Thursday, December 23, 2010

dry

Way back a long time ago, the British Isles were peopled by individuals who lacked the ability to distinguish between the conditions "dry" and "mildly wet". That, or, over the course of history, people who could differentiate between the two eventually died out among the population, as this characteristic was not necessary for the promulgation of the British Race.1

This is most likely due to the fact that there has never been a documented instance of the condition of "dry" occurring in the natural environment of the greater British Isles.

This, of course, explains why, when I was viewing flats to rent, the agent,2 upon viewing the washing machine, said, "and you have a washing machine, and," squealing, "OOOO, IT'S A DRYER TOO!"

This information I found both a) technologically interesting, as I wondered how one magic British machine could perform functions that we silly Americans have built into two magic machines, and b) perplexing, as it is well known that living without a dryer is a condition known as "hell" in most parts of the world, and such a place would not be let by a respectable agency.

As the majority of my life is spent in a state of utter perplexity,3 I decided to file the information under "strange, but not cause for immediate panic".4 And I rented the flat.

Now, having used said machine, scowl lady, I may not be the most intelligent of your renters, but permit me to explain to you what a dryer is. A dryer is a piece of machinery that dries clothes. The clothes, when they enter the machine are wet. When they exit the machine they are dry.

If, upon exit, said clothes are as wet and clammy as my hands circa the first time I held hands with a women, said machine does not qualify as a dryer. Said machine qualifies as a dampener.

This means that, the next time you are showing this flat to someone, you should announce it has a washing machine, then squeal and state, "OOOO, IT'S A DAMPENER TOO!"

Unless I'm completely incompetent,5 it would appear that the entire nation of London dampens their clothes, then hangs said clothes to actually dry. I don't know what part of "use as much electricity as possible" they didn't understand when reading the civilization playbook, but when you finally decide to become a developed nation, England, let me suggest you invest in machines that dry your clothes.

This also has the side benefit of allowing you to NEVER IRON AGAIN. Why you would hold onto such a task is beyond me. Really, beyond me. I've been wearing sweaters (sorry, you insist on calling them "jumpers") for weeks because of a lack of desire to iron. No, really.

Speaking of things that are currently drying in my flat, other things I love about the UK are bathtubs.

In some countries, one can drain bathtubs by removing the bathtub drain. This has the benefit of draining the water out of the bathtub. You may have seen these in action before. There are a variety of types, but let's focus on the theoretical at this point.

Speaking of theoretical, imagine a theoretical situation in which you move into a new flat, and need to take a shower. One might attempt to drain the tub by unplugging the drain. If one has no idea how drains are unplugged on this side of the Atlantic, one might fool around for a bit, and then one might eventually give up, and sit in the tub and cry for the period of several minutes.

Sensing a need to shower off the grime of travel, one might shower anyways, in the false belief that one can "figure it out later".

While this might appear to be a practical solution to a theoretical problem, let me assure you, fair blog readers, that such an action is not to be considered "wise", for, as sure as I am sitting on my Ikea couch today, that evening will find you bailing out bathwater with a moldy trash can into your toilet.

I can again assure you, fair blog readers, that such an experience is not one to be sought after, mainly because the toilet water splashes up, the trash can is unwieldy, and you spend several panicked minutes praying that your neighbors don't correctly surmise what you are doing.

On a related note, one cannot imagine the incomprehensible embarrassment felt when one must call one's agent and explain to said incapable-of-distinguishing-between-dry-and-mildly-wet agent that one is physically incapable of performing the action that roughly sixty thousand two year olds across the whole of the United Kingdom perform each day, and then further attempt to explain why one has, ahem, not used the shower in a week, and did not, no, of course did not just bail out the bathtub with a rubbish bin. In such a situation, there is little pity for a dumb American with the Master's degree who cannot operate the simplest piece of mechanics in the whole of the kingdom.6

On a more positive related note, this little experience has had the side benefit of forcing me to work out every day. Unless, of course, I can muster up the courage to go in to the gym for the express and sole purpose of showering...

Lastly, Merry Christmas!

