Monday, July 20, 2015

Now if only I could grow a proper beard.

A lot is going on right now.

Once upon a time, I had a job working at Sal and Mookie's. I often worked as a server assistant (or "SA"–basically a bus boy). I and a couple of my friends were hired before the restaurant opened, so we were part of the process of working out the kinks in a new restaurant. One of those kinks centered around the dishes.

We had two guys who washed the dishes, and they did a great job, but there were just too many dishes, and so the only way they could really keep up is if the servers and SA's broken down the bus bins for them, sorting dishes and throwing away trash. I've always been a pretty earnest worker when at a job, so whenever I brought back a bus bin, I would break it down. While I was breaking it down, sometimes other people would bring other bus bins back, and since I was already there, they would just leave it for me. Sometimes this would result in an hours-long, ongoing battle with increasingly large piles of bus bins, where as fast as I broke them down more and more kept coming.

That's sort of how I feel right now, except instead of dirty dishes and half eaten food, I'm overwhelmed with this unending stream of wonderful things. From time to time I've started blog posts, but before I can really get into it I get distracted by something amazing and then by the time I get back to it, several other awesome things have happened.

So if somehow my blog is the only place you go for updates about my life, welcome back. I'm married. Surprise!

I still intend to fully document the entire story with how I met, fell in love with, and married Chloe but I don't think now is quite the time for that. The wedding went shockingly well, considering we planned it in a month while we were both working full time on the other side of the country. Honestly it was a bit of a miracle that was only possible because of how many amazing people we have in our lives who were willing to go to great lengths to help us out.

Right now I'm actually in Boston for research (which is why I'm up at midnight updating my blog instead of in bed with my very cozy wife). Grad school is treating me exceedingly well. I got a really cool grant that will have me working with a lot of engineering folks and should make for some fascinating projects. In Boston I'm learning how to make carbon fiber electrodes, which is not quite as glamorous as it sounds. Most of the process involves moving tiny tiny strands of carbon fiber around with sticky notes. It turns out that a lot of the coolest science is pretty mundane in practice, but we should be able to learn some cool stuff.

Chloe is rocking her summer performances. Sappy bragging about my wife doesn't really fit into the feel of my blog, but I love watching her dance. It's great.

Being married is not quite what I expected.

Marriage (photo credit Ellie Hall)
On the one hand, it all feels very normal. I essentially feel just like I always have: I still don't feel grown-up enough to be married (or in grad school, or for anything in my life), and marriage itself mostly just feels like a date that doesn't stop. Living with Chloe is profoundly natural, as though this is just what we do and we've always done it.

On the other hand, marriage is so much more than I ever expected. I didn't realize I could love someone so completely and how wonderful it could be to be loved. I didn't know how safe I could feel with someone, even when allowing myself to be completely exposed. I didn't know how easy it would be to give up anything for someone, and how little I would be asked to give up.

And it makes everything else a little different too. I work harder and more willingly in the lab. I no longer have this constant itch to run out and find fun times; I can just stay home and hang out with Chloe and that feels like a great night. (It turns out I still need to get out and run around from time to time, if I stay home every night I get a little crazy.)

So that's marriage, turns out it was worth the wait.

Other than that, this summer I've had a great time doing research, I went to Canada (also for science), I had an amazing trip out west, and I'm about to have another one. Hanging out with Kate and Logan (and Spencer and Sam) has been a blast, and I'm about to retire this macbook that I bought when starting at BYU. It's gotten me this far, but I'm excited to have a computer that can keep up with grad school.

All in all, my life is more perfect than I had ever hoped it could be. I'm sure there will be all sorts of bumps ahead, but I think things are going to be fantastic.

Photo credit:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The key to blogging is consistency and clever titles. I occasionally manage the latter.

Google helpfully suggested that I buy a domain name for my blog. Curious, I typed in "Ammon's life" so see what they could come up with. For just $12 I could get the domain If I ever write a b-movie turned cult classic about my mysterious death, I'll use that for the viral marketing campaign.

I don't have time to write today, planning a wedding and going to grad school don't combine quite as well as I had hoped, but there are some fun topics I plan to write about in the coming weeks and I don't want to forget. Think of this as a teaser trailer (also useful in my upcoming viral marketing campaign.)

