Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Very clever, ya wiseguys.

A vow of silence makes singing difficult, but not impossible.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sailing to Australia

During the summer of 2008 I posted an entry about two coworkers who were leaving on what I thought was a risky backpacking trip through the Brooks Mountain Range in Alaska's Arctic. I was relieved (if a bit embarrassed) when they both returned safely without having had any real trouble.

That was nothing! Now my friend Shawn is sailing from Long Beach to Australia in a 34-foot yacht. He has posted a couple lengthy sentimental blog entries about the trip, but the real action is going on at his Spot tracking site. At the moment he looks to be a couple hundred miles southwest of Ensenada, with about 9,000 miles in front of him.

I asked him what his longest journey thus far had been. He had sailed the 21 miles to Catalina Island a half-dozen times on days when the weather was nice.

Other facts:

-He has budgeted 9 months for the trip.
-He hasn't decided how he will return from Australia.
-His facebook relationship status is listed as "engaged".
-The yacht came with a bottle of champagne made especially for christening the yacht. That is, the captain and first mate drink some and then shatter the rest against the hull. The bottle reads "not for human consumption".
-The yacht carries, if I remember correctly, about 50 gallons of fresh water when its full.
-The yacht can travel about 300 miles using its fuel and engine if there's not enough wind to move them along.
-Besides the Spot tracker, the ship is equipped with an emergency beacon that will activate if submerged in water. It notifies the nearest Coast Guard, search and rescue, etc.
-There is a crew of three including Shawn.
-Shawn is worried about pirates.

Anyway, if you any of you could send a prayer or some positive energy or whatever his way, I have a feeling that he will use every bit of it.

Our mutual friend Tim on deck of The Enchantress en route to Catalina Island from Long Beach.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Newsletter 2009

Oh, hello again. Well I guess another year has passed. I am hesitant in writing a Christmas newsletter this year since not much has happened since last time, but I figure this will be easier than attending my ten-year high school reunion this summer. Which I don't think I'll do.
So here we go. One year ago, we were different people. Not really, of course, but I know in my own case there were some things that I have experienced that Past TR had no idea about. Here's just one example: a year ago I had never eaten at Red Lobster. But this year's Christmas letter is not about Red Lobster.
Let me back up a bit. I took a plane out to Reno for Thanksgiving last month. That's where my brother lives with his wife, two young children, a house, quite a few books, some comfortable furniture and a few other things. Not bad for a guy who is only two and half years older than me. He doesn't have his own accordion though.
Thanksgiving was nice. The food was as good as it has ever been and we went for a walk afterwards. The local University's radio station was even kind enough to play Alice's Restaurant without having to ask. It reminded me how I've still been meaning to get around to having my own family someday.
Actually, a lot of my aspirations haven't worked out this year. My several relationships didn't last, I didn't get into graduate school, and I am still working at the same non-benefited job I had more than three years ago. If I only had more initiative, I could probably already be on my second marriage and be working at a completely different dead-end job.
What else is new? I have taken to making sodas. Root beer, lemon lime, cola, grape, cherry, and ginger beer. Most people I give them to don't like them because they taste like yeast. If you want to try one let me know. You will probably hate it.
Wait! I think I know the problem with Christmas newsletters: Since we idealize the past, the current year never seems like it is as good as the other ones. But as I look back on this one I can already feel some of my good memories getting better and my bad ones disappearing entirely.
Here is one of my favorite jokes: A guy walks into a doctor's office wearing a suit and holding a briefcase. Pointing to the briefcase, he says “You gotta help me, Doc. I got this case of diarrhea!”
Sorry. Listen, I have that uneasy feeling again. Its the same one I got before I planned my five-week trip to Europe in 2005, before I quit my job for no good reason in 2007, and before I decided to move to Alaska for five months in 2008. Those have all been good decisions, by the way. So I think another good decision is just around the corner. I can't wait to see what it will be and the anticipation is killing me. It's a lot like waiting for Christmas.



Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Year of the Book

This was the year of the book for me. I read a lot of them, and for some reason, almost half of them were written by Kurt Vonnegut:

Slaughterhouse Five
Cat's Cradle
The Sirens of Titan
Breakfast of Champions

and the rest:

A Personal Anthology -Jorge Luis Borges
Love in the Time of Cholera -Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Confederacy of Dunces -John Kennedy Toole
Mutant Message Down Under -Marlo Morgan
The Backslider -Levi S. Peterson
Born to Run -Christopher McDougall

And that's without even being stranded at a truck stop in Alaska. I would recommend any of those books, with the exception of Mutant Message Down Under. Here's all of the ones that I have abandoned for now, and still need to finish:

The Seven Sins of Memory
Last Child in the Woods
The Jaguar Smile
Stumbling on Happiness
Searching for Memory
Catch 22
Geek Love
Dee Brown's Folk Tales of the Native American

Well, maybe I'll review some of them later. Maybe I won't.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A recent visit to Google Analytics reminded me that it is probably not wise to mention the name of the company I work for in a blog post. But I am back working for a certain therapeutic program. And they gave me a t-shirt to wear with one of the company slogans on the back. It says "Expect More".

Actually, that is terrible advice for most of the population that I work with.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Say, speaking of vampires, I had this great idea. If you're a vampire, you should try to convince another vampire that you're a human. Wear makeup, bright colors, etc. Then let him try to bite you. When he does, you can laugh and say: "Duh, I'm already a vampire!"

Happy October, everyone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let an Angel Pass

Many of you know that I like this movie. But the main reason I like it is because of this one scene.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Way to save the planet, Poindexter!

Do you have one of these bags?

They're fantastic aren't they? Not only do they save the planet, but they loudly announce that fact to anyone who sees you carrying one to your car. As soon as I pick mine up, I can literally feel my nose lift higher into the air.

Actually, you and I are both suckers for buying them. Mine cost one dollar, is falling apart after some medium-duty usage, and isn't really that earth friendly. You see, my bag (and every other one that I have seen) has this to say:

I don't know the calculations to use, but it seems like a ship full of these coming from China isn't the best thing for the planet.

Basically, you and I have both bought snooty, expensive versions of an ordinary plastic bag. Most of the ones I see now cost $2, but at least those ones advertise your favorite white upper-middle-class business (I'm looking at you, Whole Foods and Borders).

But never fear! We at Swirly Patterns won't criticize your efforts without offering helpful alternative suggestions*. For example, there's always the good old zippered tote bag:

Remember tote bags? How did these silly Green bags ever replace them? My mom has totes kicking around her house from my dad's medical convention days. If you're not so lucky, they are always for sale at Deseret Industries (that's a thrift store, for you non-Utahn readers) in the purses section. My favorite kind are the zippered nylon ones with ambiguous company logos.

Here's why they're better:

- They only ever cost $1. A tax-free dollar, I hasten to add. Sometimes they are only 75 or 50 cents.
- DI is a much better cause than Barnes and Noble. Duh.
- Made in USA, China, or wherever, you are reusing something that someone else is getting rid of. It doesn't matter where it was made.
-They last longer. My "green" bag only lasted two months. My tote bags have all lasted several years.
- They have zippers!
- You might find some other treasures when you go into DI to buy one. My most recent find was a full cow hide for $15.
- While you're bored and waiting in line at the grocery store, you can wonder what sort of company would be called "GeniFlexus" or something like that. In my case, I get to wonder what sort of medical condition necessitates a drug called "Esperimazole".

So, um, I'll see you at the thrift store. But keep your hands off of that $35 Fender Rhodes. I saw it first, ya jerk!

*Swirly Patters reserves the right to criticize your efforts without offering helpful alternative suggestions.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Potluck Meals and Cajun Reels

Two years ago I attended my first of several meetings with the Salt Lake Area Accordion Club. It cost $7 to go and included a potluck meal and an accordion concert. If you went early you could play your accordion with any of the other attendees who brought their accordions.

