Friday, March 26, 2010

In pursuit of a meal

Hey all... I apologize for my unexpected haitus from the blogging world. I know you all missed my wit and sarcasm terribly :) Unfortunately, the real world interfered with my social media-ing in the form of various papers and tests. Anyways... I was thinking today about the great lengths college students will go to get free food. I was thinking about it as I sat through a rather long (more than an hour), somewhat awkward and occasionally tense meeting that was completely optional, all for the sake of some free pizza. Some of my colleagues sensed a trap and were smart enough to stay away, but despite the fact that I foresaw the potential for much awkwardness, I was hungry, and there was pizza. Good pizza. So I went. This wouldn't be the first time something like this has happened. In face, the day before I stayed at my workplace unpaid for an extra hour, also in the pursuit of free pizza. Which considering I make $9.50 an hour, may not have been mathematically sound. It is my belief that if all the clubs and organizations on campus stopped enticing poor, starving students with the promise of mint brownies and other unspecified "refreshments," said organizations would cease to exist, with the exception of a few, such as the Medieval Club, whose members do not necessarily follow the normal behavioral patterns of your average college kid. I have seen people sit through many extrordinarily long and boring presentations in pursuit of a 2X2" square of brownie and some Kool-Aid. I have also seen people promise their vote for student body president away for a piece of candy. I wonder if this principle could be applied beyond the bounderies of campus? Of course, adults (real adults, not the college variety) would probably have to be bought off with a little bit more than a fun-sized Twix, but I wonder if a donut would do it? Could I rule the world, one pizza slice at a time? It's possible. After all, today's leaders are yesterday's starving college student, and deep down, I am sure that the insatiable desire for pizza is still there. This has potential...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mad about March

It's that time of year again... March Madness. The time of year when productivity goes down around the country as everyone calls in "sick" or tries to sneak peeks at the game(s) in between spreadsheets. Fortunately for me, I work in the type of office where it is perfectly acceptable for us to have a giant flatscreen on the wall tuned to the ESPN at all times. As journalists we're supposed to keep up on the news, and well, basketball is the only news half the country cares about right now. Forget the healthcare vote, we want to know how the heck Murray St. managed to beat Vandy and how Iowa managed to beat Kansas(which pretty much destroyed the brackets of everyone in the country). The first round was pretty fun. The average game was decided by less than five points, and the BYU vs. Florida game (2OT!)was the best BYU basketball game I have ever seen. We watched it in the newsroom, and by the time we went into our second round of overtime we didn't care that broadcast was recording next door- we were all yelling. Of course, not everyone in the newsroom was grouped around the TV with baited breath. Most of the girls were at their desks, calmly going about their work while the fate of BYU basketball was played out on the national stage. This explains why when I say I went to a basketball or football game and guys ask me how it was, they are completely thrown for a loop if I say anything more astute than "We, like, won!" Come on, girls. Stop accepting traditional gender socialization and start realizing that it's okay for women to be interested in sports, too. If you have a problem with the sweat and other un-feminine aspects of actually playing sports, it is still okay to know that football has quarters and basketball is played in halves. An NCAA bracket is not any more complicated than the stars' love lives, and understanding it gets you a lot more respect from the guys. If you're not in it for the game and can't keep all the rules straight, you should at least be able to remember the names, numbers and positions of various handsome, manly men with large muscles who frequent such events as the Superbowl and March Madness. That way, when a guy says he's dreaming of sweet sixteen, you'll know it has nothing to do with age. Next year, maybe...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where there's smoke, there's dinner

Cooking takes on such a different meaning when you're living away from home. In high school I helped with dinner fairly often. I would come home after a long day to find my mom on the phone discussing her church calling, painting the ceiling, and dashing down the ladder to forward the laundry every half hour, and I would know that it was up to me to heroically save my dad and brothers from starvation. But it's different when you are the only person between you and an empty stomach every single day. Some days I come home and really enjoy the chance to be productive and creative in a non-homework way, but there are a lot of other days when I get home late and exhausted and think "Hmm, I could spend twenty minutes making something, or I could eat this bread straight out of the bag." Sometimes the bag wins. At least I know how to cook. There are a lot of girls out there who can barely manage to figure out how the toaster works, and I wonder how they survive. Of course, even though I cook more than most of my roommates, I am just as accident prone. As mentioned in my "Lessons from Apartment Living" post, my roommates and I have confirmed our suspicions that sausage grease is flammable, as well as discovering the flamability of less likely suspects, such as noodles and the cardboard under the frozen pizza. Every day when I come home and the apartment is still standing I feel grateful. Fortunately our smoke detector is on the other side of the kitchen, unlike at home where it was directly over the stove. Every time anything spilled over onto the burner, the whole neighborhood knew the McDowells were cooking again. I think it might be a good idea if I marry a firefighter.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Swimsuits for Mormons

