Now that the semester is almost over, I may get around to actually writing about my other two graduate school courses besides the teaching practicum. Let's start with "Rhetorics of Pedagogy", the class that I was told to take after I couldn't get into the class I was told to take, which was about Norse mythology and probably would have been a lot more fun. In this class we've been focusing on agency, the ability to choose. When I wrote my pretentious pseudo-intellectual blog post about agency a few months ago, I had no idea that agency is not just a philosophical or theological idea, but an actual subject of legitimate academic study and debate that strives to make it far more complicated than I ever imagined or think it actually is. But it turns out that agency is not just a philosophical or theological idea, but an actual subject of legitimate academic study and debate that strives to make it far more complicated than I ever imagined or think it actually is.
I know this now because for the first several weeks I had to read three or four academic papers every week and write dicussion posts about them. Before we began, Professor Jessica noted, "While some of you may have experience reading in the field of Rhetoric and Composition, I anticipate that it might be new for some of you. Anytime we enter a new discourse community through the activity of reading, it can be challenging to grasp the author’s entire argument. Because these scholars are writing to their peers in the field, they are expecting their audience to have ample prior knowledge. So, don’t worry if you feel like you’re grasping at some of the concepts. Just pay attention to what’s interesting to you and any initial interactions you notice. Please bring your questions to class, though; these will be great places for us to explore further as a group."
That didn't entirely assuage my concern that I only seemed to understand about ten percent of the material I was reading. Many times I read through three paragraphs of pompous academic gibberish, reached a clear sentence, and thought, "Oh, is that what you've been trying to say for the last three paragraphs? It seems pretty straightforward. Why were those last three paragraphs necessary?" And then I pieced together the parts I understood and write a discussion post, and then Jessica gave me full credit and gushed about how insightful it was and made me feel like an imposter. And then I went to class and talked about the readings and everyone else seemed to actually have some idea what they were talking about and made me feel like an imposter. It was only a matter of time before my classmate would hold a meeting and throw me out the airlock.
Here are some of the few things I retained.
Agency can be a co-production between two people - say, an orator and an audience - creating a feedback loop of kinetic energy between them, as one sends out a perturbation and the other decides what to do with it. The orator can choose to have an effect on the world, but not what that affect will be. Your agency is limited to choosing from among the options that are available and known to you, which are limited by your genetics, upbringing, knowledge, and so forth. Studies have shown that the brain impulse behind an action precedes the conscious decision to do that action, which is rather disturbing. One paper suggested that agency lies in the choice of whether or not to actually obey those impulses, and compared it to restructuring the brain away from addiction by choosing to garden instead when the addiction impulse comes.
Agency can become disseminated throughout a complex assemblage of people and non-human factors that takes on a life of its own so that no one person can be blamed for what happens. The example given in one paper was the assemblage that led to the blackout in August 2003, when a tree branch in Ohio caused fifty million people to lose power. The example I came up with for a class discussion was systemic racism - some white people don't believe in systemic racism because "I'm not racist and nobody I know is racist", but systemic racism is more more than the sum total of a minority of overt racists being overtly racist. It's more than a handful of police officers murdering black people. It's a complex and nebulous assemblage that's been constructed by actions, policies and institutions since at least the early 1400s, and the momentum of all those things, even after they're corrected on a case-by-case basis, will continue to self-perpetuate unless and until people actively push back against it. Our choice, then, is how to respond to whatever assemblages we find ourselves in. I really gravitated toward this idea because it sounds like chaos theory, which I know a lot about from the novel Jurassic Park, which describes it in much greater detail than the movie.
Some scholars insist that agency isn't even real, but is a necessary fantasy (yes, these fancy papers call it a "fantasy") in order for us to be able to function at all. Even if this were true, I'm not sure how this information would benefit anyone. If the fantasy is necessary, why ruin it for us? What are we supposed to do differently because we know this? Of course, if agency isn't real, no one can reasonably ever be punished for anything, but that's irrelevant too because we don't have agency to decide whether to punish them or not. At the risk of sounding anti-intellectual, and acknowledging the severe limitations of my own understanding of this topic, my lack of agency forces me to conclude that this theory is a load of bull.
