Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Every once in a while, I get genuinely complimented on my blog. I'll have to admit that such compliments are my favorites. They make me want to blog more frequently.

Christmas this year was amazing. I would like to share with you why it was so good.

1) Time to unwind. I consider myself a pretty intense individual. I work hard and get a lot done. But I have noticed that when I am intense for too long of a stretch of time, I tend to go a little crazy. So starting Christmas Eve, it was so nice to just relax and not worry about stressful things.

2) Carrying on good traditions. We spent Christmas Eve at Amy's place, which involved fun and interesting activities. From reading the Polar Express, to reading the scriptures, to seeing the lights around Orem/Provo, I was introduced to some pretty great traditions that I would love to continue in the future.

3) Spending quality time with family. Amy and I were able to spend lots of time with each of our families. When you have families as cool as ours, this translates into a lot of happiness. It was funny how back and forth we were on Christmas, but it wasn't that funny considering our two homes are literally a half-mile away from each other. I felt very at home at the Burton residence and at least in my mind, Amy felt very at home at the Ostler's.

4) Meeting new family members. I have talked to Amy's sister Eli on the phone a couple times before, but never face-to-face. Christmas day changed that. I got to meet Eli and her boyfriend Jimmy. These were very intriguing people and I only wish I had more time to interact with them. Thanks to them, I was introduced to some vegan dishes that were not bad at all.

5) Getting good presents. Christmas should obviously not focus on getting presents, but good presents is definitely not a bad thing. This Christmas I got great presents that were well-needed and from the heart. Haley gave me socks, Graden gave me a Nordstrom rack Groupon, Ben Bernanke gave me an interesting mountain man book, and Amy gave me some rockin' shoes. I also got hooked up with cash from both parents. I. Am. So. Grateful. (I usually hate doing the sentence split up by periods, but it does add a little dramatic effect.)

6) Going on a run. I don't know about you, but I have been eating far too much garbage food lately. Obviously it's unrealistic to completely bypass such delicious food (especially when it is abundantly available everywhere you go). But it is realistic to burn away some of these calories on a nice jog to Will's pit stop. It was pretty cool going on this run also because a fog was setting in and I could see the fog-like wave formations coming down.

7) Watching LOTR. At first glance, Lord of the Rings may not seem very appropriate for Christmas. But with the context of Race calling me up late to see if I wanted to watch the Fellowship of the Ring with Scott, it was a perfectly appropriate way to end Christmas.

8) Amy. Amy and I will officially be family in just a few short days. This truth kind of blows me away. At least in the back of my mind, I have been waiting to find the girl that I would marry for quite some time. This year, I realized that I had found this girl and it was only a matter of time of waiting for the wedding date to arrive. But this date seemed so distant. Now it is not distant at all. Christmas was such a great day for us, me especially. When you are a thinker, such as I am, you sometimes let the gravity of marriage overwhelm you. But as with all seemingly-overwhelming aspects of life, you just kind of take things one step at a time. Christmas was great in that regard. It was an excellent illustration of how fun life is with Amy when we just enjoy things in the moment. I am so in love with this girl. We had plenty of funny moments today, inside joke moments, serious moments, and even moments where I beat her consistently at Othello. Best of all, as I've gotten to know Amy better, my love for her has grown. For me, that is the most impressive thing because love has historically been such a fickle thing. With love, things can fizzle, things can come to a screeching halt, or things can just not progress, for little or no reason, and on either end of the relationship. But this has not been the case with Amy, where my love for her has matured and grown. Ironically, it has become more difficult to express my love but as I better understand her personality, complement her, and get complemented by her, we climb higher and higher. I know I have a long ways to go in truly becoming unified with my sweetheart, but I am going to take things one step at a time. I feel very optimistic about this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A technology that should already be implemented

The world is full of so much innovation it makes a budding patent attorney like myself salivate. While I am almost always pleasantly surprised with the innovation that technology presents us, there is one idea that I have had for a while that has not been implemented and I don't know why. The problem is this. You go into an unfamiliar and massive store to find predefined items. You have no idea where these items are, so you wander around like a nomad. If you get lucky, you find an employee to ask for directions. But in stores like Walmart? Good luck. There are aisle markers for general items, and I've even seen more detailed lists at the end of aisles in select stores. But even these approaches don't give you precise results and further waste your time. The idea I am thinking of would allow me to query the store's database for specific items using my cell phone or the internet. By so improving the efficiency, I won't have to be a zombie lost in a foreign realm.

If I was a grocery store, I would invest in item-finding technology. But being an outsider, I will have to wait for the technology. Most of the time, innovation involves significant expertise and hard-work, but every once in a while, a new product or service comes out and you think to yourself, "Whoa, why didn't I think of that?" In other words, it seemed easy enough to implement that it was just a matter of thinking about the idea. I think that this idea is involves both approaches. Hopefully, a store can spearhead this project and I will be their most loyal customer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Today is World Kindness day. I never know for sure how these world-recognized days start, but apparently this one started in Tokyo, Japan, at a World Kindness Movement conference, so I know it's legit. I think my thoughts on kindness can be summed up by this quote:
When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Unlike Heschel, I am not old yet, but I am getting there it seems. Now I would not characterize myself as a kind person. But I know kindness is an ideal that I want to shoot for. I have found that external factors can change my disposition so that I naturally and almost automatically am more kind. Some factors include seeing the positive examples of others, hearing others' inspiring words and stories, following the example of the Savior, and watching youtube videos that have Enya playing in the background displaying good quotes. With these things, I have more of a desire to be kind, rather than just forcing an unkind me to do kind acts. Big difference.

Here is the video about kindness that I referenced above. My favorite is from Plato, "Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A real poem

Once upon a time, there lived a man by the name of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In the year 1839, while living in Cambridge at the Craigie house, he published "A Psalm Of Life." I hope it does not disappoint.

