Friday, December 18, 2009

dogs

Who doesn't love dogs? What's not to like about Man's Best Friend? Who doesn't like their Best Friend? Dogs are great! They bark, they drool, they smell, they bark at night, they kill small children, they bite, and they eat you when you're dead. Who doesn't love dogs?

I kid, I kid. I love dogs. Some of my best friends are dawgs. I think dogs are great. G-R-E-A-T. I in no way hold a major grudge against them for that time that I finally got to talk to the cute girl down the street, and one of their species (owned by her) came and harassed me, which in no way caused me to flee screaming like a sissy little girl while said dog pursued and bit me1. No. I don't hate them forever because of that.

Dogs. Dawgs. Seriously, do you think that would bother me? Just because she never spoke to me again? Hot girl not speaking to me? Puh-lease. Happens all the time. I don't blame you for my socially awkward middle school phase. Not. In. The. Least.

Naaaaahhh, I love 'em. I've had a lot of exposure to dogs over the course of my life. Most of my exposure to dogs consists of exposure to their main product. To my best estimates, I've hauled approximately one hundred and twenty pounds2 of dog poo in my life, some of it with a stolen shovel of the neighbor's3, but most with ridiculously thin plastic that could not have possibly been adequate protection against the vileness of their feces. And yes, this is another great subject to broach in conversations. "I used to pick up poo in thin plastic baggies! How about you? Want to shake my hand?"

Why so much exposure to dog poo? Well, in some families, the mom refuses to get a dog unless the kids promise to clean up after it. Well, my mom was much too smart for that, because she knew we would never clean up after it. However, the rest of the parents on the block one-upped my mom by making their kids first promise to teach the dog to poo on the Perry's lawn. Brilliant. I think, to this day, the dog next door hasn't pooed on its own lawn.

I am thus the foremost expert on dog poo. Dog poo does amazing things. It turns grass green. It attracts flies. It migrates to my lawn. But most amazing of all, it is durable. You step in dog poo?4 Good luck getting that out of your shoe. I think sneaker designers, in a truce with carpet cleaners worldwide, specifically put in dog poo traps in order to facilitate the tracking of dog poo on floors across the nation.

I'm not only an expert on the poo end of dogs, however. You'll be happy to hear that I also managed to get a dog to pee in my shoe once. While I was wearing it5.

Dogs have other great qualities. For example, girls love dogs. Maybe if you love the same thing, she'll love you too. Right?6 That kind of logic never breaks down. Unrelatedly, I love Twilight!

Even with their expertise in poo production and corner on the market of female love, dogs are some of my favorite animals. The list of favorites probably goes like this: rubber duckies, cows, ducks, penguins, geese, basically every mammal except dogs, fictional animals like sphinxes, invertebrates, flaming scimitars, fish, flesh-eating bacteria, dogs, and mosquitoes7.

That being said, be nice to dogs, in absence of any love that I could show them. Her name was Sarah, and you took her from me!8

1. He only got my shirt, as my possibly-a-tiny-bit-panicked flight may have been faster than his. And yes, I may have been over the age of eight. Possibly over the age of twelve. Maybe fifteen. I'm done talking about it.
2. I figure twenty weeks of lawn mowing a summer, about six summers worth of mowing, and about a pound of poo a week, give or take.
3. Yeah, I don't feel bad for keeping the shovel they left on my lawn. Read on.
4. You havin' dog poo problems, I feel bad for you son; I got ninety-nine cleaners but a canine fecal matter remover ain't one. Sorry. Couldn't help it.
5. This was in Argentina, while going door to door, speaking to people about the church. Yeah, my buddy watched it, laughed, and didn't say a word until we were moving on. Thanks dude. I appreciate it. Love you too.
6. Note: I know that at least pretending to love doesn't work.
7. Cows hold a special place in my heart for their providing of cheese, milk, ice cream, butter, yogurt, and steak. And no, flesh-eating bacteria and flaming scimitars really aren't animals, but if they were, that's where they would stand.
8. I'd like to take this time to publicly thank the individual responsible for the giant mass of poo that I stepped in outside of my flat today, which is the inspiration for today's post. Thank you. No, it's cool to leave excrement in a pile where I walk. Love it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

conversations

Seeing as how it's the holiday season, it's probably a good time of year to review the rules behind making good conversation. It's currently the D-Day of the conversation wars--you are being dropped in behind enemy lines and put through a series of work parties, school parties, family parties, neighborhood parties, people who claim to be family parties, and church parties. You need to hone your conversation skills, lest you find yourself stuck in a group of people talking about modern art with nothing to contribute1.

A good friend of mine has a book called the Art of Mingling. Obviously the author doesn't know what she's talking about, because mingling isn't an art, it's a science, with a series of laws and rules. Like all sciences, respectable scientists have reached a consensus on these laws, and spend their time emailing each other the best ways to suppress contradictory evidence or disguise data.

Without further ado, the keys to good conversations:

Begin with an insult

It's a good idea, when you're in the get-to-know-you phase, to show you are capable of insulting anyone just to make yourself look better. For example, after learning your interlocutor's home state, you could speak about how you lived in there once, and refer to that state's residents as "poor, sheltered people"2. This is sure to win you friends. This will not, under any circumstances, produce a very awkward silence, wherein there are no polite words that can be said in return.

Seek to maximize the nice to other words ratio

That isn't referring to your ratio: it refers to the other person's. When you're engaged in speaking, get them to use as few words as possible. When you notice them repeating one word over and over again at random intervals, you know you've got them eating out of your hand. The fact that the dude across from you just keeps saying nice and nodding his head doesn't mean that his mind is desperately pulling out all stops, trying to keep him from dropping comatose on the floor, driven to catatonic peace by your purely inane babble. It probably means that he thinks what you're talking about (the few words he can catch, that is, because it's noisy in there) is just really nice. Nice. Nice. Nice.

Talk about movies they've never seen

Suppose you have a quote from a movie or a T.V. show they've never seen, and you make a passing reference to it, which isn't understood. Don't let them go without explaining the whole quote, scene, plot, and your reactions to it. Tell them how much they have to see the movie they now know everything about. In fact, go out of your way to make references to these obscure media items, just so you can explain them. People love learning. It's not like they intentionally avoided seeing that movie because it looked like the kind of thing only half-eaten drunken snails would appreciate. Enlighten them.

Ask if they know people you know

If they went to Penn, ask them if they knew people living in Philadelphia. Ask by name. Ask people from New York if they knew someone who lived there in the summer of 2005. Keep asking. Don't give up until you find a common connection. There is no limit to the number of unsuccessful 'do you know' questions you can ask3.

Make references to inside jokes

This is best done when the person you are speaking to isn't in on the inside joke. When you ascertain this fact, you then have a free ticket to explain, over the course of the next ten minutes, said inside joke. When your partner starts slobbering and even a pace maker won't keep his/her heart beating, remove any blame from yourself by stating, "I guess you had to be there"4.

Speak about your illnesses

This is especially true while eating. If you don't have illnesses, maybe you could speak about other people's problems. If you're a doctor, you've got all sorts of material to cover during the main course. For example, if you just returned from a three hundred mile bike ride, you could explain, in detail, the puss-oozing rash you were consulted on during the ride.

Talk about controversial issues like everyone in the group agrees

There are a number of topics you could broach with this, but some common ones would be gay marriage, global warming, who you voted for, income redistribution, and the uselessness of all pets5. The least awkward conversations out there occur when someone takes a very strong stance on an issue, then implies everyone else agrees.

Don't say these things

Now that I've run out of pros, let's just do a quick listing of the cons. That is, things you probably shouldn't say:

  • Your newborn looks like a gremlin
  • Are you planning on going to the fireside or crossing the plains in that dress?6
  • What color are their hands now?7

I wish you luck in the wilds of the conversation hinterland. May your lips be loquacious, and your discussions divine.

