, I am completely finished with all the work that's been assigned to me up to this point, with two exceptions. In their respective cases, I don't have access to the areas of the site that I need in order to write those scripts, so getting something new to work on might be nice.

I e-mailed my boss about the site access thing. She hasn't gotten back to me yet. She also hasn't gotten back to me about helping with the crisis, so I'm just assuming that she's probably busy and she'll answer my e-mails when she gets the chance. In the meantime, I'm sitting at the computer, refreshing my e-mail browser every five minutes or so, just in case this is one of those times that it says I don't have any new e-mails but I actually do. So far, that hasn't been the case. Actually, it was once, but it was an e-mail from Charlotte Russe advertising their boot sale.

I'm not worried about getting paid next period. I have something like fourteen scripts that are in the process of being produced, and twenty-three or so that are still waiting for editing. Giving the editors a chance to work through my backlog might not be a terrible idea. Unfortunately, all of the editors are working on this crisis.

I'm flattered that my boss e-mailed me and asked for my help. I mean, I do write quickly and I have the ability to churn out scripts like nobody's business. If I were my boss and I needed a project finished quickly, I'd probably ask me also. My current project has something like eleven other writers and myself. As a group, about two hundred and forty scripts have been written. Of those, about sixty have been written by me. That means that everyone else has written on average around sixteen scripts.

Part of it is probably that I don't exactly have another job. I have this one singular job as my whole livelihood. I know a couple of the other writers personally, and at least one has another job. It would be an easy way to make some money on the side, especially if you're not in school and you have enough time to write a script or two a day. Were I to get another job, I'd probably still do this because it's decent money and it's a nice gig.

I'm always worrying that I'm going to get fired, which I know is irrational, because I work really hard and I've never gotten in trouble. It just sort of seems like it's too good to be true. I work from home writing in my pajamas and I make enough money to cover most of our major expenses.

For me, it's working really well as a full-time job. Between my husband and I, we make enough that we can pay our bills and save a little and usually have a little money left over for fun things. I mean, we don't have huge expenses, typically, so we don't usually need a whole lot of money. If we had a mortgage or a heftier car payment, then we might be in trouble. But we don't, so it's okay. Our largest expenses are generally education-related, and we've managed okay with that so far.

I suspect that it might be because I pay tithing. Despite all of my personal issues with the Church, it seems like the Lord is obligated to bless me as long as I'm a full tithe payer, so I continue to pay it and Nate and I continue to have enough money to pay our rent and go grocery shopping.

Christmas was kind of a strain, but at least we were smart enough not to use our credit card to pay for everything. Generally, we only use our credit card if we're buying something a) we were going to buy anyway and b) we get rewards for. So usually when we go to restaurants or clothing shopping we use our credit card, but not a whole lot otherwise.

We did have to start limiting the number of times per week we could order in or go out to eat. It got kind of out of control for a while there. Now, we typically order in on Tuesday or Wednesday nights because we're tired and we don't feel like cooking, and then we go out to lunch on Fridays or Saturdays as a fun and exciting date. We've had to limit it to twice per week, and we try to make at least one of those fairly inexpensive (pizza or burgers, as opposed to a sit-down place).

There are a couple really good Italian restaurants that we like to frequent, and they are within a block of each other and, more importantly, like three blocks from our apartment. The first is Gloria's Little Italy, which has excellent food and dessert and a more formal atmosphere. It's more expensive, though, so we don't go there as often. Then there's La Dolce Vita. It's smaller, less expensive, and less formal. As far as I can tell, everyone working there is related to each other and they're all authentically Italian. The server we get every time we go is named Giuseppe, and his mom owns the place.

There is also an excellent authentic Chinese restaurant that we order from all the time. It's called the Lotus Garden, and it's owned and operated by a Chinese family. We have like eighteen of their menus in our kitchen right now. They deliver (in the phone book, their ad says "We Delivery!," which is either an amusing error or an excellent marketing move. No one is sure which), and every time they bring us our food, they bring us another menu. Their menus do have coupons in them, but they never take the coupons when we use them, so our stack of menus just keeps getting larger and larger.

We have yet to be able to find a really good pizza place. There's the Brick Oven, which is okay (and less than a block away), but it isn't AMAZING.

In Phoenix, I knew all the good pizza places. I knew exactly where to order from in any scenario. Say there are four of us, we have twenty dollars to spend, we want to go out, and our starting position is at my parents house. In that case, we go to Streets of New York Pizza. You get free garlic rolls and you can order by the slice. Also, they frequently have deals so you can get pizza and wings or pizza and salad for a really good deal.

If we have like no money at all, we order Barro's. It's not mind-blowing, but it's better than Domino's or Pizza Hut, and it's significantly less expensive.

If we've got a little bit more to spend but we still want to keep it close to home, we go to Rosatti's. Delicious deep-dish pizza that's like five inches thick.

If we've got a fair amount of money burning holes in our wallets and we're really hungry but don't mind waiting, the standard, of course, is Oregano's. Oregano's might be the best restaurant in the history of the world. You pretty much have to get an appetizer, a pizza, and a dessert. Not because they make you, but because it's delicious. Getting in on a Friday or Saturday night can take a while, because the place is always packed, but it has never not been worth the wait. Other establishments sell pizookies, but Oregano's has perfected it. Not getting a pizookie at Oregano's is not just a terrible mistake, it might be a crime against humanity. They are that good.

Unfortunately, Provo has none of these places. Usually, when we order pizza, we end up ordering from Papa John's. Eh. It's fine, but it's overpriced and the quality just isn't quite there. We've tried other pizza places. Usually they're either too far away to deliver to us or they're terrible. Really, really terrible. Like, really really bad. Really, very bad pizza. Some of the worst pizza I've ever had is right around the corner from me right at this very moment.

You'd think, being a college town and all, that Provo would have some really excellent pizza joints. It doesn't. I mean, the restaurant selection isn't awful, but if you don't feel like cooking and you don't want to leave the house and you don't want Chinese, you're in trouble.