What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!--
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

a poem

sometimes, you need to go on a run
on a nice autumn saturday.
you forget to start your stop-watch,
then realize that losing track of time is just what you want.
the warm breeze blows comfortingly on your skin,
and your muscles are eager at the chance to work.
you think about life and all its complexities,
while you play the "catch a falling leaf in mid-air" game.
you may not know where you're running,
but that's ok because the leaves are turning colors
and it's beautiful all around you.
then you come to a stop because you are done
and life is good again.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Power of Choice

People do stupid things sometimes. Okay, let me back up. Maybe I shouldn’t make this generalization about the entire populace. How about this: I do stupid things sometimes. That sounds a little better. Allow me to explain. I do things that are not for my ultimate good. I break guidelines imposed on myself, which guidelines seem so logical and beneficial to me. I also break standards that society has established as desirable to abide by.

But am I really alone here? Maybe I can generalize about this particular concept after all. Yes, people do stupid things. In the age of information and zero-privacy, it is very apparent that people do stupid things; you see stupidity all the time. Think about the most recent celebrity who has been caught for carrying on an illicit secret relationship that they “know” they shouldn’t be carrying on. Obviously these people know the ramifications of their actions. Of course they do.

Less serious acts also illustrate the concept. Take, for instance, someone who needs to be very conscious of his diet and has imposed guidelines on what he can’t eat. This particular person then passes a donut shop, knowing full-well that this type of food is off-limits! But the thoughts start spinning. And before he knows it, our friend caves in, and the donut is history.

This concept happens so often, where we as humans fall victim to our apparent stupidity. Most of the time, the “stupid” activity is only stupid after something goes wrong. At the beginning, it is only risky or dangerous. There are the financially dangerous activities, such as gambling. There are the physically dangerous activities, like harmful drugs or risky sports. There is the emotionally dangerous, like when someone has unharnessed anger. All of these dangers are playing with fire! We don’t think that we will get burned, but we continue to participate in the activities nonetheless. One could easily make the conclusion that we are very irrational creatures. After the fact--always after the fact--I think to myself, “Why?? Why couldn’t I stick to my norms, my guidelines, my rules? Why couldn’t I play it safe?” Such a response is very good in that it gives you sufficient emotion to change your behavior. But such feelings can also have a negative effect, if taken to the extreme. Here is one perspective that is useful in making sure that such negative feelings are not kept inside for too long. Maybe there is another reason why we behave stupidly sometimes. Rather than trying to justify breaking rules and laws that people should follow, I am interested in positing why it happens. For me, it is a very primitive craving to demonstrate that we are human and that we can make decisions for ourselves.

In the timeless book, Crime and Punishment, the character Raskolnikov plots to murder and rob a woman so that he can put her wealth to better use than she would be able to. Assessing the potential consequences of this act, it is unlikely that any rational person would carry this out. The most interesting part of the story is that after the dreadful deed, Raskolnikov doesn’t end up doing anything with the widow’s money but bury it. For days, he lays in bed sick and thinking about why he did what he did. Eventually, he comes to the conclusion that the reason that he murdered was to prove his ability to do it. He had proved that he was alive: "Life is real! Haven't I lived just now? My life has not yet died with that old woman! The Kingdom of Heaven to her-and now enough, madam, leave me in peace! Now for the reign of reason and light...and of will, and of strength...and now we will see! We will try our strength." Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov, Part 2, Chapter 7.

A lot of times we are exactly like Raskolnikov. We all have temptations that we want to entertain despite understanding the consequences of such actions. We may “know” how we should behave, but we just don’t act accordingly because a more powerful motive is working against us: the power of choice, the ability of us to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are not a robot that only does X, Y, and Z. That is the reason why we are all on this earth, to choose to do things. This is a very powerful force indeed.

A solution to this age-old tension? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I'm getting settled in to my newest living arrangements of Medford, Massachusetts quite nicely. My experience with the Brookline Goodwill is that it rarely disappoints. Everything is in order, except for my bed, which is in a New Hampshire storage unit. It's only a matter of time before someone lets me use her truck to transport my beast.

Last night, I had a dream that reflects something that has been on my mind laterly. I happened to be at Apple headquarters in Steve Jobs' private loft area. He was talking to me about working for Apple and I was entertaining the idea quite seriously! The conversation kind of started wrapping up and then he reached into his wallet and gave me his business card. Thanks for the offer Steve, we'll keep in touch.

I had to share this animated gif, a sign "that your dog hates you," taken from
funny gifs - Prank Dog

Monday, August 09, 2010

My near-death experience

This is a story about adventure and foolishness. It is not for the faint of heart. Reader discretion is advised.

Over the weekend I almost died on a canyoneering trip in Zions national park Utah. Normally people refer to near-death experiences in the context of a single event. My situation was more prolonged than a single event, perhaps only to make it more interesting. As you read about this experience, pay special attention to Murphy's law.

It all started Saturday morning at 7 AM. The demand to hike Zions that day was especially high, making the options canyon options extremely limited. Apparently we should have slept out the night before at the visitor's center to get the canyon of our choice. Our group, consisting of me and my two cousins Andrew and Scott, chose to hike Spry canyon. A few things happened before we even started hiking that should have set off blaring red flags in each of our minds. 1) Rain started heavily coming down very soon after we bought our permit. 2) The ranger at the visitor's center updated the weather information to include a flash flood warning of high. 3) After asking the ranger up the mountain where the trailhead to Spry canyon was, she looked at us with the most baffled expression on her face. "Never heard of that canyon before." Then after turning around our car, the ranger let us know that she called another ranger who also didn't know anything about Spry canyon. On those ominous notes, we set off on our canyoneering adventure.

Stage I: Finding Spry Canyon
Using the topographical map on Andrew's iPhone, we found what looked like the trailhead to reach Spry canyon. We were each at least a little relieved that Andrew had done Spry before. Starting out, our spirits were surprisingly high considering how little sleep we were running on and that it started raining on us again. Besides, since the weather was not good, we planned to hike only to the canyon entrance and make the hike only with good weather conditions. The rain kept intermittently coming down, however. The dry river bed that we were hiking in suddenly became a full-on river. We made it to the source of most of this water, a waterfall that under normal conditions was regularly just a drizzle.

