I Am Bismark


at the furnace creek visitors center. about 90 degrees out, slightly overcast. some pretty amazing scenery.

heading out for a trip through death valley. lots of driving ahead of us! thankfully the high will only be 100 degrees today :).

made it to Bakersfield. seedy hotel room, but it’s a place to sleep.

quick restroom and stretch break. about 90 miles north of Bakersfield. stopping there for the night.

final byu gpa: 3.85. meh, should have been better. VHDL classes killed me. this is why I’m going over to CS.

impressed I get 3g this far into the central valley. about an hour from yosemite.

at lee’s sandwiches. pulled pork was quite tasty and they had melon milk!!

getting some Vietnamese sandwiches for lunch here in San Francisco.

enough lounging around at my grandparents. time for a shower, then hopping on BART to eat lunch w/ Amy Jo in SF.

made it to concord. I’m ready for a nice night of sleep.

went down about 3 mpg across Nevada because of the strong head winds :(

4 hours till our destination according to google maps.

eating lunch in elko. didn’t feel like fast food so trying a mexican place off the strip I found on yelp. we shall see how it goes!

just got over the salt flats. Adam told me he had to pee right when we were entering them. thankfully he made it.

all of my addresses are now updated to my new california home!

the theory of farting

this is my zuihitsu responding to hiraga gennai’s the theory of farting. it was written as an assignment for my early-modern japanese literature course at brigham young university.

Gennai’s The Theory of Farting cracked me up. I read it while sitting at work in the lab, and everyone must have thought I was a little crazy, all red faced and gasping for breaths. If Gennai’s goal was to get his audience to laugh out loud at the things he was writing, he certainly was successful with me. For some reason my oldest sister and I have joked about similar bodily functions for most of my life. This exasperated our mother to no end when the topic was brought up at the dinner table. Even now we are constantly sending somewhat crude jokes and experiences to each other over email. I really have no idea why we find these things funny. It’s a perfectly normal bodily function that everyone experiences. It’s as normal as swallowing or blinking our eyes. Why in the world then has flatulence become a humorous topic that transcends time and cultures? I’m not sure if I have an answer for that.

But Gennai wasn’t just going for “slapstick” style comedy. I think part of what makes The Theory of Farting so hilarious is how he treated the topic with such seriousness. Lines, delivered in sincere, somber ways, like “Heavens and earth thunder; humans fart,” are amazing in the way the mix both poetry and humor (I suppose one could say it’s “a mixture of art and fart”…). I feel that the true genius of Gennai’s work is how it’s really about itself. In Japanese Literature class, we had a very interesting discussion about censorship when we talked about Modern-style Lousy Sermons in class. One thing I wanted to say, but didn’t, was the importance of who decides what is quality and of artistic value. I posted after class,

government censorship of the media: we can’t trust them with our money but we can with our morals?

Certainly a very similar discussion might occur with a discussion of The Theory of Farting in class, in particular concerning the samurai’s response to the farting man’s show. The samurai feels that such an act is disgraceful and insulting to real artists. The same thing was and is probably said by many who read The Theory of Farting itself. Gennai has written a pseudo serious piece about a crude topic in which a crude topic is treated pseudo seriously. He is directly satirizing the people who will be upset at his satire. This makes The Theory of Farting both extremely comical and spot on satire.

I would like to return to the subject of media censorship for a moment. One of the most interesting examples of censorship, at least in LDS culture, was the editing of the film Saving Private Ryan for the Varsity Theater here on campus. My parents, active members of the LDS faith, own the full unedited version of this film despite its R rating. We have at times viewed the film as a family and discussed its message. These have probably some of greatest experiences for me that influenced my feelings on war and violence. Many scenes in the film are difficult to watch even today in our desensitized world. I feel like the movie holds deep meaning, and my parents feel that since it is “of good report or praiseworthy,” it is something they should own. Would the movie have the same meaning without the scenes of extreme violence and warfare? Sure, it has some excellent themes of patriotism and honor, but a whole aspect of the film would be lost without the depictions of the horror of war. An edited version of the film would contain just a fraction of the depth. I’m glad the edited version of the film was not shown, and I plan to someday sit down with my children once they are mature enough to hopefully help them have the same experience as I.

