Saturday, December 20, 2014

Humans are complicated

If there is one thing I’ve learned as a journalist, it’s that the world is a complicated place. And people don’t want it to be.

Too many people aren’t capable of grasping the fact that the world isn’t divided, Disney-style, into heroes and villains. Everyone falls in a different place on the spectrum, but the truth is that we’re all a mixture of good and bad. Every single one of us.
People don’t want to hear that, though. They want their journalism like they want their fiction, with a clear-cut good guy and bad guy they can in turns root for and revile. And so they get angry if we tell the truth: that the murder victim had a criminal record, that the rapist was a straight-A student, that the two people in a conflict were both partly right and partly wrong.
I get it, it’s uncomfortable. Nobody wants to hear that Paul Ropp, who was sentenced last week to 30 years in prison for shooting a police officer in both legs and killing a police dog last spring during a robbery in Portland, is a gifted pianist with a penchant for jazz who played keyboard in my brother’s band. That he has a family who loves him. And that his partner in crime Steve-O has a magnetic sense of humor that made him well-liked by a lot of good people before he got mixed up in some pretty bad stuff.
Because if that’s the case, then one of your friends could someday go to prison for committing a horrible crime. And nobody wants to contemplate that when they could be merrily tapping away on their keyboard suggesting the villain should be, in the words of one Oregonian commenter, shot by a firing squad and “left to bleed out and die on the street.”
It goes the other way, too. Nobody wants to hear that someone they admire has any flaws, or that someone with flaws might also do some good in the world. And so they jump on the bandwagon to tear down anyone who hasn’t managed to craft an image of perfection. Exhibit A: The guy who is (depending on who you ask) either a sexist pig helping keep women from science jobs, or a brilliant scientist who landed a spacecraft on a comet before being unfairly victimized by oversensitive feminists.
Why can’t he just be the guy who is a great scientist and also made an unfortunate choice to wear a shirt adorned with scantily-clad women on television? Neither action cancels out the other, although you wouldn’t think so by reading Twitter.
People want to shut the media up about this mixture of good and bad we see in the world. They want to make all victims’ flaws off limits and all perpetrators’ good qualities forbidden. They want all of their news served up in a flawlessly-crafted narrative that allows them to be Team Darrell Wilson or Team Michael Brown instead of Team “We’ll never know exactly what happened that day in Ferguson, but it’s probable that different actions on either person’s side could have prevented a tragedy.”
I once interviewed them family of a dead 20-year-old and the family of the friend who dealt him a fatal punch during a drunken fight. One family wanted a story about their angel baby boy being ruthlessly murdered. The other wanted a story about their son’s life being ruined by a harsh prison sentence after he defended himself against an alcoholic drug dealer flying into a dangerous rage. The truth, it seemed after talking to the DA and police, was somewhere in the middle.
That’s almost always the case, which is why picking one side or the other to craft a hero versus villain narrative doesn’t do anyone any good. People need the full story, not the stereotypes. If I ever have a daughter I want her to grow up knowing that a guy with a “promising football career” can be just as dangerous as a guy with a trench coat and no friends. Both types have made news this year for becoming everything from rapists to school shooters.
At the same time, I also want my future children to see the good in the world. I want them to understand that people who make mistakes are still valued human beings in God’s eyes. That people who go to prison sometimes change their lives for the better and make a positive contribution to the world once they get out again, that the fact that someone is homeless because they made poor choices doesn’t change the fact that at the moment they’re cold and hungry.
I want them to understand that everything is connected, and that as much as the politically correct hate anything that remotely seems like “victim blaming” the truth is things don’t always happen in a bubble.
And so I’ll continue to write that the crash victim wasn’t wearing their seatbelt when they died, that the homeowner’s house burned down because they left food on the stove unattended, that the car was stolen because someone left it unlocked, and that the coroner said the victim of the fight would still be alive if he hadn’t been drunk when he got punched in the head. Because my writing those things might make the next crash victim decide to put on their seatbelt, or the next potential car theft victim decide maybe they should lock their car after all.
Humanity is a beautiful, complex, confusing thing. I wish more people would remember that.







Sunday, November 16, 2014

I, Phone

This week I got a new phone.

I loved my trusty little red flip phone I've had since college, but I read an article about how flip phones are in vogue again for hipsters and celebrities looking to "declutter" and I couldn't bear the thought of anyone mistaking me for a hipster. Or Donald Trump.

Actually, the real reason is some of the calls and text messages people were sending me were disappearing enroute. I can only assume they were eaten by the same monster who likes to collect half my socks from the washing machine while it's running.

I thought about getting a new flip phone, but as smart phones get increasingly more advanced dumb phones have trouble receiving photos, group texts and emojis. (Why are they called emojis now instead of emoticons? Or are they two different things? This is why I didn't want to buy a smart phone until I was old enough to have grandkids to explain these things to me.)

After some research I decided upon the Nokia Lumia 635. It seemed like a good deal, and I already have Windows 8 on my laptop so I knew how to use it.

After bringing my new phone home I activated my new SIM card and turned on my phone, at which point Cortana, the Microsoft version of Siri, introduced herself and asked if she could "be of assistance."

