Saturday, September 29, 2012

Watch this!

Leonardo Da Vinci
I mean, come on. The guy was a GENIUS. You know how he wrote backwards? He actually didn't do that on purpose at first...he was dyslexic, and since he was an illegitimate child, he didn't have access to the education that would teach him otherwise. So in teaching himself to write, he wrote backwards.

Cracking the Color Code
I mentioned this documentary in passing once, but it deserves its own blurb. This fascinating documentary discusses how the brain and the eyes work to see color, the evolutionary and biological reasoning behind the ability to see color, how color is created, and what colors mean from a psychological standpoint.

The Secret Life of the Brain
Man, neuroscience is awesome. I cannot wait for science to figure out more about how this hunk of gray and white matter works. In the meantime, here's almost everything we know about the human brain in layman's terms in four and a half hours. The documentary discusses the human brain through five main stages: babyhood, childhood, teenage years, adult years, and elderly years.

Biology of Dads
Did you know that when a man becomes a father, his testosterone levels drop dramatically? A new dad has less testosterone in the first few months of his baby's life than he did before puberty. It's biology's way of protecting a newborn from the manly and possibly violent urges of men. This documentary covers some soft and hard science regarding the role of fathers in children's lives.

The Human Face
First of all, who wouldn't want to watch a documentary hosted by John Cleese? This four-part documentary covers some of the fascinating psychology and biology of human faces, including the nature of fame and recognition, the nature of "beauty," and how the face can be used to communicate (or lie). 

Secrets of Body Language
We've all heard that communication is way more nonverbal than verbal. Everything from posture to the "microexpressions" our faces make communicate something. This brief documentary addresses all the ways we can communicate without words and analyzes how famous historical figures used body language to their advantage, or disadvantage. 

* On an unrelated note, anyone else think that the guy to the left of the television in that picture up there looks like Lee Harvey Oswald?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things Student Teaching Will Teach You

I've been doing my student teaching for a little over a month now, and I love it. I won't talk much about it here--respecting student privacy and all that--but there are a few key things I've learned that are worth sharing. 

1. Professional clothes take a little getting used to. If you're usually a jeans/t-shirt/cardigan type, like me.
2. You really do have to give instructions like, three times.
3. The ancient Romans were SERIOUSLY messed up people. I mean, brilliant, but...bloody.
4. Your bladder is stronger than you think.

Several readers and family members have asked if I could share some of my experiences as a student teacher here on this blog, similar to the way I shared experiences as a Primary teacher. The sad answer is "no." In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have even posted the Primary kid stories without the permission of their parents. But I wasn't in a legally binding situation then. As a student teacher in a public school, I'm legally obligated and under contract (both with the school district and with BYU-Idaho) to respect student privacy, and by sharing stories in a public forum like this blog, I would be putting my teaching certification at risk. But even legal obligations aside, I'm becoming more and more aware of the power of the internet, and am becoming more careful about what I choose to publish. I've come to respect each of the students I work with enough to not want to publish stories about them. I am keeping a private journal of my experiences, so they are recorded, but sharing them in this forum is something I'll be avoiding.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Things I don't understand about Pinterest

Don't get me wrong, I love Pinterest. I spent years resisting it, certain it would be a black hole for my time. (I also have an unreasonable need to go against the crowd, so that was part of my resistance too.) But I finally gave in and got an account, and I was partly right. It IS a black hole for my time, but that black hole actually has a wormhole in it that leads to another dimension that's full of creativity and awesomeness!

But there are things on and about Pinterest that I just don't get.

#1. The constant tutorials for elaborate nail art. 

Exhibit A:

Pretty snazzy. But...who the heck has TIME?! Furthermore, even if you DID have the time, wouldn't you be CONSTANTLY worried about messing your nails up? Especially after spending, what, seven hours on them? And, who would REALLY see them? If your nails are complementing your outfit somehow, if someone is far enough away to see your whole outfit, they sure won't see the details on your nails.

#2. The constant note to "Pin now, read later." 

Because A) isn't that what everyone does ANYWAY? Does anyone really NOT pin something because they don't want to read it RIGHT NOW? B) This seems like a "selling point" on your pins. Which doesn't make ANY sense because you won't make money or anything if more people pin your pins. And if you DO make money on your pins, like, if it directs you to your blog or something, why are you telling people to NOT read it right now? C) If I am going to read the pin right now, what's it to you? Are you trying to do me a favor by telling me when to read this pin?