A few weeks ago we transitioned away from these readings and started looking at more accessible, practical applications of agency in the classroom. For those who, like me, are graduate instructors looking toward a long-term teaching career, and also enjoy being able to comprehend more than ten percent of a given article, this was a real breath of fresh air. On the other hand, these readings added to the sense I've gotten from many of the readings in my practicum that seem to be saying, "All the traditional ways of teaching in this country suck and need to be completely overhauled, and that's your reponsibility now even though you literally just started and know nothing." I also learned that end-of-semester student course evaluations are almost useless because the students incorrectly ascribe all responsibility and blame for everything in the classroom to the teacher, failing to recognize the teacher's role as a facilitator of their own agency. Also, they judge female or less attractive teachers more harshly. I hate this planet. I wonder if my career will be ruined because I'm not attractive enough.
A couple things have made this class bearable. First, Jessica is the nicest person in the world. She creates a happy atmosphere even when I don't understand a word she's saying. One time, I completed an assignment but forgot to submit it, and didn't notice until a week later when she gave me a zero, and then I sent it to her and she gave me a perfect score even though it was a week late. This act of kindness made me want to do the same thing when one of my own students did the same thing. I don't want to be like that one guy in the parable who gets forgiven of a debt and then goes and yells at this other guy for another debt and then gets thrown in prison for being a dick.
Second, some of my fellow first year graduate instructors and practicum classmates are also in this class. After we transitioned in the readings, the online discussion posts were supplanted by a requirement to meet with pedagogy groups once a week, discuss them among ourselves, take turns submitting a report of the discussion, and facilitate a presentation/discussion once (originally twice, but Jessica cut it back because she's nice) with the whole class. At the beginning of the semester I signed up for a pedagogy group with my colleague Greyson, my colleague Elle, and some other woman named Jennifer. And then Jessica messaged us all on Canvas and said that someone had dropped the class, so would one of us mind moving to another group? And Greyson, Elle, and I were all like
Nothing personal against Jennifer whatsoever, but we were all relieved that she was the one who moved. So later in the semester, when it was time for the groups to actually start meeting, we stayed on Zoom for a few minutes after class to plan it out. I was happy to be with people I knew and loved, but already felt guilty that I would be no help to them at all and they would probably hate me by the end of the semester. The first chance I got, I told them that I felt like this class was way over my head.
Elle immediately responded, "Oh my G-d, yes!" And she said she felt like she only understood five percent of the material. So I felt a little better knowing that at least I'm twice as smart as her.
For my final project, I'm investigating a question that a few months ago I would have thought was a really stupid question: do fictional characters have agency? And the answer I'm leaning toward is that it entirely depends on your definition of agency, which is apparently up for debate. As a fiction writer I am of course familiar with the phenomenon of characters who seem to take on a life of their own and forge their own way through the story without me directing them. What's happening here, it seems, is that when an author really intimately understands a character, the character shifts from the conscious to the unconscious part of the author's brain, which instinctively knows what the character would say or do in any situation. Even when the conscious part wants the character to say or do something for the sake of the plot, the character may simply refuse, because the unconscious part knows they wouldn't say or do that. So there is certainly a loss of agency on the author's part, but does that agency transfer to the character (who isn't consciously making the decisions either), or is it just a net loss all around? That's what I think is debatable.