The waterfall was beautiful and as glad as we were to see it, most likely it was the distraction that led to us missing Spry canyon. Rather than taking a left early into our hike, we continued going straight. Andrew was by far the most optimistic at this point. He would reassure Scott and me that everything was OK by pointing out features that he remembered from his previous Spry experience four years ago. But after hiking four hours through dense and painfully sharp foliage, steep terrain, and intermittent rain, our "trail" ended by going straight up cliffs. Regretfully, we turned around to go back to the car. A disappointing experience! Especially, considering we never got to use the rappelling gear. As we made our way back, nagging questions persisted in our minds. What did we do wrong and where was this canyon? We finally realized that we should have taken a left early on, in between "the temple" and "the brothers." About this same time that we realized our mistake, something else happened that turned out to be a game changer. The weather turned beautiful. No longer were we getting doused with cold rain. Our spirits were rejuvenated and we wanted to try for Spry canyon again.

After backtracking almost the entire way we had come, we found what appeared to be our canyon, with a giant dome-shaped rock structure on one side and giant brother-like structures on the other side. But after trudging up steep rock, we found a steep ravine blocking our path. This promising canyon was a decoy. But we remembered passing a canyon on our way to this decoy canyon. That had to be our canyon! We were faced with a critical decision. Up to this point, I had probably been the most unenthusiastic about the trip. To my defense though, I had never gone canyoneering before, so I didn't know the fun that awaited me. Also, I had a lot of things to do at home. But I changed my tone at this critical junction in our trip. "I say we find Spry and conquer it. We did not come all this way only to back to the car in shame. Mother Nature has tried its hardest to keep us away, but will we back down?" With that rousing monologue, we started on our path that would eventually lead us to Spry canyon. By the time we reached the canyon, it was 4 PM. Little did I know, Spry takes 5-8 hours to traverse. Daylight ends around 8:30. You do the math.

Stage II: Hiking Spry
It was a lot of fun rappelling down cliffs. Landing into murky, foul-smelling water took a little getting used to. We took our time going down these rappels, especially me, the newbie. Soon into Spry, I started smelling a delicious meal. To me, it smelled like pizza. The others thought I was crazy, but soon Andrew started smelling it, characterizing the smell as Spaghetti-Os.

There were supposed to be 10 official rappels on Spry.

At the 7th rappel, things started going wrong for us. After we each made it down,

Andrew proceeded to pull one end of the rope out of the carabiner. All of the sudden, the rope that was feeding into the carabiner became a tangled mess. There was NOTHING that we could do to get the rope unstuck, even working on it for a half hour. We finally gave up and left the old and weary rope where it was. Now we only had one rope that was 300 feet long, which meant that we couldn't rappel down anything higher than 150 feet.

A couple more rappels later, it started to get dark. We frantically started moving like machines to get down this canyon as fast as possible. The particular rappel that we were at had two segments, each segment having a pool of water deep enough to require swimming. The tricky part about these two-segmented sections was making sure the rope didn't get stuck when we were pulling it back down to us upon completion. We each made it down to the second segment of this particular rappel and to our dismay the rope got stuck. Luckily for us, both ends were still within Andrew's reach so he climbed back up the second segment and managed to free up the rope. But the problem was that the rope was getting stuck on the first segment. From our position, we couldn't pull it down. Andrew finally managed to reposition the rope in such a way that would allow us to pull one side down so that we could continue on the next rappel. It worked for a while. Each of us pulled a substantial portion of the rope and then it got stuck again. This time, the other side of the rope was far up the first segment, beyond our reach. On one side of us, there was a cold and murky pool of water, and on the other side there was a sheer 90 foot cliff waiting to be rappelled. The rope mocked us and the daylight faded away.

Just when we were about ready to mentally prepare ourselves for a long night of spooning in a cold, damp slot canyon, Andrew reached up to the rope and with one final and desperate motion, heaved the rope loose. We were shocked. We could now proceed with our rappelling, even if it was in the black darkness.

We hoped that we only had one more rappel left. There was no such luck for us. Instead we found about four more rappels without a flashlight and somehow traversed them in the dark. One little mistake in such an environment would have been disastrous. Finally, we finished the last official rappel. We could see cars driving on the road, what appeared to be about 2 miles away. We just had to climb down a boulder wash and climb up to the road.

Stage III: Finding the Road
If we had light, navigating ourselves down this wash would have been routine. Instead, it turned out to be the most difficult part of our entire day. There was no moonlight and initially the clouds covered the stars, which made for a very low visibility of only a few feet. The wash area was littered with giant boulders that we had to navigate through. Sometimes it was possible to go over these boulders, provided there was no steep drop-off on the other end or if we could use other objects as stepping stones. It was necessary for us to wedge body joints and other body parts into the boulders to have enough grip to traverse the boulder. But it was also not uncommon for us to be confronted with 15 foot drop-offs after climbing up a boulder, forcing us to painstakingly retreat and find an alternate route.

For some reason, I was able to see the furthest ahead and I was charged to go find the road. I left Scott and Andrew in search for the car. I was making good time, and I still kept smelling what smelt like pizza. Now, because I was without a shirt, I also started feeling periodic oozing from my backpack onto my bare back. I remembered I packed a can of Progresso soup in my backpack. Throwing down my backpack earlier in the hike must have broken the seal. I reached into my pack and pulled out a slimy mass of a soup can. That was my pizza smell.

I made it to this one boulder that looked like it had a drop-off of about 12 feet. I thought that I could baby step my way down by first side stepping onto a nearby ledge. Very conveniently, the large boulder I was on had a perfect grip on the drop-off for my two hands to hold onto as I reached my foot over to the nearby ledge. But with bad visibility also comes bad depth perception. While holding onto the hand hold, I swung my body out, fully expecting to touch the side ledge with my feet, but nothing! I then swung all the way around like a pendulum, staring down at what could be a 15 foot dropoff. I thought about all the movies where the actor is holding on to a handhold on a steep dropoff. I realized that now I was the movie star. I don't know how I held on, considering the momentum that was going against me, but I knew that it would be unsafe for me to drop myself down because I couldn't see how far the ground was. Plus, it was most likely an uneven surface and the last thing I wanted to do was injure myself. I pulled myself back onto the boulder and found a way around.

