Saturday, October 31, 2009

We all need friends.

So we went up to Columbia yesterday and had some difficulty following our Google Maps directions. We did make it though, and it was so wonderful to go into the temple again after a (seemingly) long absence. It's a pretty marble building, and it's tiny compared to the bigger temples that I'm used to.

I just love going places with Paul! We get in the car, feel all adventurous, and turn on some of our favorite music. After the music gets old, we take turns reading to each other to pass the time. We're steadily progressing through Uglies, and I am all curiosity about how it will end. I keep thinking it cannot end well...

I look forward to moving, although there is some sadness. I've finally made a friend in my ward with one of my visiting teachers. Her name's Emilee and we really have a lot in common. It was hard for me to reach out to someone, but I finally just called her and said, "Hey, let's, you know, hang out." She said sure, and we had a great time making little pizzas and talking.

Making friends is a strange business as an adult. You can't just say, "Will you come play with me?" But even though things work differently in a lot of ways, adult friendship really isn't so different from child friendship. At any age, you essentially have to just decide, "I like this person and I want us to be friends." It's always risky (because you never know if the person will like you back) but we all need friends, no matter what our age.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"I will [write] no more, forever" for these people...

I've FINALLY heard from my old employers, and it turns out I will get paid for just over half of the posts I wrote in September. That's more than I thought they would pay me for, but the whole situation still makes me angry. I spent way too much time on all that writing for it to count as nothing. Alas, for them I will write NO MORE.

Today Paul and I are headed up to go to the temple in Columbia, South Carolina! We're so excited, since we haven't been to the temple since before we moved. I have really longed for it, and now we get to go! Well, we best be on our way...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nitty Gritty Characterization

Paul had a presentation for one of his classes and part of it had to do with the ethical issues surrounding animal research. To make it more light-hearted, he bought a stuffed animal puppy that he would throw to people when they wanted to answer a question. The camera is currently out of batteries, or I could show you a picture of the puppy. It's so cute! A girl in his class named the puppy Aidan.

The funny thing is that I have a peculiar connection with the name. Way back when I was thirteen years old, Aidan was one of my first major characters in a book I was writing with my friend Natalie. I'm sure the book was terrible and all, but I will always remember it with fondness. We had so much fun and we were both completely convinced that we were going to make millions with our writing.

Some of that old excitement has sprung up inside of me these last few weeks. I have been working day and night to go through each and every character in my book. I'm giving them all personality types and temperaments-- and it's a lot of work. The payoff is really huge, although it has been a little funny to see what kinds of characters I tend to write. One young man has been so easy for me to write from the beginning and he just seems real. I realized yesterday that he's just like my brother James! I can write him so well because his reactions, conversations, and preoccupations are filled with the essence of James. Weird! I had no intention of copying my brother, but it simply happened. It's wonderful to be able to write such a natural and intrinsically real character. He might as well be standing in the room with me while I'm writing him!

Characters, essentially, must be people. They must have strengths and many, many weaknesses. I'm trying to breath life into my text by making my characters get hung up over silly things and misunderstand each other because they're not paying attention, and who really try to do the right thing even though they often fail. The phrase "nitty gritty" comes to mind. I want to reveal humans in all their messy reality. That's what really makes a story good.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Oh my, Toto!"

I'm at the school again on this illustrious Friday evening. (I wanted to use the word "illustrious" even though it is in no way fitting.) It has been a good day. Because my visiting teachers were coming over, Paul actually helped me clean this morning! Usually I beg him, he says he will, and... he never does. So this was a fabulous turn of events. The house looks better now than it ever has before.

So, it's official. We're going to Hays, Kansas at the end of this semester. How we'll pay for the move and where we'll live are yet to be determined, but we've finally decided with certainty. We're going to that notoriously flat state right in the middle of the country, and that's about all we know about the place. I hear that it has a depressed economy, which should mean pretty low rent. I hope that's true!

The really great thing about living in Kansas will come when we visit our families. We will be able to say very seriously, "We're not in Kansas anymore!"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Symmetrical faces... or not.

So now that I've got the depressing news out of the way (see below) it's time for some fun. I started reading a book with Paul called Uglies. We're not very far into it, yet. The basic idea is that there is a society that makes everyone "pretty" when they turn 16, and this involves a surgery that makes the face symmetrical, among other changes. The girls in the book spend some time playing with software that will show them possibilities of what they might look like once they're made pretty. It starts by scanning their faces, taking each half and using symmetry to show them two possible faces they could have. Then they can tweak the images to look more "pretty."