She went on to explain that being of assistance meant using my "location, contacts, voice input, info from email and text messages, browser history, search history, calendar details and other info" to get to know me.

Apparently if it's your phone that does this instead of a real, live person it's called a "personal assistant" instead of "stalker" or "NSA employee."

After reading up on how Cortana would use this information to subsequently choose restaurants for me, present me with articles about my favorite sports team, tell me jokes or let me know I needed to leave early for my appointment because of traffic, I had visions of starring in a high-tech remake of Fatal Attraction and decided to turn Cortana off.

She stalked me anyway. The first time I started to type in a web address on my phone the suggestions that came up were things I had Googled on my laptop. Oddly specific things that there's no way were just general suggestions.

Why does this not freak anyone else out?

She also won't stop alerting me multiple times a day that my friends are having birthdays, no matter how many ways I try and tell her to stop. Just know Cortana really cares about your birthdays, guys.
Like to the point that I'm worried she will steal my credit card number and tell Amazon to send you a present in the name of personal-assistanting me.

Luckily my phone also does normal phone stuff too. I did learn how to make a phone call, although learning how to not call people accidentally by pushing random buttons has turned out to be a bit more of a challenge.

There are a lot of random buttons on my phone that I have no idea what they do. Considering how advanced smart phones have gotten, I'm a little afraid to try them for fear of what might happen. The button with the lightning bolt could have to do with my phone's power, or I could accidentally shock myself with a Taser app. You never know these days.

What I do know is that I don't like how big my phone is. I don't understand how this is progress. We made fun of phones that size from the nineties, remember? It was like "Ha ha look at how big your phone is compared to my Razr." And now those same people are like "Hey look my phone is almost as big as my tablet! It's so much cooler than yours."

Make up your mind, people.

My phone not fitting in my pocket is not cool, it's a huge inconvenience. Is it too much to ask the fashion industry to get with the times and give women smart phone sized pockets?

I suppose the answer is yes, considering I found out the other day the reason women's buttons are inconveniently located on the left side of their shirts is from the days when women all had servants to dress them and it was easier for the serving maids to button things from that side.

I'm supposed to buy a whole new wardrobe every season, but you can't make women's shirts for right-handed people after two hundred years?

But I digress.

Overall I like my phone, despite the fact that I am also slightly worried that one day it will go all "I, Robot" on me and try to kill me (or in this case: I, Phone. Ha ha.)

For now, however, I will enjoy my ability to check Facebook, read emails, look up directions, use Google to win arguments and listen to Pandora while out and about.

I'll have to order my tinfoil hat using a library computer, though. Cortana might not like it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Points for style

Tonight Hermiston played The Dalles at football and won, 75 to 6. Considering it was 68 to 0 at halftime, I feel like the final score was actually a victory for The Dalles.

I didn't see the game in person, but I can only imagine that The Dalles' touchdown came after Hermiston had cycled through their second and third string players and started putting their middle school team in.

I mean, The Dalles wasn't quite that bad when I went to school there. Back when we were the Eagle Indians instead of the Riverhawks and had the added distraction of playing through the snorts of laughter every time the announcer said our name. My sophomore year we didn't win a single game, and when we finally won one my junior year, against a school that was also ... whatever the opposite of undefeated is ... defeated? ... you would have thought we had won the Super Bowl by the way everyone rushed the field.

And yet, high school being high school, it was us drama kids who were the "losers." Go figure.

Our softball team was state champions. So were our cheerleaders. All of our women's sports were pretty good, come to think of it. Maybe (and I am being about three quarters of the way serious here) The Dalles should consider an all-girls football team. Or at least putting the cheerleaders in when things get tough.

The cheerleaders could probably at least get style points, which if you've ever played volleyball at the church on Tuesday and Thursday nights, you will know are a very real thing. According to whichever team is losing.

Out of curiosity when I saw the halftime score I looked up the biggest loss margin in high school football history (I'm having one of those "I'm really single right now" Friday nights). According to Wikipedia, in 1926 in Kansas Haven High School beat Sylvia High School by a score of 256 to 0. So basically even if you get beat 100 to zilch, you're not even the best at losing. Let your opponents score anything under 100 and you're just a garden variety loser.

There is something to be said for not giving up, though. My brother got into BYU after he wrote a wryly self-deprecating application essay about the lessons he learned from joining the golf team and finding out he wasn't so great at golf under pressure (He once told me he joined the tennis team to get away from the "stress and pressures of golf").

Somebody ought to be able to parlay this game into a Harvard acceptance then. Surely continuing to play in the face of a 75-0 deficit on the road is worth more life experience points than your parents paying for you to spend three days in Africa building orphanages so that the "tutor" they paid to write your entrance essay for you can testify that you have, indeed, seen for yourself that poor people exist.

After all, I turned it into a pretty good blog post, right?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Football and chocolate

Last weekend when I was in Utah I spent a couple of hours at Dairy Queen with a former roommate who still lives in the area. We caught up, spent some time gossiping about what all our friends are up to (answer: having babies) and then spent some time reminiscing about our year together in good old Apartment 10.

