Saturday, October 29, 2011


Dear NSF,

Your search engine makes me smile: Whenever I type in the acronym for one of your programs (EAPSI) you always ask, "Did you mean 'pepsi'?"  How is 'pepsi' somehow more relevant?  How much were you paid to endorse this product?  I'm very curious.


Dear Mother Nature,

It was like a 30 second preview - "Winter!  It's coming!"  Next time, more snow, less slush.  Otherwise, loved it!


Dear Wolves,

You tried so hard.  I could feel your strong effort all the way over here in America, despite the two minute lag on the ticker and the live German broadcast.  Mandzukic was left utterly confused.  Me too.  We had better possession and more shots on goal.  I still believe in you.


Dear Yoshida-san,

You're a dear and a doll.  Can we be friends?  No, seriously.  No?  Seriously?


Dear UK,

You get to set your clocks back an hour tonight.  The problem with living a global community is that sometimes you think that such things apply to you too.  I was excited for a few minutes before I got set straight.  Only 1 week to go and counting...


Friday, October 28, 2011

Tidying Up

Every so often our lab has one big all hands on-deck clean-up.  Today was such a day.

Each time I tackle a part of the lab that probably hasn't been touched in about 20 years.  It always ends in finding some very interesting items that I never quite know what to do with.  Today I found an electric pencil engraver (say what?), a mat cutter without a blade, and this...
For those curious, the package contained some screws.  I'm sure they were very special screws to be from one or more of those countries.  

Also, the other day, I went and got my car inspected.  While I waited, I went to World Market and designed my house.  Actually, I didn't design my house.  I only found two pieces of furniture that I wanted to own.  One of them is this adorable chair. It just had my name on it.
 No, it really did.
The other was a cute little table that opened up into a vanity.  It's going in my spare bedroom.  It could go in the master bedroom too.  I'm just not sure if it would match the futon's frame.  I think it would.  I would have to check.
And, no, I don't actually have a spare bedroom.  Or a master bedroom for that matter.  Or a futon.  I really don't have much.  But it was fun to pretend.

I also chose a really cute set of china made in Japan.  They were cherry blossoms on a blue background.
And I was talked out of some fabric dining room chairs.  Upkeep of cloth with those kids I hope to have in the future is just so difficult.  But they were fabulous chairs.  Bright yellow!

The End.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


If you were to meet <insert famous person's name here>, what would you ask him/her?

This situation has confronted me at multiple times in my life: posing questions to the President of the United States, posing questions to the President (and other General Authorities) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, posing questions to the President of Brigham Young University, posing questions to the newest President of The University of Virginia, posing questions to big famous guys at NASA, posing questions to Makoto Hasebe.  
"Beer?"  "Of course not :)"
Makoto, today, at his facebook chat
Okay, so the Makoto Hasebe one never really happened; I only found out that he was answering questions on facebook after he already finished.  But the rest of the above situations really occurred.  

I'm not good with important people.  I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. 

Exhibit A: Meeting L. Tom Perry: He's one of the nicest men in the world and he came to a meeting at which I participated in the choir.  After the meeting, he came over to personally shake all the choir member's hands.  It was exciting.  After the meeting, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a while and stopped to chat with her.  She was standing in a line waiting to get the chance to shake Perry's hand and as we chatted the line gradually moved closer and closer until my friend was suddenly shaking his hand.  He turned to me to shake my hand and I blushed, "Oh!  But I already shook your hand!"  It wasn't meant to be, "I only shake famous people's hands once."  It was really meant to be, "Your hand will get tired from shaking so many hands.  I will give you a break."  But alas, I'm VA (verbally awkward) so it came off poorly.  

My friends have never stopped laughing about that encounter.  

 I could include many, many more such examples, all of them verbally awkward and not impressive.  

The first time that Homer Hickam met John F. Kennedy, it had the makings of a potentially awkward encounter.  The glamorous Kennedy in wild and backwoods West Virginia coming face to face with a kid about to win the National Science Fair sporting a bright orange suit.  But what could potentially have become a comedy act turned into a real conversation when Hickam asked Kennedy his thoughts on outer space.  (Meanwhile, my own meeting with Homer Hickam does belong in a comedy act - the irony of it all still makes me laugh)  

In some way, I think, I want my meetings with people to be meaningful.  An autograph, a picture, maybe a question or a comment.  That's all you get.  I don't like autographs.  What would I ever do with it once I got it?  Pictures are so impersonal.  (I once got my picture taken next to an Indy 500 pace car.  It was as special as the 500 people who went before me.)  And you still don't know what to do with it.   Somehow it seems the tokens we get from such encounters merely work as bragging stories for those who we really associate with.  But I want something more: an encounter where somehow people truly meet and see, person-to-person.  

