June 28, 2006

The Trouble with Tribbles

I'll admit it: I love Star Trek. What can I say? I'm a total nerd---and I even work at the National Air and Space Museum to show for it.

Luckily for me, the curators I work with can totally empathize with my love of Star Trek. In fact, many of them are Trekkies (and Star Wars fans) themselves. And so, it makes perfect sense that we had a short lecture yesterday on Tribbles.


But what are Tribbles, you say? Tribbles, young grasshopper, are extraterrestrial creatures that resemble large hairballs. Despite their ugliness, they breed like rabbits---like extremely virile rabbits.

In an episode of the original Star Trek, the Enterprise becomes infested with Tribbles. The little critters breed and multiply, soon overtaking every nook and cranny of the ship. Although I'm not a big fan of the original Star Trek (Next Generation 4ever!), but I have seen this episode and find it quite amusing. I guess other people find it amusing too because the museum has five Tribbles in its collection.



Yesterday at noon, one of the curators was scheduled to give a brief lecture on Tribbles and how they represent the influence of science fiction in American culture. To spice up the lecture, the curator wanted to show some Tribbles to the audience. (Tribbles aren't real, of course. I think they're made out of plastic and hair. Very cute.)

Unfortunately for this curator, the museum has been in disarray for the past few days on account of the rain. The Tribbles are kept in museum collections, which is located 45 minutes from the Mall, and the curator wasn't sure if anyone from the collections department would be able to deliver the Tribbles in time.

Brief chaos ensued.

"WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRIBBLES?" another curator asked.

"I can't reach anyone in collections because the phones are down," said the curator who was giving the lecture on Tribbles.

"I have a car. I can take you to get them. WE NEED THESE TRIBBLES."

"But it's already 10:30 and I don't know if we would make it back in time."

"No problem, I have a Delorian. You know, like on Back to the Future."

But behold the chaos passed when a fellow from collections walked into our department holding a blue box.

"THE TRIBBLES!" we all squealed.

"Oh, can I see them?" I cooed. (Yes, I was excited to see them too.)

"Can I hold one?" one of the interns asked. She seemed as excited as a Vulcan during mating season.


"Sure. But you have to wear gloves. THE TRIBBLES SHALL NOT BE TOUCHED."

"Yippee! I can't wait to call my mom!!!"

So I think this Tribbles affair proves my point that I am indeed a nerd and that the National Air and Space Museum is indeed a nerdy institution. To console myself, I find comfort in knowing that there are people in our world who are even nerdier than I am---interns.

The Rain that Just Won't Go Away


When I was little, I loved watching the Winnie the Pooh episode where a huge rainstorm descends upon the Hundred Acre Wood. In this video, the entire forest becomes a giant river, which causes the forest's inhabitants to scramble to safety. Pooh floats around in a honey pot with his head stuck in the pot's lip. Little Piglet is whisked away by the strong rapids and his friends rally to save him.

The past few days of my life have reminded me of this Winnie the Pooh episode. I haven't seen any yellow bears floating about, but I have seen lots of rain and lots of puddles. Driving is a nightmare because the rain pummels my car like a waterfall. Even walking can be dangerous. On my way to work on Monday, the traffic light at Independence Avenue was out. Independence is a busy street that is always loaded with morning commuters. The cars weren't slowing down to allow me to cross, so I had to step onto the street to take matters into my own hands. You just have to look drivers straight in the eye and then run like a maniac. It wasn't so bad. All of my limbs are still intact.

The museum where I work has taken a hard hit (but not as hard as the Natural History or American History museums. Or the IRS building for that matter, which is supposed to be closed for a month). Non-essential staff were let out early on Monday so we could head home before the traffic got worse. On Tuesday, we were told to stay home for the entire day. And then today, the power went out at 10:30AM and we were told that it wouldn't come back on for four hours. My boss was kind enough to let me go home and now here I am, sitting on my couch and enjoying the first bits of sunshine that have poked through the sky in four days.

The rain has wreacked havoc on many people in the DC area. Rivers are overflowing and homes are flooded. Luckily for my family, our house is dry and we have electricity. The rain is mostly a nuisance.

I have to admit though that I have thoroughly enjoyed the rain. I love rain and I love thunderstorms and I love overcast skies. My sister and I even did a rain dance on Sunday night. I wouldn't mind if it rained for another two weeks, but then again, that would inevitably lead to my house washing away like Piglet. (And of course, I don't want anymore people to lose their homes to flooding.) I suppose in my own perfect world it would rain everyday for a few hours but no house will ever get flooded. Ah, utopia.