I also discovered that it's not at all uncommon for normal, non-delusional authors, who are well aware that their characters are fictional, to report feeling their presence, hearing their voices, and even holding full-blown in-person conversations and/or arguments with them. I had never heard of such a thing outside of a couple of movies, and obviously I'm not a very good author yet since I haven't experienced this. There have only been a couple of notable scientific studies on this phenomenon that I could find, one from 2003 and one from this year. They bring up some interesting hypotheses and possible connections to children with disobedient imaginary friends. Nothing conclusive, though. You'd think such an interesting topic would get more attention. But even if nothing cool like that ever happens to me, characters with their own real or perceived agency are a sign of well-developed characters and lead to more compelling stories than scripting out the entire plot beat by beat, so in my project I'll consider how to cultivate that in a hypothetical creative writing classroom. Jessica said I could. She's so nice.
This is also the class I mentioned where one of my classmates is the former owner of the horrible call center I worked at a few years ago. I just wanted to mention that.
I tried not to worry much about teaching my class on Friday, since worrying doesn't help anything, and it was bound to get better eventually since this is what God told me to do for a living, and compared to an average day at the call center where I once worked, the most awful teaching experience would be like getting a full-body massage from Gal Gadot as the sun sets on the shore of Bora Bora, Tahiti. Incidentally, one of the managers and cofounders of that call center, who has since sold it, is now one of my classmates. He has no idea who I am because he spent most of his time in an office and had employees quitting every week. Anyway, teaching my class on Friday went much better, even though Zoom decided for inexplicable reasons to automatically mute me, the host, when I ended the breakout groups, and I didn't notice for at least three minutes. My students weren't answering my questions, so I couldn't tell the difference.
My luck has run out and I have two new roommates. I should only have one new roommate but they got another bed and moved in together. I haven't had a roommate since my old one got married and moved out in December, and then the guy who bought the contract for summer moved home instead when the you-know-what broke out, so I've been alone and it's been great. I've been so lonely that I wanted to die but I've never been so lonely that I wished I had a roommate when I didn't have a roommate. I can't complain too much about these guys, other than the usual unwelcome inconveniences of sharing my home with other humans and my exponentially increased chance of getting the you-know-what. When they're not on campus, they spend the majority of the time in their room playing computer games, and when I'm not on campus, I spend the majority of the time in the living room with the kitchen door closed so I can't hear them talking. After avoiding my previous roommate as much as possible, this time I made an effort to introduce myself and get to know them when they moved in, but they don't seem very talkative either so we don't talk much and that's fine with me.
Some new girls also moved in next door. I was quite determined this time not to meet them or talk to them, ever. They came over and introduced themselves.
Actually, one of them claims to be related to the owners of the place, and has taken great interest in reporting to them her discoveries that Logan Preferred Property Management has refused to provide wi-fi like it's supposed, provide two couches in each apartment like it's supposed to, and fix the washing machine like it's supposed to. So that's exciting and gives me a bit of schadenfreude. These girls are much louder than the previous ones, and almost every day I hear them yelling, singing, and/or laughing hysterically like teenagers. You would think I would find this annoying. I would think I would find this annoying. But somehow, it just amuses me. And they know they're loud and they're self-conscious and apologetic about it but they keep doing it and that amuses me too. I find it much less annoying than being able to hear my roommates talk to each other through their bedroom door. I have a double standard and I'm not proud of myself.
My ward boundaries were drastically altered three weeks or so ago, landing me and most of the Logan YSA 46th Ward in the Logan YSA 19th Ward instead. It was a godsend because I could no longer be temple worthy as a member of the Logan YSA 46th Ward. Now, instead of experiencing painful personal growth by learning how to sustain the two out of three bishopric members that I no longer like, respect, or trust, I just have a new bishopric and I really appreciate that. I actually go to my assigned ward now. Despite scores of new membership records being moved in over the last three weeks, the Logan YSA 19th Ward isn't getting larger, and today the bishop mentioned that several people were out sick. I'm sure that has nothing to do with at least thirty of them cramming into a ward member's living room with no masks for a "Come Follow Me" lesson (which I wouldn't know about because I didn't show up, take one look and flee). If it did, they would of course deserve whatever happens to them.