1. Yeah, the dangling modifier was intentional. Apologies to anyone who thinks modern art has something to contribute. If you disagree with me, and are also female, single and attractive, I am, of course, joking. I love modern art. It's wonderful stuff. Hanging a urinal upside down DEFINITELY qualifies as art.
2. To the girl who just did that: though I didn't want to talk to you after that, I was in awe of your pluck.
3. The limit is one. In this particular conversation, I think the dude asked about ten separate people. The answer was always no. To that dude: I never want you to hear you ask a 'do you know' question ever again, but I have to admire your unflappability. Since world war one has nobody been so determined to expend resources uselessly.
4. When you say this, you have failed as a conversationalist. This, apparently, isn't common knowledge. To be sure, I say it myself all the time, but I am aware of the implications, and I then get to stop talking.
5. Okay, so that's the one I always mess up on. I'm sorry. I'm not a bad person, even if I wouldn't shed a tear if every noisy dog on the planet died. And I'm not a bad person if I've thought of schemes to that effect. And I'm not a bad person if I've impleme...errr, thought about implementing said schemes. Yeah.
6. In my defense, she had been rude to me, I was tired, and the dress was supremely flowery. She never spoke to me again.
7. The avid muppets fan will recognize this as a response to the statement, "we'll catch them red handed!" Though funny when spoken by a puppet, it loses some of the hilarity when voiced by an awkward sixth grader in class. This can only result in a very marked loss in any sort of coolness that might have been held, as the inordinately silent class listens to a stern teacher give a stinging rebuke, focused on maturity. I have never forgiven that teacher.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

hand dryers (revisited)

Just a brief addition to my last posting on hand dryers not too long ago.  In the restroom of the church I attend there is a serious problem.  Behold:



Yeah, you're reading that right.  That is an official Bunnie Hand & Face Dryer.  Not only does it dispense of what could, at best, be described as a pleasant breeze, it has the word 'Bunnie' in the title.

Drying your hands with the bunnie dryer is about the most emasculating thing on the planet.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

singing

Singing is a heartwarming way of expressing that which cannot be expressed with words. Music is the voice of the soul, as they say, and singing is a way to express the feelings of your soul.

Singing is typically done as an expression directed towards others, and can be done in a large group, or with just a few individuals. Many excellent singing performances can be heard by quartets, trios, duets, and yes, even soloists can have amazing depth and passion in their voice.

If, however, you do not desire to perform, singing can be done in the privacy of one's own shower or home.

Though there are guidelines on breathing, and agreement on the general acceptability of actually staying within a reasonable range of the desired note, there are no hard rules about singing, save one:

If you are singing to yourself, you must, in fact, be by yourself.

To elaborate for one moment, this would mean singing whilst walking on a busy city street1 puts you in the same category as asylum inmates, people who torture small animals, and people who pretend to be ducks. Singing whilst riding public transit, again, is not socially acceptable in any way. Sorry. Singing while standing next to me on a rail platform is especially strange, and I reserve the right to pummel you senseless with my backpack should you ever do that again, you psycho crazy lunatic.

When abiding by this rule, please be aware that though you may think you are alone, oftentimes this is not actually the case.

For instance, let's imagine a hypothetical situation in which you move to a new city and rent a one bedroom apartment. Furthermore, in abiding by the one diamond-studded rule of singing, you first secure your premises, then begin singing in the shower with impunity. And possibly while cooking. And then just whenever you want. And maybe accompanying said singing with some verbal commentary. This commentary might include quacking.

Then, let us introduce a new character to this situation: the next-door neighbor. Suppose you meet this neighbor, and she looks at you extremely strangely, and might have a bit of fear and/or amusement in her eyes. She may act like you belong in an institution of some sort.

At first glance, you might be confused at why she would act this way. But, hold on. Towards the end of this hypothetical situation, let her move out of the apartment next door, and have a couple move in. On their first night in the apartment, note how clearly you can hear their voices through the walls. Especially through the shared bathroom wall.

Singing is an excellent way of making friends.

1. There is, of course, an exception for people involved in the noblest of professions: performers in musicals.

hair

Apologies for touching on such a mundane topic, but, as this is the complete guide, I'm afraid, for completeness, we must discuss hair today. Some my find this topic disturbing, so I encourage you to move along in your perusal of the internet, especially if you happen to be female, single, between the ages of 20 and 30, and not yet terrified with the prospect of going out with me.

I think we're all familiar with hair and its unusual tendency to behave like the police: never around when you need it, and always showing up in inconvenient places.

Take, for instance, the back. The back is a peaceful part of the body. It inflicts no harm on nobody. It doesn't deserve to be tortured. Yet, for whatever reason, many1 find their backs being attacked by hair infestations, as it breeches the natural defenses imposed by the shoulders and starts its southern campaign.

Should you find yourself afflicted with this problem, I have but two bits of advice to impart to you: a) zap yourself with every laser in existence, or b) barring that, never, ever, ever walk outside shirtless in any environment ever. Wear a shirt swimming if needs be. Even stop during fire alarms to ensure you are robed. Please. I beg of you. There is no situation in which seeing someone with hair on their back is not like drinking month-old curdled milk.

Hair is associated with manliness. This can be seen by analyzing the common expression, "it'll put hair on your chest". Millions of teenagers may find themselves duped into wishing they had hair on their chest, so they could be manly. Some particularly sissy teenagers may actually believe that having hair on their chest will remove the stigma of sissiness from them. For the record, I have first-hand experience that this is not so2.

Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, do not wish for such a cursing. I too was misled by my brothers, thinking a hairy chest was something to be desired. It is only in my later years that I realize such a thing is wrong, yea, even a false tradition of my fathers, even if it is manly. Why? Women dislike hair.

Before you tell me I'm wrong, let us reminisce about the time, four months past, when I found myself at a party wearing a polo shirt, from which may or may not have emanated a tiny amount of hair (let me emphasize: tiny). I may or may not have been raised believing this was a desirable thing, as I may or may not have been told that very thing by a male family member who shall remain nameless. Now, let us recall with horror the conversation I had with the cute girl who began elaborating, loudly, how disgusting she thought said practice was3. That was the fastest conversation I ended in my life4.

Earlier I lied, obviously, as women do love hair, as long as it is one place: on your head. Or possibly a sweet beard.

Let us pause for a moment to consider the injustice of being able to grow hair on your arms, chest, neck, face, ears, nose, thumbs5, toes, and yet find yourself balding6.

Life isn't fair.

1. And I want to be very clear on this point: I am speaking only of others in this specific case. For now.
2. Never speak to me of the pool party I once attended, where among two dozen deeply unsissy men, I was the only one with a spec of hair on my upper body.
3. I wasn't able to determine if I was the cause of her outburst. She certainly wasn't interested in me, so maybe that was her way of telling me to get away? Whatever it was, it was super awkward. And I don't wear that polo shirt anymore.
4. Lies. Second fastest, after that conversation in which the girl accused me of being a conversation stopper. I still treasure that moment.
5. Seriously. Thumbs. What sort of horrible deed did I do in a previous life to deserve hair on my thumbs??
6. I found out a month ago. I think it was the fourth worst day of my life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

the himmelskibet




Far up within the frozen north
beyond where many sally forth
there lies a monster to be won
far from the reaches of the sun

In shining ice it wields its arms
reflecting screams and pains and scars
the HIMMELSKIBET, it was named
by Norsemen, from whose toils it came

The beast was wrought of steel, they say
and stands five hundred feet this day
a score of men it flings away
e'er flirting with an icy grave

It catches them inside its grasp
and circumambulates the mast
a dozen times they glimpse while swing
the capital of Danish kings

But only men of honor dare
to challenge gravity in air
for death awaits them, ever near
with pointy teeth, and frightful fear

I was not one to shy away
for death could come on any day
and so, when unsuspectingly,
I faced it, I went willingly

In truth, we meant to find the ride
that roamed a man-made mountainside
but signs are hard to understand
when trav'ling in a foreign land

So at that place called Tivoli
my boss and I queued timidly
we did not care its heights to face
but would not leave and find disgrace

And thus it was, and so it passed
we beat the beast and held on fast
a thousand metal demons roared
we laughed them off; away we soared

Our children will hear of our deeds
of how we rose above the pleas
of those too sissy to ascend
and shouts of HIMMELSKIBET! lend

Monday, November 23, 2009

it doesn't work

That is easily the most annoying phrase in the English language.

Let's suppose that, instead of punking out and getting a lousy Master's degree in Engineering, you actually made something of yourself and went to medical school and became a doctor. Let's imagine what one of your consultations might look like, if you were then relegated to hell:

You: Ahhh, Mr. (looks at chart) Spadowski, what seems to be the problem?

Patient: Doctor, it doesn't work.

You: Right. What exactly doesn't work?

Patient: (becoming agitated) My arm doesn't work!

You: Ummm, what about your arm doesn't work?

Patient: (convinced the doctor is incompetent) It doesn't work!

I want you to take that conversation, repeat it ninety-three times, and put it in email, chat, phone, in-person, tickets, etc. That is what I do for a living. People look at me like I'm stupid and tell me it doesn't work.

There's nothing really wrong with reporting problems, of course, because most of them are valid issues, and need to be resolved1. But if you're about to report a problem, and all you can say is "it doesn't work", I'm going to stick my mouse up your nose.

