Friday, December 11, 2009

Writer's block and wayward analogies involving overflowing toilets [Connor]

I’ve come to despise writer’s block. You may notice my blogging has been lagging behind a little lately; my blogs are fewer and farther between. It’s not that I have nothing to write about, or that I have no time to write; in contrast, I’ve considered dozens of topics, and I have more free time now then I’ve had since August. I simply start writing something and find that, after a paragraph or two, my writing fizzles out like a. . . like. . . see? Further evidence of the onset of writer’s block. I should have been able to come up with a snappy, witty comparison involving an overflowing toilet, a Democratic senator, and a couple of chimpanzees, or something.

After five or six different attempts at blogs on topics ranging from my angst with Christmas political correctness, to the idiocy of Edward Cullen as the “perfect man,” to the book I’m reading which compares, among other things, real estate agents to the Ku Klux Klan.* Nothing clicked. They all just fizzled out like (insert witty comparison involving an overflowing toilet, a Democratic senator, and a couple of chimpanzees here).

So I decided to write on writer’s block. I mean, it’s only logical that I write about the reason I can’t write, right?

There’s a lot of topics I plan to cover as soon as I can plunge the clogged toilet of writer’s block.* In the meantime, stay tuned.

*It’s really quite a logical comparison, provided you have the proper amount of hallucinogens in your bloodstream. No, seriously, it makes sense. The book is called Freakonomics, should feel any curiosity as to exactly how the comparison works.

**I promise I’ll cut down on the mentions of clogged toilets.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Between Bauer, Bourne, Bond, and Norris: Who would win? [Ryan]

There is a question that has been bugging me. Sometimes, in a moment of deep contemplation (or the brain stupor that comes from watching an entire season of 24 in two sittings), I ask myself the same question that Confucius or Aristotle often asked themselves:

“Who would win in a fight between Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, James Bond,* or Chuck Norris?”

(Confucius, for the record, put his money on James Bond, which places some doubt upon any further wisdom we may encounter from him. I mean, we all know Confucius was basing his judgment on the Pierce Brosnan version of the character.)

The greatest scientific and philosophical minds of history have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. All four men are rough, tough, and, by all appearances, able to survive anything, including nuclear detonation and exposure to anything by Lady Gaga. Let us, for a moment, examine each candidate** in turn to analyze his strengths:


Jack Bauer: According to, he has 227 on-screen kills to date. He’s even ripped out a guy’s jugular with his teeth. He has the uncanny ability to heal from any wound within several hours; I suspect he shoots himself in the foot every night before he goes to bed just to acclimate himself to a little pain.

Jason Bourne: If you tick him off, he will come for you, he will hunt you down, and he will kill you. He’s one of those people who can kill you with a pretzel if they want to.***

James Bond: He’s always had the ability to woo any woman he breathed his martini-scented breath on, but in his last incarnation he acquired some pretty mean fighting skills that didn’t require gadgets such as invisible cars, flame-throwing bagpipes, or magnetic grappling hooks that shot from his suspenders. He has also survived a particularly painful interrogation that makes it a wonder he is still capable of pursuing women (see Casino Royale).

Chuck Norris: We’ve all heard the facts: Chuck Norris does not sleep; he waits. Chuck Norris is the reason Waldo is hiding. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard; there is only another fist. Apparently, he is not only indestructible, but he is also omnipotent, omnipresent, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. At least Superman was killed eventually.


In deciding who would win in fight between the above-mentioned action heroes, we must consider the fact that none of them has ever truly lost a fight. True, Jack Bauer has been captured by terrorists and interrogated, but he has always escaped. Jason Bourne was shot in the back and dumped into the ocean, but he survived. We already mentioned James Bond’s horrific torture in Casino Royale. And Walker, Texas Ranger is no longer running, so we can count that as a relative demise for Chuck Norris.

But they always get back on their feet and rip out some more jugular veins.

So we must ask ourselves: in such a contest, would there be a victor? Could any of them actually lose, or would their battle continue forever, like the struggle between good and evil, or Cher’s career? Or would such unstoppable forces clashing against immovable objects create an explosion of energy that would eradicate life as we know it?

I conclude that because none of them can lose, none of them can actually win. Let’s allow them to stick to fighting nuke-wielding terrorists, clandestine operatives, greedy billionaire industrialists, and drug-dealing space aliens, or whatever the heck is it that Chuck Norris fights.

* Has anybody else ever noticed that these guys all that same initials? Does that mean that if I were to change my name to Jordan Brick, I would suddenly be endowed with the ability to take out all of Al-Qaeda with nothing but a stapler?

** Honorable mentions include Liam Neeson’s character from Taken, who possesses all the indestructibility and potential to kill a dozen guys with his bare hands as the others but lacks originality; and Han Solo, who is still going strong and running parsecs around the bad guys in the Star Wars books, despite the approach of his seventieth birthday.

*** Yeah. One of those people.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Twenty-four contestants. Four competitions. One victor. [Connor]

Twenty-four contestants*. Four competitions. One victor.

This is the saga of Mr. RHS.

For those who don’t attend Rigby High School, Mr. RHS is a yearly spoof of Junior Miss in which guys from our school compete in four divisions: Clubwear, Fitness, Talent, and Sensitivity. The objective is to determine which contestant can get the most members of his family to deny any relation to him. Technically, of course, the point is to display the best talent, exhibit the best fitness, etc., but we all know the truth.

Following the tradition set by the Junior Miss program of practicing and preparing exhaustively for every event, we began an arduous practice program nearly a week before the pageant. Many of the intensive practices lasted over a half hour. We began by practicing the fitness routine; essentially, a dance routine incorporating pushups, sit-ups, and other exercises. The dance itself was extremely physically strenuous, requiring the utmost fitness to compete. For the pushups, for example, we did three. The girls on the school dance team would show us the dance and then coach us through it, step by step. Afterward, we would try to imitate the girls. How did we do? Picture a duck trying out for American Idol.

The Clubwear event consisted of all of us dressed to represent an organization or interest that we represent**. I was Mr. Couch Potato, dressed in pajamas, a large T-shirt with a pillow stuffed inside to serve as a belly, sitting in an armchair with a bag of potato chips and eating them off my chest. (At one point, a girl asked me if I was Mr. Pregnant.) Other Clubwear contestants included Mr. Wrestling, who wore a spandex suit; Mr. Warcraft, who wore cardboard armor; and Mr. River Guide, who wore an actual kayak and was pushed onstage by a girl from the dance team. (Needless to say, he won that division. I bet the girl slashed his tires.)

The competition heated up in the Fitness portion of the contest. We separated into groups of five and displayed our dancing skills for the world to laugh at. Several of the groups, realizing that mere dancing would not pull through to a victory, added to the dance or took it in a new direction***, figuratively speaking. In defense of my group, our idea of tearing off six progressive layers of Velcro-ed clothing worked great in practice. (Important note: we did, in fact, plan to keep on the final layer, which was entirely modest and covering, except in the case of my friend who wore a Strawberry Shortcake shirt that reached down to his sternum and boxer shorts that spelled I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY SHORTS across the rear.) During the actual performance, however, the outer layer decided to grab the other layers of clothing and hold on for dear life. The result was that instead of a group of guys ripping off their shorts in unison and throwing them coolly into the audience, who would fight amongst themselves to grab them and keep them as a souvenir, what the audience got was a group of five guys bending over, wrestling madly with their shorts and toppling over, still grappling to pull off a good twenty pounds of excess clothing, as the song continued without them. My group placed undisputedly last in that competition.

The talents were generally pretty good. The title of the winning talent was “Singing in the Shower.” Other talents included a comedy routine, which included a joke implying that Hillary Clinton is a fair trade for a chihuahua, the Napoleon Dynamite dance, and two guys performing an interpretive dance to the hit song “Kryptonite,” by 3 Doors Down.

The goal of the final competition, Mr. Sensitivity, is to prove yourself as the sweetest, most sensitive of the contestants, or at least to deceive the judges to think you are. Numerous mothers, grandmothers, and girlfriends were called up to the stage, told how much they meant to the contestant, read poems, given hugs, chocolates, roses, Ferraris, etc. My eight-year-old brother Quinnie won this event. Ok, technically I won it, but take into account that I didn’t speak a word, or even put in any effort aside from smiling. Quinnie, the most sincere and sensitive person you’ll ever meet, had written the following:

“My brother is sensitive because he plays Legos with me. Sometimes, when there are bees in the clubhouse, he goes in first, so they get him instead of me. He likes small animals. He also took my mom on a date for her birthday.”

Eight-year-olds reading stuff like this aloud to a tearful audience have a special place in judges’ hearts, it seems.

Remember to follow my blog!

*Give or take the ones I forgot to count or counted twice.
**A message from the department of redundancy department.
***Of course, many of us were already dancing in completely different directions, but that had nothing to do with planning.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The triathlon [Ryan, with Connor's observations]

Here’s my take on our recent triathlon. Connor’s observations are in bold.

Three months ago, my aunt Jessica approached me with a proposition. There was a triathlon coming up, she said, and she wanted me to do it with her, Connor, and my cousin Zack.

You know that feeling that comes when someone asks you if you want to ride a pterodactyl through a ring of fire? No? I’m surprised. But it felt a bit like that — you just want to laugh at their nerve.

A triathlon? Me? You’re dreaming. Besides, I never give into peer pressure.

Good thing she didn’t offer me crack or something.

Three days a week, I ran. My training regimen was fairly consistent. Unfortunately, I never swam. I never biked until the night before the triathlon.

That night, my brother and the rest of my family brought our rented racing bikes from Idaho. I couldn’t immediately tell what set them apart from normal racing bikes. Apparently, they had skinnier tires, which reduced the risk of hazards like staying balanced during turns.

Triathlon bikes are basically cars without the safety features. Almost as fast, but without the seat belts, air bags, padded seats, and the actual car, which is your main line of defense when running into, for example, a brick wall. In a car, you at least have several feet of metal, engine, dashboard, and airbag to cushion you. In a bike, you have . . . nothing! This isn’t really a problem with regular bikes, but triathlon bikes are deadly. These bikes are built for speed, weighing about the same as a half-drank can of Sprite and sporting tires sold in sizes almost as small as bullet diameters.

I strapped on my helmet and took the bike for a test spin. Five minutes later, I limped into the house with a throbbing hand, a jagged tear in my jeans, and pride that couldn’t have been more injured if I had been mugged by one of the costumed Disney Princesses at Disneyland.

