25 September 2014

Heaven, I'm in Heaven

This funny thing happened where I didn't write a blog post for two months.


Ignoring that, let me tell you about life!

Since my last blog post, I started and completed Summer Semester. I took a hiking class, an architecture studio class and a philosophy of bioethics class. They were all awesome and fantastic. I also started and completed an internship! I was a planning intern with the city of Taylorsville, a small suburb of Salt Lake City. 

I've gone to California twice since that last post. Once to go to LA Pride and then again to visit San Diego with friends. I went camping in Fishlake National Forest and in Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef was magnificent and beautiful and fantastic. I actually went on that trip with a handsome lad named Dax, who I'm lucky to be able to call mine. I went swimming in the Great Salt Lake a dozen more times, I worked a lot. I had adventures.

My Home

Fast forward a bit:

I'm currently on my 4th semester of college, I'm a Junior and in my first year of the Urban Ecology program. I'm taking nothing but City and Metropolitan Planning classes this semester and I'm also the Peer Advisor for the freshman Urban Ecology Class. I'm working my little butt off, and visiting Logan every other weekend to see that handsome fellow I mentioned earlier. 

The S-Line Streetcar
Just a few nights ago I drove up to a parking garage built into the hillside just below campus to take some picture of the city at night. You all know that I'm in love with Salt Lake City. This city set in the mountains in the state of industry proves daily that passion is not yet wasted. It is a literal oasis in the great basin desert. It is white bliss in the winter and raw adventure in the summer. I love it.

Here is my tribute to the city, portrayed at night.

You are all fantastic. Have a happy day!

29 June 2014

Once Upon a Great Salt Selfie

I'm thoroughly convinced that I am the only person in the State of Utah that likes swimming in the Great Salt Lake. 

I love it. I love this pond of salty water so much.

When I tell people this, the automatic response is always, "Why?".

The Great Salt Lake is the historical remains of Lake Bonneville, a massive 19,000 square mile fresh water lake that covered much of ancient Utah and into Nevada and Idaho. The Great Salt Lake is now a 1,700 square mile hyper saline lake that averages around 13% salt for the main body, although the northern most arm averages well up to 28% salt.

It's an incredibly shallow lake. When you walk to the shore the most apparent thing to the eye is how far the shoreline is from the vegetated mainland. This salt encrusted "beach" typically separates you from the water at around one thousand to well over three thousand feet. For reference, that is the distance of 4 to 12 New York City blocks. Or for those of us in Salt Lake City, the small end of that scale is from the south end of Gateway to the north end, and at the large end of that scale, from the Salt Lake Temple to the State Capitol Building.

The average depth is 15 feet, with a maximum depth of 33 feet. Because of this, the lake's surface fluctuates greatly based on the water level. And being an terminal lake, the water level does just that.

Being so incredibly salty, the lake only has three naturally occurring organisms:

1) Brine Shrimp Artemia Salina

2) Brine Flies Ephydra Cinerea

3) Algae (Various Species)

Occasionally, there are very rare spottings of select non native organisms in the lake:

4) Aaron Browne Sebright Homo Sapiens

Today there aren't many public access points to the lake. For nearly a century, the lake was at the constant attraction of Utahns via a multitude of resorts and beaches: Syracuse, Lake Side, Lake Park, Lake Shore, Black Rock, Garfield and the most famous of all, The Great Saltair.

Saltair I and II ironically burned down into the lake, and Saltair III now borrows the name as a concert venue on the shore. Coincidentally, I went swimming in the lake at the original location of the Saltair today, 25 minutes outside of Salt Lake City.

It's a visually stunning place. The lake extends into the horizon due to its vast surface area but is usual very placid on the surface. The salt content gives the smell of the ocean but the nature of being a lake gives it somewhat muddy shores that combine together into a somewhat unpleasant smell during rain storms.