I've spent about forty minutes writing this blog post. My boss still hasn't gotten back to me. I'm hoping she does soon, because Lord knows I could use something to do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Christmas Jitters

I'm going to be honest here. I'm a little bit nervous about spending Christmas with Nate's family. We got everyone gifts, and they're perfectly respectable. Nate and I will probably get more stuff for each other than we did for anyone else, which I feel vaguely guilty about. I mean, it's probably normal and natural for a married couple to get more stuff for each other than for their siblings, but I have an overdeveloped sense of shame. I don't know who I have to credit for that, but there you go.

Part of it is probably that I haven't spend a ton of time with any of the family-in-law. And it's somewhat unlikely that we will ever get the chance to spend any kind of extended period of time together. I mean, it'll probably be a week or two a year for the rest of our lives. Which is fine, I guess. I mean, it's not something I have any strong feelings about either way. I mean, I don't really know most of his family all that well. Plus, I don't have terrifically strong feelings about spending tons of time with my own personal family that I spent eighteen years living with. So, there's that.

I like Christmas, and this won't be the first one that I've spent away from my immediate family. I don't think I was nervous about spending Christmas in Italy. It was probably at least partly because I had already been in Italy for three months and knew each other and knew for a fact that there was going to some extremely delicious several-course lunch with the entire extended family on both sides, all of whom I knew well (with the possible exception of Mario, Andrea's dad, who I believe has Alzheimer's).

I need to remember to find a recipe for the green sauce that was supposed to be eaten with boiled meats. I ate it with bread, and it was awesome. As I recall, the entire meal was somewhere within the four to five courses range. Soup, pasta, a first meat course, a second meat course, various breads through the duration of the meal, and something like five desserts.

I'm pretty sure it was the largest meal of my life to this point, and definitely one of the best ones. Fantastic. Nella, Serena's mom, is supposed to be like a restaraunt-grade chef. We went to her house for Sunday lunch at least twice a month while I was in Italy, and I have to say, she did not disappoint.

Also, Italy was where I learned the value of having a breadmaker. Nate and I got a breadmaker for a wedding gift, and we use it all the time. We haven't bought a loaf of sandwich bread since our honeymoon.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I'm nervous about Christmas, and it's a new feeling for me. I'm sure it'll be fine and enjoyable (although we do apparently have to take a family photo, and I tend to have very negative feelings about family photos in general. Oh, and take some kind of a hike). But mostly enjoyable.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

School Stresses

So, once again, I'm on the fence about what I want to study for the next however-long.

I'm trying to lock down a major, and I keep changing my mind. Currently, I'm leaning toward Anthropology with a Sociocultural emphasis (the options are sociocultural or archeological, and I think sociocultural sounds more interesting) with a minor in either French or Italian. I really don't know. I'd minor in Comparative lit, but it doesn't look like BYU offers Comparative lit as a minor.

I considered majoring in Comparative lit for a while, but while it would be interesting, I don't think it would be as interesting as Anthropology.

A few years ago, I met a date at Borders. We didn't know each other; I was working in a restaurant at the time, and he came in, decided I was cute or something, and asked me out. We decided to meet each other at Borders. The date itself was kind of a bust (I cannot now even remember his name), but while I was there, I found an extremely interesting book. It offers potential answers to societal and cultural questions, ie why some cultures revere pigs and some cultures view pigs as horrifically unclean.

Now, I don't by any means think that the theories posited are 100% correct. There is a segment dealing exclusively with the Christ myth, and the author bases many of his conclusions on "probablies." One of the basic tenants of his arguments is that the historical Christ was "probably" not as peace-loving as he is portrayed in the Gospels or as popular opinion would suggest, but that he was "probably" an anti-Roman radical zealot.

Complete conjecture. The author doesn't try to back up those particular claims with anything other than "it doesn't really make sense for Christ to have been as peace-loving and tolerant as he was portrayed." And then he drew all of his conclusions from that piece of erroneous conjecture, which I found annoying. It seemed like he wouldn't or couldn't believe that any person could have based a ministry on genuine altruism. That sort of skepticism is pretty representative of that found within the scientific community, but I think it was more detrimental than beneficial in this case. Rather than base his conclusions on any actual evidence, he based them on his personal feelings.

But his personal biases against Christ aside, I found his work fascinating. I still do. His anti-relgious biases are pretty prevalent, but I felt they were only problematic when he attempted to come up with an alternate explanation for the accounts of Christ's ministry. I believe that the Lord has good reasons for any commandment he gives his children, so I am willing to believe that the Lord's commandment to the Jews not to eat pork could have been because pigs and humans compete directly for food sources, so keeping pigs may have been a luxury the early Jews could not afford. The ancient Hebrews are pretty well-known for being a hard-headed people, so maybe branding pigs as unclean was the only way the Lord could keep them from giving food that should have gone to their children to their pigs.

Those of us who practice Christian religions and believe that the Jews were our predecessors do not currently believe that there is any inherent harm in eating pork or bacon once in a while, which would imply that something changed so that commandment would no longer be necessary. I don't necessarily believe that Christ's atonement cleansed the pigs of their impurities and made them okay to eat or keep as adorable pets.

I'm not saying that the solution put forward in this book is the only possible solution. I'm just saying that I think it's a valid hypothesis, and that the author's anti-religious bias wasn't an issue when trying to answer that particular question.

 Much of his research comes from studying indigenous tribes of South America and the Pacific Islands and deals with power hierarchies within these primitive cultures. Societal power structures fascinate me, and frequently make me incredibly angry. For example, the book tackles the issue of the unequal balance of power between males and females that exists almost ubiquitously. Theoretically, women's collective ability to have children and their generally increased involvement in their raising would give women the ability to root out any way of life that is threatening to them via positive reinforcement and selective neglect. Yet women continuously raise children who grow up to perpetuate the power imbalance between sexes.

In my husband's family, his mother is the primary breadwinner. His father does the majority of the child-rearing. As a result, my husband has a greater respect for women in general and a greater belief that women can be equally capable providers as men, and men can be equally capable child-raisers as women. By seeing the opposite of the stereotype perpetrated successfully in his home as a child, his entire perspective on male/female relations is substantially different than the norm. And then he married what some people might call an angry feminist*, so his opinions are reinforced in our marriage relationship, and it is likely that any children we have will share his opinions as well.