Who injures himself the night before the triathlon? I put ice on my swelling hand, scraped my mutilated pride off the asphalt, and prepared for the morrow.

The next morning, we gazed around at the masses of people, who ranged from inexplicably fit — these are the spandex-clad android replicants making their way among humankind in preparation for the final invasion — to people I was sure I could beat.*

Triathlon people (or “triathletes,” as they’re called) believe spandex is a reasonable substitute for actual clothing. Let me be frank: that is incorrect. I do not wish to elaborate anymore on this topic. Suffice to say that when the biker in front of you is leaned forward to be aerodynamic, exposing only one part of their anatomy to your view, you will agree with me.

When the gun went off, 500 triathletes ran toward destiny, or at least the general direction of the finish line. My injured hand wasn’t yet bothering me, so I took it as a good omen. When the run ended, my spirits were still high.

Those high spirits dissipated some time in the middle of the bike segment, when I realized that with my injured hand, I couldn’t use my back brakes or half my shifting capabilities. This proved particularly terrifying when descending and climbing hills. During the former, I nursed my front brakes gingerly; during the latter, I was forced to climb without my gears.

At one point, the race required us to ride in one lane on a public street in downtown Orem, while traffic traveling the same direction would use the adjacent lane. During this part of the race, I looked to my side and noticed two things: first, I was racing a Chevy truck.** And second, I was winning. During the downhill parts, we were expected to ride at approximately 175 miles per hour, or at least fast enough to make our handlebar-mounted speedometers catch fire. The experienced bikers were doing about twice that speed.

It sounds more fun than it was.

The swimming part was the hardest. Though the swim was less than a mile, my one-armed stroke left something to be desired. Imagine a mentally-challenged dolphin with one good fin trying to flop through the water, and then throw in dozens of other dolphins crowding the lane, their churning fins hammering the poor retarded dolphin as if it was all some lawless water polo tournament. Then the handicapped dolphin is eaten by sharks. That’s only a slight exaggeration. (There were no sharks.)

All triathlons have raffles for free equipment at the end, and it seems that longer the triathlon, the better the prizes. Ours was called a “splash” triathlon, and is the shortest form of triathlon I’m aware of outside the 5 and Under division. Just a 5k run, 10 mile bike ride, and a quarter mile swim. Apparently, at the end of some triathlons, they raffle off expensive running shoes, bike helmets, and even actual $1000+ racing bikes. Not so at our triathlon. The announcer would say, “And for number 399, we have here a brand-new pair of shoelaces!” and some spandex-clad person would wander up to the front and accept the gracious gift with a confused smile. Then the announcer would proceed to raffle off some other potentially useless item, like a water-bottle holder, a bike-helmet chin strap, or something called “yanks,” whose nature we never figured out. When they’re short on funding, they probably raffle off whatever stuff has gone unclaimed for six months in the fitness center Lost and Found box. (“And for number 256, we have this nice pair of like-new men’s briefs!”)

It was actually kind of fun. My hand injury complicated things somewhat, but I still wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.*** Next year, more of the family, inspired by our pioneering examples, plans to join in.

But I’ve written long enough. After all, it’s hard to type with a sprained thumb.

* During the bike phase, half of these people passed me. Nothing is more humbling that getting overtaken by a fifty-year-old woman with thighs the size of dinosaur bones.

** No, this isn't a shot at Chevy, although, for the record, I bet a Toyota would have beaten me.

*** Except maybe gold, jewels, a nicer car, the ability to fly, an authentic Boba Fett costume, or an iPhone.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Isn't technology great? [Ryan]

Before my mission, I had never sent a text message, never poked anyone* via Facebook, and never looked up the Marvel character Deadpool on Wikipedia because I just wanted to know. In fact, I had only a vague idea what Wikipedia was. I didn’t yet own an iPod, and I was still borrowing my mom’s clunky Nokia cell phone with a pull-out antenna. I was also still a fervent acolyte of the PC cult, regarding anything Mac with distrust usually reserved for infomercial salesmen and Ku Klux Klansmen.

After a two-year break from reality, I returned to the technology dimension and found it a different and scary place.

Now I really have no idea where I would be without it all.

Facebook. At its core, it’s a way whereby you can keep in touch with friends old and new. But after spending a few minutes there, it’s clear that it’s much more: Facebook is a way to let everyone, both those who don’t care and those who really don’t care, know which farming implement you most resemble or which Transformers character you and 40 million other people are most like.**

Wikipedia. An online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Sounds like a great idea, right? Despite the obvious possibility of anything of Wikipedia being written by someone’s cat who someone gained control of a keyboard, it is truly a useful tool. Many academics malign Wikipedia for its inherent lack of trustworthiness, but let’s be honest here — if you’re sitting in class, possessed by a sudden desire to learn about anything from African trade routes to the lightsaber, this is the place to go.

(Did you know you can click on “Random article”? Let’s see: “Turkey at the 2006 Winter Olympics” … “1993 Australian Baseball League season” … “2 gauge” … “Dave Ford” … “Hypoiodous acid” … “Stargate” …)

iPod touch. I can sit in the back of Sunday School, ostensibly flicking through my vast collection of Church manuals and scriptures that came with my scriptures app. Actually, I’m playing Hero of Sparta and defeating various denizens of the underworld. Not that I’m really fooling anybody.

Laptop. My Macbook truly is a wonderful thing, despite having been made obsolete several times. I mean, right after I bought mine, Apple came out with the new aluminum Macbook, which carried facial recognition software; the new aluminum Macbook Pro, which was durable enough to withstand a minor nuclear blast; the new larger Macbook Pro, which had battery powerful enough to run Iron Man’s suit for thirty minutes; and the newest Macbook, which is, apparently, so earth-friendly you could actually plant it and expect a tree to grow. ***

Cell phone. I’ve never been an excessive texter, but it’s easy to see how addictive it can be to have a conversation with someone without having to actually open your mouth, put on clothes, or even devote more than fifteen seconds of every minute to the effort.

Isn’t technology grand? I don’t know how I ever survived without it.

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* One of my friends and I are engaged in a poking competition, wherein we poke each other on Facebook. The complex ritual goes like this: one of us will poke the other. When the poked party discovers he or she has been poked, he or she will poke back, after which the original poker retaliates with a new poke. The possibilities are truly endless.

** Most people get Optimus Prime when they take this quiz. As flattering as this may be for you, you’ve got to realize that not everyone really has it takes to be a self-sacrificing giant robot who turns into a semi truck. Somebody’s got to be Ratchet or Ironhide.

*** I want to know what would grow on this tree. Smaller Macbooks? iPods?

Monday, October 19, 2009

My very first hate mail- I feel so proud. [Connor]

One of my friends' Facebook' account recently got hacked. The hackee (I assume) wrote an angry status report in which they shouted at the hacker and called them (I'm not making this up) "a tire-kissing bum." Needless to say, I had to comment on their choice of words. I mean, really. Is that the best they could come up with? It was meant in harmless fun, of course. This is the response I got. The hackee is a pretty nice person, so I assume it's from the hacker:

Oh really? My bad. Ya your right- I guess I could have used better vocabulary for you- how about a stuck pig? Ya! Perfect! Your the kind of person who is fed up with yourself and who can't help but make yourself look like a douche bag whatever it is that your trying to do to graduate from girlhood to boyhood, and even more harder for you, manhood. It is also apparent that your too afraid to fight because of the fear of dying with a little blood leak from your body. I'll bet you've never fought for anything in your life, by the way. Plus, with the disease that you have that makes you keep bleeding without your blood clotting, even if something like a chicken does scratch you, you can't do anything about it and a stuck pig is a perfect name for you! (I'd get rid of that chicken if I were you so you don't have to worry about dieing from chicken scratch (ha ha, good one huh?) Might as well because one of those chickens obviously is out to get you if it got into your house in your front door) Are you a fan of make believe gophers that carry a machine gun? What does the word HOPE supposed to mean int that picture? I'm guessing your hoping that gophers take over the world with little machine guns or something to protect you? I mean, really? (It's ok Connor- if your only hope for friends is little gophers that carry little machine guns then good luck,) but really? GET A LIFE

Whew. I need to take a nap after reading that! Let's look back at it for a moment. Ignoring the aspersions cast on my manhood, I'm kind of confused about this blood stuff. What the heck is this about my "fear of dying with a little blood leaking from your body?" Huh? "The disease you have that makes you keep bleeding without your blood clotting?" I honestly had no idea that i suffer from hemophilia. The things you learn from hate mail.

Am I a fan of "make believe gophers that carry a machine gun?" Of course. It's an axiom of teenage guyhood that small woodland creatures carrying assault weapons are cool. On the Coolness Scale, "make believe gophers that carry a machine gun" are only a single level below "microwaving a Cup Of Noodles full of gasoline and watching what happens."

"I'd get rid of that chicken if I were you so you don't have to worry about dieing from chicken scratch (ha ha, good one huh?)" . What? If anybody can shed some light on the humor behind "chicken scratch", I'd appreciate it.

What a lovely response. It truly made my day, what with attempting to insult my manhood and lifetime achievements while simultaneously inferring that I have hemophilia and hope armed gophers take over the world. Also, after reading this upwards of eight times, I THINK that the writer is implying he hopes I get killed by a chicken.

I'm going to print and frame this.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I know [Ryan]

I’m not sure about the purpose of this particular blog entry. I think it’s coming from a number of needs — to prove my own faith to myself, to respond in kind to Elder Holland’s last talk in general conference, or to answer the challenge from various General Authorities to share the gospel over this newfangled thing called the Internet.

I don’t know where this blog is coming from, but I do feel the need to write it.

I encounter a lot of anti-Mormon stuff when I’m at work. It seems someone is always trying to bring the Church down. Sometimes they have understandable concerns, like people who despise the Church because its stance on same-sex marriage, and sometimes they’re just nutjobs, like the guy who wrote in last week saying the Ensign was part of carefully calculated plot by the LDS Church to manipulate the world’s thinking and take over various secular governments.

Sometimes, honestly, it makes me think. Is the Church off-base on gay marriage? What exactly is the deal with blacks and the priesthood? Does unfavorable DNA evidence disprove the Book of Mormon?

I’m slowly coming to an understanding of those and other troubling issues, but my purpose today is not to tackle the things I don’t completely understand. If you want to hear the arguments batted back and forth ad nauseum, go Google them.

But running down every argument will only get so far. There’s always compelling evidence for both sides. An argument based solely on logic can go on forever; logic is based on facts, which are subject to change as new facts are discovered and tested.

