Monday, February 26, 2007

Inviting people to parties

Inviting people to parties. It's like the easiest thing in the world. You just call them up, and tell them there's a party going on.

Milk

1% milk is the way to go. It’s low in fat, tasty, has a wide appeal, and is just great overall. Whole milk is a little much. A&D enriched is probably better for you, but I can’t get into it. My one strong word of advice?

DON’T GO SKIM.

Skim milk actually glows blue. Have you seen it? You put it in a cup, and it has a blue aura. And it tastes terrible. If you’re going to all that trouble to save a couple fat calories, why don’t you just cut out a couple bites of ice cream or something? Trust me, just take the hit, and buy real milk.

Diet drinks

Does buying a diet drink really do anything for you? If you like the taste, that’s one thing, but I want all people everywhere to stop thinking buying a diet drink will help them lose weight. Unless buying a diet drink involves huffing it up a mountain to buy from the Himalayan Buddha of Zen knowledge. Otherwise, your gain is minimal.

One of my buddies worked for McDonalds for a bit, and the thing he hated most? The following scenario.

“Um, I’ll take a number one (Big Mac meal), supersized please.” “What would you like to drink with that?” “Ummm…I’ll take a Diet Coke.”

If you’re buying a Big Mac, just drink the Coke. You’re already consuming like inifinity calories—you might as well go the whole way. The “Diet” part of that drink isn’t going to change the fact that you’re already MURDERING YOUR ARTERIES. Buy the Coke, enjoy the meal. Splurge. I mean, buying a Diet drink in that situation is kind of like staying at the Ritz and ordering peanut butter sandwiches from room service. You’re already spending your life savings on your room, just get the caviar. And enjoy it. And then give me some because I’ve never had it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Taking over foreign countries

Well, this one’s easy. Just discover oil there. The current administration will take care of the rest.

Revolutions

So the first thing to do when you lead a bloody revolution? Execute the traffic engineers. There are a variety of benefits to this plan.

1) You’ll be able to head to the capital to sack the current government without getting stopped by traffic lights. You realize, of course, that the only reason you get stopped by red lights at all is because traffic engineers are married to human resource employees. They both hate you. Traffic engineers are the ones responsible for all of the red lights on your way to work. Time to make them pay. And if you’re stuck at lights, the government’s airplanes could like, strafe your cars. No, better to not get stuck at traffic lights. Or in a traffic jam. Better plan it for a Sunday morning.

2) You can start out your new country with sensible traffic engineering. For example, you could actually time the lights so on a busy street if you go the speed limit you’ll never hit a red light. They actually do this in Argentina. Come on guys, Argentina. It’s third world.

3) You can fix all of those pesky little things you notice on your way to work. Like how the pressure pad on a side street activates a green light for the side street, even if the car is TURNING RIGHT. And since they’re turning right, they’re three blocks down by the time they get a green light. And then you get to stop and enjoy the day with an idling engine for no reason. Or how about the light for a small street intersecting your large street that hates you? You know what I’m talking about. It’s the light that is just turning yellow as you make eye contact, and red as you pull up to the line. And then you’ve got to wait the whole cycle to continue.

I’m sure there are many more benefits, but I’ve got to stop thinking about this before I start obsessing and trying to find whoever planned the lights in Palo Alto. Why is the Hanover/Page Mill light so long? Why does the El Camino/Page Mill light hate me so much?

So in the odd chance you hear of a malicious execution of traffic engineers nationwide, rest assured that I have started my coup d’etat. And if you’re a traffic engineer, time to lie. Or die. So maybe you should eat pie. Or hide with the pigs in the pigsty. Hummm…I should really start my own rap group.

Cell Phones

Worst idea ever. I hate cell phones. They are terrible little things. Capable of so much good…and yet they do so much evil…

A couple years ago I got bit by the cell phone bug. All I could think about was getting a cell phone and being able to talk to anybody I wanted, whenever I wanted. I imagined myself walking down the street in my khakis and Birkenstocks, talking to beautiful woman after beautiful woman. At dances and parties, I wouldn’t need to carry around my little black book to take down numbers—I could just whip out my cell phone, impress the lady with my technological prowess, and record the number digitally. The cell phone, I thought, was my key to popularity and coolness.