"Thinking and Not Thinking" or (The perils of smart phones)

"How is a raven like a writing desk?"
(a comparative analysis of research and LDS missionary work, and how the two are much more similar than you might expect)

"Love: Further discoveries of a 20-something robot"
-Act 1: Villain
-Act 2: Caramels
-Act 3: Mutual Weirdness

So it should be a good time for my blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

13 ways I've entered adulthood this year (and 13 things I refuse)

Did you know that 13 is my favorite number?

13 ways I've become an adult this year
1. I leased my own apartment
2. I got healthcare
3. I maintained a relationship for longer than 2 months
4. I bought furniture
5. I rented cars (and a moving van!)
6. I made a budget
7. I bought my own plane ticket home
8. I grew a beard (more or less) and then shaved only because I wanted to.
9. I have to stretch and sleep enough if I want to feel good when I exercise
10. I aspire to be in bed by midnight
11. I attended my friends' weddings
12. I fed the missionaries
13. I have a salary (technically a stipend. The point is I'm not working an hourly wage)

13 thing I refuse to accept about your adulthood
1. Anxiety
2. A career I don't care about
3. Actually being in bed early
4. A summer that isn't fun
5. Car ownership
6. A life without adventure
7. Caring about money
8. Not doing what I love
9. A television in my living room
10. The end of spontaneity
11. The end of wonder
12. Never wearing clever t-shirts
13. A life without real friends

This is what approaching 26 looks like

Monday, December 22, 2014

How climbing changed me: looking back on a year-ish of climbing

Hopefully this reads as "How I've changed over the last year" rather than "Why climbing is the best". I started climbing a year ago last fall, and I've wanted to write this for some time, but I have never quite felt inspired, so I decided to just start writing it and see if inspiration comes. Maybe I'll throw up a bunch of pictures of me climbing to round it off.

I've been thinking recently about how climbing has changed who I am. I suppose to a degree anything you do changes you. Our brains and bodies are molded by the way we use them, so it's natural that what we do affects the way we experience the world. But I am noticeably different because of climbing. Let's talk about that.

I miss those pants. 
This is one change I don't exactly love. I'm identified as a rock climber now. I've never liked being identifying as things. I just don't like being classified, so I sort of begrudgingly accept the title of rock climber. But it's true. I do it so often that it's what people know about me, and it's colored my life so heavily, that it's become a part of who I am. And to be honest, I love climbing. I might very well have been born for it. (I blame the monkeys we descended from.)

I've never had good posture, and it's still not great, but rock climbing forces you up onto your toes and makes you to think about how you hold your body. I still slouch when I sit, but when I stand, I stand-up straight and am constantly balancing myself as I move. If I open a door, I flag my leg out to counterbalance. If I reach for something, I turn my body so I can do it without pushing myself off center. I've always been obsessive about not stepping on street cracks, but now I also balance myself and consciously place my feet where I want to, smoothly avoiding them. (Yes, I'm almost 26 and I still avoid stepping on cracks. I just don't want to be responsible for any spinal injuries to my mother.) All this to say, I'm slightly-aware of my body position all the time. This is what I imagine life would be like as a cat. It's sort of a weird thing, but it does mean I don't stumble as often.

Body Image:
One of the first thing I noticed when I started climbing is the relaxed self-assurance that climbers have. There are always exceptions, but most climbers just seem comfortable in their skin. It probably helps that a lot of them have ridiculously toned bodies, but I think it also has to do with climbing itself. Climbing forces you to be aware of your body, to observe your feelings and respond to them, and then to forget about your body and perform. It sort of forces you into your body, and I think that's where confidence comes from, when there's no separation between who you are and what you are. Instead of looking at your body as this foreign material that you have to dominate, it's an instrument for you to use. You become aware of the feeling of your body rather than the external perception of it, and it causes you to dominate the space you inhabit, because you own it. Is that zen enough for you?

There's a big long article about how the objectification of our bodies (with girls specifically) is what inhibits both confidence and capability by making people concerned with the external appearance rather than the internal experience. I think that has something to do with it.

So for the first time in my life I have some upper body muscle, which is good for body image, but I also feel very comfortable with my body just because I'm so aware of what I can do with it. And that's nice.