The police in Salt Lake City recently shot a thirteen-year-old autistic boy after his mother called them to help him with a mental health crisis. He survived but will probably have medical complications for the rest of his life, not to mention a buttload of trauma. Not to victim-blame or anything - nobody is to blame here but the officer(s) who pulled the trigger and would, in a civilized country, already be behind bars or at least hanging from a lamppost - but she should have called almost anyone else. Almost anyone who isn't a police officer could come up with a better strategy for helping a mentally ill or disabled person than "Yell at him, and then shoot him several times when he doesn't comply within two seconds." And this is why people want to defund the police and stop sending them to deal with situations that they have less than zero qualifications to deal with. But sure, let's pretend it's a communist conspiracy.
On a Facebook post discussing this atrocity and the prospect of organizing a protest, I yet again mentioned my own experience with the brainless bully sent by the Logan City Police Department, as an unnecessary second witness of law enforcement incompetence and the need to hold them accountable for their actions. Someone asked if I would be willing to do an interview with Utah Public Radio, and that terrified me but I said sure, and she told me to email this person, and I did, and I warned this person that telling my story in a radio segment of less than two minutes would require us to be very sparse on detail but I'll still give it a shot, and she said she wants to go for it, and I suggested a time and she didn't respond, and that was four days ago so it looks like she's forgotten about me and maybe that won't go anywhere. If it does of course I'll post about it here, though I won't likely listen to it myself because I hate my voice.
“If we cannot respond, as a police agency, to a 13-year-old child who has autism, without shooting him, I don’t know if we should be in this business.” - Chris Burbank, former Salt Lake Police Chief
"No shit." - Chris Nicholson, current 27-year-old child who has autism
In case you missed the memo, I got accepted to graduate school at the best university of all the one universities I've ever attended. Now I would like to add that a couple days after I accepted their acceptance, they offered me a graduate instructor position, which was part of my hope and intention all along but not guaranteed. If I accept this offer I will be teaching introductory English courses to freshman for a salary that covers the graduate degree. And I intend to accept it, but I haven't yet because I have until April 15 and I don't want to look desperate. Maybe this is a test. Maybe if I respond too quickly they'll be like "Sorry, we don't want desperate people on our faculty. Actually, we don't want them as students either. Try your luck at BYU-Idaho next time." That's not a risk I'm willing to take.
Not long ago there was no way in hell I'd seriously consider becoming a teacher of all things. Public speaking meets grossly underpaid babysitting gig? No thanks. But God has basically told me to become a teacher. My father has said more than once that he thinks I would be a good teacher, specifically at relating to the students who don't fit in. Charles Waugh, the professor who urged me to consider graduate school, also specifically mentioned the graduate instructor thing and that he thought I would be a good fit. Okay, so I'm a phenomenal writer, but communicating these things verbally to a roomful of people is a different skill set altogether and I have no clue what any of these people see in me that makes them think I have it. In theory I'll find out.
All I've taught so far in my life are a handful of Sunday school lessons and, more recently, a couple of Come Follow Me discussion groups. And my first attempt at a Sunday school lesson was so abysmal that I hate myself every time I think about it, but I do much better now because I don't do much at all. With the Come Follow Me lessons I basically spend half an hour jotting down questions and discussion prompts, and then use them to make everyone else do most of the talking, which creates an enjoyable experience for all but mostly me. On the rare occasion that nobody responds immediately, I'm not afraid to wait them out. Awkward shmawkward. As Alanis Morrissette once queried,
Why are you so petrified of silence?
English classes at USU are also very discussion-based, so much so that many of them are limited to twenty students and very difficult to get into. But nonetheless I'll have to do a lot more preparing and a lot more talking. There's a specific amount of material I'll have to cover and there are actual curricular criteria I'll have to prepare these kids for. And despite my best efforts to be a fun, laid-back teacher that everyone loves, I'll have to grade them honestly and give them Ds and Fs if that's what they've earned, and then they'll hate me and try to get me fired. And at the end of the semester all of them will anonymously fill out evaluations of information including but not limited to all the ways in which I suck. Also, it will probably take me at least a month to memorize all their names and preferred pronouns. I forget so many names sometimes I could swear I have dementia.