Truth, however, comes from somewhere else, and it never changes.

And it’s truth that is important here: It’s not what I don’t know, but what I do know that makes the difference.

Here’s what I know:

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for us to fulfil our eternal potential.

In 1820, Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using divine power granted as a part of his calling as a prophet.

Joseph Smith’s successor continues to exercise that role as prophet.

There are some who would call my reasoning flawed — how could I know these things? How can I so callously dismiss logic and hold everything to the standard of knowledge that can’t possibly be proven?

Call it a leap of faith.

How do we truly know anything? Even the most godless, stoic atheist must accept that what he takes as absolute fact must still be taken with a degree of faith — what is reality? How do we know our conscious interpretations of the world are right? An ancient philosopher once asked, “I had a dream I was butterfly — or was I a butterfly awakening from a dream that I was a man?”

We all have to take the world on faith sometime. Every man has to be backed against that wall and make his stand. Sooner or later, we will have to accept that we cannot truly know anything without the assumption of faith.

This my faith. This is what I know because of it. What I don’t know shrinks in the face of what I do know with the promise that all will be made clear someday.

I’m nothing special, but somehow I got lucky and have been able to develop this knowledge. My words lack thundering rhetoric delivered over a pulpit, but you can be assured that they are not less heartfelt that the speaker of such words.

That's what I know.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Prepare To Puke On the JUMP TO LIGHTSPEED! Coming soon. [Connor]

There’s nothing like a weekend trip to Lagoon to inspire ideas that are impossible to think of anywhere else without the aid of powerful hallucinogens. After spending a day being strapped into giant scary-looking contraptions designed by disturbed mental patients, propelled through the air at ridiculous speeds, dangled upside down while being flung around in circles, and otherwise jerked and thrown around until the vomit you release is intermixed with loose gray matter from your brain, all kinds of crazy ideas start to make sense.

Such is the case with my brilliant idea for a Star Wars-themed amusement park.*

Actually, it kind of makes sense, sort of. I mean, we already have a Disney-themed amusement park, with people roaming around dressed as Disney characters such as Goofy and Mickey Mouse (at least, I assume they’re people dressed as them. Maybe the Disneyland people convinced the actual Mickey Mouse and Goofy to help them out). Would it really be that different if, instead of Goofy wandering around acting, well, goofy, we had a fully armored Boba Fett stalking around, carrying his blaster and staring at small children until they cried?

No more need for creepy carnival ride employees. The ride attendants would all be smartly dressed as stormtroopers and line up in ranks to meet you with a full military salute as you entered the park. Overhead, the speakers would broadcast the voice of Darth Vader reminding you to keep your head, hands, and feet inside the ride at all times. There could be a roller coaster resembling an X-wing and celebrating the destruction of the Death Star by weaving through a giant trench like the one in A New Hope. People watching the ride would be free to pay a quarter to soak you with water out of squirt guns that looked like laser turrets.

Forget Boba Fett, though. Goofy’s place would immediately be taken by the obvious replacement: Jar Jar Binks. Tell me with a straight face that you’ve never noticed an uncanny resemblance between them. Picture a little kid with a balloon clutched in his hand, walking around and peering up at the rides and crowds of people, and suddenly being swept up into a big bear hug by an alien shrieking, “Mesa so happy to see you!”

All of the employees selling admission tickets would be chosen on a basis of being extremely short and would all be dressed as Yoda. They would, of course, be required to mess up their syntax and, for good customer relations, say cheerfully to each customer, “May the Force be with you!”

Park managers would be required to wear cloaks and carry lightsabers on their belt.

The park’s fastest roller coaster would be called “Jump To Lightspeed.” If it encountered a mechanical problem, such as the car being derailed and skidding flaming into the parking lot, it would be referred to as a “hyperdrive malfunction.”

Nightly entertainment would feature bands such as the cantina band from A New Hope** as well as an all-Wookiee a capella group. A guy dressed as Admiral Ackbar would do standup comedy shows.

So you see, it really isn’t that different from a Disney-themed amusement park. What’s weirder, short green aliens with pointed ears or short black cartoon characters with big round ears? Okay, I don’t know either. But I bet Yoda would kick Mickey Mouse’s cartoon-animated rear in a lightsaber duel.

Oh, and let me know if you know of an all-Wookiee a capella group looking for some work.

Remember to become a follower of my blog, and may the Force be with you.

*Correction: It was my mother's idea. Really.
**”Figrin Da’n and the Modal Nodes.” Don’t ask me why I know that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fishing [Ryan]

I don’t get fishing.

It’s not that I’ve never done it; I have many fond memories of sitting, freezing on a boat in the middle of a lake, downing the last of the Cheez ‘n Crackers, as my dad waited for some particularly stupid fish to ignore the mistakes of his predecessors and bite the lure.

And it’s not that I hate it, either; unlike certain activities, like golf, I can see how fishing might be fun: you get to see nature, you get to spend time with the people you love — you know, stuff like that. But I can get those experiences by hiking, or by living with my family in a cabin in the woods filled with pizza and "The Office" DVDs.

Thus, it’s just that I don’t see the point of fishing. True, if tomorrow the world were reduced to a post-apocalyptic landscape and we had to forage for food, fishermen would suddenly be in high demand. But for the modern fisherman, actually eating the fish seems secondary to the apparent joy of sitting for an hour in anticipation of reeling in a fish, watching it wriggle around in the air, then tossing it back into the depths from which it came.

Am I missing something? I imagine it must be weird for the fish, as well. There they are, just going about their menial lives, when they are suddenly whisked into air, subjected to various indignities, and then thrust back home without explanation or apology. I bet that’s what an alien abduction feels like.

Then there’s the environmental factor. Fishermen will brave cold, rain, heat, and sometimes active volcanoes for the chance to dip their line into the water. I remember a time we went to Mexico. My dad, not content to enjoy the beaches or pyramids, took my brothers and me on a six-hour fishing trip in a tiny boat with a guide named Angel or Jorge or something like that. It was a chance for my brothers and me to become men, or at least reasonably adept net-holders for when Dad caught a fish.

Imagine, if your faculties can envision such a scene: there we were, sitting in the searing afternoon heat, honoring the ancient tradition of father/son/Mexican guide bonding time with an equally ancient boat. We couldn’t swim (that would scare the fish). We couldn’t talk loudly (that would also scare the fish). The fish weren’t biting. Jorge Angel stood on the prow of the boat like Columbus entering the Americas, casting his long shadow across the water, but that didn’t scare the fish. I think my dad caught a few fish, but I can’t help but wonder if we were somehow outsmarted by beings with brains the size of Skittles. (My personal theory is that there were very few fish in the first place; most of them were on vacation, checking out the ruins at Chichen Itza or Uxmal.)

I love the outdoors, but I don’t need to be knee-deep in icy water or adrift underneath a scalding sun to enjoy it. If you’re a fisherman (and all of my immediate paternal ancestors are), you go enjoy it. It’s just not for me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The World We Live In, Part I [Connor]

I’ve heard that no writer could invent a world weirder than the one we already live in, nor imagine a species more eccentric than our own. When you look at the evidence, it’s hard not to agree. Case in point: The accompanying picture is of Mr. J. A. G. A. M. C. H. Elessar-Jankov, whose story we will cover momentarily.

The following is an excerpt from a story in the Post Register newspaper:

“A Northern Idaho woman who was skewered by a tree limb during a recreational drive along the Lochsa River earlier this month says she is recovering at home. Michelle Childers, 20, and her husband were driving down a rural road in north-central Idaho on Sept. 5 when a spruce tree crashed through the passenger side window of their pickup truck. Childers, a Kamiah native, said she could feel a strange pressure on her neck and shoulder when her husband, Daniel, a 22- year-old who works in the lumber industry saw the tree limb had impaled her and started to panic. ‘I asked him, “What? Where is it?” Childers said. ‘It’s in your neck,’ her husband answered. “

Hmm. Why is the fact that her husband works for the lumber industry included? Did he draw on that experience to help diagnose her injury? “Honey, I feel a strange pressure in my neck!” “Hold on, I work for the lumber industry! I am experienced in these matters! (examines her neck briefly with a thoughtful expression on his face) It seems you have the limb of a spruce tree going through your neck.”

An online teaching website now offers a course for high-school P.E. credit called “P.E. With the Wii.” Wow. A similar class could be “Rock, Paper, Scissors Your Way to Awesome Biceps.” Or even “Sexy Abs through Foosball.”

The Forest Service in California recently issued a statement warning campers to watch out for marijuana growers posing as campers. The Forest Service included three warning signs for recognizing disguised marijuana growers:

1. They eat tortillas.
2. They drink a certain brand of beer that is popular in Central American countries.
3. They listen to Spanish music.

They withdrew the statement two days later and issued a statement to the effect of “Sorry, we honestly had no idea how racist that sounded.” Given those signs, I’m surprised they list nothing about sombreros. reports the following story:

"According to Norwegian site VG Nett, bus driver Andreas Jankov has formally changed his name to Julius Andreas Gimli Arn MacGyver Chewbacka Highlander Elessar-Jankov. 'I wanted to show that it is possible to be serious and at the same time take the name you like,' said the film enthusiast. 'I wanted to see how far I could take it with respect to the number of names. I started thinking about this three years ago and it was approved in January this year.' Apparently, he's had his passport and bank card reissued, but the name was too long so he dropped 'Highlander.'

Thanks to our commenters, we've been able to break down the name:

- Julius is an homage to the famous chimp at the Kristiansand Zoo
- 'Arn' is a Swedish knight movie
- Elessar and Gimli are from 'Lord of the Rings'
- 'MacGyver', just the greatest Richard Dean Anderson show ever!
- 'Highlander' could refer to either the movie or TV show
- Chewbacka is from 'Star Wars'

So, When/If he gets married will he make his wife take his name?"*

My only question is, who's got the guts to tell the poor guy (who does not look unlike his namesake Wookiee) he misspelled "Chewbacca"? It's almost as bad misspelling your girlfriend's name when you get it tattooed on your chest.

This is the world we live in and the people we live among. Gotta love it. Of course, these are just crumbs out of the cake. I could cite examples of burglars suing homeowners after injuring themselves during a break-in or mention the ‘Miss Beautiful Morals** Pageant’ held in Saudi Arabia (wouldn‘t they all have to be wearing burkhas? How exactly do they pull off THAT pageant?). And just when your faith in, well, sanity and common sense has reached an all-time low, an article found on CNN’s website comes along with this sentence: “South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford made matters worse at home by apologizing for an affair with someone he called his ‘soul mate.’” There’s not much I could say here to make it worse. I bet his wife was thrilled with THAT sincere apology.