It sure does make phone calls seem
more approachable. 
Rock climbing is tough. And that's cool. Once after I struggled to finish a climb, my belay-partner pointed out that even if it was rough, I'm doing something almost everyone in the world can't. It's fun to be good at something, and it gives you courage to tackle other things. When I climb up the side of a mountain and stand on top of it, it's easy to feel like I can do anything, and so when I have to face something else hard, I can remember, "this is tough, but I climb mountains."

In addition to the perspective, climbing has taught me how to deal with fear. Climbing is scary. There might be people who don't find falling at all scary, but in my experience, those people are the minority among rock climbers. (Maybe they don't last long.) Most rock climbers I know get scared, and many of them were once very afraid of heights. Part of rock climbing is learning how to master fear, and practicing that, and the way you master fear is the same whether you're making a move out above a clip on an exposed section of rock or talking to an intimidating stranger. For me, I take a deep breath, shake it out, let go of my fear and just act. It helps to sing a song while I'm at it.

This has been a big deal for me, because climbing is one of two things that scare me that I seek out on a regular basis (the other is dating girls), and I've had to learn how to deal with being afraid. Usually I deal with being afraid by going where I don't have to deal with being afraid, but there's something really empowering about recognizing fear and then dismissing it.

Speaking of fear, I have trust issues. This isn't so much an effect of climbing as a realization. Climbing has provided a very clear metric of trust. There are a limited number of people who I trust with my life, and I know who they are. I can count them on one hand. I know I trust them, because when I'm climbing and I'm about to do something, I don't second guess myself based on whether they're going to catch me. And this isn't an intellectual question: I don't climb with anyone who I don't think will catch me (I have before, it's terrifying. Never do it.) This is a deeply emotional, instinctual condition. Am I comfortable with my life in their hands? It's a good lesson about trust in general. If you're hesitating because you don't know how someone will react to something, you probably don't really trust them.

Pictured here: my foot. And Tyler
By the way, not looking down is terrible advice,
because you should be always looking
at where you're placing your feet.
Just try not to internalize what's beneath them. 
This is actually something I'm currently working on. Climbing somehow becomes a microcosm for all my issues. I always want to rest when things get hard. One of the biggest things I need to learn now in climbing is just how to push on through difficult times rather than ease off. When I'm climbing and it becomes tough, I have a tendency to just give up, relax, plan my next move, and try again. This isn't a terrible life-strategy in general, but it limits what you can accomplish when climbing. Sometimes you just have to commit, push on, and hope that there's something better up ahead, because this particular part is tough, so it's probably a bad place to stop. I'm working on that. One of the hardest climbs I've ever done I approached planning to climb until I fell. I finished it without falling. (This was cool, but the whole point was to become more comfortable with falling. So in that sense it didn't help much. Maybe in another year I'll talk about how I'm comfortable with falling, and how that's symbolic.)

On the other hand, I rock perseverance. I'm not sure how much climbing has changed this, but at some point in life I learned how to keep trying, and keep trying and keep trying. Bouldering particularly is an exercise in persistence. I've fallen off of problems dozens of times before I've finished them, and spent weeks working on a single problem. And I've gotten better. This is probably good for me, because I usually don't love taking on things that are challenging, because I like the feeling of being good at things. But the feeling of overcoming something difficult is even better.

This was sort of a recent realization, rock climber girls have become the default attractive body type for me. Luckily rock climbers don't actually have that weird of bodies, but I'm fairly certain most guys aren't primarily attracted to girls that could beat said guys in a pull-up competition. But at some point, girls with big biceps and steely forearms became the norm, so when I see girls with skinny arms I'm like, "That's weird. Why are your arms so thin?" I realized this from a stock image for an article about attraction that someone posted on Facebook (the second image below) and I've since became a little more aware of it.
Clearly a normally proportioned woman
An unfortunate*, skinny arm'ed waif
*Note, this shouldn't be read as a value judgement on differently proportioned girls. I just find it interesting how the girls you surround yourself with affect so strongly what you're attracted to. 

So that's how I've changed over the last year. It's been fairly positive.

Ooo, one more thing:
I want a climber kid. I've always thought having a little son would be awesome (for a long time, a dad pulling his son in a bike chariot summed up my life ambition), but now I have new, very specific excitement for parenthood: the ability to raise little monkey children.

Pictured here: little monkey nephew

Here's to climbing through another year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

You're nothin' but a sister!