I can't say no to this opportunity, yet it terrifies me. I try to comfort myself by thinking of all the times I moved past my fears and it was totally worth it. But then I can't think of any and I remember that actually most of the times I moved past my fears, terrible things happened to me. It's almost as if fear is a normal healthy instinct programmed to protect me or something. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So I remind myself that I worked at a call center for nearly four months so I can definitely do this. I mean, yeah, I got progressively worse at the call center job as my sleep and will to live decreased every week, and I would let everyone I love starve to death before I'd do it again, but I did it. Yay me. I'm so strong. (You know it's time for a career change when you catch yourself thinking If I jump in front of that truck, I won't have to go to work today.) Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that this will be better than working at a call center. Clearing an elephant's bowel blockage with my tongue would also be better than working at a call center.
Probably the first couple weeks will be stressful and awful and full of no sleep whatsoever, but then they'll get better and my silly little worries will evaporate and I'll be so good they'll beg me to stay on and I'll get job offers from all over the country. Who can say? One way or another it will be an adventure. With any luck it will be an incredible opportunity to indoctrinate young, plastic minds with my worldview, instill them with a passion for the written word, and become too absorbed in a fulfilling and rewarding career path to ever be bored or fall in love again. It's not going to make me rich, but that's what my books are for. In theory. (Memo to future tenured self: assign your students to read your books so at least somebody will.)
Summerfest in Logan, Utah is a beautiful time of year when dozens of talented artists converge on the grounds of the old Latter-day Saint Tabernacle to display their beautiful and expensive artworks. Any one of their booths would be jaw-dropping on its own, but clustered together like this in a sea of beauty, only a few have any hope of standing out as special. I just like to go wander around and soak up the vibe as I look at things and pretend there's the slightest chance I might consider buying something. Kind of like my recent brief stint on the Mutual app in that regard. Also there's overpriced food and live, mostly local musicians.
On Thursday I go around to get an overview of the situation, not looking too closely because there will be time for that later, and I run into Jake from the stake and end up having a bonfire at his apartment. It's about 1/20th the size of a bonfire back home because I assume city ordinances and whatnot, but there's a great camaraderie from those assembled and I witness the birth of several inside jokes. From here on out I will be a part of these inside jokes and able to feel like I have friends. Blake from the stake lives there too, and he asks if I've been on any hot dates lately because he thinks that's an appropriate question for some reason. In fact, I haven't been on any since the last time he asked, which I think was in February. But I humor him by telling everyone present who my crush is. I trust them. They'd better not make me regret that.
The next day, I allow myself to partake a little more in the experience by getting some of the overpriced food, because after all this only happens once a year. I stuff myself on chicken legs, watermelon, chips, and a drink called the "Texas Twister" in a plastic boot. Every time someone orders or refills a plastic boot, the lady in charge yells "We've got a boot!" and all the workers have to yell "Yee-haw!" I imagine how much they must hate their job, but then I remember with a chill my time in the call center, and I realize that even if, instead of yelling "Yee-haw!" they had to wear chicken costumes and sing "What is Love" while twerking, their job would still be preferable to working a call center. They should just be grateful they can find work in this economy at all.
As seven p.m. (19:00) approaches, I walk thirty seconds over to the Utah Theatre to continue the original Star Wars trilogy. This week is "The Empire Strikes Back", the one I tried to get my coworker to come see with me, but her absence will do little to deter me from enjoying this near-flawless blend of action, drama, suspense, humor, introspection, and romance, with an incredible score that goes silent in all the right places and the greatest plot twist in cinematic history. Before the movie I watch a bit of a John Denver concert and a Warner Brothers cartoon, "Bad Ol' Puddy Tat", that ruins my hypothesis about Disney cartoons being matched with Disney movies. But hey, I'd much rather watch Tweety beat the crap out of Sylvester in self-defense than a couple of wicked rodents beat the crap out of Donald Duck to steal the food he made for himself. On top of that, it doesn't have a single racist moment. So the experience was a solid improvement over last week.