The water clarity ranges from murky to perfectly clean, more often the latter in the summer. You can see the minute bright orange shrimp swimming around you as you float in the water.

Surrounded by absence you come to better understand the fine beauty of life and what it means to be living.

"Too many people have talked about what the lake should be and what the lake should do for us, but so very few have ever stopped to listen to what the lake is. Those who do almost invariably fall deeply in love with this shallow lake that speaks a special language." 

Ella Sorensen


26 April 2014

It's About Time

Happy Saturday, everyone! 

It's been a good while since I've last posted. I'm sure you can imagine finals, and projects and papers and all that good stuff has managed to keep me busy. And actually, as I type this post, I'm sitting on the 4th floor of the Salt Lake City Library trying my very best to finish this essay. It's called, "Cultural and Religious Divides of the Built City." Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty sure it is going to be awesome when it is done. Basically I'm comparing and contrasting how LDS people and minorities in Salt Lake City have historically expressed themselves through art and architecture and how they are doing it today.

Library Selfie
I really really need to get this essay done today seeing as my professor has given us several extensions, and seeing as I have almost $16 worth of overdue fines on the books I'm using for research. 

Anyway, other than that, the semester is just about over! I have this paper plus one more final exam for my Environmental Science class and them I'm done. I'll have about two weeks of awesome freedom and then Summer term begins. Part of me is really excited for this-- I'm taking an Advance Architectural Design class that I didn't think I was going to have time to fit in my schedule, plus a one credit hour hiking class just for the heck of it. I should probably mention that the reason I'm taking this summer semester is that I'm planning on graduating a year early! Turns out between all my AP credits, and the fact that my major and my minor are in the same College of Arch + Planning, I can shave a full two semesters off my graduation plan. 

After I added up all the numbers on my own, I went to my college's academic advisor and she confirmed I wasn't crazy or on drugs and that I could definitely do it if I was willing to take a handful of classes over my two summer terms. And seeing as how I already work on campus in the building right next to the school of architecture, and as my apartment's contract is year round, it really just made sense. It really didn't hit me that I'm about half way done with my undergrad until my advisor told me it probably would be a good idea to start thinking about what I want to do for grad school. CRAZY.

My Current View
Other than that, life is swell! I'm sure you guys have seen all the crazy nonsense that I've been making for my Architectural Design class on Facebook and Instagram. That class has been more work and more rewarding than any other class I've taken thus far. I'm really glad that out of the 20 kids in that class, about 5 of them including myself are going to be in the summer Advance Studio. It is just amazing how I'm becoming aware how impossibly incredible the field of Design really is. Oh, and if I haven't mentioned this before, after my exam Tuesday, I'll officially be an Urban Ecology Major and a Multi-Disciplinary Design Minor. But in a less wordy, more straightforward way of saying things, I'm a Planning Major and a Design Minor. My plan as of now is to get my Masters in City an Metropolitan Planning with an emphasis in Urban Design. And I'm super stinking excited.

The best library ever.
It's a little unfortunate that that it has taken me this long to realize how much of a workaholic I am. I'm finding myself more and more happy spending hours in the Studio or Library. My social life has definitely shifted-- Most of the people I'm hanging out with tend to be workaholics too. And while change is always a little rough, I am really happy where this is going. 

(Also, there is totally a pretty lady in her wedding dress and a very dapper groom getting their pictures taken in the library and it is rather fantastic.)

An Image from 1893 I'm using in my paper.

I love you guys. You are all awesome. Keep doing beautiful things, and I'll update you on Browne's life in just a bit!

Best Regards,

A. Browne Sebright

08 March 2014

Society and Scenery

It started out with a comment I heard on the news the other night.

"THEY are taking away our rights and treating us like second class citizens!", he shouted on the steps inside the rotunda of the Utah State Capitol building. This was the clip ABC 4 played over the evening news as they explained that many Utahns believed that non discrimination laws were good for business and the economy.  By and large, it was a very positive story, showing how many businesses favored non discrimination laws and how people as a whole just wanted to show respect for their neighbors.

