life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


the best of the decade

courtesy of Jeff |

Ten years ago today, at 14, I stood outside in the snow with my parents' bulky video camera, with nothing to film. I had received some video editing equipment and software for Christmas--the most expensive present I'd ever asked for--and I was desperate to create something poignant and beautiful. This would be the beginning of a burgeoning creative career, I was certain. Slinging the protective bag over my left shoulder, I cocked the camera up to my eye and traipsed the road between the two houses, looking for meaning. By the end of our family's 10-day holiday party, I had captured a few snow football games, Brooke falling through the frozen pond, and the grand countdown to Y2K. Blips of excitement in otherwise listless footage.

Upon returning home, I installed the software and spent numerous hours cutting and compiling everything into a story to be distributed among the family--if nothing else, an hour-long memory of a good time. In the end, though, our dated computer wasn't compatible with the technology to output to videocassette. The footage remained unused, and my expensive present rendered useless. I continued to make movies on a school computer and with my best friend, but his superior equipment and talent soon rendered me obsolete as well.

Over the past week or so, I've ingested decade reviews courtesy Newsweek, Time, CNN, and others. By all global accounts, the '00s have been remarkably crappy. September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, the Asian monsoon, myriad wars, growing distrust of leadership, disdain for the US, a reign of "reality" TV, overshadowing and drought of quality creative work and entertainment, and a major global recession.

I'm not sure how history will remember this decade (or what they'll call it), but I suspect that I'll remember it as the decade in which everything happened, and nothing changed. In the '00s, I started and finished high school, and started and finished college. I moved away, learned about death, love, had my first kiss, won state, gained a sister, partied until morning, served a two-year mission in Siberia, and got engaged, and then married.

This morning, I awoke late in Sun Valley, and leaving my pregnant wife in bed, stepped out into morning on the snowy road between the houses. Slinging the bag over my left shoulder, I opened the screen on our newest, most expensive Christmas present--a JVC digital video camera--and pointed it out into the snow. Still nothing. It was a flailing, futile attempt to close the decade with greater structure than it began, and it failed.

On that very day ten years ago, I began to write in a journal, inaugurating a process that saw the abandonment of moviemaking as my principal creative activity. Now I consider myself a writer, and despite a few publications and a degree, I still don't know what I want to write about. In fact, I still don't know I want to do in general, other than that I want to create something poignant and beautiful. The specifics, through the lenses of both my video camera and my life itself, continue to be withheld from my sight.

The great essayist William Safire, who passed away this year, extolled the importance of people everywhere recording what they see, citing a widespread lack of first-person history in our cultural awareness. I didn't see the hurricane or even the recession, but I did see the road between the two houses. So I guess I'm doing that, recording what I see, but to what end? I certainly never found an answer in this decade. The '10s, though, will be the decade in which the majority, if not all, of my children will be born. I imagine then I'll have something to write about, and something to film.

Even on a macro level, maybe the snow football games and babies are still all that matter. Maybe I'll never get to unfurl a grand global creative insight on the world, but maybe that's ok. After all, despite all that's happened on the outside, and despite my own futility to synthesize it into anything poignant or beautiful, this was a pretty great decade for me. Maybe that's something.



courtesy of Jeff |

This is longest blog drought in some time now, but that's not without good reason. By the way, I'm resolved to begin each post with a reference to the fact that it's been a while as a punishment to myself for letting it be a while, lest you poo-poo my lack of variation.

Here's the thing. Sarah, my wife, is knocked up. I know, I know, there are probably better ways to say that, but chances are, most caring readers know by now anyway. Sarah posted it on her blog quite some time ago. If this comes as a shock to you, it's because I'm horrible at spreading big news. There are a number of people quite close to me who surely remain in the dark, including pretty much everyone from high school. Well, now you know.

This miraculous development in our lives came as a shock to us as well, actually. I know that's the question everyone wants to ask, especially after they hear me too-adamantly proclaim that "no, we're waiting a while." Well, we were, but Carr Jr. evidently didn't get the memo. But I tell you what--we're excited. It's kind of like when you forget to invite someone to your birthday party, but then they show up anyway and everyone has a good time. It's a little awkward at first, but that's mostly my fault for not inviting him (or her).

The due date is June 8th, so after Sarah graduates, but before we take off for grad school. This means we're just at the end of the first trimester. She's been sick pretty much 24/7 for the last six weeks, and that is hopefully beginning to subside. It's all been fairly surreal so far, because the two of us have just been spending each waking moment trying to keep her from honking. She's also taking 18 credits and working more than 20 hours per week. She's quite the trooper. Needless to say, we probably haven't had ample time to really take it all in. But what we have processed so far is that this is going to be quite the special experience for the next few decades or so. Possibly eternity.



courtesy of Jeff |

I'm a recent graduate of Utah State University, a current university employee, and I have a Sustaining Alumni Membership there--each of which attributes provide certain material benefits--but the only thing that can get me into Aggie basketball games for cheap is the fact that my wife is a student. I always suspected she was my most valuable asset, but it's nice to have quantitative proof.

I guess I need to figure some things out, for my own sanity.

So, they say that history repeats itself, and that ideals of cultural identity and the political climate in America swing around in cycles. I, for one, am too young to have witnessed many, or any, revolutions of said cycles, but I'm sure it's true. Correct me if I'm wrong, though, but I have to assume that a few scary things that I'm witnessing in the political world today are brand new. They're new due to the evolving nature of the media, which is itself new.

If I was writing a dystopian novel (and I may someday), I think I'd spend quite a bit of time studying the precise rhetorical methods of mainstream media today. Heck, an overly manipulative media was Orwell's greatest fear, and that was in the '40s. Now, I don't like bringing up the subject of media bias anymore, because the issue turns immediately to Fox vs. CNN, left vs. right, yada yada yada.

Ironically, the fact that the discussion immediately turns there encapsulates what actually scares me: Compartmentalization and oversimplification of inherently complex and vital-to-life issues. And nowhere is this more evident than in the infantile pitting, in the media, of the two major American political parties against each other.

It seems like people have woken up to the pitfalls of cable news stations like Fox and CNN, but I wonder if many lessons are being learned. Obviously, the two parties have opposed each other forever, which has resulted in idiotic outbursts for decades (see Preston Brooks). But what's the purpose of the intense polarization that's taking place now between the two parties? No informed citizen could ever honestly say that they believe in every policy of a certain party and loathe every policy of the other. The party stances are completely counter-intuitive to their perceived philosophies on a lot of things. And it's not like one's good and one's evil. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle." The parties themselves aren't that simple, so our responses to them probably shouldn't be either. But I digress.

So why the drama, then? Why are the parties drifting irreconcilably apart? As far as I can tell, it's for the lofty ambition of selling advertising space. Perfect archetypal battles between good and evil are the most gripping stories on TV, and in this case, you can even choose which side is which! The media, for better or for worse, is a business. Each year, in order to accommodate our impatient lives, complex arguments are reduced to smaller and smaller soundbites and simplistic party assignations to the point that no actual knowledge is disseminated on the news. Then we get this:

Dude 1: "The Republicans' health care plan is terrible!"
Dude 2: "What part of the plan?"
Dude 1: "Uh, you know, prices are too high, and they want us to pay for it ourselves."

As if that's the entirety of the issue. MAYBE we understand 10% of it, but no more.

The print media, thank goodness, doesn't always follow suit, but in all honesty, dramatic magazines and newspapers sell better than boring, accurate ones as well. Of course, it's not like this is the media's fault, per se. As a business, they pander to the interests and pocketbooks of the consumers. This phenomenon, to me--the oversimplification and lack of focus on real knowledge and solutions--seems like a product not of the media, but human nature (but what isn't, I guess?).

I guess the scary implications to me is this: that such a culture will continue to affect the way actual politics are done, i.e. increased emphasis on party solidarity and antagonism rather than actual attempts to solve problems collaboratively. Please see this hilarious recent Onion article as a satirical, but all-too-sadly-true example of the same. (PS--you could substitute one party for the other in the article--it doesn't matter.)

It seems to me that it's because of this oversimplification that choosing ultra-adamant opinions has become no longer the extreme, but the norm. Saying something loud has become an acceptable substitute for reasoning out a measured response. This, I suspect, is not entirely new, but I fear that with our technological capabilities at this point, the media isn't going to become any more attentive to those measured responses anytime soon. We're not getting stupider as citizens, but I fear we trample on our own beloved democratic rights by limiting our thinking to only two possible options for each issue--the liberal or the conservative--as if the spectrum really is that one-dimensional.

But then again, what do I know? I'm subject to the same soundbites as everyone else, and this progressive-sounding cynicism of mine doesn't make me any more knowledgeable than anyone else with opinions. When someone says "Hillary Clinton is a ______!" and can't back that up with a single quantitative piece of evidence, it's easy to say they're ignorant. But aren't all of us who aren't on the senate floor or in the intelligence meetings pretty darn ignorant about the actual implications of these issues we care so passionately about? The existence of a whole spectrum of opinions, including a center, is what makes democracy work, and keeps us from the brink of destruction. So why are we so adverse to the idea?

My often-cynical buddy Blaine came home from a congressional internship last year with a renewed faith in the people that actually make our decisions. I've always had a probably-unwarranted faith in our politicians and the fact that they're the right people for the job, but it's a faith I continue to cling to. They know the issues, and due to our own apathy, we only pretend to. One one hand, it's good that they know the issues more intimately than others. On the other hand, though, doesn't increased knowledge and participation on the part of the populace theoretically lead to greater freedom and prosperity? I fear we may never know.