1. And according to their racial classifications, they are a separate race. There's British white and other white on their classifications. I would like a geneticist to tell me how exactly someone without a DNA sequencer would be able to tell the difference (aside from the teeth quality...zing! Just kidding! Your teeth are fine!) Of course, I don't know how to answer the question, as there's no mixed British white response option.
2. That is, a person who does absolutely zero to help you, and yet charges you a ridiculous commission and scowls in your general direction should she ever see you. Like, seriously lady? I just paid you two hundred freaking pounds and you can't afford to not glare at me whenever we meet? Would it kill you to at least pretend that such a thing as customer service exists in this country?
3. This is true. I don't understand people one bit. This morning a co-worker serenaded me with Love Shack. That was enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but unexpected.
4. That is, where 80% of information I come across when dealing with people is stored. The rest is stored under 'strange, and PANIC!!!'
5. Please, do not ponder that possibility long.
6. In my defense, it turned out it was broken. And they fixed it. Yesterday.

Friday, December 17, 2010

facebook (redux)

I am a great friend. I'm probably the best friend you'll ever have. I know this because everybody wants to be my friend. Especially beautiful women. They're always super quick to ask me to be friends. I tell you, it's pretty darn flattering to be told by every beautiful woman on the planet that she just wants to be friends with you. Yup, my great friend reputation proceeds me.

Which is why I have an account on Facebook, to keep track of all the women I sta...I mean, of all my friends.1

For the uninitiated, Facebook is an enormously popular social utility which helps people maintain casual awareness of each other in their daily lives.

It's also an increasingly intelligent artificial intelligence that seeks to optimize your emotional distress in life.

One of my favorite things in life is to log into a "social utility", and find it encouraging me to "reconnect" with an "old friend". And by "old friend", it means, "a woman who rejected you".

No, Facebook, I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to reconnect, as some of her last words to me were, and I quote, "just to be clear, I don't want to date you."

But thank you Facebook for asking me to reconnect with her, because that's not at all emotionally painful and borderline sadistic. Also, thank you for occasionally displaying pictures of her and other women who have rejected me in the past. I do not need pictures of these women displayed to me. I am already well aware of their physical beauty. I have spent several years attempting to forget. There is no need to incessantly remind me. Thank you for bringing back those memories every time I log in.

Also, thank you for suggesting I reconnect with a gorgeous woman one day, then further shivving me in the back by informing me of her updated relationship status the next day. If I wanted encouragement to hit on a beautiful engaged former rejectress, I'd start drinking. Your taunting little sidebars aren't going to do it.

Not content with showering you with the pangs of love lost, Facebook has now started showing you where your friends are hanging out. Now, instead of just hearing about those parties you weren't invited to, you can see them happening in real time.

These days I get inundated with helpful messages like: "Bob is at Patxi's with three hundred of your friends, and you weren't invited, you depressing weenie. Why don't you go eat more ice cream, Mr. Chunk-a-lunk?"2

Which leads into Facebook's true utility: escapism. I don't have to have a life, I can watch others have lives. I have a friend who moved to Hong Kong, a dozen friends who post pics of beautiful tropical locales, and what appears to be hundreds of friends who are pregnant. Sitting in Dusseldorf airport,3 plagued by people who talk and laugh loud in every language, I can dream about hiking in the South American jungle, just like every other person in my circle of friends.

And I can be reminded of that one time I mistakenly asked my (now married) friend "do you want to go to bed?" when I see the pictures of her kids.4

And yes, that was a mistake. I meant separately, and in the privacy and comfort of our own separate homes. For the record.

1. I was recently given the privilege of knowing a woman's address, because she foolishly trusted me to not stalk her. As, apparently, multiple other men have. My only experience with stalking is in the fictional women who "hid behind a bush" to watch me that my friend Nonie had my gullible high school self half convinced of before she laughed me to scorn. I am not the most intelligent of men.
2. This is my favorite pejorative moniker. Yes, I think I used pejorative in my last post, but it's my new favorite word.
3. Speaking of which, can I rant for a moment about being charged €3.50 for a Fanta? Are you people kidding me? €3.50??! What sort of scam ring are you running here? How do you sleep at night?
4. I'm reminded that my buddy Jeff and I spent a night in a tent on her lawn one night. I'm not quite sure why. I'm pretty sure we pitched without asking. And that's answer #47 to the question: what do you do for fun in Utah? Other answers include bowling, eating, shooting things, eating, jumping on the hood of a moving car, eating, and sleeping on a cot next to a highway. All of which I have done. As I said, I am not the most intelligent of men.