Telling me it doesn't work is like pointing duck-billed Platypus and asking why. I don't even know where to start. There are a billion different things that could have happened to make you come running to me, teary-eyed, telling me it doesn't work. The server could have crashed. Canada could have invaded2. The earth could have exploded. You could have clicked on the wrong button. You could be trying to use IE to access the software (that better not be it, because the mouse is going somewhere else, given the number of times we've said to use Firefox). You could have logged in to the wrong service. You could have inadvertently inserted the (cartoonish and highly modified, thankfully) image of a peeing man into a script3. You could be looking at the wrong page entirely. Or we could have designed it that way intentionally.

So next time you're about to stand up, come over here, and tell me it doesn't work, please, I beg of you, I plead of you, take a minute to decide what exactly isn't working, and then convey that sentiment to me. I will then be free to ticket the developers and go back to writing.

1. And, make no mistake about it, looking at me like I'm stupid is almost always justifiable.
2. On multiple occasions, I have taken the liberty of blaming Canada. Canada has almost no connection whatsoever to my work.
3. This is not fictional.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

budgets

Budgets are an artificial device whereby people attempt to restrain themselves from spending money. This is, of course, futile, because budgets are made up of numbers, and numbers on paper are completely unenforceable.

A real budget might include the presence of your sister who lives off student loans while attempting to get food for herself, husband, and child. There's no way you would continue on your goal towards a donut-a-day if she were there when you were trying to decide between chocolate and maple1.

Of course, I love budgets! I have lots of budgets! That is, I have three budgets.

Budget A is the normal budget, or the 'buy whatever you feel like' budget. This is the best budget. This is the budget that brought us the non-fitting suit, the unused DVD writer, and the video camera that has recorded all of twenty minutes.

Budget B is 'partial spending restrictions'. That means I can buy what I need, and a few things that I want. Things like shoes. Or a cowboy hat. Or a dozen donuts. That is, pretty much the same as Budget A. Except with warm fuzzies for having 'restrained' my spending.

Budget C is 'extreme spending restrictions'2. That means I can't buy anything. Ever. Except maybe food. Budget C is typically marked by a diet consisting of generic mac and cheese for special occasions3, and yellowish spread and rice for all other meals. I do not recommend this diet.

People say that you should write down budgets on big spreadsheets and keep track of where your money goes. Nah. That's just not worth it. I mean, what is money for, if not to be spent? Isn't that why they print it? Who are you to deny its proper use? Would you obtain a mattress and then stare at it from the floor? You bet you wouldn't. Especially if that mattress were full of money. You'd tear it open and get that money to spend away. That's why you should ignore budgets.

You can add an element of efficiency in your life by putting money to its proper use in a quick fashion. I've evolved to a point where I can spent money as fast as I earn it, and when I'm really on the top of my game, even faster! There's nothing quite like the feeling of looking at your credit card statement to see a number higher than the amount you owe in student loans. It's then when I feel like I need to slow down and enact some balance in life. Sadly, it's difficult to incur more student debts, or I'd be able to get those numbers equal and balanced.

Of course, if you're really serious about not spending money, you could try a tip I learned last night in Gatwick Airport. Upon deplaning and finding myself in need of a ticket to board a train, I also discovered I had lost all recollection of my pin number. This would constitute Budget D, or the broke budget.

For a man who prides himself on his memory and on his number skills4, this was disheartening. I scanned through my memory, and was able to remember the pin of every card I've had in my life except this one. After that fruitless attempt, I went through number sequences, trying to identify the correct one by process of elimination. I knew it wasn't a perfect sequence so that eliminates a dozen possibilities. I knew it didn't contain my favorite numbers 21, 23, 221, or 223, so we were down to about 9,978 possible combinations. I think it starts with a 6? Maybe? I did learn that night that my bank will allow five incorrect attempts before locking your card.

Luckily, I had enough change on me to get a ticket on the slow train5. Let's hope the new pin comes quickly, because this rice is going to get old pretty quick6.

1. Or possibly other family members. A cousin of mine, much more self-controlled, intelligent, and mature than me once instructed me on how I could eat breakfast for eight cents a day. I don't know about you, but I spend eight cents just thinking about breakfast. He will end up wealthy some day, and I'll have nothing but the memories of frostees, pastries, and ill-fitting clothing to console me.
2. The first time I entered extreme spending restrictions was during my freshman year in college. As luck would have it, that was also the same time I walked by a Wendy's. Every. Day. If it weren't for the budget, I would have had to enact extreme eating restrictions, as I surely would have gone inside and ordered frostees, instead of waddling up and licking the windows, full of people eating deliciousness.
3. As an Economics instructor once said: "it's a sad day when you can't afford real mac and cheese".
4. The best pickup scenario in my life involved me asking for her number, then when she asked if I had a pen, I shrugged and said nothing but, "meh, photographic memory". She was obviously so impressed by this that she was intimidated during our eventual date, which is why she was next to silent, and pretty much ran away when I dropped her off.
5. Insert that joke about trains being brains and you got a slow one. Yeah, yeah, I know that one, no need to remind me.
6. Don't worry, I'm just joking around. I still have my US cards, which sometimes work (apparently not in airports, though).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

phobias

Many people in the world are hampered in their daily lives by fears, either rational or irrational. Though often tempting to insult people about their phobias, we should be respectful and loving and supporting of people with strange fears1. With love and compassion for all in mind, I present here some of the recently-diagnosed psychological phobias.

Aerolandipeeophobia

The fear of needing to use the use the restroom in the twenty or so minutes the plane is in its final approach and you are prohibited from using the facilities. This is the most physically uncomfortable of the fears.

Aeropudgeophobia

The fear of getting stuck next to a large, smelly, restless male on a long flight.

Aeropudgeopeeophobia

The fear of being blocked from the aisle by a large sleeping male, whose sheer mass prevents you from exiting the row in order to avoid the inevitable aerolandipeeophobia.

Callohottieophobia

The fear of being ruthlessly rejected when calling to ask a woman out on a date. Also related to awkwardnoophobia, the fear of calling a woman to ask her out and her one, sole, only response being 'no'2.

Converseophobia

The fear of getting stuck in a super lame conversation with an individual impervious to social signals, who then proceeds to dominate the discussion about the relentlessly inane topics of his or her choice. These topics might include a discussion on the numbers of digits of pi one has memorized.

This is the converse of callohottieophobia; that is, the rejecting woman is often subjected to converseophobia before being allowed to reject with the solitary 'no'.

Daneobikeophobia

The fear of being hit by a bicyclist while trying to cross the street in Copenhagen3.

Execurogueophobia

The fear of Sarah Palin becoming president4.

Mablogophobia

The fear that your mother will discover and read your blog, and thus be informed of your decade of non-practice of the piano.

Maidochangeophobia

The fear of the maid entering your room while you are in between the 'showering' and 'clothed' phases5.

Pazuckerbergophobia

The fear that your parents will join Facebook, then summarily friend you.

Peebroadcastophobia

The fear of needing to use the toilet in a crowded, yet quiet, house with a thin bathroom door and excellent acoustics.

Peladophobia

The fear of going bald before one is able to secure a spouse.

Shakeopeedophobia

The fear of shaking the hand of one who is not habituated to washing his or her hands after using the restroom.

Upstagedophobia

The fear of one's little brother, seven years one's junior, getting married to a wonderful woman and settling down prior to any semblance of a possibility of the same happening to the elder.

1. i.e., you should stop making fun of me for this stuff.
2. She said nothing after that on the phone call, and we didn't speak again for years.
3. It wasn't my fault I walked straight into oncoming traffic. I blame London for twisting my innate sense of traffic flow direction. Still, I would have apologized, but I'm afraid I didn't know how to say it. If you ever read this, angry female bicyclist, jeg er ked af.
4. My father and I we were talking about McCain's campaign, and he told me McCain would have won if he had changed one thing about his campaign. Before I could blurt out, "not pick Sarah 'I'm super crazy and unintelligible' Palin", he said McCain should have taken off her leash. I realized then we have diametrically opposed outlooks on life.
5. She did, but milliseconds after I had passed into the 'having pants on' phase.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

charities

While many people believe charities are organizations dedicated to the betterment of mankind (or dogkind, or hedgehogkind), this is only part of the truth. In what many have suspected but few have dared say, charities exist to spread guilt around the globe.

As children around the world grew up, and mothers lost offspring to meddle with via guilt trips1, they found a new vehicle for their guilt spreading in charitable organizations. While the goals of said organizations are certainly laudable, it's common knowledge by now that solving poverty is as impossible as creating a black hole underneath Switzerland2. Therefore, they decided to widen their scope into guilting. The world will feel the pangs of remorse!

