Sunday, April 26, 2009

Garage Sales and Guanacos

I love garage sales. Yesterday we set a new garage sale record, hitting three awesome piles in just three tries. The first sale was one of those "everything must go" sales where the family was moving. They were a little hampered by the sporadic drizzle of rain, but they covered most of the stuff with tarps every time it started to sprinkle. We found a sweet stand-up mirror that was part of a bedroom set going for several hundred, but the gentleman sold it separately to us for ten bucks.

Energized by our first purchase, we hit the road, looking for more posters on 900 E. Soon we got another bite and we were racing east up Cedar Avenue. From the outside it didn't look like much was going on - just a gazebo on a driveway with a selection that resembled DI's "as is" aisle. The earthy guy guarding it outside told us there was more inside, and as we crossed the threshold we met his equally earthy fiancee. She informed us they were getting married soon and moving to her parents' farm in Portland. Talk about living the dream! She pointed out a camping set with a tent, two sleeping bags and a backpack, originally marked $230, that they were selling for $40. We wrote her a check and hit the road again.

Our next destination was Wymount Central Offices. There weren't any signs directing people that way, but from the main road I saw what looked like a little market on the front lawn. We pulled in and found an international bazaar. Students from all different countries had graduated and were presumably headed back to their native lands, so they were getting rid of a lot of stuff. We met a Russian lady with a Ukrainian husband who was selling the same crib Ashton already purchased for a sixth of the price. We just bought the mattress from them and had a delightful conversation in Russian. We decided we should probably quit while were ahead, and drove home.

After that great start we drove up to Thanksgiving Point with Ashton's family to celebrate her sister's birthday. I love Thanksgiving Point! I get giddy as a schoolboy every time I go there. It was a lot chillier than I anticipated. I always forget about the wind coming off the mountain up there. We hit the farm first, anxious to see all the new animals. To be honest, I was more interested in the enclosures, taking recon photos with my camera phone so that I could build my own someday. We checked out the pygmy goats, guanacos, and llamas, and I decided I wanted all three when I have my farm, maybe even in Portland.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day

Yesterday was a pretty wonderful celebration of the outdoors and the end of finals:

- Rock climbing in the morning (two ropes are way better than one)
- Sunflower market for produce
- Monte Bean Museum with Marc, a boy I mentor
- Barbecue in our front yard with Bocci

And the day before that I bought a tomato plant and named him Raul.

It's going to be a good summer, especially when the MCAT is over.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Yesterday was probably more hectic than an Easter should be, but it seems like the weekend is the only time to get anything done.

We drove up to Bountiful and got up there around noon, where a beautiful feast of pork roast awaited us. We left my parent's home at 12:45 to go to a good friend's homecoming at 1:00. We walked in, smelling suspiciously of pork, and found Andrew and Mary to sit with. When I sat down I immediately noted all the yahoos sitting in front of us -- the insufferably righteous and smiley Bountiful High alumni who had also come for the homecoming -- and I remembered why I didn't love high school. The homecoming address was short and sweet, and packed with the spiritual maturity appropriate for a just returned missionary from London, South. She was almost as bubbly as a greenie. After the meeting I remarked to her that I was a lot more exhausted when I got home, but of course I was out an additional six months.

After that meeting we returned to my parents' house, where everyone was awakening from their dinner-induced coma. We chatted for a while, and I spouted off about climate change and global warming and tried to convey the immediacy of the problem. It was really the first time I was able to give that sermon even though it had been incubating in my head for the last week. Thank goodness for a polite and earnest audience. I can always count on my parents to listen to my rants and speeches.

At around 4:00 we took off back to Provo to have dinner with Ashton's family. We arrived a little late, but still in time to eat some delicious chicken. We'd stopped at our place so Ashton could change clothes, and we brought Galya along for the ride. Nicholas went nuts when he heard she was there, and he chased her around the yard trying to pet her, exclaiming, "Hi Galya!" While he was distracted by Galya and his aunts' dollhouses, everyone set up an easter egg hunt. It was pretty amusing to watch Nicholas collect the candy-filled eggs scattered all over the living room. We helped him collect the harder-to-reach eggs, and picked up a pretty good stash of our own. Next Leesa hooked everyone up with some sweet Easter baskets, and I got another one from Ashton. I made off like a bandit! Such generous family! Apple beer, mugs, candy . . . what else could I ask for? Nicholas got progressively more wired as he ingested more sugar, and finally everyone packed up. It took several trips to take our loot and duck to the car.