Soon, I came across what looked like a ledge and a steep drop-off. I couldn't tell how far down the drop-off was, but it looked big. After trying to find an alternate route, I finally decided to wait for the others because the ledge was too wide. "Yu-hoooo." "Yu-hoooo." "Are you at the car??" Every other shout from Andrew included the words, "road" and "car." He was getting very anxious to finish this trip. When we all reached the ledge, we decided to rappel down this drop-off, not knowing how far down it went. Because this rappel was not official, it was a complete mystery how many feet it dropped off. We found a nice sturdy tree to tie our webbing around and Scott agreed to go first. As he was about to go, the very strong impression came to him to let down 20 or 30 more feet of rope. This turned out to be a good idea. Scott lowered into the darkness and Andrew and I waited. Finally, Scott was done and it was my turn. I started down and then I came to a part where I was free falling, not able to touch the cliff. This free falling style of rappelling was my favorite, but I looked down and couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't accept how far this drop-off was, but the further down I rappelled, the more true it became. I found Scott at the bottom. After Andrew joined us, Scott told us that the rope barely had enough length to get him to the bottom. The drop-off was about 140 feet and had we not been careful in the dark, one of us could have easily walked right off it!

I started ahead once again, determined to find the road. It was now well past midnight and the cars that had been so regular on the road, providing us with headlamp light, started becoming less frequent. After a while of traversing down treacherous terrain, I had the biggest epiphany. We could not split up. Based on the fact that everything that day that we had done had gone wrong, there was a very high likelihood that one of us would get lost. So I waited for the others. "Yu-hoooo." "Yuuuu-hooooo." "Are you at the road yet??" "No." "Go find the road!" I finally told Andrew that I wasn't going ahead and that we were going to the car 3-musketeer style. We found one final drop-off where we had to use the rope and then we were at the bottom of our wash at a river.

We took a little break on a rock in the river. Staring up at the sky was incredible. It felt so good to stop moving and to eat food. As poor of a job we did planning our route, we did an excellent job of packing food and water. Andrew had enough granola bars to feed an army, and we each had plenty of water. Sitting on a rock in the middle of that river, I had never tasted anything as good as those granola bars I ate.

Now it was time to climb up to the road. Unfortunately, we could not find a trail to the road from where we were. Also, the plants that lived on this slope were not soft and fluffy, as we had hoped. Rather, they were hard, sharp, and lashed out on our already battered skin with ferocious intensity. Onward we hiked until finally I made it to the road. "Wooooooo," I shouted.

Stage IV: Mama I'm Coming Home
There was no time to waste once I made it to the road because I saw headlights coming my way. I waved the vehicle down, which turned out to be a minivan. I was actually quite surprised that it stopped for me, a sketchy-looking half-naked traveler, at 3 AM in the middle of a remote area in a national park. But the people in the van were so nice. I asked the driver if I could get a ride up to my car. She agreed and I shouted down to Andrew and Scott that I would be back for them. This saved us each from walking another two miles up to the car. I'm afraid that another two miles might have put the finishing touches on our bodies. After I made it to my car, I changed hurriedly out of my wretched clothes, drove back, and picked up the group. It was here that I believe I lost the Asics that I had worn throughout the hike. But we were now on our way home at 3:30 AM! We had been going nonstop for almost 20 hours straight.

By now the adrenaline of finishing this last stage of our hike had me completely wide awake. I was so sick of Zions that I was ready to drive the four hours home right then and there. Slowly the excitement died down and one by one, our group started dozing off. I had every intention of holding strong, but my body finally started catching up to me. I started hallucinating. Billboards on the side of the road started turning into machine-like transformers. Objects at the side of the road started looking like they were in the road and that I was going to crash in to them. Finally, the realization set in that I was in no condition to finish the remainder of this leg. I pulled off at Cedar City and we all slept in the car. At 6:30 AM, I awoke feeling refreshed. We started out again and after getting some gas, and taking a good swig of Andrew's code red, we were on our way home. Andrew did a great job of talking to me to keep me awake and we were in Mapleton by 10 AM.

It is amazing how much our bodies can do for us when our lives are in jeopardy. With the adrenaline pumping, we can tap into our body's capital and use it like we never thought possible. Sure there are consequences of abusing your body, such as a gallon of lactic acid coursing through your muscles. But in the moment, your body really works its magic.

Some people that I must thank for making this experience possible:
Andrew for providing me with food, water, Spry experience, training, socks, and conversation.
Scott for providing me with pictures, knots and canyoneering expertise.
Dan for providing me with comfortable Asics shoes at the beginning of the day. I doubt that I would have made it in my Keens. I am really sorry that I lost them. Shoes are definitely the way to go with canyoneering.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The love of many will wax cold

Wednesday evening found me at a religion class learning about the signs preceding the second coming of Christ. One sign, which I have never quite understood, is that the love of many will wax cold. See Matt. 24:12. What does this mean? We all get bugged, ticked off, and irked over things in life. It doesn't matter how serious these problems actually are, at the time they always seem HUGE to us. I believe that the love of man waxing cold is becoming consumed in our own problems to the point that we don't overlook and forgive others' offenses to us.

It is easier to forgive and overlook others offenses to us when we are young. When I was around 8-10, I would get mad at lots of people: babysitters, brothers, dad, etc. But I was too positive to remain mad at anyone for very long. I remember trying to consciously hold my grudges for long periods of time to get even. But at that age, I always quickly bounced back, even from very serious things done to me.

We can't stay kids forever, but the principle of getting over others' offenses is still relevant. In the masses of thoughts that course through our minds each day, there are bound to be positive feelings that seek to resolve conflicts, forget offenses, and walk the higher road. I think this is the love trying to manifest itself in our lives. The problem is that there may be so many more opposing thoughts that may be more convenient and satisfying to endorse. As you allow these negative thoughts to "fester" in your mind, however, your love waxes cold to your fellow humans.