When I walk by people asking for money for charities, I know those dudes aren't chumps. They're not out there pandering for their cause. They got up, put on their Wednesday best, stumbled through crowded chilly streets, just to be able to look at me as I walk out of the store, and stare me down for not donating my change for sick children3. There's no self righteousness like the self righteousness of the dude yelling at passersby "BUT IT'S FOR SICK CHILDREN"4.

This I can deal with. After years of inflating5 the amount I practiced piano, I've developed a thick candy shell around my heart, impervious to the guilt trips of strangers. What's much worse is when you get a personal invite from an acquaintance to donate to a good cause.

A dude at work sent around an email this morning, saying he was growing out his beard for the month of November, and was looking for sponsors6 for his chosen cause, liver cancer research, as his grandfather was just, ahem, diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

Even knowing his granddad's days were numbered, my cynical sel laughed at his innocence, as he thought he would get me, ME, the PARAGON of guilt-avoidance rationalization, to part with a single pound just by a mass email solicitation. Imagine my shock when he started coming around the office, asking for donations.

I don't think I'm comfortable relating the entire interaction, but here's a taste:

Him: (smiling, chuckling awkwardly) Hey, do you have any English money?
Me: (please oh please oh please oh please let that piece of paper not be a signup sheet to donate) Ha ha!
(pause)
Him: (mumbles something)
(pause)
Me: (mumbling) I'll, ummm, stop by later. (looks at the ground)

I think it's safe to say that was the most awkward moment I have experienced since bowling in excessively tight and, I might add, very poorly stitched jeans7.

However, note how I promised a nebulous future donation. This is the mark of a master guilt avoider. If you're ever trapped up against that wall o' shame, slip in a promise like, "I'll stop by later", which doesn't really offer any specifics, any timeframe, or any chance of a donation8.

And mom, I'm sorry about the practicing bit.

1. I'm preemptively feeling guilt over writing that, based on her future phone call this week. It's a joke mom!
2. Though I, like all males, believe smashing atoms is worthwhile, it's not clear to me what finding the Higgs Boson will do for me, personally. And that's really what life is all about. Me.
3. It's sort of hard to claim not having money when walking away with a pair of Skechers. But, um, these Skechers are necessary so I can eat...or get food...or something?
4. I'm not joking. I don't know what it is about the UK, but I honestly pass people who harass me for donations.
5. So, inflating is possibly an inflation in itself. It's a sad day when you need to lie in your confession about your lying.
6. I am so not kidding about the sponsorship request for beard growing. And they apparently call this Movember? As he states in the email: Movember is an event whereby the person taking part agrees to not shave/grow a beard/moustache throughout November.
7. If you insist on making such a gaffe, might I suggest not wearing white underwear in a bowling alley lit by black lights? There's nothing quite like a glowing gash south of your navel.
8. I am, of course, joking. Please donate to charitable causes, especially the charitable causes that don't encourage their money seekers to pester me. And co-worker, should you ever read this, I promise, I'll think about stopping by.

Monday, November 2, 2009

bible maps

Though not technically part of the standard canon, the maps found in the back of some bibles are absolutely essential for a productive1 study of the gospel2.

While the maps indicate important locations and boundaries of ancient kingdoms, and thus help the astute religion hobbyist understand the geographic element of bible stories, their greatest benefit can be achieved only when the maps are used as a last desperate defense against the endemic boredom of Sunday school classes.

The correct use of these geographical aides depends on two prerequisites.

First, you must bring your scriptures to class. Many a newbie will incorrectly assume that bringing your scriptures to class will facilitate learning. That is not true. Scriptures are brought for their maps, which are useful for study during class. This study is often unrelated to the lesson topic, unless, of course, said lesson topic is "where shall Chris go on his next vacation?"

Secondly, you must find an opportunity to open your scriptures without appearing to open them solely for the purpose of containing your drool (and turning your dazed look into the devout study of probable flight paths from London to Munich3). You could wait until the teacher references a scripture4, or make a helpful comment based on a scripture you need to look up.

Once these prerequisites have been filled, you are home free and on your way to geographic bliss. Ponder the Israelite/Canaanite campaigns, and determine how you would have outflanked Joshua. Laugh at Reuben when you realize his tribe got like the worst land allocation ever. And lastly, trace Paul's travels and plan your own.

Sunday school is a wonderful place where wonderful people discuss wonderful things. If you fall short of wonderful, however, the bible maps were put in there for us.

And I'll see you in Seville.

1. Ummm, my definition of productive might differ slightly from yours, by the way5.
2. I'm sorry, but non-Christians, I sure hope they have maps in the Koran or Bhagavad Gita, or you're really missing out on something important during Sunday school. Errr, if you have Sunday school. Ramadan school? Shiva school? Sikh School?
3. That is, if you can pick out roughly where Munich would lie based on 2,000 year old Roman state boundaries and cities like Augusta Treverorum.
4. This can often lead to very long waits.
5. Productive (prəˈdəktiv): non-coma and/or tears of anguished boredom-inducing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

meeting women

In many parts of the world, meeting women is a difficult task. First you have to find a woman, then you have to speak to her. This becomes more difficult when women get involved, as they have a tendency to make meeting them difficult. Luckily, we1 here at the complete guide to everything have put together some tips, based on successful or successful-sounding techniques we've honed or read about or thought sounded maybe good for someone else to try over the years.

Stake them out

Like the gazelles of Africa, women are known to stalk in certain places, like libraries, clubs, trains, lingerie departments, and gyms. Sit yourself down in one of those locations, and go to work scoping. Like the lions of Africa, you're going to need to find the right one you can pick off from the herd and go for the kill.

The nice thing about finding girls at libraries is that there's almost never an easy way for them to escape a conversation. It's not like you suddenly have to go somewhere after reading for the past three hours. Have faith in yourself, and attack with confidence. You can, like me, approach one of them, get her number, then spend a very painful two hours at lunch, at which time you both bless the day it's over.

Look at them

A successful first contact always involves looking at your target. For some men, it's a flirty glance across the bar. This sometimes works, but often doesn't, because, more often than not, the woman is engrossed in some other activity, and won't notice. In order to be successful, you need to stare at her.

Women love being valued, and what's more valued than an object that gets stared at? The Mona Lisa has dozens of people staring at her all the time, and she's the most valuable woman there is. Therefore, treat the woman like any other valuable object, and keep your eyes glued. To enhance the effect, you may think about opening your mouth a little bit (women love this), and possibly letting loose some intentional drool. When has drool ever been a bad idea? When you have a delicious meal sitting in front of you, what's your first involuntary impulse? That's right, drooling.

Staring women down is almost always successful at getting her attention. One word to the wise, however. If you happen to be staring at this girl in class, and also at the same time have a sneaking suspicion you've met her before, pay attention to the subconscious mind that is sounding alarm bells, trying desperately to save you. She'll eventually approach you, call you out on your staring, and declare herself to be one of your ex-girlfriend's best friends and co-workers2. This will be awkward.

Do impressive feats

Women are bowled over by men who can do impressive things, like lift heavy objects, or distract an entire class from the purpose of the lecture. If you're ever in a position where chairs need to be folded and stored, expose your biceps, and carry three chairs per arm. The women may not come immediately, as they'll be swooning, but trust me, later on, you'll be surrounded like Bon Jovi playing for a bunch of 35 year-old singles.

You could also find a way to take a class with her. In the workplace, this might involve waiting until your office switches phone systems and advertises training on the phones, then posts signup sheets. You could then find a bootleg copy of the seating plan in the office, and thus discover the name of the temptress across the floor, then match it with the right session, and voila, you're in! Even though you have no interest in phones, you could then spend the next hour making witty jokes like, "my main problem with the old phone solution was that I didn't have anybody to talk to--does this system solve that?"

And even if she didn't laugh at that and everyone else did, remember, a woman's true feelings is betrayed by her body language, and if she's sitting facing your direction, you're golden. Even if you did purposefully sit across from her.

Approach with confidence, and careful planning

Just like they can detect via the sense of smell when you are interested, women can smell fear. They can sense when the little geek approaching them has just about reached his bladderial limit, and has a heart rate of 604. Be confident. The worst that can happen is that she totally rejects you and your genes are forever scrubbed from the gene pool. That may be the end of your line, but it's not the end of the world. Stay cool. Practice your lines in the mirror beforehand. If you're making a phone call, you could write out exactly what you're going to say, word for word, including instructions for lengths of pauses and amount of laughter3.

The key to a successful contact is a smooth line. Some smooth lines may include:

Your neck reminds me of a swan as it cuts through a glassy lake on the Minnesotan plains at the peak of mid-summer, while lilacs lace longingly in the distance.