In this family dynamic, it is pretty clear that gender is irrelevant to personal strengths. Some men are naturally nurturing. My husband is that way, as is his father. Some women are not naturally nurturing. His mom seems to do fine with kids (I'm certainly not going to call her out that way in a public forum. Or any kind of forum, for that matter), but I don't mind admitting that they scare the hell out of me. My husband's mother does, however, seem to be extremely well-suited to being the family breadwinner. I currently make roughly twice as much money as my husband does, and I don't think either of us are at all bothered by it.

I once read a study in Psychology Today that said that women who make more money than their husbands tend to view them as less masculine and have less respect for them in the long run. I certainly don't feel that way. Then again, not even the tiniest bit of me believes that it is solely Nate's responsibility to be the primary breadwinner. Most women, I think, even if it's just subconsciously, think that their husbands should be responsible for the financial security of the family. Women are groomed to want to feel taken care of. Another Psychology Today study said that men tend to feel loved when they feel respected by their partners, but women tend to feel loved when they feel secure in their relationships.

I've been freakishly independent since I came out of the womb. The only reason I got married at all was because I love Nate and moving in together and seizing tax benefits seemed like a good idea (still does, by the way). I didn't marry him so he could take care of me. I certainly didn't marry him so he could be my meal ticket. I didn't marry him because I thought it would bring stability to my life.

I feel really bad for the girls who feel or felt compelled to always be in a romantic relationship. I mean, there were males I went to school with who felt the same way, and that sucks for them, but, and by all means, correct me if I'm wrong, I never saw society put pressure on guys the way it does on girls. In LDS society, you're a freak and an outcast if you're under thirty, unmarried, and not going on a date or two a week, but even in non-LDS society, the pressure to find someone who you can pretend to like and who will pretend to like you too is incredibly high.

From what I've seen, many relationships in the high school and college age groups are based on not sharing any interests or values. The girl pretends that she doesn't know that he's a jackass, the boy pretends he doesn't know that she's a harpy shrew, and their farcical relationship continues until one or both of them realizes that they have nothing in common except vanity and self-involvement, and then it all dissolves in a mess of tears and delusion.

Not all relationships are like this, obviously. But enough of them are that I fear for any people, of any gender, who are in this age group and are trying to navigate the tempestuous seas of dating. Avoiding jackasses and harpy shrews is a good start, I feel.

But, and this brings me back to my point, girls and women frequently feel so much pressure to look like they're in the perfect relationship that they overlook the jackassishness that's seeping out of these guys pores. It's often less about actual happiness, and more about appearance. Being happy is irrelevant as long as you look happy to your peers.

Is there a major in teaching people not to be stupid?

*In my defense, it's not just male/female inequality that gets me fired up. I'm deeply opposed to social inequality of any kind, except the sort that favors smart, hard-working people (regardless of their age, race, gender, religion, or social status) over not-so-smart, lazy people (regardless of their age, race, gender, religion, or social status). 

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Could Be Your Loving Fender

Continuing with the theme of things that I think are awesome that other people think are terrible, let's talk about 70's and 80's era pop music as sung by sassy black women and nordic pop bands.

Everyone who has been my facebook friend for more than fifteen minutes knows how much I love this video:


When my older brother Zack showed this video to me for the first time, it started out as an ironic affection. It's not anymore. The more I watched it, the more I realized we were soulmates. It has everything I love: generic pop music with badly translated lyrics, terrible dancing, and awesome belts.

Also, since going through the temple, this video has altered how I picture heaven entirely, because I'm about 90% sure that's the same set. I now pretty much envision God as that guy, and I have to say, if God looks like the guy from that music video, congratulations to them both. In all seriousness, good for everyone involved, especially me. And them.

It should, then, come as no surprise that I'm a huge ABBA fan. Again, something that started out ironic. Actually, that's probably a lie. When I was maybe ten or eleven, a nordic pop group called the A*Teens catapulted out of Sweden and started releasing ABBA covers in the US. Then it turned out that my mother had an ABBA: Gold record, and I discovered that I liked the originals better. Then the A*Teens made the disastrous career move of recording original stuff. Not a good call on their part, I feel. I mean, I still bought their CDs, but I don't think anyone else did.

Moving on, I spent a significant portion of this morning listening to Donna Summers and Tina Turner and dancing around the apartment in my underwear. Nate had to go take a test, and that's pretty much what I do when he's not here and I'm done with work. I recently purchased a Carmen Electra Aerobic Striptease workout DVD, and I got the dances down pretty quickly (it was the first DVD in the series, so I think it's supposed to get harder from there). But there were a bunch of moves and suchlike that are both highly enjoyable and make my muscles burn when I repeat them several times. So now, instead of exercising like any kind of real person, I practice my pliés (I can almost plié in first position without falling over) and gyrate around the apartment for an hour or so. It turns out that Donna Summer and Tina Turner are both very good for that kind of thing.  Not that you care, but I think my waistline and hips are slightly smaller than they were.

This doesn't fall into either of the aforementioned categories, but I'm listening to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" for like the third time today, and I'm enjoying it immensely. I realize that it's just me and some weird middle aged people who like this song, but I don't care.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You Know What Movie I Totally Unironically Love?

Okay, so, I tend to lose points in many people's books because I don't really separate my guilty pleasures from my non-guilty pleasures. Quite frankly, I think my guilty pleasures tend to be more fun than my non-guilty pleasures anyway, so what's the point of pretending?

A few months ago, a couple friends and I watched Jennifer's Body, with the lovely and nuanced Megan Fox and that broad from Mean Girls who looks like she has Down's Syndrome who is now some kind of a legitimate romcom leading actress for some reason.

I love it. I love that movie. Part of the reason is that it was written by Diablo Cody, who I have a massive, massive girl-crush on. People criticize her writing style for being completely ridiculous and unrealistic, but I love her satirical, tongue-in-cheek style. It's film, people. Let's not sit here and say that Eraserhead was supposed to be some kind of documentary.

One of the reasons that I love it is the soundtrack. It's exactly the kind of angsty, whiny, chick-rock I love. Not Cranberries style. More like Hole, which is actually featured on the soundtrack. Yes, yes, I know, Courtney Love sucks and is trashy, I understand. What if I like things that suck and are trashy?