These are extremely nebulous and fairly simple issues I'm treating here, but to me they're fascinating. And I suppose they're issues I don't hear talked about a lot, so I thought I'd try to help fill the void, at least to a small degree. But I'd love to hear your opinions on these things. What is to be done about the oversimplification and shrouding of real issues in America? Should anything be done? Do these things affect real politics already, or just cable news politics? Am I crazy to be worried about this? Please weigh in and let's talk about this--if for no other cause than my sanity.


cliche hospital story

courtesy of Jeff |

I've been thrown off. I haven't been writing as much lately, and I've been wasting time in the interim. This is a sorry state of affairs for me, and one that can be attributable to one thing and one thing only: one of my organs has exploded.

Yes, nature's li'l whiner, the appendix, paid me a nasty visit last Saturday. It decided it was done doing whatever it is it's been doing for 24 years, and it burst, sending toxic fluids into my abdomen and onto the benevolent residents thereof. This was, by far, the worst pain I have ever felt. For you ladies out there, the level has been compared to that of childbirth, so you can hold your high horses about that. Anyway, fortunately, this occurred at home on a Saturday afternoon, and Sarah was home, so she was able to take me to the emergency room.

Between throbs of screeching pain, I asked her to take me to InstaCare instead, since my health insurance ran out a month previous, after a lifetime of expensive inactivity. (In fact, I'd never had any health problems to speak of in my entire life--no broken bones, no stitches, hospital stays, or even unscheduled doctor visits.) Had I been in my right mind, however, I would have recalled that InstaCare is worthless. I brought in my buddy Erik who was near death when his lung collapsed, and all they could figure out was that his rib was broken. Anyway, at about 1:00, Sarah drove me to the emergency room.

At about 5:00, I was informed that Mr. Appendix was in fact the culprit, and it was removed (with lasers!) about an hour later. They didn't know it was the appendix, or even particularly suspect it at first, because I had zero pain on my right side, where the little turd is known to hang out. It turns out mine was in the middle. So anyway, they took it out, yada yada, I can't wear pants now.

I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore.

I hate hospital stories, which is possibly because I never had one. I've been obligated to relate this one numerous times over the past week, but I am done. I'm ok now, and that's all that matters. My printing of the story here signifies the end. Sorry if I bored you with it. I realize its complete lack of literary merit. If I was a freshman, I'd make this my personal narrative for English 1010, thereby confessing to a totally meaningless existence, but fortunately, that stage has passed (inside joke). Maybe that's what made me a good writer in college--I never had any stupid hospital stories to fall back on. I had to flail about for meaning when being a frightfully austere WASP with no injuries and a loving family quashed my chances for an easy out.

So here's the question: is my writing going to get lame now that I've been an inpatient? This posting isn't exactly a harbinger of doom for the future, but it's not real promising, either. This was pretty much just a series of ad-lib Dave Barry-esque jokes and simple, fairly obvious observations. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but...

Having an excuse for laziness sucks. It's actually breeding more real and abiding laziness. There's something to think about.


the call to write

courtesy of Jeff |

It was announced to the world yesterday that my friend John just won the Norman Mailer College Writing Award. For those of you that are thinking "that's cool," no. It's not cool. It's absolutely incredible. It's possibly the biggest writing award in the country for a college student, and it comes with $10,000, a summer fellowship to the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony in Massachusetts, and a presentation in New York with a number of the world's best writers, including Toni Morrison. And he gets a trophy, as I understand. So not only are he and his wife tremendously better off financially for a while, he's basically going to be able to write his ticket to any MFA program in the country. Beyond that, he could veritably have publishers lined up at his door for years. Basically, he's got it made.

I hope it doesn't look like I'm hitching a ride on his glory, or embarrassing him, as he is a frequent reader of this here blog, but I'm just really excited about this--possibly more so than is necessary. So in order to assuage that awkward over-excitedness, I'll just start talking about me instead. Once I found this out yesterday, my own writing career has taken a slight turn--hopefully, anyway. I've been woefully negligent about my own creative writings since graduation. I submitted a couple things for publication at the beginning of the summer, but I've done very little since. Yes, creative writing is a huge part of my job, but that's completely different.

When I found out about John's good fortune, though, it really hit me all at once how lazy I've been lately. In fact, I became so obsessed with such thoughts that I made an excuse and left work (at about 10:30) and came home and spent the entire rest of the day polishing up an old essay and doing massive research on a few possible target publications for it.

I was happy to discover that, while I'm naturally envious of my friend's life-changing opportunity, the wonderful news has served mostly as a swift kick to the pants of hope. If he can do it, so can I. That's not to say I'm as good of a writer as he is (though we do share a number of similarities and tastes), and I've certainly never written anything as profoundly beautiful as his winning essay "Final Cascade," but let's just say I'm optimistic. Local boy makes good. I guess this is why we need those stories, to remind us that it could happen.

And at the very least, maybe he can put a good word in for me with Norman Mailer. Oh, that's right--he's dead. Thanks for nothing.

(Most of all, congratulations.)


lessons from on high

courtesy of Jeff |

You might have guessed that part of the reason I haven't written for a while is the U.S. Open, and you wouldn't be wrong. During Wimbledon, I tried to combine my loves of writing and tennis, but when I penned a piece about the thinly veiled arrogance that characterizes Roger Federer, I got a bunch of hits worldwide, and a few good reviews, which bolstered me up until I realized that the best one by far was from a Nadal fan site. Sigh. So anyway, it's either tennis or writing from now on--not both. Right now, it's writing.

I'm on the job hunt again. True, I have a couple of jobs already, but I want more. I hope that you, dear reader, have a job of your own, because I'd feel bad going about jealously trying to amass jobs like acorns for the winter, if you didn't have any at all. The problem is that my principal employment is only 20 hours per week. My other one, the freelance writing and editing, gives me work here and there, but it's not consistent. Though I'll be spending a serious amount of time this season on grad school application preparation, I certainly feel that I have the capacity to provide my little family with a few more bucks per week. And if I have the capacity, I have the responsibility.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working, in my role as a freelance writer, with a good gentleman from New Jersey, helping to build content for his website. The site is (don't look at it yet--it's not up), which is his job search consulting business. The man, with whom I'm working rather closely, is a professional job search consultant with a wealth of knowledge and over 20 years of impressive experience. He, the very Hire Angel himself, imparts this knowledge upon me, and I gather it up and make it sound pretty, for that is my calling. This past two weeks, I have literally spent hours upon hours of time staring at, and even writing, expert job search advice so perfect and simple, it's almost as if poured in from beyond the veil.

You know where this is going, don't you? I'm not using the advice myself--at least not well. Me, the very writer of said advice. I know what to do, and I don't do it. I think I'm somehow an exception, just like everybody else. Despite the angelic presence of an expert on my shoulder, I persist in making only cursory attempts at getting another job. Why do I do this? All the resources one could ever want, and instead I elect to fall back on the same shotgun approach that's never won me anything. I suspect this isn't such a rare tendency, but it is baffling.

Remarkably, I have two interviews next week, and they're both pretty decent jobs, at least as far as I can tell. How I landed these interviews, I'll never know. It's almost as if I've been granted mercy that I don't necessarily deserve. Man, I'm the best...

All I'm saying is, maybe we should use our resources.


a personal note

courtesy of Jeff |

Many people have inquired lately as to what exactly it is I'm doing with my life now that I've graduated college. Many of you who read this blog know me personally, so for those of you, and any others who have some sort of twisted interest not in my prose, but in the actual details of my personal life, allow me to illuminate. I'll warn you, though. If you don't know me, this won't even be the slightest bit interesting, and even if you do, that still may very likely be the case.

Anyway, Sarah has now begun her senior year and will graduate in May with a BA in history. She's still working at RISE, with people with disabilities, and is quite well. Meanwhile, my job at the university (PR Office, Utah State Magazine) will blessedly continue throughout the school year. I may still be searching for more hours elsewhere, however, and I'm also now a freelance writer and editor through That's been fun. Anyway...

I took the GRE on Thursday, and man, does it feel good to have that behind me. Fortunately, I did well--which doesn't guarantee anything, but my scores won't close any doors either. So that's good.

The GRE, for outsiders, is the Graduate Record Exam. For greater understanding of this test's nature, I have constructed the following analogy question.

1. GRE : graduate school

A. MCAT : medical school
B. GMAT : business school
C. SAT or ACT : college
D. political litmus test : good standing with Utah "intellectuals"
E. LSAT : law school

If you guessed the secret sixth option, which is "all of the above," you're right. So by taking the GRE, I am hoping to be allowed entry into grad school. But in what field? Ah, yes. I graduated with an English degree, and for a long time, assumed I would continue with an MA and then a PhD in literature. My course deviated about six months ago, though, when I finally realized once and for all that I won't be academically fulfilled in this life unless I instead opt for an

MA in Russian and Eastern European Studies.

Now, that's "studies," mind you. Not language. And then maybe back to Comparative Lit for my PhD, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. In a way, this Russian MA allows me to keep as many doors open as possible (thereby further procrastinating precise career decisions). More importantly, though, it affords me the opportunity to work for a few years doing exciting things--possibly for the government--before settling down and writing and teaching about things for the rest of my life.