You see, that’s how both cell phone companies and beer makers get you to try their product. They advertise these beautiful people at the beach, having a party. Everybody has a beautiful counterpart, and all is right in the universe.

But it’s all a lie.

I ended up purchasing a really snazzy phone and a one-year contract from a large provider, who is now defunct—gone the way of the merger. I couldn’t settle with a normal phone, so I ended up getting a flip-phone, with a camera. Or, if you prefer, a flip-camera-phone. I opened up the packaging and the smell of new electronics took away my guilt at having spent $150 on something so trivial. This was my key to success. With trepidation, I charged the phone, and patiently waited to try the phone out. Oh, how the excitement flowed through my veins! I was giddy with joy.

An hour or so later, I returned to find my phone ready. I flipped it on, and waited…

The screen came on to a beautiful picture of the beach. Oh, the beach! This is where I belong! I waited for the bars to appear on the side. “More bars everywhere” or some other slogan ran through my head.

I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

Wait a minute. Why isn’t this working?

Wait a second. I’m in the basement…do you think?

I ran upstairs. No luck.

I ran to the third floor, barged into my sister’s room, stood on a chair and held the cell phone up as high as I could. Like Arthur of old, I held my Excalibur above my head, triumphantly. In a moment or two…my arm got tired.

But I kept holding up my Excalibur, waiting for the clouds to break and the light to stream down on my head, endowing me with enormous powers of communication and coolness. I could hear the soundtrack in the background, building, in a crescendo, almost exploding with power until…

It happened!

ONE BAR!

The familiar beep let me know that my phone had service. I saw the bar on the side, and my heart swelled with pride. “Today,” I said to myself, “I am cool.”

My little sister walked into the room and stared at me. She’s used to strange occurrences—being the sixth of eight children, and sandwiched in between four boys, she’s come to expect the unexpected. Still, though, she was confused. “What are you doing?”

“Ummm…hey look, I have a camera on this phone!”

“Great.”

With that she went back to studying.

After a few days I came to realize my phone would only work in two spots in the house. I had to be standing in those exact spots, with the phone at the exact altitude, for any signal to arrive. Now why exactly are cell phones cool?

A few days later, I returned to college where the reception was a little better. That was comforting, at least, and I felt cool with my nifty new gadget. Unfortunately, I came to realize the fleeting promise of cell phones.

You can get a cell phone, which will allow you to communicate anytime, anywhere, but cell phones don’t come with people who will call you. Or, better put, cell phones don’t come with friends.

So I started counting the days between phone calls. Sometimes a week would pass. Gradually I realized, “hey, I’m getting ripped off.” I got the same amount of phone calls as before, which is essentially zero. Except now I could answer those anywhere I wanted. Cool. If you boiled it down, I was paying a very high price (the first six months equaled out to about $65/month, which was probably 70 cents a minute, given my level of calling) for my dream. I could’ve gotten a phone card and called at pay phones for much less money.

But alas, I was stuck. Whereas alcohol, tobacco, and drugs all have the chance of addiction to keep their victims stuck after they realize the falsehoods they’ve been told, cell phone companies keep you addicted by extorting you into hellish contracts.

Well, I managed to get by with this for a few months without going bankrupt. No, I never did meet any beautiful woman because of my cell phone, and very few people actually took to noticing it. My biggest bout of notoriety dealt with a ring tone I downloaded, which ended up costing like ten bucks. But at least I was cool for that.

After about six months my phone stopped working. It turned off at random occasions, and wouldn’t start up. I called my phone company, and what did they have to say? “Not our problem.” So not only did I pay millions of dollars for this thing, now they expected me to just suck up the gizmo breaking down after five months. There’s got to be some law against selling crappy things that work for five months.