But for some reason I just couldn't get over that first comment.

"THEY are taking away our rights"


Let me begin by explaining that I am a very optimistic person.  So much so that I think it defines me more than any other of my characteristics. As such, I am a humanist. I believe people are generally good and that most people really just want to do the right thing, what ever that may be. I like people. A lot.

My biggest reservation about ascribing myself to the LGBT community is the "us" versus "them" mentality. In public addresses, you often hear speakers say that people on both sides of the fence need to be more understanding and sympathetic to the other side's view.  However at the end of the day, most in the liberal community see this as conservatives need to become more open minded on social issues and liberals need to welcome them onto the correct side.

But when it comes to the "us" versus "them" mentality, both sides are equally to blame. 

I can't really speak to what it is like to be on the more conservative side of this fence, so let me talk just a moment to my own people.

The LGBT community in my opinion is a misnomer. A community is a group of people that you primarily interact with. Your kids play with other kids in the community. You get people from your community to watch your kids or take care of your pets while you are out of town. You probably have common social events like church, parties or barbecues with your community. A community where you have chosen to establish yourself and it should hopefully be where want to be.

It was a frigid December night where I first heard the term "LGBT family". A few days in to having marriage equality in Utah, a large rally was organized outside Salt Lake's City County Building on Washington Square in downtown. One of the speakers, a radio host, was addressing the audience. He talked about how in his profession he regularly travels across the country, and how frequently when he mentions that he lives in Utah and is gay people immediately react, "Isn't that so hard?". The short answer for him was, "No, not at all". He remarked that Utah had one of the strongest and closest LGBT Families that he knew of, and that for him it wasn't hard.

So I like to think of it a little bit more like that. A family is the group you share commonality with based on circumstance. You don't choose your family-- you are a part of them because you share a key biological identity. And you grow up with them. You change and become different from them. You learn and become and understand better by being with them. But inevitably you separate, always knowing that you share something special with them.

For the LGBT family in Utah, that is very much true. An overwhelming proportion of us come from an LDS background and have all had very similar stories. But we are part of many other communities that take a higher precedence-- work environments, ecclesiastical organizations, schools and universities, neighborhoods and service groups. It doesn't mean that we aren't a part of the same family, but we are often in noticeably different communities.

That being said, I find a lot of frustration with victimizing the LGBT family. Don't get me wrong, discrimination happens. It has happened to me personally and is is hell. But that being said, I don't think it happens to such a degree as people often proclaim. I don't think it is ever appropriate to ask for special attention or recognition specifically because you are part of a minority group. Having to treat someone nice or make them especially comfortable because they are a minority is just as much discrimination as harassing them because they are a minority. It then becomes as sort of pacification-- patronizing them for being too much a part of a minority to be able to earn their own respect.

I want people to respect me and to care about who I am as a person rather than because I am part of a discriminated against minority. I think think there is an importance in letting people know your identity during the coming out process, and then there after to let the world know you for who you are as a person. That's why I get incredibly frustrated when I see on twitter and instagram the following, #gay #gayboy #instagay etc. I find that just as out of place as seeing #blackguy #whitekid, etc. You are so much more than a label. So why the hell would you go out of your way to ascribe yourself to a single title that could come to define how people see you.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for non discrimination laws and ordinances. But that being said, you are so much more than a title. And unlike other discriminated groups like racial minorities and women, LGB people aren't visually marked by their differences. You have the opportunity to make an impression on people through your work ethic, your attitude, your productivity, friendliness, optimism, etc, before the topic of your date with that nice person last weekend ever comes up over a lunch break. 

I love you guys. I think I've have enough of a monologue for now. Have a good one. :)

04 February 2014

"A" is for Awesome

(A special note: today's post will be accompanied by Gifs from my all time favorite movie, Easy A)

I hope never to be defined.