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*I don't we should worry too much about that scenario. My money's definitely on the "If."
**I can imagine the viewers' reactions: "Whoa! Get a load of THOSE morals!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I do [Ryan]

I resolved at the very beginning of this blog that it would not be one of those blogs where the readers get a weekly travelogue or life update, like some kind of extended,
useless Facebook status.

(Those usually go something like this: “Hey, everybody, thanks for reading my blog. I just took my dog out for a walk this week, and my sister visited. We went to the movie and it was great. 'Julie and Julia' was good and kept us entertained. Then we ate out at Red Lobster. Stay tuned till next week!” If anything exciting really happens, they writer springs it upon the rest of us as an afterthought, like this: “… kept us entertained. Then we ate out at Red Lobster. One of the live lobsters they keep in the tank had mutated and took control of the restaurant for six hours until a SWAT team arrived.”)

But I think I might break that rule. Two weeks ago, I started my internship at the (LDS) Church Magazines, and people have been asking me exactly what I do. I’m going to assume that most of my audience is LDS, but for those who aren’t, I’m going to briefly give some background:

The Church magazines are monthly publications put out by the LDS Church that include news of the Church, inspiring articles written by Mormons all over the world, and messages from Church leaders. They are headquartered on Temple Square in the Church Office Building.* There are no mutant lobsters anywhere in the vicinity.

So what exactly is it that I do?

I write news. The stuff that goes in the back of the "Liahona" (the international magazine) and the "Ensign" (the English-speaking magazine) is pretty much all me. I spend my time calling the people like the Church’s West Africa public affairs director and writing articles about them.

I have an iMac in my cubicle and a high-tech phone that I really haven’t yet figured out how to use.** I’ve never liked answering phones, for various reasons. First, just about anyone can get a hold of you, which leaves all sorts of amusing possibilities for the kinds of yahoos who might have your number. And I’m not talking about prank calls.*** I also have three X-Wings made out of tape, paper clips, and Post-It notes.

Occasionally I see General Authorities, the leaders of the Church. My fourth day on the job, I ran into Elder L. Tom Perry in an elevator. He said, “Greetings!” and I said, “Hiiiii,” though it really sounded like I was trying to expel a pigeon through my nose. It wasn’t that I was star-struck; I simply was caught off-guard and everything clever I’d ever written in my hypothetical "Things to Say When Caught In An Elevator With a General Authority" book went out the window. I see Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi from time to time; I guess he’s involved with the magazines a lot.

There’s a cafeteria in the basement that serves a basket of chicken and fries for under four dollars. A piano’s off to the side, playing hymns, Broadway songs, and folk tunes. The other day, a girl sat next to me at the table and asked in her heavy accent, “Did you know that the Church is not of man, nor of the Earth, but of God, and that we have a prophet today?”

Trying not to be rude, I said, “Uh … yeah, thanks. I’m already Mormon.”

She seemed slightly disappointed, and left. Maybe she was practicing for her mission. Maybe she was nuts. Maybe she just forgot that she was sitting in the basement of the LDS Church Office Building.

There you have it, folks. That’s what I do.

* The whole Church Office Building experience actually reminds me vaguely of the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter universe.

** These are actually the exact phones used in the TV show "The Office." Really.

*** Semi-related anecdote: A friend of mine recently got a job at a pest control center answering phones. She got a call one morning from a person with the following dire question, which neither she nor I are making up:

“I’ve got pests and I can’t tell if they’re mice or bats. My neighbor says they look pretty much the same. How do I tell the difference?”

I don’t remember what my friend told the caller, but I’m sure I would have referred her to my #1 Bat Vs. Mouse Rule of Thumb:

Check if it’s flying.

Unless you’re dealing with handicapped bats or genetically-altered mice, that rule is pretty much fool-proof. Obviously not idiot-proof, though.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

GI Joe: my review [Connor]

I recently watched the movie GI Joe, and I fully and sincerely recommend it to anybody craving a two-hour long montage of ridiculously overdone computer-generated laser battles, absurdly grandiose secret underground fortresses, and laughably mediocre acting. Combine that with a plot that feels like it was written by the screenwriters’ children during an activity on Take Your Kid to Work Day, and you have your end result: a movie ridiculously overdone, absurdly grandiose, and laughably mediocre.

In addition, the movie is riddled with scenes, dialogue and other elements so unrealistic and juvenile that it is surprising that actual actors play the characters, rather than the original action figures suspended in the air by strings.

For instance, during the Paris chase scene, Snake Eyes* gets on top of the speeding Hummer and starts sticking a katana through the roof while trying to reach his nemesis Storm Shadow**, a problem that I expect will be hard to explain to the mechanic. In order to get him off, the bad guys inside push a button that causes a rack of spikes to come out of the front of the car. When the Hummer hits a car, it flips said car spectacularly in a thirty-foot arc over the Hummer. Was this Hummer really manufactured with an appendage specifically designed to flip cars over it? Or does it have some real use, like. . . um. . . er. . . agriculture?

Actually, I can think of one practical use for it. I mean, haven’t you ever gotten stuck on the 75-mph freeway behind one of those terminally slow drivers who will really floor it one day and go, say, 35? Well, if you have that handy-dandy patented trailer-hitch-attachable titanium-alloy Car Flipper, you can hit the gas and flip those pesky slow drivers right over your car! Problem solved! It’s only a matter of time until it’s advertised on long infomercials exhibiting its many uses and stating that, if you call now, you will receive NOT ONLY a second Car Flipper ABSOLUTELY FREE, but also the handy Sunroof-Mounted Laser Cannon!

I wasn‘t kidding about that laser. Later on in the chase, the bad guys in the Hummer press yet another button*** and this laser cannon thing comes out of the top of the Hummer. Where did THAT come from? Unless it’s a Magical Materializing Laser Cannon, it would have to have come DIRECTLY OUT OF THE BACKSEAT. So basically, this car has got a giant laser gun occupying the middle back seat. What would you do with that thing during a road trip? Pass time by blowing up passing traffic? Throw a pillow over it and fall asleep on it? And I bet that backseat laser cannon would be pretty hard to explain when the cop pulls you over for speeding, and, I suppose, blowing up cars with a laser. Heck, even going through a Wendy’s drive-thru with one of those could raise awkward questions.****

There are more complex flaws, too. I mean, when did Cobra Commander turn evil? The movie features a dramatic backstory where, as an innocent young soldier, he stumbles upon a laboratory containing information that could one day kill thousands. Without skipping a beat, he is suddenly and inexplicably transformed into an evil genius. Instantly. There's no time to even decide to turn evil, let alone any decent character development. Is he really transformed in the blink of an eye from a naive young good guy into a creepy madman who is apparently distantly related to Michael Jackson? Imagine if Darth Vader's story was like that: a nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker fresh out of the Podrace witnesses the Force and immediately turns to the Dark Side. Be kind of a letdown, wouldn't it?

Granted, there are situations where GI Joe is a movie not only appropriate to watch, but preferable. An group of eight-year-olds at a sleepover, for example, ideally at 3 in the morning. But if that, by any chance, is not your case, then I suggest you watch something with a little more depth and thought behind it. I suggest the "Charlie Bit Me" video on Youtube.

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*Played by the same actor who plays Darth Maul. In this, he plays a ninja who has taken a vow of silence. As I recall, Darth Maul had one speaking line. Apparently, they don’t trust his acting enough to allow him any dialogue.
**Yes, Storm Shadow. That's his name. I would have gone with just "Storm" or just "Shadow." It's as if someone gave him a list of evil nicknames, but he couldn't pick just one. I can imagine: "Hmm, there's Wrench, Griphook, Shadow, Viroid, Megatron, Evilor, Dino-tor, Storm, and Syphilis. Oh, can't choose! How about Storm Megatron Shadow? Oh, Megatron's taken? Okay, fine..."
***There’s a whole RACK of buttons in there. What do the rest of them control? Decepticon mode? Pop-out juice machine?
****Like: “Is that a laser?”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The great rooster murder [Ryan and Connor]

They say revenge is a dish best served cold. I disagree. When we dined upon the flesh of the victim of our vengeance, it was quite warm. It also worked really well with a little barbecue sauce.

So ended the saga of Jumper the rooster. For this post, we felt two authors would truly put the tragedy, the test, and the triumph in perspective. Ryan's contributions will be in regular typeface, while Connor's will be in italics.

Not long ago, Mom got another scheme to build character in her children: to raise chickens and sell their eggs. One of the chickens we bought turned out to be a rooster, which my lovable but somewhat uncreative brother named Jumper.

Jumper soon proved to be a menace.

My younger brother and sister’s daily journey to feed the chickens became a journey fraught with peril once the rooster appeared.

He would stand in our doorway, refusing to let us in our own house. My dad decided it was time to end the rooster’s reign of clucking, preening terror.

When your eight-year old brother carries a plastic lightsaber into the chicken coop purely for self-defense reasons, it’s time to step up as a man and eliminate this threat to your family. And if you question why I had to use a machete, you clearly have not consumed enough Otter Pops.

In my defense, I don’t usually go around killing chickens with machetes. This rooster was the Al Capone of chickens, ruling the yard with an iron talon, surrounded at all times by his harem of hens.*

Somewhere along the line, we bought a machete, and somehow it ended up occupying a semi-permanent place in our living room by the side of the couch. Like villagers arming against the monster on the hill, my dad and I prepared to storm the rooster’s citadel and wreak our vengeance.

But my little sister, even injured by Jumper as she was, barred my dad’s path, distraught that the rooster she had raised from a chick was about to be dismembered with a instrument that had probably never really been sharpened. My dad retreated, and the rooster laughed in mocking.

Soon, though, my brothers and I took matters into our own hands. We were prepared to do what needed to be done, to protect my little sister’s honor even if she was too noble to avenge the wrongs done unto her.

I grabbed a shovel; Connor grabbed the machete and noose.

INTERMISSION: my mom once related to me a story told to her by an older man standing next to her in line at the hardware store. It was similar to ours, except that rather than resorting to a machete, the man had drugged the chicken until it was asleep, put it in his car under cover of night, and thrown it over the fence at Bear World. "Wait a minute. You don't know my name, right?" the man asked quickly after relating the story.