Because I do. I really do. Things that suck and are trashy are pretty much my favorite. That's why I'm such a Tyra Banks fan.

But I digress. Jennifer's Body. Megan Fox plays a chick who gets possessed after a rock band, with frontman Adam Brody of the OC, tries to sacrifice her to Satan in return for making it big. After that, she has to demonically eat people every so often, there's lesbian subtext, and that Down's Syndrom-ey girl eventually kills Megan Fox and goes to some kind of psych ward, and then breaks out to murder the entire band. The END!

It's excellent. And by excellent, I obviously mean ridiculously trashy, which to me is the same as excellent.

Things I Learned:
- I totally finally got where everyone was coming from when they were freaking out about how hot Megan Fox is.
- Her fingernails start growing right at the tops of her fingers, and it is SO WEIRD. It's really weird.
- I'm listening to Cher right now, and she's so awesome. Who's excited for Burlesque? I know I am!
- That one girl really looks like she's slow in the head. Why does she keep getting cast as a romantic lead?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

X-Mas Cheer

In what may be a terrible shock to some people, I really like Christmas. It's alright, be surprised. It surprises me too, when I think about it.

I don't especially think it's necessary for people to be listening to Christmas music pre-Thanksgiving, but it's a free country. People can do what they want, even if what they want is kind of obnoxious. I get the appeal in stretching out the experience for as long as possible.

Nate and I finished our Christmas shopping last night. Well, pretty much. This morning, I remembered that there was a member of the family that we'd forgotten, so whoopsies there. In my defense, this person has only been a member of my family for a couple months, and I'm purchasing twice the number of presents I normally do. Maybe more than that; Zack and I teamed up and got joint presents for everyone most years, and more often than not, we gave Spencer and Elijah something to share. I don't know what Nate's excuse is, this person has been a member of his family for way longer than that.  Fortunately, there's more than a month until Christmas, so I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Of course, this morning was also the morning that his mother sent out a list of suggestions of things to get for everyone. Had it happened earlier, or we had started gift-buying later, we probably wouldn't have ignored it. As it is, everyone is getting what we already got them and they're going to like it. Or, at least, they'll pretend to like it until we leave, at which point they can say disparaging things behind our backs. But, for the most part, they're THEME gifts. Theme gifts, people, and everything we got was either useful, pretty, or delicious. And we didn't get anyone giant cutlery, and let me tell you, we seriously considered it. We found a spoon that was three feet long at Pier 1 Imports. It had a corresponding fork, as well. That one was nixed because a giant fork could be potentially dangerous, but we considered the giant spoon for a good while before it turned out to be seventy dollars.

It's not that we don't like our family members seventy dollars worth, it's that we in no way have seventy dollars times fifteen or so people, and if we got somebody that we aren't married to a huge expensive gift, we'd have to get huge expensive gifts for everybody.

I still have to figure out a gift for Nate. I got him pretty awesome gift for his birthday in October, but it was like the one thing I had on a list of gift ideas for him. Except for carbonite soap. It's a little bar of soap that looks like carbonite and has a tiny Han Solo action figure inside. I strongly suspect that he would probably like something like that. But I also have no idea what he's getting me, and I don't want to get him something really small and simple, and for him to get me something big, or vice versa. Not because it would effect the dynamic of our relationship, but we're going to be opening our gifts in front of our family members and we don't want them making...inferences.

Monday, November 15, 2010

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

I understand that this entire blog up to this point has been me complaining about things in a cranky manner. Continuing with that theme, I absolutely detest it when people integrate Bible verses into otherwise normal occurrences.

You love the Lord. That's fantastic. Really, very sincerely, I'm glad that some people feel like they have a close and personal relationship with God that's not completely dysfunctional. It's probably also a positive thing that these people choose to integrate this relationship into their daily lives. I integrate my relationship with the Lord into my daily life, but I don't think he and I have the best relationship right now, so it tends to manifest itself as anger and confusion, rather than light and joy, or what have you.

What I don't necessarily love is the proclivity that people who feel that they are very close to the Lord tend to have: the proclivity to shoving their personal beliefs down other people's throats. I guarantee that if someone is at a baseball game, he or she is not there looking for a spiritual awakening. I can also guarantee that if I come to a friend looking for advice or emotional support, telling me to read a scripture is not going to do the trick. I read the Scriptures on my own time. Quoting a Bible verse to me, unless the issue at hand is legitimately spiritual, is not going to do anything except annoy me.

It comes across as terrifically sanctimonious. There are a few people that I trust have made religion such a huge part of their lives that them referencing scripture as a part of a normal conversation might not come across as such, but those people occupy a tiny, tiny minority.

You see, that's why I tend not to like really religious people: they tend to be self-righteously pious and they feel like their personal relationship with their Savior gives them a free pass to be as intolerant and narrow-minded as they want to be. I don't feel like that's always the case, but frequently, it is.

Over the summer, I was working at Macy's. I was alone on the floor; I think the other girl I worked with was at lunch at the time, and a woman came in. She said she hadn't been shopping in like seven years or something like that, and she really heavily relied on my help and advice in picking things out and deciding what looked good. It was really obvious that she was a very nice, sweet woman, and I think she assumed that I was fashionable because I worked in a retail store. As she was checking out, after like two hours shopping in the tiny, tiny Petites department, she gave me a little pamphlet from her church. She said that once, someone gave one to her and it changed her life for the better, and she wanted to give one to me so I could at least have the option to learn about it if I wanted it.

I do not mind people like that in the slightest. In fact, I love people like that, because I knew that she was being 100% sincere with me. She was not trying to shove her beliefs down my throat, she legitimately wanted to share something that had improved her life in the hopes that it would improve other people's lives as well. I feel like she was a perfect example of how religious people should be. She didn't try to sell me on it, she didn't try to make me feel stupid or inferior for not subscribing to her particular brand of Protestantism. It was a very simple delivery, but it's stuck with me because of her obvious sincerity. If everyone felt about their religion the way this woman obviously felt about hers, I feel like Christianity would not have the terrible reputation it currently has.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Ins and Outs of Being a Tech Writer

I was in the process of writing a nice post about Christmas, and then something obnoxious and work-related happened.

