Merry Christmas 2012

We had a great day of present-opening here at our house, and there’s still Christmas dinner to look forward to – yum!  Yesterday half the family came over to celebrate Christmas Eve, and tomorrow we’re heading down to Moscow to visit the other half.
Gifts + food + family = simply having a wonderful Christmastime!

I hope you’re enjoying the holidays, too. :)

Saturday Snapshot: 2012 Pumpkin Carving

It’s been four years since I’ve been home for Halloween. Three of those years were spent in candle-free college dorms, and the fourth was in an anti-jack-o’-lantern apartment.  So for four years straight I missed the annual pumpkin-carving.  Not this year!

This year I split the carving duties with my dad, as always.  I design the carvings, we both scoop out the insides, and then he does the actual cutting.  (This division of labors dates back to a time when I was too little to be trusted with a kitchen knife. Some say I still am not to be trusted with a kitchen knife.)

This year was slightly different because for the first time we attempted jack-o-lanterns that were not traditional faces.  I’m pretty sure that all of our previous Halloweens featured pumpkins with faces (although I might be forgetting something). We’ve had angry, happy, sad, scared, confused, even cat and dog faces.  Here’s a typical sampling (Halloween 2004):

However, since this pumpkin-carving was the first since both my brother and I went to college, it was time for something new.  He was the one who brought up the idea, by sharing a photo of a WSU jack-o-lantern to our mom.  I said that I would only carve a WSU pumpkin if we also had an ASU pumpkin, and thus the college jack-o-lanterns were born.


Disclaimer: the WSU Cougar logo was done from a template found on the university’s Facebook page.  The ASU pumpkin is hand-drawn, because I didn’t really see any templates I liked. I knew I wanted to do the new pitchfork logo, but I also added in the initials for good measure (since the Cougar logo accomplished both at once).  It was also necessary here in Spokane, where Cougar Pumpkin received many compliments from trick-or-treaters who recognized it.  The ASU attempt did get a glowing review from a Sun Devil hopeful, which was nice.

Overall, the college jack-o-lanterns made the carving more difficult for my dad, but he did a great job at executing the designs, as he always has.  (See the swirly-eyed pumpkin in the 2004 photo for evidence.)  Another new technique this year: toothpicks, which worked surprisingly well.  The newcomers fit right in with the two “traditional” jack-o-lanterns we made – good and evil, naturally – and I think that we can write off this year’s pumpkin carving as a success.

Saturday Snapshot: Goodbye, ASU!

Adios to ASU and Tempe, Arizona. It’s been a good four years!

(Self-portrait taken from the top of Hayden Butte on the same morning
as “Valley of the Sun”, a bit after the actual sunrise.)

Bonus Edition: ASU’s Maroon Convocation

On Friday morning, following the night of the big university commencement, I went to convocation – which included just half of the students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences rather than the entire ASU student body.  For this one, everybody gets to walk across the stage and get their name read, so it’s worth going to.  Problem was, we had to be there and ready by 7am, after being up late the night before.  Ugh.  More play-by-play impressions follow the picture.

Another photo courtesy of my mom’s phone, from the stands.

The crowds are amassing while we are trying to find a place to park.  I tell my parents to drop me off and park in the structure next to the arena.  Little do I know what consequences that innocuous choice will have.

Graduates have to line up outside by last name to get their photo identifier / name pronunciation card.  For some reason the line “R-S” is backed up 30 people deep compared to most other lines with three or less waiting.  This could go either way – people with R-S last names might be inherently smarter and thus more likely to graduate, or they could just be inept at performing simple activities like picking up notecards.

Eventually the girl managing the P-Q line (which is deserted) steals the R box to break up the line (and to have something to do).  Things move faster.

Now we’re supposed to make a single file line behind our department’s banner.  The room allotted makes it physically impossible for English department graduates to go single file.  We end up making a sort of milling mob, which is more creative and organic anyway.

I see people I know, which is already an improvement upon commencement.  My fellow creative writing cohort Anita teams up with me in line so we each have someone to talk to during our ordeal.

The whole “lining up outside” idea is looking worse and worse, particularly for those of us in direct sunlight wearing dark polyester gowns and hats.  30 minutes pass, then 60, then 90.  I picture some archaeologist years from now excavating a dig site and finding hundreds of skeletal remains in maroon academic regalia.