It’s not easy to murder a rooster. You have to contend with all sorts of difficulties, not the least of which is the guilt of killing another living being. To overcome this obstacle, we simply remembered the crimes he had on his record, including attacking our little brother, attacking our little sister, exercising unrighteous dominion, and being named Jumper. (Possibly embezzlement, bank fraud, prostitution and weapons smuggling as well. You never can tell.)

After a quick trip to the restroom (I never kill on a full bladder), we tried Phase One. This involved sequestering Jumper in the fenced area and chasing him with a machete.

And so I found myself standing with a machete to Jumper’s throat, his baleful gaze urging me to strike him down and complete my journey to the Dark Side. But I couldn’t do it! There’s something about holding a blade to a living, breathing creature’s throat that truly makes you feel like a coldhearted murderer. After twenty seconds of tense stalemate, my nerve failed me and the chicken walked free. I returned to the house to seek reinforcements to finish the job.

We resorted to Phase Two — shooting him with a paintball gun.

As it transpires, a paintball gun is insufficient to kill a tough chicken. The paintballs merely hurt the chicken enough to make the shooter feel like a really horrible person who tortures small animals.

Phase Three consisted of Connor chasing Jumper in a futile attempt to strangle him in the most humane way possible. (Notice the omission of the word "catching.")

It’s impossible to strangle a chicken when said chicken realizes you’re attempting to strangle it and instantly transforms into a raging demon bird that will do anything and everything in its power to escape.** That attempt marks the only occasion in my life that I have fled a chicken coop in terror.

At last came Phase Four. It was simply time. We had dilly-dallied for long enough, and I took a shovel and —

I’m going to censor that part, but if you need a visual aid, think of the shower scene in "Psycho."

*Or, as I like to refer to them, his hos. Hoes? Ho's? Houghs?
**including, but not limited to, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Observations from Washington, DC [Ryan]

I missed last week’s blog because I was in the midst of heading off for Washington, DC. It’s an amazing city, full of helpful people who will stop at nothing to help you in any way they can, whether it be helping you read a map* or selling you a souvenir T-shirt that disintegrates upon washing.

Here are some keen observations I gathered while in our nation’s capital:

OBSERVATION 1: ALTERNATE REALITIES. One of the first things you should know about our nation’s capital is that it may be the crux of several alternate realities. Though this theory has been largely refuted by scientists, we proved the existence of such realities when we tried to meet a friend at the Smithsonian Metro entrance. My aunt Jessica was on the phone, describing where we were (at the entrance, looking toward the massive Department of Agriculture sign on an arch), while the friend recounted her surroundings (at the entrance to the Metro, looking toward the Department of Agriculture sign). The trouble was, the friend was nowhere in sight. My agile scientific mind immediately leapt to the possibility of unseen alternate universes, a notion the others in my group were slow to accept. When we finally agreed to meet somewhere else, the others finally conceded that my explanation was the only plausible one.**

OBSERVATION 2: SMITHSONIANS ARE FREE. The Smithsonian museums, we were pleased to discover, were all free. Having already surveyed our finances and found that we would probably need to subsist on pretzels and water for the duration of the trip, we took this news with great jubilation.

(To say we lived on pretzels and water is to employ only mild hyperbole. At the beginning of the trip, I bought a box of 25 large microwaveable pretzels. I ate these for lunches nearly every day. Near the close of our excursion, one of my companions complained that we had nothing left to eat. I pointed out the giant supply of pretzels still left in the fridge — which, despite my eating them, never seemed to decrease in quantity — and, surprisingly enough, the others maintained that, yes, we had nothing to eat.)

OBSERVATION 3: FOGGY BOTTOM. There’s a district in DC called Foggy Bottom. (Isn’t that fun to say? Foggy Bottom.) Despite sounding like a symptom of something you’d catch if you drink impure water, this is not only a real place, but it’s the location of George Washington University. Foggy Bottom.***

OBSERVATION 4: THE METRO CAN BE HAZARDOUS. One of the great parts of DC is the Metro subway system. Within a few days, we learned how to work this complex network of underground trains, with only a few minor hitches. One such complication came at one of our stops, when a slow gentleman man with a gigantic pile of luggage lumbered out the door with the speed of a tectonic plate, blocking the entire doorway. My brother managed to get out before the man began his one-man congestion of the subway door, but as the man finally dragged himself and his luggage out of the surging crowd and into the terminal, the doors shut. My fourteen-year-old brother watched as the doors shut, dooming the rest of us on a journey to the next stop with out him. I’d like to continue this story and ad more danger and drama, but we found him quickly after taking an abrupt 180 at the next stop.

OBSERVATION 5: METRO MUMBLING. At every stop, the Metro conductor lets you know where you are. Sometimes, unfortunately, the guy’s accent makes it sound like he’s speaking through a dying transistor radio from Jupiter with a mouth full of cottage cheese. When he intends to say something like “This is the Blue Line train to Franconia-Springfield, Pentagon City, doors opening on left,” you hear something like “Blue laaahhn train to Frncnnnnaaah-Sprrinnfff, Peggnuuhhhctiuhhh, doors opening on left.”**** You’ve just got to listen.

* Within the first two days of being in DC, no fewer than four people stopped to help us with directions. We had some indefinable quality that branded us as tourists adrift from our moorings. It might have been the subtle way we hesitated before getting on the Metro. It might have been the bulges in our back pockets, betraying the presences of guidebooks. Or it might simply have been the way we peered at our maps with all the confidence of a squirrel reading the Rosetta Stone.

** Not long afterward, we discovered there were two entrances to the Smithsonian Metro station, both with a view of different parts of the Department of Agriculture building. I still cling to my theory.

*** Foggy Bottom. Foggy Bottom. Oh, it’s so much fun to say!

**** The part about the doors opening is always clear. Don’t ask me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One-week hiatus

We're taking a week off due to a trip to Washington, D.C. Expect a blog next week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A confession involving Hannah Montana [Connor]

I’m not proud of it. But I will never live with a clear conscience while carrying this secret: I’ve been listening to Hannah Montana music a lot lately. Not just Hannah, either; Selena Gomez, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, you name it.

Before you accuse me of being of those creepy teenagers who actually buy Jonas Brothers albums in defiance of the law of reality which clearly states that the Jonas Brothers are the territory of nine-year-old girls, I’ll point out that it’s a work-related sacrifice. At the amusement park where I work, we rely on satellite radio for music, and the most “family-friendly” station available is Radio Disney. Consequently, all of the employees are extremely familiar with all Disney songs, a situation leading to embarrassing situations wherein an entire line of customers waiting at an attraction witness an employee belting out the lyrics to “He Could Be The One” by Hannah Montana.

The point is, four months of listening to Radio Disney have left me uncomfortably familiar with certain singers and their music. People like Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus (of COURSE they’re different people! Hannah Montana is just as real as Santa Claus!), and the rest of them, including, most unfortunately, the Jonas Brothers (No, I don’t have anything against them, except that they dress in clothes four sizes too small and their excessively juvenile music is at a level of maturity usually associated with mooning). I also know a lot of random facts about them; I could tell you, for instance, that Selena Gomez (star of the Disney TV series Wizards of Waverly Place) was born on my own mother’s birthday. I could also tell you that Miley Cyrus secretly wishes to own a house where everybody can write on the walls with crayons.*

There are worse things I could listen to. Most songs these days are total crap (wait, or do they call it rap? I can never remember). Many of them (“Boom Boom Pow” and “Poker Face” spring readily to mind) sound as though the synthesizer machine has gone rogue and is attempting to devour the lead singer. Actually, I have a pet theory about “Poker Face”: I think Lady Gaga had a decent song recorded, but the day before deadline, her five-year-old son got into the studio and messed with the song. They didn’t have time to fix his changes, so they just sold the song that way and were shocked when it climbed to the top ten song list. This accident probably inspired the making of “Boom Boom Pow”, come to think of it. Some of the songs these days are so bizarre it’s no wonder some of us are pushed to listening to Hannah Montana.

Don’t worry; I do listen to other music too besides Hannah Montana. It’s really the best of both worlds.**

*I’m serious.
**If you had to ask your nine-year-old sister about that reference, good for you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Star Wars is better than Star Trek [Ryan]

Our world is full of conflicts — the Americans versus Iraqi insurgents; Israelis versus Palestinians; PETA versus actual carbon-based, food-eating life-forms; Twilight versus the free world. Beyond all of these is a conflict that touches the outer reaches of the galaxy.*

I’m talking about Star Wars versus Star Trek.

Let me be clear on one thing: I’m talking about the franchises as whole entities, not considering individual mediums. I mean, anyone with the brain of a B’omarr brain spider knows J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film is light-years — or parsecs — ahead of Attack of the Clones. But when you consider the big picture, what you see changes.**

Let’s begin. Let’s look at the depth behind each. What is Star Trek? I can understand the “boldly go where no man has gone before” allure — but there are some places that man was no meant to go, like Star Trek: Nemesis. (Did you see that one? Felt like someone had puked all the science fiction cliches they could think of all over the carpet.) Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Seriously, though, there are only so many times you can boldly go before you’re boldly rehashing old plot lines.

The there’s Star Wars. Entire books have been written on the mythology of Star Wars, how the saga brings the age-old story of the Hero’s Quest and places it in a galaxy far, far away. The light and dark side of the Force appeal to our innermost nature. Within each of us are light and dark, our own yins and yangs, and we cannot help but find ourselves immersed in a story that highlights the definition of humanity.***

Star Wars redefined special effects and the action sequences those effects could create. The hum of lightsabers could be heard as scarlet and green blades crashed while Captain Kirk was still shuffling around trying to defeat zipper-suited lizard men with nothing but his facial expressions and phasers that shot beams that appeared to have been drawn on the screen with a Sharpie.

Does anyone else think that, as a whole, Star Trek ships look goofy? The Bird of Prey being a possible exception, nearly any Star Trek ship of the line could have been designed by a monkey with a crate of Legos.

While we’re on the topic of vessels from the respective franchises, let’s not fret about who would win if vessels and forces from one franchise were to meet those from another; such a contest could hardly decide which one was better. (But if we were to use such a finicky method to decide superiority, Darth Vader could Force-choke the entire Borg collective and fling their dorky cube ship — remember what I said about monkeys and Legos? — into a moon before they could utter their tired “Resistance is futile” line.)