How to avoid getting sucked in to the festering thoughts syndrome? It's easier said than done, no doubt about it. But one key is to maintain the big picture. Squabbling and getting worked up over trivialities will probably not be the game-changing life experience that you expect it to be. Let the problem go. Let it go down memory lane. And wish it good riddance while you're at it.

I guess my take-home message is that problems we face give us unique opportunities for us to grow our love. It also lets us draw closer to One who was offended much more than He deserved. But He understood the big picture, and by walking the higher road and disregarding undeserved pain and suffering, preserved a legacy that has lasted, and will continue to last a long time. His love did not wax cold, will ours?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Random musings and recent developments

I love Jazz music, more than any other genre. I like the slower and more rhythmic variety the most. Jazz is always appropriate and leaves you feeling at peace afterwards.

Tomatoes are the perfect food. I love eating them when I feel I've overdosed on either sugar or salt.

I doubt I'll ever fully understand my dad. He loves spending money in interesting ways. Take the other day, for instance. We had some ice cream after dinner (we actually had 5 good cartons of ice cream in the freezer). I then got home later that evening (around 10:45 pm) and my dad asks, "Do you wanna go to the creamery for a milkshake?" I love my dad, but wow.

I am well on my way to making my first iPhone app. After banging my head against the computer for quite a few hours yesterday, I made a little something called headway.

It's easy to critique other people in different situations. I sometimes think to myself, "Oh yeah, I would handle their issues so much better if I was in their shoes." Then you get yourself into some comparable situations, you see yourself react, and then you think to yourself, "Who am I?"

Sometimes, you get sucked into the mind trap that you are just a reactant in a chemical equation. Guess what though? You don't have to be. That's right. You can change the reaction to whatever you want in life.

This summer has got to be the busiest summer of all time. I never have time to sit back, open up a cold one, and just chill. But I'm not complaining. Instead, I'm laying the groundwork for a great next year.

Sometimes you wish that you could marry your girlfriend sooner than you plan on doing so. Why? Part of it may be impatience. The other part may have something to do with this phrase: "Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry the person you can't live without." A particular long-distance relationship is highlighting the truthfulness of that phrase.

Yes, I'm becoming a publicly cheesy person. I'm fine with it though.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Song of the Day

Every once in a while, a song comes along that you can't get sick of, regardless of how many times you play it. Back in high school, Self-Esteem by The Offspring was that song for me. I heard it today and had to share it with the world.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Balance and Moderation, A Key to Happiness

I am not always balanced and moderate. In fact, I was just thinking back to a few distinct times in my life when my life's balance was whacked.

About 10 months into my mission, I was having a difficult time reaching goals, so I determined I was going to take my determination and hard work to the next level. My new resolve took on the form of waking up at 5:30 AM, talking to everyone and their dog, not taking lunches at home (or if we did take lunches, making them super short), and sacrificing time on p-days for preparing lessons and working. I think back to one particular time, my poor junior companion and I were in a remote part of our area lunchtime. I remember eating our lunch of crabsticks standing up because I couldn't justify taking a little relaxing break sitting down. After we finished eating our food, we continued contacting. It is clear to me now that I had taken the work aspect of missionary work to the extreme.

When I was a junior in college, I was determined to do well in an advanced computer programming class--CS 240. That semester, I can't remember going on a date or even hanging out with friends that much. Instead, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the catacombs of the Talmage building. The final project was intense. We had to write up a chess program basically from scratch using a very low level language. The week leading up to the final deadline I probably spent 60 hours on the project. This is while I was enrolled in other classes and even working part time. My desire to do well in this one class led me to become an extreme computer geek.

Another unbalanced time was law school. The truth of law school is that if you really want to get good grades, there isn't a way around making your life unbalanced. There is just too much work to do and too much competition to let you get by without focusing all your energy on law school. I sacrificed balance for good grades.

Looking back, I can tell that when I get out of balance, it inevitably leads to an unhappy, unsettled feeling. Some unbalanced times can be justified because they are temporary (like a deadline for a big project), but focusing so much time and effort into one thing is not sustainable. Knowing this, I still take things to the extreme. Take for instance this past week. I was determined that I would make a boatload of money through web development and cellphone apps. Even though I did a good job of working hard and my desire did not get burnt out, I realized I was a less happy individual because I was being stretched too thin by competing tasks I had going on.

It's easy for me to take things to the extreme. I have a somewhat proactive disposition--I believe that if something needs to be done, I have the power and ability to do it myself. So it's natural for me to take things to the extreme, especially when I feel like drastic changes are in order. Also, it's good to get fired up in a particular resolve because that draws a lot of attention to the problem. However, working like a maniac is unsustainable, and it makes me realize that when I become unbalanced, red flags should go off in my head.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Girl I Would One Day Marry

When I was 22, I sold satellites in Vancouver, Washington door-to-door. I remember talking to one woman who was not interested in a Dish, but was interested in talking with me. She found out I was Mormon and we started talking religion (She turned out to be Episcopalian). The conversation strangely enough drifted into marriage. I told her I was not married and that I was on the lookout for that special someone. She talked about how I should get married, but because her tone was a little too holier-than-thou I couldn't take her completely seriously. Because I hated knocking doors at this point in the summer, however, and because she seemed very willing to talk to me, I continued the conversation by asking her where I would find my companion. I asked this more out of curiosity of what she'd say rather than because I believed she would provide me an answer I could rely on. Her answer was very succinct and without hesitation: "You'll find her at church."

It took me about 280 church services (over 5 and a half years), but that is exactly how I "found" the girl I will marry. I had met Amy long before the church meeting over last Christmas break, but that meeting was the catalyst that started our relationship. As many of you already may know, a couple weeks ago, I proposed to my girlfriend Amy at her cabin in Idaho and she said yes. We will be getting married in the Draper temple December 29th. I am really happy in this stage of my life, a stage that I had doubts I would ever experience. It's fun to be engaged and to plan the future with someone else that you love. I look forward to and feel very good about the future with my little Blueberry.

Because I don't believe in ending blog posts on cheesy notes, here are some pictures of us that are too awkward to post on facebook, but funny enough that I couldn't stand with a clear conscience before Amy for not publishing them somewhere.