Finally we move.  Determined volunteers chivy us along and make us funnel into a form more closely resembling a single file line.  This is important because about six of these lines will be walking down the road to the arena in concert, and if one poor soul gets lost an entire department might not graduate.

I suggest to Anita that we should hold onto the tassel of the person in front of us, like baby elephants with their mother’s tail.

As we enter the arena, we are funneled through metal gates eerily reminiscent of a stockyard.  I revise us from elephants to cattle in my head.  Highly educated cattle.

One of the global studies graduates tries to sneak into the English line, which is moving the fastest, then realizes that she would have to spend four years studying a different major before that could work.  She returns to her stalled line.

Turns out the English line zooms along because we get to sit in the chairs on the floor of the arena.  Our group is going to walk earlier than most of the other departments.  Take that, psychology students!

The next five minutes are spent texting back and forth with my parents, trying to locate them in the stands.  The fact that they’re almost directly behind me makes this difficult, but eventually I find them.

The speaker for this event knows what he’s doing, and is even funny, in that older-generation-trying-to-appeal-to-the-younger kind of way.

His analogies might be a little unsuitable for Arizona graduates.  He talks about walking on thin ice.  Then he asks how many people have ever seen ice.  I mentally facepalm.

We’re moving!  We’re moving!

My picture is taken three times during my walk. I hope that one of them turns out okay.  That’s all I really need.

I hear my dad all the way from the stands when my name is read.  Thanks, Dad.

English students sit and prepare to wait out all of the rest of the graduates.  It’s going to be a while.

One of the psychology students has managed to affix what looks like the upper hemisphere of a brain to the top of her mortarboard.  I grudgingly acknowledge that psychology students do have some skills, after all.

Hurrah!  Done again!  This time plus a nifty diploma cover!  We’re blinded by different color spotlights as the graduates file out.

We repeat the whole lost-lambs-with-cell-phones scene as we file out of the arena.  Baaaa.

Oh yeah, that parking lot thing?  Utter disaster.  We’re on the third floor and it takes an hour and many mini freak-outs before we exit.  I’m surprised we got out alive, in a war zone with angry, frustrated people with large vehicles all attempting to back out at once.

But we make it…still in once piece!  And double-graduated to boot!

Further Notes on ASU Commencement 2012

Last night I started to give a blow-by-blow account of the ASU commencement ceremony of 2012, but then my brain cut out and I had to stop partway through.  So here are some further thoughts on the big event!

Photo courtesy of my mom, from the stands.

Much confusion among the graduates when the announcer says, “Gentlemen, remove your hats for the singing of the national anthem.”  More than 50% of the class is female, after all.  And we’re all wearing hats.  But they aren’t “ladies’ hats” specifically, so does that mean we should remove them?  At all other ASU events, there is no such gender qualifier. It’s rather archaic for my generation.  In the end, about half of the female graduates take off their mortarboards and half leave them on.  Meh.

Tom Brokaw eventually materializes and the crowd goes wild.  His speech is a welcome change from the monotone drones of earlier.  I conclude that everything sounds better in Tom Brokaw’s voice, just as it does in Morgan Freeman’s.

Brokaw did his research – he rips on Tuscon, gives a shout out to the Vue, and wears the traditional ASU headgarb of a baseball cap.  Kudos, Tom Brokaw.  Sun Devil cred is now yours.

One snippet of Brokaw’s speech (which is very good): “Beware of their bombast.”  He’s speaking about political candidates in general.  Our class knows this all too well, most having entered college four years ago in the fall of 2008, just in time for the last presidential election.

Brokaw’s done, and now we have to do the thing where some people stand and some don’t.  I stand once.  That is enough for me.

Now degrees are conferred on us in bulk.  “Candidates” (representative students) from each college walk on the stage and then the whole college celebrates.  I’m not sure how I feel about this plan – some colleges have less than 50 students, while mine, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has over 3,000.  I would demand a bicameral system and our own House of Representatives, but for the fact that it would make an already long ceremony even longer.

One of the men bestowing awards steps away from the podium and continues speaking, obviously unaware that the mike does not follow him around.

Hey, we’re finally official!  Everybody moves their tassels from right to left and then throws their cap wildly in the air, which seems to defeat the point of carefully moving the tassel in the first place.  Ah well, it’s all symbolic I suppose.