I love it. I think I can do some good as a diplomat, or at least some sort of glorified US-Russian PR agent. Besides, there's just nothing more fascinating to me than Russian/Soviet anything. Plus, it's probably my best chance of getting into a great grad school. I have a long list I'm still considering, including the following. In the interest of confidence, I'll name them here in alphabetical order.


Any suggestions? I'll be applying this winter. Obviously, some schools are more attractive than others, for a wide variety of reasons. There are also other great schools out there, but most of them don't offer this sort of program. Anyway, I just thought you'd like to know. If you aren't even acquainted with my long personal history with Russia, (which for some reason I never write about here), I'll save it for another time and say this:

I can't believe you're still reading. Go outside.


the "look at me" generation

courtesy of Jeff |

Sarah and I attended the Sun Valley Writers' Conference this weekend with my family. For those who haven't heard of this, it's one of the world's elite writers' conferences, where mortals like me sit around and quaff in the brilliance of geniuses talking about their specialties. Ironically, it's those mortals that I wish to speak about in this post, but not before putting in a plug for the conference, and some of the fantastic talks we heard there. You don't have to read the list if you don't care.

--"Writing About Wrongs" with Philip Gourevitch, editor of the Paris Review, staff writer for the New Yorker, and author of We Wish to Inform you that Tomorrow we will be Killed with our Families.
--"The Ideals of Medicine, Unchanged Since Antiquity" with Dr. Abraham Verghese. A heartfelt and scientific call for better bedside manner and patient-physician relationships. I'm not into medicine, but this was one of the best anythings I've ever heard.
--"Can Good Writing Redeem Bad Faith? Fiction and Historical Trauma" with Nam Le, winner of the 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize and author of The Boat.
--"A Talk and Reading by Ian McEwan" Absolutely incredible talk and reading by possibly the greatest living writer in the world, who's suddenly somehow friends with my family. Leading us to...
--"WASPs in Literature, in America, and in my Family" with Tad Friend of the New Yorker.
--"The Hemingses of Monticello: Beyond Tom and Sally" with Annette Gordon-Reed, author of a new book on that subject.

Also talks by Roy Blount, Jr., Jan Morris, and Vernon Jordan, and I could have seen this year's Pulitzer-winning poet W.S. Merwin had my priorities not been out of wack.

Anyway, whether or not you're into writing and literature, it's fun just to be surrounded by such brilliance. I could go on forever about the things we learned and experienced. I sure owe my family a ton for helping to provide such wonderful experiences like this for me. But anyway, back to the audience.

I've heard this generation of mine called the "look at me" generation, and what with Facebook status, YouTube, and especially Twitter, you can see where that comes from. In a way, I think it's kind of a shame, and I hope we as a society eventually outgrow the sentiment that everything we have to say deserves to be made public. (Nam Le discussed this phenomenon as well.) But in another way, I have a blog. So I guess it works out for everyone.

It just became sort of tiresome, honestly, to be around large audiences for two days. And I don't mean the crowds. I mean this: Quite frequently, when an expert in his/her field was up on stage calling down rays of glorious wisdom upon us, various members of the audience would do their best to ensure that ample attention was instead turned upon themselves, at least among the few people nearby. Most often, this attention was attained through a cacophony of asides about the audience members' own literary conquests: "Ah yes, of course--Somerset Maugham. Brilliant."

But what got me more than that were the political clappers. Allow me to explain. A political clapper is one who absolutely must make his/her personal political views known to the remainder of the crowd, at whatever the cost to dignity and decency. It's become so that in some venues, one can't even mention certain people or issues without eliciting claps or boos before the sentence is even over. Not long ago on TV, I heard a comedian mention something about our previous president having ruined the nation, and the audience exploded into raucous applause. Were they glad that such an event took place? Is it so important that our petty partisanship be made known that we're willing to applaud a tragedy?

Anyway, I guess we all do it. We all love attention, and that's why we all have blogs. I don't know how or when or why this trend took off. All I know is that if you're reading this, you should tell all of your friends to read it too, and tell everyone they know. These distinct opinions, and no one else's, might save your life, or at least your soul.


why I'm wearing glasses

courtesy of Jeff |

It's not because I want to look smarter, though many have said that I do. In fact, I think it does just the opposite. It's called giant papillary conjunctivitis, which is a fancy way of saying that for the past five years, I haven't changed out my contacts frequently enough. The "giant" refers to the papillary, by the way. Not the conjunctivitis. Anyway, I wear some glasses for two weeks and take some drops and then I'm fine, especially fine considering I've saved hundreds of dollars by not changing my contacts very frequently. A small price to pay.

I bring this up simply because I've always been concerned about how I look--more concerned than I care to admit, in fact. It's not so much as how I look physically, though, as how I'm perceived by others. I constantly wonder what categories I fall into in other peoples' perceptions. We all profile others to some degree, which practice has its uses, but sometimes I fear the effects.

Just tonight, I ran into Marla, an old friend, at the grocery store, and this subject was called into my mind once more. She and I used to share long discussions on the topic of personal stereotyping and how people consciously choose to categorize themselves and others. She mentioned tonight about how tired she is of people liking "indie" bands, movies, etc. just for appearances--a sentiment I've always shared. The thing is, Marla, like me, is a great appreciator of a fair amount of indie-type things. She just loathes being pigeonholed, stereotyped, and confused with those, well, posers.

My own personal history with stereotype paranoia is rich, much of it having been inherited from my dad. For as long as I can remember, he's been on a crusade to make people around him think. His role as persistent devil's advocate is one that frustrated me at times growing up, but in hindsight has taught me a great deal. There are no stock characters in life, and there's always a minority report, so to speak. If I spoke up in fervent support of a cause, he'd attack. If I attacked, he'd defend. It was never malevolent, and it was never to make me change my mind--only to ensure that I was, in fact, using it.

It's a lesson that has sunk deep. Easy-on labels for people (granola, victim, hero, Republican) undermine the complexity that individuals inherently possess, and what's worse, they cause us to shop around for labels to affix on ourselves. Then we start making decisions such as "I can't like Rocky IV because I'm supposed to be indie," or "I have to believe in the death penalty because I'm conservative." Worse yet is the further consolidation of labels into ready-made packages such as "indie/liberal/rebellious" and "Christian/mainstream/conservative/sheep". Choice in music somehow leads to choice in politics (as if there were only two), and soon you're so adamant about your adopted views, you can hardly see.

The thing is, even while I spurn these labels, I still find myself thinking about them, and I often fall into the terrible trap of doing just the opposite of the behavior I hate. That is to say, I make conscious decisions about myself and go out of my way in order to AVOID labels. This is just as despicable. I'm still allowing people's perceptions to guide my own decisions, rather than simply doing what I want.

In Mere Christianity, the brilliant C.S. Lewis was speaking of totalitarianism vs. individualism when he said the following, though it seems that the same could be applied to indie vs. mainstream and liberal vs. conservative, among other dichotomies:

"I feel a strong desire to tell you--and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me--which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs--pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one."

I like this. And whether or not you ascribe this to the devil, you have to admit it makes sense. It's why extremists are rarely right. And so this: I like Van Halen AND Radiohead. I'm opposed to abortion in most cases and the death penalty in all. And I'm wearing glasses because my giant papillaries are conjuncted, and for no other reason.

Does that answer your question?


I bought a boat

courtesy of Jeff |

Well, we bought a boat. I never wanted to be one of those guys--you know, one of those guys that spends so much time talking about his boat, polishing it up, leaving it in the driveway even though there's room in the garage, always saying "hope it clears up by the weekend, so we can take her out on the lake." The truth is, many boat owners are jerks. They'd have you believe that nothing in your pathetically landlocked plans could possibly measure up to spending a day on the water.

It turns out they're right. But I digress.

Our dear friends Rob and Vienna (whose apartment we had toilet papered less than a week before) suggested on Tuesday that we go buy some inner tubes and float the canal up in Logan Canyon. This is a fairly common pastime for students here, but for some reason, in four years, I had never gone. Neither had Sarah, nor our friends. So we got in our swimsuits and went shopping for watercraft, which is evidently a little like grocery shopping when you're hungry. Inner tubes were $11 each, so $22 per couple. But this majestic vessel of inflatable plastic,

complete with oars and seating for two, rang up at only $25. Ridiculous. Rob and I each grabbed one up immediately.

It didn't take long to convince our wives it was a good idea. Once we shoved off down the narrow canal, snaking through the mountains toward the sunset, the general consensus was that the boats had paid for themselves within the hour. Also, they double as air mattresses. With that and the exercise ball we bought last month, we now have living room seating for up to seven.

Rob and Vienna christened their boat Steamboat Willie, despite the marked lack of reliance on steam. Sarah and I had a harder time deciding on a name for ours. I suggested the Andrea Doria, the C-word, the Edmund Fitzgerald, and then, the Gordon Lightfoot. Vienna threw in the Minnow. The names seemed like fine choices, until we realized that each of those boats is only famous for having sunk, with the exception of the Gordon Lightfoot, which never existed.

That maiden voyage down the canal was fraught with poor oarsmanship and some inadvertent 360's, but our trusty vessel steered us safely down the canal. When we reached the end of our journey and returned to land, however, we were left at the mouth of the canyon without car keys. While Rob and I were preparing to hitchhike for the first time in our lives back to the other car up the canyon, a kindly gentleman named Jose Chavez noticed our plight from nearby and offered us a ride there. Having no other way to thank this dear stranger, we elected to name our boat the Jose Chavez in his honor.