This is us driving across the country. Here, Amy is pretending like she's sleeping and here is me doing a very poor job of focusing on the road.

This is Amy's birthday night. As we were getting ready to begin our Provo Canyon date, we decided to do a picture to resemble high school dance pictures. Did we do a good job?

Here, Amy is looking cute (nothing unusual about that) and I seem to be starting a campfire rap: "Hook a brother up with a peach, yeah!"

Amy insisted on this picture, much to my dismay, but now I'm glad this picture happened. It paints a very real picture of my backyard. The collapsed basketball standard, one of the many motorcycle tires, the peeling white paint, the unkempt patio all contribute greatly to the aesthetics of this photo.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Simple Formula: Good Customer Service = Retention

It's been almost a year since my Bank of America tirade. It's time for me now to give a positive review on a company: T-Mobile.

A few weeks ago, I downsized my phone plan from data to no data. It was in the middle of the month and I was fully expecting T-mobile to charge me the data fee for the entire month. As a loftier thought, I thought T-mobile would prorate the data I used and only charge me for that. The customer service rep said that he wasn't going to charge me at all for any of the data used that month. I was shocked.

In a time when companies are trying to nickel and dime the customers that make their companies possible, this little gesture was a bright spot in my bleak mental imagery of corporate America. I commend T-mobile for doing nice things for customers.

My brother called me up on last Monday trying to get me to switch to a Sprint family plan with him. Even after Weston reassured me that Sprint's network has undoubtedly improved since my experience 4 years ago, I had no desire to change plans. My sense of loyalty towards T-mobile could not be denied.

Monday, May 03, 2010

One reason why I love New England

Sometimes when you really wish you could sleep, you just can't. What to do? Because lying in bed is a waste of time, I will blog about an experience I just had that reinforced why I love living in New England.

I was laying in my bed and the air in the room was pretty warm. As an aside, the temperature today got up to 89 degrees here in New Hampshire and the warm air still lingered in my room. But this wasn't ordinary warm air; it was humid east coast warm air.

I opened the window and relatively cool spring air flowed in. The air was so humid that it felt like there was a certain texture to it. I was then brought back to the couple summers that I lived in Boston.

Have you noticed that memories associated with the non-obvious memory senses (touch, smell) seem to let you relive memories the best? Well, I was very much brought back to when I lived in Boston and the humid warm air was an everyday reality. What an awesome memory.

Now I better get back to trying to sleep. I've got a big final tomorrow.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The General Lee method

Thinking back, I learned some valuable things in college applying to unexpected areas of my life. Here is one such example.

I took a Physics class from a really old professor. The only two things I remember from that class is the professor talking about his grandma and how to solve problems. The professor would always explain solving problems in terms of the Robert E. Lee method and the Ulysses S. Grant method. As you may recall, Robert E. Lee was a very crafty and efficient general who made due with the resources he had. General Grant, on the other hand, was successful in large part because of the advantage in more resources and men. Some physics students, apparently, adhered to the inefficient General Grant approach in solving physics problems.

In another class, computer science, I learned about the same concept under a different name: the brute force technique. The technique involves a non-elegant algorithm that exhaustively iterates over and over until a solution is found. The advantage to this technique is that it's an easy way to approach solving a problem. The downside is that the implementation of the brute force technique is inefficient, drains resources, and can be so much slower in solving the problem. Some students, were a little too eager to jump into tackling the problem without thoroughly planning ahead. And without mapping out the best approach, the code turned brute.

The same dichotomy exists with everything in life. Everything (e.g. school, work, fitness, friendships) can be done efficiently or non-efficiently. Over time and with practice, one can become more efficient at anything. If you have extra time, money, or resources to burn, maybe you can afford the brute force approach. But not me; I always need more time. My name is not Robert E. Lee, but I am becoming Mr. efficiency.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Job Search

My brother Weston was in my opinion my most interesting sibling growing up. He took the most risks, was the most passionate, the most adventuresome, the most interested in other people and the most curious. Growing up, Weston would do the jobs that no one else wanted to do. When someone lost something in our oftentimes cluttered house, Weston would surprise everyone by coming up with the lost item. He eventually earned the title of "Mr. Find-it." He also seemed to enjoy fixing things. Hence the other title of Mr. Fix-it. By praising Weston with such titles, I'll admit that we older siblings might have influenced him to do things in our favor more than we deserved. But Weston was the type of brother that probably wouldn't have even cared.

Weston was also never shy about anything. He would literally do anything, even if everyone else around him thought he was weird. When we were all pretty young, we would watch "Land Before Time" a lot. In the opening scenes of that movie, different sized bubbles flash across the screen. We developed a tradition whenever we'd watch this movie to exaggeratedly say, "Whoaaaa!" whenever the big bubbles would flash across the screen. The bigger the bubbles, the louder we would exclaim "Whoaaa!" This tradition is all fine and good in the house, but in the Scera movie theater it is a different story. As we were sitting in the theater, watching the introductory scenes, the bubbles start flashing across the screen. In a moment when the bubbles were truly huge (with the theater sized screen), Weston could not help himself and literally shouted "Whoaaaaa!" to a very-much silent room full of people. The rest of the audience did not seem to be as equally impressed with the size of the bubbles. Weston would do things without really caring about what others thought of him. If we were at a store and we wanted information about something, but were too shy or hesitant to ask, we would get Weston to do it because he never got embarrassed. After a while, I think he caught on to our tactics and was less willing to go along with our enticements. But after explicitly giving him the title of "the one who never gets embarrassed," it became an honor to live up to such a title for Weston.

When I turned 16, I wanted a job. Our family was poor and I wanted money. My brother Graden and I briefly tried a morning paper route. I enjoyed driving the car (as all 16 year-olds do), but the schedule of waking up so early was awful. I had no idea how to get a regular job. My dream job Target would never get back to me. Other nearby jobs also did not show me any interest. Then, my brother Weston surprised me big-time. He said that he saw one of those trailers on the side of State street with a big Carl's Jr. "Now Hiring" sign. My brother approached the general manager, who was inside the little building, and said that his older brother was looking for a job. (See? The dude truly never got embarrassed. He just did things without thinking twice.) The manager was most likely taken aback by this 11 year-old signing his brother up for an interview. However, after I talked on the phone with the manager and later interviewed with him, I got the job, which turned out to be really good for me.

