Saturday, May 30, 2009


My Number 1 made it so.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A String of Great Days

My friends,

This is just to say that I've had an outrageously long string of great days in my life. This has prevented me from writing for two big reasons:

1. Why write when I'm feeling good? I know that doesn't really make sense, that it's not a defensible stance, but there it is.
2. I recently visited DC and Utah; I recently wrote, submitted, and defended a master's thesis; I recently participated in a literary festival; I recently saw all the current blockbuster films of the season; I recently sent a woman flowers; I recently met my niece; I recently rode a bike for 20 miles; and on and on. Tomorrow I leave for Idaho for six days.

Besides, the journey to the East is at an end: my graduation is in less than a month.

Proof I'm not dead, or wasn't, two months ago.

The really real reason, though? I fell in love. I spend all my blog time thinking up sweet nothings to whisper delicately in the dark.

Into my cell phone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

On Bad Days

So today wasn't exactly a good day. I was sitting in class (around hour 3 of 6 straight), leaning back in my chair a bit, staring off into space, and my teacher suddenly chomped at me: "Grover! What are you doing? Why so glum? What's wrong?! Why aren't you sitting at the table with the rest of us!? Why don't you shave!?!"

He was kidding, of course, and I gave an appropriately dismissive response and scooted up. But in that first moment of confusion when he started at me, I thought he was serious and prepared a serious answer—well, a serious evasion. I started to say, "Oh, nothing," because that's what you say when something's not right but you don't want to broadcast your problems. So even though he was just mixing up the class a bit with a humorous aside, it set me thinking about what kind of day I was having and why.

Before I tell you about it, I want to say this: there's a difference between having bad days and being aware that a day isn't great. One gets the feeling that in choosing to call a day "bad," one is choosing to be negative, to see the worst in things. And while that may often be the case, it isn't always true. Sometimes the act of recognizing a day as a bad day is the first step to turning it around.

So that's what I was thinking in my class after being called out. I realized in that moment that the day I was in wasn't my best day, that I wasn't at my best for some reason, and that I was merely suffering through it in hopes of a better one tomorrow.

But that's not entirely true either. The day wasn't all bad. It started quite well. I got up early to do a spot of homework before going with some of my church fellows to the bishop's storehouse to do a few hours service. I'd never been to the storehouse before, and I quite liked it. The smell of cardboard there reminded me of my days stocking a Hobby Lobby, and the smell of the cooler reminded me of keeping the salad bar stocked at the restaurant where I waited tables. Also, my grandparents served a mission in a bishop's storehouse in Houston when I was a teenager, and it was nice to see what kind of service they had been doing all those years, especially now that both have passed on. And it was great to see some Church peanut butter, which is canned in Houston next door to the storehouse, a job my grandfather did for many years.

It was nice to see welfare in action, to see how much work is done and how handily and to become aware of just how many are in need.

So what was making me so unhappy in class? Could it be that I wasn't as prepared as I'd wanted to be? Maybe. I hadn't read the material as closely as I'd wanted to. Could it be the stress of finishing grad school? Maybe. School has been known to cause me undue stress, now as much as ever. Could it just be general chemical biological stuff, the randomness of genetics? Possibly. Spring has that effect on me from time to time (I take Claritin, usually).

But here's another hypothesis. My brother claims that any day on which he fails to shower is a good day. Whenever he's feeling great and wonders why, he inevitably concludes that the reason is that he did not wash away the natural oils that his body produces to protect him. People say that's crazy but he challenges them to find another common factor in all his good days. I, too, enjoy not showering all the dang time, but I think I may have a limit. Sitting in class today I realized that I didn't feel right because I didn't feel clean anymore. My hair was getting greasy and, as my teacher kindly pointed out, I hadn't shaved in more than a few days. I was wearing the same clothes as the day before (and the day before?), and I was a little damp from walking to school in the rain. Earlier in the day I had wanted to shower but hadn't had the time. I was feeling grubby, crummy.

So, could the reason I suddenly felt the day wasn't a good day be that I wasn't clean and wanted to be? Is it that simple?

If so, tomorrow's going to be so good it'll hurt. See you in the morning, shower.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy for Me

So here's the scoop: I've got a girlfriend. Somewhere out there in the world is a nice young lady who has agreed not to date anyone one else for the time being. More than that, she tells me that she likes me, that she thinks about me when I'm not around, that she longs to be with me.

We're a long-distance couple, see, and so this is a big thing, I think. I've been asking around for advice on how to manage a relationship over miles and miles of space, and the overwhelming response is "Don't waste your time." But I am, I want to, she wants to, and we're doing things to make it worth it regardless.

That's not what this is about—this isn't an announcement. But you need to know something about the situation to understand what I'm trying to say.