#3. The fact that things like this get perpetuated: 

What? What? FIRST OF ALL, the fact that the trite saying keeps getting attributed to Shakespeare is alone reason enough for dismay and confusion. But the smug "Yes, it is by Shakespeare, it's from Hamlet" is even worse. In a snarky reply to the above comments, someone added a line that IS from Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2: "But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading." *sigh*

Okay. Back to pinning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things Found in Books

Short post today. 

I love "found things." Scraps of paper intrigue me. The other day I found a note tucked into one of my own books, speculating on what would happen if birds slept around more. (Which is a really good question, although I don't know how much birds actually sleep around already.) Other things found in books lately:

A pedigree chart for Adolf Hitler (in a book of monologues)
Pro-wrestler trading cards (in a book of trivial knowledge)
Business card for an "Erotic Party" consultant (in a copy of "The Dogs of Babel")

Glorious fabulous realities. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Past lists

Found these two lists in the backlog of drafts. Thought they were worth sharing. 

Winter 2012 highlights
Listening to music and painting during scene painting class.
Giggling with the cast of Enchanted April when things went wrong.
Jamming with Dave and Jacob and sometimes Camilla.
Playing with baby Kaitlynn in the mornings, and her joy at eating.
Talking with Kyrie, Camilla, and Dave for hours over Olive Garden one Saturday night.
Laying in bed with Jacob and watching the Beatles Anthology during the weekends.
Running around at the Dry Farms in the moonlight and the snow, freezing our butts off and falling over every few seconds.
Sitting on the roof outside our bedroom window the few times it was warm enough.
Cuddling with Jacob on lazy Sunday mornings before church. 
The fact that it wasn't super snowy miserable all semester. 

San Francisco August 2012 Trip highlights
Five hours in a science museum with Jacob.
Talking genealogy with Opa and Oma, sifting through records and learning German vocabulary.
Everyone reading together in the living room in Fremont.
Watching Jacob eat the best mango curry he's ever had in San Francisco.
Family get-togethers with hot dogs, rolls, German talking and laughing.
Pic-nic-ing on a river and wading in the water.
Riding a motorboat really fast, pretending to be Harry Potter riding Buckbeak over the lake at Hogwarts.
Naps in our little attic bedroom in a cabin at Lake Tahoe, listening to the rain on the tin roof.
Stargazing with Jacob on the lawn of the Lake Tahoe cabin, talking about books and watching bats fly over.
Scattergories in the evening with parents and grandparents.
Rafting a river, which included getting marooned on a rock under a bridge (and un-marooning ourselves), and being randomly applauded by a small group of people on the shore for having an umbrella.
German tempers. Enough said. (Occasionally exacerbated by hearing loss.)
Walking with Jacob through pinewood neighborhoods of charming cabins and imagining our futures.
Nearly dying of chocolate-covered raisin overdose.
Listening to Steely Dan with Mom, Ray and Jacob as we drove around Emerald Bay.

Good times. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three conversations

Reasons to love being a Whittaker. These chat conversations happened during a group Skype on Saturday:

Talking about how dad raised us well, to not feel limited by our gender:

 Talking about a woman who approached Isha at church about her feminist views:
And my favorite; talking about camel ride excursions from cruise ships: 

I like being a Chapman, but I'm glad I was raised a Whittaker.

Friday, September 14, 2012

December itinerary

photo via

No Christmas presents necessary this year. This will do me just fine.

(Now please bless that things will calm down in the Middle East and North Africa. These are some pretty incredible treasures.) 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

26 things: Report

Now that my birthday has passed, it's time to report on my "26 Goals While 26"! On my 27th birthday, 2 goals were retired, 16 were accomplished, 2 were in progress, 6 had yet to be done. Not bad!

1. Personal goal. (Sorry, readers, you don't get in on this one.)
Didn't make it. But we will!

2. Attend a Parson Red Heads show.
Retired. The opportunity just didn't present itself. We were even in Portland! But they weren't playing. It's still a goal, though!

3. Read 26 new books. (Plays, poetry collections and short story collections count if I read the whole thing, cover to cover) 
DONE - Last book finished on Tuesday, May 8th! (I'm going to keep reading books, of course. Check out which ones on goodreads if you're interested. Just click on "reading!" up at the top)

4. Hike Inspiration Point at Jenny Lake.
Never made it!

5. Learn to cook 5 new things (dinner things). 
Completed July 1st. This one has helped me discover that I actually like cooking! When I know what I'm making ahead of time, and have some time, I really like cooking.

6. Finish the current volume of my journal, with more than just notes from Church. 
Final entry written on Saturday, January 29th, 2012. On to Volume #18!

