Sunday, November 30, 2008

judge thy neighbor

Not too long ago, after a time of trying to be a better person, I took a step backwards and invented one of* my most successful** games. Thus was born Judge Thy Neighbor.

Judge Thy Neighbor is an easy game to play. There are no rules, no points, no scoring, no point, and no real reason to play aside from unadulterated sarcasm. The game plays as follows: see someone, then make the most ridiculous judgment possible based on shallow, superficial factors.

For example, suppose you see a young man driving a BMW. An acceptable response would be: "He's driving a BMW. His parents probably gave that to him because he's a spoiled sissy rich kid."

Suppose you visit a house with a large television: "They must not be smart enough to read."

Suppose you see a man wearing Oakley's: "He must think he's better than everyone else because he's wearing expensive sunglasses."

And thus it goes. I'd refrain from any truly mean-spirited comments. But it can make for some fun times.

*And by "one of", I mean "only"
**And by "most successful", I mean "the only game I'm not hideously ashamed of telling anyone about"

laser shows

I write with some hesitation about laser shows, as many smart and intelligent people that I know seem to derive some sort of satisfaction from them. It's not often that I insult my friends to their faces, so I'm going to use as much tact as possible in conveying to you my viewpoint:

Laser shows are stupid.

The only difference between watching a laser show and your car radio is scale. For those of you unfamiliar with this form of "entertainment", a laser show is a term commonly used by planetariums to rob you of your money. Instead of providing you a nice guided show on planets like our tax money goes to provide, they coop you up in the big dome auditorium, and shine bright lights in semi-random patterns, whilst playing classic rock. So, basically, your car radio on a giant technicolor dome.

I shouldn't be so cavalier. I'm sure there's something I'm missing. I still recall the first time I went to a laser show. I was so excited to hear the old man speak in hushed tones whilst pointing a laser beam into the dome, describing the big bear, the big dipper, the big dragon, the big bird, and the big cross. It was the shock of my life to have Led Zeppelin pummeling my eardrums with big fancy red lines parading in dizzying patterns above. Then, as now, I couldn't understand the point. I spent the whole hour trying to figure out why I was watching that, and when the old man was going to tell me about supernovas.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

cell phone waiting lots

Of all of the activities of humans, none overwhelms our natural logistical facilities as much as picking up someone from the airport. Everyone everwhere has a deep, instinctual desire to arrive at the gate the very second the awaited passenger steps out to the curb. Unfortunately, for most of human history, this has been a futile, vain pursuit.

Until the blessed invention of blessed cell phones and the doubly blessed internet.

Now, instead of digging through dozens of old phone books to find the white pages, and then sludge through airline customer service hell trying to figure out when a plane is landing, you can check the blessed internet. Even better, your friend can call you upon arrival, and further help you time your arrival.

Though this part of the airport pickup process has been improved dramatically through amazing human intervention, there are other parts which still suffer.

Take the gate staging area, for example. Rarely in life will you ever be privy to such a raucous sight. Cars everywhere, honking, yelling, darting, signaling, not-signaling, and the natural inescapable evolutionary reaction which causes everybody to park their car right outside of the luggage carousel, and in front of several angry signs condemning said practice.

Having seen this sort of mayhem, most airports now employ thugs to parole the streets, waving unsettlingly-hairy arms and yelling loudly to move along should you slow down to below 5 mph, and condemning you to circling that cursed circle one more time.

After a few years of widespread cell phone use, a few individuals in airport planning committees realized that one could realign incentives, and easily remove this congestion. This idea is widely known as the cell phone waiting lot.

The concept is this: create a parking lot close to the gate where people may wait in peace, instead of orbiting the airport (zoom around the outer edge...approach the luggage area...slow Bob there...look...strain...AAAAA!!!! don't crash!!!! okay...look... SIR I HAVE A SHOTGUN TRAINED AT YOUR HEAD. MOVE ALONG OR DIE SUCKA.)

This idea has the potential to single-handedly eliminate society of all its woes. Unfortunately, too often this celestial concept gets bogged down in implementation.

The other day I was picking up a buddy from the San Francisco airport. As I approached, having perfectly timed my arrival to coincide with the moment he exited the double doors, he called to tell me the airline had lost one of his bags, and he needed more time to sort out the situation.

"Ha!" I thought, "no worries, I'll just go to the cell phone waiting lot!"

I orbited the airport once, then followed the signs. And followed the signs. And followed the signs. I was determined to find the lot or die trying. I got on a major highway, took several turns, passed by Pluto, and ended up miles away in a lot with a few drug dealers, three ducks, and a lot of barbed wire.

I'm not really kidding. Check it out.

In any event, SFO needs to move this lot away from nowhere and stick it close to the airport. By the time I arrived, my friend had already resolved the situation, and was waiting for me on the curb. It's a sad day when it takes me longer to get to the cell phone waiting lot than it takes to navigate airline beaurocracy. A sad day indeed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

bake sales

Perusing through the New York Times the other day, I happened upon an article which further demonstrates the dismantling of modern society. The headline?

Bake Sales Fall Victim to Push for Healthier Foods

Apparently, through some terrible liberal conspiracy, the amount of donuts available to children is being restricted.