As I've expressed previously, I really like my job. It's easy and convenient. I work from home, I work whatever hours I want to, and the pay is like three times what I was making at Macy's. So, I mean, it's a really good job, and I am grateful that I have it.

That does not mean, however, that it's not insanely annoying at times.

I'm a technical writer. I write scripts for software training videos that get sold to various companies who are changing or upgrading their software and want their employees to be able to say that they've been trained in whatever software. I started out writing for Excel, and it was fine. Recently, though, we've switched to SharePoint. SharePoint is an online shared server kind of a deal. A company buys a SharePoint server, and then everyone in the company can add document libraries and image galleries and do all kinds of collaborative work. I can definitely see how a SharePoint server would be extremely helpful to a company that wants their employees to collaborate and for all the important resources to be available in a central location. It's a good product, and I'm sure there's a hell of a market for it.

Writing for it is terrible. You see, I write at least ten scripts a week. Each writer is required to do at least five, I try to do at least ten because I get paid per produced script and Lord knows Nate and I could use the money.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge there are only three editors. Three editors to edit everything, and the company I work for produces videos for several different kinds of software concurrently. As a result, sometimes it takes them a while to get to scripts that I've written. This was not a problem with Excel.

It's kind of a problem with SharePoint, and I'll tell you why. SharePoint is user-driven. Anyone working on the project has access to our demo site and everyone has the ability to change anything they want. So if I write something, and it doesn't get looked at for two weeks, the site could be completely different from the one I wrote about.

I've had to write a single script three times now for that exact reason. Someone added something to the page I was describing after I wrote the script, so I didn't see it, but it was there when it was edited. So I had to re-write the script to add that feature to it. Then, by the time it made it through editing again, that feature had been deleted. So I had to go in and take that part out. And it would have been fine the first time if the editors were looking at the scripts in some kind of a timely manner, but they aren't.

What really gets me, though, is that if an author is given revisions from an editor, the project manager wants them done within twenty-four hours. I cannot tell you the number of times I've revised a script the day the editor looked at it, sometimes within the hour that the editor finished with it, and then it sat there for five days before anyone looked at it again.

Again, I'm glad that I have this job. It's a job that I honestly enjoy, which is weird. I like that I can be productive and contribute to a project, but sometimes it makes me nuts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Prostitution is a Good Idea, and Polygamy Is Not

Now, I'd like to take a moment and discuss one of the more asinine political beliefs I've been exposed to. I'm not going to stand here and say that this particular belief has any sort of following, but there is a certain person in my life whom I love dearly, but who has some of the wackier political opinions I've come across. This person tried to sell me on this ideal something like three years ago. It has stuck in my brain, and I think about it far more than is probably necessary.

Once upon a time, I expressed the feeling that prostitution should be legalized in the United States so it could be regulated and taxed. I feel like prostitution is going to happen anyway, and at least some of the exploitation that goes on could be reduced if there was some kind of agency to pop in every once in a while and make sure everyone's consensual and disease-free. It wouldn't completely eradicate exploitation of minors or human trafficking, but I feel like it would probably help. But we're not here to talk about me and my progressive social ideals. 

Upon expressing this opinion, I was informed that the solution to the prostitution in our society is ....wait for it... polygamy. 

Now, this might maybe in some way make sense if people became prostitutes as a substitute for a marriage-like relationship, or because they didn't have a man to take care of them, but neither of those explanations make any sense. This idea first makes the assumption that all prostitutes are heterosexual women. It next makes the assumption that no prostitutes are married. It thirdly makes the assumption that people prostitute themselves to feel an emotional connection with the people they're having sex with. Finally, it makes the assumption that everyone who prostitutes themselves does so because they want to. None of these are the case. 

In France, a developed country much like the United States, prostitution is legal. It is not uncommon for a woman facing a brief financial crisis to go out and hook for a few nights, make some quick cash, and return to her regular life. Her regular life that often includes a husband and children. Clearly, it is not a lack of marital attachment that motivates these women to prostitute themselves. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say it's probably the money.

I probably don't have to tell you that hearing this opinion voiced completely boggled my mind. It still boggles my mind. I have no idea what sort of education and life experiences would lead a person to believe that legalizing polygamy (which, by the way, is more illegal in the US than prostitution is. Prostitution at least has Nevada) would eradicate prostitution. 

Assuming that everyone is entering into these polygamous relationships of their own free will, I don't really see polygamy having any effect on the number of prostitutes in this country. If people are being forced into polygamous relationships and locked in a compound, then yes, I suppose I can see that. What I don't see is how that's any sort of improvement at all. As far as I'm concerned, both situations are equally degrading and frankly, I'd take the one that pays. 

Prostitution and polygamy have co-existed in cultures for thousands of years. The ancient Hebrews were all about polygamy, but there were also multiple times when the Lord called people out for consorting with harlots. In modern Saudi Arabia, a man can have up to four wives, but the US State Department specifically called out Saudi Arabia as a destination country for both men and women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. In summation, polygamy is totally legal, and prostitution is a major crime, but both manage to co-exist in the same society. I suspect that the person who came up with the theory I've been discussing would say that it's because they're Muslim and they're not doing polygamy right.

Quite honestly, I think the Muslim way of polygamy is one of the better ones. The husband is required to treat each wife equally, to the point that if he has sex once with one wife, he has to have sex once with all the other ones so they're all on the same page. I would find that way more trouble than it could possibly be worth, but different strokes for different folks. If you want four mortgages, by all means. 

But what you don't end up with is one guy with twenty-seven wives that he has no way of taking care of and some that he favors over others. I mean, so these women are married. Big friggin' deal. That doesn't mean that all of a sudden they have adequate income. That doesn't mean that the husband has the means to shelter these women. That doesn't mean that some of these women won't be exploited for sex in return for economic security from their husband. That doesn't mean that any children who are born into this union will feel loved or secure. I'm a little bit at a loss as to what problems polygamy could possibly solve, actually. 

