Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Progress Report and Real Brain Food

Last night I was up rather late working on a progress report that I had to present to my "Rhetoric and the Poetics" class. As the clock hit 12 I decided I was hungry for cold cereal. Realizing that I had neither milk nor Honey Nut Cheerios, I decided to make a Smiths run.

My mind was obviously still preoccupied with the paper I was writing as opposed to the task of obtaining sustenance, because as I walked out of the store this is what I had in my hands:

1 gallon of milk
1/2 gallon of orange juice
4 avocados
2 sticks of deodorant
1 giant tube of pixi stix

That's right, no Honey Nut Cheerios. I don't know how or why I decided against my original intentions, but for some reason the cosmos had directed me otherwise.

I got home with my purchases, and before I had even made it back down to my room from the kitchen, I had swallowed 3 large mouthfuls of pixi stix, taken several swigs of orange juice and was working on an avocado. I got to my room, finished off my avocado, took another couple swigs of oj and got back to work on my paper. And that's the last I remember of last night.

This morning at around 8:30 I jerked awake as "Take Five" played loudly from my phone which doubles as my alarm clock. In jerking awake, pixi stix was strewn across my bedroom as I instinctively waved the tube clutched in my right hand like a magic wand. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes to try and make sense of my surroundings, I found myself on the floor. In my immediate vicinity I saw my laptop, four empty avocado peel halves, a half-empty carton of orange juice and my space heater casting an eerie orange glow about the room. As I sleepily pieced together what I was doing there, I realized that I must have fallen asleep while writing my progress report. And I was immediately filled with panic.

I tapped the keyboard of my laptop impatiently waiting for it too to wake up. As the screen lit up I looked at my progress report and found that while I'd gotten quite a bit of it done, I'd fallen asleep before finishing it off. I didn't have much time to before class started, so I grabbed the oj, took several long draws and got back to work. I wrapped it up and made it to class nearly on time.

As class went on around me I read over my progress report to see if I was going to embarrass myself when I presented it to the class. In reading it I thought I had done a fairly good job, but the added pressure of having to present/read it to the class made me self-conscious that I'd totally misread the text I was responding to. After all, this paper was fueled on orange juice, avocados and flavored sugar. That sounded more like a recipe for a stomachache rather than sound scholarship.

Eventually the class turned to look at me as I handed out copies of my progress report and proceeded to read it aloud. It actually didn't sound too bad out loud, and the conversation that ensued after I had read it didn't seem to contradict anything I'd said. So far so good, but I still wasn't quite sure it was good enough. I still had to email it to Greg, my professor, and have him look over it.

Now Greg is notoriously thorough when he reviews our work. He's the thesis chair for one of my friends and she is currently very stressed about her thesis because the revisions that he is suggesting she do are going to require a lot more work than she had anticipated. She's easily one of the brighter students in the program, and working with Greg has caused her to say such things as "sometimes I wonder how I ever even got into graduate school...what the heck am I doing here?" and "I fear I am an idiot and everyone's been hiding it from me." Thankfully Greg allows and encourages (read that "requires") revisions of all work that isn't up to snuff, even short progress report essays. This is the second class I've taken from Greg while in graduate school, and this is the fifth progress report I've written for him. Never have I done a good enough job on the first try and have always had to revise. I say these things not to complain, revision always helps me learn more and sharpen the knowledge that I'm gaining, but rather to illustrate the fact that Greg is a very rigorous grader and that no matter how good my class presentation went, that was no indication of what Greg's personal response to my paper would be.

This afternoon as I woke up from my nap on the 4th floor of the JFSB (incidentally, I had been sleeping in the very same chair I was in when the incidents surrounding the famous "onyx eyes" poem occurred), I opened my laptop and saw in my inbox that Greg had returned my progress report. Assuming that such swift response meant revision, I opened the document and found after a few minor grammar and usage corrections the following words:

"Nicely done, Sam. A"

A. No revision necessary. I attribute it to the pixi stix, avocados and oj.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Last Night's Game

Last week when BYU lost to Loyola Marymount I drafted but didn't publish a blog post talking about my love of BYU sports and how I try to not get so wound up in the flow of athletic competition that my emotional well-being is determined by the outcome of the game I'm watching. It's something that I've been trying to get under control for a couple years now, and while I'm not perfectly capable of always keeping things in perspective and I do get frustrated occasionally, I'm doing a lot better. The Loyola Marymount game caused one of those thankfully rare occasions of frustration. For whatever reason I didn't post that little bit of writing. But last night as I watched St. Mary's dismantle my beloved Cougars I found myself frustrated anew, but for a very different reason.