But how can you express or get a glimpse of a person in a few moments?  Do famous people themselves ever feel misrepresented and misunderstood?  Do they ever scream that they want a person who sees them for themselves and not just as a tool to impress others at social events?  (You know, my friend the...)

Even those of us who aren't famous, don't we also sometimes feel misrepresented and misunderstood?  Can't people see beyond my exterior to find that I am a person with dreams and hopes and aspirations that cannot be grasped with mere formalities and polite conversation?

What questions can we ask to find the heart of a person?  Or is that something that words cannot reach?

Listening to this on repeat.  Seriously, amazing.

Cat Nap

I fell asleep this afternoon and had a series of random dreams in quick succession.  They are fascinating but left me feeling like my subconscious had just taken me on a journey.

Dream 1: I was at church.  My friends and I (including Sarah from Alaska) had made a banquet of food for the other congregation that attends in the same building as us.  I kept asking Linds for her opinion on the food and Sarah too as we anxiously awaited for their church meetings to end so we could serve them dinner.  But as we went in to taste some of the food for appropriate spices, we discovered that people had been sneaking taste tests all during their meetings.  So, laughingly, we wondered if we should just end meetings early and sit down with both congregations together to eat in the bounty of food.

Dream 2: I was a family reunion.  It was a distant family member.  At one point my grandma mentioned that we were in, "Some cousin's kid's house" which just goes to show you how random it was that we were there.  They had this very large setup for all the many children they had that included a rather fun jungle gym type room.  Somehow, my entire family ventured up there.  (My oldest sister had to give me specific instructions to get onto the swinging platform and then she joined me up there as well)  There we were, perched on various little ledges and seats in this room, all of my siblings and my mother.  We were having an intelligent adult conversation (my brother was on his iPad and one of my sisters had a phone that folded out into a tablet as well) about our interactions with other people and how we have addressed specific cultural, political, and social differences only to find that we really all handled things in the same way.

Dream 3: I was in a professional restaurant kitchen where the chef and sous chef were barking out orders for the day's tasks.  They gave some special sauce assignment to a really cute, excited pregnant girl who immediately skipped over and started in.  I watched as she carefully put in all the ingredients into this very large pot and stirred and stirred and stirred.  Then with a shaking hand she took a spoon and tasted it very carefully. She pondered for a moment and then said, "It's missing something."

Cue the music.

No, really, my mind cued the first few notes and then continued to play out the song as I came into consciousness.  And I lay there, listening to this odd soundtrack in my head thinking, "Something is missing."

If only I could figure it out what ingredient is missing from my life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

James and Edgar

Today for English class, I started searching through American literature for Halloween appropriate literature.  While searching, I was reminded how beautiful and eloquent the English language is.

While the time before class' beginning ticked down, I sat on my bed, with books of poetry all around me, as though I was suddenly meeting old friends once again.

Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, James Whitcomb Riley,  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allen Poe, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, etc.

There we were, gathered all together, in one happy little conglomeration of thoughts and opinions and ideas.

It was long overdue.  Sometimes, I get so caught up in expanding my knowledge of other languages that I forget the simple joy in understanding, loving and basking in your native tongue.

It's nice to come home again.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blue Monday

The world is achingly beautiful today.  And I'm in my lab, trying to motivate myself to work.

Dear Ashin,

I realize that life is sometimes beyond description that doesn't mean you can just make up acronyms that have no meaning.  Hahahaha.  I'm laughing with you not at you, I promise.  Hahahaha.  No, really.  OAOA.


Dear Wang Leehom,

Did you just sing that that girl was beautiful?  I'm not quite sure.  It was a little vague.  Could you repeat that line again?  And again?  And again?  Thanks.


Dear SMEnt,

My apologies for teasing Shinee, Super Junior and SNSD for their interesting use of English in their songs.  How could I have missed the ultimate on BoA's Hurricane?  "Electronic Manic Supersonic Bionic Energy"  takes the cake.  I'm starting to see a pattern though: supersonic, hypertonic, fantastic, elastic... You do realize that there are words outside of those that end in 'ic' that rhyme in the English language, right?


Dear Self,

Stop freaking out and get to work.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Good News

Today, I found out that two of my good friends are dating.

One of these friends I met many, many years ago when I had a rather large and embarrassing crush on his roommate.  The roommate never saw me as anything other than a friend but his roommates embraced me as a sister.  One of them even lied to some random girl who came over to see the aforementioned crush and told her I was his sister to save me from embarrassment.  The girl even thought we looked alike since we both had curly hair.  I don't think she even noticed that it took me a moment to answer her when she called me by a name I had only acquired 30 seconds before.  Those roommates were some of the best people I have met.  They were  true and loyal friends.

