Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gone to Texas!

Yeah, it's a blurry picture.  Sorry.

I just wanted to capture the evening, and actually, that was the most exciting part, probably.  That's Brooke, Rachel, and me waiting for the kick-off event of the new school semester to start.  It's called Gone to Texas, and the three of us thought it was going to be some sort of pep rally thing.  You know, marching band, cheers, rousing speeches -- that sort of thing.  Fireworks would have been appreciated as well.  Instead, it turned out to be rather . . . uneventful.  There were speeches about how to make the most of your time at UT and how to use the amazing resources here.  (As if we don't already know . . .  We applied here, for goodness' sake, AND our tuition money is paying for those amazing resources!)  But I guess the whole thing was meant for incoming undergraduates.  I am sooo above that now.  ;)

At any rate, let's hope Gone to Texas wasn't an indication of what's to come for the following year 'cause it's my last one here, and I don't want it to be boring!

Here are some things I want to do better at this semester:
  • Sleeping (I know, I know.  I'm a broken record.  But it's true.)
  • Managing my 9-5 hours better, so that I can . . .
  • Play harder.  I want to be fully present during my break times and not thinking about what I should be doing.
  • Making grad student lunches the best ever!
  • Exploring more of Austin and Texas
There's probably a bazillion other things for me to include on a goals type of list, but this'll do for now.  With that said . . .

Happy first day of school, everybody!  I hope it's a great year for all of us!  Hook 'em horns!

Thing I'm thankful for: Jamba Juice Orange Dream Machine smoothies!  Brooke was right; they are wonderful.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Let's Make a Deal

I was talking to a friend the other day about what I'll call "The Hierarchy of Possible Jobs I Want My Future Husband to Have."  It started with a simple discussion about dentists.  See, I'm a bit insecure about my teeth.  They have been a source of pain, embarrassment, and financial stress for most of my life and some of my parents' lives.  (Sure, a lot of my teeth problems could have been avoided if I'd had better dental hygiene, but a lot of them were the unlucky result of being born into a family of mostly English ancestry.  More on that later.)  Consequently, I don't want to marry a dentist.  The idea makes me cringe.  Not only do I have way-less-than-pleasant associations with dentists, orthodontists, and maxillofacial surgeons, I also have a world of insecurity surrounding the aesthetics of my teeth.  In addition to my own issues, I have the notion that a dentist probably wouldn't be attracted to me or my teeth, either.

After explaining all of this to my friend, she asked, "Who would you want to marry?"  I gave it an in-depth, 60-second thought, and came up with the following hierarchy:*
  1. Ph.D.**
    The degree could be in anything, really, though I'd prefer something in the sciences.  Maybe something like this:
    a. Biology
    b. Computer science
    c. Engineering
    d. Psychology
    e. Education
    f. English literature
    g. Art history***
  2. Computer programmer
  3. Researcher
    I don't know what kind, but again, something in the sciences.  Sure, this could be considered the same thing as a Ph.D., but I'm talking Ph.D. minus the teaching component.
  4. Writer
  5. Chef
  6. Professional counselor
  7. M.D.
    a. Anesthesiologist
    b. Family practice
  8. Graphic artist
  9. Sound engineer
  10. . . .
  11. . . .
  12. . . .
  13. Etc, etc.
  14. Dentist
  15. Lawyer
  16. MBA
  17. Marketer
  18. Salesman

*This is a very serious list and one I don't intend on changing at all.  Ever.  It's set in stone, and if anyone from the bottom of the list ever loved me, I'd tell them to move on 'cause I'm not budging in the slightest.  A perfect woman deserves a perfect man, right?  Why should I settle for anything less than my fair share?  I just want what I have coming to me.

**Blame it on my pops.  He's a professor, so I grew up in university towns my whole life.  I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a big university library nearby!

***Just imagine the conversation!  How wonderful!

Thing I'm thankful for: late summer fruit.  I'm lookin' at you, plums.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Call Me Ishmael.

Well, don't call me Ishmael.  Call my son that.  My future son.  Why?  Because I like Biblical names.  A lot.  There are so many good ones!  I'll admit -- some of them are strange.  But some of them are fantastic!  Consider the following:
  • Enoch
  • Eli
  • Ezekial
  • Gideon
  • Job
  • Nicodemus
  • Reuben
  • Saul
  • Solomon
  • Zedekiah
Aren't those such wonderful names?  They sound like the names of strong, wise men.  Even popular Biblical names are great: Benjamin, Ezra, Gabriel, Jacob, John, Jonah, Joshua, Linus, Luke, Nathan, Noah, Samuel, and Thomas.  It almost makes me want to have a dozen sons!