Polygamy makes sense in societies where women are property. It doesn't make sense anywhere else. If the idea is that the more women you have, the more powerful and prestigious you become, then I suppose I understand (although it disgusts me). It doesn't make economic sense, it doesn't make genetic sense (hello, inbreeding), it doesn't make legal sense. The divorce rate in the United States is already absurdly high. Is throwing another woman into the mix really going to improve matters? I'm inclined to think that adding a third person to a marriage would make it less stable, not more. If the appeal for polygamy is purely sexual, I hardly think it would be worth the trade. You would become saddled with a whole new set of financial issues, emotional issues, interpersonal issues, and the only benefit would be sex. For God's sake, just buy a copy of the Karma Sutra and spice things up a little bit. It'll save money in the long run, I promise. 

It baffles me, as the person who posited this theory is a woman. I really don't see how having another woman in my relationship with my husband would be anything but damaging. I would find it absolutely demeaning and degrading. It upsets me just to think about it. I would much rather Nate go out and hire a hooker than decide to marry an additional woman. I would be way less hurt and offended.

Although, and this brings me to my final point, I don't really understand the connection between prostitution and polygamy. To my knowledge, there's not a correlation. It's true that there may not have been prostitutes among the early Mormon settlers, but I suspect that would have less to do with the fact that everyone was polygamous and more to do with the fact that everyone was Mormon. According to my research, the first brothels in Utah opened in 1858, a mere eleven years after the Utah Valley was settled, when Mormon polygamy was still going strong. I don't understand how or why polygamy would "solve" prostitution. I don't get where that mental leap would come from. It's been years, so I don't recall the justification (although to be honest, it might have just been "Yes it would!"), but I think about this a lot and I'm not really coming up with anything. 

Yet More Books

Once upon a time, I really wanted to be a novelist. Somehow, I don't really see that happening. I don't really know what changed, but when I was younger, I had all sorts of ideas. Very nearly all of those ideas were terrible and ignorant and completely unpublishable, but I had them. That doesn't really seem to be the case for me anymore. I'm not even getting terrible ideas anymore.

I've always had some trouble getting into contemporary fiction. It's easier for me if it's fantasy, but I feel like there's not a lot that's been written recently that I can really sink my teeth into. I love a good story, and I feel like a lot of books aren't as much about the story as I wish they were.

A year or two ago, I purchased a book entitled The Book of Lost Things. I bought it because the cover art was neat. I have no problem admitting that if I'm just browsing at a bookstore without anything specific in mind, how the cover looks is a big draw for me. But I digress. For the most part, it was a good book. It dealt heavily with fairy tale mythos, which I love. I really enjoy it when someone can take a really classic story and give it a good twist. I had two problems with it. The first was that a good fifty percent of the book was author's notes and discussion questions and things like that, as opposed to the actual story. The second was that the story didn't really have an ending. I mean, it ended, but it was the kind of Roald Dahl BFG ending that I find hugely dissatisfying. It's fine if it's Roald Dahl, because that was kind of his thing. But when it's a novel, I think it's kind of lazy.

There have, however, been a few contemporary novels I've read in the past few years that I think were wonderful. Per my mother's request, I'll explore them now.

The first is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's huge, which I can appreciate in a novel. I read quickly, so if a book doesn't have some meat to it, I get through it too quickly for it to really be satisfying. It's also one of the more well-written and engaging fantasy stories I've read. It's set in England before and during the Napoleanic wars, and it deals with the idea that England used to be rife with magic, and for some reason, it's not anymore. It's a really intriguing blend of historical fiction and fantasy, which isn't a combination I see too terribly often. It could have been terrible. It wasn't.

Secondly is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. There was a great big fuss about it a couple of years ago, and I have to say that in this case, the fuss was fully justified. It takes place in Nazi Germany, so it has a definite historical fiction element to it. There's another element that I'm loathe to call fantasy, but that may be what it is. You see, the entire story is told from the point of view of Death. Not a point of view we as readers generally get a glimpse into (unless you're a Pratchett fan). Apparently it was on the New York Times Children's Best Seller's list, which I find somewhat surprising given the subject matter. It does center around a little girl, but it's such a deep, emotional journey that I doubt I would have understood it when I was younger.

This next one is kind of a guilty pleasure, but I enjoyed Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl immensely. Historical fiction, yet again. I'm sensing a theme. No fantasy elements this time, though. This one's pretty hefty, too, and it could have been crap. There's lots of terrible Tudor-era romance fiction out there, but this one managed to avoid the cheapness that a lot of those stories embrace. What made it such a solid story, I think, was the character development. The story is told from the point of view of Mary Boleyn, and it begins when she's thirteen years old and continues through her twenties. It is no easy feat to portray the changes that occur in anyone during this time, but Gregory managed it not just with Mary, but with the entire cast of characters.

I'm going to wrap this list up with the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Let's start with the fact that he's written over thirty books in this series over the past twenty years, and despite the fact that Pratchett has Alzheimer's, he's still pumping them out. More than that, they're still funny and interesting. Anyone with a computer and a lot of free time can churn out a huge number of books, but that doesn't mean they're any good. I don't love every single book in the series, but I feel like the fact that I've read them all says a lot for how I feel about the series as a whole. Part of it stems from the fact that I love some good satire, and the Discworld books are some of the most enjoyable satire I've read. They're written in such a fun and whimsical way, but the characters and their struggles are relatable, and you feel for them. Or, at least, I do.

There are probably more books, but these are the ones that are stuck in my psyche.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Good and Bad of Books

I'm a big fan of Alice in Wonderland. Not any of the movies, so much, but the book. I recently read an article about how Alice in Wonderland is based on not a terrifying drug trip, but the idea of a world where the universe followed the laws of theoretical mathematics. The example used was something to the effect of "If I have three apples, and then I get two more apples, I have five apples." But having the square root of negative one apples doesn't make any sense, and if those mathematical laws were tangible, the world we live in would be a lot different.

Quite frankly, that makes me respect Lewis Carrol, aka Reverend Charles Dodgeson, a whole lot more. It's super original and awesome in a delightfully nerdy way. Anyone who's ever had a bad trip could write a book about the wild hallucinations they had. It takes a whole lot more to write a children's story about theoretical mathematics made flesh.

I love reading. I read really quickly, so I'm constantly having to find new things to read. At this point in my life, I've done quite a bit of it, and as such, I've found quite a lot that is not as good as it claims to be.