I was the youngest person there by at least 15 years (unless you count people dragged there by parents).

It had the feeling of a church activity. In 1950.

It was fun and I realized that since I stopped being a missionary, I hadn't really interacted with old people in a long time.

Here's a list of highlights from those meetings:
1. I once went with my friend Daniela who is black, but not very dark. An old man asked her with genuine interest and curiosity what race she is.

2. Ralph, a German who runs an accordion shop out of his house in Sandy, appraised my accordion at $300 and told me about how to take care of it. "Accordions last longer if they are played regularly, so PRACTICE". He punched me quite hard in the shoulder as he said the first syllable of the last word.

3. I watched several people play electronic accordions which are, in my opinion, a terrible invention.

4. Lil' smokies.

Anyway, I was sad to learn earlier this summer that the group is now defunct. They sent me a link to the last monthly newsletter which features a sort of goodbye, thanks, and you damn well better be grateful from Jay and Janet Todd, the two program directors who are married to each other.

Anyway, this probably means its time for me to start taking lessons. Janet teaches lessons but they're expensive. Maybe I'll send her an email.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Why haven't I heard this word used more?

  /ˌfɔrmɪˈkeɪʃən/ [fawr-mi-key-shuhn]
a tactile hallucination involving the belief that something is crawling on the body or under the skin.

from Wiktionary

Sunday, August 30, 2009

hey, um, look over there.

So its been a while. I'll just tell you right now that this isn't even a real post. But I thought that since I haven't had any new insights to share with you (yeah, I call them insights) that I could direct you to my other blog for the moment, where I am in the process of publishing, in eight parts, some details about my struggle with depression.

Since that seems much to serious for Swirly Patterns, I put it over at Padded Folding Chair, and here is part one so that it will make sense from the get-go. Four of the eight entries have published as of this Sunday afternoon, and each of the others will appear one day at a time until the last one is posted on Thursday.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

ZLB: TR, do you want to hike down Death Hollow or Pleasant Creek?

TR: Pleasant Creek.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TR: If I had a friend named Brandt, I think a good nickname for him would be "Raisin Brandt".

eped: That's probably why you don't have any friends named Brandt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stuff I learned in Costa Rica, Part 3

This leaf is from a Zamia plant.

Zamias are members of the cycad family, if you're interested. But in ten seconds, when I tell you the really crazy things about Zamias, you won't care what family they're in.

First off, zamia plants produce sperm cells that have cilia for locomotion. (Some scientists dispute that the cilia actually do anything, but come on guys.)

Not only that, these are the largest sperm cells in the world at almost a half millimeter. (You can see them without a microscope.)

Okay, here's where it gets even weirder. But to go any further I have to introduce you to this fellow:

His name's Eugenio. He once told me: "You can forget your wallet, your passport, your cell phone, and even your wife. But don't ever forget your machete."

Eugenio is a 42 year old biologist at Dúrika Biological Reserve in the Talamanca mountains. He said that one particular group of indigenous people used the zamia as a contraceptive; the men made an extract from it which they drank. It would knock out their sperm production for 6 to 12 months. Kind of ironic because, well, the plant itself produces sperm cells...

Here's where this thing really gets wonderful. Tradition held that this plant was a gift from the gods. (I mean, you would have been grateful too.) The gift was delivered on a "flaming disc" that came down out of the sky. (By the way, these indians are credited with being the first people ever to put the responsibility of birth control on the men.)

So. Weird plant that seems almost foreign to this world, delivered on a flaming disc. Can you see where I am going with this? Eugenio stood and waited for me to connect the dots myself. "You mean like aliens?"

Yes, like aliens. As far as he could see, the only trouble with such a theory is that the zamia is only pollinated by special beetles which feed on the seed cones. Did the beetles get to ride on the flying saucer too? Or were they already here and just really open-minded, such that they could come to appreciate this new ethnic food? In any case, let us not forget the Malcolm Principle.