Many of you are aware that the last time I was in a relationship was three years ago. You may also be aware that I'm 27, which, in Mormon terms, is often "misheard" as 47 (though that's not what this is about either). So you can, perhaps, appreciate that I'm pretty excited about what's happening in my life right now. Outrageously excited at times.

And yet, I've been terribly cautious about talking about this at all. On the one hand, I'm trying to be discreet. But that doesn't explain why I find myself carefully talking around the fact that I have a girlfriend, why—though suddenly hours and hours of my time are being used to compose emails and place phone calls, though half my energy goes into daydreaming and trying to conjure up the remembered shadow of this girl I've met only twice but decided to bind myself to, though since six weeks ago everything I hear, see, touch, taste, and smell is refracted first through the lens of her imagined heart and only then processed by my own—why, despite all that, I don't allow her name to enter my conversation even a fraction of the amount of times it enters my mind. Everything in my world has changed color, but I'm carefully still calling blue blue, green green, and red red. Just the other day, Kate smilingly accused me of being very excited about it all when I accidentally used the words "my girlfriend" twice in one day. She was right, of course, and I checked myself: I had gotten carried away on little hiccups of joy. The pleasure of hearing those words escape my mouth—"my girlfriend"—had proven too much to refuse.

I've been thinking about why this is so, about why I'm loath to make vocal the way I'm starting to feel about a girl. This is the stuff that songs are written about, right? The stuff that poets eat, that spiral notebooks are graffitied with. So why am I playing it so close to the chest?

Part of it is, of course, common courtesy, and another part of it is a fear of finding myself naïve tomorrow. I realize it's all a little ridiculous and a lot tentative, that what today seems to be a real and lasting connection might turn out tomorrow to be a misunderstanding or a misplaced expectation. But that's the easy and obvious answer, one that ultimately speaks in my favor.

May I suggest an original and honest answer? I fear the reason may be that I find it hard to believe that my hearers will be genuinely happy for me. I know, this sounds absurd, and it is. Why wouldn't my friends and family be happy that I'm happy, that I may have found someone with which to be long happy? In truth, all those I've told have been nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging.1 There have been smiles and interested questions and pats on the back. They've all been dears (thank you, all). But I've met their queries with reluctance, with self-effacement and dodging, in most cases, and widely abbreviated accounts of the truth, and I'm scared of what it says about me and how I see them.

Many of my friends are single themselves, and many of our conversations revolve around past, present, and possible love (or, as one remarked recently, "I thought leaving Provo would end so much talk of relationships, but boy was I wrong!"). Some of them have been single much longer than me and some are older than me, but many are younger or have had more luck. Some really seem to want it and some seem unhurried, and, among the girls who are my confidants, there is sometimes the [mostly] unspoken possibility of love between us. Do I really have so little respect and admiration for these my friends that I imagine, rationally or not, consciously or not, that deep in their hearts they would feel jealousy rather than happiness at my good fortune? Why else would I clam up; why else tiptoe through conversations with my closest and best?

There may be a worse reason. Could it be that deep down in my own heart I lack the ability to be happy for myself? That I don't really believe this is possible, that I don't find myself deserving? Could it be that I believe that I am not destined for happiness, that I am not, in the end, lovable? Could the very reason I almost can't bear to hear myself exult, that her name has become almost an incantation, that I fear to dart and bound lest this collection of stained glass and fairy dust be shaken from my heart be that I respect and admire myself least of all, that what I fear is that I—not she, and not the rest of you—but that I will be the one who finally turns away from me in disgust?

1 The pessimistic advice has all come from strangers or people who didn't know I was asking on my own behalf.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Contest Results

Last week in the office at school I sponsored a caption contest. Here are some of the hilarious results (click on pics to see full sized).

The contest announcement was posted on the wall last Tuesday.

First Place: Joe P.—no, that's too obvious: J. Plicka.

Second Place: Holly

Honorable Mention: My Liege

Honorable Mention: Joey

Honorable Mention: Zach

I posted the winners on the backs of old flyers I stole from the bulletin board in the hall. Is that wrong? Since I posted, there's been a lot of backlash in the office including accusations of "Mormon nepotism" and self-declarations of winningness.

Zach says he's going to sponsor a reverse-caption contest when we get back from Spring Break.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I got reimbursed today for some trips I took as part of my education here in Athens. That's how it works—they'll fund us to go to conferences and things, but we gotta put the money out up front and then they pay us back. So today I finally finished the paperwork and went down to the bursar's office so they could cut me a check.

Only they didn't cut me a check; they paid my in cold, hard cash. Well, green grubby cash, anyway. Suddenly my wallet was too fat to fold nicely—I felt like I used to after a Friday night of waiting tables. I booked it over to the bank and deposited that dough, plus two tax return checks, and suddenly my bank account had tripled in size.