The Theory of Farting touches on this exact topic. It makes the reader ask if there is possibly any value in a man farting on stage just like we could ask if there is any value in showing extreme violence on the big screen. One difficult question is what kind of violence is of value? The narrator talks about how farting is certainly a base subject, but how the farting man has turned it into an art form to full of meaning. Can anything be turned into a meaningful work of art? In my opinion, Saving Private Ryan turned violence into art, but perhaps thats just because I agreed with the meaning I saw: violence and war are terrible things and should be avoided at all costs. Could someone find a movie glorifying violence also to be a work of art? I think that attempting to censor Saving Private Ryan is a bad idea because it ruins the message, but in a way I am just like the samurai in the story. He talked about how plays and literature should only teach good morals, which is kind similar to how I would never agree that something like a Quentin Tarantino film should ever be shown at the Varsity Theater. I’ve seen a number of Tarantino films and while I can certainly see some interesting themes and even artistic value, it seems like in many of them the language, violence, and sexuality are gratuitous. The piece of literature that I am laughing at is in many ways making fun of me.

Another level to this discussion: can a work that treats a subject lightly or comically be of the same worth as one that treats a topic somberly? Today in class South Park was brought up. My sister (unsurprisingly) is a huge fan of the series so I’ve watched a number of episodes with her. Many times it’s crude and vile, yet it’s one of the sharpest commentaries on society in existence. A favorite episode of mine is about the online game World of Warcraft. It’s hilariously funny and shows the real stupidity behind addictions to these sorts of video games. Should I show this to my children to teach them this lesson just like I want to show them Saving Private Ryan? On a more related topic, should we be reading a story about farting just to learn a lesson about morals and art? These are questions without black and white answers, and I’m grateful for that. It makes life much more interesting, and often times gives me a lot to laugh about.

just woke up. avoiding breakfast since we are eating at sundance in a few hours.

got a letter from Wisconsin today with my school netid login. just have to send my final byu transcript and then I’m a legit badger.

official: family time = more stressful than senior project deadline.

ok getting sleepy now. let’s wrap up this speech.

well this girl is pretty decent on the piano. seems a bit out of place. probably on most of the engineers minds: is she single?

sitting. got told 20 times to turn off cell phones. HAH.

they want us to turn our cellphones off. over my dead body!

for some reason they have the engineering college line up with the humanities college. probably so it’s not just one mass of guys.

me in my gown. possibly flashing a secret masonic hand signal.

good news: my gown allows access to my pocket. tweeting this graduation.

challenge of the day: where do I put my iphone with my graduation gown on so that I can be tweeting about commencement???

testing center line extends across swkt quad. i’m not amused.

off to take my last byu final ever. the amount of effort I put in is inverse proportional to the temperature in the testing center.

props to the byu alumni site for quickly responding to the twitterific icon issue.

cs 240 final exams are all graded. now time to quick study for my ee 380 final, pound it out, and be DONE.

staring at a loading message reminds me of why I will never use the gmail web interface as my main email app.

dear byu health plan office: say you open at 8 am but then have staff meetings and be unavailable till 9 am. it’s quite annoying.

hmm. study for my last exam or arrested development marathon? is it even a question??

they are bribing graduates with free tshirts to fill out contact info forms. yup not gonna happen.

gosh it was about 90 degrees inside the testing center.

walking down from heritage to campus. freshman year déjà vu.

byu alumni website is stealing iconfactory’s twitterific icon. i let them know that probably wasn’t a good idea.

that was a really good run. energized me for a night of studying. now I’m craving donuts…

the narrow road to the deep north

this is my zuihitsu responding to matsuo bashō’s the narrow road to the deep north (oku no hosomichi, 奥の細道). it was written as an assignment for my early-modern japanese literature course at brigham young university.

