Sunday, May 31, 2009

when nerds meet people

Nerds meeting people is a lot different than normal people meeting people. When normal people meet, they greet each other, exchange names, and make small talk about their location or background or the weather.

When nerds meet people, they feel an irrepressible urge to appear witty, and in following their evolved nerd-urges to appear witty, they come across as strange. I know this, because every time I meet someone I invariably make myself look like an idiot.

I believe I have already documented the occasion on which I met a girl named Mallory. I immediately had to reference the Mallory Gallery, a fictitious location which played a prominent role in a muppets movie. Not picking up on the fact that her nervous laughter was a sign of being weirded out, I pressed forward, asking her if she were an artist, and oh, she should have been an artist, because she could have built this gallery. Mallory, I apologize.

A couple weeks ago, I met a girl named Haley. I had to physically restrain my mouth from opening and asking her how she felt about having a comet named after her. I was then going to continue on, telling her how I had missed her since that last time I saw her over the Utah desert circa 1986. That I was able to refrain from such ridiculousness is proof to me of the existence of a supreme being.

Several weeks before that, I met a girl who is working as a physical aide. Feeling compelled to showcase my understanding of the intricacies of the English language, I asked her if she was an aide with an 'e', or without. Continuing by talking to myself, I deducted she was an aide with an 'e', as she wasn't an inanimate object. Note to girls I meet: declaring you an animate object is my highest form of flattery.

These are the sorts of conversations you can expect when meeting a nerd. The upside to nerds is that if you can get over the awkward introduction, you typically can learn something interesting, like the recent development of a cloaking device, or the products to be announced at the upcoming WWDC, or your weight in solar mass.

country music

Country music is a valid method of expression for millions of individuals in the United States and throughout the world. However, being a valid method still doesn't make it right.

This post would be a lot better written had I the opportunity to do research on the subject of country music. Unfortunately, my ears fused to the side of my head on hearing the opening cords of "Live Like You Were Dying"1, my head started twitching, and I involuntarily put on jeans and attempted to shoot a passing squirrel.

So let's just cover the basics (i.e., stereotypes). Country music involves twangy-sounds, southern accents (as Strongbad truthfully claims, those are hot), and methods of transportation like trucks or horses or dogs2.

Unfortunately, country music also involves extremely attractive women, so, in an attempt to maximize my chances of keeping some form of my wit in the future gene pool, I shall refrain from any public judgment on the character of the individuals listening to said abomination.

Lastly, a long time ago, country music and real music made a pact: country music would stay on certain radio stations, and not infringe on anyone else's territory, and, in return, the rest of the world would not blatantly insult country music listeners. This pact has been broken as of late, which thing I just discovered as multiple normal radio stations simultaneously play Taylor Swift. Constantly.

Fortunately, Taylor Swift is extremely attractive, but, unfortunately, this isn't very apparent by listening to her songs. In the song which I repeatedly try to avoid hearing, she starts dreaming about a love story, and she sees a dude, and her dad tells him to back off, and she's going to meet the guy secretly, and he doesn't come, but he does come, and he brings a ring, and he's somehow talked to her dad, and smoothed everything out? If she were telling me this in person, it would make total sense, because I wouldn't be paying attention (see comment on her being extremely attractive). As it's over the radio, I'm forced to analyze what she's saying, and I tell you, I don't get it.

1. In obeying his advice, I found myself dressing up in a suit and lying in a cushioned box.
2. Don't think dogs are a method of transportation, huh? Ever seen a dogsled race? Huh? Have ya? Or maybe possibly watched one on television? Or read about it in the dozens of children's books on the subject? Why are there so many children's books on dogsled races anyways?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

restroom logistics

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this subject over the course of my life. There have been not a few occasions in which I almost posted on this subject, but stopped myself at the last minute, trying to avoid appearing crass or unrefined. I worry that maybe a post like this will hurt my dating life or be an embarrassment to my future self.