It was at that point that we realized we couldn't remember one of our roommate's names. She moved in about three months before the end of the year and basically only came home to sleep. But still. We lived with this girl. Three years ago we were brushing our teeth at the same sink and today I don't think I would even recognize her if I saw her walking down the street.

That's not how roommates are supposed to be. Roommates are supposed to be like the one I saw this weekend, who told me that she recently ran into a guy who had mistreated me and gave him the cold shoulder.

"I can't really remember why I'm supposed to be mad at him, but I know you were upset about it," she said. "So I ignored him for you."

That's the girl code.

I would have done the same for her if I ran into that two-timing what's-his-name from her past. That's how it works. I may have been constantly exasperated by another roommate's messy ways, but the night she came home in tears because her boyfriend had been a jerk about it when he dumped her, I handed her a fork and we ate half a pan of brownies straight from the pan and talked about how she deserved better anyway.

On the flip side, we were also there for each other in the good times, giving the proper squeals of delight when our roommate paid up with M&Ms when she finally held hands with her crush and spending half an hour analyzing the meaning behind punctuation he used in their last text conversation. It usually went something like this:

"He didn't put a smiley face at the end."
"Yeah but he didn't put a period, either, so that's a good sign."
"I guess."
"He doesn't really seem like the emoticon type, so it's probably nothing."
"Are you sure? Maybe it's his way of putting me back in the friend zone."
"Has he ever used a smiley face in a text to you before?"
"The other day he used a winky face."
"Wait, a winky face? Was it a sarcastic one?"
"I don't think so."
"Well then what are you worried about?! If he used a winky face he's def into you."

Somehow I don't think guys usually have conversations like that. I'm pretty sure theirs go more like this:

"Dude how come I never see Marissa anymore?"
"I asked her to marry her and she dumped me instead."
"Well that sucks. Do you think the Seahawks are going to win this weekend?"
"Against the Packers? For sure."

This is why it is important to keep in mind the gender of your friends before choosing a topic of conversation. Although when I went through a breakup while living at home it was my brothers who came home with ice cream, candy and a stack of movies that night, while my female best friends responded by mailing me a BYU football T-shirt.

I guess whatever your gender, football and chocolate are the answer to all of life's problems.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Every comment section ever written

Flock of ducks making home in city park

View comments...
Bob: Oh great is Obama mandating all cities buy ducks now? Him and his %&#$ regulations.
Dave: You don't like Obama because you're a racist.
Bob: Am not.
Dave: Are too.
Bob: Am not.
John: Are too.
Elmer: You libtards, always playing the race card.
Mike: Oh I suppose Faux News told you to say that?
Janet: Hi friends, I make $5000 a month working from home. Click on to find out how you can too.
Dave: Hey you racist, I see on your Facebook profile in 2007 you posted a picture of yourself holding a gun that proves my point you're a Tea Party wingnut.
Bob: Here's a Wikipedia article about ducks that says Obama loves them. Pay no attention to the fact that the editor who just put that in has the same user name as me.
Sasha: The author of this article shouldn't have referred to the duck as a she. It promotes rape culture to assume any animals without fangs are female.
Elmer: Stay out of this, fem-Nazi.
Lisa: Why is the city using my tax dollars to pay for ducks? It's such a waist.
Karen: They're not, idiot. Read the story. Also it's waste.
Jordan: Hey author of the story, you said there are ducks living in the pond in city park but I was there three months ago and didn't see any so obviously you're wrong. A real "journalist" would actually do some research.
Joe: Blame the illegals, its all there fault.
Annie: You mean *it's and *their. I can't take you seriously when you clearly dropped out of elementary school.
Elmer: School is for sheeple. All the teachers are libtards.
Dave: And you're a racist.
Bob: Am not.
Mike: Are too.
Bob: Am not.
John: Are too.
View 197 more comments....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Unhappy camper

This weekend I took a last-minute, very quick trip to Utah to see my new nephew. (For all my Utah friends, my apologies for not having time to look you up. I'm planning to come back for Labor Day). Because we only had three days off, my parents and I thought we would leave after work on Friday and spend the night in Ontario, thus cutting off almost four hours of the next day's drive.

Since we were getting to Ontario around midnight and leaving before dawn the next morning, we thought, why spend the money on a hotel room when we could just pull up to a campsite and throw a few sleeping bags on a tarp?

I'll tell you why.

It was dark when we got to Ontario. Guided by our trusty GPS Yoda ("In five hundred feet, turn left you must") we made our way through the city and onto a dark country road. The darkness shrouded everything we wanted to see, like where the heck the campground was, but our headlights did manage to illuminate a rather large snake lying across the road. It was at that point Dad informed Mom and I that he would be sleeping in the middle.

It was also at this point that Mom revealed that most of the online reviews of our campground gave it one star. She was unconcerned, however, because some people had also given it five stars. We explained to her that if there was a flowchart for rating the campground it would look like this: Do you or a relative own this establishment? Yes --> Five stars. No --> One star.