As an engineer, I tend to see things in terms of processes, parameters, and systems. To me, a frog jumping in a pond1 is an input to a system with an output of waves with a certain period, amplitude, etc. Yet for some reason I found myself fascinated by Oku no Hosomichi. The engineer in me has looked at all the other texts I’ve read so far for this course and has coldly analyzed their subjects, their cultural and societal environments, etc. Oku no Hosomichi actually evoked some emotions in me (something terribly dangerous for an engineer I should point out). Perhaps it’s because I have also stood looking out over the fields at Hiraizumi and thought about its ancient past or because I have also hiked along the paths of Nikkou Mountain. But I have also wandered through the Gion district of Kyoto, and I certainly did not feel the same way when I read Life of a Sensuous Man. I want to talk about the reasons I think Oku no Hosomichi meant something to me.

We talked about Bashō’s “hyōhaku no omoi” in class and I think I have felt a similar “wanderlust”. I am not trained in ancient Japanese literature, so my comparison can only go so far, but I think I have felt and do feel some of the same things he felt. Bashō felt a pull to the North. It wasn’t just a journey in search of the ancients. It was a journey in search of the same things the ancients sought. The big question is what was it that the ancients sought in the North. I think there is something romantic about the North. I was raised in Wisconsin, so to me, south was Chicago and civilization and north was Canada and the wild. As a child I loved staring at maps for hours (it helped me win my school’s geography bee multiple times), especially maps of northern countries. I always wondered what the frigid coasts of Siberia and Greenland must be like. Even now I catch myself using Google Earth to zoom in on small islands in the Bering straight just to see what’s there. I’ve seriously considered on multiple occasions taking off to work on a salmon boat in Alaska. The North’s distance from civilization and remoteness, its ruggedness and raw natures all give it this romantic appeal. I can’t see why it would not have had the same romance to the ancient Japanese people. Each step towards the North was one away from Kyoto and civilization and one step nearer the frontier, the Ainu, the unconquered.

But attributing my feelings to the “romance” of the North is certainly too shallow of an understanding. Oku no Hosomichi is not a story of grand discovery of new places. Bashō wrote about the people he met along the way, his feelings when seeing both famous and non-famous places, and just small events and observations. If he had been merely seeking the ancients, he would have stuck to the same famous historical locations and paths, and he would have given them the same meaning as the ancients had. Yet he sought out new places and new meanings. I’ve felt that desire during my travels. Over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, my friends and I went to Zion National Park on a road trip. The scenery was beautiful and we took plenty of pictures. But the most interesting part of the trip for me was pulling off the interstate at Parowan to grab breakfast at the Parowan Cafe. The town fascinated me. After breakfast I insisted we wander around a bit to look at the old churches and buildings along the main road. I wondered what type of people lived there and what the people who first lived there were like. To most people driving to St. George or Las Vegas, Parowan is a blip on the radar, but to me it was a place full of mystery and interest. I think Bashō felt the same way about some of the places he went. He saw the places the ancients saw, but he also saw the places they passed by, and he assigned a meaning to both.

I suppose it’s impossible to talk about Oku no Hosomichi without touching upon the haikai verses spread throughout. The engineer in me says poetry is typically something that I fail to grasp. My most accomplished poetry was a set of “haiku” about the characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Obviously I didn’t quite understand the point of haiku at the time. But after experiencing and studying Japanese culture for the past seven years, I think the meanings of these poems are beginning to become more clear to me. Bashō could take the scenes he saw and imbue them with new meaning and depth in only 17 syllables. This is what made him great, and honestly I feel a little jealous of his skill. All I could come up while staring at the Hikaridō was “that’s pretty cool looking” and then I snapped a few pictures. I wish I could found some hidden depth in the scene in front of me.