June 22, 2006

In Praise of Sleep, Naps, and Down Comforters


If I was crowned the grand empress of the world, this would be my first decree: Stop what you're doing and take a nap.

That's right, go to sleep. Right now. I'll only excuse you if you are a doctor performing a life-saving surgery or if you are a pilot steering a mumbo-jumbo plane. Aside from circumstances like these, put your head down and start counting sheep. I don't care if you are in a meeting or eating fondue or spying on your neighbor. Go to bed.

There is a great shortage of sleep in the world and this makes me very unhappy. For instance, this morning I had to peel myself from my bed to get ready for work. I was in the midst of a wonderful dream when I was lurched awake by my dreaded cell-phone alarm clock. And now I'm at work---a little grumpy and a lot tired. All I want to do is lay down on my cubicle floor and take a nap.

I have always been a fan of sleep. In fact, my passion for sleep extends back to my birth. According to my father, I was still asleep when I came out of the womb. The doctor slapped my little butt, I let out a little wail, and then I shut my eyes and went back to sleep. Apparently taking a nap was more important than exploring my new surroundings.

Since my birth, I've always been one of those people who needs 8 or more hours of sleep per night. I can survive on 7 hours for a few days, but it becomes progressively harder for me to get up. This is why I never graduated from early-morning seminary. Class at 6:15AM? No thanks! Forget about temporal blessings---I'd rather sleep! This past October I even slept for a record-breaking 20 hours straight. It felt absolutely marvelous. Some people say excessive sleep is a waste of time. I say to these people: to hell with you!

What our world needs now is a little bit of love and a lot more of sleep. I am an adamant believer that more sleep can bring about world peace. Just think about it: War is noisy. War destroys clean sheets and soft beds. War prevents people from getting a good night of rest. Tired and grumpy people cause more war. It's a vicious cycle.

So why don't we sleep a little more? More sleep means more happiness. More happiness means more peace. More peace means...more sleep.

And this is why you should vote for me to become the Empress of the Earth, the great bringer of world sleep. I mean peace.

June 21, 2006

The Cup of Life!

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a gargantuan crush on a boy named Joe Massie. He was a senior and he knew how to drive. He had corn-silk blonde hair and dashing blue eyes. He was God's gift to Winston Churchill High School and I was a devoted worshipper.

Joe was also captain of the soccer team, which prompted me to attend as many soccer games as possible. I could stare at him for ninety minutes straight, allowing me to drink in this 17 year-old Adonis unabashedly. And when he wasn't on the field, I could stare at the other handsome players on the team, like school heart-throb Josh Hughes (tall, lean, and dreamy).

I soon noticed that soccer was much more fun to watch than high school football. First, Churchill football was horrendous. During my junior year, we only won one game and we only won because the school we beat didn't have a senior class. The soccer team, on the other hand, went to the state championship every year---and we all know it's much more entertaining to be winning than losing. Second, high school football games often stretched three or four hours and you had to spend this entire time sitting out in the cold. Soccer games, however, only lasted two hours at most, thus preventing fans from turning into ice cubes. And third, soccer boys were hot. Joe Massie and Josh Hughes were only the tip of the iceberg---the entire Churchill soccer team was smokin'!

Now that the World Cup is here again, I have become permanently attached to the TV and ESPN.com. I love soccer. I watch it at home and I read about it at work. I love cheering for the underdogs (Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S.) as well as the powerhouses (England). If only I was paid to watch the World Cup, then the world would be a perfect place.

I'd probably watch the World Cup even if it was played by hairy trolls. But luckily for me, the players aren't hairy trolls in the least---they're more like GQ models. Take for instance, Carlos Bocanegra of the U.S. Forget about Dr. McDreamy on "Grey's Anatomy." Bocanegra forever! And I can't fail to mention the entire Australian national team because all of them are oh-so-cute. I've always dreamt of marrying an Australian soccer player and watching them on the telly only makes me want to fulfill this goal even more.

Viva la copa de vida!

June 19, 2006

A Moment of Clarity


I'm the kind of person who likes to listen to her favorite songs over and over and over again. In the sixth grade, I bought All-4-One's new disc and listened to "I Swear" on repeat. During my last year of college, my drug of choice was The Format's "The First Single." And for the past few weeks, I've listened to Snow Patrol's "It's Beginning to Get to Me" incessantly. It's repetitively catchy and purely addictive. I love it.