I went swimsuit shopping yesterday. Do you know how hard it is to buy a swimsuit when you're a Mormon girl? Even in Utah, it is exceedingly difficult, although not as bad as in Oregon. Outside of Utah, you go to a department store and they've got several racks full of bikinis, and the only one-pieces are a couple of extra exra larges and a really ugly floral print with a little skirt that was obviously meant for a 70-year-old lady. All the girls who read this know exactly what I'm talking about. The fashion industry doesn't believe in one-pieces for anyone under 50 years old or 300 lbs. Unfortunatley, I do. So when my roommate needed a new swimsuit and I decided I did too, I was excited to go shopping in the Land of the Modest Clothes. I mean, they have prom dresses with sleeves here. How hard could finding a new swimsuit be? Answer: harder than I thought. Part of the problem is that my roommate and I are poor college students with a very minimal interest in fashion, which means on the list of things we want to spend our money on, clothing is pretty close to the bottom, somewhere in between notebook paper and dryer sheets. So the first couple of stores we went to were out, because I had forgotten that some people feel morally okay with charging $50-$70 for a couple of square feet of spandex. We finally ended up in a store which was more in our price range (It may have started with "Wal" and ended in "Mart." Don't judge, okay?). Then the real shopping began. After discarding the ones with the little skirts, the ones that only came in extra large, and the ones that were just plain ugly, we had a few choices left. The problem was, none of them worked out so well. I'm a lot more picky than just fulfilling the one-piece requirement, and the rest of the swimsuits were either too low in front, or had no back, or some other problem like that. See, a lot of girls don't really wear their swimsuits to go swimming in. Guys would probably be surprised to hear it, but it's true. Even for Mormon girls, the point of owning a swimsuit is to lounge around the pool, watch the guys show off, and maybe do a little bit of flirty splashing with your feet (provided it doesn't mess up your hair), all while wearing considerably less than you would be allowed to wear to school. I, on the other hand, go to the pool to actually swim. Sometimes I even do things like river raft or play basketball, or other activities that involved a fair amount of rough-housing. So I like my swimsuit to fit, and fit well. So all the options were out, except for one decent-looking but not particularly cute black one. The only problem was, there was only one small size, and my roommate needed it worse than I did. Long story short, I still have the same swimsuit I've had since high school. Guys have it so easy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Indirect flirting

In my linguistics class yesterday we talked about indirect speech, which is when we say one thing but actually mean another. If you think about it, we actually say what we literally mean far less often than we think, all in the name of politeness. For instance, when we say "Is it your turn to do the dishes today?" what we really mean is "The kitchen is disgusting and apparently you've forgotten it's your dish day, so do the dishes!!!" And when someone cuts us in line at the grocery store and we say "Excuse me, I believe I was next," what we actually mean is "Get to the back of the line, you self-entitled jerk." Normally we all speak the same form of indirect language, and so we can all be rude to each other without using actual rudeness. However, when it comes to dating, sometimes it seems as if guys and girls are speaking a completely different language altogether. One phrase or gesture can mean two completely different things, depending on gender. For example:

Actual sentence: Sorry, I'm busy.
What the girl meant: I'm not interested, but I'm giving you one chance to take the hint gracefully before I have to spell it out for you.
What the guy hears: Oh darn, I really think you're hot stuff and want to go out with you, but I have a life or death situation to attend to. Please ask me out again.

Acutal sentence: I'm SO sorry! I have to go to my grandmother's funeral then, but I would love to go out with you some other time.
What the girl meant: Dang it! Why did it have to be this weekend?! PLEASE ask me out again, because I really like you!
What the guy hears: I am not interested. In fact, I am so not interested that I'm lying to you. Please do not ever ask me out again.

Actual sentence: I think that movie looks so good!
What the girl is actually saying: Please ask me on a date to this movie.
What the guy hears: I think that movie looks good, and I would love to see it by myself or with my female friends.

Actual sentence: I love this song!
What the girl meant: Please ask me to dance.
What the guy hears: I would enjoy standing here and talking to you about the song and what makes it good while everyone else dances. The only thing that would be better is if you wandered off to get a drink or talk to your buddies standing on the sidelines.