After I finished reading Oku no Hosomichi, I posted the following:

new life goal: backpack the same trail that bashou took in oku no hosomichi.

What I liked so much about this reading was that it helped me realize that it was exactly what I wanted to do. My romance with the “North”, my interest in places off of the beaten path, and my desire to find deeper meanings in my experiences seemed to me to be some of the same things that Bashō was feeling. I suppose I could say, as cheesy as this sounds, that this story of a journey brought out the desire inside of this cold, analytical engineer to be a “poet”. Someday I really do hope to backpack the same path as Bashō. I probably will forgo the haikai poems (I only need to dig up some of those haiku about Big Nurse to show why), but I hope to be able to find the same things that Bashō did.

  1. bashō’s most famous haiku:

    furu ike ya
    kawazu tobikomu
    mizu no oto

    (an ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the splash of water) ↩︎


zuihitsu (随筆), roughly translated as “follow the brush,” is a free-flowing, personal essay. the first zuihitsu was written by Sei Shōnagon back in 11th century heian period kyoto. for my japanese class this semester, we wrote three zuihitsu in response to the works of literature we were reading. to be honest, i loved doing them. usually i hate writing essays. we also had to write two analytical essays for the class and both were just torture. this post that i sent after finishing my senior project final report sums up my feelings on literary analysis essays pretty well:

writing technical documents isn’t all that bad. none of the “how can I BS about this without repeating myself to fill all five pages?!”

anyway, the zuihitsu were a completely different story. i approached them almost like blog posts, and i went away from each of them with a much greater appreciation for the story i was responding to. they were fun to write. i am going to post the three zuihitsu i wrote for the class on my blog, and i plan to continue writing them for all the books/movies/etc that i consume from now on. i hope you enjoy reading them as much as i enjoyed and will enjoy writing them.

ok, senior slide time is now officially over. time to actually do something: finish my finals, pack my stuff, plan my road trip, etc.

The Land of No Smiles

really interesting pictures from inside north korea.

[Editor’s Note: I actually don’t know if this is the correct URL. I originally used a URL shortener which subsequently shut down. This is my best guess.]

tweetie for mac: pretty awesome so far. free versions are always appreciated. one gripe: i don’t want a dock icon!

end of the semester friendimony meetings = ugh.

signs that I need to start running again: size 32 banana republic pants no longer fit me. :S

getting my car washed. then food, buying some dress pants, running. nice day.

just added google friend connect support to my site. if you were following me on blogger, re-follow me.

so i lost about 50% of my blog readership over that month i didnt blog. whoops.


so on a random whim i ate mcdonalds tonight. it’s been like three years. all i had was a chicken sandwich. the way my stomach is gurgling right now i am pretty much regretting it.

well, i dunno, i’m actually craving some more now..

final report is in. done with my senior project. sigh of relief.

writing technical documents isn’t all that bad. none of the “how can I BS about this without repeating myself to fill all five pages?!”

headache. five hours of working on this fourty page final report. at least i am not stuck using ms word. yay for pages!

Tweetie for Mac

i think i might actually spend money on a mac twitter client. goodbye lounge, it was fun while it lasted

I keep having to remind myself that yes I do still have school work to do.

what the crap is going on in downtown Provo? sensuous sandwich is packed :(

just finished up a 3 hour round of munchkins. now time to catch up on hells kitchen and 30 rock.

pizza and games with BJ and friends. I need to stop having excuses to eat nicolotalia before I really do get fat.

off to lunch with the little bro at the cannon center. oh memories.

need to get something from the college office… i guess i better shave.

proud to fulfill my patriotic duty and pay my taxes. hope the teabaggers don’t get too cold and wet outside today.

off to lunch with the little bro at legends grill. gotta love relaxing err reading days.

so in at least one of my classes i dont have to take the final and i will still get a C-. tempting.