I didn’t want to cancel the contract, and I didn’t want to pay for something I didn’t use, so I stepped into phase two of the addiction. I signed a two-year contract to get a deal on a new phone. This one was definitely NOT cool, but it worked. In fact, it worked well, and never gave me problems. It lasted for a year.

So a few months ago I moved to California. I stayed at my Aunt and Uncle’s place until I could get an apartment. I called the phone company to have them switch my calling area to California. Well, after talking to five different employees on four different phone calls, I was told I couldn’t switch my phone to California until I had a permanent address. So they continued charging me roaming fees.

I got an apartment a few days later, so I called them with my new address. But then, if I changed calling areas I would lose all of my previous benefits. I would be stripped of all of my minutes except 150 anytime minutes. And then I wouldn’t even get free long distance. Pretty much the lowest blow a man can be dealt. Lousy phone company.

So I switched to a different, more expensive plan so I could get the excessive sum of 250 anytime minutes. After the phone call to switch areas, I made a bunch of phone calls to let people know that yes, I was alive, even though I hadn’t answered my phone in days. Turns out, after I switched calling areas, it didn’t go into effect until the next day (even though I had been told it would be immediate). So I got a hundred dollars of roaming charges for my phone calls that day.

Now for the funny part. When I changed my address to get the different calling area, they didn’t switch the address where my statement went. So the statement went to my previous address, hundreds of miles away. I didn’t bother getting online to check my bill (a stupid mistake). When the bill finally wound its way to California, I discovered their tactics, and called them up. My automatic payment had been processed a few days previous. The customer service representative was most helpful in informing me that because I had already paid the bill, I had already accepted the charges, and they wouldn’t refund anything, even if they DAMN WELL KNEW THEY ROBBED ME.

It’s not in my nature to take revenge, so I don’t want to name the company that dealt with me in such a manner, but in the off chance you hear someone talking about “Raising the Bar”, please raise the finger. In their direction.

My current cell phone (with a different company, I might add) allows me to use my phone on my balcony. That’s a nice feature, because I can listen to the sounds of traffic during my phone conversations. This way, I don’t get tempted to walk inside and have a quiet conversation, because my phone doesn’t work there. You see? They’re very kind about making sure I have fresh air during my conversations, and that I don’t bother my roommate with my talking. Also, I can sooth my conversant with the sounds of sirens, honking, and the occasional Harley.

Cell Phone Voice Mail

Hi, you’ve reached Brian Stevenson. Thanks for calling me. Unfortunately, I can’t get the phone right now, so if you leave your name, number, and a short message, I’ll get right back to you.

The party you have dialed is not available. Please record your message after the tone. To send a numeric page press 9. When you are finished recording, hang up, or press 3 for more options.

Why in the world do I have to listen to both of those messages? Every time I call a buddy, I have to hear him tell me that he’s not there, and to leave a message. And then I get to hear the nice woman’s voice tell me that he’s STILL not there, and to record my message after the tone.

This isn’t rocket science, people. We’ve had answering machines for TWENTY YEARS. It’s not like someone’s going to call up and say, “oh, wait a minute, when do I leave a message? Should I say my name? Does she/he need my phone number?” Could we just standardize to a point where we just hear someone’s name to affirm we’ve called the right number? Couldn’t I just hear “Brian Stevenson” and then a beep? Why am I being told how the system works twice, every single freaking time I call? I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO LEAVE A MESSAGE.

Sometimes, just to lash out, I’ll leave a horrendously long message on the perpetrator’s cell phone. I’ll just talk on and on, hoping to waste as much of their time as they wasted of mine. This is what I call phattrition. It’s not productive at the least, but at least it makes me feel better. But you’ve got to watch out for an escalation by the other party—sometimes they’ll call you back and leave a longer message. And sometimes they’ll lengthen their cell phone message in a Bush-like preemptive strike. My buddy Jason did that once. Boy, was I angry when I heard that message. And how he laughed.

The cell phone industry has created a dirty war here, and we need someone to stop it. Enough time has been wasted, giving instructions to leave a message after the beep. Let’s end this.