When Yoda told us we had arrived we found ourselves staring at an empty field. We drove around a bit and soon found a sign with the word "campground" on it, near a mobile home with a large front yard.

"This must be it," Mom said.

"This is someone's home," we replied.

"No, no, I talked to the lady who runs it on her property and she said there's just kind of a random grassy area to pitch tents," Mom said. "I'm sure we're just supposed to sleep on this grass here."

We almost did just that, but once we began to look around for a bathroom, we eventually realized there was a narrow gravel road next to the campground sign, which you were supposed to drive down to get to the actual campground.

We came this close to sleeping in a stranger's front yard. That would have been great. "Don't mind us, we just got tired of driving and decided to lay down on your lawn for a few hours. Here, we got your paper for you."

When we finally arrived at the actual campground we were confronted by a lot of trailers.

"This looks like a trailer park," Dad said.

"Oh yes, I think you can rent these spaces by the month," Mom said.

"Why are we driving past a mountain of old tires and broken furniture?" I asked.

"I seem to remember the website mentioned it was next to a junkyard," Mom said. "But somebody gave it five stars, remember?"


We finally found a grassy spot between some trailers that had a tent pitched on it. Since seeing the snake Dad was having second thoughts about the no tent thing. I tried to reassure him that the short, sparse grass we were sleeping on wouldn't be appealing to wildlife, but my argument was undermined by the appearance of a baseball-sized frog.

That was a really cool frog.

After putting down some sleeping bags we found the bathrooms, which Mr. Five Stars had said were clean. If that's his definition of clean, I'd hate to see what he considers dirty.

Finally, we were ready to go to bed. We skipped the tent, preferring to enjoy the light breeze and fit in a few extra minutes of sleep. In theory, it was a good idea. In practice, mosquitos.

So many mosquitos.

At some point during the night someone threw a sheet over me, but it was too late. I had already slept soundly through the mosquito buffet. I awoke at 5 a.m. by an intense itching sensation that spread from my ankles to my face, a testament to my night as a blood donor via a hundred tiny, venomous needles that pierced everywhere from my knee to my eyelid, causing them to swell rapidly.

I felt like I had chicken pox. I looked like Quasimodo. Not cool.

When I sat up I realized that the light coming up revealed a swamp on the other side of the road, which explained the mosquitos and the frog. Dad was now sleeping in the car. I stumbled to the bathroom, turned on the water in the shower and was immediately greeting by a horrible sulfurous stench coming up through the drain. I rinsed off in the cold water anyway in an attempt to stop the itching (it didn't work). We got out of there quickly after that.

Normally, I love camping. But I don't think I'll be doing it without a tent again. It may be a great way to become one with nature, but it turns out nature includes swarms of tiny flying vampires.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Nachos are out of the oven

This week I became an aunt.

Aunt Jade.

Of course, I knew it was eventually going to happen. It's not like babies just spring out of the ground, fully formed, overnight. But little Blaine did decide to come five weeks early, so I have to say I wasn't quite prepared. I didn't wake up that morning thinking "Today I might become an aunt." I woke up thinking "Argh, why is it morning already? I wasn't done sleeping."

I guess I can't complain, having aunt-hood sprung on me in such an abrupt manner. Easier to handle than becoming parent a month ahead of schedule. After all, when Lance texted Dad less than 24 hours before Jasinda went into labor that "this prenatal class is so long Jasinda will have the baby before it's over," he thought he was being hilariously hyperbolic.  (Dad responded "Breathe," to which Lance responded "Hee hoo hee hoo.")

Even my parents thought they would have a few weeks of transition between the day they became empty nesters and the day they became grandparents, but life decided it should just rip that bandaid off all in one week. Actually, they're thrilled about the whole grandparent thing. They embraced the role fully by sitting in the old person section of the chapel at church on Sunday.

Now that the baby is born, we can stop calling him "the baby" and start calling him Blaine, since his parents decided not to announce his name before he was born. Logan took matters into his own hands early on, however, and emailed Lance that he should name the baby Nacho. Much to Lance's dismay, the nickname stuck, and all of us referred to Blaine as "little Nacho" for the past five months or so. A couple of weeks ago he told Logan just because everyone else was calling the baby Nacho didn't mean it was going to happen, to which Logan replied in his weekly email home from his mission, "As for your comment about your future son's name... I'm pretty sure it's so brilliant it's Nacho choice anymore."

We were all taking bets on what type of name the new baby would have. If Lance and Jasinda had named the baby something with a weird spelling Cole was planning to email them back (this was when we thought Cole would be on his mission already) and say "Hey guys, when you were writing the email you accidentally spelled his name wrong."

One time when we were on a long road trip we decided we had to pick the names of our future children right then and there (we had gotten bored with the classic "Next person we pass is your wife") using only words that we saw as we were driving. It was more doable than you think. Lots of car names, like Mercedes, are passable people names, and a lot of cities were named after people to begin with. I do seem to remember someone ended up with a son named Truck though. As for me, if I name my future daughter Meridian you'll know why.