Monday, December 13, 2010

germany

A long time ago there was a little boy named German. He had a dream. His dream was to open a country with delicious pastry shops on every block. His friends Amerigo and Anglo and France1 laughed at him for such a dream, saying such things were impossible and foolish, and he should just focus on building piles of debt, but little German refused to listen, and persisted and persisted, and that is how Germany was made.

Few people understand the brilliance of having delicious pastries on every block. My home town believes in having one delicious donut shop2 to serve a population of approximately seven hundred thousand people. Germany believes in providing a delicious pastry shop for approximately every seven people.

Being a rather large man myself, I was excited to see this proliferation of pastries, this veritable arms race of ravinshingness, so, in one of my first acts in Germany, I resolved to purchase one.

In an incident that can only be described as the most uncomfortable moment of my professional career,3 I made the casual suggestion to my co-workers that I would visit said sellers of the saccharine with my trusty credit card. This was met with what can only be described as the fiercest laughter I had ever before, and will ever in the future, hear erupt from the mouths of Germans.4

I was then directed to an ATM (British English: Cash Machine) down the street. Apparently "down the street" in German means "thirteen kilometers away", because before long I found myself wearing a light jacket5 in a snowstorm somewhere on the French border. Eventually backtracking my way, I was then again met with laughter for missing the postage-stamp-sized sign marking the location of said ATM. Alas.

Of course, I was happy that they were laughing, because they were too distracted to realize that all of the German I regaled them with during my time there I learned from watching Indiana Jones. Just kidding! I picked up some elsewhere too.

When I wanted them to hurry to get to lunch, I could yell the same things I saw prison guards yell in The Great Escape: Schnell! When I wanted them to listen, I thought back to my U2 days, and announced: Achtung Baby! When I wanted to tell them inspire them with deep wisdom, I just remembered my old school's motto and said, "Die Luft der Freiheit weht". When I wanted to order just one delicious pastry, I remembered the Swiss Bobsled team from Cool Runnings, and said, "Eins, Zwei, Drei!", which simultaneously confused and impressed the lady behind the counter. And when Sven didn't show up to work in the morning, I was able to say "Wo ist Sven?", having seen a German Tank Commander with large bulging veins scream that same phrase about the venerable Dr. Jones.

My crowning achievement was introducing them to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, by playing and singing Danke Schöne for the combined Operations Group.

That being said, Germany is basically a cold version of paradise. There are delicious pastries, stunningly beautiful women, Christmas Markets with all of the fried goods you could possibly dream about, and no laws against indoor smoking. Oh wait, that last one is from my list of "reasons everything I own reeks of smoke", and also my list of "reasons I had to stuff toilet paper up my nostrils in the airport terminal bathroom before I stabbed my face".6 But disregarding the fact that I'm going to bathe myself and the rest of my possessions in rubbing alcohol tonight, I love oh love beautiful, delicious Germany.

And, if you'll excuse me, I need to practice on my translations of "would you like to go to dinner?", and "what are your feelings on converting?"

1. I realize you're probably thinking that France isn't a real dude's name, but let me assure you that I've known at least one guy named France, who won the popularity conte...I mean, election to the resume building clu...I mean to the President of the Most Useless Student Body Association on the Face of the Planet (that is, BYUSA); motto: We Rubberstamp Whatever the Adults Say.
2. That is, Banbury Cross; motto: We Give You a Reason to be Fat.
3. This is, of course, a malicious lie. Being asked, later that evening, to stand and hug the German Director of Operations while swaying and lip-synching to a sappy German love song in front of an excess of one hundred people at the company Christmas Party exceeded said awkwardness fourfold. And I am so not making this up. Dear Future Self: next time, speak the language in which you are asked to sing for a large crowd. Let us pray the alcohol consumed by all viewing parties has erased the memory of said event in their minds.
4. I really cannot overemphasize the raucous laughter that met me at such a ridiculous suggestion. I was then taunted for always using a card, asked why I couldn't use cash, and forced to listen to the occasional outbursts of snorting chuckles throughout the day as they mulled over the idea of a bakery accepting a credit card. I felt this unfair, as the last time I was in Denmark, and suggested that a store might not accept a credit card, I was subjected to a similar amount of scorn, as the Danes make known how backward I was for even thinking cash was necessary in this day and age. Europe: get your act together.
5. Dear Future Self: Bring a coat to Europe next time, you moron.
6. There could be multiple items on that list, but let's not go into those now.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Company sports

We had our work holiday party last week. It happened at the most obvious place for a work holiday party. We had it at a bowling alley.

