Friday, August 29, 2014

Reading and Travel . . . Travel through Reading?

Let's get back to regularly-scheduled programming, shall we? I'm tired about writing about my travels. To be honest, I just don't think it's that interesting. And here's what: I think reading about the world can be just as educational as seeing it. I'll introduce a movie clip to show you what I mean:

Obviously my favorite part was when Matt Damon's character talks about getting an education through reading -- specifically, through checking out books from the public library. Later, of course, Robin Williams's character basically subverts that idea by saying something about how reading can't come close to experiencing "the real thing." Reading about the Sistine Chapel cannot compare, for example, to seeing its ceiling in person, nor can quoting Shakespeare's sonnets provide the depth of feeling that comes from loving someone for decades. Here, let's watch it:

Now, I get it. I really do. Traveling and seeing the world and experiencing things firsthand is extremely educational. It can also be life-changing. I can't deny that.

BUT. Reading is a wonder. The power of words and their impact on our minds is staggering to me. And good thing, too! Because there are millions of people in this world who cannot afford to travel and experience all the world has to offer firsthand. Travel is a privilege, and I think people who travel often sometimes forget that. Not too long ago, I was talking to some friends about traveling, and they both agreed that it fostered a sense of open-mindedness that couldn't quite be replicated through reading. How unfortunate if that truly were the case, though! Again, not everyone can afford to travel, and sometimes circumstances require that people live in the same place for years, decades, and even lifetimes.

Flannery O'Connor, arguably one of the best American writers of the 20th Century, suffered from lupus and had to live the last 14 years of her life in her small-town home of Milledgeville, Georgia. She wrote some of the most critically-acclaimed essays of her career during that time. Shakespeare, too, lived out his life in one relatively small corner of the world, and his writings influence the way we speak today. And scientists! Scientists discover all kinds of things without ever having seen them with their naked eyes! Think of Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity or Pythagoras and a spherical world!

I've been thinking a lot about this lately for two reasons: 1) an article, Stay Home: Travel Is Overrated, and 2) my recent move. I'll skip over the second reason because that's a post in and of itself and because the first reason is infinitely more interesting. There are some points on which I disagree with the author of the article, but there is one part in particular that I think deserves emphasis, and it is a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance. He said this: "Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home." I'll repeat it, in bold font:

"Our minds travel when our bodies are forced to stay at home."

I was recently told that I wasn't adventurous, and in that moment, I felt ashamed and self-conscious because the person was right. He was right, at least, in the popular meaning of the word. I don't travel the world (or get involved in extreme sports), and I often like to spend time at home with a good book. But adventure -- rather, travel (which is a large part of what he meant, I think) -- isn't virtuous or meaningful in and of itself. It can be exciting and fun, but it could have more impact if people paired it with reading and study.

Not too long after that person told me I wasn't adventurous, another person told me I was one of the most intellectually adventurous people he had ever met, and in that moment, I felt strong and good and fortunate that I grew up surrounded by books and literacy.

I'm going to try my hardest to read more books this year -- and not just "fun" books, but hard ones. I want to read books that make my head hurt . . . books that take me an hour to read ten pages. It's gonna be a good year.

Thing I'm thankful for: Internet connection!

Monday, August 25, 2014


Well, I've been at Google for two weeks, and I have lots to say. I'll start with a picture, though:

That's the view I see every day when I walk into my building. Palm trees, palm trees everywhere. I love them. They're especially beautiful during The Golden Hour.

I also see this at work:

I like to sit in the chairs that are covered in sunlight because it gets so cold here in California! (Not really, but a high of 80 degrees is cold to me! I want Texas weather back!)

A lot of things at Google are proprietary, so I can't take pictures inside my building, and I especially can't take pictures inside the really cool buildings. But I think it's alright if I tell you a few things about what I've noticed here so far:
  • I work down the hall from the artists who create the Google Doodles. They sit in the corner of my floor and have a fair amount of interesting artwork hanging around.
  • The bathrooms here smell really, really good.
  • There are a couple of kitchens in every building. They load them with cereal and all kinds of snack-y foods, including fresh fruit. I wish they would change up the apples, though; for the last two weeks, they've only offered Fuji.
  • I've been unimpressed with Google's dessert offerings. For every great dessert, there's like 3 or 4 that are sub-par. I guess I'll deal with it.  :)
  • I work in a building near Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I can't get past the first floor of their building, though, 'cause you have to have super access to get up to those guys. There's a slide in their building.
Finally, I don't know if moving here was "the Right" decision, but it was definitely a good one for now. I am learning a ton and already feel the value of getting an education at "Google University." (It really does feel like a university campus.) I've worked long hours and fretted about projects that were due . . . (Work doesn't move slowly here.) But it's been good. By the end of the year, I'm sure I'll be a significantly better user experience researcher, and that'll be a good feeling.