My coworker, for the second time, asked if I was going to the hike that her ward is doing at seven a.m. (7:00), so I once again set my alarm for 6:20. I hate hate hate getting up early, but my call center job started at seven too, so this is just like that except it's something fun instead of pure hell. And my alarm is "Hyrule Field" from the Ocarina of Time soundtrack. There are worse noises to wake up to. But oh, wouldn't you know it, my brain has decided that when I said "6:20" I actually meant "5:30", and it's not taking no for an answer. At least I'm not up before the sun this time. Still, I'm not yet convinced that the tradeoff of these hikes is worth it. They're happening every two weeks. I think two Fridays from now I'll make sure to hide from my coworker and pretend I forgot.
My old friend Christian says he'll be in town today to run some errands, so I tell him I'll be at Summerfest and he can meet me there and I can give him the bit of money I've been unable to pay him back because he's been in Europe for half a year and I can't use Venmo or PayPal because reasons. While I'm wandering around waiting for him, I run into my old classmate Stormy, whose face lights up. Stormy was in two of my classes, and she was the second best writer in my Advanced Non-Fiction Writing class (I suggested she might be the first, but she said "No, you definitely are" and I'm not going to argue the point), and after every class I asked to walk with her and she usually said yes, and I watched a play she was in and I interviewed her about her faith for an assignment. When I went incognito to my own graduation, she hugged me and told me it meant a lot that I had come out to see her, but of course I was probably there to see other people too but it still meant a lot.
So on this occasion, she's there with some friends and I run into her and she asks if I'm there alone, I say yes, and she's like, "That's great that you can just go to things by yourself and be cool with it. I love that about you. I couldn't do that. I'd be awkward." I'm startled to see her back in town for the weekend after I thought she'd left forever, he's got a temporary (I hope) tattoo on her neck and it's very distracting, but I catch enough to marvel at her implication that I'm not awkward. Still, she has a point. I learned some time ago when I went to see "The Lego Movie" by myself after several failures to find a viewing buddy that the need to not be alone when doing things is more an assumption we tell ourselves than a reality. When "The Lego Movie 2" was out, I didn't even try. I just went. And I go to Summerfest alone every year, but Logan is a small town and this is a relatively large event and I'm guaranteed to see people I know anyway. Stormy has to go follow her friends but then I meet up with Christian and pay him back and make myself right before the Lord.
Then I'm minding my own business when Blake is suddenly there asking if the big sack of Kettle Corn I bought is for him. It isn't, but I give him a little bit because I can be surprisingly generous to people who are just honest about what they want. He tries to trade his empty Texas Twister boot for the rest of my Kettle Corn, but I explain that I already have one and his friends laugh at him. I recognize some of them from the fire or the stake, and others are entirely new to me. Terrah is one of the new ones, but before I so much as know her name I'm already making jokes about her diminutive stature. Regan is the only one to hear me the first time, and she tells me how funny I am, but Stephen hears me the next time and makes sure to repeat it louder for everyone's benefit. Terrah pretends to be hurt, and truly I shouldn't have started doing this without verifying whether she'd be okay with it, and I'm kind of a dirtbag, but I just feel like we're already a big family and this is how I bond with people I care about. I'm glad she takes it in the spirit it's intended and doesn't get mad at me. I'm glad she doesn't have a short temper.
