Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Please, Woman at the Wendy's

On Saturday, Nick and I were in a real rush. I was trying to get to the Provo Library to meet a friend and see Markus Zusak speak. It happened to be dinner time, so we turned in to the hasty and tasty Wendy's drive-thru.

In front of us, there was a woman leaning out the window of a big van, ordering loudly. Through our open window, we heard her say, "How long would it take to get fries without salt?"

Please, I futilely begged. Please don't take 80 years to order.

It's a drive-thru. Not the place for specialty orders like fries without salt! What should have taken 30 seconds to 1 minute took this woman probably 7 or 8 minutes, while my hope of being on time melted like a neglected Frosty. The best part was when she tacked on, "Oh, and a courtesy water--two courtesy waters" at the end of her lengthy order.

No, the best part was really when we were finally making our order and Nick simpered, "And two courtesy waters," and we shared a salty laugh with the drive-thru guy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg

After watching The Social Network, I got pretty curious about the real Mark Zuckerberg. So I watched a couple interviews with him, and thought he seemed rad. When I heard that he was coming to speak at BYU, I was incredibly excited, more than I would have expected myself to be. And even though I was one of 10, 693 people watching him speak, I really felt like I had a friendly exchange with the man of 600 million friends.

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for starting Facebook. But more so, thank you for being so real and charming.

Here's a taste of Mark.

Rachel, Luke and I arrived early, around 9:40, to get sweet seats. They were playing the Tron:Legacy soundtrack, which was appropriate for a technology forum, I suppose! As Mark (wearing a hoodie and jeans) walked in to a standing ovation around 11:00, my first impression of him was that he looked really nervous. Super nervous. And come to find out, this was the first time he's ever spoken at a university. He even admitted that he was nervous, since he had never spoken to a stadium full of people before. And that was when I knew:

Mark Zuckerberg--entrepreneur, celebrity, billionaire-- is a real person.

Sen. Hatch, who invited Mark and was there to pose questions to him (and attract young voters...) was kind of awkward starting the forum, and tried to jump into the Q&A straight off. But Mark deferred answering to thank everyone for coming and to introduce the three BYU alumni Facebook staff that he'd brought with him. Those two acts set the tone for the entire forum, I believe. Mark did not display a byte of egoism or even pride. As he and Sen. Hatch got into the groove of the forum, Mark was confident and pleasant. He smiled and talked with his hands. He made it feel like we were all sitting in some sort of giant coffee shop (though he'd be the only one drinking coffee in this setting...).

I noticed two things about the manner in which he spoke. First, nothing he said sounded scripted at all, but he had remarkably clear speech. I could hardly notice any likes, ums, hmms, or stalling. It made me want to improve the way I speak, to be honest. Second, he predominantly used the pronoun "we" instead of "I." Doing a search in the transcript, you can even see that he used "we" more. He expressed, “One thing that gets blown out of proportion in our culture is the emphasis on the single person or the couple of people who are running something. A lot of people might know who I am, but the success of Facebook is really all about the team that we built."

Now, that's a nice sentiment, and I think you might hear a lot of CEOs say something like that. However, Mark's use of inclusive pronouns demonstrates that he really believes it. His most prominent mindset is clearly not "Look at what I've done," but "We are working really hard to achieve something." He surely has every right to be a cocky jerk, but instead, he's someone I wish I could be friends with.

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, for letting us see your real face.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Please, Makers of Ambiguous Bugs

For Christmas, I received a daily Bananagrams game calendar. There are somewhat fun little word puzzles to solve every day. Nick and I have been far from following it religiously, but what really killed the calendar was this: A puzzle wherein you were supposed to add an E and rearrange groups of letters to form the name of an insect. Insect. One group of letters was:


Please. Please, oh please, couldn't this be better?