The royal we would like to meet you and make a nonroyal us (because a royal us would just be a royal we, which is lacking the royal you).

There are many others, but I'm not going to share all of my secrets here today. Just be aware that women love being compared to birds (swans, some kinds of ducks, and penguins), celestial bodies, and a small variety of invertebrates.

Once you have her, never let her go

Literally. Cling for as long as possible. Make up excuses to walk her home. Make up excuses to bike her home. Ignore her protests when you place her on your handlebars. She needs to know you're serious from day one. The number one complaint about men is that they're afraid of commitment. Commit to her then. Show it by buying her flowers, tattoos, and possibly some nice sweaters.

If you follow these steps, you'll soon find yourself in sweet marital bliss. Or sweet felonious bliss. If she presses charges.

1. Yes, that's the royal we.
2. Note to self: memorize all girlfriends' coworker's faces, and store in memory in perpetuity.
3. Not...like...I...do...that...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

copenhagen

Copenhagen is the Capital of Denmark, a beautiful city sitting on a beautiful island, in the middle of a beautiful frozen wasteland1.

I flew to Copenhagen the other day, and after the usual hour or two of sheer anxiety and fear of failure of the Bernoulli principle, found myself approaching a terminal disguised as a quaint Scandinavian villa2. Disembarking the plane, I found myself walking through rooms of beautiful, simplistic couches, then some bedroom sets, and later on a sea of chairs, wicker baskets, and inexpensive tupperware. All of the items had large tags with strange-sounding names, like Enktorp, or Billy. Happy children wearing lederhosen skipped and yodeled through the winding terminal eating meatballs and one dollar hot dogs.

I eventually found a train that led to Copenhagen, which was in the throes of the fall fashion week3. I've checked a few papers, and I don't think the event has been widely publicized, but I'm pretty sure it's the only explanation for the ridiculous concentration of gorgeous women in the locale. Walking, biking, driving, I was surrounded by tall beautiful blondes for the entire week. I'd say something about how it's a good thing I'm single, and thus not worried about a jealous wife, but I don't think even the most jealous of women would turn even the slightest shade of green as they watched an army of supermodels ignore me in every possible way4.

Though everything is written in Danish, Denmark isn't the kind of place to get picky about language. You may be surprised when you realize everyone speaks English. The most striking example of this lies in 7-11, where, in a dramatic departure from their US business practices, all of their employees speak intelligible English.

In fairness, I think there are one or two people on the outer islands that don't speak English (or use indoor plumbing, for that matter), but other than them, you can be sure whoever it is that approaches you muttering jibberish is very capable of proofreading your College English papers. Unfortunately, you'd never ask them to, because they'd demand payment in kroner, which is Danish for "a currency you'll never use outside the five square miles that exist in our country".

But yeah, Copenhagen is a pretty sweet place. Take some time (ahem, during the summer), and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere. Yeah. Atmosphere.

1. I, of course, mean that in the best way possible. But when you need icebreakers to get into the harbor in the winter, I'm sorry, but you live in a frozen wasteland.
2. The terminal, that is. I was disguised as someone who doesn't lose his lunch at the mere thought of getting in a piece of plastic and bouncing around 35,000 feet above the blessed earth.
3. I only know of the existence of said week as a friend of mine was once so enthralled with fashion she had to give up the fashion section of the paper for lent.
4. Not unlike the girl I met recently who employed the intelligent tactic of running away at high speeds at the moment I directed speech in her direction. I'm not really exaggerating.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

queues

Queues, or lines as they are also called1, are in danger of being altogether destroyed in the modern era. With the advent of the internet, ATMs, self-service checkout, and a cacophony of other devices, man is in danger of losing the ability to stand and wait for something.

In light of this, I'd like to take a few minutes to instruct you on how we can keep such a salacious scourge from falling on mankind.

Ignore your surroundings

There are signs posted above you instructing you how to interact with the upcoming threat. They may tell you to have your boarding pass ready. They may tell you to use this counter if you have 10 items or less. Whatever the sign, whatever the verbiage, please, keep your eyes to the ground and fingers in your ears. You pay attention to posted directions at your peril.

Pay with exact change

It's annoying to carry around pennies, because they weigh down your coin pouch, so please, instead of finding some decent use for your change (hobos, small children, parking meters), pull it out and count up to whatever six digit number just appeared on the register. Use the smallest denominations possible. Keep the change in a hard-to-reach, smelly location, like your kidneys.

Better yet, pay with a check

Credit cards are evil and of the devil, but checks are the divine right of kings. Pay with them everywhere, for every expense. Wait until you know the exact amount, and every item you have yet to purchase is loaded away in some deep dish cart, then slowly rummage through the folds of your robe for the satchel containing your checkbook. Forget a pen. Write slowly. Make a few mistakes, necessitating another check.

Buy as many groceries as humanly possible

Fill the cart with them. Fill another cart with them. Bring your firstborn and make her/him push a third cart. Stock up on every deal imaginable. Do this every week. Then find the dude who's just buying chocolate milk. Race ahead and get in front of him in the only line. It's his fault he hasn't done his duty to the human race and procreated, and hasn't found a need for the thousand individually packaged gram-sized servings of Gerber baby food that you're about to watch the checker swipe one by one for the next six hours. Take away his last shreds of dignity, and sneer as his chocolate milk breakfast goes warm, then sour. Laugh. Smile. Be smelly.

Call anyone, for any reason

It's important people understand you're important. Bank tellers, grocery store clerks, salespeople, and especially the people behind you in line need to know you're important. Pull out that cell and yap. Yap about anything. Keep yapping during the entire processing experience. Yap about the queue. Yap about how long it's taking. Yap about how everyone in line hates you with a bloody passion. Act like you've just been pulled out of bed by a dead panda when the clerk interrupts your conversation. Make annoyed noises, like sighing. Roll your eyes.

Keep your ID in a safe place

People could steal your wallet at any time. Be sure to keep your ID separate from any and every credit card you own. Keep it as far away as physically possible from any other card. Preferably in your shoe. Act surprised when someone asks for it. Try to explain that the clerk doesn't need ID because it's you. Pull out anything other than ID to present as ID, like business cards, love notes, used tissues, and gum wrappers. Offer to call someone to have them tell the clerk it's you. Make a scene for as long as you can. The people behind you don't have anything better to do in life except listen to how you are Edgard G. Himmelskibet.

Stand on the left

Anytime, anywhere. Whenever there's a left of anything, stand in it. Plop everything you own around you. Build a fortress. Better yet, bring a friend, and have her or him stand on the right so you form a human wall, a veritable sandwich of insuperability. Move in tandem, occupying as much space as is possible. Hold hands, but keep your arms outstretched. Migrate through the world like a pair of lead beach balls tied together with titanium towels.

Ask questions that are answered by posted signs

Phrase them exactly as written. Question the answers as if you view them as morally wrong. Refuse brochures explaining procedures. Demand your right to speak to someone and give your viewpoint on the matter.

Transact simple business in person

The ATM can take deposits, but please, by all means, go talk to a teller. Be chatty. Tell him or her about your ducks. Don't think about using that ATM over there that was specifically built, programmed, and provided for you.

Make special requests

Preferably only when there are people behind you. Ask for it without mustard. Change your mind and ask for it with mustard. Laugh about that. Ask where their meat comes from. Ask what kind of mustard they can provide. Take a friend, and laugh at the answers. Ask how many calories each dish has. Taste every flavor before you make your choice. Make them earn every penny they get from you.

Stop in front of an empty lane

Just stand there. Rummage through your purse looking for your metro card that will let you through the gates that about sixty people are trying to use right this rush-hour instant, and yet they can't, because you couldn't foresee the need to swipe your card at the exit like you have done three hundred thousand times.

Keep your wallet hidden for as long as possible

It's not like you knew several years before coming to this store that you would eventually have to pay, and in paying, would need use of your wallet. Stash it somewhere like the portion of your back you can't reach. Contort yourself as you pull it out after the cashier has stared at you for thirty seconds after every possible thing has been done. Embrace awkward silences while your fellow humans wait. Look at the people behind you in line as you do this. They would all, down to the last man, beat you senseless in a dark alleyway this very instant if given the opportunity.

1. I once tried to explain to a British lady how there was a 'big line up front' and she gave me a look like I was absolutely nutters.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

goes by

'goes by' is a common expression used to denote locational nearness of a moving object as it relates to a fixed object. For example, one might describe the movement of a bus, and claim it 'goes by' a place of interest. This would typically mean that the land of said place of interest abuts the road said bus uses, or even that the place of interest is visible from the traveling bus.