First, Chuck Palahniuk. I know everybody on earth craps their pants over the stuff he writes because it's oh-so-groundbreaking, but I have yet to read a novel of his that I can stand. Here's the thing about Chuck Palahnuik. His books present a very limited view of humanity: Society sucks, being alive sucks, everyone in the world will let you down and the only way to break free is to do illegal, unethical, or morally questionable things with morally questionable people, who will later screw you over, because everyone does.

It's not even that his books are depressing. Lots of books are depressing and still excellent. It's that he only has one note to hit, and he tries so hard to be innovative and shocking, and really, it's nothing new.

Next, Neil Gaiman. My critique of Mr Gaiman is similar to that of Mr Palahnuik: He only has one thing to say. Oh, he tells different stories, but they all carry the same depressing, tired-out theme. I feel like he thinks he's a way better writer than he actually is, but he's just beating that same dead horse. He rides on his cult following because he knows he can publish any schlock he wants and people will buy it and praise it as the second coming of Christ (except not really, because believing in God is lame). Stardust is one of the few stories I've come across where the movie was significantly better than the book. I wanted to like Neil Gaiman. I really did. It is hard to find good contemporary fantasy fiction, and I hoped Neil Gaiman would be the one to deliver, but he wasn't.

Those godforsaken Hunger Games books. Here's another series that everyone in the world is crapping their pants over, and I just don't get it. I read them a few weeks ago, and I just don't understand what is so compelling about these stories. A bunch of teenagers trying to kill each other for no good reason. Oh, joy. We get to read this again, just like every other teen novel to come out in the last decade or so that wasn't vampire related. Now, I get that the author is trying to speak out against senseless violence and totalitarian government regimes and hooray freedom and all that jazz, and I suppose that's commendable, but still. Those books are solidly average. They are not revolutionary, as some people claim. Nor are they life-changing. There is nothing in these books that has not been said before, hundreds of times. So I guess what annoys me about them is that I am being asked to believe that these books are something special, something extraordinary, and they just aren't.

Now, I understand that I am limited by my personal taste and perspective, and most people don't feel the way that I do. But I'm discovering that it's very difficult for me to find decent contemporary fiction of any kind. Or non-contemporary fiction, even. I read Lady Chatterly's Lover a few months ago, and Good Lord, was it ever awful.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

On A Related Note

In a similar vein of another one of my recent entries, I'd now like to discuss the inanity of the mindset that many members of my peer group seem to espouse. 

Living in Provo, Utah, is interesting and terrible for many reasons. Many of those reasons make both lists. For starters, the concept of safe driving is completely beyond many of the residents of this town. Every time Nate and I attempt to go anywhere outside of walking distance, we fear for our lives. 

Provo is also full of people. Far too many people. There are way too many people living in this city than the city can actually accommodate. Housing is a concern for many people. Parking is a concern for even more people. Last week, someone parked their gaudy teal pick-up in our parking spot. Our parking spot with our apartment number on it. And they left it there for more than three hours. 

Provo being full of people makes living here difficult enough. It does not help that many of those people are jerks. 

A hefty portion of BYU students have never been outside of Utah for any extended period of time, and as such, they were made victim of the terrifying Utah brainwashing that does not seem to occur anywhere else. 

Last week, a good friend of mine was sitting in church. She's single, so she goes to church with a bunch of single people (the BYU administration is really adamant about segregating the single people from the non-single people, in the hopes that the single people will pair off and get married). Their lesson that week? 

Attracting a man. 

You heard me right. A meeting with supposed religious significance was devoted to "dating in Mormon culture." Because, as we all know, dating is a commandment, and if you don't date and get married right now, you will burn in hell forever. One of the pieces of schlock presented as legitimate advice given at this meeting was to "learn about a guy's favorite sport's team."

Firstly, that makes you seem like a stalker freak. Secondly, some women have no interest in sports. Why would you want to be married to someone whose interest differ so greatly from yours? A good 80% of the men on this campus salivate over BYU football. I could never be married to someone like that.

I feel like the implication is that getting married is more important than getting married to somebody you like. 

I'd like to share a story. When I was fifteen years old, too young to date by LDS standards, I was at a church activity. It was a joint activity, meaning that both young men and young women were present. We were playing volleyball, or some other lazy activity like that. 

I was walking across the room when one of the leaders for the Young Men's organization, a grown man in his forties, flagged me down. He pulled me aside and proceeded to tell me, without, to my knowledge, any provocation, that boys wouldn't want to date me. He said that they were "intimidated by someone who is smart (awkward pause) and beautiful." The implication was that I should become less smart and less pretty immediately if I was to have any hope of catching a man at the ripe old age of fifteen. 

Again, I take several issues with this. 

1. I didn't really know this guy. He didn't really know me. Until this time, we had never spoken one-on-one before. 
2. I was fifteen, so by his own standards, I shouldn't have been dating anyway. 
3. I feel like it was a completely inappropriate exchange for anyone to have with anyone, much less a middle aged man with a teenager.
4. Why was he so concerned about whether I'm dating or not? It seemed to me that the people who needed to be concerned about my love life were myself, maybe my parents, and maybe some close friends. This man did not fall into any of those categories, and was therefore completely unqualified to give me any advice whatsoever on that topic. Especially such disgusting advice. 
5. Why in the WORLD would I want to date someone who didn't like my brain and looks the way they are? Even at fifteen, my self-esteem was not that low. Even then, I would have rather been single than have to live a farce for the sake of impressing an idiot boy. 

Again, here people are making having a relationship, any relationship, even if it's terrible, the most desirable option. Being single under any circumstances is supposed to be way worse than any relationship you could possibly be in. I was supposed to dumb down and ugly up (really? Really? I'm supposed to believe that guys don't like pretty girls?) and pretend to like sports, and that doing so would land me the man of my dreams. 

Well, I did none of that. I didn't even flirt with anyone. I had no intention of getting married before twenty-five. I made friends with many different guys and I still ended up getting married ridiculously young to someone who -SHOCK- isn't into sports, thinks I am "refreshingly opinionated," and finds me very attractive, thank you. 