As I was walking home, I passed the Blue Eagle, Athens' music store. There in the window I expected to see two of the prettiest accordions I've ever seen, a red one and a white one for only about $300 each. They've been there for a few weeks and I've lusted after them, gone in to honk on them a bit. With so much new money in the bank—money that'd been gone so long I didn't miss it or need it anymore—I knew I'd be tempted, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw.

The red one was gone! Someone must've bought it in the last few days. I was expecting to stand there for a minute and taste the temptation as I peered through the glass at my babies, but I wasn't expecting the sudden rush of panic when one of them was gone. Now the temptation was real—if I didn't buy the white one right now, someone, anyone, could up and buy it from under my nose. I've got the money, I thought. I could just walk in there and make all my dreams come true.

No! I mustn't! I tore myself away and walked home. I'm opening up a high-yield savings account with ING Direct and depositing that money far away until it's time to spend it on what's really important. And what that is, I ain't telling. But I've got plans...

I thought I should take this opportunity, though, to share some things I've learned about recently. I'm trying to get more into personal finance and building good money habits, and these are some good resources I've discovered.

  • Get Rich Slowly is a blog that was started by a regular guy who found himself thousands of dollars in debt for no good reason. He just hadn't been paying attention. For years. Once he realized what trouble he was in, he dedicated himself to figuring out how to fix it, and he starting this blog to track himself and his ideas. Turns out he's a gifted writer and teacher, and his advice is always very encouraging. I'm not in a situation anywhere near to him, but I still love reading what he's got to say about things. I recommend starting here.
  • Pear Budget is a really simple budget service that helps you keep track of where your money is going. You don't have to know anything about budgeting (I don't) to make it work for you. You just throw in some numbers (it guides you) and then keep track of your receipts and stuff, and Pear Budget tells you if you're on track or what. I like that it's online, it's easy, and it's customizable. But it does cost $3 a month after the trial's over (which is plenty long enough to find out if it's worth it).
  • is a similar money-tracking service, but the emphasis here isn't so much on budgeting. It links to your bank accounts and stuff and keeps up-to-the-minute records of what comes in and goes out. It creates graphs and charts to help you see where you're spending, and it looks very slick. You can make a budget on Mint, but it's not as robust as Pear Budget, even though it's prettier and easier to keep track of since most of the updating is automatic. Also, it's free. They make a commission whenever you choose to take them up on one of their "suggestions." The thing is that Mint looks at how you spend money and stuff and can recommend checking accounts and credit cards that match your needs. It's not intrusive at all, but you do get the feeling that your life is being quantified and the information is being sold without a face attached. But that's unavoidable these days, and what you get for it is boss.

It's not too late to start being better with your money this year. We can all go on vacation together. I'm rooting for you!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To Drew, or maybe to Mary

Drew man,

I know we've always gotten a lot of flack for this:

But what the heck is this, then?

I'm pretty sure that's Henry B. Eyring sporting the only true and living fashion.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Of Lying
Of Favorites

This is a public service announcement.

As it happens, people like to ask people what their favorite things are: favorite books, favorite movies, favorite music, and on and on. To this sort of question there are a few possible responses:

  1. "My favorite movie is Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves."
  2. "Oh, um, I'm not sure, I mean, well, gee, I, uh, never thought about it before but maybe, uh...I don't know."
  3. "Well that depends on what kind of movie we're talking about. If you mean, 'What's my favorite sci-fi?' it's Star Trek IV, unless you count TV movies, in which case it's the special two-hour finale of The Pretender. But if I can count movies and their corresponding TV serieses, I pick Serenity and all of Firefly as pretty much the best thing ever. My favorite Joss Whedon, though, is probably Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog or maybe Season 2 of Buffy. If you mean 'best action movie,' it's definitely Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which is also my pick for best romantic comedy, best thriller, and best Morgan Freeman movie. But it's actually not the best Robin Hood movie, because I'm actually a big fan of Roger Miller's work with Disney on their version of it, but if you meant 'best overall movie ever' I'd have to go with..."1

The correct answer is answer #1. Let me illustrate why with a short anecdote.

When I lived in Korea I would make several calls every evening to confirm appointments, follow up on new contacts, return missed calls, and be generally bothersome, etc. Every time I called someone the same thing would happen. They'd answer the phone and say, "Yobosaeyo!"

"Yobosaeyo. Is Mr. Kim there?"

"Where are you?"

At this sudden question I would furrow my brow in confusion and say, "I'm, uh, at home. Where...are you?"

"Who is this?"

"It's the missionaries."

Why this fascination with my location all the time? Every person I called asked me the same question; this went on for months. I would ask to speak with someone and they'd want to know where I was. I already knew where they were, since I was doing the calling, but I thought it might be rude not to ask back so I always did.