While the definition given above is correct, sadly, as Webster's dictionary doesn't typically include phrases, 'goes by' does not have an official definition, and even if it did Webster was an American, so the definition wouldn't stand internationalization.

In some places of the globe the definition we have given would still stand, but some people are a little more permissive, and they like to broaden the scope of things, so often you'll find that 'goes by' can be substituted with 'is located within a three hundred square mile radius of'.

Imagine for a moment a sad little puppy who has spent the past few weeks living in a closet. In your mind's eye, try and envision the happiness of said puppy when he finds a place to live. Now, picture said puppy going to Ikea to find sheets to put on his bed.

Instead of a puppy, let's say, in a very hypothetical way, a certain man went up to Ikea one night. Or, better said, tried to go up to Ikea one night. If said man were prideful, he might have a hard time asking directions when he reached the tube station nearest Ikea. He might have glanced at a map earlier that day and seen Ikea was a pinky away from the station. And then he might have walked for over two hours, desperately lost in a place called Neasden1. And he might have had to hail a cab to take him back to the station, a sad, broken man. Lastly, in this very hypothetical, not-real-life story, he might have found two dirty towels to put on top of the bed, and slept with his lone jacket as a blanket, shivering the night away due to his uncovered legs.

Even the most prideful of men can see when they've screwed up in a very serious fashion, so the man might have done some serious soul and map searching over the next day, and discovered another route to Ikea, through another station2.

Upon arriving at the station, and recalling the experience from the night before, our hero may have given pause before trying to walk to Ikea again, so he might have asked a station attendant how to get there. Said station attendant might have told him to take bus 112, because it, and I quote, 'goes by' Ikea. I mean, I don't quote. This is hypothetical.

So the hypothetical man would have stood outside the station, waited twenty minutes for the bus, then boarded said bus and rode. And rode. And rode. And at no point would have passed anything resembling a happy Scandanavian vendor. And after twenty minutes, he may have ended up three miles away from Ikea, at the end (yes, the end) of an entirely different and foreign tube line which he had never traveled before. And he might have asked the driver where Ikea might be, and only received shouts in a thick accent, saying, "END OF LINE! END OF LINE!"

That is to say, said bus got as close to Ikea as I have to a cage full of armed screaming monkeys3.

So the next time you're thinking about going to Ikea, a) don't listen to the station attendant, b) take a map, and c) remember, 'goes by' has differing definitions depending on what dimension you live in4.

1. That was the most insulting part of the whole experience. At least let me get lost in a place with a tough name. But Neasden? You might as well get desperately lost in Flandersville.
2. And he might have also discovered that the map Ikea puts on its website sucks more than all of the history of sucking. It deludes you to thinking Ikea is a stone's throw away from the station, when it's actually over a mile. And definitely not accessible following the helpful red dotted line they've drawn.
3. Surely that's the only explanation for some of the noises I heard in my walk through Neasden.
4. I never did find it. I ended up at Asda (the Walmart of the UK) at midnight with the owners of said monkeys.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

key cards

Key cards were invented by lazy security professionals who got sick and tired of working. These delightful little devices help you access work buildings, pay for trains, and learn how to dance1.

Many companies now employ key cards in order to maintain security in their buildings. New employees are initiated by given a card, which makes them feel special because they can now sell out to the man in a restricted area. My own company provided me with a card the day I joined, and I gleefully went in and out of the building, merrily skipping my privileged way.

My building is especially secure, because not only do you need a card to get in, you need a card to get out. Should someone manage to sneak their way into the office, they'll be sorely disappointed when they find their escape route is cut off by someone's inane security policy. Ah ha!

Unfortunately, all is not bliss in the world of key cards. Should you lose your card, say, in a grocery store, the second day on the job, that pretty much makes you look like an idiot, and your skipping turns to shuffling, your merry mirth to fickle frowns. Though, if you're lucky, you'll find that someone turned it in to the lost and found. After you were ridiculed by the office.

Having lost said card by attaching it to your person via a nifty pull cord, you might be tempted to put it in your wallet, like the other cool people. That way, when you want to access a room, you can shake your wallet like a polaroid picture in front of the receiver.

Some days, however, people wear pants where the back pockets button up. It's a little bit too much work to unbutton said pants, so there's only one way to get in or out of work: approach the door, look both ways, make sure nobody is watching, turn around and point your bottom at the door, and shake your booty for the receiver. You might not be tall enough to reach it, but enough enlightened jumping and shaking should do the trick2.

And pray nobody was watching.

1. I once talked a girl into dating me by reminding her what a travesty my dancing ability was, and how the only way to remove this blight on humanity was to date me and fix it. Happily, she agreed. Sadly, she did not fix it3.
2. This is my morning exercise routine.
3. I likely can't dance because I'm emotionally scarred by the ninth grade dance where I was pushed into the middle of one of the circles o' embarrassment, and forced into a rabid dance of fury like the little jester I was.

Monday, September 21, 2009

air conditioning

Air conditioning is a blessed invention bequeathed to man by more intelligent beings, in order to allow him to live in miserable places in comparative comfort.

Normally, no human would settle in places like Florida, Utah, or Texas, due to the extreme misery imposed by the summer months. Thankfully, air conditioning was given to us, which allows sane individuals to live in places like Florida or Utah1.

I want to state this again so it's clear: air conditioning was invented for places with miserable summers.

Let's go over the list of places for which air conditioning was not developed:
  • Siberia
  • Canada
  • La Tierra del Fuego
  • Alaska
  • Great Britain

Yes, that's right, I'm sorry, but Great Britain has no need for air conditioning. Why not? Well, first, it's stuck in the middle of the North Sea. Yes, the North Sea. This sea borders the Arctic Sea. It is cold.

Second, the historical high is 102°. Yes, once in human history it managed to eek its way up to 102°. Are you kidding me? If it hits 102° in Utah in August, energy usage plummets as people turn off the AC to enjoy the nice cool air. Penguins fly in from nearby zoos and sip hot chocolate in the sand.

Lastly, if you care to check the Latitude, the isle of Great Britain is located NORTH OF MAINE. And not just a little north of Maine.

Rule: If you live north of Maine, you do not get air conditioning. End of story2.

Today it was a sprightly 68 degrees outside in cloudy England. That's a pretty nice temperature. Inside the office it was 66. Perfect, huh? No, the English certainly don't think so. My coworkers noticed it wasn't pouring feezing rain outside, so they took the logical step of turning on our nuclear-powered AC unit, located directly above me.

I'm not talking about a little fan that rotates around and hits you every few moments. No, this was a cold-infusing powerhouse, spitting out Norwegian Air like it was the only thing between a warehouse full of ice cream and the Arabian Desert. And the only thing in its path was me. Slouching down to use the desk as a shield, and slowly whimpering while shivering me.

At worst, sans AC, we would have hit 70 in the office. People. Work with me here.

1. Texas, sadly, is still uninhabitable, as they have not yet developed getting-rid-of-annoying-drivers-of-large-trucks conditioning. Or destroying-the-plague-that-is-cowboy-hats conditioning. Also, adroit readers may question my assumptions, as Florida and Utah were both settled before the advent of AC (BAC, if you will). My only response: were those people normal3?
2. Sorry Nova Scotia, but you're going to have to deal with it.
3. No, I'm not insulting people of a certain religious belief. I think they'd agree with me. As for Floridians, I've never met a normal one.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

hotels in kensington

As a recent patron of two hotels in Kensington, I am uniquely qualified to give you the low down on this particular subject. Kensington is a borough (pronounced "buh-ruh") of London, and quite popular among Americans because it sounds particularly British (that is, it contains both an 'ing', and a 'ton').

Hotels in Kensington are converted from older row houses, which were devoted entirely to the storage of clothing, being floor upon floor of closets. Luckily, the hotels have gone through and added bathrooms to these closets, so you don't need to share a bathroom with other patrons1. They've also placed nice beds in the closets which sit on the same set of springs you find in American summer camps. It's quite quaint.

Quaint is also the way you can describe the curtains that have been burned through with either cigarettes, or the intense-heat-emitting lantern placed directly over the bed, and directly in the curtain's path. Design is not a strength of the British.

Quaint, however, cannot be used to describe the showers, which are not unlike the tube, in that you have to squeeze yourself to unholy proportions in order to get in. Luckily, hotel number one had a glass door on the shower, and if I were physically able to touch my toes without violent assistance from maniacal gym teachers, I probably had enough room to bend over and touch my toes.