We go to Angie's, a local restaurant where I went on the first date that I ever went on, where I learned that there was nothing to be nervous about, before I learned that there was in fact very very much to be nervous about. The next year I went there on another date that amounted to much the same. But none of the bad memories are directly connected to the restaurant itself, which is good because I see its name on bumper stickers literally all the time. We go over to a section I've never been in with room for all of us. But some of the people from earlier are nowhere to be found, and as I note our seating arrangement - boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl-me - it dawns on me that I seem to have crashed some kind of group date. Oh well, there are worse things than being a seventh wheel. I'll just roll with it. And look, I won't even have to be the only one because here come the others finally, let's see, two more boys and two more girls. Well. There are worse things than being an eleventh year. I wonder what the record is. Let's go for the record. The newcomers sit boy-girl-girl-boy-me and Stephen says the gender ratio here is a coincidence, but a good ratio nonetheless.
I distinctly remember that my first time here I had ravioli, but now I'm looking through the menu and there's no ravioli nor pasta of any kind. Lots of chicken, though. I don't want anything with chicken. I had enough chicken yesterday to last a week. I don't want breakfast food either because I already got pancakes today after the hike. Reluctantly I settle for a cheeseburger. While we wait, my tablemates act like children and Sierra persuades me to take part in a game of Russian Roulette, but with packets of sugar and salt. I know how stupid it is for me to participate in this game but I want these people to like me. The mouthful of salt is worth that. Terrah asks me what I do for fun, and says that after twenty years she's just discovered books, and asks me for recommendations which I happily supply because this is my chance to inculcate her with my views of the world. I try to gauge her potential interest in "The Adventures of Tintin" by asking if she's into comics as well. She says she's occasionally read one "about a cat thing and a human thing." I'm the only one at the table who correctly guesses that she's talking about Calvin and Hobbes.
Most of us go back to Blake's place to chill, and it's already about eleven p.m. (23:00) and I've already been up too long and I know that tomorrow I'm really really going to regret staying up as late as it looks like we're going to be up, but screw it, I'm making friends. We talk and listen to music and play a card game. Somehow the topic of conversation periodically returns to my crush even though most of these people weren't at the fire. For example, Colby asks why I chose her to be my crush. I say her intellect, her maturity, her spirituality, her kindness, and she has a nice face, and she has the cutest smile, especially when she shows her teeth; she has nice teeth. They can't argue with that logic. Terrah wants to know where I would take her on a date if money and other logistical concerns were no object. I say the moon because I'm thinking in terms of what today's technology allows. With the benefit of hindsight, though, I'd like to change my answer to Saturn's moon Titan, where the thick atmosphere and low gravity would literally enable us to strap on plastic wings and fly through the air. I'm not kidding. Wikipedia says so and everything.
Also, we laugh. A lot. And not to brag or anything, but at a conservative estimate I'd say ~70% of the laughter is attributable to my dance moves and witty comments. Admittedly the bar for what consitutes a witty comment falls lower as the night wore on. Soon all I have to do is reference something we nearly peed ourselves laughing about ten minutes ago, and we'll nearly pee ourselves laughing all over again. I'm not the type to laugh out loud on my own but when other people do, even if the joke was mine to begin with, it's contagious. It's cleansing. This is great. I'm becoming so popular. I knew I was capable of being funny, but this must be the crowning moment of glory of my entire life. "The party never dies, with Chris," Terrah says. And yet, I wonder as I go to bed at almost two a.m. (2:00), at what cost? Will they invite me back every weekend, only to consistently deprive me of the ability to form a coherent thought or write an engaging blog post the following day? As with the hikes, I wonder if the tradeoff is worth it.
I wonder something else too. How is it that tonight/this morning I had seven to nine people (it fluctuated) rolling on the floor laughing for two and a half hours, yet all I can elicit from my crush is an occasional smile or giggle? Perhaps the one truly laughing at me is God.