And then one day it clicked: they weren't asking me where I was; they were asking me who I was. Oh, the word was definitely "where." But it was an idiom, a semantic twist of language. In Korea, on the phone, "Where you at?" means "Who you is?" Just like how in America, "Why don't you close the door?" means "Please close the door, dear." It's semantics, baby.

So how does this apply to you, friends? When someone asks you your favorite anything, they aren't really asking you that. What they are really saying is something like, "Hey, give me a quick opinion in an interesting category and I'll either agree or debate."

What they're really saying is, "This date sucks. Let's talk about something."

So answer #2 is obviously wrong because it gives no opinion at all. Answer #3 is more information than anyone really wants.2 Answer #1 is exactly what is called for, a quick, debatable opinion.4

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But what if I don't know what my favorite something is?" Friend, in that case, lie. Make something up. Choose at random from your top ten-ish things in that category and get on with your life. Besides, who's to say that you're lying? Who's to say that your favorite color isn't currently lavender and your favorite dish soap is the kind that smells like apples? There's no law saying that you can't change your mind later, one minute later even, if you want to. And if anyone challenges whether you really think something's your favorite, just give'm the old Kip: "Like anyone can even know that, Napoleon."

1 This post is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any part of this post to real people, living or dead, is unintentional. Unless it sounds like you. In that case, be sure to read footnote 2 when it comes up.
2 No, don't read footnote 2 yet—wait till it comes up. Then skip to footnote 3, since you ruined this one.
3 If you give something akin to answer #3 and the person you are with lights up and enters what becomes a long, soul-searching conversation, get married immediately. You're not likely to do better.
4 Well, it's not really debatable, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bonus Rounds

The first bonus round was a game to keep people busy until everyone showed up. It consisted of designing a new hairdo for yours truly. Click on the thumbnails to see their true glory. The winner was the wrinkly, freaky looking one at the bottom.

The second bonus round was another Grover Family classic, the Drawing Game. And we didn't screw around, either; we went straight for the action—Scrooge McDuck. Some people couldn't even handle the pressure and threw their pens with great force in frustration, demanding we move on to the next round. I think Pat's may have won, but I can't remember.

As a point of reference:

Over all it was a good mix of games. As you can see, everyone humiliated themselves, but they all had a chance to humiliate me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Grover Family Game Night: Chicago Edition

So here's the deal: AWP is fun, but it has lots of flaws. There's a lot of pretension, a lot of backhanded complimenting, a lot of spotlight stealing. I've always wished it was a celebration of writing rather than some kind of seminar, a place to be encouraged and reinvigorated, to enjoy words and the writing of them, rather than a place to enjoy the idea that your own words will be appreciated if you shake enough hands.

I'm not dogging the institution or the people who do it right (the nice girl who talk to Z and I for an hour without even a mention of future favors,1 the guy I met last year in Iowa who still thinks to say hi [we didn't recognize each other at first: we had traded beards]), but the whole thing lends itself to suckiness.

So, in order to counter that just a bit, and in order to promote goodwill and friendship among my several social circles, and perhaps in hopes of there being a future tradition, I called an emergency Grover Family Game Night to be held in my hotel room Friday night. It was an Academic Octathlon with two Bonus Rounds, prizes to be awarded for top team and top solo player. Behold the fun:

Two reps from each team participated in each round of the Grover Family classic, Forest Whitaker. You could get bonus points by naming the year each movie was released.

Sarah looks beatific. (She left early, before discovering her team lost. Bad.)

Mike and Dave, determined to not look dumb.

Beware this tower of Madden power.

Joey is more than likely about to make a terrible pun, and Melissa hasn't figured that out yet.

Pat calls a foul as other contestants look on in...slight boredom.

The Joey Franklin Experience competes in the Creativity Round, each member in turn saying a word that starts with the last letter of the word before and that fits the category "Family Reunion."

Amy is either a ghost or a master of telepathy—Emily considers the options. (Joe, meanwhile, couldn't be any more handsome.)

Pat wins the Bonus Round and graciously shares his Jonas Brothers Valentine's candy.

Teams check their answers in the Geography Round against a map of Africa.

Mike announces the final scores (we only had time for 6 rounds).

The Winning Team: The Eminent Immethodical Disputants STARSHIP.

Dave, MVP and winner of the Solo Performance Prize (a copy of Best American Travel Writing signed by Charles Dickens), shows off the goods.

The Host with the Most (wearing a dapper Cliff Huxtable sweater).

I only wish more Grovers could've been there (three words: Add-on Dance Contest). Tomorrow I'll post the results of the Bonus Rounds—you won't believe it.

1The married girl who talked to us for an hour, I should say, so you know it was real. I mean, our literary clout is nothing compared to our good looks and charm, and she didn't have designs on either.