The Jose Chavez and Steamboat Willie have since enjoyed the serene Hyrum Reservoir and another trip down the canal, yesterday. Disaster struck as Steamboat Willie ran aground on some sharp rocks halfway down the canal and sprung a leak, but after collecting ourselves and our belongings in the freezing rapids, Vienna boarded with us, and Rob gallantly rode the half-deflated boat the remainder of the way down on his own. It was quite the adventure, the likes of which I haven't had all summer.

And now look. I've gone on and just talked and talked and talked about my boat like some suck who's trying to show off his lavish possessions. Well, let me assure you--we're not wealthy. Remember how I mentioned the boat and the exercise ball as living room seating, and you laughed? Yeah. That was serious.


BLOG (blogging Oregon-style)

courtesy of Jeff |

I've mentioned that I'm from Idaho. For the geographically disinclined, that's in the northwest, bordering Oregon. Before this past week, I had never been to Oregon. I had been to 33 states and some wacky countries, including Kazakhstan, Estonia, and Mozambique. I had even been to each state bordering Oregon multiple times (and about 12 trips to Boise) without ever crossing the border into the Beaver State.

Now I have. But that's not the story. Almost all of my wife's extended family on both sides lives in Oregon, and we just returned after spending nine days there, wherein I finally got to meet them all. But that's not the story either, even though a lot of them are crazy (their words, not mine).

The story is about driving in Oregon. There are a number of unique idiosyncrasies about being on the road there that are very indicative of what the state embodies. Mostly, it appears as though they're ultra-paranoid about accidents, maybe because of all the bicycles. Anyway, Sarah and I spent an average of probably 4+ hours per day in the car over the past nine days, but it didn't take that long to notice the following:

Speed limits: 10mph lower than the entire rest of the western United States, even in the deserty parts. 65mph max on all freeways, and 55mph max on all state and federal highways. This was terrible.

The roads themselves: Like sandpaper, only bigger. It was a nine-day-long deafening, vibrating butt massage that was fun for about twenty minutes.

Road signs: This, to me, is by far the most interesting part. The vast majority of Oregon highway road signs demonstrate impressive economy by exhibiting only one word. Common examples include "DEER", "CONGESTION", "ROCKS", and "TRUCKS". The first two are fairly self-explanatory, the third a little hazy, and I never figured out the fourth. What am I supposed to do with the trucks? Pass them? Fear them? Give 'em a shout out? (TRUCKS!) But this isn't all. Speed limit signs don't even say "SPEED LIMIT 65", as they do in the rest of the country. They just say "SPEED 55".

I'm guessing that the idea behind this policy of abbreviation is to keep drivers' eyes on the road, and not spending so much time reading signs. The really funny part to me is that this same format pervades other types of Oregon signs as well. One morning, we saw a family setting up for a garage sale in a neighborhood in Salem. When we drove back through a couple of hours later, there was a homemade posterboard sign on the corner that pointed in the direction of the house and simply said--you guessed it--"GARAGE". A couple days later, my brother-in-law mentioned that he saw a Christian billboard which plastered a singular word: "JESUS". Not "Jesus saves" or "lives" or any of the other common variations. Just the one word.

Oregon's an extremely laissez-faire liberal state, though, which is why they can never decide on their electoral votes, so maybe they felt that making any sort of conclusive statement about the Savior would be better left to the interpretation of each individual passer-by. Similarly, why only draw attention to the falling rocks? We wouldn't want to limit the perception of all rocks to their common stereotype of being fallers. There are some very lovely rocks in Oregon, and there's no need to fear them all. Many of them wish to be recognized for their stability on the mountainside, not the proclivity toward gravity that gives them all such a bad name.

All in all, it was a lovely trip all around the state to some of the most gorgeous sites I've ever seen. But maybe it's for the best that it took me 24 years to get there. Without a background in more explicit signage, I don't think I would have known exactly how to react. I never did figure out what to do around trucks.

Yes, it was a fine time, but I'll admit I breathed a sigh of relief when on I-84 back in my home state of Idaho, I was greeted by the comforting sign "OCCASIONALLY BLINDING DUST STORMS". I know just what to do when that happens: move to Oregon.

Disclosure: I have not attended a business school, but am a recent graduate of a college that competes for funding with one, and wallows in mighty defeat.

I've talked about the subject of business school here in brief, but never known exactly how to approach it more comprehensively. But most of my closest friends are graduates from business school, and they're wonderful people. I don't look down my nose at their degrees or anyone else's. In fact, some of the very smartest, most driven people I know are among them. I guess I'm just trying to figure out for my own sanity if, in the grand scheme of things, business schools actually do anything. Let me explain where this comes from.

My experience with our business school in my current position has been less than pleasant. Every other college on campus is consistently helpful and professional in meeting with me and contributing to my efforts. Almost all of the staff help I've solicited so far at the School of Business, however, has shut me down hard, each time in a very belittling fashion, as though they're too important to take time for me in my job (which is to assist them). It's almost as if they need to put on an air of superiority to mask the fact that many of them are still, in their hearts, undeclared.

In fact, at my university, and I suspect many others, majoring in "business" is often just a less embarrassing way of saying "I'm undeclared." It's a tiny bit different, though. It actually means "I don't know what I want to do with my life, but I'd like to make some money and maybe go on some cool business trips." There's nothing dishonorable about this indecision, of course. It usually doesn't stick, anyway. A colleague of mine who deals with freshman recruitment told me that a very high percentage of high schoolers enter college as business majors, and within four years, the majority have transferred to other departments. Presumably, they've figured out their lives' ambitions and left to follow them.

I'm guessing that most of those that stick around are of some more specific persuasion than simply "business." They are accountants, economists, and so forth. But no doubt, many virtual undeclareds do in fact slip through the cracks and attain degrees. Then, when these graduates grow up and still don't know what they want to do, they decide to work for business schools, in lifelong attempts to legitimize their own degrees. They stand guard at the years-old facade that business school is in fact productive, wary of outsiders who tread near the palace to which they've dedicated their lives, lest an outsider discover that the palace is empty.

An Englishman I knew in Russia, and one of the most successful men I know, told me that if I want to make it big in business, don't major in business. He explained that it takes specialists in other fields not only to come up with the big ideas, but to bring them to fruition as well. It made sense to me. After all, if I'm selling a product, I want engineers developing, building, and testing it. Most everything else, including sales and management, doesn't require any credential other than experience.

The point is, those engineering majors go to school thinking, "I'm going to use my degree to improve people's lives," and certainly, most budding scientists, artists, lawyers and others often feel the same way. Conversely, the very purpose of the business management degree is simply to make the bearer money. Now, I love capitalism as much as the next man (probably more), but I think it's a shame that we're actually spending countless dollars and awarding degrees by training people to increase revenue through self-serving sales and marketing tactics, rather than by building better products and services to aid humanity.

In the long run, wouldn't it make more sense to have the 2000 (estimate) students in our business school each specialize in some sort of beneficial other field, and let those who are eventually going to run a business learn the ropes via apprenticeship and experience, or maybe a cheap book and a community ed class? Friends from the palace tell me that business degrees are essentially useless once you get that first job, anyway--from then on, nobody cares whether you went to Harvard or ITT Tech. Everything in the actual workforce is learned and gained by experience.

I guess what I'm really wondering is this: how many millions of dollars have to be spent on educating students who won't even use their degrees, much less for anything useful, while so many scholars with aspirations in other, often more intrinsically beneficial fields receive fewer resources as a result?

By the way, obviously, many degrees under the business banner, i.e. accounting and economics and whatnot, are actually in and of themselves specialized and useful. In addition, those who want to will go on and do great things. I'm guessing that the palace guards that have been so impertinent and unhelpful to me are in fact those who have yet to decide what they really want to do in this life. I guess, at their age, I'd be pretty defensive about that too.


the inspiration

courtesy of Jeff |

I've spent the last week or so lacking in inspiration.

Wimbledon is over, out with a bang in one of the best matches ever played. My guy lost, but he proved himself a fighter, even if his fight will be overshadowed by a broken record, like a broken record.

If there's one actually constructive reason for me to watch tennis, though, it's that it prods me to get myself out onto the court more. My recent play has been shamefully sporadic following a moderately successful junior career as a player and instructor. Late in that "career," I was faced with an ultimatum at the hands of my beloved coach: devote yet more time and energy to the sport and contend for major college athletic scholarships and subsequent bigger and better things, or have a life. I chose the latter. I've never regretted that decision, but I've often thought back on what might have been.

Since then, my prowess in the game has slipped significantly, though my love for it never waned. Last night, though, something inspired me with an excitement for a future that I haven't dared dream of since I played my last junior tournament six years ago. Last night, I finally went out and played with my wife.

I always said that if I didn't marry a tennis player, I'd teach my future spouse to become one. My first date with Sarah, though, evidenced that such would be an uphill battle. She was cute, and oh so smart, but we went miniature golfing that night, and she could barely even hit the ball. She had the club face at like a 45-degree angle. I had taught four-year-olds with better coordination. In retrospect, she was probably just nervous, and we continued to date, marrying a little over a year later. Besides, I had never said that athletic ability would or should be my number one criterion for compatibility. Just a nice perk.

We've been married fourteen months now, and until last night, she'd spent a grand total of about a half hour on the court. I guess I just never wanted to pressure her, and neither of us expected to have a great time out there. Last night, though, my wife and I ventured out, and I led an hour-long private lesson on the basic form of the forehand. The result was unbelievable. I've taught some pretty athletically intuitive people before, but Sarah outshined them all. We spent most of the hour just hitting forehands back and forth, and she returned 80-90% of them back in the court, and with flair. It turns out she's a complete natural.