Not so luckily, hotel number two has nothing but a shower curtain. That is, there's a corner of the bathroom where they stuck a spigot, and put a shower curtain around it. Now, shower curtains aren't all that expensive, so you'd think they would have given you a decently-sized space. Not so fast. If you weigh more than 30 pounds, you've got enough room to stick your arms straight up and twirl around2.

Of course, the best part of your shower experience is said curtain, which you wear as a cape throughout the duration of your shower3.

In keeping with the small proportions, they also provide you with a nice barbie-sized trash can, which fits a total of three starburst wrappers and a few muffin crumbs. All other trash exceeding this size limitation is placed on top, giving the impression of an upside-down pyramid, prone to spilling over the floor, causing the people in the next room to hear foul language coming through the cellophane-thin walls.

Outside of the rooms, all is wonderful and grand in Kensington Hotels. You may even be lucky enough to find a hotel that serves free breakfast, i.e., corn flakes and toast and coffee4. The other patrons appear to be very kind, though most of them seem to speak either Russian or Polish, which aren't particularly kind-sounding languages. Granted, English doesn't sound very kind either when yelled out of a nearby room at midnight, demanding some other unheard source become silent.

In summation, I'd highly recommend coming to Kensington and becoming a long-term resident of its hotels. You can iron your clothes on the bed, wash your bird-poo stained shirts in the nearby laundromat for four pounds a wash5, and even use the hair dryer to blow dry your socks you were too cheap to wash with the machine.

Bliss will be yours6.

1. Unlike the flat I was recently shown on Baker Street, where I almost laughed the agent to scorn. Do I look like a college freshman to you? I mean, seriously. You think I'm going to share a bathroom with a random tenant down the hall? Who are you people?
2. Not that I've done that. Ever. In a shower. Not while singing either.
3. This is not a comfortable sensation. Wet plastic should never find its unwelcome way to my rear again.
4. I'm going to punch myself in the face if I see another flake of corn. Ever. Starting Tuesday afternoon.
5. Then mistake a larger washer for a dryer when moving your clothes, and have a nice woman ask you politely, "do you plan on washing them twice?" Awkward.
6. And it will be mine when I move out of here Tuesday morning for St. John's Wood, bless that blessed day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

post 100! and guest posting.

Not that there's anything sacred about the number 100, but this is post 100! At least, that's what blogger claims. It may be counting unfinished posts. However, since the number 100 holds special significance in our base-10 counting system, I'm going to bore you with a celebratory 100 post.

Actually, I am posting to highlight the fact that Ms. Berry requested I opine on the Mormon dating culture, which I have done in typical inane fashion here, should you be curious. I vehemently disdain speaking on the subject of dating, mainly because I think it is way overdone, and also because I fear my ex-girlfriends will find this and collectively laugh at my expense, but alas, sometimes I just can't help myself. There's just too much material out there. And, of course, writing on the subject of dating is an entirely different thing than speaking on it.

And so, with that, I leave you to your distractions to make it through the workday. I shall return to my closet-like existence (hotel rooms in London are not known for their large size) wherein random women scream in alleyways for unheard people to shut up at 12:30 in the morning. I hope she doesn't do that again tonight.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the tube

The tube is what Londoners call their main form of transportation1.

They call it a tube because it reminds you that every time you go in it you've got to squeeze the ever-loving crap out of yourself to make it on a train. Getting on a train is purely based on how much you want it. If you want it enough, you'll jump between those double doors, push, and hope your rear protrusion doesn't get caught up in the doors. I had a woman in red pants slink in front of me today, somehow disappearing into a solid mass of people. She wanted it.

Actually, that's only when I need to go to work. For the most part it's easy to get on a train. The hard part is determining if you should sit down once you're on a train. There's a huge awkward moment just waiting to happen when all of the seats are taken and a woman enters the train. You have to make a split-second decision: is she a feminist, and will she shut down your offer of a seat? I saw a man get shut down yesterday, and it wasn't pretty.

Therefore, the first tube rule is this: never sit down ever. Even if the entire train is empty and you're on your way to Tooting Broadway2 you never take that seat.

However, the second tube rule is this: if you do sit down, you keep your seat. Like the parking place that my roommates and I coveted in college, once you have taken possession of such a valuable item, you don't let it go3. I once rode all the way to Cockfosters4 just because I found a seat on a train (in breaking rule #1, I was obviously taking a huge risk). Never mind that everyone had exited long prior to the end of the line. Other people follow this rule as well--I rode thirty minutes today without seeing a single soul move from a seat. This while I sweat above them, hoping that my upset stomach was not a harbinger of food to come.

Tube rule number three just states that if there is an annoying American who is so devoid of personal space that she will plop her entire heft of a self into my person, and maintain her leaning position from Westminster to South Kensington, much to my personal chagrin, said American will be located on my train. And she will attempt to follow me every time I reposition myself.

There are also rules for the tube station, which I've taken some trouble to document below:

  • If there is an individual anywhere in the vicinity who will, without warning, suddenly stop, slow down, or veer off in another direction, that individual will be located directly in front of me.

  • If there is a way to navigate a station in the wrong way, thus perpetually swimming upstream through hordes of experienced brits, I will walk that way.

  • If there exists in the station an individual whose payment card doesn't work, that individual will attempt to enter or exit the gates directly in front of me.

  • If you ever have the time to eat at Nincomsoup, located in the Old Street station, you should, just because of the name, and the fact that you can call people in there Nincomsoupers.


I should also mention here that the most efficient aspect of British society is the escalator system, whereby you stand right and walk left. They are the only people on the planet to consistently understand and implement said concept.


1. Actually, that's a bit of a fib, as they might say. The main form of transportation around London is walking in confused wavy patterns, fighting to determine on which side of the walkway you're supposed to walk. There are violent schools of thought for both sides.
2. The existence of that name alone is proof that the British are ridiculously more mature than any American.
3. On average, if we ever did get the blessed parking place, we'd stay in it for a week. We'd walk, take the bus, or get the other roommates to drive places. Seriously. If we ever went anywhere and there was some question as to who was driving, whoever had the spot had a clean bill of health. You just don't give up good parking spots. Or train seats.
4. Yeah, um, see footnote two above. Seriously, who names these places?

Monday, August 31, 2009

trix

Trix is a magical cereal, given to bless the lives of children worldwide.

On the darker side of Trix, however, is the uncomfortable, racist plot by Corporate America to encourage children to deny good things to individuals not like them, for instance, cute rabbits1. I think of all of the traumatic things of my childhood, seeing that scenario repeated every Saturday morning was the most scarring. Maniacal children repeatedly denied this blessed breakfast to such a hungry rabbit. I so wished I could give him the Trix he desired. Sure, it's for kids, but can't the flipping kids just give the rabbit a taste? It is so blessed!

Ignoring that for now, Trix has magical swine-flu-beating qualities. After being able to eat nothing but three french fries, six spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, and some crackers for the past five days, I suddenly found myself hungry the other evening. But for what? I had hunger, but no appetite for anything.

Except my blessed friend, Mr. Trix.

I downed two bowlfuls of its delicious sugar-coated "whole grains". The hardened corn syrup ran down my throat like light gypsies of joy skipping across scrumptious skittle fields. I tipped the bowl and, like a medieval king, drank the mushy marsh of soggy dregs of the glowing sugary milk.

Trix used to come in helpful shapes, to let children know what fruit looked like, and also what a severely mutated sugarized form of that fruit would taste like. Seeing as how knowing the appearance of fruit no longer grants any intrinsic value, the Trix candy comes in psychedelically-colored balls2.

1. This is not to be confused with the terrible communist plot by a certain Mr. Seuss.
2. Helpful hint: add a statistics degree to influenza-induced delirium, and you get someone pondering the probability of six of said hippie balls of the same color coming to form a circle around another ball in your spoon. It's gotta be somewhere between getting hit by a meteoroid, and the likelihood that the only time in your adult life you get deliriously ill for a week falls on the very week you need to pack and move internationally.

surgical masks


Surgical masks are used to prevent the transfer of disease, to promote general hygiene in a healthcare environment, and as fashion accessories in the streets of Southeast Asia.

Taking the cue from our harder-working, lower-spending, and higher-saving friends across the (large) pond, I decided to try wearing one of those devices this week, and let me tell you, it has been transformational. I used to see footage of people in Hong Kong walking around with those masks, and wondered why they would bother with such unwieldy devices, but I wonder no longer.

My surgical mask makes me look better.

I have, in one fail, two-rubber-banded swoop, gone from a 7.1 to a 9.4. You see, it focuses the attention on the remaining visible portion of my face, my eyes, sideburns, and regal forehead, which happen to be my three best features, in order. Better than that, it hides the true size of my gigantic nose, and conveniently appears to reduce the size of my gigantic head, by, well, masking it.