The other friend I met many years ago when she moved into my hometown.  For some reason, we became friends, not close friends.  Not even best friends.  But good friends who shared a tent one very rainy camping trip and talked of things more serious than I ever normally share with people even that I'm closest to.  We expressed our deep fears and our hopes and dreams for the future.

I couldn't hope for anything better for two better people.  I hope that even if this isn't their happy ending (beginning) that at least they will both benefit from the company and association of the other.  I certainly count my blessings for knowing them.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Laws of Attraction

It started when my sister asked if I thought a certain picture of Donghae looked like Zac Efron.  Since one of my friends and I have a thing for Zac, I thought I'd ask her.  
Lee Donghae of Super Junior
Zac Efron

Her response?

" know that guy is Asian."  

"Um...well, yes, he is."  

She insisted, "I think it's too hard for me to get past that to think that he looks like Zac Efron."  

I was shocked, floored.  She couldn't see the similarity in his expression and stance?  I let it go because honestly, I only somewhat saw the resemblance between Zac and Donghae myself.  I was intrigued though.  I asked her about it later - she admitted that she didn't find Asians attractive at all.  

Makoto Hasebe of Japan NT and Vfl Wolfsburg Fussball
Me: Not at all, at all?  You don't think Makoto is attractive?
Friend: Nope.  
Me: What?! Not at all?  But you said he reminds you of one of our other friends who you do find attractive.
Friend: Sorry.  He's just not attractive.
Me: How can that be?
Friend: At least I can appreciate that you think he's attractive.  

I think I pushed the issue for a long time, absolutely baffled.  We both find lots of different types of men attractive but for some reason she is just not attracted to Asians.  

Confused, I started asking other friends about their honest opinions about Asian men.  In fact, last night, I spent an entire hour searching for famous Asians that my roommate would classify as 'handsome'.  She blew through my IGA club in a second:  "I don't think men should be pretty."  "Definitely NOT handsome."  "Ewww."  
Lee Minho
Yunho of DBSK
Kim Hyun Joong of SS501

The search felt like an uphill battle.  I had no idea what her definition of 'handsome' was.  And it seemed the more I looked, I had no better idea than when I began. 
Hawick Lau
Song Seung Hun
Jo Hyun Jae
These all just got 'eh'

She insisted there was some handsome man from Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.  I went and looked up the cast.  There's a character in that movie whose role is "Exceedingly Handsome Man."  Did she agree?  Not at all.  (To be honest, neither did I)

In desperation, I started just looking up random actors in Japan and China even if I didn't think they were handsome just trying to figure out who/what she considered attractive.  Those didn't really work either.  

I started to wonder if something was wrong with my friends.  Or me.  Did I just have that bad of taste in men?  

Probably a little of both.  :)  

You see one of my friends has a weakness for tall, thin men.  While there are definitely tall, thin Asians (Lee Minho and Maya Yoshida both stand at 6'2")  the majority of men that I show this friend for a check on attractiveness average around 5'9".  

The other friend likes men are manly and who have square jaw lines.  Facial hair of course always helps but no long hair.  Again, there are some very hairy Asians but if the three-foot calendar of Makoto's head on my wall is any indication, some Asians can't grow anything more than a mustache.  (I finally found someone she found swoon-worthy: Akihiro Ienaga and Cha Seung Won)  
This attractive man who plays soccer
 for Mallorca, Spain stands at 5'9"
Actor Cha Seung Won stands at 6'2"
So, what's going on?

Last year, in a frustrating conversation with men.  Let's be honest: it wasn't a conversation.  I was a fly on a wall while I heard men that I'm acquainted with complain about women and their frustrations in dating women.  At one point, one of the men made the argument, "If you lined up 100 women and had men choose who was most attractive, they would probably all agree that about five of them were attractive.  But if you lined up 100 men and had women choose who was most attractive, it's anyone's guess."  (I wasn't sure why this made him so frustrated about dating women. To me, it seems that women's varying tastes in men would mean that he would have more of a chance of a girl finding him attractive.)

In any case, my friends and I just might be proving his theory correct.

***Looking back over this group of individuals, I think this might say more about my taste in men than anything about my friend's interests
*****Contrary to some ideas, I actually don't think all Asians are attractive or that all men I find attractive are Asian.
**My definition of attractiveness actually comes down to personality.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Candy Kisses

"Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get."   ~Forrest Gump
Yesterday, in a fit of spontaneity, I bought myself a box of chocolates.  It wasn't a fancy box of chocolates, just one of your normal drug store variety.