The beach ball reappears, very near this time.  Perhaps it is a teleporting beach ball.  I have the sudden vision of a beach ball that, whenever it nears the ground, teleports itself to a random location high in the sky again.  MOST AWESOME OF BEACH BALLS.

The ASU chant rises from the ranks, and I participate for the last time in Sun Devil Stadium.  We should start an impromptu game of 10,000-person football – if only we had a football.  The beach ball might work – if only we could find it.

Fireworks!  I don’t know why I was surprised by them; ASU lights fireworks for every other event.  But there are a gazillion of them this time – I think more than I’ve ever seen.  They start at the end of the ceremony and last as I walk around the end and back across the entire length of the stadium.

The songs playing during our exit:
Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat – This one suffers from being overplayed, but I think it’s appropriate for graduating Sun Devils.  Bouncy and happy and whatnot.
We Are Young –  Fun – This one might be taking the theme a little too far.  The chorus is appropriate: Tonight / We are young / So let’s set the world on fire / We can burn brighter / Than the sun …but the rest of it is about getting high in the bathroom, abuse of a romantic partner, becoming too drunk to walk home from the bar by yourself, and needing to be carried home. I’m sure plenty of Sun Devils will have a Thursday night like this, but it might not be the best song to be blasted at the hordes of parents and family members during graduation.  Just sayin’.

That’s pretty much it for the ceremony.  Once everyone is outside, the graduates mill about like little lost lambs waiting for their parents to find them.  Pretty soon the parents jam the sidewalks as well.

A streetlamp goes off, and the remaining fluorescent light gives everything a bluish cast. Suddenly the whole scene seems like a dry-land reenactment of the mob of freezing, screeching people from Titanic.

Thankfully I survive the night, find my parents, and have been gradutated. Graduessed. Gradumatated.  Whatever. Hey, I have a degree in English – now I can make up all the words I want and no one can tell me differently!  Woo!


…This concludes our television broadcast.

My Notes on ASU Commencement 2012

I went to the university-wide commencement ceremony tonight – it felt all official and everything.  Graduation!  Here are some of my blow-by-blow impressions of the night’s events, to be continued tomorrow when I’m a little more awake.

Aisle seat!  I am THE MASTER OF THE ROW.  Or at least the person everybody has to squeeze past to get to the middle seats. Close enough!

It’s pretty cool to have a near-full moon hovering over your graduation ceremony.  And only two nights away from the super moon, at that.

The guy two seats in front of me has a gown that is about two shades lighter than the other 9,999 of us.  I applaud him for both his resourcefulness (reusing an old gown) and the bold fashion statement.

Random beach ball!  It pops up from a different section, falls down and then mysteriously vanishes.

Many of the students seated with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts have decorated caps…but it looks like most of them have decorated them upside down.  So much for those degrees…

All of the special people begin to walk in.  Hello, special people.

Hey, there’s someone I know – Dr. Foy, from the Barrett Honors College.  Thanks for the last A+ of my college career, Dr. Foy!

In the middle of the ceremony, one of the students gets up and walks the length of the football field back to the north entrance.  Perhaps, like me, he is sick of how utterly uncomfortable the folding chairs are.  Where are the graduates studying to be chiropractors?

President Crow appears, to widespread boos from the student section.  In his current garb, I think he would make an excellent supervillain.  He just needs an actual evil crow to sit on his shoulder and he’s set.

Speaker: Now it is time to award the honorary degree to a distinguished guest.  “It’s me,” announces the guy who left earlier, as he walks back to the front and his seat.

Chairman Lim, honorary degree recipient, is nearly strangled with his stole by the person putting it on him.  Academic attire can be hazardous to your health, apparently.

Temple Grandin, second honorary degree recipient, gets much more applause.  Judging by the buzzing conversations around me, about half of the students know who she is and are informing the other half.

Eric Kandel, third honorary degree recipient, is pretty dang cool.  His biography is interesting even when told by the mindless drone reading it out in a monotone.  His stole-bestower nearly gags him with the thing.  I make up my mind to never receive any honor for which I am forcibly stoled by a stranger.

…To be continued tomorrow!

An Editorial Cartoon Sums Up My Feelings Today

Guess I’d better hone my archery skills.  At least the odds appear to be (somewhat) in my favor: apparently the unemployment rate among workers age 20-24 is 13.2% this year compared to 14.9% last year at this time.