7. Go through the temple for 5 family names.
In progress - 1 out of 5 I'm going to keep working on this one.

8. Learn to ride a motorcycle bigger than 110 cc’s. 
May 19th - 20th: Took the Idaho motorcycle safety course. Learned on a Suzuki GZ 250.

9. Finish writing the first draft of the “Kirby Novel.” 
At 10:17 pm on Monday, November 28th. There's still so much to do that it doesn't feel done, but I'm thrilled to have at least a complete draft!

10. Anonymously pay for a stranger's meal. 
September 5th. I did this at a drive-through! This is cool because it also coincided with my friend Carrie's birthday. She's the one who came up with the "26 Things to Do While 26" thing anyway, and for her birthday, she asked that people do random acts of kindness. Bam.

11. Get a 3.4 GPA each semester. 
Fall semester 2011 - 4.0
Winter semester 2012 - 3.9 (Including an A- in Hyrum Conrad's Directing I class!)

12. Give someone a copy of the Book of Mormon. 
August. This was part of a group effort, and it was awesome.

13. Sleep under the stars.
 I guess you're technically ALWAYS sleeping underneath the stars, but I had intended to do so without a roof in between me and them. Oh well.

14. Travel to someplace I've NEVER been before. 
Weekend of April 14th - 16th, 2012. I'm counting Cannon Beach, Oregon. Because while I've been to Oregon, including the coast, I'm 99.9% sure I've never been to Cannon Beach itself. And I'm not made of money, you know.

15. Go sledding.
RETIRED. There was never a combination of enough snow and time to accomplish this. (Remember this?) Which is AWESOME. This goal had to do with making the most of my least favorite season, but I didn't even have to! Oh global warming, how I love you. (Not really.)

16. Bake a pumpkin pie. 
I've modified this one. Maybe I'll actually make a pumpkin pie someday, but in the meantime, on Sunday, March 25th, I made a apple pie. And it was really good. So I'm counting it.

17. Complete the scrapbook for the trip to Germany my family made in high school. 
Done! As of December 17th, around 10 pm. Just in time for Christmas!

18. Finish the New York City travel diary.
Yeah, that might not get done. Maybe ever.

19. Learn Hindi basics. (I might modify this one...I've been focusing on ASL lately...)
I actually don't really know much more Hindi OR ASL than I did a year ago.

20. Read 5 Shakespeare plays I haven't read before.
In progress - 1 out of 5 Twelfth Night

21. Go horseback riding. 
Friday, Sept. 30th, through the BYU-I Outdoor Resource Center. Sunset ride through Harriman State Park, coming back under the stars and listening to elk call all around.

22. Sew a skirt or dress for myself. 
Ah, heck, I'll count this. I didn't sew a skirt or a dress. But I did modify like, three shirts, and sewed some curtains and some slipcovers for couch cushions.

23. Build an online acting resume. 
Done! As of Friday, May 18th. Check it out.

24. Ride the carousel at Porter Park. 
Wednesday, June 13th. Twice in one day! With Beckah once, and then again with Beckah AND Jacob.

25. Run a mile in under 15 minutes.
I think I might have done this, but I didn't actually time it. I ran/walked a 5K in 25 minutes, so...

26. Make a painting. 
I think this counts. This is my final for scene painting. It's a little rough, but from 30 feet away, it works. And I did it in two and a half hours.

So, this was awesome. I like having goals and I like correlating them with my birthday rather than with the new year. But I found that 26 is a few too many goals to realistically tackle in one year. I love the idea of it, but it also means that I'll have to keep adding goals each year forever. And I don't want to give myself quite so many things to accomplish in one year. So I've decided to modify it and do 15 things each year. As for the goals while I'm 27? Check it out: 

1. Do an street art installation of some kind. Rules: Must be impermanent! No damage to property allowed.
2. Self-publish a book of poetry and sell it (online, local stores, etc.).
3. Complete the T-shirt quilt project that's been languishing in various closets for over ten years.
4. Become a certified secondary school teacher and receive my Bachelor's degree. (which is totally in progress--I love student teaching!)
5. Eliminate red meat from my diet (uuggghhh...I love it so much! I don't even eat that much! Oh, this is going to be hard.)
6. Eliminate the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags (shopping = reusable canvas, trash = biodegradable).
7. Learn to juggle. (Shout-out to Carrie Chapman!)
8. Travel to a place I've never been before, and be cool about it. (Sometimes I suck at traveling...I get stressed out. I want to live life more stress-free anyway!)
9. Do yoga outdoors.
10. Build a bookcase. A sturdy one. One that shall stand for many years. But also be affordable and easily rearranged and transported.
11. Go on a hike. (I didn't hike AT ALL this past year! How silly!)
12. Attend a Parson Redheads show.
13. Do the temple work for at least 5 family names.
14. Complete reading the entire Book of Mormon with Jacob.
15. Go on a spontaneous road trip.