I went home and offered one to my roommate.  She wanted to look at the handy little diagram for a caramel.  I wouldn't let her by quoting Forrest.  Like a good sport, she chose carefully and got exactly what she wanted.

Randomly during the night, I would open up that box of chocolates, choose carefully, take a bite, grimace and throw the chocolate away.  By the end of the night, I was losing faith in my chocolate choosing ability.  Before running to a meeting today, gathering up all my stuff, I looked over at that box of chocolates, so full of promise.  But, remembering my recent experiences with it, I turned away, leaving it untouched, secretly hoping my roommates would finish it off before I got home.  (Laughable since most of it is left)

It got me thinking.  Right now, life kind of feels like that box of chocolates.   The future is wide open before me.  Anything can happen.  But every bite I've taken lately has left me wondering how a person can be so bad at making decisions.  Is life just composed of chocolate creams?

Still stumped, I started thinking back to the reason I made that spontaneous purchase.  There I was, in the drug store, craving a specific type of candy that I could buy for 30 NTD (about 1 USD).  But I was not in Taiwan where such candy could be purchased.  So I cast my eyes around and looked for the next best thing - bridge mix.  Certain brands of it have one or two pieces similar to that candy in Taiwan.  None available, I started looking for something with variety, hoping that amidst choices, I could find the thing I was wanting.  Hence, a box of chocolates.

But was I wanting a box of chocolates?  Nope.  I was wanting something very specific and was simply looking for a suitable substitute.  But when you crave grape chocoballs, not even the nicest chocolates can suffice.

That is probably like my life too.  I only have a few very specific goals for my life.  If those don't happen, then will everything else end up being distasteful?  Sometimes my ambitions scare me.

However, it's not like these goals are a whim like my spontaneous box of chocolates.  I've been training and preparing for this point in my life.  You can say my tastes have been conditioned.  In some sense, I didn't buy just any box of chocolates.  I chose carefully between the collection of pecan, nuts and creams, truffles and dark chocolate varieties for the collection most suited to my tastes.  So, if in life, I've been conditioned to crave chocoballs, then surely, somewhere in that box of chocolates, there is a chocoball.

Note to self:
Life is like a box of chocolates.  Even if you get a few 'duds', don't give up hope.  Keep trying, keep looking.  One day you'll find what it is you've been craving!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Dear English class,

I know that you are all anxious to read and discuss current events but lately, all the issues on the news just make me depressed.  Thanks for being good sports and humoring me with discussing the history of the ad industry in America instead.


The Japanese version

The American version (sadly, I kind of like the Japanese one better)

Dear Taemin,

You are the cutest thing ever.  My sister and I want to adopt you.  We will be the best American noonas you never had.

With hair like that and those blue-green contacts in, 
he looks like he might just belong in the family....Kind of.  

Dear Research,

I used to think something was wrong with you.  Now I understand, it's really just me.  I have no idea what I'm doing.


Dear Kato,

I almost didn't know what to think when you went two weeks without a check engine light on.  I'm still in shock.  Inspections are up this month.  I life half in fear and half in hope.  Be a loyal sidekick, there's a dear.


Dear F4,

Didn't I say you would grow to love me?  And buy me expensive things?  Although I wasn't happy to find my milk souring and my ice cream in a puddle in the freezer, it has been nice to get that nice new white shiny big fridge.  Several times a day now, I walk over to the fridge to open it and marvel how tiny my collection of food now looks.  Might I recommend a new dishwasher next?  Or a new stove?


Dear Chinese PhD people,

I know that six years seems a long time to be in a graduate PhD program.  Believe me, I still wonder how I so blindly walked into this.  However, it's still a respectable time to graduate in.  Please stop laughing at me and bluntly telling me exactly how I've been messing up in my life plans.  Graduate school, you see, is already doing a great job at that.


Dear Life,

A few weeks ago, while driving back from DC, a reverend giving a sermon on the radio said that the most common question he finds among people is, "Who am I?"  Thanks to you, I am getting a clear picture of who I am and who I am not.  However, that also comes with a healthy dose of, "I have no idea what I'm doing."  Care to enlighten me?


Dear Vfl Wolfsburg,

People think I only like you because of a certain one of your teammates <cough Makoto Hasebe cough>. But honestly, I like your whole team.  I love Marcel for his zealous attention to Facebook.  I love Mandzukic for that amazing talent he has to look both disgusted and confused in every picture I've seen of him.  I love that Lakic's greatest self-admitted weakness is being too nice.  (You can guess that from just a glance at him - his eyes are too kind)  I also completely respect Hasan, Christian and Josue and so many others.  (Ochs, Helmes)  Now that you've made me a loyal fan, I'd love if it you'd start to show the rest of the Bundesliga what you're made of.