two labs that would have kept me from graduating had I not finished them: done.

things that make me sad: waking up at 5:30 am on a monday morning to finish up hw.

my only picture in the ward end-of-the-year slideshow has me boredly sitting in the corner checking email on my phone. so cool.

standing line at the post office to mail my acceptance to the university of wisconsin.

getting out of bed is pretty high on my list of priorities today. it will happen soon.

divine comedy was fun. apparently the girl in it i was crushing on DIDNT get married. oh regrets.

senior celebration closed down the food court. as a senior is it too much to ask for something to eat??

not doing my lab so I can go watch my last divine comedy show as a byu student.

off to my graduation interview with the department chair. i guess i better pass all of my classes cuz this is getting official folks!

my motivation to do homework is directly proportional to the number of days left in the semester. which means pretty much zero motivation.

chile santiago east. he’s gonna starve to death.

locked my car keys and wallet (including my AAA card) in my car. hmm. no time to deal with it now.

my graduation gift from Brooke. i’m pumped just looking at them. definitely wearing then for finals.

senior slide continues: work on all of my homework that’s due this week? get ramen with kei-chan? ramen wins.

playing with friends

even with my trip to wisconsin and school craziness, i’ve had time to play with friends. to celebrate my acceptance to wisconsin, michelle, ariel, kenji, and laura went out to red lobster. i was thoroughly upset that the all you can eat shrimp was no longer around, but it was still fun chilling like the good old times. i really don’t know why red lobster has become a tradition for us, but now that pudding on the rice is gone, it’s all we’ve got.

chillin at RL!

bunch a weirdos.

michelle, ariel, and i hit up watchmen the night after. it was crazy and long. the next day after sleeping in, michelle, ariel, and i drove up to park city and met up with our old friend preston. we wandered around, ate some food, checked out some shops (i really wanted to buy one of the $300 cowboy hats!!), etc. chilling with friends keeps me sane.

Park City party!

hello moose.

and then last weekend during my decompressing from the senior project competition, i went on a double date with kenji. our dates were laura and her sister. it was just fun and chill. for the first time ever i went to the bean museum on campus. it was full of dead animals, which really made me question it’s claimed mission of promoting animal appreciation.

Bean Museum LOL Cat?

lolcat caption waiting to happen!?

my friends are great and i will miss them.

senior project competition

four days after getting home from wisconsin, my senior project was due. talk about crunch time. i dunno if i ever talked about what the project was: we programmed a truck to autonomously navigate a course of colored pylons. my biggest responsibility was the control and navigation of the truck. sadly i didn’t do as well as i had hoped. i made too many assumptions about the quality of the input i would be receiving from our vision subsystem, so the whole thing quickly turned into me hacking on code to get it to work. i tried implementing a PID controller to get better control over our throttle, but that just turned into a rat hole. anyway, come day of the competition we were at least driving courses, albeit slowly. we completed the first two courses in 4th place, but we ran into a major snag on the fourth course. our vision couldn’t detect even the first pylon of the course! the lighting had changed in the garden court over the day and we were driving blind. so i quickly hacked together what i lovingly called “blind faith” mode that essentially just weaved back and forth until it found a pylon. it actually worked and we got a pretty awesome time! in the end we still got 4th, but it was a very close 4th. i was happy we at least finished.

Race car Testing

testing out a simple course the night before.

Race car Testing


Senior Project Team

team “i can has rayzkar?”, proud to have finished the courses.

trip to wisconsin

as you all probably know, i’ve been accepted to the computer science masters program at the university of wisconsin. i flew out last weekend to check out the school. it was actually really exciting, and some of the systems research they are doing looks awesome (for example this). united almost kept me from getting there by canceling my flight last minute, but my mom saved the day and helped me with a $750 last minute ticket on southwest. it was worth it. i also got to hang out with my good friend aaron and with my parents, which was nice. here are some pics from the tour of the state capitol:

Governor's Conference Room

fancy wancy conference room.