The song is about a relationship on the rocks. What started out as a beautiful relationship has turned into something cold and fractured. My favorite line comes near the end of the song, when the singer reaches out to his girlfriend: "I tried to tell you before I left/ But I was screaming under my breath/ You are the only thing that makes sense/ Just ignore all this present tense." I love the third line: "You are the only thing that makes sense." For me, this is the climax of the song. Everything else is a crescendo or diminuendo from this point.

While I was driving around town this weekend and listening to this song on repeat, I realized why I like this line so much: I want to be the only thing that makes sense to someone. I want to be the rock in a relationship. I want someone to need me.

And then like a flash of lightning, I had a moment of clarity. The past nine months suddenly made more sense. I finally understood why my heartache and sadness have lasted for so long. I finally realized why it has taken me so long to recover from a relationship that started to crumble last October.

Scott and I were a mismatch from the start. He was fifteen years older than I was and had never finished college. In his twenties, he was in a rock band and spent ten years drinking, carousing, and womanizing. Our values were completely different and we could never talk about religion without arguing.

But like they say, opposites attract. Scott and I were very different people, but we had a lot of chemistry. I had never met someone who was so much fun and who could regale me with so many amazing stories. And I had never met someone who looked at me the way he did---like I was the most wonderful and beautiful human being he had ever seen. He wanted to spend every minute with me and I was only happy to oblige.

Red flags flashed all over my eyes, but I ignored them because he needed me---and because of this I grew to need him too. All that mattered in my life was that Scott needed and wanted me. Out of all the women in the world, he wanted me and only me.

And I suppose this is why it has taken me so long to recover from our break-up. Scott didn’t need me anymore. Not even a little bit. In fact, he moved down to Mississippi when a job opportunity came his way. I felt like he ripped out my heart and shredded it on a cheese grater. And then he left.

But I’m finally, finally, finally moving on with my life. No more tears and no more angry rants. Only a little bit of sadness and slowly, acceptance. I’ve emerged from the relationship more mature and more insightful. I’ve learned a lot about myself---and especially how I yearn to be needed. I want my family to need me, I want my friends to need me, and I want any future Scotts to need me too.

I like being the rock in a relationship. I like feeling strong and sturdy and responsible. I’m a natural protector and guardian so I don’t feel entirely whole when I don’t feel needed.

So I look forward to playing my dutiful role as the rock. When it comes to relationships, I’m not necessarily looking for a patch of grass to protect or a delicate flower to shelter. Instead, I’m searching for another rock to lean up against---someone who is strong and sturdy, but incomplete without a companion stone.

A rock is a rock is a rock, but two rocks---that makes all the difference.

June 14, 2006

My Apologies to Future BYU Students

During my first two years at BYU, I subsisted upon the social benefits of university life. College was a time to meet new people, flirt with boys, sit in hot tubs, and play all night. I slept-in every day and maxed-out my Dining Plus card. My classes took a backseat to my awesomely-fun social life.

During my third year in college, I started to focus more on my studies. I threw myself into my books and into my homework, often staying late at the library until midnight and rolling into bed at 1AM. But my newfound work ethic was more mechanistic than passionate---I studied hard to achieve good grades and praise, not to develop my mind or even to gain a deeper understanding of history. My classes definitely made me work, but didn't necessarily make me think.

After my junior year, I decided to stay in Provo for half the summer. My history classes were usually demanding so I decided to take one history course in spring semester, thus focusing on one class for ten weeks. When I scrolled through the spring semester course offerings, one class stood up in particular: History 340, 20th Century Chinese History. I was intrigued. I had never taken any Chinese history classes, much less any contemporary history classes.

For my first two years at BYU, I had prided myself as an ancient historian---learning about the bas reliefs of Assyria and the aqueducts of Rome. But I had no tangible ties to Assyria or Rome, only a vague interest towards antiquity. Contemporary Chinese history, on the other hand, offered me an in-depth view into my heritage and ancestry. My grandparents fled China in the late 1940s to escape the Communists. When I was little, my grandmother filled my head with stories about the dreaded CCP. It was an easy decision to make---I signed up for History 340.