Subconsciously, I think a lot of people lob everything creepy crawly into the catchall category of "bug." And soon "insect" becomes synonomous with bug. While this is obnoxious enough in things geared toward adults, ambiguous bugs are ubiquitous in things for babies and kids. It just so happens that this is where am-bug-uity does the most damage, since babies and kids are forming their ideas about this big ole world and the things in it. Let's examine some problem items I've found in my home, starting with the alleged snails and caterpillars on this receiving blanket from Carter's:
The snails. They have no tentacles/eye stalks. Instead, their eyes are on their little "face." Here's another incorrect snail, this one lovingly embroidered onto a sleeper. The eye stalks appear to be like insect antennae, while the eye is down on the "face." Don't ask why the snail is so huge in proportion to the sliced-in-half crocodile. There are very big snails in the world, but I doubt the designers at First Moments were striving to expose parents to fantastically large African gastropods.

And just for kicks, how 'bout one more? Here's a Picasso style snail that hangs from Luke's Fisher-Price bouncy chair. Observe the lack of tentacles and the two eyes on one side of the face. Not to mention that insipid smile--bleh!

Let's move on to the caterpillars. Check out all those legs! Working at the Bean Life Science Museum, it came to my attention that many kids and many adults believe caterpillars have lots of legs, a la centipedes and millipedes. And when you see all the nubs on a caterpillar, you might think they are legs. But being insects, caterpillars only have six true legs. The rest are prolegs that disappear during pupation.

Come on, Linda, you're saying. These are just stylized bugs for baby stuff. Does it really matter? Yes, it does matter! Kids don't need to grow up with all these crazy mixed up bugs! 95% of all animal species are invertebrates. This includes our molluscan snail friends and all our buddies in Arthropoda. Shouldn't people know enough about this vast majority of animals that they get the body parts correct? You don't see lion stuffed animals with six legs. It's possible to be stylized and anatomically correct:
This Very Hungry Caterpillar stuffed animal (from the classic Eric Carle book) has six legs and two antennae, which Luke is happily chowing down on. And it is one of the most recognizable, stylized, and charming bug characters out there! And let's do a close-up of Luke's shirt for some more good-lookin' bugs:
This little bodysuit has grasshoppers, a couple different kinds of beetles, ants, and dragonflies. Almost all of these insects are anatomically correct and dang cute! The dragonflies just need some antennae and legs, poor things. It's like they're all amputees, victims of some vindictive kid.

To finish up, let's look at the very worst bugs I could find:
Insectile head, four limbs? On a ring? Learning Curve, your toy has kids learning lies. I dunno, maybe homeboy bug was injured by a cannonball and also lost two limbs. And the Bouncy Bee, a supposedly "classic" Fisher-Price toy. I don't know what's bouncy about it. It's just a pull-toy. A pull-toy with incredibly creepy humanoid eyes that call to mind the muttations that attack Peeta, Katniss, and Cato when they're on the cornucopia. And I also appreciate the pink tumors on the sides of the face.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thank you, Board Game Revolution

Ohhhhh board games. How do I love thee?

In very specific ways, actually. Nick and I love board games, and we have a decent collection. However, there are some things we don't enjoy...

Like games that can go on forever and ever, like Monopoly. We like when games have a definite end, like how Ticket to Ride is over when you run out of trains, or Last Night on Earth has a turn counter and then if you haven't killed enough zombies by then, well, say good-bye to your brains and spleen.

Like games that are way too involved and specific, like Settlers of Catan. We like games to have a fairly focused objective, though there may be complex ways to achieve that objective.

Like games that let you fall behind and then feel impotent and frustrated while everyone else gleefully plows ahead toward victory, like Phase 10. To us, the purpose of games is for everyone to have fun and for at least some degree of friendly competition. Not for some people involved in the game to take a vengeful pleasure in the failure of others.

These may seem like narrow criteria, but there are a lot of board games out there. You can waste a lot of time and money with a new game if you don't have some idea of what you actually enjoy. An evening meant to be fun for all can quickly become rage for all if you've got the wrong game, you know?

What's a couple to do, when you're tired of your tried and true board game options but don't want to shell out 25 to 60 bones for a new game?