So, I have this thing where I want to do things really really well, and so a lot of times they just don't end up getting done. So instead of a unbelievably beautiful posts about how awesome my sister is (really, just imagining it should bring you to tears), here's a list of ways Kate has changed my life (in no particular order).

Teaching me to wear clothes that fit.
Convincing me not to draw on my converse (I never did).
Upholding the name of Perkes with all the cool teachers at Murrah.
Introducing me to H&M.
Introducing me to deodorant. (when I was 11ish)
Introducing me to boxers. (Around the same time)
Basically doing all my art projects for me in school.
Teaching me how to decorate an apartment.
Teaching me that nausea is how all the cool kids deal with stressful social interactions.
Dressing me up in dresses as a little kid (I'm not actually sure if that changed my life or not. I guess we'll never know)
Giving me the heads up on some of the best and worst things about BYU.
Training me in the ways of dark colored pants.
Guiding my taste in music until today (Amy and Cami get a lot of credit for that too, but I still remember the first time I heard Bubble Toes in the car)
Instilling in me the idea that girls make the best friends (unlike a lot of lessons, I don't think this one was intentional, but it definitely stuck.)
Marrying a stellar brother-in-law.
Bringing 2 other cool boys into the family. (We're 10-0 since 1989!)
Consistently being my guide whenever I'm unsure of how to function as a normal person.

Happy birthday, Katie. Thanks for being such a great older sister my whole life.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A request

Dear readers,

Family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and whoever may happen to read my blog,

You are wonderful.

Really. You are paragons of reason and moderation in a shockingly immoderate world. Oh sure, occasionally you'll post things on Facebook that make me cringe–sometimes I even point out why– but for the most part, I am constantly reassured by the collective honesty, integrity, and general consideration I see in the people I know.

Because there are people. There are so many people, angry, self-assured zealots, raging against all that is not them. Every incendiary blog post, every hateful youtube comment, every moronic tweet comes from some person, and that person is liable to vote, and lobby, and petition, and those are the voices that are heard–this screaming terror that drives our country.

So at 4 a.m. I had a realization. I can't in good conscience sit, idle and watch the narrative of this country, because it is horrifying. And I want to make it clear that I'm not talking about the moral degradation of society, or ebola, or the evils of liberalism, or conservatism or abortion or guns. I know for a fact that my readership is fairly split on these subjects, and I honestly think that our country is more safe, more healthy, and more free than it has ever been before.

 I'm talking about the story of our country, packaged by pundits and politicians and purchased by us. We are better than that–at least you are better than that–but while voices heard in comments and talk shows are these raging pseudo-sociopaths, that is the story that will be told.

So I may disagree with you about a lot of things, but I'm confident in your capacity for empathy and rational thought. So go be active, go to the source, consider issues thoroughly, conduct civil discourse and remember that people who disagree with you are not evil.

I do think most people are good and civil and thoughtful, but I think the people who shout loudest are the ones being heard, and those people don't seem good or thoughtful. Participate, online and in line, and convince more people like you to participate. If enough of us do, we might even get the narrative we need (because we will always get the narrative we deserve).

And go vote, because congress is a wreck and we chose every single one of them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

In which Ammon *doesn't* make a short list.

Wow, it's been a while.  I'd like to say that I've been so busy in my whirlwind of graduate school that I just haven't had time to update, but that's obviously not true.

The thing is, I always feel like in these big life changes that I should be able to say something incredibly profound, but more and more I realize that big life changes aren't incredibly profound, they just... are.

Summer ended, I left Utah and I moved to Philly and I found an apartment and I started grad school. It just sort of is. The profound bits are things that happen incidentally, like when I'm biking home from the climbing gym and ride under the Market Street Bridge at night, or when I skype with a professor in Canada and talk about the science we want to do together, or when I install command hooks on my very own* wall.  But those things don't really make good blog writing.

It's been almost exactly a month since I moved into my apartment, and I'm starting to settle in to my life here.  And it's good.  I love Philadelphia, grad school is wonderful, and everything I hoped it would be (except that we don't get paid until the end of September.  There've been some adventures in profound budgeting). All in all I'm feeling incredibly blessed.  Everything has come together with almost Buellerian serendipity.

So that's that.  I'll try to keep this up to date. Good luck, fellow adventurers.

(although, this)

*I'm still renting