Both franchises have their weaknesses, especially in the dialogue department. I concede that I’d rather eat bantha poodoo than watch Anakin woo Padme by mentioning how her skin is soft, unlike sand (really, Anakin? Does that one work on Tatooine?), but the alternative from the other universe is to hear technobabble like this:

SCOTTY: Captain, we’re experiencing a hyperwarp electro-skype!

CAPTAIN KIRK: Only one thing we can do! Engage hypermatter polar thrusters and defibrillate the starboard filament decondensors!

SCOTTY: I can’t, sir! We’ve got a wee problem! The electro-nacelle preemptors are gravitizing to the point where the transmogrified crypto pistons are scrambled!

CAPTAIN KIRK: That sounds like a serious problem. Do we still have wireless internet, at least?

There you go: in one galaxy, a thrilling space opera full of love and betrayal, heroes and villains, action and intrigue. It’s the stuff dreams — and a lot of eBay-based collections — are made of. On the other end, you have a story full of promise but that get stale with every new inflation of Willam Shatner’s ego. ****

Join me. Together we will …

Yeah, you know.

* Or beyond the far reaches of the galaxy, if you count the Yuuzhan Vong incursion 25 years after the Battle of Yavin in Episode IV.

** Point of interest: the new Star Trek utilizes elements like man-eating creatures on a snow planet, a world-destroying superweapon that reduces a main character’s home to extragalactic rubble, and other Star Wars elements. Chris Pine, the guy who played the young Kirk, said he used Indiana Jones and Han Solo as his inspiration for his role. See,23739,25346545-7642,00.html

*** No idea what I just said. But it sounded cool.

**** Man, I hate that guy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Give peace a chance: why germs aren't so bad [Ryan]

I’ve officially finished my time as opinion editor of Scroll, so my topics of choice are no longer confined by paltry things like truth or relevance. No, seriously, my feelings are mixed regarding my departure from the paper, but newspapers are going down the hole like faster than a super-powered ferret pursuing the Flash down a giant high-powered toilet (if you ever hear of a such a scenario existing in reality, please call me!) and I thought I’d try my hand with other mediums.

My topic today is my lack of germaphobia.

I’m not sure what the real name is, but I don’t have a fear of germs. I once picked up a half-eaten bag of popcorn in a movie theater left over from the previous show, discarded some of the wrappers, and proceeded to happily eat away.

The ten-second rule doesn’t apply to me unless the food in question falls into something radioactive or onto a bathroom stall floor. Some people will balk at the thought of retrieving a morsel of chicken that has fallen to the dining room floor; I’ll still probably eat it. What I can’t see can’t hurt me (except Chuck Norris, naturally).

It’s all the same, right? My food, your food, it all has the same organisms who just want to be left alone to thrive in their peaceful microscopic utopia and smoke pot. (No, I don’t have scientific evidence to back this up. I would have thought the advent of things like Wikipedia would have erased such an outdated tendency.)

Contrast my habits to the habits of one of my brothers, who acts as if food someone has bitten off of has been contaminated with large amounts of terrorist-grade plutonium.

Now, there is one area where I agree with him: food found on bathroom floors is not edible. (It may not, technically, be food anymore, but that’s as far as I’m going to take that line of thought.) Bathrooms scare me. The germs thriving in bathrooms are of a completely different breed of microbe. The germs found on a piece of pizza that fell on the living room floor are as harmless as hippies; the ones in the bathroom are the al-Qaeda of microorganisms.

So there you have it — a semi-scientific treatise on the follies of most varieties of germaphobia. Don’t drop this on the bathroom floor.

(Dang! That last line only worked if this was printed in a newspaper.)

Uh … don’t drop your laptop on the bathroom floor. (Unless it’s a PC.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The choice between a voicemail message and a restraining order: a blog with barely a mention of Optimus Prime [Connor]

“Hi, you’ve reached Connor, who is NOT Ryan, Ladine, or Lucine.”

Allow me to explain my current voicemail message.

Apparently, my cell phone number bears an extreme resemblance to that of several other people. Multiple times in a week, occasionally multiple times in a day, I receive calls from people I have never met nor heard of. Most of these people ask for a guy named Ryan. I originally assumed that this meant my brother Ryan, since the phone number belonged to him until about a year ago. But no; Ryan confided that when he took calls, he first had to verify it was Ryan Kunz they were asking for, not this mysterious other Ryan. Sometimes these calls are social calls; sometimes, they’re definitely work-related. For a while there, I was receiving calls from the hospital, asking how his treatment went. I sure hope it went well.

Then there are the Ladine People, as I’ve named them. They call about twice a week, asking for somebody named Ladine. Frankly, I don’t think anybody old enough to still have been named “Ladine” would have a cell phone, but I haven’t pointed this out to the Ladine People. I used to answer these calls and patiently inform them they had the wrong number, but they just kept calling. Rather than file for a restraining order, I’ve just added them as a contact in my phone and have given up answering their calls. At least I can be secure in the knowledge that if I’m ever going through a difficult time and need someone to talk to, the Ladine People will be there for me, faithfully dialing the wrong number time and time again.

Finally, we reach my favorite. During third trimester last year, an elderly lady would call me every day during third hour. Seeing as I was in class, I only managed to take her calls and inform her of her mistake once or twice. She was always asking for someone named (I’m not making this up) Lucine, and would become very distressed when she couldn’t get a hold of Lucine. These eventually culminated in the Holy Grail of blogworthy voicemail messages, which I swear on Optimus Prime’s grave I am not making up:

“Lucine, Lucine, are you there? I need to talk to Ladine. Or your grandmother Nadine. . . This is Josine.”

It doesn’t get much more priceless than that. As much as I enjoyed these messages, though, they were clogging up my voicemail inbox and my phone memory. Eventually, I changed my voicemail to the one featured at the top, stating clearly that this was not Ladine, Lucine, or Ryan. Both Josine and the Ryan Club have pretty much ceased calling. The Ladine People, however, have faithfully continued calling AND LEAVING MESSAGES. To leave one of their messages asking for Ladine, they must first listen to a message stating that this is NOT Ladine. I have no explanation for this. I want to meet these people.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Lost in hypotheticals: Who would you take on a deserted island? [Ryan]

A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial about not wasting time, about finding time in your college years for the things that really matter.

Somewhat ironically, I wrote the entire thing while watching a marathon of "Lost."

For the longest time, I was content with other TV shows. Watching Jack Bauer save the world every week was sufficient for my mind, even if he never used the bathroom or exhibited any kind of normal human function other than grimacing slightly every time he got shot in the chest.

It’s one of those shows you simply can’t just stop watching.

I’ve recently gotten into the show, which, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is about a group of improbably good-looking people who end up stranded on a mysterious island.

(By “gotten into,” by the way, I mean, “become obsessed to the point where my Facebook relationship status should say, ‘in a relationship with "Lost"’”)

The fifth season ended earlier this semester, leaving my questions unanswered and my imagination running rampant. My questions things like these: Why is the island so hard to find (Maybe it’s because the island is only there if you believe in it, like Santa Claus or global warming) and what is the creature they call the monster?

And of course:

Who would I like to be stuck on a deserted island with?

The last one is a valid question, of course; the applications are many and the likely affective scenarios myriad. Who might add some hope, flavor or protection during the lonely days on a deserted island?

President Obama: If I was stranded with the President of the United States, especially our current one with his near religious following, the civilized world would waste no time rescuing us. Forget whatever harm his debilitating economic polices can do to already ravaged economy — they might even send an aircraft carrier to pick us up.

Jack Sparrow: We all know Jack would probably spend the entire time frolicking on the island drinking some sort non-alcoholic beverage, so of course I would join him in his good clean mayhem. Maybe, after fourteen Doctor Peppers, we would sing “A Pirate’s Life For Me” while dancing around a campfire.

Optimus Prime: If we’re allowing fictional characters, by the way, into this scenario, then of course we can allow Optimus Prime. I’m not sure what his practical use would be, honestly — but come on! He’s Optimus Prime! He wouldn’t be too much use in fishing or gathering wood, but you’d definitely be safe from any island-dwelling Decepticons.

Edward Cullen: The arrangement would be utterly perfect. First, he wouldn’t have to eat, so I could eat all the meager food. And speaking of food, he is so perfect he could probably conjure up a four-course meal by simply breathing on the sand. Lastly, if something ever happened to his food-producing ability, I could simply — in an act of poetic justice lauded by males everywhere — eat him.

Chuck Norris: Do I even have to explain myself?

Problem solved.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A discussion of psychology and Optimus Prime: another blog possibly induced by eating too many Otter Pops. [Connor]

Recently I’ve been reading a book entitled The Color Code, by Taylor Hartman. It’s a psychology book detailing a method to understanding human behavior and actions: why we feel the way we feel and why we act the way we act. Pretty deep, huh?

In truth, it starts out pretty simple. There are four fundamental personalities, named after colors: red, blue, yellow, and white. Everyone, except maybe Disney’s Mitchell Musso, fits into one of these personalities. Each color has a unique set of traits, strengths, and limitations. Reds are aggressive and dominating, thriving on challenges. Blues are emotional, often altruistic, and center their lives on relationships and following their own moral compass. Yellows are fun-loving people who want to have a good time. Whites are laid-back people who like to stay out of the limelight and enjoy feeling secure. Up front, many people may seem to be a mix of the colors; however, everyone is driven by a single core motive, one central thing that they seek after. Reds strive to overcome challenges and gain power. Blues want intimacy: relationships, understanding, love, call it what you want. Yellows crave fun, whereas Whites want to feel secure. Since I started reading the book, I find it fascinating to select people and identify their personality color.

Which brings us to my central discussion. I made an interesting and disturbing discovery: even fictional characters will fall into one of the color categories. This has led me to a disturbing line of thought resulting in my identifying Darth Vader as a Red, for his aggressive, dominating personality; Obi-Wan Kenobi as a White, for his apparent need to stay independent while staying comfortably out of the spotlight, and Samwise Gamgee as a Blue, for his altruism-based effort to support Frodo Baggins in the quest to destroy the One Ring.

My mom let out a justified laugh when I admitted to having gone so far as to classify certain of the Transformers into colors. Optimus Prime, my personal hero, is another Blue, for his self-sacrificing, moral-driven mission to save Earth from the wrath of the Decepticons. (It’s sad to admit, but Optimus holds a special place in my heart. I was roused to tears by his go-down-swinging dying scene in the second Transformers movie.) Megatron, like many villains it seems, appears to be a Red.