The lessons/hitting sessions will continue tomorrow and hopefully throughout the summer and the rest of our lives, though it seems possible that before long, the student may become the master. This turn of events doesn't necessarily secure my starry visions of us playing in a mixed doubles league together when we're 40 and 80, but who knows? At least we're both having fun. I guess the real point here is that a potential future of rec league tennis with her is infinitely more exciting to me than whatever minor accolades I could have achieved on my own. Plus, Sarah looks way hot in tennis garb.

Inspiration attained.


accessibility, or a lack thereof

courtesy of Jeff |

I guess I haven't had much to talk about in the last little while. Wimbledon is wonderful, but you don't want to hear about that. Besides, due to that, I haven't been outside for days. Hence, no stories. Anyway, work has been rather dull, because I've been on hold for an even longer period of time by a barrage of people who just plain won't e-mail me back. My job consists of two things: e-mailing (input) and writing (output). That is, I'm a writer, but I can't write until people E-MAIL ME BACK. It seems like 50% of the faculty and staff of the university are vacationing/researching in foreign countries right now, not to return for weeks. I hope they're having fun. Excuses from present members of the staff aren't as airtight.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to pass the time researching about certain aspects of the university, so I know my subjects inside and out. Today I took a nice business jaunt to the library, where I stumbled upon this little gem next to the main handicapped restroom on the first floor. Maybe as a PR writer, I should be spending this time staving off a lawsuit.

So if anyone asks, this is for the benefit of our many wheelchair students that routinely enter the library from the sky. Our world-renowned "Jet Packs for Paraplegics" program is second to none.

PR is easy.


The Championships

courtesy of Jeff |

It's the most wonderful time of the year. What? Christmas already? Better. It's Wimbledon.

Nothing can get me up way early in the morning like the sweet smell of strawberries and cream, fresh grass, and tennis balls straight from the can, which is what I imagine it's like while I watch the year's greatest sporting event on TV. A solid fortnight of white-clad action from Centre Court with such history, such tradition and emotion. It can't be beat.

But there are those that are trying. Yes, a dark shadow has indeed threatened to cast itself over the grounds at the A.E.L.T.C, and it's not raincloud. It's a shadow which has worked long and hard in an attempt to squelch the Wimbledon magic we witnessed in 2001 with Goran Ivanisevic's dream run to become the only Wild Card ever to win a major.

The shadow is called Roger Federer.

This isn't a syndicated article, and I'll admit my bias flat out. He's a great, great player, but he's ruining professional tennis for the rest of us. He doesn't mean to, of course. He's just extremely good at what he does. But the sad result is that tennis has become completely predictable. Sure, Nadal might beat him once in a while, but there's no one else. It's like U.S. soccer player Landon Donovan said today after his national team upset #1-ranked Spain in a huge match: "This is the reason we play the game. You never know what can happen." This is also the reason we watch the game. Because we don't know. Why watch something when you know how it's going to end? The best movies are unpredictable, and so are the best sports. Sports are even better, in a way, because it's reality. Real, unstaged reality. Yes, it's a game, but it's also the end result of years of blistering work, cunning, and sheer will. It's the realization of hard-earned lifelong goals and dreams. And we get to see it unfolding as each point takes shape.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't fault Federer or any others for being incredibly talented, and there's nothing I can, or would, do about it. May the best man win. But it would help if the best man was likeable. I'm just saying. Those that call Roger a humble victor should watch an interview with him. Any interview will do, but I especially suggest ESPN's Sunday Conversation from June 7th of this year. When Dick Enberg asked Federer what aspects of Rafael Nadal's and others' games elevate him as a player, he responded rather smugly (in his RF hat and jacket): "I have actually helped more the other players than they have helped me to improve, because I put tennis in a different league."

Honestly, in the long run, he's probably right. But is that the sort of self-absorption we want from our champions? This is not an isolated incident. Watch any post-match interview with Federer this week, and you'll see him respond to questions about his hard-fought opponent with answers about his own superiority. He does it every time. We can't be so fortunate as to have Goran Ivanisevic win Wimbledon every year, and we shouldn't. So much of the glory of that 2001 fortnight was in its rarity.

And so much of the majesty of every Wimbledon is in that gentlemanly (and ladylike) atmosphere which many, but not all, rise to meet. It's a special tournament with a sporting tradition that attracts the eyes of fans and non-fans the world over. I wouldn't miss it for anything. I'll watch every minute when I'm home, and track it online while I'm at work. And if Federer wins again this year, I'll be a little disheartened, but he can't ruin everything. It will still have been a wonderful two weeks of small victories. And hey. Maybe something weird and wonderful will happen and he won't win. Either way, I'll be watching. For as great as Roger Federer is, Wimbledon is better.


our couch: magic?

courtesy of Jeff |

I sit down and write now, as I usually do nowadays, from our real-life living room couch. It's a soft couch with an ugly white and beige get-up, and some faint light blue and pink vertical stripeage, reminiscent of a design one might find in an Arizona retirement community in the early '90s. Nothing like the gorgeous entity at the top of the page. Over that, however, is draped a much more pleasant pastel-green knit cover, which we bought. There's also a tear on the left arm, under the cover, just behind the front support, which I caused with my foot at the beginning of the couch's ownership. I like this couch a great deal, despite its brevity, though I realize I likely haven't openly acknowledged or appreciated its long months of service to my family. Now, before you immediately write this off as just another run-of-the-mill drunken furniture-appreciation rant, allow me to note that I'm quite sober and of sound mind, or so I've come to believe.

My sudden need to appease the couch comes as a desperate attempt to cover all my bases as I find myself knee-deep in a shenanigan the likes of which I've never seen. I suspect magic. But let me back up a bit.

This afternoon, I've been doing laundry, which involves countless trips back and forth across the parking lot between our apartment and the house where the coin-op machines sit in the musky basement. On my third trip down there, after depositing the darks into the great spinning beast, I saw something in the room that caused me to stagger back and lose my breath. It was our couch, the very couch I had just left quietly in the living room. It was on its back on the concrete floor, the green knit cover falling seductively off the top to reveal its true upholstery: beige and white with Arizona stripes. I sat back on a nearby table to consider what I was seeing. Could it be that someone had moved it here from my apartment when I wasn't looking? Impossible. I had just come from there, and there was no one else in sight. Still, I couldn't fight the feeling that somehow, I had been punk'd.

My buddy Matt who lives in my building has a long history of such tomfoolery, but he never turns it on his friends, save the one time when he rang the doorbell at 3:00am and blasted Brandon in the face with the airhorn. (Yes, we knew that was you.) Even if it was Matt, though, he couldn't carry the couch alone, and not without my noticing. I reached under the green knit cover and felt the left arm of the impostor couch, just behind the support. There was the rip. This was too much. I sat back down on the table, aghast.

After staring for a moment, I ambled back to the apartment, cursing myself for leaving the door unlocked. Even though I was just leaving home for a minute to go deposit the darks, I honestly thought "I hope no one takes my stuff." Boom. But alas, I walked in the door, and there was my couch sitting right where it should, right where it is now, as though it hadn't moved an inch. It was now that I began to consider the supernatural.

As any self-respecting college student would do, I ran back to the laundry room to document my first magical encounter on my cameraphone. The camera, however--of course--didn't work. Like a vampire, the mystical object wouldn't be captured.

Sarah wasn't impressed by my recounting of this story. Perhaps it's because, as part of our mutual agreement, she's currently reading such classic realist fiction as The Great Gatsby while I finish up the Harry Potter series. As a result, she's far more rational lately, whereas my first inclination is to blame some sort of transfiguration.

No, magic doesn't seem likely, and the more plausible explanation of divine intervention doesn't exactly sit right with me either, at least not in this instance. For what purpose God (or Voldemort) would clone my couch, I know not. I may, in fact, have to resign myself to the probable truth that there just so happens to be a new couch in the laundry room, exactly like ours, with the same cover from Walmart, and with the same rip in the same place. I could believe that, but that's no fun.


on old flames and OB/GYNs

courtesy of Jeff |

I have a good friend named Emily. We've been close for a number of years now. For a little while, we kind of dated. Kind of. It's a long story. We were definitely mutually smitten for a good while, though, and then I went to Russia. So, bad timing. Anyway, I got back, and she married my good buddy Zach, which was wonderful. Then I married Sarah, which was even better. Everybody wins. The point is, you can see how it might have been awkward when I (me) accompanied Emily into the hospital today for her final OB/GYN exam before she gives birth.

It was like a sudden glimpse into a future that never was, like the mediocre Nicolas Cage film, "The Family Man." Emily and I sat down in the waiting room and she handed me a magazine called Baby Talk or something like that, then laughed before de-gifting it and handing me a dated Sports Illustrated instead. It was hard to concentrate on that or anything else, though. The whole thing was too surreal. I surveyed the other occupants of the vast waiting room that was ours, intent on taking full advantage of my glimpse. Other young women at various stages of pregnancy adorned most of the seats, and a few young kids swung on chair legs and fiddled with the toys. I was the only man. For a few moments, I reveled in the envy that my presence was causing among the other women in the waiting room. "There's a husband who cares." I just knew they were saying it. "He'll be a good father." At least, that's how I imagined it, and it was nice. Yes, I will be a good father.