I've been to a lot of BYU games in the now going on 6 years that I've been here. I've been there for some great triumphs and some heart-wrenching defeats. I've seen some bad officiating and bad sportsmanship on the part of the fans on several occasions (Wake Forest '09 comes immediately to mind), but I've never been quite so disgusted with fan behavior as I was last night.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about a good boo every now and then, and I'm not above a little taunting of both opposing teams and referees. I booed last night at the first few perceived bad calls from the refs and found the chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A." every time St. Marys' Australian point guard came to the line rather funny. But as the game progressed the fans just got worse and worse. With every little thing the refs did everyone was booing and yelling fit to wake the dead. It wasn't so much the booing and yelling that bothered me, but rather the malice and hatred for the refs that did it. It seemed like people were more intent on vilifying the refs than they were on watching and enjoying the game. By focusing so single-mindedly on the officiating, the game was made much more difficult to enjoy for all involved I'm sure. Granted I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it much anyway considering the fact that BYU couldn't hit a 3 if their lives depended on it, but as the game came to a close with a rousing chant of "Worst Refs Ever," I felt sick and admittedly somewhat ashamed to be associated with the BYU student body. I wasn't ashamed to be BYU fan, just ashamed to be a part of the disgusting display that was our student section last night.

Now I realize that I'm painting with overly broad strokes here and that not everyone was so riled up and angry, but fan bases are often referred to, in basketball, as the 6th man. Five men on the floor, the sixth a collective body in the stands. By that logic I'm really not being too dramatic or unfair to lump us all together in this way, myself included.

After a technical foul was called on the crowd and the end result was 5 points for the Gaels, I took a step back and consciously decided that the outcome of the game wasn't going to determine my outlook on life. By making that decision to try and emotionally detach myself from the game I was able to watch the game a little bit differently, and what I saw rather surprised me.

Yes, the refs were bad. Really bad. I'm not sure I'd call them the worst ever, but they were bad. That said, they were equally bad going both ways. They were equally inconsistent on what they did and didn't consider a foul, blind to traveling violations on both ends of the floor, and seemingly unable (or incapable) of figuring out who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. But like I said, the refs made as many bad calls that went against St. Mary's as they did those aimed at BYU. So if the refs were equally bad at officiating on both ends of the court, why was everyone so angry?

I'll tell you why. Because BYU wasn't playing well. They looked hurried and out of sync the whole game. They couldn't hit a shot from outside if their eternal salvation was hanging in the balance, and all the while St. Mary's went about the business of winning the game. That aspect of the game was, admittedly, very frustrating. But rather than being frustrated with our team and coping as best we could, as a body of fans we took out our ire on the refs. The whole atmosphere in the Marriott Center was sickeningly negative. Even as the boys in blue made a push to make the game competitive the air of negativity wouldn't go away.

I've always loved college basketball, especially BYU basketball, for the emotional ride it puts you through. But usually, at least in Provo, it's clean, good-spirited fun that rides the wave of competition. Last night it was as if everyone's collective mothers, girl/boyfriends and dogs were being insulted with every tweet of the ref's whistle. I shudder to think what might have happened if BYU weren't a stone-cold sober university.

Frankly, I don't care how bad the officiating was. From where I'm standing, there's no call for that kind of behavior ever at a sporting contest. Ever.

All in all, it was a disillusioning night for Cougar basketball, and I hope it's never repeated.

Monday, January 2, 2012


This is Paddington. He's my teddy bear. Yes, he is named after the beloved children's books. If he looks a little bit ratty that's because he's 25 years old.

Whenever I go home to Bluffdale I sleep with Paddington. I got Paddington the Christmas after I was born and have slept with him ever since, with the obvious exception of being on a mission in Ecuador and living in Provo while going to school.

Over the past two weeks I've realized anew how wonderful it is to sleep with Paddington, and I'm a little bit worried that I'll have a hard time adjusting to sleeping without him when I go back to Provo. Kind of like how it took some adjusting when I went into the MTC. But there are greater tragedies and I'm sure I'll get on with life.

Some people might be ashamed to admit such things, but I'm not one of them. I'm proud of the fact that I sleep with my teddy bear. Maybe my doing so illustrates immaturity and juvenile behavior unfitting someone my age and station in life, but I disagree. I think that being able to accept one's true identity for what it is shows remarkable maturity, even if said identity includes sleeping with a teddy bear that you've had your whole life.

And if you disagree with me on that point, well then my dad can beat up your dad, so there.