Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maeser Hill

This is the last horror story I wrote for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club in its inaugural year.[1] As with the other stories I wrote that year, I drew heavily from other sources. In this case, I based the story on something that happened to my mother when she was an undergraduate at BYU. She had to stay in Provo by herself during Christmas and she was nervous because they had a peeping Tom. They could see his footprints in the snow outside of one of her roommate's windows. Fortunately nothing happened…to my mom, that is. Her fictional counterpart might not be so lucky… Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ghost of the AXMB

During my time as a BYU custodian I worked mostly in the Auxiliary Services Maintenance Building (AXMB).[1] One evening the other student custodian for the AXMB had to go home early, so after the 7 pm break I was finishing up by myself. I heard a loud crash out in the automotive repair shop, so I went out there to investigate. The lights were all off except one and it was a little spooky in there.  One of the other custodians, a girl named Janelle, finished the University Press Building early, so our boss sent her over to help me finish. She came into the repair shop behind me without me hearing, so when she started talking to me I was quiet startled. I used that experience to write another horror story for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[2] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Found Treasures VII: Custodial Photographs

For several years as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU), I worked as a custodian in the evenings. I spend most of my time taking care of the Auxiliary Services Maintenance Building (AXMB), but sometimes I was assigned instead to the Auxiliary Services Laundry Building (AXLB), the University Press Building (UPB), or the Student Auxiliary Services Building (SASB).[1] Now, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilets, etc., while necessary isn't very mentally stimulating. So I sometimes came up with crazy ideas to occupy my mind. And sometimes I even followed through with some of those crazy ideas. Like…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hograss Forest

My first year at scout camp was at Camp Loll, which is near the southern edge of Yellowstone National Park. The camp director that year was Delose Conner [1], who has acquired some local fame for his storytelling. One evening we scouts were to do a compass course. But before letting us wander out into the dark, Delose gathered us all together and told us some bear stories—the kind that make you wet your pants. Then he cheerfully sent us out into the dark armed with nothing more than our flashlights and our compasses. Not long into the course one of the staff showed up to tell us that a bear had been spotted at the other end of the valley with her two cubs. A little while later another staff member showed up and told us that the bear and her cubs were wandering our way, so we should carefully make our way back to camp. As we were all trudging nervously down the hill back to camp, a horrible growl sounded right in front of us at the bottom of the hill. We abandoned all of our training and ran away…until we noticed that our scout leaders were laughing at us. It was all a big joke. I wrote this story for Hallowe'en for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[2] It is inspired by one of the stories Delose told us.[3] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Agent of Chaos

One of Lillian's favorite things to do is take something that is neat and orderly and destroy it. This makes it difficult to fold the laundry [1] or make towers out of her blocks.[2] If she sees a pile of papers and/or magazines on the coffee table [3], she thrusts them all to the floor (and will even start tearing them apart).[4] And she likes to help unload the dishwasher (but she doesn't care about putting anything away). We've even resorted to creating things that are appropriate for her to destroy, like filling an old tissue box with shreds of paper so she can pull them all out and scatter them. But every once in a while she still has a bonanza.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blowing Bubbles

For the last few months Lillian has evolved a particular whine when she's fussy. It goes something like mmmwah! mmmwah! mmmwah!… (mouse over for IPA). A few weeks I ago I noticed that she wasn't simply doing this for the linguistic quality of the sound, or to maximize parental annoyance, she was blowing a spit bubble with each mmmwah! This isn't the first time she's blown spit bubbles [1], but in the past the bubbles have never been so big! After several weeks of attempting to document this phenomenon, Leann finally caught it on video. And now I present it to you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dr. Doomuch

When I was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU) I worked several years as volunteer research assistant in a cancer lab on the eighth floor of the Widtsoe Building (WIDB). I was working on a death curve (treat the cancer cells with a chemical and then count them every two hours for twenty-four hours to determine how quickly they're dying) and I was in the lab around 2 am. The building was empty and kind of spooky. When I was working in the laminar flow hood, a BYU security guard came into the lab. I didn't hear her because the hood was kind of noisy. She got right up behind me and asked, loudly, "May I see your ID?" She scared me half to death with that little stunt. I used that as inspiration for writing a horror story for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club.[1][2] Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


This is another of the stories I wrote for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club's first Hallowe'en.[1] Back then I didn't have a lot of experience writing fiction—especially horror fiction. So I drew heavily from my experience rather than from my imagination (as you will see here and in some of the stories I'll post later on). The idea for this story came from To Kill a Mockingbird, as I acknowledge in the first paragraph. But this one takes a darker turn. Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cleaning House III

This last weekend we went up to my parents' house so we could watch General Conference [1] with them. Leann's family likes to eat treats while watching General Conference, so she made caramel popcorn for everybody to share. And I made a fresh salsa using the hot peppers from my chile pequín plant.[2] I tried to use few enough that it wouldn't overwhelm my weak-tongued siblings, but my sister Ashley managed to fish out a spicy bite and had to bow out to look for some peanut butter. For the last session of General Conference, on Sunday, we drove down to my Grandma's house. Before we left, I decided to remove a few more of my things from my old room. This time it was mainly wooden model dinosaur skeletons that I'd been collecting since my childhood. In high school I glued them together and spray painted them black. But I haven't done anything with them in a long time (as evidenced by how much dust you can see on them in the photographs below). I don't have anywhere to keep them (or a good reason to keep them), so I gave them up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Television Review: Once Upon a Time…, Season 1