And though women are unfortunately underrepresented in the scriptures, there are some -- and with great names to boot:
  • Abigail
  • Adah
  • Anna
  • Delilah
  • Hannah
  • Leah
  • Rebekah

Note:  This post is what happens when you experience a lull in scripture reading . . .  :/

Thing I'm thankful for: exercising!

Friday, August 17, 2012

In the World But Not of It

Growing up as a Mormon in the Southeastern United States, I learned quickly that if I wanted to remain true to the standards I was taught, I had to be bold about my anomalous beliefs.  I had to honestly and straightforwardly answer questions without hesitating.  The sooner I stood up for myself and the more roundly I answered questions, the easier it was the next time.  In fact, more often than not, my religious beliefs were a non-issue.  There was sometimes the random insensitive guy who teased or considered it a challenge to get me to drink or smoke, but otherwise, people were generally very accepting of my way of life.  As a result, I have rarely had a moment when I was nervous to share my religion with others.

For the first time in a long time today, though, I got nervous.  My co-workers recently started getting drinks after work on Friday, and fortunately, I've been able to avoid having to go for the last few weeks.  It's not that I feel nervous about being in a bar or being around people who drink -- I've done that countless times.  It's just strange having to mingle with people I don't typically see outside of work and being the odd one out.  That combination is . . .  Well, it's uncomfortable.

So today as they were leaving, they asked me whether I was going, and I said I have something else to do tonight -- which is absolutely true, though I probably could've done both, if I had really wanted to.  I also said, "Besides, I don't drink" and I shrugged my shoulders.  Of course they all said it didn't matter, and I said, "Well, it's just kinda weird . . ."  And my other co-worker said she understood what I meant.  Another one said, "It's not like we're going to tease you!"  And then we all joked around about that for a bit until the same co-worker mentioned something about a Mormon he used to know.  "Yeah . . .  I'm Mormon."  I was so nervous saying it.  I didn't have to, but I felt like I should.  So I did.  And it was just a passing comment that quickly faded into the background and didn't even cause a blip in the conversation.

But now they know.  Now they know part of the reason I don't drink, and now they know a little bit more about me.  That's great, right?  Right.  Except I don't feel great.  I feel like I should've gone with them, anyway.  I feel like I should've gone, gotten a drink of water, stayed for 45 minutes, and left.  Why?  Because of this phrase:  "Be in the world but not of it."

President Kimball used that phrase in 1968 to talk about how Mormons ought to live.  The idea is that Mormons need to live among everyone else in the world while still holding fast to the standards they put their faith in.  But I don't think I do that.  I don't think most Mormons are very good at that.  Most of us cluster together in Utah, Idaho, California, Arizona, and other western states.  Most of us only spend time with the people in our local congregations.  Most of us see others as "Mormon" or "not Mormon," and it doesn't seem right to me.  We are, after all, supposed to live in the world.  We are supposed to be a part of the vast network of people that is the human race.  That's impossible, though, if we keep to ourselves.

So I should've gone to the bar for just a bit.  Just long enough to be relatable, to connect.  Otherwise, what's the point in explicitly stating a religious affiliation?

Next time . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: growing up in the Bible Belt

Election Quiz!

If you're anything like me, you have difficulty voting in presidential elections.  You know you should vote, but you don't know who to vote for because really, you don't support the two-party system.  You're registered as neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but you also don't wholly identify with the minor political parties.

Also if you're like me, you like online quizzes.  You like them because you can answer questions about what you believe or what you like, and in a matter of seconds, a program describes you sort of well and confirms what you already know about yourself.  It either ends with you saying, "Gosh.  I didn't need a quiz to tell me how I think/feel," or "Cool!  I am like that!  Maybe I will let the results factor into this impending decision!"

And so, if you are like me, you'll want to take this quiz:
Presidential Election Quiz

It'll tell you which political candidates you side with on various issues, and it will also tell you which parties you side with most.

My results showed that I sided with Mitt Romney (at 78%) on social, healthcare, and economic issues, and I sided with Barack Obama (at 66%) on domestic policy, science, economic, and immigration issues.  Oddly enough, though, I am apparently 76% Democrat and 67% Republican.  Interesting, no?

Even more interesting than my personal results are the collective results the website publishes.  Check it out:  Excellent user statistics, no?

Thing I'm thankful for: talented people, specifically in the Web design arena

Thursday, August 16, 2012


You may not be able to tell by this picture, but that's me with a tan.  A tan!  For the first time in my adult life, I have a tan, and lemme tell you -- it is glorious.  I feel confident wearing shorts now, and I feel a million times better in a swimsuit.  I also don't have to put as much makeup on, which cuts down my getting-ready-for-the-day time significantly.  Sometimes all I do is apply mascara and go!  It's thrilling!