Let it begin. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 8th

Given the date today, I felt for a moment that I should be posting something more solemn or at the very least, more...patriotic? But when thinking back on the events of September 11th, 2001, what I really feel is that we need a lot more kindness in the world. So I have chosen to coincide my report on my "Random Acts of Kindness"-themed birthday with a date that a lot of people need healing on.

I stole this idea from my friend Carrie, and decided to make my own little "Random Act of Kindness" cards to leave as we tried to spread joy around town. I made a few extras to keep in the car/my purse for future clandestine service. And clandestine service? A BLAST. Jacob pointed out that it's kind of like being a criminal, except with no moral get the thrill of doing something secret and sneaky but you don't have to worry about being arrested. I suggested we start a "Random Acts of Kindness" Rehabilitation Group, sort of as a prison-release program. Give people the thrill of a robbery without harming society.

The only challenge we had in the day--besides fitting everything in--was that in Rexburg, we had to leave notes specifying that whoever found an item could keep it. The town ain't perfect, but there are enough people who would just return a found gift card to the service desk instead of using it. =) Those little cards helped, too, I hope.

Wanna hear what we did? Jacob's sister Anna joined us for some of these, and we had a blast running around town together. It took us from 10 am to 6 pm, but it was worth it.

WHAT JACOB AND I DID, or Twenty Seven Random Acts of Kindness/Service to Celebrate My Twenty-Seventh Birthday

1. Recycled (thereby saving the earth, thereby being kind to the entire human race)
We do this all the time, but it's important and we believe in it and it's one of the kindest things you can do for humanity! 
2. Smiled at someone
A little thing, but we made a conscious effort to do this for someone we felt needed it. 
3. Let someone cut in front of us in line
This one was tough for a second...when we got to the front of the store, the lines were tiny! No one was waiting very long. Jacob came up with a solution. He found two guys who were waiting in line and directed them to a check-stand that was open with no one waiting. 
4. Left $1 in the toy section of the dollar store
Tried to do this at eye-level. This was one we definitely had to leave a note with...especially because we WANT kids to learn to return money when they find it laying around. 
5. Supported the local library by buying a book
The library has a little used book store to help its revenue. We will gladly support our community in this way. =)
6. Left two "book testimonies" in books in the library
This was fun. It's a pretty indirect little act of kindness, but I agree with Carrie's reasoning on this one...this is something I would LOVE to find. 
7. Left a $10 Walmart gift card to be found by a lucky person
Left this at the library, next to the DVD's. I see a lot of parents of young children flipping through the DVDs while their kids are looking at books, and I hope a young parent found this. 
8. Taped popcorn to a Redbox
Well, the last one we just handed to a guy at the Redbox. 
9. Left a poem among the nectarines at the grocery store
"First Lesson" by Philip Booth. Jacob was fond of my use of the word "among" when telling people about this act later. 
10. Left a yellow rose on a car in the parking lot
We thought about getting a dozen daisies and leaving them on multiple cars, but we decided to go fancy for one person instead of simple for many. 
11. Cleaned out the family cat's litter box
This one almost didn't work out, because someone had recently done it! We just sort of re-did it. 
12. Took some time to chat with neighborhood kids
This seems like a small one, but it's a pretty big deal for me. Chatting with strangers is really hard for me...I get all tongue-tied and awkward and scared. Jacob's always been a good example of friendliness, and I've tried to emulate him. Taking just those few minutes--sacrificing my comfort to be friendly--felt terrifying and wonderful. 
13. Did some temple work
Our kindness reached beyond this life and into the next! =)
14. Left a mixed CD in a stranger's mailbox
We did this once before for FHE and it was a blast. For a while, we were being really selective about what neighborhood to leave it in, before we decided we should just give it up to the fates and/or let the Lord guide us to the right mailbox. 
15. Left party poppers in a public park
Along with a note saying "Because you're worth celebrating!"
16. Left a good book in a public place to be found
"The Dogs of Babel." It's kinda weird, but I hope whoever finds it enjoys it! 
17. Dropped coins in a children's playground
This one was fun, even though I kept fearing that wary parents would catch us and somehow...get us in trouble?
18. Left an anonymous letter of encouragement on a whiteboard tray for a Sunday School teacher
I was just intending to leave this somewhere random, which I guess I did, but I hope it helped whoever was teaching Sunday School, especially. That can be nerve-wracking. 
19. Taped a joke on the inside of an elevator door
"What's black and white and red all over?" "A penguin with a diaper rash!"
20. Left a self-esteem boosting note on the mirror in a public bathroom
I can't remember exactly what it said, but something to the effect of reminding them that they are beautiful because they are daughters of God, no matter what the world says about them. 
21. Taped quarters to a laundromat washing machine
Self-explanatory. Fun. 
22. Left an anonymous positive comment on a blog
Also discovered some fun blogs in the process! Clicking "Next Blog" up on the top is a fun way to find all kinds of things. 
23. Took time to visit with family
This one goes along with #12. While talking with family isn't scary, I've grown to be selfish with my time, preferring to spend it in my own way instead of just enjoying time with others. Definitely a habit I want to break. 
24. Personally responded to each birthday wish sent to me on facebook
Generally, I just post a mass "Thank You" status for the birthday wishes, but in my continuing efforts to use my time to lift up others, I tried to give a little individual shout-out. 
25. Made and posted a "Welcome Home" sign for Dave and Camilla
They've been married ONE WEEK, and they live around the corner. They got home from their honeymoon on September 9th, so we made 'em a colorful greeting! 
26. Donated 1000 grains of rice through
Have you heard of this website? From the site: "Freerice is a non-profit website that is owned by and supports the United Nations World Food Programme. Freerice has two goals: Provide education to everyone for free. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free. This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site." You basically go on the site, pick a subject, then answer test questions. For every question you get right, the site uses advertising/sponsor funds to purchase 10 grains of rice. So awesome. So I quizzed myself on Art History while feeding people in need! How cool is that? 
27. Gave a loan to a young woman in Bolivia to fund her purchase of a photocopy machine for her bookstore, through
I can't remember how I discovered this website, but I think it's a great idea. Kiva is a non-profit group that orchestrates microfinancing all over the world. It is a loan, so you do get paid back, and your money provides opportunities for those in need. On the website, you can search for individuals and causes by attribute, such as gender, Conflict Zones, Vulnerable Groups, Youth, and Green. I was thrilled to help someone in Bolivia, since that's where my dad served his mission! And I'm always for furthering the cause of women anywhere in the world.  