Cubicles (revisited)

Another stupid thing about cubicles is the fact that you hear every single thing the people next to you do. There’s a nice Asian lady who sits on the other side of me. Her phone has this nifty little ring to it—it sounds like the soundtrack to a fantasy movie or something. It bothered me at first, but now I just sing along. But I don’t dance to it, it’s really not a dancing tune.

She talks on her phone a bit, and it’s mainly in some other language. Maybe one day I’ll ask her what language it is, but maybe not. I can tell she’s kind of high strung by the tonalities in her voice when she talks in her mysterious language. There are some other guys I listen to who are around me as well, and they sound like decent guys. But I don’t actually know any of them, and would never pick them out in a police line up. But man, if they say one word, I can point them out.

“Yes officer, the man second from the right. He lives about twenty minutes away from work, without traffic. He hates being on call (whatever that is) in the evening. He’s good friends with the other voice on the other side of me, and sometimes talks to the woman, though mainly only talks to the male sounding voice. And he has this weird laugh that I never really understood how he misconstrued it to be a laugh. But rest assured officer, that’s him”

Vending Machines

The last entry reminded me of my first great business idea. As a child, I was always excited to see vending machines. They were the first step towards making America fat. I couldn’t wait until the day when I could go to Junior High and use the vending machines WHENEVER I WANTED.

That day came. And went.

And I never really got into buying the candy. I think it’s the tightwad in me that doesn’t want to spend twice as much for a candy bar than I could get it in a store. And besides, the candy is always smaller or not as good as you picture it in your mouth when you’re salivating against the glass. There’s always a disappointment factor.

So I had an idea. Why not make a machine with one type of candy bar? A huge candy bar. I mean, the MOTHER of all fat inducing and obesity causing chocolate warriors. There’s no way you could get dissatisfied with that after purchase. People would buy it in droves. Of course, it would cost more, maybe a couple dollars, but it would be worth it.

Except my machine wouldn’t actually dispense the candy bar. Like all other vending machines, it would manage to skewer the bar on the steel turny thing. And it would hang there, taunting you. You could keep coaxing, kicking and pleading, but it won’t drop. In fact, a little receipt will print out, with the text something like this: “You’ve been had by Chris Perry! Have a nice day!!”

Only

It seems that the only reason you see the word “only” on a price tag is to distinguish the price as abnormally high.

For example, outside my office today you can get your oil changed for “only” 35 dollars. Hmmm…a 35 dollar oil change. Sounds worth it, right? It’s only 35 dollars. It’s not like the shop down the street from me will do it for 19 dollars. And it’s not like I got my oil changed for only 35 dollars the day before I actually read that little sign outside the shop down the street. And it’s not like I shook my fist and cursed the day.

From now on, whenever I see an “only” sign, I will run. They might as well stick up text in front of it saying, “you can be had for…”

Cubicles

Second worst idea ever. You get trapped in three walls the size of huts our kind used to built six thousand years ago. Except their huts had sunlight, but our cubicles don’t. Nope. It’s fluorescent light, much like the kind you see in Joe versus the Volcano. Sometimes, when I get really bored at work, I dance in my cubicle. I can’t stand up, because the walls don’t go that high, and everyone would see me, but I start bouncing in my chair and doing crazy moves, just because I can. I’m surrounded by a hundred people, and nobody knows what I do in here.

The only good thing about cubicles is that I have attuned my hearing so much, that from a footstep twenty feet away, I can tell the direction of the walker, calculate their most likely destination, and toggle my screen to a spreadsheet in under a couple seconds. I’m even learning how to gauge weight and height. So good for you, cubicles.

Attraction

Attraction is a very complex socioeconomic phenomenon. I really dig those last two words.

Attraction is basically defined as, “when somebody likes someone else, and that person doesn’t like them.” So you should stop worrying when that girl you want doesn’t like you, because it’s already in the definition of the word. When you like someone, by definition, they don’t like you back.

Oh, and when someone likes you, it’s not going to be really exciting for you.