I'm aghast. How could we, the bastion of the fat world, have fallen to this level? The article talks of legislation doing away with the sales of cookies, potato chips, greased pig fat, and hostess cupcakes. mmmmmmmmmm....hostess blessed cupcakes...

Now, don't get me wrong, I consider myself liberal as well. I liberally apply nutella to all of my bagels, and I'm pretty liberal when it comes to the number of scoops of ice cream I serve myself. Though, I'll admit I'm somewhat conservative when it comes to divvying up my sugar to others. Imagine my surprise when people who claim to share my take on life turn around and stab me in the back with celery?

This discriminatory inhibition of sugar is an outrage!!! I plan on organizing rallies to protest this!! Rallies that involve sitting! On my couch. Eating brownies...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


In American culture, tips are tipically* used in restaurant settings in order to allow the restaurateur to pay his or her people less, saving on costs, and allowing her or him to transfer those employment costs to you without you realizing it when you're deciding what to purchase.

It follows the same basic principle as sales tax. Most people are incapable of adding simple figures. For example, a man recently mentioned to myself and a friend how he had moved to this area at the age of 26, and eight years later, he was still here. I was aghast that he was 32, as he looked much younger than that. I will not delve into the amount of laughter to which I was then subjected.

I digress. Sales tax is basically impossible to compute by the average person. If you are reading this, laughing, because you can calculate sales tax in your head, I in no way desire to associate with you, and furthermore, I will bonk you on the head at my earliest convenience. Secondly, if you're still laughing over my 34/32 mistake above, I will bonk you on the head twenty six plus eight times. If I'm able to count to that number.

Politicians figured this out a long time ago, and instead of making sales tax a nice round figure (caution: never use that term to describe a woman) like 1%, or 5%, or 10%, they make it figures like 6.25%, or 8.15%. I mean, seriously, who can calculate 6.25%?

I normally start with the whole amount.

$34.32. Okay.

I repeat that a few times in my head.

$34.32. $34.32. Okay. Let's divide $34.32 by ten.

Visualize the decimal moving over a place. Okay. $3.43. GAHHH, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRAILING 2??? Do I need to keep track of that?

Focus, Chris, focus. $3.43. Divide that by two.


Deep breaths. Deep breaths. 14 divided by 2 is 7, so that's $1.71.

Okay. $1.71. Deep breaths. Now we just need to figure out 1.25%.


Actually, I normally don't hear the cashier getting annoyed because I'm still in my math place, trying to physically move decimal places around.

So stores like this technique, because it makes it seem like you're getting something cheaper than you actually are, and they know we're all too dumb to figure out what the real price is.

WARNING: People will laugh at you if you're using a calculator in the store to add up your expenses. I know, it's unjust, and these are the same people making fun of you for winning the spelling bee, but they also can beat you up and their kids can beat your kids up, and their kids can beat you
and several marines along with a dozen or so pit bulls and/or wild geese up, so please just don't pull out the calculator in the store.

In any event, restauranteurs have followed the same path. They've made it socially unacceptable to not give tips, and so they're able to make their prices seem smaller than they really are, because if I can't do math by myself in a store with nobody around, I DEFINITELY can't do math on a date while trying to appear both witty and intelligent at the same time, and not spill any sort of large item on myself.

However, the absolute worst is when you arrive at a cafe of some nature, which is not a sit-down restaurant, but you're just getting your food to go, and the cashier smugly prints off your receipt and asks you to sign, with a line for tip added in! GAH! The injustice! What ever is to be done? What will people think if I don't add a tip? Why should I add a tip, though, they've provided me no service!

At this point, you should calmly put your hands in your pockets, stick your head down, and run out of the establishment before you wet your pants from your anxiety attack.

And if you don't like that strategy? Man, I don't know what to tell you. That's as far as I've ever gotten in those situations.

*I know, I know, my desire to pun supersedes all other desires, including the desire to spell correctly, as well as the desire to not look like an idiot for making such a miserable joke

parking lots

Parking lots bring out the anal retentiveness in all of us.

Upon arriving in a parking lot, all of humanity collectively lose their ability to run any sort of cost-benefit analysis. The nearest parking space must be found and parked in AT ALL COSTS.

It is not uncommon to find several perfectly reasonable parking spots within a thirty second walk of your destination, but no matter how many spots are available, there will always be a mass of flies crowding around the front, all hopelessly searching for the closest spot. Only one can gain the prize. Then, like Jon Stewart winning an emmy, the victorious parker strolls out of his car, smirking at the hapless many who are forced to (gasp!) park further out.

This impulse and urge is only overcome when the scouter sees another moving object.

Like sharks trailing dying cows in water, some people find it necessary to trail anyone walking anywhere in a parking lot. Looking out across any parking lot, you'll typically find a car following every single moving object, including unsecured grocery carts and tumbleweeds.

Worse, still, are those who are afflicted with the completely opposite pathological condition: to park as far away from everyone else as possible. These poor souls will usually be found lurking at the fringes of the parking lot, parking at a much faster rate than their doomed cousins, then walking the mile or so to the destination, smug in the assurance of their superiority. They pride themselves on the amount of time they saved while not running the rat race to get the front spot, and live out their lives completely unaware as to why people stopped getting rides from them to places.

(but if they knew, they'd be even more smugly happy at the sliver of gas they saved from not having the extra load in their car)

(they're mostly crazy)

(I'm in no way implicating myself)