"Life finds a way."

Anyway, kudos to those aliens. Every time we try something like that we seem to have less fortunate results.

One last thing: Eugenio said that Merck is developing a birth control pill for men made from zamia. I haven't been able to find info on this yet, so don't get too excited.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stuff I learned in Costa Rica, part 2

Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of Spanish. Here's just one example:

Pizzería = Pizza store
Papelría = Stationery store
Taquería = Taco Store
Librería = Bookstore
Yonkería = Junk yard

But a "Ferretería" does not sell ferrets. If you find yourself in Latin America AND in need of a ferret, such a store will not help you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stuff I learned in Costa Rica, part 1

(Once the video starts playing, click on it again to watch it at youtube. That way the side doesn't get cut off.)

The quote at the end says: ...human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them ...life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The only thing I hate more than sloths is baby sloths!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So I'm going to Costa Rica

and the advice I keep getting from people is to "watch out for swine flu".

Well I hate to rain tamiflu on your global pandemic, but Mexico and the United States are where you have to watch out for swine flu.

The only thing I have to watch out for is sunburn and strained eyeballs from reading too much on the beach.

Also crocodiles, sharks, scorpions, venomous snakes, jaguars, dengue fever, and malaria.

And sloths.

Man, these things creep me out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

At last!

We finally know how candy corn behaves in space!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The only good reason to wear a watch

"Carry some text with you or wear a digital watch throughout the day. To do a reality test, read the words or the numbers on the watch. Then, look away and look back, observing the letters or numbers to see if they change. . . If the characters do change, are not normal, or do not make sense, then you are most probably dreaming."

-Stephen LaBerge,
Lucid Dreaming

I noticed people were changing their faces as I walked past and I thought that couldn't be right, so I looked down and realized that I wasn't wearing a watch. Luckily there happened to a manual wall clock, so I looked at that. Then I looked again and again, and it had changed several hours in a matter of seconds. I knew I was dreaming, so I walked around changing everything about the dream to the way I wanted. When I was done, not being creative enough to direct the dream beyond that point, I woke up.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to beat a Utah traffic ticket

Many of remember, from like four years ago, when I posted the entire story of how I beat a traffic ticket. Since then a lot of people have asked me about the details of how that happened, so I decided to outline here as a list of steps. FYI, my ticket was issued in Lindon, Utah. Other towns, counties, states, etc. probably have slightly different laws so these tips may or may not apply.

When you get your ticket.

1. Try and be as unremarkable as possible. Try not to do anything to make writing this particular ticket stick in the officer's memory. This will be important later.

2. Save your carbon copy of the ticket and any other paperwork you get. Make a note of when and how you can contest the ticket but don't ask the cop to repeat that info. You don't want him/her to know that you intend to contest. This info is usually printed somewhere on the carbon copy.

3. After the cop leaves, take some photos of the area. Don't do this if you think you might be seen by him/her. You don't want the cop to be alerted to the fact that you intend to contest the ticket.

4. If the officer said you have a "traffic school" option, consider taking it. Sometimes the fee is less than that of the ticket and it replaces the cost of the ticket. It will also prevent the ticket from appearing on your MVR and your insurance company will never know about it. If the cop caught you breaking the law fair and square, my advice is to stop here and opt for traffic school. If you feel it was unfair, continue!

Scheduling your hearing, etc.

5. There is a certain window of time during which you can schedule when you will go to court to enter your plea. Wait until the end of that window, like the last day or the day before. Don't wait until the end of the last day or you could miss your chance.

6. Schedule your day for the latest possible slot that is available. The goal here is to make all of the court proceedings occur long after the ticket so that the officer either doesn't care enough to show up or doesn't remember enough to be helpful.

7. When you schedule your plea, they will give you a window of time during which you can call back and reschedule. Jot that down and repeat steps 5-7 as many times as they will let you. At the very least, this will delay your paying the ticket (probably for months) and you can plan your budget to accommodate the fee so it won't sting so much.

Entering your plea.