Sunday night, at about 1 a.m., Lance was finally able to run home and grab his laptop and we got to Skype with the newest member of the family. We mostly just marveled at how much hair Blaine has. Seriously. The kid is going to need a haircut in about three weeks. But it's totally adorable. Like everything about him. Isn't it amazing how the human brain is wired to look at newborns and think they're pretty much the cutest thing ever, even when, objectively speaking, they come out of the womb looking like a boiled monkey?

I can't wait to go see him, but for the next few weeks I'll have to be content with baby Blaine being added to the never-ending stream of baby photos on my Facebook newsfeed (yes, most of you reading this are contributors, and yes, I do have a secret list in my head ranking all of your children by cuteness level and yes, I will lie and tell you yours is the cutest if you ask me).

Aunt Jade out.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dear Class of 2014

On Saturday I'm headed to The Dalles to see my last brother graduate from high school. If I was in charge of speaking at his graduation, this is what I would say:

Dear Class of 2014:

Congratulations on your achievement. Commencement ceremonies like this are pretty boring and five years from you probably won't remember who spoke, let alone what they said. And yet it is important you be here anyway. Get used to that idea, because attending boring yet important (and yet is it really actually important in the grand scheme of things?) meetings is for sure a part of being an adult.

Don't worry, there's lots of really awesome parts of adulthood too. Freedom and money and all of that. You'll see what I mean.

If you were a nerd in high school, you probably told yourself that someday those losers who shoved you in a locker one too many times before dropping out of school will be working for you (or someone like you) someday. Statistically speaking, probably. But before you get too cocky, remember that if things go south for you and you're one of those Millennials who can't find a job after college, those "losers" who dropped out of high school will beat you out for a job at McDonald's because management thinks you're overqualified. So stay humble. Life doesn't owe you anything. Not even a job at McDonald's.

That being said, your choices matter. The secret to success is knowing what you want out of life and then doing what you need to do (ethically) to get it. It's really that simple. You might not get exactly what you want every time ... not everyone can win American Idol or become a famous playwright. But even if you miss the mark on some of those types of goals, you'll sure as heck get closer to success than the people who drifted aimlessly through life, not knowing what they wanted or too lazy or insecure to go after it. Maybe you won't win American Idol and become the next Carrie Underwood, but you might make some good side money from the advertising on your YouTube covers of her songs.

Don't binge drink in college (or after). Failing a test because you're hung over, getting taken advantage of while you're unconscious, breaking your neck after falling out of a frat house window, posting a career-destroying photo on Facebook, getting arrested for underage drinking or puking all over yourself in front of a cute girl does not make you an adult. It makes you someone who made a dumb decision and suffered an unfortunate consequence.

Get experience. Seriously. Life experience. Work experience. Romantic experience. Cultural experience. An empty résumé and Facebook page full of bathroom mirror selfies isn't going to impress anyone worth impressing.

Speaking of romantic experience, I'm not going to give you any advice on that because it's different for everyone. Getting married at age 20 is the best decision some people ever made and the worst decision other people made. Leaving a good job to follow a significant other to a new city was a great choice for the people who are still married to that person 10 years later, but a terrible choice for the people who got dumped three weeks down the road and were unemployed for another year after that. So I don't know what to tell you, besides good luck.

Your credit score is super important. Don't screw it up.

Also: learn how to cook.

Remember your parents will always be your parents no matter what. When you're 25 your mom will still text you to tell you that the thing you liked on Facebook was inappropriate, and your dad will still worry about the guys you date treating his little girl right. The good news is they will seem exponentially smarter the older you get, until eventually when they say "You really should get that checked out" you say "You're right" instead of "Don't worry so much, I'm sure it will be fine." (Spoiler alert: It usually isn't fine.)

People are more important than things, career accomplishments, paychecks, television, your pride, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Don't continually let yourself become a footnote in a chapter of someone's life when you could have played a main character in their autobiography.

And finally ... don't forget to have fun. The concept of forgetting to have fun sounds ridiculous now, but there will come a day when you become so focused on all of your very adult responsibilities that you will realize that you have literally forgotten to do fun things. When that day comes, hearken back to the teenager you are today and tell yourself ...


Don't waste it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A tale of two mascots

My high school alma mater has ceased to exist.

Sort of.

The building is still there, along with the asbestos and that one science textbook that was so old it became up to date again when astronomers changed their mind about Pluto being a planet. But the name got changed a few months ago and as of yesterday's school board meeting the mascot is officially gone too.

Some people would be really sad about that, but I don't think I mind too much. You wouldn't either if you spent your teenage years as a The Dalles Wahtonka Union High School Eagle Indian. Try saying that ten times fast. How our cheerleaders won state ten years in a row when they had that to work with is beyond me.

I started high school as a The Dalles High Indian. But at the beginning of my sophomore year TDHS combined with the Wahtonka High School Eagles (Wahtonka is a Native American word for "bend in the river." At least that's what they always told us. It might actually be Chinook for "loses at football"). The adults against the merger said that there would be a lot of fistfights at the new school between students who were former rivals. Ironically, the students got along perfectly fine, at least when it came to overwhelmingly voting in the Riverhawks as their new mascot, while the arguments between alumni became so heated that the school board came up with The Dalles Wahtonka Union High School Eagle Indians as some sort of misguided attempt at compromise.

