Friday, October 30, 2009

Cookie-Beard the Pirate and the Monkey Princess

I have a confession: I hate Halloween. I think it is ridiculous. I don't like dressing up, I don't like orange (it clashes with my complexion), I don't like pumpkin, I don't like blood (real or fake), I don't like scary movies (seriously people, you pay to have nightmares??) and I don't like crappy chocolate and candy. I hate Halloween.

I am very aware that my dislike of Halloween, especially around here, makes me somewhat of a minority, and yet I am unapologetic. I think it is a blatant exploitation of an otherwise obscure day of pagan celebration (and I use the word 'celebration' in the loosest sense) for the profit and gain of candy companies, alcoholic beverage companies, and purveyors of cheap clothing.

There is, however, one good thing about Halloween: Lena is currently fascinated with dress-up and pretend play, and, with cheap costumes abounding, I am able to flesh out her dress-up box, without having to make things myself or spend a lot of money. That is win-win in my book.

This is Oliver a few days ago. Yes, he is wearing a mostly white shirt, and yes he is eating Oreo cookies. His masterful skills in body art earned him the name of 'Cookie-Beard the Pirate'.

Here is Cookie-Beard minus the cookie-beard.

He even learnt what pirates say (argggggggggghh!), which is heart-melting-ly cute.

As most of you know, Lena has been rather attached to Mr. Monkey (well, all three of them, actually), so we decided it was high time that she joined the ranks and became a mischievous monkey herself.

She even has her own Monkey Dance.

Lena was rather keen on the idea initially, but decided that she actually wanted to be a princess, and promptly informed everyone, including our dentist, of that fact. However, we reached a compromise... There was a Halloween party at Evan's work this morning, and Lena went in her monkey costume with a tutu over the top. She was the Monkey Princess. Oliver's outfit was completed with an eyeliner French moustache and beard (think Dustin Hoffman in Hook), and by a stroke of luck, he lost his shoe at the party and wandered around thudding with alternating steps... Cookie-Beard the Pirate earned himself the name Cookie-Beard the One-Legged Pirate.

More pictures to come after the obligatory round of trick-or-treating tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What Do You Do With A Broken Hanger?

Why, you put Cheerios on it of course!

Isn't that what everyone does?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why I love (and why I picked) Economics

I love Economics. Hannah consistently teases me about the way that it has affected my ability to think clearly (take that as you will) but I thoroughly enjoy my classes and the subject matter.

It helps that my teachers spend the first few minutes of every class showing Youtube clips like this one that they’ve received from their students or fellow professors. (It also really helps that BYU finally un-blocked traffic to the Youtube site from their on campus servers…) But, Youtube entertainment aside, this semester has been particularly enjoyable – I’m finally getting past the core classes and into the elective ones where we basically read an article or a paper and discuss it in class.

Today, in lieu of a Youtube clip, my professor started off my Healthcare Economics class by sharing the way he now introduces Monopolies in his Econ 110 class (Introductory Economics for you non-BYU-ites). I will attempt to recreate that all for you here.

He starts by saying that one example of a monopoly is the BYU Bookstore. For starters, it’s a great tie because it is so close to home and pocketbook for anybody in his student audience. Furthermore, BYU, unlike other bookstores at other local universities, has a return policy that is linked to the campus’ honor code. They will only accept returns for your books if you have dropped the class the books are for, and not if you have found them cheaper from somewhere else. Easily skirted, if you just bend the truth a bit, but every student signs away their right to lie when they enroll for classes at BYU.

In January of this year, a girl who goes to BYU wrote an excellent article about this conundrum, and cited my professor… you can read the full text here if you like. In the article, she quoted the following from my professor regarding the bookstore’s policy:
"The policy acts as a tax on honesty. If a student is honest and purchases a replacement product elsewhere, no refund is available. However, if the student fudges the truth a bit, the student can get a refund. Honesty is punished.

"Most stores compete for consumers not just by the prices they charge, but by the service they give, with a refund policy being an important aspect of service. A more typical policy is to match a competitor's price, or to offer a money-back guarantee if a consumer finds a similar product for a cheaper price. But the Bookstore has a lot of market power given their location; they can act like a monopoly so perhaps they don't need to compete as hard as the typical retailer."
… All of which is absolutely true.

The part that gets funny is the way that the managers of the bookstore responded to the truth. (Admittedly, everything else I’ve got to say is opinion or anecdotal… but as they say in Russian, “In every joke, there is a slice of truth”, I choose to believe there are more than a few slices of truth in this…)

Reaction #1: Following the campus newspaper’s publication of the story I linked to above, the bookstore retaliated by pulling all of their advertising from the Daily Universe’s pages for more than a month.