I neglected to mention last time that as of the day after Labor Day, I have now worked at Jenson Online for a year. It went by faster than my less than four months at the call center. My worst day here (Valentine's Day, when none of my equipment was working right and there was a new quality control guy who was stupidly strict and I felt like I was being eaten alive all day) was better than most days there. I can't say all days there because I did enjoy doing surveys for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals, and near Independence Day we had a picnic. But mostly it sucked so I always try to remember and be grateful for what I have now. I feel that it's like a marriage. You start out all excited and happy and in love, but as the months and years go by the novelty wears off and the more mundane realities of life set in and take over, and you need to make a proactive effort to remember how blessed you are and how wonderful your spouse is. But I'm not married so I wouldn't know that for a fact.
There's a Facebook page called USU Memes that doesn't really do anything anymore, but during my freshman year when I discovered it, around the same time I discovered what memes are, it posted a lot of stuff. I made a few of my own and shared them to the page, and now I feel like sharing them again because what else am I supposed to do here? I couldn't find them, so I recreated them from memory. If there were more I've forgotten about them.
Like, every other week it was broken again. One time there was a note that said: "Seriously guys? If the elevator won't go down, you do not jump on the floor to make it go down. This is why we can't have nice things." That was the first time I'd heard the expression "This is why we can't have nice things" and I thought he was being original.
But this story has a happy ending! After I stood there silently for a couple minutes, she noticed her mistake.
Christian Thrapp was his name. He became USUSA president. I wish he were USA president too, because I'm 99% sure he'd be more qualified than our current tool. This was by far my most popular contribution and Christian himself was quite pleased with it.
Here is my take on the wedding cake thing that everybody, by which I mean nobody, was asking for. First of all, it's quite annoying that people keep misrepresenting what the issue actually is, claiming that the businesses in question are "refusing to serve gay people". As if they make prospective customers fill out a survey on their sexual orientation and then refuse to sell any goods or services to the gay ones. In reality, they are merely declining to provide goods and services for a specific ceremony that violate their religious beliefs. To my knowledge, every one of them is perfectly willing to serve these same customers under any other circumstances, and has done so.
Now from a fairness point of view, both sides have a compelling argument. But from a legal point of view, it appears to me that the businesses have it hands down. The First Amendment protects their religious practice as well as belief. It doesn't include a caveat that says "only in church" or "unless you own a business" or "unless your beliefs are deemed to be discriminatory". The Fourteenth Amendment that many people have fallaciously cited refers only to the State, and says literally not one word about citizens or privately owned businesses. Many people who have never looked at the Constitution don't seem to realize that it actually tells the government what it can and can't do, not the citizens. I'm not sure why a constitutional right that actually exists (practicing your religion) is now considered to be trumped by one that doesn't (getting cake/flowers/whatever from whichever business you want).
Myself, I would have no problem serving a same-sex wedding because I really couldn't care less, just like I would provide birth control for employees, and of course this is all very hypothetical because I don't anticipate ever owning a business or being able to bake a cake. But I don't believe the government has any right to coerce anyone else to if it violates their conscience. Just like it has no right to force anyone to buy there. If you think they're being discriminatory, take your business elsewhere. Why would you want to give money to people you hate anyway?
Also, this is a thing that happened: a teenager with Down syndrome confronted German chancellor Angela Merkel over the fact that nine of ten German babies with Down syndrome are aborted. I thought Germany was super paranoid about not letting anything resembling Nazi stuff happen ever again, but here it is embracing eugenics again. Herpa derp derp.
My family used to have a VHS tape (ask your parents what that is) of Riverdance that my sister watched all the time. I made fun of her for watching it all the time but secretly liked it. Shhhh. This was my favorite part and it still is. The good bit starts about 1:49, but it isn't the same without the buildup. Then about 3:22 (SPOILER ALERT) Michael Flatley comes along like "A powerful, independent woman? I must put her in her place." And then he's like, "You can twirl around? That's cute. I literally have the fastest feet in the world." As a kid this part where they stare each other down made me think of taming a tiger. Unfortunately, this video omits the bit at the end where he kisses her on the cheek and they walk off stage with their arms around each other. That's how every mixed-sex battle for supremacy should end.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.