That first year every time we played anyone at sports it was pretty hard to understand the announcers through the laughter every time they tried to refer to our team. By the end of the year the school board decided to drop the word "union" from the school name. It may have been an attempt to bring our moniker down from fourteen syllables to a much more reasonable twelve. Or it might have been because some of our rivals discovered if you tried to pronounce the TDWUHS on our uniforms you got the word "wuss."

Our salvation from trying to write cheers that somehow rhymed with Wahtonka came from an unlikely source. When the principal announced we would all be attending a mandatory pro-abstinence assembly we thought it was phase two of the school board's apparent work on a dissertation titled "Mass Humiliation's Effects on Student Populations." But the presenter turned out to be more stand up comic than health teacher. I don't know how much of an impact he made on the whole sex thing, but he did leave behind an important legacy when in the middle of the presentation he stumbled over our school's name and asked, "Do you guys mind if I just call you T-Dub?"

So we became T-Dub. And the Eagle Indian mascot, while still the school's officially sanctioned nickname, slowly became a relic used by out of town newspapers and tourists who asked "What the heck is an Eagle Indian?" (Don't ask us. If we knew we would have dressed up as one for homecoming).

This year the school board decided the word "Wahtonka" should go the way of  "union" in the name of the school (Following this pattern, I vote the next word to be dropped should be Dalles. The High School has a nice ring to it). And then the state decided it should be illegal to have Native American mascots. They later said you can use a specific tribe name, a la the Florida Seminoles, if you get permission from the tribe, but since there is no Tribe of the Eagle Indians, The Dalles was out of luck.

You would think the school board and administration would have at that point said "Hey we wouldn't be in this mess if we had listened to the students during the merger, so let's just have another vote now." But they didn't at first. Thus ensued an epic battle in which Cole and other leadership students almost lost the now ten-year-old fight for the Riverhawks but proved, in the end, more resourceful and persuasive than their oldest siblings. The Dalles Riverhawks it is.

What is a Riverhawk, you say? It's a bird. The same class of bird as the Seahawk, the class scientists call "It doesn't exactly technically exist," but whatever. Neither do Eagle Indians.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Read all about it

One of the things I love about being a reporter is you never really can predict what you'll be doing from day to day. The moment you think you've got your week nicely planned out, bam! Fire! Earthquake! Murder! There goes that feature you were going to write.

Case in point, I showed up to work this morning worried about how light on story ideas I was. Then the natural gas plant across the river exploded. Instant story. Instead of spending the day in the office making phone calls to bureaucrats I spent the day running between the newsroom and evacuee camp, checking in on the family whose journey I was documenting and getting updates from the public information officer.

Of course, I wasn't the only reporter there. Every news station around was there, plus radio and newspapers and the AP. Jostling for position during press conferences always reminds me of my internship in New York, where just about everything I covered involved a scrum of reporters shouting questions over the click of cameras. You know how in the movies the lawyer comes out of the courthouse or the disgraced CEO rushes from the building to his limo and there are a million reporters shoving cameras and microphones in his face? Yeah, it really is exactly like that if you have the misfortune of getting your 15 minutes of infamy in the media capital of the world. And now you know that's called a scrum.

I haven't seen that many cameras since I spent a week covering the heck out of the wildfire outside The Dalles this summer. Of course, the gas plant evacuee camp was a little more convenient to cover than the wildfire. It didn't involve having to borrow ugly yellow fireproof clothing from the command center that only comes in large man size (in all fairness, I was the only female journalist there out of about 20 anchors/photogs/cameramen/reporters. But still. I can't be the only woman to have ever shown up to cover a wildfire). They never let us get close enough to the fire to need fireproofing, but the color sure did attract the swarms of wasps that had been displaced by the fire. It's hard to concentrate on taking photos when you've got yellow jackets crawling all over you.

When I was at the evacuee camp today I eavesdropped on an adorable conversation between several of the little kids in the camp. It went something like this:

"I've been on two different TV stations today."
"Oh yeah, well I've been on the TV and the radio!"
"Three reporters interviewed me!"

And then the older ones shared tips with the younger ones about making sure they knew how to spell their name for the reporter and to tell him or her how old they are. One of the kids told me it was the best spring break he's ever had. I love how excited little kids get over being interviewed, or even just seeing a reporter walking by with a camera and notebook. I've had a child shout "Look, a paparazzi!" and point at me more than once when doing a story at an elementary school. Sorry kid, but unless Honey Boo Boo transfers your school you're not going to run into a real paparazzo any time soon.

I think the closest I ever came to being a legitimate paparazzo was during my turn at the New York Daily News. Most of my fellow interns had much more exciting celebrity encounters than I did, but they did send me to Spike Lee's house, where I spoke to his wife and gave her a note for him to call my editor, which he did. I spoke to Chita Rivera and Dionne Warwick at Lena Horne's funeral. And if politicians count as celebrities, I ambushed Mayor Bloomberg at Coney Island, Charlie Rangel at and elementary school and Raymond Kelly at a park dedication. Also, one time I arrived at a stakeout only to be informed by the photographer that Hugh Jackman had walked by just five minutes before. New York was, to say the least, a whole lot of life experience crammed into two months.