Source: Vfl Wolfburg Fussball Webseite

Dear Taiwan,

It's that time of year again.  (Haha, when is it not that time of year?)  You know, that time when I miss you and wish that you and I were nearer?  But seriously, I'm craving hotpot and night markets and my friends.  Any chance you want to start a significant space program?  


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Study Break

Overheard in the hall of my lab:

Prof1: Long time no see.  What brings you up to the lab?
Prof2: I've finally decided to throw away some of my stuff that I've been keeping in this room.  You know how you're not supposed to waste leftovers?
Prof1: Yeah, so you put it in the fridge and forget about it for a week or two until it molds.  And then you have to throw it away?
Prof2(smiling): Exactly.  That's like this - do you think 20 years is long enough?  I never knew what to do with that stuff even back then.
Prof1(chuckling): I'm sure it's moldy by now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Just for kicks...

I like to pretend that people are secretly in love with me.

That handsome guy in the Asian grocery store might have been asking me if I needed help because, well, that's the polite thing to do....Or he could have asked because he was looking for an excuse to strike up a conversation.

And sure, he may have only been doing his job when he noticed a package of noodles out of place right next to me...Or he could have, again, been looking for an excuse to give me a chance to talk.

Yeah, studying that package of noodles very intently while I browsed the noodles myself definitely must have been something his manager trained him to do in order to become better acquainted with all the store's products...Or he could have wanted to just spend a few minutes in the same aisle as me.

And perhaps, putting that package of noodles in it's proper place was only his way of being a good employee...

I walked past that very package of noodles only to realize that the result of all of this dutiful handsome employee's effort was that one package of shanghai noodles was now with all the chinese style noodles.

Yeah, this employee could have been really bored and trying to give himself some restocking to do later on....Or he could be secretly in love with me.

I've heard it both ways.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Unlikely Acquaintances

Today, while sitting on my desk, I watched a stink bug crawl towards a daddy long legs.  Neither bug knew quite to make of each other.  Daddy moved a few legs aside while the stink bug tried to carefully navigate his way around on the narrow wall they shared.  Looking at them I sat back and marveled.

I know that everyone hates stink bugs, these invasive bugs from Asia that don't have natural predators and so have quite taken over all of Virginia.  However, if it wasn't for that introduction, these two little bugs would never have met and I never would have had the opportunity of witnessing their awkwardly polite encounter.

When I was an undergraduate, among other jobs, I cleaned the library.  I actually got the job of cleaning offices in the library which I thoroughly enjoyed.  We had specific rules regarding offices that I strictly followed such as not touching ANYTHING on a desk or even looking at papers on the desk.  We also weren't allowed to throw anything away (even if it looked like trash and the office occupier just had bad aim for the wastebasket). As a result, when I entered offices to dust non-desk surfaces, wipe down office windows, empty trash bins and vacuuming, I spent a lot of that time looking at the walls.

One of the offices down on the first floor, in the history section of the library, had a large world map on the wall.  One day I paused in my vacuuming and looked up at that map.   And then I turned off the vacuum and looked at it even closer.  I guess I came from a small town with old non-updated maps because it was the first time I had ever seen a map with so many countries where the USSR had once been.  I remember thinking, "Look at all these new ...stan countries!"  I'm sure I'd heard of them over the years but I hadn't realized there were so many.
January 2002 was probably about the same time that I first found this in that office

Ok, laugh all you want at my ignorance.  I should have heard of those countries since it had been a full decade since those countries had first emerged before this definitive knowledge of their existence.  However, we already know that I didn't have a great world history education in my formative years.

Today, I went to my English class and met a man who hails from Kazakhstan.  I left class, marveling.  Not only is this man from a country I had only heard of from a map on the first floor of HBLL at BYU, he and I work on similar research that I can actually understand.  It's incredible.  It's a miracle.

And as unlikely a pair as a daddy long legs and a stink bug.  Isn't life amazing?

Monday, October 10, 2011


When you take a step back from your life and look at it from a stranger's point of view, sometimes you just have to marvel/laugh.

A conversation with my sister as we're driving around DC.
Sister: Oh, we're on Patrick Henry Dr.  Who was he?
Me: He was the guy who was famous for saying, 'Give me Liberty or Give me Death'
Sister: Ohhh and then he got both.  Well, that not fair.  That's like saying, 'Give me a private jet or my own island' and then getting both.
Me: ??
Source: Wikipedia

Me: <taking my sister's phone to play on the internet without permission>
Sister: What are you doing?  No, don't use my phone!  <taking it away>
Me: Sorry.  I was just going to play some videos on Youtube.
Sister: Oh, now I feel bad.  Here you go; you can look up videos.
Me: ??  (I had every right to be scolded by her since I was playing mean older sister)

A conversation with some Cub Scouts while on a 'nature' hike:
Cub1: My baby brother is so cute.                                     Adult chaperone: Movies are great activities 
Sometimes he likes to try to scare me...                              to attend. Yesterday we went and watched...
Me: <in the middle of these two talking simultaneously about radically different things> How did I get myself into this again?