When I was a child, I spent the majority of my life outdoors doing whatever it is kids do -- playing in the mud, jumping on the trampoline, swimming all day, riding my bike to the school down the street, walking to a friend's house, etc.  As a result, I had a wonderfully golden tan and long, blonde pigtails to match.  Sometimes my dad called me Rapunzel, and I'd giggle and run out to play, glad to know I looked like a fairy tale.

(This picture totally doesn't do my complexion justice.  I looked a lot tanner and blonder than that when I was in 1st through 6th grade.)

It's strange to me that "growing up" basically means "increasingly staying indoors."  Even now, I feel a bit guilty when I spend time outside.  "I should be cleaning," I think, "or working on that project."  That may often be the case, but sometimes I wonder whether spending a little time outside would make grownups everywhere feel more productive whenever they were inside.  Or maybe it would just make them all a bit happier, and that would be good for everyone.

Thing I'm thankful for: talks with friends

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Usability of a Tithing Slip

Mormons pay tithing.  The protocol goes like this:  Fill out a slip of paper, stick the white copy in a gray envelope along with a check or cash, and give it to one of three ecclesiastical leaders.  But this post isn't a lesson on tithing or ecclesiastical leaders; it's about the usability of tithing slips over the years.

When I was a child, the tithing slip was oriented horizontally, like so:

Sometime in the 2000's, I think, The Church changed it to a vertical orientation.  Though I did not know what "usability" meant at the time, I remember feeling extremely excited about the new format.  I mean, who could argue that the new tithing slip was worlds better than the old one?  I defy anyone who would!  In my mind, there was only one thing that needed updating, and that was the address line.  I have an uncanny ability to write in extremely small letters, but even I have a difficult time squeezing my address into such a short field.  I've been waiting for The Church to change that for years!

And so they have.  A new tithing era is upon us.  (The old slip is on the left; the new one is on the right.)

See?  Isn't it great?  No more address line!  (Unfortunately, I'm not sure what my membership record number is, and now I guess I have to memorize it.  :/  [Goodness, the Digital Age has spoiled me!]  It's a vast improvement, though.)

One thing I don't like is that so many of the options were collapsed into one broad category called "Other."  Sometimes I don't know exactly where I want my money to go.  I even used to be unaware of the available options.  Seeing everything in a long list, then, is quite helpful.  What I'd like to recommend to Church leaders is that they increase the size of the paper just a bit.  It's relatively small, in case you can't tell.  I don't know the dimensions offhand, but it's a little shorter than a dollar bill and a little wider, too.  If it was just an inch longer, we'd be able to fit everything on there just splendidly.  Hm.

Finally, I love that the yellow receipt paper underneath the white copy is still described as "canary."  If that ever changes, I'll feel a twinge of nostalgia.  

What do you think, readers?

Thing I'm thankful for: a church that is generally up on usability trends

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Postcards from the 20s

Last week, I went to an antique shop with a friend.  This place was huge!  I found some great old-looking mirrors and buffet tables that were completely out of my budget, so instead of buying those, I settled on an old Betty Crocker cookbook from 1983,* a Japanese hand fan because I've always wanted one, and these incredible postcards from the 1910s and 20s:

Oh!  Actually, I only bought one of the postcards, but took a picture of the rest.  I guess that's probably not totally honest, but they were five dollars each!  So I settled on buying only the one on the bottom left, which says, "Is the left one right, or is the right one left?"  I thought that pretty much sums up contemporary singlehood in a clever way, so I paid the $5 and intend on pinning the card to the bulletin board above my desk.

The card on the top left says something about an apology, which I can't remember now . . .  The point, though, is that that's what an apology postcard looked like in the 20s . . .  The others are pretty self-explanatory, but I thought I'd highlight this one for you:

Can you read the caption?  It says, "A Pipe Dream."  A pipe dream!!!  Ha!  And there you have it, folks: proof that early 20th-century Americans were good with both literal and figurative humor.  :)

*That's right; I collect old cookbooks, particularly the Betty Crocker kind.  Of the Big Red variety.  The cooks and bakers out there know how incredible those recipes from the 70s and 80s are.  It's probably because we didn't have so much information about high cholesterol and trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup.  I'm okay with that.