Emily got called into her appointment, and a few minutes later, I had to step briefly out to pick up Sarah, my wife, and drop her off somewhere else for work. The errand took longer than it should have, though, and as I screeched into the hospital parking lot and sprinted in to collect my stranded, bulbous friend, I could almost see the faces of the other women in the waiting room. My time in the sun was over, and the women scowled and remembered why they came to the hospital alone. "What kind of guy leaves his 9-month pregnant wife alone while he gallivants around town, anyway?" But I never had to face them, those women. Emily met me at the door, and the glimpse ended.

Just as it was for Nicolas Cage, my unexpected jaunt into a parallel reality was rather instructive. I learned that fatherhood is comprised of both ups and downs. And it may be that I'm not quite ready for such a volatile milestone. To be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready for two of my closest friends to reach it either, but by next Thursday at the latest, Zach and Emily will. And then, we'll see what happens.

Sarah and I, meanwhile, spent the next little while at McDonald's, where we ordered off the dollar menu, like the carefree kids that we are.



courtesy of Jeff |

Yesterday, I spoke with my buddy Trent, who has returned to the Washington, DC area to work sales again this summer. I must say, the decision for Sarah and me not to venture out to DC again in 2009 wasn't a terribly difficult one. We both knew we wanted to be near family and relax a bit before embarking on our new and distant adventures. But I must admit there's something very special about being in DC in the summertime, and until Trent brought it up, I hadn't considered what exactly we'd be missing by electing to stay in the West. I'm sure those of you that have experienced it know by now that I'm speaking, of course, about Hoagiefest.

For those who don't know, and can't gather by clicking on the above link, Hoagiefest is an annual promotion put on by Wawa, a convenience store chain based in the mid-Atlantic. All summer long, four different delicious hoagies for only $2.99. And it's just as fantastic as it sounds. What a reprieve from the sales grind it was last summer, sauntering sweat-borne into the Wawa after a long day, greeted by song and sandwich.

Trent asked if we'd be flying out for the Fest this year, and I was sorry to admit that it wouldn't work out. We'll have to shoot for taking the kids when they're old enough to appreciate it (and when they're conceived and born). Yeah. Forget the Cherry Blossom Festival, the Kennedy Center shows, the Fourth of July on the Mall, Nats games, and the countless museums and architecture. Hoagies are only $2.99.

I don't miss the summer job there, however, which was selling home alarm systems door to door. I'd like to think I learned something, though. I went out and did sales--something that I never in my life wanted to do--and I was blessed for it. I'm a changed man. Now, this summer, once rent and cost of living are factored in, I'll be netting just about as much writing for 25 hours per week as I did offering myself as a barely-human sacrifice 60 hours per week in the hot sun. And I wasn't the worst salesman in the world. Not the best, obviously, but I could have been worse. I just couldn't bear to deceive.

Things like Trent and Hoagiefest got me through last summer when the world of sales threatened to excise the final portions of my soul. Earning potential in that job was astronomical, but my particular company cared nothing for employee morale. I'm glad I learned how much more important happiness is than money. I had always heard that, and assumed so, but never expected that it would be true to the degree that it is. Of course, that's easy for me to say now that I have a job I like, writing for something I believe in. Besides, at only $2.99, I can afford to keep my money AND my happiness. Never again will I have to rely on a brilliant and delectable promotion (now through July 26) to get me through a hot summer day. Now if only I had a delicious Hoagiefest hoagie right now, my new life would be truly complete. And so would yours.

This has been a paid advertisement of Wawa Food Markets, all rights reserved (by someone, probably).


the graduate with a job (an upset victory)

courtesy of Jeff |

Watching professional tennis is difficult for me, but not for the same reason as most. I love every minute of the sport itself. It's difficult for me to watch simply because, in a freak statistical anomaly, whatever player I'm cheering for in any given match ends up winning only about 15% of the time.

It's ridiculous. Some sort of weird combination of Murphy's law and my propensity to cheer for underdogs. Either way, I was beginning to draft this in my head while watching the fifth set of Robin Soderling vs. Fernando Gonzalez in the French Open semifinal just now. I was cheering for the Swede, largely due to his Cinderella dethroning of Nadal in the fourth round. (Anytime Federer or Nadal lose, the world grows a little bit lighter.) Anyway, Soderling won the first two sets, lost the third and fourth, and of course called the trainer over because he was developing blisters. Quite often when a player I support is winning, sudden injuries are the "diabolus ex machina" that hose me (and them) in the end.

But today, my guy won. He came back from being down 4-1 in the fifth and took five straight games to advance to the final. I don't even care about Soderling himself that much, and he'll face Federer in the final, which means the fun will likely be short-lived, but today, he won, and he'll be better for it.

Once in a while, I win too.

Frequent readers of this blog will note the recent trend, beginning a month ago, of posts related to my English degree and subsequent lack of employment. Well, my friends, I'm elated to report that I now have a job. The Office of Public Relations here at the university is paying me to write. And what's more, they're paying me more than double what I was paid at my previous job in the English Department. In fact, they're paying me more than I've ever dreamed of being paid while living in the state of Utah, and to do something I love.

I haven't even really started yet, and I'm teeming with excitement. Who knew you could actually make money through writing? Most of the English faculty sure told me I wouldn't be able to, at least not self-respectingly. I've always believed as they've lectured, that creative writing and a steady income are, and probably should be, mutually exclusive. But it seems that is not always the case. This particular job of mine is temporary, far from a career or a hindrance on grad school, but it's certainly opening doors to future jobs and possible careers in similar fields.

So, this isn't the most well-crafted or thoughtful or tightly-written prose of mine, but it is born out of sheer happiness, and that seems like a good enough reason to write. I don't think I've ever really been proud of a job before--at least not like this--and I thought I should share it. This is, after all, essentially a personal blog, and I can write about what I want. And I write: Study what you love. My degree of glory is now paying off in more ways than one.


striving to improve Idaho/Utah relations

courtesy of Jeff |

This past weekend, I went golfing with two of my best friends, Steve and Blaine, and Steve's random cousin Bobby, at Homestead Resort at Midway, just outside Park City, Utah. It was a beautiful day. The golf was good, the company great, and the scenery fantastic. For a time, I was able to completely forsake the troubles of the modern life. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't take much to snap one back to reality. Yesterday, on the way back to Logan, I told a girl about the trip, when she burst out saying "Of course you went golfing. You're from Idaho!"

In these troubled times of ever-straining relations, I wasn't sure how to react. I didn't believe my ears, or didn't want to. As an Idahoan living in Utah, I'm quite accustomed to this sort of profiling, but there never seems to be a fitting response. I think I mumbled something like "what?", and so the girl elaborated, telling me that absolutely everyone in Idaho golfs. She expressed surprise that I, having lived there for eighteen years, was completely unaware of such a defining characteristic of my own state.

It became apparent that she was basing this claim entirely off of the experience of her dad, who lives in Utah and does not golf, and her dad's three brothers, who live in Idaho and do. I wasn't offended by the unorthodox generalization itself, as I do indeed enjoy a good round of 9 or 18 now and then, but I got to wondering--is this how hurtful interstate stereotypes begin?

Having lived my entire pre-college life in Idaho before choosing to study abroad in Utah, I've seen both sides pretty thoroughly. I love both states and would be proud to make either my permanent home (except in either Pocatello or Provo, but that's a post for another day). I've traveled extensively in both states, and have friends in all different corners. I even married a naturalized Utahn and couldn't be prouder. And I'm well aware that many well-intentioned hands cross the border in each direction, and yet, I can't ignore the immature, inaccurate profiling that abounds, replacing mutual camaraderie with misunderstanding, hatred, and wanton acts of terror that threaten to tear our great states apart.

What I propose is to alleviate the hurt feelings, to sop up the bitter tears by exposing some of the interstate stereotypes and addressing each one openly and honestly. Hopefully by doing so, we'll come closer to a truth that both parties can agree on.

Stereotype: All Utahns are Mormons-- This is simply not true. It's actually just barely over 50%, and Salt Lake City itself considerably less. Not that the prevalence is a bad thing, anyway. Besides, SLC is a great city with a thriving, secular nightlife and considerable diversity. You're thinking of Utah County, for which the stereotype is completely accurate.

Stereotype: Idaho is just a northward extension of Utah-- This is one of the most offensive attacks of Utahns, aimed at diminishing Idaho's unique identity and replacing it with their own. In reality, Idaho is very different. Our stores are open on Sundays, and our schools and cities actually pay attention to the arts.

Stereotype: All Idahoans golf-- This is ridiculous.

Stereotype: All Idahoans eat a lot of potatoes-- This is pretty much true, actually. But hey, wouldn't you? They're delicious.

Stereotype: Utahns are bad drivers-- This is mostly true, but folks from Jefferson County, Idaho take the cake. If you see a 1J license plate coming your way, duck. No one is safe. This may be a stereotype as well, but in the interest of safety, it's a good one to hold on to, just in case. And no, not all Utahns are bad drivers. Many just don't understand 4-way stops. Mostly, the stereotype comes from the Utah Highway Patrol's extremely lenient policies on I-15. One can exceed the speed limit by 15mph and cross over as many double lines as one wants. As of yet, no one has ever been pulled over.

Stereotype: Idaho is flat-- This is a common misconception of Utahns who have never left I-15 or I-84 when traveling in Idaho. Yes, those interstates pass through mostly flat land. It's easier to drive that way. This is the Snake River Plain, and it's the only plain in the entire state. Utah is no more mountainous, but has simply done an impossibly better job than Idaho at actually situating major cities right close to the mountains. In Idaho, they're a little farther away, and it takes an effort to get there. Also, speaking of traveling on I-84 in Idaho, sorry about the smell between Boise and the Magic Valley. We're not sure what that is either.