The connection between bowling and the holidays is crystal clear. That's not to say that I myself understand the connection. However, all of my bosses must. I have been in the "workforce" for precisely eight holiday seasons in various capacities and companies, and the work Christmas party has been held in a bowling alley exactly six times.

One of my great fears has been to win the holiday bowling party. I don't want to be known as a guy that's good at bowling. I've seen kids beat up for less.

Other than work holiday parties, I have probably been bowling four times; however, this puts me above average on the company bowling skills spectrum, so I knew I had a chance. As luck would have it, my randomly assigned partner had also been bowling before. Since we were able to keep the ball out of the gutter most of the time, we ended up winning the tournament.

Oh the embarrassment! I can just imagine walking by my coworkers. "Nice job winning that bowling tournament! (snicker) And is that a 'kick me' sign on your back?"

Winning the bowling tournament on its own would be bad enough. But it just so happens that my victory at the bowling tournament came right on the heels of my victory in the annual company ping pong tournament. That's right, ping pong! Is there a nerdier sport?

As you can imagine, my social standing at the office has increased dramatically.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

being a mormon

I realize this comes as no surprise to the five people who still read my blog, but I am a mormon. I'm not Mormon,1 but I am a mormon.

I became a mormon several years ago in the wilds of Idaho, after spending the night wrestling twin goats, and finally cutting their jugulars with my fingernails and drinking their blood while chanting and dancing over a roaring fire on the night of a full moon.

Just kidding! It was really a waxing gibbous moon.2

No, but seriously, being a member of what many consider to be a religious cult does provide you with a constant source of entertainment in life. Not only do you get the joy of being told you're going to hell by pretty much every other Christian group on the planet, but most of my life is spent in the following cycle:

Is there an awkward moment in a mixed-religious crowd? Make a polygamy joke!3

Another awkward moment? Make an alcohol joke!

Are you with other mormons and someone mentioned a dam? Make a dam joke!4

Actually, the religion is defined by a million other, more important items, like faith, repentance, baptism, the spirit, the sacrament, temple worship, loving and helping others, strengthening families, and, in general, drawing closer to God, but we're not going to make fun of those today because a) that'd be above-and-beyond sacrilegious on my part, whereas today I'm just interested in light sacrilege, and b) they're not really funny.5

The downside to being a mormon, of course, is that you need to represent all of those items in your daily life, you know, to be a good example of your people and faith. This is actually really hard work, and it's even harder when you're super crazy and borderline autistic. I spend most of my day worrying that, because of my influence, people think that "not cutting your toenails on the carpet" is a religious tenet.

I mean, it should be, but it's not. And neither is memorizing digits of Pi a requirement for membership (though again: it should be). And worship of ducks is nowhere in there either.6 I feel some obligation to explain to my friends and co-workers that no, mormons aren't crazy: that's just me.

So let me take this time to reassure you all that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are, apart from myself, wonderful and kind people, and I encourage you to ask them any questions you desire.

Especially questions about polygamy, because the jokes are the best.

1. Though you can say, "I'm Catholic", or "I'm Baptist", you can't really say, "I'm Mormon", because that implies you are an ancient prophet. Well, I suppose one person could say that, but he's not reading this (unless this is one of those records that condemns me at the last judgment). Though mormons get picky about the whole being called mormon thing, because the real name of the church is The Church of The Longest and Most Complicated Name Ever, Which is Guaranteed to Cause Awkwardness and Confusion Should You Ever Attempt to Refer to the Full Name of the Church When Being Harassed at the Company Christmas Party for not Drinking.
2. Seriously, who comes up with these lunar phase names?
3. I really should stop making these because we renounced polygamy over a hundred years ago, but it's difficult to stop when you actually descend from actual polygamists, even if spreading that knowledge to casual acquaintances normally creeps them out like nothing else in life (try it though, because it's SUPER fun). And, for the record, I am allowed to make those jokes, but, as I said last week, random strangers are not allowed the same privilege. Not unless YOUR great great grandfather spent hard time in Sugar House prison for polygamy too.
4. I think roughly 30% of the humor I have encountered/propagated in my life revolves around dam jokes (dam fish, dam workers, dam roads, dam...uh..dams?) and their ability to entertain.
5. More B than A, probably. Which is why I never get bothered by those going to hell accusations, because I'm going there due to my dark and evil heart, not my religious affiliation.
6. This week I ran into an old ticket I filed, wherein I gave an example of a question one might ask our survey respondents:

Grid:
How much is the platypus like the following animals?