Thing I'm thankful for: summer days by the pool

Monday, August 13, 2012

Apple Stems and Marriage

Do you remember that game?  The one where you twist an apple stem to find out who you're going to marry?  With each twist of the stem, you say a letter, and the letter you end on when the stem breaks is the first letter of the first name of your future husband.  Or was it the first letter of the last name?  Oh, I can't remember . . .  What I do remember is that there is a rule, but I always changed it to suit my affections at the time.

Funnily enough, I still play that game every time I eat an apple.  Usually, I never get past 'E' or 'F.'  But today I got to 'J!'  That was slightly exciting, until I realized that all the guys I know with a 'J' in their first or last names either weren't interested in me or I wasn't interested in them.  Tricky.

Thing I'm thankful for: long lunches

Friday, August 10, 2012


There's one thing I love about Texas heat: dry leaves.  I mean, just look at this:

You can't get crunchable leaves like that in Georgia; it's much too humid.  In Texas, though, there are dry leaves everywhere and nearly year-round.  So I step on them!  I don't know why I love that crunching sound so much, but I do.  (I also love the sound of "emptying" the "Recycle Bin" in Windows.  Go figure.)

Anyway . . .  To Texas!  :)

Thing I'm thankful for: baking in the middle of the night!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Snow Family: A Video

Snow Family from Adam Miele on Vimeo.

I love my family so much.  I can't believe I am related to them!  That I know them!  What a wonderful life I have.

Family, I love you.  I miss you.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Plant Update

My plant is growing up.  :)

Here's how it happened:  See those leaves?  They have become increasingly yellow for a few weeks, and I have been worried about them perhaps more than I've worried about anything in that time.  I had been doing a good job keeping my little Vinca alive and flowering, but then the yellow!  What could it be???  Was I watering it too much?  Too little?  My cousin told me it requires a lot of sunlight, but was I giving it too much?

I thought it must be the soil, so I changed it this week, and when I did, I noticed the roots were growing out of control!  I put it back in it's baby pot and decided to ask my mom for advice.  When she came to visit, she agreed with me.  She said it probably needed a bigger pot.  So yesterday morning after cleaning the church building, I went to Wal-Mart and bought soil* and a pot two sizes up.  I re-potted it and watered it while I watched The Cutting Edge, and there it is, pictured above, in all it's grown-up glory.  I hope, hope, hope it turns green again.  I want that little plant to stay alive so badly!

Six months ago, I would've said I didn't want anything to do with plants.  That people either had green thumbs or they didn't, and I didn't.  I admired my mom, Heather, Alissa, Michelle, and Carrie because not only did they want to keep plants alive, they could keep them alive.  I only sort of wanted to, and I definitely couldn't.  But honestly, I never really tried.  I never cared enough to do it.  For some reason, something clicked inside my brain this year.  When I got that plant on Mother's Day, I wanted to keep it growing for as long as I could.  Perhaps that's all you really need to have a green thumb: a desire to keep something alive.  My little Vinca may die, but I will fight to keep that from happening.  I dunnno . . .  There's just something truly incredible to me about watching it grow.

And so.  To mom, Heather, Alissa, Michelle, and Carrie:  I am in awe of your desire and talent for keeping things alive.  I think you are all so smart.  So smart and so patient.  It's no wonder you are some of the finest people I know.

*There were planting tips and frequently-asked questions on the back of the soil bag.  One of the questions was, "How can I tell if my plant needs to be re-potted?"  It listed two of the three signs as "leaves wilting and turning yellow," and "little to no new growth."  Ha!  Wonderful!  I guess my mom and I were right!

Thing I'm thankful for: modern medicine.  Gotta love Advil Gel Tablets!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Mieles!

My mom and I were just checkin' things out on YouTube tonight, so we decided to make a stop at my brother-in-law Adam's channel and found this little gem:

It's my sister dancing in Bed Bath and Beyond.  I love it so much.  Lexia is the best dancer I ever knew in my whole life!  She makes dancing look easy and cool and fun.

Something I really love about Lexia and Adam is that they create together.  Lexi always said she wanted to have a marriage like Charles and Ray Eames, and now she has one!  Adam is a sound engineer at a big fancy music studio in New York, and Lexia earned a master's degree in computer art at a big fancy school in New York.  They play together and work together and laugh together, and it's so fun to watch.

Thing I'm thankful for: my mom, again.


My mom came to visit today, and she's staying the night.  Instead of doing our work after dinner like we planned, we have just been laying on my bed talking and laughing.  One of the funnier moments was when I saw her reading e-mail on her phone.  Check this out:

She is so old!  Look at how big that font is!  And she's still using a Blackberry!  Oh, mom . . .  I just love her.

Thing I'm thankful for: hot fudge brownie sundaes