Wisconsin State Capitol

one of the wings of the capitol. i like the badger.

Wisconsin State Capitol Dome

the dome. no cheese up there!

oh right i have a blog

hello again faithful blog readers. sorry i’ve been so terrible at keeping this thing updated. i have been doing a lot of microblogging though, so if you don’t follow me on twitter (or if you are in the dark ages and still don’t twitter), you should do that. i’ve had a crazy last couple of weeks. i’m splitting it up into a couple of entries so you can enjoy each one at your own leisure! stuff that happened:

well, cornell is $36,000 a year. wisconsin is $0 plus $15,000 stipend. i think i know which one i need to choose.

great run. dunno why i ever stop. and now i am much more awake to tackle all that homework i’ve been putting off due to senior slide…

BYU paper caption under picture of Council of Twelve: “Quorum of the Twelve Apostates.” Whoops. Somebody’s getting fired. ;)

– Ben Crowder (@bencrowder) April 6, 2009

I’m feeling a mid morning nap coming on. 6 am on a Monday just to finish homework is too early. especially ecen 380 homework.

in a reflective mood this evening. taking a walk around campus to enjoy the weather. hard to imagine four years of Provo are over soon.

i suppose i better go back and look at all of those new followers that i got over the weekend… hi new people!

LDSConf was good, heard a number of things i needed to hear. thankful i have six months to study it all or else i would be overwhelmed!

“Because Jesus walked such a long solitary path…we do not need to do so” - Elder Holland #ldsconf

– Natalie Andrews (@nataliewsj) April 5, 2009

“follow the prophets, keep an eternal perspective, have faith, be of good cheer”

– elder snow

“discipleship is a journey… not a spectator sport”

– pres uchtdorf

just got my seat at the mariott center for priesthood session of LDSConf. signing off twitter for the next two hours.

good session of conference. two hours to rush around and get as much done as i can before 2 pm!

president eyring has a special place in my heart, especially after he made fun of my hometown’s name… :D

messages i need:

during times of distress we need to focus on keeping our covenants

– elder christofferson

time to get back into making a budget. its easy not to think about it as a single person without debt. need to prepare now!

the online feed of LDSConf apparently has a lag. twitter told me who the new apostle was before president monson did!

up, debating if I should get dressed and find some breakfast before LDSConf starts. kind of enjoying my bed right now though.

my provo bucket list: eat lots of j dawgs, butterscotch brownies, sensuous sandwich, and nicolitalia pizza. that’s about it really.

looking forward to spending my LDSConf weekend all from the comfort of my own home. going in person is nice but tires me out.

getting some nicolitalia pizza to celebrate being done with my project. hands down the best pizza in provo.

buying the MacHeist bundle. even if the extras aren’t unlocked, acorn and delicious library are worth the $30.

anyone want a really cheap copy of leopard for an upgrade or for a hackintosh? i’ll split the price, $135 for the box set.

the team with our poster and racecar. I’m so glad to be done.

got fourth place. finished three out of the four courses. reflections killed us on the last two. had to hack in a “blind faith” mode.

vision is wacky, I’m annoyed. we aren’t going to win.

heading home for the night. the truck is driving courses. heading to the wilk garden court early tomorrow to calibrate. come watch us at 2-4 pm!

testing out our racecar in the entryway of the Clyde. biggest open space we could find.

You know how you can read the entire “funny pages” without so much as cracking a smile? That’s April Fool’s Day on the Internet.

— Alex Payne (@al3x) April 1, 2009

yup I’m over April fools already. nothing can ever top a rick roll anyway.

thanks for the replies. it is covered but simply mac won’t give me one till Thursday for some reason. guess I always wanted two anyway..

anyone know if MagSafe power bricks are covered under apple care? mine just died with about 20% battery remaining on my MacBook…

Prev - Archive - Next