Small-town reporting is usually a little less exciting. Until the next crisis hits.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What would Freud say?

I don't usually sleepwalk (I think?) but the other night I discovered sleep running. I dreamed that I was in my bedroom when what I can only describe as a creepy ghost boy came through the wall at me. In my dream, I ran away from him. In real life, I woke up as I bounced off the frame of the door I was trying to run through with my eyes closed. I hope this doesn't become a thing.

It was creepier but less weird than a few nights before that, when I had a dream about helping a secret agent for the FBI clone a pig. It was really important to national security, apparently.

I don't know what that dream says about me. Dr. Freud would probably have some ideas. But if I was going to see a shrink I would see the "I think you're feeling sad because you just got divorced" type instead of the "You saw a dog in the inkblot test so let's talk about how the time you were three and your mom wouldn't let you have a puppy messed up the rest of your life" type. Technically, I've never seen a therapist. But when your father's one, it's basically free therapy for life. I didn't need to pay by the hour to know who moved my cheese and what color my parachute is.

The free therapy is the upside. The downside to having a dad as a therapist is that he tends to use real-life examples when he's talking to his clients. And I have a strong suspicion (and sometimes proof) that quite a bit of his source material comes from inside the family. Dad always assures my brothers that he says "one of my sons" to protect their identity, but considering some of his clients know I'm his only daughter, I don't think not using my name in the story really helps much. When I was a kid my classmates would usually tell me when my dad was their therapist, but now that I'm older that doesn't happen much and so I'm left wondering who in town knows about the time I ... well, never mind about that.

If a client comes in wondering how to deal with their children fighting or misbehaving, or if a teenager needs help dealing with sibling rivalry issues, my father is definitely not lacking in anecdotes. The other day I heard sibling defined as "your best friend and worst enemy rolled into one" and I've got to say that's pretty accurate. Lance, Logan, Cole and I are all pretty tight now but when we were growing up we definitely had our moments. A lot of them.

There was the time Logan got mad at Lance and I while we were babysitting the younger ones and yelled "Help! Call child protective services!" out the window in retaliation. That could have been bad.

There was the time I watched with unadulterated glee as Lance pushed one too many of mom's buttons on the way to school. She pulled the van to the side of the road, pointed at the door and commanded him to get out, then threw his backpack out after him, sending papers and books flying everywhere, and drove off as he stared at the receding minivan in utter shock.

There was the time when I was really unhappy about not being the only child anymore, and so I expressed my displeasure by writing all over the carpet with lipstick while Mom was feeding the baby.

There was all the times we were fighting and my parents made us sit on the couch and hold hands. It was a pretty effective method of punishment, because you can only try as hard as you possibly can to crush each others' hands for so long before you give up and start laughing instead.

And yet through all the tears and yelling and slamming doors and occasional punches thrown, we all turned out alright in the end. We made have made Mom cry a few times, wondering if various pairings of siblings would hate each other forever, but now we stay in close contact despite living in four different cities. Logan and Cole bonded over being on the tennis team together in high school. Lance had Logan over for pancake nights when they were both at BYU. And Lance and I may have had some pretty epic fights growing up, but I was the one who he took when he went engagement ring shopping and I was the first person in the family he called when he found out the gender of his baby.

Freud would probably say that's pretty messed up. I say that's family for you.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Crazy old cat lady

Last night when I got home from work I soon realized I had lost my cell phone and it wasn't in any of the usual places I set it.

My first thought was "I'll just call it."

My second thought was "Oh wait, I can't because that's the only phone in the apartment."

My third thought was "I'll just text someone and have them call it."

My fourth thought was "Oh wait ... again with the whole 'only phone in the household' thing."

My fifth thought was that I wished my mom was here to look for it, because only moms think to look in all the spots lost things hide, like in the middle of the floor or sitting on the bookshelf right where you left it.

There is nothing like having your own place to make you appreciate your mother. College was bad enough. I had to do my own laundry and sure, I cooked plenty when I was still living at home but it's not the same when it's a prerequisite for eating dinner every night instead of a hobby. But still, college involved roommates. At least occasionally you would come home from a long day and find chocolate chip cookies waiting or that someone had taken pity on you (or just gotten fed up) and done the dishes already even though it was your day.

When you have your own place, coming home to all the dishes done would be cause for concern that you were the victim of a burglar who assuaged their guilty conscience about stealing your laptop by doing some chores to make up for it.

Also, when you're home sick in college your mommy might not be there to make chicken noodle soup for you and take your temperature, but at least your roommates can spare a few pitying looks, check occasionally to make sure you're not dead, and if you have a really good one even offer to bring you a drink of water. This week when I was home sick from work I woke up to the realization that I could not fulfill my deep desire to not move from my bed all day while also fulfilling my desire not to die of dehydration. Somehow I survived.