On the first day of class, Dr. Michael Murdock used a slideshow to introduce the class to modern China. He showed us pictures of the green countryside juxtaposed against the gray-skies of Beijing. He showed us a land full of contradictions---tradition and modernism, communism and capitalism, secrecy and over-exposure, isolation and community. I knew this history class was going to be different, and not only because of my cultural descent. Our first assignment was to send an email to Dr. Murdock and to tell him about why we took his class, why we studied history, our historical interests, and what we wanted to do with our lives. I didn't even know this professor, but he seemed to have a deep interest in me.

As the spring semester continued, I saw further proof that History 340 was unlike any other class I had ever taken. We regularly watched movies that tackled aspects of modern Chinese history, like "To Live," and "Red Sorghum." We read autobiographies by people who lived through the events we were studying, like The Private Life of Chairman Mao and Red China Blues. And in class, we were readily encouraged to ask questions and to engage in discussion.

Dr. Murdock's approach to teaching history was simple. He didn't want his students to leave his class with only the ability to regurgitate names and dates. He wanted to equip his students with the ability to think and to re-think history. Our term papers revolved around questions like, "How are nationalism and imperialism linked in the creation of modern China?" and "How do individual identity and communal identity clash in 20th century China?" He used the study of modern Chinese history as a vehicle to gain greater understanding of the world around us.

One of the requirements of the course was to meet with Dr. Murdock on a one-on-one basis to discuss our term paper. So after class one day, I knocked on the professor's door expecting a brisk meeting. Instead, Dr. Murdock talked to me for half-an-hour, asking me about my historical interests and inquiring about my Chinese ancestry. Throughout my tenure at BYU, Dr. Murdock always made time to talk with me, whether it was about history, about grad school, or about my struggles over my faith. His door was always open and he always greeted me with a smile.

And so, when I found out last week that Professor Murdock didn't receive tenure, I felt very sad. Mostly, I felt sadness for future BYU students who won't have the pleasure of taking a class with Dr. Murdock. They will miss out on the chance to become real historians, rather than regurgitators of cold facts.

Professors who truly care about students are already few and far between. Professors who learn every name of their students are even rarer. It's disappointing to me that professors often have to choose between research interests and student interests. At a big teaching university like BYU, professors often have to teach three classes per semester as well as crank out articles and books. Many professors fail to form any close bonds with their students because they're too busy trying to publish. And I can't blame them. I can't blame someone for trying to keep their job.

But I wish professors like Dr. Murdock didn't have to suffer the cruel consequences of the "publish or perish" methodology. He took an honest interest in his students and I feel he's being punished for it. In the end, I think everyone loses---Dr. Murdock, the university, and especially, the students.

June 12, 2006

Witch-Hunts or Globalization? That is the Question...


After a year-long stint away from school, the time has arrived again to sign-up for classes! Last week, I received a package in the mail from LSE, which outlined my class offerings for my MA. I need to take three classes and I've chosen two thus far:

1.) Presidents, Public Opinion, and Foreign Policy: From Roosevelt to Reagan, 1933-1989

This class intrigues me because I really love 20th century American history and I want to learn about U.S. history from an international perspective. The course also provides an in-depth look on how public opinion has shaped domestic and foreign policy, especially during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

2.) Sex, Race, and Slavery: The Western Experience

Sounds steamy! Haha, just kidding. I'm a cultural and societal historian at my core so this class definitely sounds intriguing.

3.) ???

I was disappointed to discover that my third-choice class would not be offered in the 2006-2007 academic year (Cultural Encounters from the Renaissance to the Modern World). Oh well. You can't have everything right?

Here are some of my options:

1.) Race, Violence, and Colonial Rule in Africa, taught by Dr Joanna Lewis

Sounds fascinating because I'm interested in African history, but I lack a historical background in it. The only problem? I don't know if I have enough interest in African history. I would love to attend a few seminars on it, but I don't know if I want to take an entire class of it.

2.) Persecution in Europe: From Witch-Hunts to Ethnic Cleansing, taught by Dr Mia Rodriguez-Salgado

The title of the class sounded promising, but it was the class description that got me hooked: "The course is ambitious and conceptually challenging, and requires that students both enter and yet distance themselves from other mentalities in order to understand persecution in Europe across the centuries."

I'm not a European history buff, but I might make an exception for this course.

3.) Empire, Colonialism, and Globalization, taught by Dr Joya Chatterji

Sounds bland, but this course would give me a broad understanding of empires and their impact on the modern world. This course appeals to me especially because its lectures will be given by faculty members in both the International History and Government departments.