Once Upon a Time… was created by two former writers for the television series LOST.[1] Thus there are several homages to LOST, including use of the numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, as well as their sum, 108). The way the story plays out is similar to LOST, too, where episodes deal with one character and their moral or personal struggles in two different timelines. What makes this show different is that the flashbacks show you to their lives as fairy tale characters. But since the show airs on ABC (which is owned by Disney), several of the fairy tales reference the Disney version of those tales rather than the historical ones (e.g. in character names, dress, etc.).[2]

Television Review: No Ordinary Family, Season 1.5

As was the case with THE EVƎNT [1], I was moderately loyal about watching this show during the first half of the season.[2] I was enjoying where No Ordinary Family was going, but my life got busy and it took me a while to get around to finishing the series. By the time I did, I just barely managed to catch all the episodes before they were taken down from Hulu.[3] Like THE EVƎNT, this show was cancelled after its first season due to poor ratings.[4]

Television Review: THE EVƎNT, Season 1.5

I felt like NBC's THE EVƎNT had pretty good momentum through the first half of the season.[1] But then the show took a three month hiatus. I suspected that this, more than any flaws in characterization, plot, or dramatic tension, would result in the cancellation of the show. Since I wasn't a die-hard fan, I lost track of it and didn't realize when it resumed airing the rest of the season. One day I saw it advertised on Hulu and realized that the season was already over. And, sure enough, by then the show had been cancelled due to poor ratings.[2] THE EVƎNT started out with flashbacks and mysterious happenings—obviously an attempt to duplicate the LOST phenomenon. But viewers complained about this aspect making the show too confusing, so they jettisoned it from the second half of the season.[3] However, unlike LOST, they promised that they wouldn't take forever to answer questions posed. They did a pretty good job of this, answering questions within a few episodes but still managed to maintain dramatic tension.

Television Review: Warehouse 13, Season 1

I was surprised to learn that this show is the most-viewed program on the SyFy station. I had assumed it would be Battlestar Galactica [1], which garnered a lot of critical praise, or EUReKA.[2] My guess is that it's popular because it is reminiscent of The X-Files, because it has a strong female protagonist (which attracts female viewers), and because there is sexual tension between two of the main characters (which also attracts female viewers). It is about members of the Secret Service (why that agency, I have no idea) who comb the world looking for artifacts which possess special powers. These artifacts invariably cause problems, so they are removed from general circulation and stored indefinitely in the eponymous Warehouse 13. Why they don't just destroy all these artifacts hasn't been addressed (at least, not in this season).

Television Review: EUReKA, Season 5

Even though EUReKA is one of their most popular shows, SyFy decided to cancel the series after this season because their special effects budget was too large.[1] Now SyFy is being overrun by a swarm of low-budget reality-television schlock like America's Smartest Kids, Change the Day You Die, Collection Intervention, Destination Truth, Dinner With Deepak [2], Dream Machines, Face Off, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Haunted Collector, Haunted Highway, Hi Tech Hoaxes, Hollywood Treasure, Hot Set, Insane or Inspired?, Monster Man, Overthunk, Paranormal Witness, Scare Tactics, School Spirits, Stunts Unlimited, Tyler Shields, and Viral Video Showdown.[3] Pretty soon there won't even be any science fiction on the SyFy channel (just like there aren't music videos on MTV anymore).

Television Review: Sherlock, Season 2

Spurred on by how much we enjoyed the first season of Sherlock [1], Leann and I immediately proceeded to the second season. The season finale left us wanting more and we were anxious to see how it could be resolved. (We were planning on suspending our Netflix account at the end of that month, so we had that as an additional incentive.) We were also warned that the first episode of season two had some risqué content (see below), so we had to proceed with caution.

Television Review: Sherlock, Season 1

One of the undergraduates in my lab suggested I watch the BBC show, Sherlock, and within a few days Leann independently queued it up in our Netflix service. I agreed to watch the first episode with her, one morning, when I didn't need to be to work right away. I thought it would be a typical 40-minute episode and I was a little confused why Neflix only had three episodes. Well, it was an hour and a half long, so I was a little later to work than I thought I'd be. And that also explains why there are only three episodes per season, or series, as they call them in Britain: each one is practically a feature-length film. Each episode is based on one of the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but they have been updated to take place in the present (e.g. Dr. Watson is a veteran of the War in Afghanistan which began in 2001, not the Second Anglo–Afghan War as in the book).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hogle Zoo

This last weekend we took Lillian to the Hogle Zoo.[1] We've been waiting for her to be old enough to enjoy it. A few months ago we took her to a pet store to see if she'd be interested. She had a good time but didn't give any video-worthy performances. And her attention span ran out pretty quickly. So we waited a little longer before taking her to the zoo. We were accompanied (to the zoo) by Leann's sister, Jennie, and her family, and Leann's old roommate, Maggie, and her family.[2] This year there was a new attraction, called Rocky Shores. Here are some of the animals we saw:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Custom Munchkin Treasure Cards

Last time I introduced you to some door cards I designed for the RPG-spoofing card game, Munchkin.[1] The game is similar to D&D in that you're walking around a dungeon, kicking open doors (e.g. the door cards I designed in my last post) and confronting whatever's inside the next room—monsters, curses, or character cards. But there's another pile of cards—the treasure cards. In most cases you earn treasure cards by defeating monsters. The more powerful the monster(s), the more treasures it's carrying. Treasure cards can be weapons, powerups, enhancers, etc. Here are the ones I designed: