Monthly Archives: January 2010

Dear David Cross,


I just finished your book, I Drink For A Reason.  I admit that it took me a while to read, but this was largely because I read at least 98% of it while shitting.  Don’t take offense to this—it says nothing about my opinion of the book—it’s just what I happened to be doing while reading it, and only a few times did I have the urge to tear out some of the pages to use as toilet paper.

It just occurred to me, as I advanced to this second paragraph, that I’ve never written any sort of book review, and it is not that easy.  There is a reason that you get paid for your writing/comedy and I do it purely as a hobby.  It’s kind of like when you’re in a crowded area, and you suddenly smell a fart, and automatically find yourself glancing around trying to guess who did it.  It could be that fat guy that has bad hygiene, or maybe it was that hot girl with the amazing ass…  Scratch that—it’s nothing like that.

Overall, I was happy with the book.  Many times I found myself laughing so hard that my wife was calling into the bathroom to make sure I was OK.  The chapter called “Minutes from the Development and Programming Meeting for FOX television’s new season” was particularly humorous.  I presume that the network’s pathetic handling of Arrested Development served as your inspiration for that one.  Also worthy of noting is your open letter to Larry the Cable Guy (AKA Dan Whitney, unbeknownst by 90% of his fans).

“[…] the fish stickers that Christians put on their cars to let people know that they don’t believe in most science.”  (Paraphrased quote, probably around page 53)

I was surprised to find that the book is thought-provoking as well as funny.  Because I’m not an atheist that lives on the coast, I can’t say that I was cheering you on through much of the Christian-knocking parts of the book, but I must say that you raise some excellent points.  I’d give some examples, but, as I said before, I’m not getting paid for this, and have already spent enough time trying to write this.

Thus, in closing, great book, great thoughts, great online supplementary material.  Give me a call next time you’re in Salt Lake—we can go streaking through the Temple Grounds.

Ignorance is Flirting

This past weekend, I went to Wells Fargo to deposit checks.  The drive-through at the Sugarhouse branch is unique in that there is no window to see the teller.  Instead, there is a camera and a little screen.  Thus, when the teller talks to you, you can see him/her on the screen just as they can see you on their screen.  It is horribly awkward.

Anyway, lately, that particular branch of Wells Fargo has been aggressively pushing their credit card on me each time I go (and each time in the drive-through, with the awkward “web-cam” scenario).  It’s ridiculous: I just want to deposit my checks, and they attack me like car salesmen.  Naturally, I tell them that I already have a credit card, to which they respond that it’s such a good offer and you need to have it so you can build your credit score.  Did you hear what I said?  I-ALREADY-HAVE-A-CREDIT-CARD!   Anyway, it’s really not that dramatic, but it’s funnier that way.

I have to confess that on this occasion, I did give in and concede to sign up for the stupid credit card.  The girl in the screen was quite excited.  “OK,” she says, “I just need your mother’s maiden name.”  So I tell her.  It’s German, it’s odd, naturally she’s confused.  “Can you spell it?” She says.  I spell it.  She still doesn’t get it.  She wants me to do it military style, or whatever it’s called.  As I begin, it occurs to me that I don’t do this often, and it does not come naturally.  I’m frantically trying to think of words to go with the letters: “L-uh…Love, O-Orangutan, E-everything,” and so on. 

By the time I finished, she was laughing her ass off.  I wasn’t embarrassed, it was pretty funny.  But then she says: “Aww, you’re so funny!”  I was taken aback.  I learned long ago that when a girl says: “You’re so funny”, she actually means: “I want to do you” (or maybe not quite that extreme, but still).  She asked me if I needed anything else, and I told her no.  Thus she sent out the canister with my receipt and 3 Dum-Dums.

I left the band somewhat confused.  This girl must have mistaken my awkwardness as an attempt to amuse her, and she obviously liked it.  All of this means nothing.  I’m a married man—I have no intention or desire to go around picking up bank tellers by struggling to spell my mother’s maiden name.  It did make me realize, however, that at least 90% of the successful flirting I’ve done in my life was oblivious luck.  Any time I was actually trying to flirt tended to be largely  unsuccessful.  I refer to the over-referenced “Your nuts are delicious” line I used to accidently catch the attention of the girl who would become my first serious girlfriend senior year of high school.  Then of course, there’s the countless beds I shared (hey, it beats the floor), bras I unclasped just to demonstrate how fast I could do it (as a young boy with the mind of an engineer, I analyzed the mechanism to determine the most efficient way of removing it), and suck-and-blow games I played in which I pulled the card away at the last minute (OK, maybe that one was intentional flirting).

When I became interested in Tara, I pulled out every trick in my book, and they all seemed to fail.  I tried to be smooth and kiss her neck, but she was wearing a hoodie (and we were under the table at one of the famous fort parties my roommates and I threw).  I tried to be romantic, and kiss her on the couch, but when I tried to transition from “vertical” to “horizontal”, a blanket fell over her face. I tried to wow her with my lighting fast bra removal skills, but, for the first time ever, I could not get the damn thing off (at least not lighting fast, anyway).  Unintentionally, I imagine all this worked in my favor.  I’m sure she was less interested in “Andrew, the Master Seducer”, and more interested in “Andrew, the cute guy that honestly tries, but clumsily misses”.

Anyway, all I’m really trying to say is, if you want to pick up that cute bank teller, use the words, Love, Orangutan, and Dynamite in the same sentence.  This will get you at least 4 Dum-Dums for sure!  Go back the next day and tell her you’d like to deposit your Dum-Dum, and ask her how much interest it would gain in a mutual fund.  You’re in!

Farewell, Ben Larson


When I learned of the Haiti earthquake on the news Tuesday, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I did not think much of it.  I guess I’ve grown numb to devastating natural disasters occurring in distant countries.  It was not until Thursday morning, when I got a call from Isaac, and he struggled to tell me that last year’s pastoral intern at the Lutheran Center on the UNL campus, Renee, and her husband, Ben, were down in Haiti, and that Ben had been killed, that I was jerked abruptly from my apathy.

I and many others from the Center had gotten close to both Renee and Ben last year, as they led stimulating theological discussions such as “Coffee and Faith Questions” at the Coffee House and, the more liberal, “Theology on Tap” at Brewskies, later dubbed, “Theology at Ten” in an effort to not send the wrong impression.  In Renee’s last weeks at the Center, I wrote her and Ben a letter in an effort to express my appreciation for the work they had done.  Like an idiot, I never delivered the letter.  It’s not that I was self conscious about it—I just kept forgetting.  I’ve decided to post it here.  In some ways it is still chillingly appropriate.


Dear Renee (and Ben),

I want you each to know how much of a positive impact you’ve made on the Lutheran Center this past year.  I have to tell you that in my time at the center, I have never seen the spiritual growth that I witnessed this past year.  I am exceptionally grateful for the growth in my own faith and way of thinking that you were very much a part of.  Coffee and Faith Questions was exactly the time of theological discussion that I yearn for.  I admit that numerous times I left that place frustrated and confused, but it was always the first steps in redefining strong-founded beliefs as a Christian.  I laugh looking back at what I thought I knew a year ago.

I am also particularly thankful for all the advice, encouragement, and reassurance you gave me as I embarked up one of the biggest journeys of my life: engagement and marriage.  The road has been an exhilarating one, and it’s been wonderful to have you each to talk to, especially since you were recently in the same place I am.

I had hoped that in writing you this letter, I could better express the appreciation I (and I’m sure everyone else as well) have for you.  However, I still feel like this is falling short.  Just know that you’ll be greatly missed, and you have left behind a pretty darn big pair of shoes for the next intern to fill.  I hope and pray the best for you  in all your future endeavors, and I especially hope that we’ll be able to stay in touch.  God has given you both amazing gifts, and I know that you will continue to do incredible things with them.  Thanks again for all you’ve done.  Make sure you let me know when you’re in Salt Lake!




And so I say farewell, Ben Larson.  You’ve made such a positive impact on my life in the short time I knew you. 

And Renee, be strong.  You’re an amazing woman, and I know you have the strength to carry on.  We’ll all be praying for you.