I admit: it doesn’t get much nerdier than this. Applying principles of psychology to fictional (except in the case of Optimus Prime- don’t you DARE imply that he isn’t real!) characters. But I for one find it interesting, at the least, that made-up characters, even alien robots, can be grouped under categories of human personalities.

PS. I’m a Blue.

PPS. So is Batman.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Who makes up what books get to be classics? [Dillon]

Well, my teacher made me read "Pride and Prejudice" and I got thinking who makes up what books are classics anyway? I mean what makes "Pride and Prejudice" better then other books? 1st it's supposed to be ironic and funny ,but there's plenty of good books like that.
2nd yes, it does use large vocabulary in which the author (Jane Austin) is the only one who has ever known what some of those words mean. If your going to judge good books by its vocabulary then just put all of the dictionaries in the so called "classic list". I don't know about you ,but my dictionary has plenty of large words.
3rd "Pride and Prejudice" shouldn't be a classic because it's not even possible for a guy to like that book. Oh, by the way I didn't actually read it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why science and religion can coexist [Ryan]

I recently saw the movie Angels and Demons. One of the main themes in the movie was the conflict between science and religion. It’s not the only medium where such a theme exists — “Science and Religion” has its Wikipedia entry.

As I walked from the theater after watching the movie, I reflected that I was glad I belonged to a religion where we can be assured that science and faith can coexist.

A few weeks later, I overheard someone here arguing that we wouldn’t need science anymore once we were exalted. The next week, I learned of a person who left the Church because he couldn’t reconcile obvious evidences that pointed to evolution and his religious beliefs.

I think we may need to step back and look at what both science and religion are, and I think that we Latter-Day Saints might find the two a little more friendly than we might think.

Science is based upon theories, upon things we can see. It’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us through trial and error. Truth in science is established through finding proof.

Religion is based on a belief on a higher power, a sense of purpose. Like science, it’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us, and it’s also a little more: it’s our struggle to overcome the mundane and become more than we already are, also through a little bit of trial and error. Truth is established through faith.

They have their differences and their similarities, but can these estranged stepbrothers coexist?

Of course.

For example, we know for a fact that the earth (or the parts thereof, at least) is at least billions of years old. Tradition, including a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 77:6), tells us the earth has a temporal existence of only seven thousand years. It would seem that two dates contradict one another.

However, I firmly believe that because God works through science as well — but a higher form a science, one we don’t quite understand yet — that both statements may easily be and probably are true. Firstly, we might not even understand the basic statements as well as we think we do — who knows what exactly “a temporal existence” means? — so who are we to say they don’t match up?

Maybe the parts of the earth are billions of years old, but the formation of those parts as we now know it has only been around for a few thousand years or so. I don’t know. That’s just one explanation, and by no means the most authoritative one. Men a lot smarter and more educated than me could probably come up with better ones if they applied their knowledge of both science and theology, using both methods in their respective places to fill in aspects of the final truth.

Both science and faith have their places. The Book of Mormon isn’t going to help us much with the formation of limestone, and science won’t tell us whether abortion is right.

But when you put them together, you have a nearly complete picture, and even those places where they seem to overlap with a little discrepancy can be accepted as testaments to God’s use of natural laws to which we simply don’t have access.

It’s completely possible to live in harmony with both science and religion, as long as we recognize that they both have their place and together they give us different pieces of that great eternal puzzle that is ultimate truth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just have to try again in 2012, huh? [Connor]

During the final stages of last year's presidential election, I discovered that I had a lot of free time, even after doing dozens of Facebook quizzes with titles like "Are You A Potato?". This realization led to me entering the presidential race via a write-in campaign. Due to popular demand (two people), I've published here my election platform and views I used during the presidential election. I did, in fact, garner a grand total of 1,029 votes for me as president, although, granted, 1000 of them were cast by me, and 23 of the remainder were cast by people too young to actually vote.

Important note: I lost the election. But without further ado:

Election Platform

1. All stupid lawsuits will immediately be done away with. If somebody puts a bug in your salad at a restaurant, for example, you may NOT sue them for tens of thousands of dollars!

2. People on welfare who are unemployed have two weeks to get a job or the welfare checks stop coming.

3. All taxes will be cut in half. To make up for this, all Elvis impersonators, Katy Perry fans, and male cheerleaders will be taxed 10 times as much.

4. Donald Trump will fund the healthcare system.

5. All telemarketers must first serve a one year tour of duty in Iraq before being allowed to telemarket.

6. In order to boost the economy, we will immediately annex Japan, since they produce pretty much all of our cars, electronics, sushi, etc.

7. Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, and other attention-hogging celebrities will be forced to live in one-room cabins with no power in northern Alaska on an all-Spam diet.

8. The first person to send me a cash contribution will be made Secretary of State. After that everyone who sends me contributions will be put on the Supreme Court.

9. America is going green! We are going to find new and innovative ways to get energy. To demonstrate this, Air Force One will be powered by the latent energy of a single baked potato. Also, the White House will be airlifted directly into Rigby, Idaho. Specifically, we are going to put the White House on the island in Rigby Lake.

A Question of Rebellion [Connor]

I'd like to pose a question here. You're entitled to your own opinion on it, unless of course you disagree with me, in which case you're wrong.

No, I'm kidding about that, but without further ado, here's the question:

Why is TPing considered so bad?

I'm referring here to the practice of spreading toilet paper around on your friend or neighbor's property. A harmless, fun little prank that used to be a valued element of Rigby's summertime culture. What happened to that? Every year, more and more parents suddenly become convinced that TPing is apparently some kind of evil practice. The way some people talk about it, you'd almost think it was on par with, for example, terrorism. I'd like to prove that that line of thinking is totally off the roll, if you'll pardon my metaphor. Of course, there are a few arguments, used time and time again, as to why TPing is so evil. For example:

1. TPing is vandalism.
2. TPing is disrespectful.
2. TPing is a rebellious pastime that encourages kids to misbehave in other, worse ways as well.

Let's be honest. TPing is NOT vandalism. The online dictionary lists vandalism as "willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property." Hmm. As destructive as toilet paper can be, I don't think it quite qualifies as "destruction of property." Defacement? Depends, really. I suppose if one believes that spending 15 or 20 minutes of time outdoors on a beautiful morning performing an easy cleanup on your lawn is a terrible punishment, then maybe it's defacement.

Nor is TPing disrespectful. I've TPed my best friends on multiple occasions, and they've TPed me. In fact, the tally of my TPing Jed Billman's house is now approaching five. Is TPing supposed to send some kind of "I hate you" message? Of course not. It's a harmless joke. Is the TP permanent? No. Pick it up. Is the TP going to bite? I sure hope not. What kind of TP are YOU using?

Does it lead to worse activities? Quite the contrary, actually. Kids need some kind of rebellious outlet, if you will, a little way to rebel. It's in kids' DNA. We have to do something to defy authority. TPing allows for a harmless way to vent out that inherent need to rebel. My own mother, actually, says that TPing is a good way to satisfy kids' need to rebel. Kids have to rebel somehow; would you rather know that they're putting toilet paper on a neighbor's lawn, or be comfortable in the knowledge that they're sneaking out at night, inventing their own nighttime activities to entertain themselves until the cops arrive?

I'm not saying, of course, that you should stand by and let somebody TP your house. Feel free to quietly slip out of the house, tackle them, and force them to clean up the house the next morning (I still bear scars from Bobby Roos' tackle during one epic TPing job). But FOR GOODNESS' SAKE, DO NOT CALL THE COPS ON TPERS. Sorry for stooping to using capital letters, but let's get real: is throwing a little TP around your property worth notifying the police? If the answer is yes, you need to get your priorities straight. Also, if your kid wants to go TPing, don't immediately refuse and put him under house arrest. Find out who he's doing it with and who he's TPing, and then let him go. It's that simple.

TPing is harmless way to have a little fun. Kids will always rebel somehow. It's your choice: you can choose to let them rebel and still know where they are, who they're with, and what they're doing. If that's too much, then you can tightly control them, ban them from this harmless outlet, and wait for them to find other ways to rebel. It's your choice.

Stupid Drivers (as seen in the Trojanier) [Connor]

This was another article I wrote for the Trojanier. I had recently suffered several close calls due to these so-called stupid drivers (a school bus swerved across my lane ten feet in front of me on ice, for instance), and we needed opinions for the Trojanier. Voila.

America is full of them, and they’re probably a bigger danger to our safety and sanity than the struggling economy and the threat of terrorism combined:

Stupid drivers.

I’m talking about the people who drive 25 mph in the left lane on the freeway for 175 miles, oblivious to the hundreds of irate drivers behind them honking, yelling, and opening fire with shotguns. I’m talking about the people who will drive down the freeway for that same 175 miles with their left turn signal on the entire time, the light slowly blinking and blinking and blinking and blinking in a never-ending routine that slowly drives you insane. I’m talking about (not mentioning names here) the people who take their complete attention from driving to text a message like “omg lol” as their cars, happy to be free from the control of a driver, swerve joyfully around the road, narrowly dodging signs, dogs, houses, etc.

Our country is filled with these people. For example, on one of my drives in Driver’s Ed, I passed a car that was randomly swerving across the highway. The driver, it transpired, was attempting to drive, text, and fill out a newspaper crossword puzzle at the same time. How do these people survive? I mean, if a moment of distraction is all it takes to get in a car wreck, how is it that these drivers, the ones who can drive from Rigby to San Francisco without ever once glancing out the windshield, have survived this long without driving straight through a McDonalds, or at least ramming into a garbage truck?

And how did these people attain license to drive? Many of them should not be allowed to operate a toaster, let alone a car. No offense to the people who text as they drive, but, in terms of safety, you might as well walk into a crowd and take random potshots with an AK-47, because texting and driving WILL eventually catch up with you, possibly in the form of a Greyhound bus into your passenger side door at 65 mph.

Use common sense. If your turn signal has been on for 175 miles and the driver behind you is attempting to slash his wrist on the rear-view mirror, turn the signal off. If you’re going 25 mph on the 75 mph freeway, speed up. And, for all of our sakes, if you’re going 55 down the road and a friend texts you, wait 5 minutes until you’re home to answer the stupid text. Thank you.

What girls should know about guys (as seen in the Trojanier) [Connor]

This is an article I wrote for our high school newspaper, the Trojanier. The idea was that I write an article for girls on how to interpret guy behavior, and a girl (Sierra Divine) write an article for guys on how to interpret girls. I found it pretty funny the article on how to interpret girl behavior made sense only after several more girls translated it for me. (Nothing against Sierra, who is, in fact, a far better writer than I am.)