Three things changed my mind: first, a conversation with my doctor sister where she discussed various and sundry "oozing" things on a recent biking trip*, secondly, a realization that no guide is complete without an entry on restroom posturing, and lastly, coming to terms with an absence of dating life and/or low likelihood of any sort of future fame.

No post on this subject is complete without mentioning Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, which my good friends the Hansens introduced to me. There is a section on this very subject, so I'll direct the loyal reader there for detailed analysis.

That being said, I'll try and keep this brief.

There are several unspoken rules on restroom etiquette. Literally, they are unspoken, because speaking is strictly prohibited. Only the most monosyllabic of grunts may be uttered. Nobody actually knows any of the rules, because they are all afraid of talking. There are, however, a few well-established patterns of behavior. Eyes must be averted to the ceiling during particular times, physical contact of any sort is strictly prohibited (especially shaking hands), and eye contact is forbidden, among many others.

There is one gold standard for restroom behavior, and that is the fact that you use the restroom. However, and much to our collective chagrin, there are occasions in which this becomes slightly more difficult. Due to a variety of factors, ranging from fear to fear, using the facilities can become problematic. I once spent two very uncomfortable minutes standing centimeters away from my six foot four, three hundred pound high school jazz band director in a cramped gas station restroom. I'm sorry, but there's just no way to relax in that sort of situation. Neither of us availed ourselves of the facilities in the end, and we both exited ashamed. I have never been able to speak of that occasion until this day.

The reason I can speak of it today is because where before I thought that was the worst possible thing that could happen in a restroom, I discovered there is an even more embarrassing occurrence which stalks the halls of our nations bathrooms.

I stopped by one of the athletic buildings on campus last evening, and there were a variety of tweens engaged in some sort of gym practice. I made my way to the restroom, and found myself alone in there with a twelve year old kid. I went to use the equipment, and found I was unable to unzip my zipper. This is not a frequent occurrence, and puzzled, I attempted to perform the requisite action again. And again. And again. I can only imagine how I appeared to the child, muttering, straining, and staring down at my shorts, desperately tugging away. After a few more failed attempts, I hung my head and left, a beaten man.

The zipper is still stuck. I had to shimmy out of my shorts last night.

This is the most embarrassing way to use a restroom.

*My sister is well known for her ability to take conversations from semi-uncomfortable to an entirely new level of cringe-inducement. This may be due to her being a doctor, and getting asked about very personal medical issues immediately upon meeting other people.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

your hands will be dry...

I was in an airport this week, and I happened to stop by a restroom. I guess 'happened' isn't the correct word, since I always make a point of hitting up the local restrooms, as using the facilities on the plane is not the most pleasant of experiences. Last time I found myself in there the plane experienced a large amount of turbulence, which, well, made for some awkwardness which I will not discuss here, nor anywhere else in a sober state.

After washing my hands, I was then forced to choose between drying my hands on my shorts, with paper towels, or with a space-age blowing device. Naturally, since I was in SFO, I had to choose the non-tree-killing option, lest I be assaulted by the local populace.

I approached the device with some trepidation. As a child, I still remember my first encounters with blowers. It was a grand and glorious experience as I found I didn't have to wipe my hands with lousy towels, or try and find a smidgen of dry, non-bloody, non-snotty towel on those freakish rotating towels my elementary school carried*, but I could bask in the warming glow of clean moving air. I basked and I basked and I basked and I basked. And basked. As I'll tell my grandchildren** someday: Back when I was your age, our blowers took a half an hour!

This is not really an exaggeration. Efficient and clean and sanitary and comfortable, they are, but timely they are not. I could afford to sit around and pick my nose in heated air as a child, but in my old age, I need towels, so I have more time to pick my nose elsewhere.

The space-age device came with instructions (and a nifty website!), as well as a promise: Your hands will be dry in fifteen seconds.