You all were so awesome and inspiring! Many of you let me know that you joined in without giving specifics, so just know that these are just a few of the things you shared.

- helped an elderly lady at the grocery store reach something she couldn't
- drove a rent check over to the landlord's house (because the wrong address MIGHT have been written on it...)
- gave a homeless man some money 
- did a roommate's dishes
- helped a girl carry groceries out to her car
- bought peach cobbler that supported the Mental Health Association of Utah (double win there...)
- gave some food to a homeless man with a sign
- held the door open (with a carseat + 20lb. baby in arm) for a woman walking with a cane
- babysat four kids for a lady whose husband is a firefighter and whom she hadn't seen in over a week
- paid for a friend who couldn't when a group went out to dinner after stake conference
- volunteered at the temple and tried to help, smile, and talk to everyone who passed
- sat next to a girl who was sitting alone in a meeting
- anonymously left flowers on a stranger's car
- paid for the person behind in line at the entrance to a National Park
- dropped money off at a ticket office, with instructions to pay for the next person's ticket
- kissed some guy out of pity (Ha ha! This is one of my favorites! )

All in all, it was a pretty great birthday. Service, family, and in the evening, cake and ice cream with our friends the Taits. At the end of the day, I was reminded that when it comes right down to it, we don't really need any more "stuff." Family members got me some chocolate and a few little things, but I couldn't think of any material thing I really needed this year, and that fact alone is enough cause for humble gratitude and a world of 7 billion people, there aren't nearly enough who can say that all their material needs are met. So with that in mind, I'm so grateful that Carrie for her Random-Acts-of-Kindness-themed birthday, which inspired me to have my own! I'm so grateful for all that you guys did. 

One little ripple can grow into a wave. I like to think our collective ripple of kindness is still going round the world.  


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Birthday Wishlist

 I am stealing this from my friend Carrie. Because it seems awesome. 

My birthday is on Saturday (the 8th), and here's what I want for my birthday. 

I want YOU to do one random act of kindness in honor of my birthday and then tell me about it. Leave me a comment on the blog, send me an e-mail, tell me on facebook if we're friends. 

I'll be doing some random acts of kindness of my own on that day, so between all of us, we might do some minor world-changing on Saturday.