Stereotype: Utahns love Jell-O, especially of the green variety-- In four years here, I've seen it only a couple of times, and never green. The most recent issue of Salt Lake Magazine recently named it the #1 "Locavore" food of Utah, though, whatever that means. But I have to assume based on my own experience that this is a myth that no longer has support.

Stereotype: All Idahoans are hicks-- This is by far the most heinous and underlying stereotype of Idaho by Utahns. I currently live in Logan, Utah, and whenever people ask me where I'm from, and I answer "Idaho Falls, Idaho," what usually follows is some sort of jejune reference to a life in the boonies. This is especially odd, seeing as how Idaho Falls is considerably larger and more cosmopolitan than Logan. The metro area is at least double the size. And yet, the generalization persists.

I've thought long and hard on where exactly this comes from, and I've reached a couple of conclusions. First of all, the bulk of Utah's sprawling urban area is far closer to the disputed border than are Idaho's. Also, whenever Utahns have relatives in Idaho, they're often in tiny little towns in the middle of nowhere. The populace in Idaho's larger cities often share more in common with Washington and Oregon than Utah.

The final reason, though, is that I believe that hicks in Utah, of which there are many, take on a very different appearance than do hicks in any other state. Small-towners and farmers in Utah usually are well-educated, don't drink or smoke, and often keep a more cosmopolitan appearance than hicks in other states. This of course, is largely due to the prevalence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, previously noted as the Mormon church. Due to the influence of the church, discerning between urban and rural folk in Utah is much harder than in other states. Utah, therefore, simply has fewer traditional hicks than anywhere else around. I argue that Idaho has no higher of a hick ratio than any other state, but since it's the closest representation of "the outside world" to Utah, it receives the brunt of the criticism.

In conclusion, I hope this has been an enlightening conversation for the good people on both sides of the border, and a step toward brotherhood. I am proud of my state. Utahns may label me with "Pridaho," but I'll never claim that my state is superior to Utah or any other. That's what Texans are for. I apologize for any fellow Idahoans of mine who may have insensitively fought back against Utah oppression with even more criticism of their own. And I do recognize and appreciate Utahns for not making fun of the name of our state in other ways, which is, admittedly, too easy. We only seek, as surely you do, to be understood and regarded as equals. And when the time comes, we'll work together to divide up Wyoming equally between us. Because come on, how much longer can they last?

Thank you for your time.


hometown, NBA

courtesy of Jeff |

I just read one of the best articles I've read in a long time. Of course, as is human nature, I loved it because I agreed with it. It said precisely what I've been wanting to say literally for years, though I lacked the audience.

I found this article, of course, on For those who don't know me personally, you wouldn't know that I grew up breathing basketball to the point that had my skin turned orange and bumpy, I would have considered it a miracle. You wouldn't know that I stayed up nights studying obscure statistics from the NBA's distant past, that a hoop and literally dozens of Utah Jazz posters adorned my room, or that one of the greatest gifts I ever received was a small-but-real electronic scoreboard. Such was life in hometown, NBA. I even spent weeks devising an intricate dice game that would simulate real scoring patterns and box scores, complete with individual stat ratings on slips of paper for every single NBA player, which ratings I was able to assign based on my own knowledge as an 11-year-old. I kept the game and slips of paper in an old Nilla Wafer box, upon which I drew lines so the cookies looked like little basketballs.

Very few people that know me personally even know that. In junior high, when I stopped growing earlier than everyone else, so did my lofty roundball aspirations. I switched my attention to tennis and got good, but that was also when girls, school, and normal life materialized as well. My devotion to the Association took on a different form, but never waned.

As a quasi-adult, I've been forced to scale my NBA love back considerably. Honestly, I've become a little ashamed of it. But it's not because I've changed so much as that it has. What used to be a democratic league where John Paxson could take the final shot and where the Jazz's old-fashioned teamwork was lauded, has given way to an NBA that calls "ratings fouls" and refuses to acknowledge the skills of anyone not named LeBron or Kobe. If the Rockets beat the Lakers, the question isn't "how did the Rockets outhustle?" but "why wasn't Kobe hitting his open shots? Maybe he was poisoned." That may be a little farfetched, but only a little. In an attempt to hyper-focus on recognizable superstars that non-sports fans can relate to, thereby increasing TV ratings and product sales, the NBA has lost the devotion of its true fans.

Not that the hyper-focus or the superstar treatment are brand new. For in-depth accounts of the bonus calls (and no-calls) Michael Jordan constantly received at the hands of referees, read Sam Smith's revealing book The Jordan Rules. Nobody has been deified like he, but to what purpose? Let his already-stellar stats speak for themselves. If there happens to be someone else who, heaven forbid, plays as well as the superstar, give him the credit he deserves. Isn't the success story of everyman a ratings-grabber as well?

The article is Bill Simmons's "Blowing the Whistle on the NBA's Flaws," a.k.a. "Searching for Danny Biasone." By the way, I did know who he was. And now I'm seriously considering taking Simmons's advice tracking the whistles (and analyst comments) in tonight's Game 5 matchup between Cleveland and Orlando.

I'm afraid I may have opened a can of worms with public revelation of my unglamorous sports obsession. I may feel tempted to write about it much more now. But deep down, it's who I am. Life imitates sports just as it does art. And sports, just like politics, is in desperate need of intelligent conversation and pragmatic solutions in order to preserve the pure spirit of healthy competition that reminds us why we dream and keeps us from taking our anger out elsewhere. The NBA is where I grew up. I don't have all the answers, but forgive my audacity if I attempt some solutions from time to time. Something needs to be said, and I might as well put my otherwise-useless wealth of knowledge to use. After all, it's my home.



courtesy of Jeff |

I'm halfway through Stephen King's On Writing right now, which we were going to read in a class last semester, but never got around to. Fine. It's spectacularly well written and fun to read. I've never read a Stephen King book before, as horror is not my genre, but maybe it'd be worth it. Say what you will, he knows what he's doing.

King suggests, as most serious writers do, a daily quota. He himself writes no less than 2000 words per day, which translates to about ten pages or so. Others write for two or four hours per day. I need to do this. Since graduation, I've written very little, and yet, I claim to have aspirations. I also engender constant fears that I don't love writing as much as they say I'm supposed to, which is of course nebulous and unmeasurable.

But alas, the Bible tells us "if ye do my will, ye shall know of the doctrine." That is to say, don't criticize the advice until you've tried it. Therefore, I hereby pledge myself to a goal.

There, that sounds good. Wait, what? Numbers? No. It's enough that I set a goal. Numerical goals sound like the part of my Mormon mission I had trouble with. It sounds so restrictive. What if I do the deep-down wrong thing because I'm too focused on a quota, like my initial impression of the cop who pulled me over on I-15 yesterday for going 4mph over the limit? Generally speaking, I tend to worry far more about potential exceptions to rules than the rules themselves. What if we were speeding to the hospital? You'd be sorry then!

We weren't, though.

So I started thinking. The cop who pulled me over was actually a very nice guy, and did absolutely no harm. He simply suggested that it's not wise to pass an Idaho state trooper when in excess of the speed limit, no matter by how much. Not a terrible suggestion--one I shouldn't have needed, but still, he didn't ticket me, and I then drove slower and safer for the rest of the trip. I realized only a little later down the road, after my heart slowed to a healthy pace, that this particular cop who had so vexed me actually performed his duties of serving and protecting with great aplomb.

So maybe there is a way to enforce meaningful numerical goals to yield a result. If there was no speed limit, it'd be much harder to discern between safe and unsafe drivers. And even if there are exceptions, such instances are rare, at least when compared to the good that the law accomplishes. I hereby pledge myself to a numerical goal. I will dedicate at least one continuous hour per day simply on my creative writing projects. This isn't much, but it's more than I've done since graduation, and besides, unlike Stephen King, I'm not getting paid for this.

There are indeed a couple May 31 deadlines for journals I'd like to hit with my essay "Wartime," though I haven't worked on it in almost a month. It's pretty close. Besides, I just need to get something out. I also received a tip on a possible solicited article for Salt Lake magazine, so I have things to do. Now, if only the French Open wasn't on...


more titular fiddling

courtesy of Jeff |

I know what you're thinking: there's been titular fiddling? Well, yes, but it's not as fun as it sounds.

Avid readers know by now that I've been on the market for a new and better title for this here blog for at least five posts now. The previous one, an excellent quote on writing, but far from anything resembling a title, overstayed its brief welcome. It almost seemed somehow too presumptuous, in addition to it not really being a title.

And so the hunt commenced anew. I wanted something that would convey my aspiration to become an expert on a wide variety of topics, while expressing humble realization of my current standing in that battle. Also, I wanted something that would remain entirely left of the couch (not a figure of speech).

So this is what it's come to. The Wannasseur, or wannabe connoisseur, seemed slightly more sophisticated than The Prospexpert, which also might be a prescription medication. Besides, it's an appropriate mix of suave and slang. So anyway, here's the thing. I need to know if this is a solid title or something that we'll all look back and laugh about six months from now. Be honest. Perhaps even more importantly, though, I'm continuing to take suggestions on completely new titles as well. This one hasn't been properly thought out yet. So there it is.


on the topic of stupid Americans

courtesy of Jeff |

So, in a sweetly direct transition from the previous posting, I was listening on Friday to a couple of podcast lectures my friend Paul recommended to me. They spoke of responsible media, especially in regards to Russia and Eastern Europe. Paul's a good friend. He knows what I like. The lectures (actually more like panels) were enlightening and quite enjoyable, more than justifying my time spend playing the Wii. There's just one minor detail that necessitates a response from yours truly.

