Sunday, December 28, 2008

Higher Quality pictures

For some reason, the pictures on my other post only uploaded as low-quality versions. So these should be high quality if you click on them. See my post below if you want to know how I took the pictures.

Books and Pictures

Christmas was a lot of fun. I got to spend Christmas Eve with the Mexican side of my family, and it was nice just getting to talk to my relatives. Growing up in Georgia, it felt like every trip to Utah meant that I had to re-learn all of my cousins' names, which families they were from (which aunts and uncles were their parents, etc.), and who was closest to my age. Since my parents now live here in Utah, it has been a little easier--plus, a lot of my cousins have blogs now, so it felt like I could actually talk to them about different things now.

After that, we also did our traditional movie..."It's A Wonderful Life." We've watched that movie almost every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. It's just one of those movies that doesn't seem to get old, because even though you know how it's going to end, it just makes you feel good, as if everything bad in life just disappears for a little while as you think about all the good things you have.

Plus, I've been able to get a lot of reading done. Just over the break, I've read "Hogfather," by Terry Pratchett, "The Partner," by John Grisham, and "Maniac Magee," by Jerry Spinelli. Each of them was excellent in their own right. "Hogfather" is a British satire about Christmas---basically, the Santa Claus figure is imprisoned by unbelief, and Death (the Grim Reaper himself) fills in for the day to inspire belief, because otherwise, the sun won't rise. It sounds bizarre, and it is, but it is actually pretty profound. Without giving things away, it talks about the need for faith and hope in the world.

"The Partner" was just a fun suspense story that kept me up late several nights in a row. It uses that devilish trick to suck readers in: short chapters that end in cliffhangers. The first half of the book basically ends every chapter in a cliffhanger, but the chapters are only eight to ten pages, so of course I kept saying, "Just one more chapter...just one more..."

And who could forget "Maniac Magee?" The perfect spiral punt, the frogball bunt for an infield home run, the impossible knot, running on the railroad tracks, and the list goes on. It was lying around in the living room, and I just sat down and read it in a single sitting.

Oh, and I thought I'd post a few pictures I took over the break. Man I love the new camera lens I got for my birthday...

This was a nativity scene inside our house. It was inside of a glass case, so you can see the reflection behind it. The glowing lights on the left are the reflections from the Christmas tree bouncing off of the glass case.

This was just outside on my parent's street. For all you photography people, I had the ISO set at 1600, f/1.8, shutter speed was at 1/500.

These are the same snowflakes in the image above. ISO 1600, f/1.8, shutter 1/640. I thought this one was kind of neat because the lights were twinkling when I took the picture--that's why some of the lights are white, but other lights were red, blue or green, depending on the stage of the twinkle.

Also outside on my parent's street. ISO 1600, f/1.8, shutter speed 1/640. I liked the color and contrast on this one. I would have played around with the setting a little more so you could see the snow on the ground, but it was really cold and I didn't have any gloves.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Man, with the crazy semester of school that I've had, I can't believe that Christmas is almost here. I managed to finish all of my Christmas shopping (is that bad that combined, all of the gifts I bought manage to fit inside of a shoe box?), but it just felt like there was barely any time to really get into the Christmas spirit. Since Thanksgiving, I've had 75 pages worth of assignments due, and a large amount of my time was just spent trying to get everything turned in on time (and if any of my roommates are reading, thanks for the countless times I asked for a ride to campus so I wouldn't be late to class or turning in an assignment).

I did have a fun date this past week. We went and got some hot chocolate from Border's Books, and then we just drove around looking at Christmas lights for an hour or so. I found a website that listed several neighborhoods in the Provo/Orem area that were known to have nice displays (here's the link, if you're interested--the house on 450 E 1320 N in Orem is just crazy...). It was fun because we were able to talk the whole time and just wind down from finals. Of course, I was also trying not to get my car stuck in the snow...and trying not to get lost with a lot of dead end streets/cul-de-sacs.

I also read "A Christmas Carol" for the first time--that was really nice. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is still my favorite, but "A Christmas Carol" is definitely in my top ten (maybe five).