Here in Utah Valley, go to Board Game Revolution!
Board Game Revolution!

At this genius store, you can rent board games. They charge 10% of the retail price of the game, and you get the game for around 7-10 days. So for a pittance, you can try out great new board games!

But doesn't it end up being a waste of time for someone with well-defined board game aesthetics? How do you sift through the many games they have to rent?

What really makes Board Game Revolution exemplary is that their staff is so well-informed. Each time we rent, we get a game solely on the recommendation of a BGR employee. We give a quick run-down of our philosophy, and they always find a good game for us.

We've enjoyed every game we've rented from there. Since late in my pregnancy (when I wanted nothing more than to stay in and relax with my big ole belly), to now (when it's much easier to be at someone's house than out and about with little Luke), Board Game Revolution has provided some fabulously fun evenings.

So, thank you, Board Game Revolution!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thank You, H&M

H&M--just fabulous.

It's an appropriate time to thank H&M, considering that the only redeeming part of Nick's trip to Michigan last weekend was his joyful shopping spree at the Ann Arbor store. Also, last week we had a magical reunion with Luke's crushingly adorable bear hat from H&M that we thought was lost forever. So what if it's been getting rained and snowed on in our driveway for 3 months? A trip through the washing machine made it good as new.

Thank you, H&M, for clothing my entire little family. Nick is a tall, slim man. As he would say, he likes his clothes to be "slick." Especially when it comes to dress shirts and pants, he often struggles to find things that are not unnecessarily billowy. We often joke that most American men's dress pants look as voluminous as those sported by Disney's Aladdin. There's sometimes good options at Express Men's, but let's be honest, we're on a student budget. You, H&M, provide affordable clothes for Nick that could not double as an emergency parachute should my sweet husband be suddenly thrown out of a plane.

I have enjoyed wearing your clothes since my junior year of HS, when our choir trip was to Chicago. I was amazed at how reasonably priced and flattering your clothes were. Just this past year, I found myself scouring nearly every H&M in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for maternity clothes. Why? Because I happen to like clothes that are cool and look good on me (who doesn't?), yet found it extremely difficult to find suitable maternity options. Target has maternity, but during the summer most of them were rather see-through or sleeveless. Motherhood Maternity is exorbitantly expensive, as is Pea in the Pod--plus, a lot of their clothes are frumpy, frankly. There was so much variety in your maternity clothes. I got dresses, shorts, button-down shirts, t-shirts, under-shirts. And I didn't have to take out a loan to clothe myself while I had my little bun in the oven.

In fact, because of how much H&M I wore during pregnancy, you could say that my son Luke has been wearing H&M since before he was born! He's certainly been wearing it after he was born. Your kid's clothes are the cutest I've seen, as well as the most fairly priced. Our favorite buys were Luke's bear hat and his tuxedo bodysuit, complete with a little bow tie and tails. The little tux was only $10. TEN DOLLARS. At any department store, it would have been minimum 30 bones, if not 45 or 50. Every time Luke is rockin' duds from H&M, we get compliments on his clothes and questions on where we get them.

But my biggest reason for thanking you, H&M, is that you subtly send the message that it's cool to be a young family. Over the holidays, there were fabulous images in your store of truly stylish young moms with their daughters. And that's when it hit me that you really do offer clothes for entire families--and for my entire family.

I'll end with an anecdote. While doing holiday shopping, Luke was having a really hard time. I needed to nurse him, but there weren't a lot of options in the crowded mall. I asked an H&M employee if I could nurse my baby in a dressing room, and he immediately and happily said yes. There was no hesitation, and no hint of  "Uhhh, I think it's really awkward that this woman wants to breastfeed her baby outside of her home," which you sadly sometimes get here in America. I was so grateful for a quiet place to nurse and soothe my little one.

So, thank you, H&M!

As a little plus, here's some great images from my photographer sister:

H&M maternity shorts

H&M baby tuxedo bodysuit