The New Job

On December 9th, I had a very exciting interview.  The company is Procerus Technologies.  They make small unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), which are basically model-sized planes that fly themselves, take surveillance, and what not.  The position I was being considered for was  hardware engineer.  I left the interview feeling good about it, but they had informed me that they had a long list of applicants, so I was trying not to get my hopes up.  Nothing happened for a week, but then they called me for references.  Some hope restored, I immediately gave my KZCO references.  A couple more days passed, and then they called to make sure that I was still interested.  Several more days passed and then they called to ask when I could start.  Getting excited, I said that I could start whenever.  They quickly told me that they were still figuring things out.  Damn it!  Finally, the following morning, 3 days before Christmas, I got the offer.  It was easily the best Christmas present I have ever received.  Tara and I hit the slopes the following day to celebrate.

I started work this past Tuesday after getting back from Omaha Monday evening.  I can already tell that I’m going to love this job.  My coworkers are all very friendly and welcoming.  I’ve already been invited out to lunch twice and to go night skiing after work next week.  The actual work is exciting as well.  I’m currently working on a hardware/software mod for a custom order.  Naturally, we’ll have to test it when we’re done which means going out to a wide open place and test flying an airplane with the changes on it.  Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it?


I’m not sure exactly what parts of my personality, skill set, and experience managed to get me to the top of the applicant list, but I’m going to describe my approach here.  Perhaps you’ll find some of it useful.

They started with a fairly in-depth phone interview for which I was in a conference call with the engineering manager and the senior hardware engineer.  This I particularly appreciated, because too many times I’ve had phone interviews with someone from HR that knows absolutely nothing about engineering, and then advanced to the actual interview with an engineer only to unpleasantly discover that I was completely lacking the skills that they happened to be looking for.  So anyway, I told them about my experience, made jokes here and there, and even managed to give them some advice.  Thus the conversation ended up being more similar to a group of professionals casually comparing notes than an actual interview.  I think that this got me huge points.  After about 45 minutes (I had just finished my morning coffee when they called, so, by that time, had to go pee soooo bad) they asked me in for a face-to-face interview that afternoon.

I prepared for the interview by checking out their website (anyone will tell you that), and also gathering samples of my previous work: a couple PCB’s I designed, and for kicks, my LED graduation hat.  I daringly chose to wear a sport coat with jeans with the logic that everyone wears suits to interviews, and I want to stand out from everyone.  Also, I figured it would be more catchy than my “I really want this job” T-shirt.

The interview itself turned out to be one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever been in.  Rather than quizzing me with generic engineering questions, they threw real world issues that they had faced or were currently facing and asked me how I would solve them.  I enthusiastically gave my best theories, and could tell they were impressed.  I also made it a point to inject a little bit of my personality every chance I got.  Everyone has experience, everyone has a degree, everyone got at least this GPA, no one has the same personality.  When it was my chance to ask questions, I mixed in some fun ones along with the “boring” ones: “Are you guys a fun company?”, “Do you guys do pranks?”.  These questions had everyone laughing and reminiscing their best pranks.

After the interview, they of course told me they’d get back to me.  I greatly wanted to send a follow up email, but they had not given me any contact information aside from a phone number, so I deliberated for some time on whether or not it would be appropriate.  After I didn’t hear anything the following day, I finally sent a follow-up to the “contact us” email on the website, admittedly to blow some more smoke, but also to genuinely commend their interview process and the company in general.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive several positive responses to my follow-up.

So, anyway, here’s my advice, in list form:

1.  Be enthusiastic—make sure your passion for your area of expertise shows.  If you’re not passionate, you need a new line of work.

2.  Let your personality shine—most employers aren’t looking to hire a closet engineer, and if they are, you probably don’t want the job anyway (unless that’s your thing).  Also, they got all the “boring” stuff off your resume anyway.

3.  Move Before finding the job—granted, it is more stressful, but if you’re trying to relocate, you’re probably not going to have any luck lining up a job before you’ve moved.  Especially it this economy, if you’re not local, you resume will get trashed immediately.  I should be clear here:  you should probably do some research beforehand to make sure that your target industry exists where you’re looking to relocate.

4.  Blow Smoke!—Everyone likes being complimented.  If you make observations about a target company that excites you, let them know that.  Also, ask plenty of questions and show genuine interest in what they say.

5.  Talk like you already have the job—It my seem presumptive to do this during the interview, but the way I see it, they’re trying to picture you in the position anyway.  Make it easier for them!

6.  Do NOT ask about pay/benefits during the interview—anyone will tell you this, but I wholeheartedly agree.  Asking questions like this will make it seem that you’re more interested in compensation than work.