I am really very concerned for a lot of these girls who honestly believe that catching a man and spewing out as many babies as they can is the only thing that they're living for. The rate for civil divorce among Mormons is no better than the divorce rate for the US as a whole, so for all the claims that the LDS people knows the secret to an eternal marriage, they clearly don't know better than anyone else. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mustache Madness

Brigham Young University as an institution is ridiculous. It is ridiculous for several reasons, those reasons being everything about it that isn't the classes. The website is awful. The administration is incredibly inefficient. The honor code is hilarious.

There are certain things about the honor code that are just fine. If you don't want your students to be plagiarizing their papers or showing up for class in tassels and a thong, that's perfectly acceptable and I take no issue with it. One of the major things I take issue with is their attempt to bar people from doing things that are none of their business. I feel like if they had rules against drinking or having sex on campus or in campus housing, that's fine. I also feel like if a non-LDS student goes home for Christmas and has a glass of wine, it's none of BYU's business. It does not affect BYU in any way (other than the "character of our students!" argument, but really, that's too subjective to be effective).

Even more obnoxious, however, is BYU's policy for facial hair. Facial hair is allowed, but only if it's restricted to the area above the lips. Yes, you heard me correctly. Mustaches are the only acceptable forms of facial hair on BYU campus.

To clarify even further:

This is not allowed:

This is:

This is not allowed:

This is:

This is not allowed.

This is:

How is it that no one saw the problem with this? I know that BYU fancies itself above all the worldly crap and crap, and that the people who enforce these policies really believe that mustaches are the only tidy, socially acceptable forms of facial hair out there today. But, BYU, I ask you this: Do you know what having a mustache means in American society today?

It means:
1. You are a pervert.
2. You are a porn star.
3. You are hilariously out of touch with today's fashion, because the only people who have mustaches nowadays are perverts and porn stars.

Ask anyone.


I think, on a technical level, I qualify as a religious person. I do a lot of things that religious people tend to do. Many of them I enjoy doing. That being said, I really, really dislike religious people. Some of it is probably resentment. Some people have this relationship with God, and they seem really very sure that whatever Lord they're in contact with is their buddy. I've never felt that way. I've always kind of felt like, in some ways, God is kind of a douche, and we have a hard time getting along.

Like, take this gay thing for example. I sort of take issue with the fact that God would make someone homosexual and then tell them that the only way to not burn in hell is rely on the Church for help. Religious people (not just LDS people, but generally speaking, they aren't in any way an exception) hate gay people. Does that not seem like a problem to anyone else? First people are asked to accept that an integral part of who they are is in direct opposition to the person who created them, and then they're told that the only way to reconcile themselves to said creator is to align themselves with people who, for the most part, will never accept them.

Now let's talk about sexism. I was ready to believe that God isn't a giant misogynist before I went to the temple, and that it was everyone else's fault for being giant misogynists and then claiming it was God's idea. Turns out it really was God's idea. I was under the impression that you're supposed to like God more after going to the temple, but I like him a lot less now than I used to.

But I feel like I'm screwed either way. I feel like God is God, and thus, he can probably make whatever rules he wants, but he also happens to be a gay-hating misogynist. So I can either fall in line or burn in hell, and I have to say, it's kind of a Sophie's Choice situation.

The Problem With Bally's Business Model

Over the summer, my friend and I decided to purchase a gym membership. Both of us wanted to lose a few pounds, and everyone kept going on about this "exercise" thing that's supposed to be really good for that. We ended up with a coupon for a free month at Bally's, and after much research into local gyms, it looked like Bally's would end up being the least expensive and least annoying way to go. We both knew that we wouldn't be keeping the memberships for more than three months. I was getting married at the end of the summer and she had to go back to school. We went to the gym, presented our coupon, and explained the situation.
The first red flag was that the manager of this gym, despite wearing track pants and a t-shirt to try to sell the image, was clearly not as big a fan of working out as he was of delicious, delicious butter. And, much like the butter he so adored, he was kind of oily, in both a figurative and literal sense. But we explained that we only wanted our memberships for a few months, and we didn't want to sign up if canceling was going to be any kind of an issue. He assured us that it wouldn't be, and he told us he would apply our coupons to the last month of our membership, so we signed up. In retrospect, we should have recorded that conversation, because it was a flat-out lie.
Fast forward a couple of months. We went to the gym a couple of times a week. We did cardio, we sat in the steam room, we swam in the pool, and all was well. We had interesting encounters with a woman who walked around nude in the locker room who was inexplicably there every time we were. And she was always naked or in the process of becoming naked, smiling at us because she knew we knew. And lest anyone get too excited, she was at least in her fifties and her boobs were practically brushing the floor. I was not aware that a women's locker room was the same thing as a European beach. But I digress.
We continued to go to the gym. About a month before I was set to move, I called into the Bally's call system to cancel my membership. I explained that I would be moving to an area with no Bally's, this would be my last month, and I didn't want to get charged for it, per the coupon I presented at the time of sign-up. I was then informed that I needed to write a letter to an address in California to cancel my membership, and that their computer system would not allow them to not charge me for the upcoming month.
There are a couple of things that I find questionable about this.
The first: I have a hard time believing that there is literally no way for anyone in the company to override a computer program.
The second: The Bally's Cancellation service doesn't have an e-mail address or telephone number? They only have a PO box? Unless the Bally's Corporation is being run out of somebody's basement and his mom doesn't want him running up the phone bill, I find that absolutely ridiculous.
So, I did what any American citizen would do when put in that situation. I yelled. Well, that's not entirely true. I started out reasonable. But when the guy I was talking to told me to call the gym to cancel my membership, and the guy at the gym said I needed to call the phone service. So, I called the phone service and tried again. I was again told that I needed to write to this probably fictitious PO box. It was at this point that the yelling began. At the finish, I didn't have to write to the alleged PO box to cancel my membership. They were able to do it from the call center, which is suspicious enough. However, they did still charge me for that last month. And, mysteriously, the next day, there was an unauthorized charge to my credit card. Want to know the only other people who had the information for that card? Bally's.

Here's why I think Bally's is not conducting business the way they should. Had they just cancelled my membership like any normal organization would, it's true, they would have lost the twenty bucks they charged me for that month. However, I would consider going with Bally's the next time I feel the need to join a gym, and they'd make that money back, plus some. As it stands, I am never going back to them, because they only respect you as long as you're paying them to.