Lastly, it makes me look more like a doctor. If my experience watching House MD has taught me anything, chicks dig doctors, even if they're drug-addicted jerks1.

I would highly recommend you purchase and wear one of these devices, and see what glorious miracles it can do in your personal life.

1. The doctors, that is. Though, I can only assume drug-addicted jerk chicks would still like doctors. So the statement stands either way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

sabrina

Sabrina is the heartwarming tale of a beautiful, sophisticated woman falling in love with a complete tool, then getting the bait-and-switch pulled, and hooking up with the tool's ugly older brother. The tale comes in two versions: Audrey Hepburn vs. Humphrey Bogart, and Julia Ormond vs. Harrison Ford.

I suppose, as one of those ugly brothers, I should welcome this fantasy candyland, where such impossibilities can even be fathomed, but watching the graceful Audrey Hepburn "fall in love" with Humphrey "I looked middle-aged in high school" Bogart is a little too much. I mean, this is Audrey Hepburn we're talking about. She could have pretty much walked up to any dude and gotten a proposal within the hour. And she's going out with a chump named Humphrey? Who is seriously packing some wrinkles? It's like watching the Eiffel Tower going out with the Bronx. I mean, sure, I guess there's enough alcohol in this world to theoretically make it happen.


Likewise, Harrison Ford, for whatever reason, gets cast in romantic roles well into his sixties. There is something horribly, dreadfully wrong with that, and watching him can be a bit too frightening. I keep waiting for him to spout out something like, "do you want any candy little girl?"


The nice thing about films like these is that older dudes seem to have some power to conjure up younger mates, which further reinforces the acceptableness of such a ridiculous practice in modern society, thereby hopefully giving me a better chance of getting a mate someday. It may take me until my fifties, but if Audrey Hepburn will date me then, sign me up for the solitary priest half life. Of course, if any woman were to try and pull a similar stunt, she would get branded a cougar. Could we please come up with a derogatory term for old dudes cherry picking younger chicks?


Luckily, the Hepburn/Bogart version is completely devoid of any sort of romantic chemistry. They sort of look like a grandpa taking his granddaughter out on the town for her sixteenth birthday. It's charming, in a way. The actors must have been told they had different parts to play, because Ms. Hepburn appears to be (wisely) utterly repulsed by Mr. Bogart, and spends the movie thinking about his brother. Up until the closing credits (and beyond), it appears that she has absolutely no interest whatsoever in Mr. Bogart. This relieved me to some extent, knowing that she wasn't doomed to marry, much less date, this man. And Mr. Bogart doesn't seem to acknowledge that he left Casablanca, and continues to slurrishly-mumble his way through the film, even going as far as to reference a girl that broke his heart (who one can only presume is the one that got away in Morocco).


My favorite part, however, is the tool brother being in love with Sabrina right up until it's completely inconvenient. He takes his curtain call with a bow, gentlemanly decides he is, in fact, not interested in this woman, despite the uncomfortable fact that moments earlier he was willing to ditch his beautiful fiancée for said chica. I'm not sure what else you'd call that besides acting.


The upside to all of this is that Ford/Bogart's character is named Linus, which is a completely awesome name in all regards, and should be more popular. In the event I snag a wife before my fifties, there will be serious discussions around naming a son after such an amazing Peanuts character.


In summary, the next time you're unemployed for a month, find something better to do besides tivo old "classic" movies. And don't tell my mom I watched a movie on a weekday. During the day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ultimate frisbee

I have said much on this subject in other spheres, but there is one quick note I needed to make today.

My good friend Kimball mentioned this graph th
e other day, which appears to be somewhat negative on the subject of ultimate frisbee. Alas, I am sad to see said graph, but I feel obligated to mention the authors neglected to include in their analysis a confounding variable, whose influence can be seen in the graph below.


*As my good friend Jack says, that's when your belly dunlop over your belt.
**See this article.

Monday, August 10, 2009

wendy's

Wendy's is improperly named. It should be called Eve's.

That's not to say good ol' Dave Thomas should have named it after another child of his. No, let me explain.

Eve lived in a veritable paradise on earth. All of her food was tasty and glorious, and available in its perfect form. However, after a death of sorts, she was cast out from her beautiful garden, and had to live in the hardscrabble land of desolation, where she had to work for her lousy food.

Wendy's has followed the same trajectory. At first she was a blessed Garden of Eden, where the burgers came perfect from trees in their natural square form, and frostees flowed in cool streams of bliss. Children pranced gleefully in delectable delicious french fry fields. Then Dave Thomas died, and Wendy's was thrown out into the lone and dreary world. The burgers lost their square beauty, and turned into
rhombus and pentagon-shaped piles of burned crumbs. The frostees, though still found in their perfected state, also stalked the land in apostate and strange flavors, like vanilla, and Coffee Toffee. The french fry fields turned to rotten dried reams of rubber.

Visiting Wendy's these days is like walking the streets of Detroit. Once a grand master of American prowess and ambition, now an empty desolate wasteland where people huddle in the corners and cry, weeping for paradise lost.

Friday, July 31, 2009

dancing

God invented dancing to make me look bad.

Okay, wait, I apologize. I know there are debates about creationism and evolution, so a less controversial statement would be:

The human race produced dancing through an evolutionary process over thousands of years in order to extinguish my genes from the good ol' gene pool.

It's comforting to think and realize that millions of years of evolution (or fewer years of creationism) have had their main focus of keeping me from finding a mate. It's almost like I am the zenith of creation. That or the human race has been fumbling for the bottom, and they've finally found it.

Dancing is the process whereby people move themselves in loose patterns to a specific rhythm, at times in conjunction with another individual. These patterns can involve mimicking historical cultures1, mimicking common everyday motions2, and moving from side to side offbeat, while clapping3.

If dancing doesn't strike fear into your heart, well, then, you're not me. To make matters worse, and to make sure I never show my face in public, sadistic people everywhere banded together and made up actual formal patterns for use in dances. Hence the prevalence of Salsa, Ballroom, Polka4, Swing, and others.

Swing, by the way, is the devil's footwork5. Any dummy can waltz, but just try to come up with new ways to entertain your dance partner when you know all of three moves. Admittedly, I'll confess to trying to learn swing at one point in my life in order to woo a woman. Sadly, that was before I realized the purpose of dancing, and neglected to register that by showcasing my abject failure to move in any rhythmically-approved fashion, I was just pounding another nail into the proverbial coffin6.

I know what you're thinking--that you just have to try it and learn. This is, in my case, categorically untrue. I cannot tell you the millions of times people have said this to me, and have likely said it to you as well. Just like some people will never be pro athletes, some people will never push their chairs in, and some people will never be dancers. Some people will just sit and watch movies and eat donuts. That, I can do.

Case in point: last time I fell for the whole try-and-learn philosophy, I found myself on the wrong end of a fiendishly giggling bottle rocket during a country swing lesson. With complete disregard to beat, rhythm, and human decency, I was spun around the room like a rag doll. There was no dancing. Just me acting as a counterbalance to keep this gyroscope in the northern hemisphere. The last time I looked that bad in public involved me puking root beer. I think I'm still working off the rotational inertia in order to obey the principle of conservation of angular momentum.

You're likely better off than me when going dancing, but be warned: the point of dancing is to make you look bad. It's not about feeling good or making connections, it's about eliminating potential mates from the gene pool. Evolution people. Remember, evolution7. One wrong step, and Jorge over there goes out with the chica, and you're getting a ride home to blog about it.

1. e.g., Egyptians and their methods of walking.
2. e.g., starting a lawn mower, or the movement of a sprinkler. The saddest day of my life was last month; while at my sister's house, my niece and her friends started dancing in the room adjoining ours, and I watched as they flawlessly performed these motions which I have tried for years to replicate on a dance floor. They are ten. I have been trying these moves for longer than they have lived.
3. That's actually a lie. I couldn't think of other dance moves (duh, I can't dance) so I went with my old tried-and-untrue standard, the Chris Perry Old Man Shuffle.
4. I once had a seasoned dancer try to teach me polka. It involved her bouncing/flying around the room in a circular pattern while I stumbled over myself and sweat like John Candy on a race track chasing a ding-dong. I think that was one of the most unpleasant moments of my dancing career.
5. It's actually the preferred mode of transport in hell.
6. This seems like an appropriate moment to state my favorite aphorism: to a man with a hammer, everything is a nail. This doesn't have anything to do with the current post, but hopefully it will play a prominent role in the future.
7. If you can't tell, The Third Chimpanzee was on my reading list this week.