What Girls Should Know About Guys
By Connor Kunz

When I first found out how confusing girls think guys are, I laughed until I cried. Guys are pretty simple, whereas trying to understand the mind of a girl is like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree. Even when a girl gives a straight yes or no answer, it turns into a cross between a code-breaking exercise and a Princess Bride-style battle of wits. When does yes mean yes? When does yes actually mean no? And does it ever mean “yes, if you put deodorant on first”? These are all questions every guy must ponder. Compared to girls, guys are pretty simple. There’s just a few things to keep in mind:

1. Guys think stalkers are creepy. Do not spend entire days with a puppy dog expression on your face, following ten feet behind a guy, and then wonder why he never talks to you. If you are talking to a guy for the first time, do NOT begin the conversation with anything along the lines of “Hey hottie! I want a boyfriend!” It’s known as the Leech Approach, and the average guy reacts to it pretty much the same way as he would to a gigantic leech stuck to his forehead: Scream, peel it off, and put as much distance between himself and it as possible.

2. Guys don’t like girls who cheat on them. It’s that simple. If you like your boyfriend, then don’t cheat on him. If you don’t like him, then break things off. Cheating insults yourself more than it does him.

3. Find the happy medium between “Easy Girl” and “Complete and Utter Mystery.” Pay attention to this one. No decent guy wants a girl who will happily take any random guy who comes the day after dumping her previous boyfriend. It’s too easy, and it makes the girl look shallow. At the same time, don’t be a complete mystery whom no guy can even begin to fathom. Dropping hints is always preferable to the Leech Approach, but remember that guys aren’t great at picking up hints, so if the hint requires an entire team of professional code-breakers (all of them guys) to figure it out, play a little less hard to get and turn the mystery down to where he can, at least, in his male mind, figure out that you’re trying to send him a message.

One final note: Do not compare every guy to Edward Cullen. Edward Cullen is not human, nor is he real. If you are looking for “your Edward”, you will never find him. Sorry to be the one to tell you. We’re just ordinary guys here on Planet Earth.

Be careful what you write- the teacher might actually read it. [Connor]

This is an 8-page essay I wrote for biology. I figured it was just busywork and took a few liberties in writing it. Actually, Mrs. Beddes read the whole thing, and when the class asked what she was laughing about, she read it aloud to the class. I was surprised by how many people read it and loved it.

Connor Kunz

1. Calcarea
Despite sounding like a terrible tropical disease, or at least something you could catch from a poorly cooked taco, Calcarea is actually a thriving phylum of simple, completely sessile creatures known as sponges. Sessile means that they do not move and remain stationary, which is why scientists have dubbed them “nature’s couch potatoes.” They also lack true tissues, a fact that no American outside of a college-level biology class will understand, and that probably only half of those in a college-level biology class will understand. Sponges live a relatively simple existence as suspension feeders, meaning that they spend their days trapping particles of food passing through their internal channels and watching old episodes of M*A*S*H.

2. Silicarea
Silicarea and Calcarea are in fact, separate phylums, a fact that the writers of our beloved biology book apparently overlooked when they wrote it, seeing as they grouped them both under the heading of Porifera so as to provide a less satisfactory explanation. Not that I harbor any animosity toward the wonderful men and women who wrote this book. Anyway, it lists them as having exactly the same statistics and characteristics, and simply groups them all as sponges.

3. Cnidaria
The spelling of Cnidaria confuses many people into pronouncing it wrong. The trick is to remember that the ‘C’ is silent, so that it is correctly pronounced ‘pterodactyl.’ Cnidaria is also the only phylum thus far to be included in my computer’s spell check, a noteworthy fact. There are over 10,000 species of Cnidaria, including corals, jellies, and hydras. In a stunning revelation that will gross the average reader out for days, it is revealed that they are equipped with only a gastro vascular cavity, meaning that their mouth and anus are, in fact, one and the same. There is an unlimited number of tasteless jokes I could make here involving that fact, but I won’t.

4. Cnetophora
Also known as “comb jellies”, Cnetophora are largish, glowing jellyfish-like creatures that don’t look at all like giant radioactive nasal discharges, so just get that thought right out of your mind. They are diploblastic, which, for the benefit of those who have something better to do with their time then study biology books, means that they have only two “germ layers” around their coelom, instead of three. At least I think that’s what it means; I’m not totally 100% sure, and frankly, I have six more pages to write. Anyhow, many scientists believe that, because they are both diploblastic, Cnetophora and Cnetophora (pronounced “pterodactyl”) may share a common ancestor eons ago.

5. Echinodermata
Echinodermata are actually pretty cool. They exhibit radial symmetry, which, aside from being a somewhat outdated and out-of-style evolutionary adaptation (who knows? Maybe it will come back in style!), is pretty cool-looking in my own humble opinion. They include sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins. As a helpful little side note, do not ever touch a sea urchin. Now let’s move on. Another interesting fact about Echinodermata is that they move using a system of internal canals to pump water to different parts of their body.

6. Chordata
There are over 52,000 known species of Chordata, several of which are represented in the US Senate. Most of them are vertebrates. Meaning, of course, that they have a backbone. However, several groups, including tunicates, Democrats, lancets, and hagfishes, have no backbone. Frankly, I don’t know why they were grouped with Chordata. My personal theory is that the scientist in charge of classifying them was having a long day and decided that, in all actuality, nobody would ever notice that he had grouped a couple obscure species into an equally obscure phylum. Maybe he was also the one responsible for turning our biology book into a 1300-page monstrosity of indecipherable scientific jargon. I don’t know.

7. Brachiopoda
Brachiopoda are a group of giant, reptilian creatures characterized by their long necks, up to thirty feet in length. The creatures themselves grew up to eighty feet tall. They were herbivores, feeding primarily on gingko leaves.
Oh wait! Sorry, that’s Brachiosaurs! Brachiopoda are a phylum known as ‘lamp shells’ and are, in fact, closer to clams, only no doubt less tasty. Also, I doubt that “brachiopoda chowder” will catch on much. They are different, however, in that they have a stalk-like structure that anchors them in to their substrate. There are three hundred thirty-five species of Brachiopoda.

8. Phoronida
Compromising a rather pitiful 20 species, these are also known as marine worms. I don’t know about you, but for me this conjures up a mental image of a gruff-looking worm in a beaten-up US Marine Corps helmet and carrying a rifle, perhaps helping to raise the flag on a hill on the newly conquered Iwo Jima. Something tells me this is not the case. Anyways, marine worms live in tunnels on the seafloor. They have also been known to extend a tentacle out of their tunnels to trap food in a manner that has earned them a starring role in many undersea horror movies.

Whew. Four pages of PHYLUMS! Wasn’t that fun? Let’s all take a break for a moment to breath before diving into Act II, shall we?
Ok. Time’s up. On to Ectoprocta!

9. Ectoprocta
There are over 4,500 known species of Ectoprocta. They are a puzzling mystery that has baffled science as one of the most mysterious phylums in existence. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to after seeing the shocking lack of information on them. Even our book, which normally can drone on for hundreds of pages on such topics as the desaturated ionization of eubacterial DNA, has no more than a sentence on them. I did glean, however, that they are also known as ‘bryozoans’, they have a rough, protective exoskeleton, and that they live in sessile colonies, no doubt spending their days watching football.

10. Platyhelminthes
Platyhelminthes (pronounced “pterodactyl”) are classified as flatworms, a group that includes planarians, tapeworms, and flukes. They have bilateral symmetry but no body cavity, which is a fairly unique concept. Platyhelminthes are also known for their terrific batting average. ‘Platyhelminthes’ has been a standard in the National Spelling Bee for years, no contestant ever having spelled it correctly.

11. Nemertea
Nemertea compromise over four hundred species including proboscis worms and ribbon worms. I won’t lie: I find endless reading about phylums of obscure life-forms rather tedious, don’t you? I have a solution. Give me an A, and I’ll let you stop reading this. Okay?
Want to keep reading, huh? All right, have it your way. Nemertea have no true coelom, but have instead evolved with an alimentary canal, or digestive tract. They swim in the water (rather redundant, I suppose) or burrow in the undersea floor. Some Nemertea also use their proboscis to catch prey, which I personally find somewhat creepy.

12. Mollusca
Mollusca is tonight’s runner-up for number of species, with over 93,000 species of mollusks. Mollusks include snails, clams, squids, and octopuses. At least, the book refers to them as octopuses. I’ve always heard that called octopi, haven’t you? Mollusks have a soft body with a hard shell on the outside. Seeing as I haven’t eaten in hours, I now have a vivid mental image of a meal from Red Lobster: the feel of the hard shell of a king crab leg, and the butter-smothered taste of the soft meat within. Yum.

14. Annelida
I’m going on four hours almost straight of working on this, and frankly, I’m nearing my breaking point. It’s no coincidence that ‘studying’ is ‘student’ and ‘dying’ put together. Now, down to business. There are 16,500 species of Annelida, all of them apparently worms. The book lists them as segmented worms, which I assume is referring to the fact that they are worms with segments. Many Annelida have a cool feature that allows them to continue living after being cut in half. Imagine if humans were like that. Okay, I think I need to get done. Like, fast. . .

15. Rotifera
There are 1800 species of Rotifera. They are microscopic in size but nevertheless have very complex organ systems, including a digestive tract. I realize that having a digestive tract is not necessarily a sign of sophistication or intelligence, the Jonas Brothers being Example A. Anyway, these complex little Rotifera feed on microorganisms. It’s anyone’s guess WHY they choose to eat microorganisms; my guess is that nobody’s told them about pizza delivery.

16. Nematoda
Nematoda. Nematoda. Nematoda. It’s kind of fun to say, really. Nematoda.
Boy, I had better get done with this.
There are 25,000 species of Nematoda. The phylum is composed of roundworms. They are enormously abundant and diverse. Nematoda enjoys golfing, spending time with friends, and long walks on the beach.
And now. . . Our final phylum. . .
(drum roll)

17. Arthropoda
Arthropoda is tonight’s grand winner, with over one million different species and counting. Arthropods account for the vast majority of all known animal species, including crustaceans, arachnids, insects, and Joe Biden. They have segmented exoskeletons and jointed appendages. They also have the distinguished place of being the last phylum I cover in this assignment, meaning that as I type this, I am thinking of the wonderful and blissful freedom that lies ahead of me in having this assignment finished with. I hope you had fun in Costa Rica. Please give me an A. Thank you.