Reaction #2: The managers of the campus bookstore got in touch with my Econ professor, on the pretense that they wanted to make sure that they were “on the same page”. These geniuses showed up in his office armed with a statistical comparison they had compiled, ready to lay down the law. They set out to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was cheaper for students to buy any of the textbook materials used in the Economics Department from the bookstore than it was to buy them online. They did a great job – using the used book prices at the bookstore against new prices from online retailers like My teacher pointed out the apples-to-oranges comparison for them, and they quickly changed tack.

Reaction #3: “But the bookstore can’t be a monopoly, because we employ people who are bishops and stake presidents (LDS ecclesiastical leaders)…” I’m not quite sure which angle to attack this one from because it is so vulnerable. Another one of my Econ professors has created what he calls the “Ad Hominem Index”. It is used to judge the logical and rational strength of one’s argument based on the number of personal attacks in it. In a nutshell, it is an inverse relationship… if all you’ve got is “You’re wrong because you suck,” your argument isn’t going to go very well. I think what the bookstore employees had to say is pretty much the opposite of that style of arguing, but no stronger. They’re saying, “we can’t be an evil monopoly, because we’re good people!” Obviously, my professor didn’t have much trouble seeing through their crap, and the managers left, angry and defeated.

But they weren’t done yet.

Reaction #4: To get back at my professor, the bookstore pulled all of the materials he had ordered for his classes from their shelves, replacing them instead with a sign that said “See Professor”.

Today my professor structures his courses so that students don’t have to buy books from the bookstore. In particular, he and the other professors who teach Econ 110 have set the course up so that it can be taken without purchasing anything from the bookstore. All of the reading and coursework can be found on, for a small fee that goes into Aplia’s pocket. Considering the fact that Econ 110 is a part of the general education core classes for BYU students, and not just Economics majors, the turnover is immense. Easily 400-500 students take Econ 110 every semester, and the bookstore doesn’t get a dime. If the students do want to buy a physical copy of the book, the professors all encourage them to buy it online through Aplia, who sells it for a price less than 50% of what the bookstore charges (even for a used copy.)

I picked Economics because I wanted to be something other than the average “Business-Finance” undergraduate. I stuck with Economics because I thought it was a really effective way of explaining the things that people do and why they do them. I LOVE Economics because in moments like these, it gives you the skill set to intelligently present an impersonal, yet irrefutable argument.

Amazing how a little bit of knowledge goes a long way.

Monday, October 19, 2009

They say the darndest things...

From time to time, we are amazed by the budding intelligence and wit of our kids. Everyone else is, of course, convinced that their kids are perfect as well, so let me elaborate before you dismiss this for yet another parent's superlative rant about how great their kid is.

Alena gets a story before bedtime. Last night, we were all snuggled up to read the Little Golden Book called "Another Monster at the End of This Book! (Starring Grover and Elmo)". Because it was late, and because she's two, and because the world is never fair, but mostly because her brother wanted to climb in bed with us since it looked like we were having so much fun, Lena threw a fit. She pushed Oliver off the bed, (which he took as par for the course,) and proceeded to inform me that, "I doh want it anymore. I doh like monster book."

So storytime was over, we packed up, she got tucked in, and it was time for bed. A few minutes later, after the wailing subsided, I went back and explained to her that because she said she didn't like and didn't want the story anymore, she wasn't going to get the story anymore. It sounded like the logic stuck because she said ok, apologized to Oliver, and cuddled back into her blankets.

A couple minutes after that, she started calling for Daddy, and so I went into her room to see what was up. She proceeded to inform me that she didn't like her bed, and didn't want to go to sleep anymore, so could she come out now?


Like I said earlier though, the world is never fair (or logical, for that matter) when you're two.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hiking with Toddlers

This year, since I wasn't pregnant, and since Lena was old enough to walk relatively long distances unaided, we decided to give hiking a try. Evan, of course, if given the choice would live outside and become a self-sufficient wild man. They say opposites attract, and, needless to say, the fact that I will even entertain the notion of hiking (or camping) says a lot for the progress I have made, as Evan would put it. We even bought a Kelty backpack this summer. (As a side note, we love it. And I love it even more since Evan carries it.)