Now, as I'm finishing up my 2nd year of law school, I'm already feeling anxiety about finding a job. I've had a lot of great jobs since Carl's Jr., and I'm pretty well-qualified in my opinion. You wouldn't think that I would be too concerned about securing good employment, but the economy has never been this bad in all my life. This past year, I have seen so many well-qualified friends and family struggle with finding a job.

Now my graduation date is still a ways away and I'm going to stay optimistic, but I kind of wish Weston was in Boston looking for a job for me.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


It's time to get a little reminiscent. I've now had my blog for three and a half years. I'll have to admit that the main reason I started a blog was to make money. The relationship between traffic and money is pretty direct, especially when you are good at streamlining ads onto your site. But my blog evolved into a means for me to talk about myself, and I don't necessarily want everyone to know about me, even if that means that I must sacrifice making lots of money. Maybe I will generate lots of traffic with another blog (I have already started another blog and it has met relative success). This is not to say that I make no money on this blog. This past year alone, I have made $1.62 from the ads that you see on the right sidebar. Every time someone clicks on one of those ads, it generates smooth cash.

I have discovered some interesting statistics about my blog. The top three most popular posts involve me talking about 1) taking the LSAT, 2) a very buff woman I saw at the gym, and 3) three funny words. It's strange that these would be my most popular posts, but it also makes sense considering that over a quarter of my traffic comes from search engines.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010

D.C. is a great place. But even great things are sometimes not-so-great. Such was the case this weekend with D.C. when Brett and I competed in the JRCLS moot court competition.

The moot court competition was a great experience as can be seen from the picture.

Then mother nature unleashed havoc on the city of D.C. Or the state of D.C., whichever it is. The storm didn't seem that bad while it was happening, but the consistency was the real killer. Some areas got over 30 inches of snow, all in the space of about 24 hours. This was very impressive to me, who is no stranger to cold climes and heavy snow. Getting so much snow would have been fine to me normally, but any plan that we reasonably thought of doing was now undoable (I think I just made up the word undoable). My take-home from this experience is that D.C. is utterly unable to deal with lots of snow. But I heard they were over budget to plow the roads, so I won't talk bad on them too much.

So the trio John, Brett and I made the best of our time by walking to nearby restaurants and watching TV. Does that sound lame to you? It was!

Then we learned of our flight's cancellation. We literally tried everything to get out of town. But after lugging our suitcases all around town, trying to rent a car to drive up to NH, and trying to get ourselves another plane ticket, we were left optionless. A two liter carton of juice I had been carrying pretty much summed up the gravity and desperation of our situation. Even as the juice in my carton was powerless to stop itself from solidifying into solid chunks of water crystals, so too were we at the mercy of our Mother Nature from getting out of that blasted city.

Finally, today (Monday) at 5:30 PM, we lifted off the ground of BWI on a Southwest airline. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. Then after a brief hour flight, we were touching down in New Hampshire, another life-affirming event. You see, here in New Hampshire we live free or we die. This phrase not only refers to freedom from repressive governments or people. Most importantly, New Hampshire's slogan refers to snow. I felt at ease knowing that I was free.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why I'm Happy that Scott Brown Won

I first discovered Scott Brown while watching local news. The last few weeks, I have been blitzkrieged by an outrageous number of commercials. I liked his style, his seeming independence from Washington, and his fresh perspectives. Tonight, Republican Scott Brown very surprisingly defeated Democrat Martha Coakley to replace the late Ted Kennedy. I am happy Brown won because it will improve the quality of our government.

One of the beauties of our government is actually its bureaucratic nature. For reform to happen, it requires compromises from multiple parties and multiple interests. Through these compromises, our government is a better machine as it ensures that the majority of people are happy with its leadership. It makes sure that the majority is not complacent and isn't trampling on the feet of minorities. This past year, I couldn't help but feel like Democrats have wielded their super-majority dominion in a trampling manner.

I am not that old, but I cannot remember another Congress that passed bills with such unanimous opposition. At first I thought it was the Republicans being cute. They had lost big in 2008 and they needed to show their constituents that they were willing to stand up to Obama. But after a year of these unanimous votes taking place, it gives the layperson the impression that Congress is just ramming bills through as fast as they can. For how much Obama talked about the olden days when there was comradery in the House and Senate and how he wished for those days to return, it didn't make sense to me how little the president attempted to reach across the aisle. With so many important issues, I believe that we need at least some inkling of support from the other party. In the alternative, maybe I am just really naive and this is how politics works. But I really cannot remember a time when one party was so unanimously against the other party.

Anyway, Scott Brown is now going to end this year of ramming. I hope that it will encourage more deliberation, more compromises, and better-quality bills. My goal, and maybe this is unrealistic, is to have at least one Republican vote for a bill in regards to issues that are important to all of us: climate change, health care, and financial regulation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jack Bauer and Civil Rights

It is very fitting for me to write about civil rights on MLK day. It is also very fitting for Fox to show the third and fourth episodes of 24's Season 8 today. You may not see the connection between 24 and civil rights, so allow me to explain. You see, we are stuck in an imperfect legal system. Jack Bauer is the solution to our problem.

One of the great paradoxes in the legal system is the dichotomy between accuracy and efficiency. Basically, the paradox is that you can't have both accuracy and efficiency at the same time. Why not? Flawed human beings conduct every aspect of the legal system--from the attorneys to the witnesses to the judge and jury. Teasing out inaccuracies takes time. In general, I think the legal system is improving. Technology has helped increase the accuracy of evidence in the court room. Also, civil rights in our country have improved markedly in the past few decades leading to less sociological inaccuracies. This has resulted in what I would argue is a more efficient and more accurate system. But accuracy and efficiency are still diametrically opposed to each other. We still struggle with an imperfect system of convicting people. I imagine people get wrongfully convicted all the time. You can't have both, . . . [pause for dramatic effect], you can't have both, unless you have Jack Bauer as the judge.