Cub2: I think my leaf is the best racing leaf in the world.  [Editor's note: It wasn't.  Too much surface area made it the slowest leaf by a long shot] 

Cub3: I can't believe we haven't even been walking for 30 minutes.  This is just too long!! I can't walk another step.  No more!
Sister (cub leader): Ok, kids, we're going to turn around and start going back now.
Cub3: Yes!  <starts running back the entire way>

Cub4: I love throwing rocks in the river.  <proceeds to pick up the largest boulder he can pick up and hefts it into the water>

Cub3: Wow, look at those tadpoles!
Me: Those aren't tadpoles.
Cub3: Yes, they are.  Look!
Me: I'm telling you, those aren't tadpoles.
Cub3: But tadpoles leave shadows in the water.
Me: They are much too big to be tadpoles.  Those are definitely fish.
Cub3: Oh, yeah, fish!  

The cub scouts find a 'caterpillar' on the sidewalk:
Cub3: Yes!  This is coolest thing ever!  Let's throw him into the river!
Cub4: Let's keep him as a pet!  Can I keep him?
Cub2: I'm  going to give him my racing leaf so he can have a mansion!
Cub1: Move, caterpillar!  Move!  Why aren't you moving?
Me: I think this poor bug is thinking, 'Why, oh, Why did I wake up this morning?  I'm being accosted by cub scouts!"

A conversation with a friend who attempted to make sticky rice cake for one of her classes.
Friend: It was the grossest thing I have ever eaten.  I must have done it wrong.
[She brings over a rice cake for me to try]
Friend: <apologetically>  It tastes horrible.  But at least it's sufficiently sticky.
Me: Wow, actually, this tastes really good.  It tastes just like it should.
Friend: Does it need more sugar?
Me: More sugar?  Then it would be too sweet.
Friend: Are you sure?  You're not just being nice?
Me: No, it really tastes good.  I'm impressed.  But you don't like it?
Friend: Yes, it's one of the grossest things I've ever tried.
Me: <nodding dubiously as I think back to the actual list of gross things I've eaten>

Me trying an Asian treat a different friend gave me a few weeks ago:
Me: I can't believe that she thought that rice cake was gross.  She must just have very American taste buds.
<taking a bite>
Me: Ugh!  What is this?  This is disgusting!  [It's so gross that I spit it out and rinse out my mouth multiple times]
[Serves me right really.  But in my defense, that Asian treat had long expired and wasn't properly packaged]

Friday, October 7, 2011

True Love

Dear Hasebe-san,

It's been a long week.  I'm sitting here, on my couch, too lazy to get up and actually go to bed.  I found myself looking at your blog and looking through old pictures.  You adore your niece.  When I look at you and the way you love your niece, I can completely relate; that is exactly how I feel about my niece too.  I can't wait to see her.  I miss her when she's not near.  I plan and wait and count down the days until I can see her again.  When she's with me, I can't get enough of her.  I see all of this in you and it's fun to think that people all over the world in all walks of life can equally obsess over their nieces.
However, today, while I was, as I said before, lazily sitting on my couch, mindlessly clicking through your blog pictures, I realized something: your niece is constantly smiling back or looking back at the camera or rather whoever is behind the camera.  Even when she is with you, she's thinking about and looking back at someone else.  In these pictures, I see the most adoring uncle in the world.  I also see a niece who loves her uncle very very much.  However, she doesn't forget whoever is behind that camera.  I've seen that look in my niece too.

A few weeks ago, my sister was visiting from Paris.  We decided to do a photoshoot of my incredibly adorable and absolutely photogenic niece.  We set up camp but realized we might need a blanket for Alexis to sit on since she actually doesn't like grass.  Somehow, despite the fact that she had just run something like 10 miles that day, we sent Alexis' mother back to the car.  Alexis, of course, adores her aunts, and smiled and laughed with us while her mom was gone.  We probably even got some cute shots then.  However, as Alexis' mom came back into view, hobbling a little on her sore legs, Alexis started glowing with joy.  Her entire face lit up and she excitedly started laughing and waving kid-like to her mom while saying, "Hi!  Hi!  Hi!"  Fact: Alexis loves her Aunt Erin but she adores her mother.  It was one of my favorite moments of the weekend.