To cap off the day I watched the film Schindler's List. It was my first time seeing it, (and I call myself a film lover) and I was more than impressed. I was captivated for the full three hours. I've seen a lot of World War II movies, but this was definitely the most moving and thought-provoking. It really carried home the message of compassion and charity, and was decidedly appropriate for the holiday.


Sunday, April 12, 2009


Yesterday I was visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley. I had to go to the library to watch a documentary (An Inconvenient Truth - hardly a documentary. I preferred hearing Al Gore proclaim the dangers of Man-Bear-Pig). It got over around 2:00 and I realized I hadn't had lunch. I wandered over to the Wilk to get some food and as I walked into the Cougareat I ran into a startlingly familiar face. An older gentleman with a BYU t-shirt waddled past me with his walker, and I blurted out a "Hi Larry!"

He quickly answered hello and kept walking towards the terrace. I turned and watched him walk away, confused by this encounter. Last year I had participated in a mentoring program called Best Buddies, in which I met with Larry, a handicapped gentleman, for a few hours a month. Larry is 63 years old. He's bald and pear-shaped, and he has hearing difficulty. He's the happiest, nicest guy you'll meet, even if he doesn't remember you.

I got some food and wondered what Larry was doing on campus. I thought maybe there was some Best Buddies activity going on that day, but I didn't see any other visitors. After I finished eating I walked back out toward the terrace and saw Larry get on an elevator. Where the heck is he going? I wondered. I walked over to the elevator and saw that he'd gone to the 4th floor. I stepped in the adjacent elevator and punched 4. When the doors opened, there was Larry, standing in the hallway, looking very confused.

"Whatcha doing Larry?" I asked. He responded that he was looking for football tickets for the fall.

"Did you take the bus up here?"

Apparently Larry had been coming up every Saturday looking for football tickets. Unfortunately just about everything is closed on Saturdays, so he hadn't made much progress.

Looking outside at the rain, I wondered how Larry was going to get home. I asked him if I could give him a ride, and he looked at me, a little defeated by the tickets problem, and said, "Okay."

As we walked to the JFSB parking lot in the drizzle, we got reacquainted. I asked him about his sister in American Fork, his mother who's in an Alzheimer's unit, and what he'd been doing since he no longer worked at D.I. I showed him a picture on my phone of him in a Batman costume and asked him if he remembered going to a Halloween party with me.

"Oh!" he blurted out, with a flash of recognition. Five minutes later he'd forgotten who I was again.

We finally got to the parking lot and he yelled with delight as we rose up out of the underground parking onto the rainy roads above. I drove past my house and showed him my duck.

"Hey Galya, this is my friend Larry!" He just laughed and looked away bashfully.

We pulled up to his apartment and I helped him get his walker out of the car. He still had no idea who I was or how I knew where he lived, but he didn't seem to care. He was just glad to be back to his place. We shook hands and I closed the door, wondering why Larry and I had lost touch.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Mark Twain once said (actually he probably said it all the time) that we shouldn't let our schooling get in the way our education. My research professor tells us that all the time, but then he gives you hot sauce packets from Taco Bell if you answer his questions right.

This last week, despite my super busy end-of-semester-schedule, I decided to not let my schooling get in the way of my education. It turns out that BYU provides students with endless opportunities for learning outside of the class. You just have to filter through the endless handouts and fliers posted on bulletin boards.

On Tuesday I went to a lecture on climate change, the first of a series of three lectures that comprised the university's first sustainability summit. I thought the students who put it on were way to into themselves and some of them seemed more like resume artists than earth savers, but I'll give them credit for bringing out the big guns. They recruited Dr. Handley, a comparative literature professor who's article on environmental stewardship made some pretty serious stirrings in my mind, and Dr. Gill, the university's brand new (and as far as I know only) climatologist. Dr. Handley opened the lecture with some thoughts on stewardship, and he was followed by Dr. Gill.