To be defined by others is a hypothetical box to be circumscribed giving you agency whether to abide in it or not.

To be defined by your self is to set a foundation that you must build independently upon-- and as such is not so easily changed.

"Who am I?", the question often goes. This is not a topic I have shied away from in this blog-- quite the opposite, really. I mean, as far back as 2010 I wrote about that on this forum.

With a few edits added for clarity's sake, here is that post.

"Having nearly two hours to sit and think while the kids were in bed, I started thinking my deep thoughts. What are things that define who I am? I thought about my basic characteristics; I like to make music, I'm not to bad with computers, I want to be an over achiever really bad, but I'm not really good at it, and stuff like that. Then I expanded that circle into things like how I like to dress, my room's red and black colors, my binders all covered in Dilbert comics, and my Facebook profile photo. Once more I expanded it. On a personal level, when I think of my self, I immediately think of my family. They are part of my very self definition. So naturally I included my immediate, Mom, Dad, Albert, Catherine, Megan, and Jesse. The people who really mean all the world to me. But to include them, I felt I should add some more people. My Grand and great-Grandparents. I have never met any of them in my memorable life, but by studying what they left behind, I start to learn more about them. 
I continued this circle of inclusiveness to odd things, and one topic that got me interested. What are some inanimate things that portrait me. My email address, my old user name, Smallfry918, my cell phone number, my face book account, my cell phone, my ring, my watch. I'm not sure what category this falls under, but almost all of these things I have no intention of forsaking in any foreseeable time for no reason. I really see how unique I am, and it makes me all the more proud to know I am a child of God. 
Yeah, So this is all. It makes me happy."

A lot of people have been asking me over the past month or so where I stand on theology and more importantly, why.

There was a time in my life not too long ago where figuring out how to define myself was a matter of great importance. In the LDS culture and for that matter in the middle class white culture, it is expected to have a logical forward path in life. And that is pretty much always in the public domain. From missions, to school, career and marriage. There are expectations and time frames from other's precedent.

Almost exactly a year ago I came out publicly on this blog to the world concerning my sexual orientation. Not too long ago in brevity I made known a change in religious affiliation.

I really don't know how to say this nicely. I want to answer the question I previously posted, but I'm just not sure how to communicate my thoughts. 

At the end of one of my all time favorite movies, Easy A, Olive Penderghast finally addresses the rumors of her promiscuity. Despite being entirely false people judged her nonetheless. She became the Christ figure of the film. She was harassed, abused and ostracized because of what was assumed about her. People hated her.

So here are two quotes to address the previous question concerning the changing of my theological beliefs. 

"And here you all are. Waiting for me outside the bedroom door for me to kiss Todd. Listening to me pretend to have sex with Brandon. Paying me to lie for you, and calling me every name in the book. And you know what? It was just like Hester in the Scarlet Letter. Except that's the one thing movies don't tell you: how shitty it feels to be an outcast. Warranted or not."

"I might even lose my virginity to him. I don't know when will it happen. You know, maybe in five minutes, or tonight, or sixth months from now, or maybe on the night of our wedding. But the really amazing this is, it is nobody's goddamn business."

If I've told you about my theological beliefs, then that is just fantastic. If you are sincerely curious, please ask me directly. But unlike last time when I revealed something new in unique about me, this one somehow strikes closer to home for people and as such I've chosen not to broadcast it. But please, do not make assumptions about why I am no longer LDS. That includes, "He must have been offended" or "It's probably because it was too hard for him being gay." I can assure you, it was neither. It came from the innate disagreement with fundamental doctrine

In no way do I want to stand on a soap box proclaiming the illegitimacy of any theological belief. It is offensive and pointless. But if you do ask me what I believe and why I believe it, just know that I will try my best to remain in first person about my experiences but you still might not like what you hear.

You guys rock. Go eat a cookie and life will be awesome.

Best Regards,

A. Browne Sebright