Of course, the flip side of living alone is that even though there is no one around to worry about you, there is also no one around for you to worry about. No one to considerately leave hot water for on Sunday mornings, to try to find your pajamas in the dark so you don't wake them up. You don't have to worry that listening to music without headphones will disturb someone, or if you leave a pile of laundry on the living room floor when you go to bed that someone will trip on it during the night. No fighting over the temperature of the apartment or making small talk when you really just want to eat in contemplative silence. No one to judge you when you really just feel like listening to NSYNC  one night.

The danger of this lifestyle is if you don't get enough human interaction outside the apartment you'll basically just turn into a Neanderthal who can't remember what table manners are or whether it's socially acceptable to talk to yourself in public. Maybe that's why people become crazy old cat ladies. Were the cats an attempt at having someone around to make them feel self-conscious? That would explain why it would have to be cats, then. Nobody could be fooled into thinking a dog was judging them.

If I get a cat someday, don't judge me. I needed someone around to make me feel ashamed for wanting to listen to nineties music.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's not that difficult

Recently I had a conversation with a group of friends that went something like this:
"Guys are so confusing."
"No way, girls are way more confusing."
"No I'm pretty sure guys are."
"How can you even say that with a straight face?"

I'm pretty sure both genders are equally confusing to each other. I can't do anything about women being confused by men, but I shall herewith attempt to clear up a few things about my own gender that seem to mystify men:

1) If you're into a woman and she's not interested, chances are excellent that you didn't do anything wrong. And that there is nothing wrong with you. Or her. You're probably smart and attractive and a total gentleman. And she's probably not a manipulative, cold-hearted shrew. The truth is that sometimes the attraction just isn't there. It's that simple.

2) If her rejection of you does seem to go beyond the just-not-attracted-to-you thing, the thing you did wrong is probably something you did to one of her friends and not to her directly. Women talk to each other, but guys forget that when they're dealing with a woman who either rejected them or didn't attain a level of hotness that made them think "I care about what she thinks about me." If she heard that her friend asked you on a date and you said yes but then spent the whole time texting other women and flirting with the waitress, she's not going to be impressed by that.

3) If she's not following what you consider proper date etiquette, she might not know it's a date. It's really, really hard to tell sometimes. And we're always second-guessing ourselves. I've lost count of the number of conversations I've had with groups of female friends debating whether something one person in the group did counted as a date. Usually it comes down to something like "Well, I guess he was wearing a slightly nicer shirt than usual..."

4) If she likes you, she'll want to spend time with you. She try to subtly work it out so she sits next to you at parties, rides with you during carpools and ends up working in the same group or team as you. She'll unnecessarily prolong conversations and change her mind about skipping an activity when she hears you'll be there. On the other hand, if you're always the one approaching her for conversation and then she chats for a moment before wandering away to talk to someone else, she's probably not into you.

5) If you can't figure out why a nice girl like that would ever be flirting with a jerk like him, there are two possible explanations. One is that she doesn't believe she can do any better, because she's been on one date in the last five years and figures any guy who's acting interested in her might be her only shot at having been kissed by the time she's 40. If that's not the case, then instead of blaming the bad boy you should blame the supposedly "nice" guy who broke her heart. The moment she walked in on him cuddling with another girl is the moment she decided all guys are the same and it will hurt less if she's dating a known player and can therefore see it coming. She doesn't want to trust anyone again, and she doesn't want to hurt anyone else by leading them on, but she also doesn't want to live like a nun. Non-committal flirting with a bad boy is the perfect solution in her eyes. Also, confidence is sexy. Sometimes it's a refreshing change to deal with someone who's not so timid he's still afraid to try to hold your hand by date number six.

6) If you're busy complaining that nice guys finish last, you might need to re-evaluate how nice you really are. I read a blog post once that explained that there's a difference between a "nice guy" and a "good guy." The distinction was a brilliant one I really wish I had understood when I first jumped into the dating pool. Good guys are nice to everyone, even people they're not romantically interested in, because that's just who they are. Nice guys are nice out of a combination of wimpy-ness and a realization that the being-nice strategy works better for them when it comes to getting what they want. Women swoon for them because they open doors and give compliments and lend their jackets to girls who are cold. But eventually those same women realize the "nice guy" is only nice as long as it serves him well. If it gets him out of a confrontation or gets him attention from the opposite sex, he's nice. But if the nice thing to do makes him step out of his comfort zone or is inconvenient or means he can't keep his options open with several women at once, well then it's a different story. And eventually women get tired of that.

7) If a woman is mad at you and you don't know why, ask yourself: Did I do or say something that made it clear I was only pretending to listen to what she was saying the other day? Did I slight one of her friends or family members? Did I not return a text or make her feel neglected in some other way (i.e. forget an anniversary, suddenly ignore her for an unusually long period of time, forget plans you made together, etc.)? Chances are good it's one of those things. Even if you don't know exactly which one it was, it all boils down to her feeling like she (or by extension her feelings or opinions or the people she cares about) isn't important to you. Make it up to her by doing something that sends a message that she is indeed important to you. Sometimes it's as simple as putting down the video game controller for once while she's talking.

There, men. That wasn't so confusing, was it?