Therefore, it makes it infinitely harder to date. A lot of people I know get around this problem through alcohol. I, myself, prefer another way: acquisition of desirable socioeconomic status. Because even if a girl doesn’t think you’re very attractive, at least she can go for the socioeconomic status. But I really don’t have a desirable socioeconomic status. In fact, it would be considered an undesirable socioeconomic status. So basically, that plan has failed. Sometimes I try humor. Because girls dig a guy with a good sense of humor. Which I don’t have.

Which concludes my explanation as to why I don’t date. And also the most times you have ever seen the word ‘socioeconomic’ used in the same paragraph.

Riding in a train

If you consistently ride in a train, you’re almost guaranteed to at one point be forced to sit next to somebody. Which is annoying, especially if your companion’s body weight and/or body smell significantly exceeds your own. But what can be even worse is riding in a train across from somebody, where the seats face each other.

I had that same unfortunate occurrence occur to me this morning. I sat across from a member of the opposite sex for the half hour ride up to the city, to get to my useless job. The most annoying part of the trip was the fact that she was roughly my age, and I only caught a glimpse of her on my way in the seat. And she had blonde hair. And looked potentially attractive. But I couldn’t tell from the glimpse! I need a full on face shot!

So what did I do? Well, I pulled out a book. And read. I jockeyed for time. I looked out the window on occasion, and tried to get another look at her, but with her right across from me, she would notice any looking. But I had to find out! Was this woman hot or not?

As an aside, there’s really no reason to check out women in the train. You’re not going to talk to them anyways. Because they’d think you were some sort of ex-convict weirdo. In the movies attractive looking people meet each other in exploding planes, on the bottom of the ocean, and in crowded Islamic torture chambers. But you don’t do that in real life. In real life, if somebody talks to you on the train, they’re trying to kill you. It’s not George Clooney. I promise.

And even if the woman weren’t scared to death of me, I wouldn’t talk to her anyways, mainly because I’m scared to death of her. No really. To death. Like, I would die, but luckily I keep my iPod in my shirt pocket, and with it’s buzzing manages to act as a sort of pacemaker to keep the good old heart moving.

So I didn’t get to look at her until the end of the ride, at which point I got a good look without attracting attention (glancing out the window, and then a pan shot in to the center aisle—works every time), and yes, she was attractive. Very nice looking girl. And what did I do? I let her out of the seat first. Yup. She was probably thinking I was the best gentleman this side of London. Maybe I’ll see her in a few weeks, and I’ll let her out first again. And she’ll see the look on my face, that I’m trying to form some sort of words to talk to her, and she’ll pull out the mace. Not that sissy stuff you squirt in people’s eyes, but a big medieval slammer.

Limited

What I'm talking about here, is how you see things advertised as "limited production" or "limited time only". What do you think that means? It means the product or service is lousy. Why else is it limited? Have you ever seen a good, dirty, American capitalist pass up an opportunity to make a profit? So why would they stop making something that people liked?

Last night I saw something advertised as such. And what did I do? I skipped past the ad. Why would I be inclined to purchase something if I knew it stunk so badly that they won't make it anymore?

I can just see the ads the day after Edison's invention:

---------------
Limited Time Only!
Commemorative Limited Production Candles!

New England Exquiter Candles, inc., has just finished production of a limited time offer! Special commemorative candles for your candling needs. These candles are extra special, because only sixteen million were made in our wax factories. Normally these candles go for a sixpence, but you can get them here for a haypenny! Only a haypenny! That's right, purchase a piece of history for only a haypenny.

Get your special commemorative candles today!
---------------

Anyways, you get the point. Nothing that came limited production is worthwhile. Sure, maybe you'll start talking about some year of car, or some specific model, that is DEFINITELY worthwhile. Well, I tell you, they stopped making it. It obviously isn't that cool. And if it is, they make it cooler the very NEXT year! Amazing!

So they next time you hear someone touting the new "limited production" item, you can thank them for pointing out the uselessness of said item.

And on a separate note, if I see one more limited production coin ad, I'm going to flip out...