The Airblade was pretty cool, because it focused its air into a blade, which reminds you of actual blades, and blades are nifty, because of sword blades, and roller blades, and now air blades. Except sword blades and roller blades are more for injuring hands rather than drying them.

Cool, yes. Were my hands dry in fifteen seconds? Yes, because I ended up using option a) using my shorts, and off I went. Better luck next time dryers.

Having come to the end of this post, I find it disappointingly anti-climactic. Let's recap what we have learned today:
  • Hand dryers are cool (in the socially cool sense, not in the literal sense)
  • Hand dryers are fun
  • Hand dryers aren't an interesting topic for a blog post
  • The only topic less interesting than Hand dryers is the preferred thickness of peanut butter on a pb&j***
*Oh, and the powder soap. Who designed those restrooms? The gestapo? Seriously.
**Assuming I ever have children, and assuming that they are not also so ridiculously nerdy that they are incapable of convincing a member of the opposite sex to spend more than five contiguous minutes with them.
***I may have just hit the bottom, because this was honestly the runner-up topic. I had this whole thing planned out where I'd make fun of my family and how they make pb&js by spreading the peanut butter to the thinnest possible consistency, and then I realized that is probably the most boring topic in the world. I therefore chose the second most boring topic in the world. Next week we progress to number three, a discussion on what puns nerds make when they meet people of differing names (feel free to submit names for pun-making).

Friday, May 8, 2009

goals

Goals are mechanisms whereby guilt-ridden people can quantify the ways in which they feel guilty about underachievement. Not satisfied by a culture which constantly tells us we're not good enough, the gurus of the era smother us with goals like wet mattresses.

That being said, I love goals. I have dozens of them. Maybe hundreds. I figure the more goals I have, I'm proportionately less disturbed when I don't make one of them. Why, if you just have two goals in life, and you don't achieve one of them, does that mean your life was only half fulfilling?

If you have hundreds of goals, why, life is sheer bliss. Today I ate breakfast. Goal number one achieved! I biked to school without getting hit by a car. Goal number two achieved! Also, I managed to complete that bike ride without getting hit on by a girl. Goal number three achieved!* I ran on the track without panting like a mass of lard. Goal number four achieved!** I did not, however, get my homework done. But that's all right, because I got my other four goals done. I'm at 4/5 already! Bliss!

The downside about goals is sometimes you have to exert yourself to accomplish them, or somehow go out of your way to do something.

Lately I've been thinking about goal number 57. This goal falls under the "Embarrassing things I'd like to do just to overcome my fear of embarrassment" category. Goal number 57 isn't to be confused with goal number 56: Take a dish to a potluck that I have actually cooked myself.***

Goal number 57: Go to a movie by myself.

Now, I'm told this isn't that embarrassing. But I just can't believe it wouldn't be. I mean, imagine the poor family who walks into a theater and sees a 27 year old male sitting by himself in the back. Creepy? I submit it is the epitome of creepiness.

Granted, I'm not that concerned about the families. I'm more concerned about running into people I know. Specifically, female people that I know. More specifically, former girlfriends and crushes on dates. I'm trying to think of a more humbling situation than being discovered alone in a theater when your ex-girlfriend walks in with a large, attractive, rustic man. Nothing comes to mind.

That being said,**** I encourage you to set goals, to worry about goals, and to ignore the man in the back of the theater wearing a large hoodie.

*I would actually prefer this goal to remain
perpetually unachieved, and that's trick number two about goals--throw some in that you prefer to miss. Boy oh boy, I can't wait for the day when that girl in the red road bike stops and asks me where I got my sweet pegs. Goal number three unachieved!
**This goal is not always achieved.
***I think I fear this more than anything else in the world, including spiders, spiders in my mouth, spiders in my ears, large burly men with clubs made of spiders, and a spider-covered Sasquatch eating my twinkie.
****Note this is the second use of this phrase. I'm working my way up to a full chiasmus.