Each panel, headed by Europeans, mostly Brits, featured one American. I should have remembered their names, but I don't. In one of the panels, the American was the clear-cut expert and star of the whole thing. But here's what bothered me. Each time one of the Americans sort of introduced himself and began speaking, he prefaced his words with something along the lines of "Well, I'm just a stupid American, but..."

Is that really what it's come to? Has our recent history completely necessitated that we demean ourselves before we speak in order to be taken seriously? Both of these Americans on these panels were absolute experts in their fields. Both of them were open-minded, sensitive, moral, and abjectly diplomatic in their speech. Everything each of them said was absolutely appropriate and progressive, regardless of personal politics.

So why did they feel the need to preface their words and demean themselves? Humility is a wonderful idea. Don't get me wrong. Opening with "Well, I'm a superior American" would have been far, far worse, and no truer. But these are international professionals speaking on this panel, and probably mostly professionals listening to it as well. Not a whole lot of jobless kids playing Wii. But even if for some reason the Americans were at a disadvantage in this field, they could have said, "Well, I'm obviously a little more geographically removed from the situation, but..." Anything!

I just hope that this "admission" of stupidity hasn't become standard protocol for dealing within international organizations. Surely most European experts aren't so narrow as to believe that the "ugly American" theory pervades every single aspect of our population. We need to make sure we don't end up fulfilling the stupidity that's coming to be expected of us. If we claim equality and nothing more, we'll deal with our foreign counterparts as brothers. If we claim stupidity, our arrogance and single-mindedness will be justified. Others will begin to see us that way, and worse, we'll begin to see ourselves that way.

There are a number of things that make this country great. Just because it's time to stop focusing on the fact that we're #1 doesn't mean we need to stop focusing on the factors and advantages that brought us there. We have some incredible resources here, and we need to showcase them around the world with the attitude of "Here's what we bring to the table. How can we help?" That's neither stupidity nor arrogance if it's done right.

Just because we're not superior doesn't mean we're inferior. Let's stop trying to compensate for wrongs by swinging the pendulum way too far to the other side. That tactic doesn't lead to eventual moderation and equality. It leads to polarization and dischord.

We have a responsibility to serve others, not because we're superior, but because it's the right thing to do.

Whoo. Back to the Wii.


tales from the real world

courtesy of Jeff |

Over the past five days or so, I've applied for about a dozen writing jobs online, many of them fake. Craigslist, the too-obvious source of many of the postings, says "watch out for scams" and offers a few tips for keeping safe. The primary one is to beware any sort of work-from-home deals. Too bad I'm a writer.

Some of the jobs have been excellently legitimate, however, and I'm excited to hear back from them. I've also applied to a number of online postings from different sites, and a few local administrative assistant positions as well.

High-voiced boy: "Doesn't that mean secretary?"

Me: "Heh heh heh. Now where did you learn words like that?"

I figure I'll move on to more desperate attempts like restaurant positions once all of these fall through, if in fact such is the case. Not that I frown upon serving at Chili's, as in fact I've served before and very much enjoyed it. Besides, here in Logan, that's about the best money you can make. No, it's not that. It's that at this point nearly two weeks after graduation, I'm still clinging to the hope that having a degree will be worth something. Not that I went to school to become a receptionist, but at least some of my skills can be utilized there, and wearing professional garb would make me feel better about the time and money spent on my degree.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying my reading/putzing around time, the likes of which I've never had. I need to start studying Russian an hour a day or so and get back to my writing and start submitting things to journals, contests, etc., but all in good time. For now, I think I'll turn on an informative podcast or TED lecture and bust out the Wii. Life is good.


the graduate

courtesy of Jeff |

So, it's over. I graduated last Saturday in a nice ceremony with a boutonniere and a senator. On the same day, I turned in my last paper, a perpetually-unfinished personal essay about a number of things I learned here at the university. It's tentatively entitled "Wartime," and can now be found, at least in part, on the collected works blog. A couple of hours after graduation, we took off for the coast. The day after graduation, Sarah and I celebrated our first anniversary, and a few days later, I turned 24.

We returned home to Logan last night, and nearly immediately, I found I had nothing to do. The feeling persists today. I can't recall a single time when I've ever had literally nothing to do. Ever. By the way, the task of not taking myself too seriously is becoming progressively easier.

Needless to say, I'm not sure what to do with this freedom. Over the past few days, I read The Sound and the Fury as well as a bunch of letters and criticism surrounding it. (If I could, I'd just read all summer long.) I anticipate being a far better writer and student of literature now that I don't have school to worry about. If I play this right, I could conceivably become smarter. As far as procuring an income, however, I'll let you know when I figure something out. Bah! Money.



courtesy of Jeff |

I suppose this is as much for me as for anyone else. I've been pondering for days upon how to write this, so as to show utmost respect on this measly site for a man who has meant so much to so many. My beloved grandfather, Dr. T. H. Carr passed away in Idaho Falls on Friday at about 5:00. Until I went off to college, we lived just down the street from each other for my entire life, and I spent time there with him almost every week at some point. He's had a grab bag of various health problems for about the past 20 years or so, but he really took a turn for the worse this last summer at around Father's Day, when Sarah and I were too far away. He was an incredibly selfless man who sacrificed his time making others whole as a surgeon for many decades. As a retiree, he remained in constant pursuit of knowledge, having been engaged in learning about science, current events, sports, and all of the finer things. He cared about his family above all, claiming the theory of heterosis, which is that each generation improves upon the one previous. In speaking of this, he set the bar rather high for those of us left behind, as he himself lived a model life. I will continue to value his opinion as a man of great balance and integrity. I know he was proud of the man I've become to this point, the girl I've chosen for a wife, and my plans for the future. His pride helps to justify my own decisions.

Any attempt at documenting memories, personal sacrifices he made for me, or examples of insights he instilled within me, opening my mind to a world where people are and can be intrinsically good, is in vain. There's simply too much. I wish he could have seen me graduate from college (he missed it by a week), as I've reveled in his level reactions and advice to each of my short life's milestones thus far. I received a card in the mail yesterday, postmarked the day he died but before they had any idea, congratulating me on my achievement, signed with love from Grandma and Grandpa. That, it appears, will have to do. Fortunately, I have a lifetime worth of assurance that doing what Grandpa would have done will be a pretty safe mantra to follow. And I know he's still there, fidgeting around in his chair, waiting, and being proud.



courtesy of Jeff |

I've been working to try to hook up with some of my writer friends from here at the university whom I'm likely never to see again, with the intent of continuing to read each others' work and see if anyone gets grown-up jobs. If you are one of those people, I welcome you to my lame blog, which by the way, needs a new, less-cliche title--something probably without my name, and without the word "muse" in any form. John's is "Open the Vein," which grossed me out at first, but then the nice quote on the top explained it, validating its coolness far beyond my initial suspicion. I need something like that. Generally speaking, my titles are trite and unimpressive, despite my sometimes-embarrassing regard for good ones, like "Everything that Rises Must Converge" and "Men Without Hats." So be on the lookout for that. If you can't tell, I'm pretty much just writing now in the hopes of getting myself into the habit of writing here much more frequently, and less rantingly. Don't worry, I'll see to it that quality doesn't take a hit. We're all about quality here.


my degree of glory

courtesy of Jeff |

In about a week and a half, I will have a college degree with honors and a decent number of academic accolades. Of course, this greatly saddens me, as it appears that this development will greatly proclude the likelihood of me getting a job. The problem, of course, is that I will have a degree in English.

Taken from my department's mission statement, the goal of an English degree is more or less the following: "By studying how individuals in specific historical, cultural, and rhetorical circumstances present their ideas to others through the medium of language, our students learn how to present their own ideas persuasively. They learn to raise key questions, gather relevant information, reach well-reasoned conclusions, weigh alternative systems of thought, and communicate effectively with others."

Notice there's nothing in there about "preparing our students to be high school English teachers," as is the common pigeon-holing misconception. To me, an English education is the single most important education a person can receive, for reasons both idealistic and yes, even practical. In a survey of various employers from a few years back, effective communication skills were cited as being the single most important attribute for employees to possess. In fact, I don't want this to come out wrong, but I'm pretty confident that most of my fellow English majors are even more qualified to run a business than most business majors I've met. Of course, this begs the question:

Why can't I find a job?

My friend Will, also a next-week English graduate with honors, works at a furniture warehouse, where he is forced to handle a bunch of the store's official correspondence and other items that elude the competence of those around him. He doesn't get paid for this, though. He gets paid for selling furniture, which job he is ironically more qualified for even than his superiors. Perhaps the problem is that the skills we've learned are valuable for all fields, but not one specifically. After all, who wants an employee that could veritably excel at jobs other than their own?

I feel like I have learned a great deal throughout the course of my college education, and I remain extremely proud of my English degree. It will indeed prove immeasurably useful in my life, and I don't, nor will I ever regret it for a second. I've loved it.

They say "you can do anything with an English degree," but they don't offer a single specific suggestion. I now have one year before grad school, and I am in desperate need of suggestions. Or just jobs. Would anyone be willing to part with either?