We have done various hikes over the past few months, and we have learnt a few things in the process. Here are some tips:

1. Every parent knows to pack for every eventuality. When hiking with kids you really need to pack for every eventuality. Extra snacks (in case fussy toddler #1 turns her nose up at ham and cheese sandwiches..."No! I don't want it!"), extra drinks, extra blankets, extra sweaters (yes, even in the dead of summer: we learnt that the hard way... "Mummy, I'm cold"), extra coats, extra socks, sunscreen... The list goes on an on.
2. No matter how far or how short, you can count on your toddler pooping out well before the halfway point. Guarantee it.
3. Toddler have little legs. Like, really little legs. Really, really. Evan and I always make a point of factoring in 'toddler walking time' and are constantly amazed at just how slow they are.
4. Don't go hiking after 4pm. Any parent knows how long it takes to get things set up in order to get out the door. The same principle applies for getting out of the car to go hiking. Going on a hike with already hungry and tired toddlers after spending 20 minutes fitting the baby carrier and doing potty duty is just asking for trouble. Trust me.
5. Don't forget to have fun. Your toddler doesn't care if you don't make it to mile 6, or the lake at the top of the mountain. Most of the time she will spend her time occupied with which blade of grass looks like the best one to pick and carry as a trophy, or searching for leaves that are shaped like squares. Yes, it is frustrating, but at least they are having fun. Enjoy it.

A few weeks back, Evan got the hiking bug again. He eagerly planned it all out in his down time at work, and told me his magnificent plans (I heart Gmail chats). He decided on Squaw Peak Trail, which is more of an unpaved road, but it was good enough for us. We would be catching the tail end of the fall colours, and we were both excited.

E: "So... can you have the kids ready by the time I get home?"
H: "That depends on when you are getting home."
E: "Four-ish"
H: "So we won't leave until 5, and dusk is at 6:45. Are you sure that is a good idea, considering we are going to be doing 5 miles at Lena pace?"
E: "Yeah it will be a piece of cake. How slow can she possibly be? It will only take an hour and a half."

Needless to say I made a rather convincing argument that nixed that idea, and we went the following morning... to better appreciate the colours.

And appreciate them we did, more so since the kids had slept well and were rather amiable. Even though we missed the really vibrant colours by about a week, there was as spectacular show. I, naturally, took my camera, but the overcast day (and the fact that I don't really know how to use my camera properly yet) meant that, as always, my pictures did not do the scenery justice.

We drove a short way on the trail, and then parked the car and walked as far as the kids would allow... perhaps two miles out. (The trail goes around the back side of Squaw Peak, and eventually meets up with trails in Rock Canyon. From the maps I think it goes even further than that along the bench, but seeing as there was no way we would make it 9 miles on foot, I didn't search further.) The trees were spectacular, even though a lot of them were well past shedding their leaves. We discovered that there are campsites dotting the trail (which we are going to make use of next summer), and there are also a few meadow areas, which we are rather excited to see in full bloom next May.

But I digress. Lena behaved like the two year that she is: not content to hold hands, and rather convinced that her brother's blade of grass was far superior to her own. She spent most of her time like this:

She found a purple flower to match her purple jacket

And a rather enticing area full of crunchy red leaves

Oliver was a good sport. He rather enjoys his Kelty backpack. I would too come to think of it. I wish Evan could carry me around on his back too... that would make hiking a heck of a lot easier. (P.S. can anyone say 'Blue Steel'?!) (P.P.S. I think it is time to cut his hair again.)

The only part Oliver didn't like was after this next photo. Evan set down the pack for a moment, on a well-picked, level surface I might add, only to find it toppling over (with Oliver firmly strapped inside) from a freak gust of wind, or else Oliver's behemoth mass throwing off the center of gravity as he tried to catch a butterfly. Or something like that. Note to self (or to Evan, I guess): Children need watching if only because they attract freak accidents.

Needless to say, Oliver was not impressed. However, it was nothing that a few fruit snacks couldn't fix, so off we went. I guess I should add that to the list:

6. Always bring treats of some description. Everyone knows toddler have short attention spans. A well placed candy can end tears, and even coax your toddler up that mountain. Bribery. It works every time.
6a. Bring extra snacks.

Evan did try to get us to go 'bush-whacking' in the meadows. It would have been fine except I was wearing cropped leggings, and Lena was barely taller than the grass. I think that tipped Lena's patience scale, so we stopped for lunch, and headed back.

And I don't have a caption for this one. I just like it.

We headed back not a moment too soon. The weather was turning, and by the time we got to the car it was starting to spit, and the temperature had dropped at least 10F. As we hadn't made it as far as we had hoped on foot we took the car up the rest of the trail as far as we could go, which was well into Rock Canyon. I very much enjoyed the hike, and you certainly take in more scenery when you go at a slower pace, but it was a hell of a lot easier to do it in the car. That's for sure.

So, for the last pictures. I would label them, but I think most of them would be along the lines of "some trees, 'round the back of that one place, with that one mountain.. you know...".

Some trees, 'round the back of that one place, with that one mountain.. you know...

Some trees, 'round the back of that one place, with that one mountain.. you know...