Actual sentence: Ha ha ha, you are so much fun to hang out with! And smart! And cute!
What the girl meant: I am really laying it on thick now. I'm being so obvious I'm pretty sure even Helen Keller could tell I was flirting.
What the guy hears: I might be slightly interested in you. Then again, maybe not. You'd better not risk asking me out yet. But keep leading me on, just in case.

If they could teach us how to translate THAT type of indirect language in linguistics, it would be the most popular class on campus.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This weekend I am going to a Divine Comedy show. For the uninitiated, DC is a comedy sketch group on campus. And they are hilarious. I think part of the reason they are so funny is because, well, let's face it... they've got a lot of material to work with. They can make fun of popular culture, college culture, Mormon culture, Utah culture, and BYU culture. It's a bonanza. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE BYU!!! Seriously, it's amazing. But it's also a crazy mix of the strange and ridiculous some days. I mean, where else could you overhear a snippet of conversation that goes like this...
Guy#1: 39?
Guy#2: Fornication.
...and instantly know they were studying for a Book of Mormon test? Not to mention how professors of non-religious subjects always throw in scripture references when they're teaching. For example, one day one of my classes went like this:
Professor: You know, when I make up multiple choice tests I kind of feel like Satan. I take the truth and then I twist it several different ways to trick you into picking the wrong one. Isn't that what he does?
Student: No, if you were following Satan's plan, there would only be one answer for each question and we would all be forced to get an A.
Class [chanting]: Satan's plan! Satan's plan!
...Only at BYU, eh? I think that's why our police beat and letters to the editor are so funny. Instead of alcohol-related incidents and other serious crimes we get incidents like this sneak preview of tomorrow's police beat:
March 4 A caller with a Jamaican accent made a call to the police department trying to reach men’s basketball coach Dave Rose. He wanted to inform Rose he had won a contest, and for Rose to receive his prize, he simply had to send them a cashier’s check. Being familiar with the scam, the police officer told him to stop calling. The caller continued to call. By coincidence, Rose was in the office during one of the calls and told the secretary to give the caller his number. The coach then took care of the problem by blowing a loud whistle into the mouthpiece. The caller has not called back since.
And finally, letters to the editor. Some are extremely articulate. Others make me wonder if maybe BYU needs to add a psych test to the admissions process. This year there was the writer who wrote a strongly-worded chastisement to the Bookstore for displaying Satanic images that "drive away the Spirit" when they hung up posters of cute little cartoon witches and ghosts for Halloween. There was the girl who compared girls who let guys pay for them on dates to prostitutes. There was also the guy who angrily claimed that he forgot to turn off his cell phone before going into the Testing Center because he was mercilessly distracted by the sight of a girl in a low cut shirt (he must not have outgrown his sixteen-year-old hormones yet). Fortunately, there are also students who write letters like this in response:
Dangerous Cleavage
I sympathize with the cleavage-sensitive student (Jan. 23, "Mind the gap") who spoke of a Testing Center worker "branding a particularly vicious v-neck," and of being so distracted that he lost the ability to read a sign. Recently, I was exiting Japanese class when I was attacked by a fiercely low-cut blouse. It leapt from its wearer's bosom, mercilessly assaulting me like a wicked stream of bullets that each have a gun that shoots additional, smaller bullets. Dazed, I managed to stumble only a few yards towards the exit when I collapsed, inadvertently pulling the fire alarm in the process. An Honor Code rescue squad had to be summoned to perform Chastity Pulmonary Resuscitation on me, and for the rest of the week, I was prone to fainting spells when near the opposite sex.

Like I said... Divine Comedy is not lacking in material.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Overheard in the Newsroom

Tonight I am too lazy to write my own post. Yes, it was one of those days. Instead, for your enjoyment, we have some of my favorite quotes from "Overheard in the Newsroom," which is basically a Web site where people contribute funny things said in the newsroom. The following represent my chosen career quite well:

Reporter: “You have to block comments on this story. I predict a flame war.”
Editor: “I’m sorry, all I heard was ‘more hits!’”

Editor: “Did the mayor really use the word shenanigans and compare the city to a three-legged stool?”
Reporter: “Yeah, that guy’s a quote machine.”

Copy Editor: “Being a Copy Editor is a lot like ‘Where’s Waldo?’ but instead it’s called ‘Find the Career-Ending Mistake.’”

Editor #1: “We have another snowblower accident, this time the guy got it in the leg.”
Editor #2: “That’s three! Trend story!”

Copy Editor walking into sappy moment at meeting: “There’s so much caring in here, it doesn’t even feel like a newsroom.”

Reporter 1: “Someone just called to complain their neighbor has already set up Christmas decorations.”
Reporter 2: “I smell Pulitzer.”

Copy Editor on phone with Sports Editor, talking about Sports Writer from another paper:
“It’s not that hard to figure out who scored a touchdown. Usually they go ‘Wooooo!’”

Editor: “We’re not looking for Pulitzer material here. We just need something to fill the space between the ads.”

Reporter: “I don’t like to go near the Copy Desk. There’s a constant cloud of gloom hanging over there.”

Copy Editor to Editor: “This doesn’t have the feel of an on-time paper.”

Reporter: “Being a government reporter makes you hate democracy.”

Reporter trying to talk an Editor out of pursuing a story: “Isn’t there something to be said about ‘First, do no harm?’”
Editor: “That’s for doctors, not reporters. Our oath is, ‘Go get ’em.’”

Reporter showing someone around and entering the newsroom: “This is the nerve center. This is where we fill up all the space we can’t sell ads for.”

A Reporter tries to get a Photographer to go to a political event with him as an Editor listens in:
Photographer: “I’m shooting basketball that night.”
Reporter: “Basketball won’t be the Governor next year.”
Editor: “And more people will still care about basketball.”
Reporter: “And THAT is why I hate people.”

Cops reporter: “You know it’s a slow news day when the police department is just blasting Journey over the scanners.”

Editor: “Did you just mash random keys or were you actually attempting to spell Alzheimer’s?”

Reporter shouting at a city official: “Show me where in open records law there’s an exemption for antagonistic people.”

Reporter on phone with principal, trying to set up a time for photographers to come: “I’d like to shoot some kids.”

Reporter: “Ugh, I hate the smell of burned houses.”
Photographer: “You hate the smell of job security?”

Editor: “What’s going on the rest of page 8?”
Writer: “My obituary. I figure I’ll take one for the team.”

Copy Editor: “There isn’t a headline that can’t be improved by adding the word ‘pants’ in it.”

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hair people

It’s that time of year again… the time of year where it’s been a few months since I got a haircut, and the split ends are starting to show up. I’ve been procrastinating getting it cut again, though, because, well… I hate getting my hair cut. It’s not the actual act of cutting I don’t like. I definitely don’t mind people touching my hair. I just don’t like judgmental hair people touching it. If you’re reading my blog, chances are you know me. And my hair. And you know exactly why when I walk into the salon and I’m greeted by a perfectly coiffed girl who’s been flatironing since kindergarten, she always gives me a look that says “Like, OMG honey, did you stick your finger in a light socket?” and then the innocent questions start. “Do you usually straigten your hair? You just wore it in a ponytial to get it cut, right? Have you tried this product before?” And pretty soon I have a whole basket full of expensive products being “highly reccommended” to me. So I have a lot of hair. I just don’t know what to do with it. I grew up with all brothers, remember? So even though I can explain everything from the electoral process to the BCS system, curling irons still mystify me. I can use them (and straighteners) for minor touch-ups, but when it comes to transforming my whole head full of hair, it ain’t happening. Guaranteed, if you see me in anything more time-consuming than a ponytail, my roommates got their hands on me. Because even if I did know how to do all that stuff, who wants to spend that long in front of the mirror every morning? I personally have more interesting things to look at. There are definitely advantages to being low maintenance, though. During my freshman year when everyone else was spending an hour getting ready for a dance, the boys would get tired of waiting and leave, taking me with them. And let me tell you, the uneven ratio wasn’t a bad thing. I mean, what were those girls doing??? They must have been straightening each strand of hair individually, because I don’t think I could spend a whole hour getting ready if I tried. I don’t think they realized that not a single guy there noticed they had curled their eyelashes. They’re boys, for crying out loud. I doubt they even registered what color half the girls were wearing. Yeah, there’s probably a lot of guys that have passed me over for dates because I’m not as primped as other girls. But those guys are shallow anyways. Some day a guy is going to realize that while other girls were perfecting their mascara and curling iron skills, I was busy learning to cook and sew and talk football. I may not be able to do a french twist, but I can make a heck of a loaf of french bread. And I’m pretty sure that’s going to count for something in the end.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The drug dependant albatross