8. When you go to enter your plea, they might offer to reduce your fine if you plead guilty. This would be a partial victory, so consider the offer. Try to bargain with them that it will also remain off of your record. In my opinion, that is an even bigger victory than having the fine reduced. If they offer you no incentive to plead guilty, then plead not guilty. (Note: pleading not guilty often removes your "traffic school" option.)

9. The judge might ask you if you want a pre-trial meeting or if you if prefer to go straight to trial. If you've still got the patience, take the first option. This will delay your actual trial even further, while the cop's memory and concern for this case both continue to fade...

Pre-trial meeting

10. Basically you and the prosecutor will meet to discuss your case. If you have a good case, you will probably get a pretty good offer. Again, try to keep the ticket off of your record. This will probably save you more over time on your insurance than the cost of the ticket. Consider any offers, since these would be a partial victory.

Before the trial

(Note: My case was dismissed after my pre-trial meeting, so everything from now on is untested. Try it at your own risk.)

11. If the prosecutor doesn't give you a good enough offer and you go to trial, keep trying to reschedule the trial in the same way as before.

12. In the meantime, here are two little known tricks I learned from my uncle, a Utah state prosecutor:
a. Request for discovery: Send a letter to the prosecutor requesting that the evidence that will be used against you be sent to you. Here is more info as well as a template. If the prosecution responds saying that they have nothing to send you, save that letter and bring it to court with you. You will need it later for a dirty little trick that you might have occasion to play.
b. Request a jury trial: Some traffic violations are considered infractions. These will not appear on criminal background checks and will not affect employment. Others are misdemeanors, which WILL appear on background checks. In my case ("unsafe lane travel"), I was looking at a class C misdemeanor. I work with children at many of my jobs, so I was not eager to be found guilty. BUT, in Utah and some other places, this gives you another bit of leverage. A defendant may demand a trial by jury for anything that is a class C misdemeanor or greater. Get a lawyer friend to send you a form to do this. The prosecutor will either drop the charges or the court, unwilling to spend hundreds of dollars in an attempt to get $150 from you, will reduce the charges to an infraction. Either way, you're better off.

At the trial

13. Show up! Otherwise you will be found guilty. If you requested a jury and they actually brought one in, you could also get charged with contempt. If the officer fails to show up, move for dismissal. If the prosecutor tries to reschedule the trial, argue. Say that this is your third time coming to the courthouse. If you live more than a few miles away or if you took time off of work, mention that. If you work full time, are married, have children, are a student, have health problems etc., that doesn't hurt either.

14. Here's the dirty little trick that I mentioned earlier: if the cop does show up and testifies against you, chances are he or she will use some notes jotted down on the back of the ticket at the time of the citation. Otherwise, no cop would ever be able to remember writing a ticket to you three or four months ago, especially since you were so unmemorable. If the cop uses these notes, point out that they were not sent to you in response to your request for discovery. Show the judge your letter stating that they had nothing to send you. Move for dismissal. Score!

15. If none of this works, then pay your fine and quit driving like a jerk.

Original posts

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quaternary Park

That Jeff Goldblum freaks me out sometimes, but in every one of his movies his lunatic rantings turn out to be the one thing that saves everyone (or would have if they had listened). The most obvious one is Jurassic Park. Here's the clip in case you were Amish during the 1990's and didn't see it:

(I chose this one for all of my Chinese readers.)

Anyway, it turns out we Utahns ignored him in real life. Now we're stuck with a beetle that reproduces many times faster than anyone anticipated, and it reproduces in areas that we we're sure it wouldn't.

I know it's invasive, but I admit that I will miss tamarisk. It looks nice along the banks of the Colorado and its wood is light and almost unbreakable. Looks like soon it might be gone from Salt Lake to the Mexican border.

And even though I've never seen one, I send my condolences to the Willow Flycatcher bird, whose entire species is now likely to be wiped out as a result of this experiment.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Uh, guys...

Er, um.....