Paul found a picture of me (in which I'm not even looking straight at the camera), and tried to do the same thing. The result was freakin' hilarious! I look like I weight 400 pounds! Not to mention that I somehow I have two necks...!!! Here it is... Obviously, he didn't edit it very well.
Here's another that Paul did of his face, and it's mostly silly because of his hair. This one actually manages to look like him.

Now, below is a picture of Paul from before I knew him. He has a pleasant face that isn't very symmetrical.
And below are the two halves of his face made symmetrical. In the first he looks overly-eager and sort of innocent.
In the second, he's a sort of quasi-Gaston brute. The military cut he had at the time doesn't help.
And here I am on our wedding day... Chubby, lovely, and not very symmetrical.
First, we have the right side. This is definitely my skinnier half. I'm not sure what nationality I become. It makes my face look kind of long...
And the left side. This is the fat side, and making it symmetrical makes my face almost square. I think my arched eyebrows also make me slightly evil-looking.
I've seriously been trying not to laugh my head off while I've been posting these pictures. I don't know if anyone else will think they're as funny as I do... I think I prefer us just the way we are.

Wish I could come up with a clever title...

My days of blogging for pay are now over... I suppose I had it coming. I was following the original directions that were given to me when I was first hired, but apparently, the company decided they wanted something different without letting the bloggers know. Basically, I was writing about a wide variety of health and fitness-related topics and I was supposed to be writing about certain specific topics (such as acne and nothing else on the acne blogs). I had no idea the guidelines had changed, and I've just received an email that severely pissed me off. The bloggers haven't been paid for the September blogs yet, and it turns out that the company only intends to pay us for the posts that relate directly to the narrow topic. For me, that means I might make $100 that month, if I'm lucky. It will probably be less. And I was counting on making quite a bit more money than that. I NEED more money than that. Basically it amounts to several hours that I will not now be paid for.

So I'm quitting. I just sent my letter of resignation... and it was hard to do! I kept thinking in the back of my mind that I should just try to stick it out, but the truth is that I can't be doing work without any assurance that I will be paid. That's just stupid. Maybe I can find something else that will be more dependable...! Who knows.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What do writers do? They write!

Well, the grades came in on the group presentation, and I did remarkably well. The teacher gave out individual grades to all the group members, and I got 89%! That's fabulous, considering all the frustrating things that went wrong. The other members didn't do so well... Mostly they were hurt by not filling up as much time as they should have. The silly thing about that is that we had a stop watch sitting up on the podium to use, and two of the group members didn't even use it. I was so glad that I did because I know I would have gone well over my time limit. The first time I looked at the timer, it was almost time to stop. I wish they all would have used it so that they could have gotten better grades...!

I'm so relieved to have that over with! It frees up my mind to think about other things for a while. My communications teacher was talking today about how people say they're not good at things and then stop there. "I'm just not good at writing," insist many of his students, and yet they don't take the time to develop their writing abilities. He said it takes time and persistence to be good at things and much hard work. Which brings me to my greatest character flaw...

I tend to do nothing. It is my natural inclination to sit there imagining and dreaming... and doing nothing. I have great IDEAS and plenty of zeal, but such things don't do me any good unless I simply stop dreaming and get to work. So I want to be a writer! That doesn't mean anything. I really have got to make my novel a regular daily priority in my life, or I won't ever finish it. Working on it something for a few minutes every now and then is pathetic and I can never develop my writing skills in such a leisurely fashion! It is time to pull myself up and to BE more than I have been.

After all, a writer is someone who writes, not somehow who thinks about writing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's raining cats, dogs, and stupid people.

I have yet to find out if I still have my blogging job. More than two weeks ago, I was told to hold off on blogging for a week or two while they make changes to the system (or something like that) and in that time I have heard nothing. I've been afraid that I'll lose my job for being so cheeky. I haven't been promoting products very well, and I don't know if that's going to come back to haunt me. I just wish they would let me know either way....!

It is raining insanely right now. I had to do a big group presentation in my speech class, and we were all dripping wet and shivering as we stood up to do our parts. I had planned on wearing something a little nicer and doing my hair, you know, to improve my confidence... but when I saw how hard it was raining, I ditched that idea and just wore something that would be relatively comfortable when wet. The presentation was laughable. It involved a spreadsheet with calculations, and the girl who had typed the spreadsheet had messed up her calculations. Other blunders of the group members I managed to smooth over or explain away, but this was beyond ridiculous.