7.  What is your target salary?—I think this is the most difficult, and almost unfair question an employer will ask.  Say there are 2 equally qualified applicants.  Guess who gets the job?  The one who asks for less.  After struggling with this for some time, I eventually started giving a range: “Well, my target salary is x, but I’ll go as low as y.”  Consequently, guess what my offer was?  Sure, they added a little on to not come off like jerks, but it definitely wasn’t x.  I didn’t mind though—I had gotten the job!  I figure once I have a little more experience, then I’ll have more leverage to demand more specific salaries.

8.  Do you barter the offer?—I’m hoping someone else can offer their wisdom on this one.  They give you the job offer with salary z.  Do you try and talk them up, or just accept the offer?  I’ve honestly never negotiated a salary—I’ve always been happy just to have the job.

The Holidays

This past holiday season was significant in that it was Tara’s and my first together.  The experience was challenging, to say the least, but, overall, turned out well.  After much emotionally charged discussion, we came up with the following plan: 

We would fly into Omaha at 6:30 PM Christmas Eve and the rest of the evening and Christmas day in Papillion with my family.  Tara’s family was to arrive in Omaha Christmas evening for their big extended family Christmas to happen the next day.  Tara would go meet up with them while I spent time with my younger brother, who would be leaving for his band trip the next morning.  The next morning, we would do Christmas with Tara’s family at the hotel, and then the extended family stuff that afternoon.  The next day, Sunday, we would go to church with my family, and that evening, head down to Lincoln for a friends Christmas party at Isaac’s.  We would then spend the better part of the week at my parents’ house and then go up to Yankton to Tara’s parents’ house on New Year’s Day after spending New Year’s Eve with friends.  The following Monday, we would fly back to Salt Lake.

Complicated enough?  Here’s what actually happened:

We arrived in Denver for a 4 hour layover on Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile, the weather in Omaha was steadily degrading as one of the worst winter storms in history started its work.  We sat in the airport with fingers crossed waiting to see if we’d make it to Omaha that night.  The flight ended up being delayed an hour and a half, but we did manage to fly to Omaha and land safely in the middle of the blizzard.  We then rode a taxi from the airport to Papillion (my parents did not want to come out in the storm, and I don’t blame them).  It was a crazy ride on very snowy roads, but we made it.  Thus Christmas with my family went down as planned. 

With Tara’s family, however, things were more complicated.  In anticipation of the storm, Tara’s mom had taken her sister from Yankton to Lincoln on Wednesday, before Christmas, so that she could be there for the band trip which was leaving at 8 in the morning Saturday.  She barely made it back to Yankton with the storm starting.  Thus, the family spent Christmas Day snowed in in Yankton with Becky in Lincoln and Tara with me in Papillion.  They did not make it down Christmas night, nor did they manage to make it down for the extended family stuff the next day.  Meanwhile, Becky hung out in Lincoln by herself all Saturday only to have the band trip completely cancelled on her.  And so Tara and I were the only representatives from the Somer family to show up at the big family Christmas.

Fortunately, Tara did get to Becky and her parents when they came down to retrieve Becky from Lincoln on Sunday, even though it was just for a short time.  We did make it to Lincoln just fine for the Christmas party, and because we arrived late, were greeted by a naked Nick and Robert who ran down to the car.  The neighbors also witnessed this display, and as a result, I doubt Isaac will be getting any Christmas cookies for a few years.  We decided to go up to Yankton a day earlier, on New Year’s Eve, and spent the night with “old people” aka Tara’s parents and their friends.  This turned out to be fun anyway, although the “party” ended around 11 and we watched to ball drop back home while complacently sipping champagne.

The Somer family Christmas finally went down successfully on New Year’s Day.  The storm is long since past leaving some 20 inches of snow in its wake that continues to blow onto the roads making shitty driving conditions. 

Although challenging and frustrating at times, everything worked out well in the end.  It was wonderful to see family and friends again.  Various people have asked me what holiday traditions we started.  I’m not sure we managed to start any!  Everything was too hectic!  In one of our marriage books, it recommended not trying to split one holiday between both families, and now I can definitely see why.  But you consider selflessness, compromise, and being there for each other during a stressful holiday, I suppose we started plenty of traditions.  I just hope that 20 inches of snow doesn’t become one of them!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!