Rows:
Zebra
Giraffe
Duck
Other (please specify)

Columns:
Like a lot!
There's no such thing as a platypus; only a super duck

Yes: I am the coolest man alive.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gravitational forces

It is well known that gravitational interaction between two bodies is rather straightforward, but between three bodies can get tricky.

My daughter was moaning a bit this morning at 4:00 AM. My wife used her super mommy skills to determine, from no less than 30 feet away, that she was sick. I used my super husband skills and translated "I'll just listen at the door" to mean "Expect a tiny guest in our bed".

Back to gravity. My wife and I have worked out a system between our two masses where we can sleep for months in the same queen sized bed and not touch each other.1 Putting a third body in there throws off that equilibrium.

My mass being much larger than my wife's, I create a larger gravitational well in the bed. Lately, my wife has been trying to close that gap (she's pregnant) but still she is no match for my mighty red giant status. This means that within roughly three seconds of entering our solar system, my daughter finds herself in a very close orbit around her daddy.2

We recently house sat for some friends and they had a king size bed. This makes the potential average distance between bodies larger (plus) but due to the pillow top mattress, my gravitational well was more pronounced (minus). The net result was a daughter in orbit (due to the deeper well) but also horizontal (due to the extra room).

Having decided to add another planet to our system, I am excited to see how gravity works amongst four bodies.

1. No, not really.
2. The danger of crashing into the larger of two suns is probably why our earth is not as awesome as Tatooine, with its binary star dual suns.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Girl dolls

I have the good fortune of a) being married and b) having a daughter. These are indeed wonderful blessings. These blessings create opportunity for me to learn about worlds completely foreign to me.

Before my marriage, American Girl dolls came to my consciousness but twice: once in New York, when I worked around the corner from their store and saw many excited young girls with their excited mother and poor father in line to enter the store; and once when my younger sister received Samantha for Christmas and, as a duty-bound older brother, I teased her about it.

Since my marriage, I have had the good fortune of learning more about this beacon of American life. I can proudly say that I myself have actually physically entered American Girl Place, on more than one occasion, and in more than one city.

I can tell you that, although Kirsten was one of the original three American Girl dolls, she is now "in the vault" and cannot be purchased willy nilly, no matter how badly you want to. I can also tell you that, in addition to the "vault" policy, the American Girl people have introduced a doll of the year feature. All of this is driven primarily by their love of children and in no way motivated by profit.

I am told by a most reliable source1 that I will, at some point in the future, with absolute certainty, buy an American Girl doll for my daughter. I can tell you that when I purchase said doll, I will be charged not $20, or $30, or even $50. No, no, I will be fleeced for somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 freakin' bones.

Finally, it is with great pride that I can finally claim to have seen a full length feature film about an American Girl doll. Last night, our family watched the Samantha film, with all its cinematic glory and B-list actors. I can also tell you that, after my daughter lost interest and my wife went to the kitchen to drink hot chocolate, I actually sat on the couch, alone, by my own free will and choice, to SEE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.2

At times like this, I am proud to be an American.

1. My wife.
2. Samantha's orphan friends were adopted into her family, phew. In my defence, I was trying to avoid doing my homework.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

crazy people

One of the more depressing things about modern society is its insistence on allowing perfectly insane people to walk free in the streets. Even worse is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to peg who exactly is insane in this fast-paced modern world of ours.

With that in mind, I would like to assist you, the reader, in determining whether or not any individual in close proximity is completely bonkers.

Without further ado, the ever-expanding list1 of ways in which craziness might manifest itself:

One easy obvious warning signal that someone is crazy is the fact that they talk to strangers. Now this might seem fairly innocuous to the casual observer, but please note where the crazy person is talking to strangers. Note that this crazy person, a female, is currently talking to strangers on the tube, wherein no talking is meant to take place, given the abject hellish misery of the place. Now note that this girl is holding a broom, and attempting to sweep your feet. Now note that this girl is holding a broom, sweeping your feet, and talking to the man opposite you, soliciting a song from him.