Here's something I want you to know, though, and it's this: You must come visit! Seriously. If I've ever had a conversation with you that lasted about 10 minutes or more, then I consider you a friend, and I want you to visit. We will have so much fun, I promise!

Thing I'm thankful for: MommyDaddy

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pt. 4

It occurred to me that I didn't tell you where in California I was yesterday. Well, I was in Southern California. I drove through the charming little city of Blythe, which is just next to the Arizona border, and I drove through Indio, San Bernardino, and up to Bakersfield. (I kinda wanted to see L.A., but I didn't want to run into L.A. traffic. I'll have to save it for another trip.)

At any rate, yesterday was spent in Southern California; today was mostly spent driving north through the Central Valley. And ohhh, was it wonderful. Just wonderful! Hundreds and hundreds of acres of fruit trees line the road and stretch out for miles. Apricots, grapes, apples, cherries -- you name it, the Central Valley has it. I've seen plenty of farms in my life, but they have always been fields of wheat or barley or corn -- not rows of upon rows of perfectly maintained trees. It was such a sight to see! I almost drove off the road while looking at everything around me!

After a few hours of fruit in the foreground and mountains in the background, the landscape changed to something altogether unexpected: wide highways going this way and that, newly-constructed buildings with big, shiny windows, and huge, lush trees lining every street with palm trees dotting the sidewalks every now and then, too. This place was my final destination.

And here is what it looks like, in map form:

I don't quite know where I'll be living yet, but I know I'll be working in Mountain View . . . I landed a job as a user experience researcher for Google, and I start tomorrow! I'm a small bundle of nerves at the moment, but I'm also really excited! It's exciting!

I'll let you know how it goes!

Thing I'm thankful for: fresh peaches

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pt. 3

Day Two of the trip:

I never saw a real saguaro cactus before!

I am quickly falling in love with palm trees!

This picture doesn't do the scene justice.

Do you know? Do you know???
The first two pictures were taken in Mesa, Arizona, and the third was taken in California.

I wish I had taken more pictures, especially of palm trees against the backdrop of mountains. What a wonderful juxtaposition -- mountains and palm trees! I mean, where's the beach, Arizona and California?!? How can you have palm trees without a beach??? Florida would be appalled.

P.S. Here is something I witnessed at the last rest stop in Arizona. Cute, huh?

Thing I'm thankful for: green chile enchilada sauce!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes, Pt. 2

Well. The first leg of the trip is over. Day One has come and gone, and so far, I've driven about 870 miles. Here are some pictures!

Can you guess where I am???

If you thought, "Okay. I know there are mountains in the west, and I know the sun sets in the west, and I know plants like that and insects like scorpions are in the west . . . She must be in the American Southwest!" then you'd be right!

But that was only Day One. I'm just passing through -- through El Paso, Las Cruces, and Tucson.

I'll leave you with some thoughts, though:
  • In my (correct) opinion, Texas is beautiful. What beautiful skies!
  • Mountains! I like them!
  • "The Wall" is fun to sing in the car. Sometimes I pretend I'm on stage while I'm singing along. Also, David Gilmour has a fantastic voice.
  • I think I'll always be conflicted about which Radiohead album is the best -- "OK Computer" or "The Bends?" I just don't know. Maybe I'll find out when I die.

Thing I'm thankful for: cheap hotel rooms

Monday, August 04, 2014


(Thanks, David Bowie.)
(I have no idea what Changes means, really, but I think of it every time I make a change.)

So. Since the last time I blogged, I moved back to Texas, but only temporarily. It was a painful move, and to add insult to injury (or maybe it should be injury to insult, in this case), the A.C. in my car broke while I was driving back. What a bummer. I might say something sarcastic, such as, "Thanks, universe," and nobody would fault me for it.

But here's what: I am happy. Driving back to Texas was like coming home; I love this state so much! Seeing the calming rhythms of those windmills in Abilene brought peace to my soul, and eating Tex-Mex again just felt comfortable. I had two very good friends waiting to welcome me to San Antonio, and the neighborhood pool called my name and invited me to work on my tan. Not long after I came back, I went to the beach, enjoyed a family reunion, and got some job offers.

I couldn't have asked for a better month. And here's what I've learned: Great joy can come from sorrow, especially when we remain faithful to God. In The Book of Mormon, Helaman tells his sons Nephi and Lehi:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (The Book of Mormon, p. 378)
I did not expect to move back to Texas, and I did not expect to get a job so quickly. I also definitely did not expect to move for the third time in four months. But that's what's about to happen. I'm a little excited. And terrified, if I think about it too much.*

What's the point of this post? Just to say that prayers are answered, and God is good. Life is good.

*You're just going to have to wait until it happens for me to write about it. Am I a tease? Yes. But I've got to have pictures to document my journey, and I won't have pictures until I go. Stay tuned.

Thing I'm thankful for: seats that fold down.