Wow! Remember the Reef Island Job (from like, one post ago)?

Over 10,000 people have applied.

Mine is ranked at #19 right now.

Thanks for voting! I can't believe this. Looks like I owe a lot of people some koala eggs.

Friday, February 06, 2009

And you thought election season had ended.

Hello dear, faithful readers. You might remember me mentioning The Greatest Job in the World. Well, I've applied, and you can help me get it! It's not based completely on votes, but if lots of you view my video and give me a rating of five stars, it will help. I will make you three promises:

-It is less than 60 seconds

-It is safe for work

-It is slightly entertaining

Click Click Click!

Thanks, and when you're done post a comment I'll send you a postcard and maybe some koala eggs or something if they choose me.

Thanks Kelly for interviewing me and English for manning the camera.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Swirly Patterns: Behind the Worldwide Success

On NPR they said not only is everyone entitled to 15 minutes of fame, but for bloggers, anyone can be famous to 15 people. (Or in my case, 11.) Anyway, I thought you might like to see some Swirly Patterns stats, according to Google Analytics.

For the month of January:

visitor traffic increased by 71%! yahoo!
there were 884 visits from 636 people
of those, 67% visited for the first (and probably last) time
35 countries were represented, including Greece and the Philippines
last month someone in Iran visited Swirly Patterns

15 of the 884 visits were loaded with a dialup connection

most visitors are referred by google when searching for "swirly patterns" or "the ganzfeld procedure". Unfortunately for them, this blog provides no information on either topic.

about every two days, someone is referred to Swirly Patterns by googling "tr brooks".
about every five days, someone is referred to Swirly Patterns by googling "swirly patterns blog".
last month 14 people visited Swirly Patterns looking for andrew bird chords or sovay chords.

Of all of the blogs that link to Swirly Patterns, "Baked Goods and Bads" yielded the most referrals.

9 visitors came to Swirly Patterns through my facebook page in January.

For some reason, 92 visits occurred on January 12. That is more than three times the average number of visits per day. There were no new posts that day. The next busiest day had only 59 visits.

The average visitor spends 50 seconds at Swirly Patterns before moving on to something more productive and interesting.

Thanks for stopping by, and sorry that there aren't really any swirly patterns here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

idea #4

If I were ever going to poison someone, I would poison their grapefruit. Because who would ever suspect a grapefruit of being poisoned?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Monday, January 05, 2009

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Bible proves Obama will be worse than Bush!

Hey Obama fans, guess who disagrees with you? Oh, just this guy named GOD. In fact, the apostle Paul prophesied that Obama would do far more damage than Bush. Look:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Hebrews 11:32-34

Sure, Bush invaded Iraq, but as this passage clearly warns us, Obama is going to start a conflict with aliens! Right now they are content to flatten our cornfields, burn a cow every now and then, and abduct us for the occasional probing, but the Obama administration is going to do something to incite their full wrath. Even though the language of this passage suggests that we will win the conflict, does anyone really "win" a war with aliens?

The worst thing about this is that Obama is going to start this space war "through faith", which is obviously a mistranslation of whatever the greek word for "hope" or "change we can believe in" is.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Not just a John Coltrane song

Hey guys! I just got a text message that said "Happy Nude Year". That's pretty funny, unless you're a Puritan.

So here are my resolutions for the year as well as how I plan to implement them:

1. Have greater resolve.

This one is easy; I'll just think of more resolutions! (I heard that we're supposed to set realistic goals.)

2. Be more fair.

I figured that one step toward being more fair is to implement the fairness doctrine into swirly patterns. So in order to do that, I will be a politically conservative blogger for the month of January. An EXTREMELY conservative blogger. I am actually really excited about this.

3. No more Arby's.

Again, realistic goals. There is no way I will eat at Arby's this year on account of them poisoning me last month! (I have powerful enemies, it seems.)

4. Think of more resolutions.

It's obvious that this resolution has already failed just 18 hours into the new year. At least now I am spared from wondering which resolution I will break first.