If you look at pictures of Alexis and I, she is content and happy to be with me (except for that picture when I'm pushing her on the swing and everyone thinks she's screaming out in terror - she's not.  She actually loves swings.)  But when you see pictures with Alexis and her mother, you actually start to get a real glimpse of how much love my little niece can muster - and it's a lot of love.

Looking  at your pictures today, I saw the same trend.  You and I will always come in somewhere after first in line for our niece's affections.  (I probably fall in somewhere a lot farther behind - I do already have the reputation as the 'bad aunt')  But somehow, isn't it enough to love and be loved just as we are - somewhere behind first but by someone who loves us enough to laugh with us and hold our hand and smile when we walk in the room?  Someone who has done nothing and yet everything to change our world?

I wonder if we're getting a glimpse, just a glimpse, of what we can feel for our own children one day.  I hope so.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Selling It

I'm not a marketing person, by any means.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel the need to tell marketing how they're doing.

Obviously, marketing and ads are interested in selling a product.  They have a specific audience that they are targeting and usually something about their product that makes it preferable over other competitors' products.  I  can understand this rationale.

Case 1:
Let's pretend we are a hospital (come on, America, we all know hospitals are businesses too), trying to get more people to try out out helpful and valuable services.  I can just see their thought process.
Adman1: What is usually a person's first contact with a hospital?
Adman2: The emergency room
Adman1: Ahhhh... well, then let's sell the ER.  What is the worst part about emergency rooms?
Adman2: The wait times.
Adman1: Aha!  We'll sell our short wait times!  And post it on a billboard for cars to see!

See?  Logical sequence.  I value that.  Except that the outcome is horribly flawed.  Why?

(1) No wait time above a few minutes every really looks good for an ER, especially if you're there because your kid is sick or worse.  You want to be helped NOW!
(2) When you're really in a hurry, enough of an emergency for a trip to the ER, are you really going to stop and think, "Oh wait, the ER 40 minutes from my house has a five minute less wait time than the one just down the road."  Probably not - you're just going to the one closest to where you are.

The weirdest thing about this phenomenon though is that now all the hospitals are doing it.  Another case of failed logic.
Adman1: Well, XYZ hospital started posting it on a billboard and it looks pretty awesome with that changing display like that.
Adman2: You're right.  Flashing lights!  Our ABC hospital NEEDS a changing display billboard too.

My suggestion: Please, tell us about your excellent medical care.  Please, tell us about your excellent facilities.  You can even tell us about your specialties - I would remember something like, "Oh yeah, XYZ focuses on cancer research." and store it away for future hospital visits.

Case 2:
Adman1: Our product isn't selling enough.
Adman2: Well, what do you suggest?
Adman1: We need to figure out how this product benefits its consumers.
Adman2: It's really important for their futures.
Adman1: Great!  Print it up, put it out!  "Choose X product for your future!"
Does anyone else see something wrong with this ad?  It could just be me, after all.

When I was applying to graduate school, I had to take the GRE.  It wasn't a "Um...well, this would look really good on an application."  Instead, it was, "Report your GRE scores by this date."  Hence, if the GRE actually wants to increase their customers, shouldn't they be advertising graduate school and know that the rest would follow?

It would almost be like, "The Virginia Bar for your future!  Register now!"  while missing the obvious point that people who are taking the Virginia Bar should have graduated from a law school.

Another point, this ad was at an <cough> Kdrama website.  That might be a good assumption - Koreans are interested in going to graduate school.  However, wouldn't it be more effective on a website about "How to successfully apply to graduate school" at least?

My  suggestion: Using appropriate potential customer targeting, post dates and deadlines for the test (as well as graduate school applications) and nearby testing locations.  That would be more effective at helping potential customers use and sign up for your product.

Effective marketing?

I don't even speak Korean or drink tea and I'm sold.  (Actually, this entire series is hilarious.  But it all starts with this one)

Monday, October 3, 2011

On General Conference

It's always an interesting experience the week before General Conference.  You look at your life and decide which things you really want some answers to.  You think about which speakers you think will speak on things that will touch you.

The week before Conference that Job would consider a pathetic attempt at a hard week but it felt very Job-like to me.  I found myself, sadly enough, at one point, kicking a light post and screaming out to the world in Chinese, "為什麼?我是個好人!" ("Why?  I am a good person!")  Yes, conceit at its ugliest - not only was that comment declaring that I thought I was a righteous person but that somehow, because of that, I should be free from the hard times that are common to everyone's lives.   I can't say it was the proudest moment of my week.  Job would definitely have not reacted like that.