Song lyrics are funny things. For those of you not left-brained enough to understand them, here’s a mathematical hint: the amount of sense a song makes is inversely proportionate to how hip it is. This may seem like a very modern idea, but anyone who has studied poetry on at least a high school level knows full well the art of passing off Mad Libs as works of art has been around for centuries. Some day, when I get to heaven, I am going to find William Blake and he’ll admit to me that when he penned the words “Tyger, tyger, burning bright,” he was actually writing about a tiger. At that point I will laugh triumphantly in the faces of all the English teachers who gave me bad grades on my poetry analyses over the years when I said things like “The author wrote that flowers were pretty, so I’d say the underlying message of the poem is… she thinks flowers are pretty.” And then I will probably get kicked out of heaven. Maybe I should refine this plan. I sometimes wonder if a hundred years from now our great great grandchildren will be analyzing the words of bands like Cake and Nirvana (since, let’s face it, who writes actual poetry anymore?). Their teachers will try to tell them that “You can dress up like a sultan in your onion head hat” is a three-level metaphor for transcendentalists challenging coporate greed in a materialistic world, even though the words were actually picked randomly out of a hat by a bunch of drunk guys in a garage. To illustrate my point, I have arranged some of the lines of five Owl City songs into a new song (Yes, I got REALLY bored with studying), and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t make the same amount of sense as the individual songs did by themselves:
Hello Seattle, I am an albatross
And that's why I don't drink and drive
I will disguise myself as a sleeping pill
'Cause I just don't foresee myself getting drowsy
At a church rummage sale
Cough and alcohol don't mix
So if my resolve goes south I swallow my pride with asprin and shut my mouth
'Cause I saved a few and I keep them in a jar
Mixed with stale gasoline
I've been to the dentist a thousand times
I'm hooked so toss me over
Down your dark basement stairs
I'll keep my helmet on just in case my head caves in
I brush my teeth and look in the mirror,
When I'm far too tired to fall asleep
'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
I know the part, it's such a bummer,
Oh throw a party and greet my undersea friends
With friends like these well, who needs enemies?
I call it “The drug-dependant albatross,” and trust me, it’s going to be a smash hit some day when they sing it on their reunion tour, complete with weird lighting and albatross dancers. I feel a career coming on… and if it doesn’t work out, I can always sell my garbage can to an art museum for millions of dollars. I call it “Receptacle of Rubbish,” and some day some poor guy will write his master’s thesis on how the Snicker’s wrapper near the top represents the fraility of human nature.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater

Today I had a story in the Daily Universe, which you may want to read before continuing:
The story was cowritten by me and my partner Danny for an advanced print reporting assignment. I have to give credit here where credit is due: although I did a lot of interviewing and writing for the article, it was Danny who got The Interview. Since the article topic was my idea, I was supposed to take point on it, but I told Danny to feel free to interview anyone he heard talking about interesting cheating-related things. He called me later to tell me about Heather. She started talking to one of his friends at work about her procrastination "method," and he asked her if he could interview her, fully expecting her to say no. Amazingly, she agreed, even after he made it very clear that this article would appear in the newspaper with her name and information. She didn't care, which proves once again several things I have learned since becoming a reporter:
1) Some people are stupid.
2) Some people will do anything to to get into the newspaper.
3) Some people don't censor themselves well.
4) Some people don't understand the power of the press to make or break a person.
5) Some people don't realize that newspapers aren't just five minutes of fame any more. If you're mentioned in the newspaper, a potential employer could Google your name ten years from now and found out about that time that you did that thing...
So he interviewed her. I interviewed other students. We wrote a story. And then we put it in the newspaper as promised, prominently displayed as the front page package. So far, we haven't heard from her. Maybe nothing will happen to her. Maybe she'll get kicked out of BYU. Maybe everyone will hate her and next year she'll still be getting "Hey, weren't you that girl...?" I'll probably never know. A small part of me feels bad about possibly having a hand in ruining her life. But a bigger part of me is okay with our desicion to publish. She knew her name was going to be in the paper, and she decided she was okay with the consequences. She did it to herself. It's not our job to protect unwise people from themselves, especially the dishonest ones. And we believe her story conveys the message Danny and I set out to give in the first place: there are many BYU students who would never dream of taking cheat sheets to a test. They think of themselves as honest, temple-reccomend-carrying, calling-holding members of the church. And yet, they are rationalizing their way down a slippery slope of "Well, I'm not really lying" instances. If at least one person read this article today, thought Heather was a bad person, and then thought of this article next time they were tempted to do something dishonest, then Danny and I did our jobs. Because from where we're standing, we don't see any gray areas.