After the presentation was a period of time set aside for questions, and some students in the class pointed out the errors to us. The calculation errors effectively made the entire presentation moot. After all the trouble I have gone through with this stupid group, I actually just started laughing when the errors were pointed out. They weren't MY errors, but they made us all look like idiots. I laughed and said, "Well, we made some mistakes. I admit that openly." At another point, I said, "Our ignorance about criminal offenses is now being revealed." It seemed hilarious to me that I get to have a bad grade because of the stupidity of other people. What I really wanted to do was point to the girl who had made the spreadsheet and yell, "She's so STUPID that she can't even add up simple numbers, and she INSISTED that she knew more about misdemeanors and felonies than the rest of us! SHE is the reason we now stand before you looking like idiots!"

But I just laughed and resigned myself to the situation. There was not much else to do!

Tonight I get to go play European games for my field study again! It's going to be so much fun. I love, love, love Anthropology!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Everything changes.

General conference was amazing. I kept thinking to myself, "That was exactly the talk that I needed!" and yet I would say it again and again as the conference went on. I really felt the power of the Spirit as I listened to the Apostles of Jesus Christ.

On a different note.... It's becoming obvious that we're probably going to leave Augusta. My husband is so unhappy in his program and he has the opportunity to transfer to another school in Kansas. It's not official yet, but I think it will happen. I can see that the problem with Paul's program is his lack of control over his own life. He doesn't get to have any say about classes, teachers, times, and there's no system set up to help the graduate students if they need to make changes. They don't have any advisors or advocates; there's no one to go to about issues. Worse for Paul specifically is that he's the only student in his tract. Almost all the students in his classes are in the clinical psych program, and even the four others that are in experimental with Paul are planning on going on to get PhDs in clinical. There's no one for him to talk with about his plans and dreams, and the professors he works under show no interest in him at all. That's completely different than it was at UVU, where Paul developed close personal relationships with his professors. They were strong advocates who were supportive and excited about Paul's career path. He misses the support badly and is beginning to hate his professors here.

Some people might think, "Well, it's graduate school, so it should be hard!" but I beg to differ. I don't care who you are in what position or program, people can be decent and caring. There's no excuse for this program in which the students are left to fend for themselves. Paul's not the only one who's unhappy in the program. Apparently they have a huge drop-out rate that they conventiently keep a secret until people are actually in the program. And it's not because of the advanced nature of study. It's because the professors don't care at all about the students.

And I don't care if we move again at the end of the semester. I don't have any friends here, and I probably won't when December rolls around. Well, sure, I have friends. The old people in my classes are my friends-- Bill and Janice. But they're not the sort of friends you hang out with outside of class. I won't be sad to leave Augusta behind, although Paul and I will both be sad to leave the house behind. I've got to get some pictures of the inside...

Life is change, and then change, and there's nothing wrong with changing plans when you figure out something's not working for you. It can be exhausting, though.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Research rocks....!

I get to be Paul's guinea pig today. He has equipment that he's going to use for his research and he has to learn to use it on a test subject. The lucky winner is... me! I don't know how it will all work yet, but apparently, he's going hook up wires to my fingers and various places on my head to measure heart rate and signs of physiological stress. He's going to be researching small group communication by measuring test subjects' body signals in different group situations. The idea is to see if it is more stressful to have to come to a consensus or to make a decision by vote. The professor that he's working under suspects that it will be more stressful to have to all agree, but the research will tell.

We had to get a new battery for our car, but it's happily running again. There's this wonderful mechanic that Paul happened upon who is truly salt of the earth. A couple of weeks ago, Paul decided that we could no longer ignore the dead turn signal on the back left. Our left mirror was also hanging by a wire, and the combination wasn't exactly safe. He went in to see this mechanic, and the guy glued on the mirror and replaced the signal light bulb without charging Paul. Then when our car was having problems earlier this week, the same mechanic sent him off to get a new battery without charging him a cent. He could have charged for the glue, the bulb, and the labor, but he didn't. He said to Paul, "Come back when your car has a real problem." The angels are taking notes of people like this.

I wanted to talk, as well, about my own research. I may have mentioned that I'm doing an ethnographic field study. It's so fun! I've been spending time every Monday night with a group of guys who meet in a bookstore to play board games. They're so much fun, and they make me laugh. After each meeting, I write detailed notes about the interactions of the group and my experiences playing games with them. I write the the notes like my journal; for years I cultivated my journal writing to be as accurate and full of detail as possible. (After reading 1984, I wanted to have an accurate record of my life so that I would know what had happened after my memories faded.) My teacher loves my field notes and has asked me think about being an anthropologist. I've been considering it.

I would go into more detail about this group and its individuals, but I have to keep it confidential and not give away any of their identities. They have to sign informed consent forms that promise I won't use their real names or let anyone know who they are. I guess that's how real anthropologists do things. It's pretty fun.