I don't know how much I'll really be able to write on my blog this week, because I still have to grade a ton of final papers and final exams (the pile is almost seven inches high--and I just realized that I overuse parenthetical statements way too much). Anyway, I just thought I'd post SOMEthing before the Christmas break completely passed by.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Artifacts from the Future

I can't believe I'm almost done with this semester. I'm counting this as my last "real" semester at BYU, since the only class I need to take next semester is biology. All the rest will be "fun" classes (including one I get paid to take...). As of right now, this past week was a nightmare trying to get everything turned in on time--I had three papers due (not the best thing for the week right after Thanksgiving): a 10-12 page paper for film theory, a 10 page paper for film music, and an 8 page paper for film genres (which was luckily delayed a week...but I'd already stressed and written half the paper before hearing that announcement). I only have two minor assignments to finish this week, and only two finals the week after that.

The ward christmas party was last night, and that was a lot of fun. It included an ugly sweater contest, a white elephant gift exchange, karaoke, cookie decorating, and a variety of other games (air hockey, pool, etc.). I almost split my knuckle playing air hockey, but it was totally worth it. The elephant gift I brought was all of the Utah stuff left over from last year, when my mom and dad raided my somebody ended up with a giant University of Utah flag that was conveniently disguised in a High School Musical bag. Even though there were dozens of people there last night, I instantly knew who ended up with the Utah stuff from the cries of exclamation. And yes, I hate the U of U and am a die-hard Cougar fan--I just needed a way to get rid of that stuff.

And on a totally different note, have you ever noticed how impatient people are? People weave in and out of traffic, cutting people off and trying to get in front of everyone, and they never actually make any progress. You know, it's the same car sitting next to you at the next red light. But have you ever noticed how impatience is crossing over into virtually every other area of society? Everything is getting faster, but people are getting meaner. iPods, laptops, cell phones, or any other kind of new's about having more available without having to wait. Why wait until you get home to listen to your favorite music? Just plug in your headphones and tune the world out. Of course, you also need to be able to get a hold of everyone at any given time, so now you need the cell phone that is really more than a cell phone: along with the ability to call people, you can also store your music and even surf the web. It's even scarier when people use said phone while driving--talking , texting, surfing, listening, and driving all rolled into an infernal death trap waiting for the next six inches to open up so they can cut you off for no apparent reason. The cars ahead are stopped at a red light, and they only end up changing lanes about a hundred yards after the light anyway. But they fought for those six inches, and by golly they're going to take them.

I've been told that I'm terrible at multi-tasking. From what I understand, the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time, despite your most adamant demands that you really can focus on the TV and your computer and/or cell phone at the same time. Case in point: have you ever actually talked to someone on the cell phone when they're watching TV? They seem to hear less than half of what you're saying. It reminded me of this picture I saw in "Wired" magazine a few months ago. One section of the magazine is called "Artifacts from the Future," which is basically some Photoshopped idea of what the future might look like.

Click on the picture to see a hi-res version of it...This is an artist's rendition of the car of the future, and what the dashboard might look like. Try and spot all of the things that are going on in the image. It's pretty crazy. It is an information overload. People think they can stay up to date with everything, and that if they don't check their voice mail immediately their life will be ruined. Oh, wait a second--I just got a text message. Hang on. I'll be back in a second. I promise--

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mexicans, Mexicans, everywhere

So I totally got a small round of applause during class today. I was sitting in film theory, and we were supposed to get into groups, select a film theory, and apply that theory to a commercial we would all watch together. This other guy named Trevor and I decided to use a theory that deals with the "resistant spectator." Basically, the spectator tries to resist stereotyping and what the film is trying to get you to associate with. We then watched a thirty second commercial. Basically, a guy is talking about how much he hates to change his mind with a girl, and it totally sounds like he is breaking up with a girl. At the very end he says, "Okay, I've made up my mind. Could you make them strawberry pancakes instead?" Only then do we see that he is talking to a waitress. The whole commercial was for a Denny's-style restaurant and their big breakfast menu.

Well, the waitress looked Latina to me (no joke, she could be one of my aunts), so when it was our turn, I mentioned that I was half-Mexican, and saw the commercial as a subjugation of Mexicans by making them the working class who has to take orders from the white male. Anyway, it caught my professor off-guard, and she just said, "Wow..." A couple of people clapped, but a lot of people were laughing. As I was leaving class, my professor was smiling and shaking her head. She said, "As intelligent as you are, I can't believe you pulled the race card." That got a few more laughs from everyone. Hey, we were applying the theory correctly, so what can you do?