Additionally, this class seems to be discussion-oriented; many of the lectures will include student projects.

4.) Warfare, Religion, and National Identity, taught by Dr John Hutchinson (photo unavailable)

After I read Imagined Communities, I love learning about national identity. And religion. And warfare sounds interesting, too.

(I think I might be leaning towards #3 and #4.)

So...what to choose, or what not to choose? That is the question. Any advice?

June 6, 2006

Zoinks! Yikes! Egads!

I've come up with a new word.

But "word" might be too strong of a word.

I've come up with a new sound then: BLARGH.

I like to say "blargh" when I am frustrated. When it rains in DC and I am sans umbrella, I like to utter a "blargh" under my breath. When I realize I left my cell phone at work, I like to say "blaaaargh." And when I realize I've walked around all day with my fly open, I like to yell, "BLAAAAARGH!"

It's a great sound. Or word. Whatever. It sounds like something they'd say on Scooby Doo.

June 5, 2006

The War at Home


"America is particularly prone to battles over culture." ("How to lose the culture wars," Lexington, The Economist, 1 June 2006.)

Compared to its European cousins, America is the lone prude of the family. While France, Denmark, and Germany barely blink an eye when it comes to abortion and gay marriage, the U.S. is torn asunder by these culture wars.

Such wars are understandable because the U.S. is a devout nation. Many of her citizens pray every day and attend church regularly. Issues like abortion and gay marriage cut deep into the American heart because they are entwined with morality---the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. When this sanctity is defiled, religious Americans rise up to defend their values.

This week in Washington, the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) will be introduced on the Senate floor. If the amendment is passed, the Constitution will define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus putting to rest any clamors for gay marriage.

Although the U.S. is a secular nation, it is nearly impossible to remove religious overtones from the debate on gay marriage. Supporters of the FMA consist of conservative religious groups, like Roman Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Southern Baptists, and Mormons, who view homosexuality as a sin. Marriage is a sacred union blessed by God between one man and one woman---Adam and Eve are the perfect archetype. Gay marriage is thus rejected because it deviates from God's will.

Supporters of gay marriage, however, view the FMA as prejudiced and persecuting. They contend that if two people love one another and want to make a commitment to each other, then the government should sanction such a union. Marriage should no longer be reserved for heterosexual couples; the idea of "one man, one woman" is out-dated and exclusionary.

So yet another culture war embroils our country---how do we define marriage? Do we define it as a union between a man and a woman or between two consenting adults? How do we choose between a religious definition or a secular one?

To me, the most interesting part of this debate is not the morality of gay marriage, but the legality of it. In my opinion, marriage is not an inalienable right. The right to marriage cannot be equated to the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Laws are needed to regulate it: siblings should not marry siblings, five year-old girls should not marry five year-old boys, and one man should not have thirteen wives. I think most Americans would agree with regulations like these that bar incestual, premature, and polygamous marriages. The issue of homosexual marriage, however, is much more controversial...

In my view, I define marriage as a legally-recognized union between one man and one woman. (Boo polygamy.) I don't view marriage as a malleable institution whose definition changes from one century to the next. However, I do support civil unions and I believe gay couples should enjoy shared health benefits and other spousal privileges of the like.

That said, I do not support the FMA because the regulation of marriage is a power granted to individual states. A writer from the Economist brings up a good point: "[The Republicans] are trying to inject the federal government into an issue that has traditionally been decided by state governments." Individual states have already done a good job in regulating marriage laws. The 1996 Defence of Marriage Act even guarantees that a state does not have to acknowledge a gay marriage sanctioned in another state. So I say: let's leave this issue for the states to decide.

Furthermore, I am wary of constitutional amendments. The Constitution exudes a secular type of holiness---it is America's Bible and we cannot make changes to it willy-nilly. Since 1789, over 10,000 amendments have been introduced to Congress but only 27 have been ratified. Amending the Constitution is a serious business and the utmost discretion should be exercised in ratification. And the last thing we want is another Prohibition episode when the 18th amendment (that prohibited the manufactoring, importing, and exporting of alcohol) was repealed fourteen years later by the 21st amendment.

Amendments to the Constitution are necessary, but like salt, should be used sparingly. Although I view marriage as a sacred and holy act, I am unsure of the federal government placing regulations on a traditionally state-held power.