If all it takes to win the Nobel prize is a sweet powerpoint, then Gill should be a serious candidate. He gave one of the best powerpoints I have ever seen, and provided very compelling evidence for anthropogenic global warming. I left the meeting totally converted and ready to wage war on carbon dioxide. The furor has faded a little, but I'm definitely much more aware, and I'm always itching to tell people about it.

On Thursday I heard that the Ukrainian ambassador was coming to talk about U.S./Ukrainian relations. I split early from my writing class to attend the address. I wasn't dazzled by the guy's command of English (although it was much better than my Russian), but I was very impressed with his optimism. He spoke in pretty blunt terms about Ukraine's desire to become more like the West, as well as their relations to Russian. He was obviously born in Western Ukraine, though, because I didn't meet any Ukrainians who felt like he did.

Also on Thursday I dropped in the library auditorium where they were showing Heima, a documentary about Sigur Ros. I was delighted to see the room fairly hipster-free, and I basked in the purity of Iceland's greatest musicians. I don't care if their whole country went bankrupt; their music gives me goosebumps!

Thursday night I attended the last lecture in the sustainability summit series. Although it wasn't as rousing as Gill's lecture, it provided some interesting insights into the biodiversity in my backyard, or at least the lecturer's backyard. I was hoping he'd talk about composting and gardening, but it turned into a lot of soapboxing and traveloguing. Still, it helped put the problems facing our planet's biodiversity in perspective.

So I guess what I'm saying is it's been nice the last few days to forget about organic chemistry and learn stuff for the sake of learning.

Friday, April 3, 2009


So sometimes I do stuff before I think about the consequences. There are certain things in life you can do only in that impulsive frame of mind. One of them is buying a pet. From guinea pigs to turtles, I have acquired many pets in my life, and I usually regret it. The smell of urine soaked wood shavings and reptilian poop will do that.

Galya joined our family last April, around this time of year. She proved to be quite the handful as a duckling, constantly chirping and doing that excrement thing. She grew pretty fast, however, and became a regular fixture in the yard.

There have been moments when I've regretted buying Galya. Most of those moments were in the winter when she was freezing her tush off and we didn't really know what to do for her. She'd frequently stand out on the front patio quacking to the world about the frigid loneliness of winter. We tried building a duck house, bought her a heating blanket and even considered letting her live in the storage room. Somehow she survived the freezing temperatures, and since the thaw she's been pretty well behaved.

We've tried introducing her to the botany pond south of campus, but it never goes over well. She runs (or swims) from the other ducks, and when we leave her there she wanders into the road or parking lot across the street. Last time we found her a 100 yards east of the pond under a parked car. She's just not fit for the wild. She's forgotten she's a duck.

So we've taken drastic measures. That duck's only chance of making it is to have a friend -- another duck. Yesterday we were doing some shopping before I headed down to Hurricane to shadow my uncle. We were in So Pro and Ashton got a text from her friend who was at the IFA store -- "They have black ducks!" We jetted over there to see them, and before we knew it, we had purchased not only a black duck, but a yellow one too. We figured they'd be good company for each other, and they might have a remedial effect on Galya.

After leaving the store we started to feel the weight of our decision sink in. Yeah, we knew there might be trouble upstairs, but we hoped for a degree of tolerance. Plus ducklings aren't as loud as adults, and they won't disturb the neighbors. We took them home and set up a little cage for them in the bedroom. We wanted to keep it covert for a while, so we put some music on to drown out their chirping. However, the idea of leaving them while I left for shadowing just didn't sit well with me, because if they were discovered, I wanted to be there to explain. So a half hour before I left I made the decision to take them with me.

At 6:40 I was filling up at a gas station with two ducklings in the backseat. We hit the road, and I sang and they chirped in unison with Ben Gibbard and James Mercer. After a long, rainy, windy drive we arrived at my uncle's residence in Hurricane. He was cool with storing my odd cargo in the garage, and I asked him to keep it on the downlow.

7:30 the next morning I got a text from my dad, indicating that they knew. It had leaked on the facebook and there was quite an uproar. Geez. Here I was trying to focus on physician shadowing and my pants kept buzzing with texts pleading with me to abandon my babies. It was annoying, to say the least.

Resolution? Well the wolves must be sated, and my uncle conveniently lives in a rural area with a large plot, a swimming pool, and three kids who are more than willing to take care of Gertrude and Gleb. Am I bitter? Absolutely. But whatever. I'll come see them in May.