It would be very difficult indeed to watch a version of 24 with Jack Bauer as Mr. Proper Police guy. In fact, not only is it difficult to picture, it would be awkward, and downright annoying to see Jack Bauer go through with the formalities of the legal system to ensure the right person is being convicted. This is because Jack Bauer has that 6th sense. He's got the intuition that is so very accurate. We're OK with him not reciting Miranda rights to the bad guys. Jack can take a hatchet to someone's chest because it's clear they're guilty. With clenched teeth, he can take out a guard's jugular because that's what must be done. We're even OK with Jack approaching the torture line because he knows what's required for the information to come out.

How does this carry over into real life? Jack Bauer is the perfect ideal for combating injustice. As our intuition and knowledge of the real story becomes clear, the inefficiencies and inaccuracies in the legal system fade away. Jack shows us that there really isn't a paradox between accuracy and efficiency. You can have both.

In other news, Lucie is the new A.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Trip to Utah

The title of my blog is "My stories," but I don't really write about that many stories. Instead, I mostly write about my thoughts. But today I thought I'd change it up a little bit and write about a recent trip to Utah.

I left New Hampshire the day of my last final. I learned that it's not a good idea to leave a carry-on box unattended in the airport, unless you want to meet TSA officers and see a dog rummage through box's contents. My flights were good. You've got to love Southwest--a great airline.

Our family had a whole lot of fun together. We didn't play any basketball, in large part because of snow, but we did play the very popular board game Acquire. Rich joined the family, but it was me who won for the first time ever. My key to success: diversify your portfolio, especially early on in the game.

My dad and I had our usual political brawls. I would call them debates, but debates typically involve intent by both parties to exchange well thought-out ideas and good arguments. Our situation centered on my dad telling me that I am a "lib" and explaining why libs are bad. To most people it would be easy for me to demonstrate that I am not liberal, but not to my dad. We thankfully stopped these conversations after the first couple days.

I found out that the BYU law library is better than my library, but because of a certain lack of interest in this observation, I will leave it at that.

I have a niece by the name of Evyline who is about 6 months old. I love that little girl! This may sound weird, but I could stare at that small human being for a long period of time without losing interest.

My sister has a new boy of interest, which created quite the excitement around the house. I love the preliminary stages of a relationship because you don't know what the other person is thinking and it's kind of mysterious. But you don't always have to be in one of these situations to feel the excitement. Sometimes you can be an older brother. My role included consultant, editor and interpreter of texts, and wing-date. All in all, it was quality entertainment. I feel like I'm a good source of wisdom because I have a decent sense into what guys prefer in a girl. Obviously my advice only goes so far because the things that I care about are not the things that my sister's man will necessarily care about. But there are some things that are universal. I wish I would have had a reliable source, who had blazed the trail before me a little bit, willing to show me the ropes. Being the oldest, I could only really ask for advice down, which is not the most effective way to figure life out.

My sister tried to set me up with people. At first, I wasn't in the mood to meet new people. But I became more social by the end of my trip. I met a girl in SLC who turned out to be super cool. If only she shared in my passion of the internet. I met another girl in my neck of the woods. She is great. It turns out that she actually knows some of my family. This girl's pseudo name is hereby A. I just realized that I use the term "girl" very loosely. You may be thinking that once a girl reaches maturity, she becomes a women, right? But I think the term "woman" sounds too sophisticated for me. If you're reading this blog in 15 years, and I'm still on the lookout for Ms. Right, maybe then I'll refer to my prospects as women, but for now I will refer to them as girls. But back to my story about A, she is finishing up her undergrad, and preparing to continue her education, much like I am. I just wish I was continuing my education a little closer to home.

Now on to some of my thoughts. First, allow me to introduce you to my friend Denise. Denise doesn't know I have a blog and I am uncertain that I will ever see her again in my life, so I feel comfortable in writing very freely about the following section.

Denise and I worked together at the Brick Oven the summer before my senior year of college (2006). It's hard to believe that was 3.5 years ago. It was Denise who first brought the name Trenton into the mainstream. We were good friends back then and the wonderful thing about good friends is that you can pick up where you left off regardless of how much time it's been. She called me in a famished state, so we went to dinner, believe it or not, at the BO. I wasn't hungry so I just came along for the ride. My favorite quote of the night came from Denise when she explained of her struggle to make friends in her last couple weeks in Provo. She analyzed that in such a short space of time, "girls require too much effort and guys always have ulterior motives." Haha.

Midway through the evening, I asked her how she's changed since we knew each other. I thought it was an interesting question because I was sure in three and a half years, we had both changed in a lot of ways. But I realized after I posed the question that I did not really anticipate an answer. Deep down, I thought that she had remained the same person and I knew that there was no short answer she could give me to tell me how she's changed. I can't even remember what she said in response, but later that night, she answered my question.

A lot of times we use the term "cool" to describe someone. I don't know exactly what being cool entails, but it probably means possessing traits that others find exciting, interesting, or otherwise admirable. I would consider myself pretty cool, but I haven't invested that much in my "cool" stock recently. Don't get me wrong, I have definitely invested a lot in myself in the last few years, but not in the types of things that you could show off at a party. Denise, on the other hand, had, and it seemed to be paying off for her. She played me popular songs on the guitar, sang with the most beautiful voice, and was otherwise very interesting. If I were ever (in the pinnacle of my coolness) ahead of Denise on the cool scale, it became apparent to me that night that Denise had surpassed me, and I was happy for her.

I have a lot of take-home messages from my trip to Utah:

When trying to evade a political discussion, do not try and change the subject in an obvious manner. You've got to use subtlety.
The Christmas spirit is about giving, unless you don't have any money.
It's a good thing to make sure your kitchen is clean before inviting others over.
Stereotyping is easy, but not very inaccurate. Maybe you don't really know someone as well as you think you do.
Life goes by really fast and there is a lot that you can do to increase your cool ranking. But if you want to invest your time in other non-cool things, that's OK too.