Thursday, May 04, 2006

Strange Locations From My Youth #1

Strange Place #1

When I was seven years old, my family moved to Baden bei Wien (near Vienna), Austria for six months as part of a travel study program. My parents gave my older brother and me a pretty long leash. I remember walking into town with Mike to go to the Rosarium (a beautiful park with rose gardens and a lake), up into the mountains where two old castles were crumbling into ruins and all around the walking part of town.

But the strangest place I was drawn to in Baden was the old cemetery that was nestled at the foot of the mountains. I remember asking a man who was part of our group if he would go walk there with me one day. He kindly agreed, and I can now only imagine what surprise he must have felt at such an odd request.

The cemetery was unlike anything you’d find in my childhood town of Orem, Utah. The tombstones demanded respect at first glance. Their age and history humbled me and made me see my own life in a larger perspective. The names fascinated me the most, since they were so unlike what I was familiar with in the United States.

Postscript: I just found this website that really "took me back." Please go look at the gallery of pictures of this beautiful little corner of the world:

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Silly Things I Have Done :: Installment #1

Prologue: Okay, most of the “silly things” I will admit to will probably involve my friend Alysa. Alysa and I had all kinds of fun times together when we were in high school and college. We went through a lot together and stuck together through thick and thin. Life was so intense for us that we did crazy, fun, quirky things whenever we could. That helped us survive everything else.

One of my absolute favorite memories involved an old, discarded motherboard that Alysa had. We decided to have a little fun at the expense of the male population. We noticed that many men have this perception that women and technology can’t really mesh. Alysa’s dad happened to be an engineer and we both hung out with the computer geek crowd in high school. We both knew more about programming, electronics and geekdom than your average person. (We’ll cover our obsession with prime numbers and pi in a future installment.)

So we decided to take the motherboard to our university one day. We went to the computer science building at Brigham Young University and walked to a very busy hallway. Here we began our experiment. It went like this. We lifted up the motherboard to around eye level and then both got affixed really confused, dazed looks on our faces. We stood still and wondered how long we would have to wait.

Within seconds our first “victim” arrived.

“Hello, ladies. Do you need some help with that?” he asked in a very superior, helpful voice.

“Yeah, we like don’t get it and stuff,” we said dumbly. “Like, what’s this thing here?”

“Oh, that’s a capacitor,” he told us incorrectly.

“Oh!” we exclaimed with looks of relief on our faces. “Thank you!” We watched him walk away, with looks of admiring adoration on our faces until he left.

“That’s not a capacitor!” Alysa said disgustedly, as soon as he was out of sight. She then proceeded to explain his mistake to me. We repeated the process and before a few minutes had passed, we were actually surrounded by a crowd of young men, eager to help explain things to us.

After a little bit of effort, we got rid of the eager crowd (women + motherboard = sexy!) and decided to make our experiment mobile. We thought we’d see how people felt about us treating a motherboard with reckless abandon, so we stepped out into the rainstorm outside and walked along, looking at the motherboard as it got soaked and talking animatedly to each other as if there was no trouble.

At first, people just glanced at us with furrowed brows. Eventually, somebody was shocked enough to speak. He had almost walked past us when he noticed what we were holding. He stopped dead in his tracks and said, “Excuse me, ladies.” He was excessively polite, I should add. “Did you know that’s a computer motherboard?” he asked.

With looks of shock, we looked down at the motherboard as if we’d never noticed it until that moment and said, “It is?”

“Yes,” he said with concern. “It’s not supposed to get wet.”

“Oh,” we said, with our faces clearly happily. “Thanks for telling us! We appreciate your help!” And walked away. The man watched us with surprise until we were out of view.

It was pointless. It was random. And it was just a touch sassy. Good times.