When Conference finally came around, I was numb and not sure anymore what questions I needed answered.  I think I was even afraid to ask.  With graduation and the hope for graduation looming ever nearer, I look forward in my life, craning, praying, hoping to see the next step and all is just darkness.  For a person striving for a PhD, I can't believe how little direction I have.

Here are some of the thoughts that stuck out to me from Conference:

"Have ye inquired of the Lord?" (Sister Barbara Thompson)
"Do the right thing at the right time without delay."  (Elder Jose L. Alonso)
"Because we depend so much on you, you will be greatly blessed."  (President Boyd K. Packer)
"You matter to God."  (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf)
"Do not be blown from one time wasting activity to another."  (Elder Ian S. Arden)
The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness by President Packer
"What does it mean to wait upon the Lord?  It means to hope and trust in Him."  (Elder Robert D. Hales)
"Trust in [God's] counsel and follow it."  (President Thomas S. Monson)
"Your eternal destiny is not a result of chance but of choice."  (Elder Randall K. Bennett)
"Our Father loves us so much that important things to us are important to Him just because He loves us."  (Elder J. Devn Cornish)

I left feeling a lot of different things, as shown above.  However, one thing that stands out is that I need to have a real relationship with God.

It's hard to just trust in the Lord...I'm a doer!

It's hard to trust in His plan...I'm a planner!

These next six months will be quite the adventure.

(On a completely completely unrelated note, I am CRAVING French macaroons.  Anyone know of a good (fairly) easy recipe?  Or where I can find them in Charlottesville, VA without spending an arm and a leg?)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Power of the Rotunda

Here is the Rotunda of the University of Virginia.
If you've ever seen any picture of the University of Virginia, it always makes an appearance.

Yesterday, my professor was telling me an entertaining story about the library at the University of Virginia, "Back in the Cold War,  the US government decided to send some of its documents to our library because it decided that Charlottesville had a low chance of getting bombed by the Soviets..."

I nodded in agreement - Charlottesville is not far from our nation's capitol but is small and insignificant as far as cities go.

"...because the Soviets would never bomb such an architectural wonder as the Rotunda out of deference to Thomas Jefferson."

I have to admit, I burst out laughing at this point.  It's not that I don't think the Rotunda is an architectural wonder.  I just didn't think that would ever come into discussion though in a Council of War by enemies of the United States -- consideration for a historical US building built by a famous US president.  "I don't think they would have cared!"  I kept laughing.

My professor stopped his story with a stern, "Well, it's irrelevant now,"  and a look that told me that such outbursts of poking fun at the conceit about the Rotunda were unacceptable.

I went home and told this story to some friends and one of them spoke up, "It was said that during the Civil War, the Union troops had express order to burn the Rotunda when they marched through Charlottesville.  When the troops came into town though and saw the building itself though, they thought it was too beautiful and impressive to destroy and decided to honor their third president, Thomas Jefferson, by not touching it."

This story put things in better context.  (1) This story seems likely -- the Rotunda was never touched during the Civil War.  Since we know that the Union soldiers burned cities in their path and since there are signs of the Union and Confederate Armies all over central Virginia we can't assume they just never reached Charlottesville.  We therefore can assume this story has some truth to it.  (2) It seemed reasonable that the soldiers who marched and marched along dusty and deserted roads would come into Charlottesville, also dusty and quiet, and be impressed and awed by the beautiful structure that is the Rotunda and would decide to show respect to a president that was as much theirs as the Confederates'.  (3) It also seems reasonable then that if one group of enemies, upon seeing the Rotunda refused to damage it, then another  - the Soviets - would act similarly.  (I think, though, that looking down from the sky would be less impressive than seeing it on the ground)

So, considering the probability of the Civil War story, what is the probability of the Cold War story?  I started to do some research about what people outside of Cville think of the Rotunda.

Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda is an impressive structure by all means.  Touted by the American Institute of Architects as "the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years", it holds a place as one of three man-made structures in the United States with the distinction of being a World Heritage Site.  (In case you were wondering about the other two, they are Independence Hall and the Statue of Liberty)

(Here's another interesting fact.  When I read this information, I immediately thought that America must have more impressive natural sites than man-made ones.  Out of the 21 World Heritage Sites that the US holds claim to, 12 of them are natural sites, composing of 16% of the natural sites in all of North America and Europe compared to the less than 2% of the cultural sites in these same regions)

That means, then, that the Rotunda is included in a list that boasts such marvels as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Alhambra, and Stonehenge. (You can see the full list here.)  The Rotunda rubs shoulders with some pretty illustrious architectural giants.

Is it possible that the Soviets wouldn't have bombed the Rotunda?  You tell me.