Now, this situation appears to be cut-and-dried, given the first injunction against speaking, but wait for it to develop further, and you'll realize that the man opposite you is also committably insane, as he accepts her offer, takes the broom, insists it is a microphone, claims he can't find any buttons on said microphone, and begins singing a Welsh hymn at the top of his lungs into said broomophone, while said girl claps and dances next to him.

There are few moments in my life I would want on tape more than that confluence of crazies I found on Thursday night, and it is to my everlasting shame that I neglected to record it.

Speaking of not speaking to people, another way you can peg yourself as crazy is to harass the poor American at the building's front desk, who is deliriously trying to get the clerk to send a fax to the United States so he is able to actually live in a place, and you can insist he come out with you and your friends, and continue that insistence louder and louder, eventually resorting to trying to convince said American (his statal origin previously ascertained), that you can "do polygamy!"

Not only is this possibly the most insulting thing ever spoken by a stranger to said American, BUT YOU ARE FREAKING CRAZY AND DRUNK AND GET AWAY FROM ME YOU WACK JOB.

This naturally brings up the subject of fax machines in general. If you are using one, you are nuts. Wacko. Insane. Deranged.

Rule: if you insist on your clients using a technology that was superseded by something a) cheaper, b) faster, c) less expensive, and d) easier 40 YEARS AGO, you are certifiably psychotic.

For example, how many people do you see still insisting on reading books? Oh. Wait.

Speaking of outdated technology, you are also a raving lunatic if you insist on using your Blackberry to check emails in the gym locker room. Let's say you just happened to get the locker right next to the dude with personal space issues, and let's say you just happen to be using that locker when he returns from his workout.2 One way in which you could convince him of your insanity is to insist on standing next to him while he changes, thumbing through your emails.

Dude.

Dude.

Dude.

It takes you all of five minutes to change and get outside. What, I pray, I plead, could possibly be so important that it cannot wait five minutes for a response? What? Seriously, what? It takes more than five minutes to have a thermonuclear war. There is nothing on God's green earth that is so important that you need to respond while I am naked next to you. The experience is unpleasant as it is, so could you please stop being crazy and get out of there as soon as possible just like every other normal person in the gym?

And once you get outside of the gym, if you still insist on using that Blackberry, something I've noticed that is cool is to speedwalk past someone, then stop and block their path as you check email. Make them walk around you. Then speedwalk again and pass them. Then stop and check email and make them walk past you. This is in no way the most annoying behavior on the planet, and in no way indicates you are a lunatic.

And why are you you using a Blackberry anyway? Dude, 1999 called and it wants its technology back. Do you want to upgrade to a Motorola RAZR while you're at it? Maybe I can find you a nice phonograph to go along with your historical technology collection.

Lastly, and I only mention this because I've been listening to it for a half hour, but if you're in the construction business, one thing I've found that makes me want to kill myself is automatic fans that turn on when you hit the light switch, then stay interminably on after you turn it off. Normally sadistic builders only install those sorts of things in bathrooms, but maybe you could put one in the kitchen as well. THE KITCHEN. Why does my kitchen sound like a wind tunnel? I couldn't tell you. It doesn't make sense.3 This is one of the definitions of insanity.

And a quick note for you sane people: when you're in a position that might force you to deal with crazies, remember to look at the ground, mumble responses to any question they ask you, and whatever you do, whatever you do, no, seriously, WHATEVER YOU DO FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD, do not make eye contact under any condition.4

1. I herein reserve the right to add to this list as conditions arise.
2. It doesn't matter what gym I use, what locker I choose, or what hemisphere I'm in. No matter what, every time I come in from working out, there's at least one dude using a locker immediately next to mine.
3. In the flat's defense, however, it's super sweet otherwise. A great temporary residence in Londontowne.
4. I feel obligated to here mention that I consider myself just as crazy as the best of them. I just hide it better.

Friday, November 26, 2010

moving (part deux)

Moving is one of the most rewarding things a young man with the world at his fingertips can do.1

As not all of you, including the author, are young men, why don't you take a few tips from an old pro?

First of all, you need to time your moves to take advantage of the best climates. To take a random example, you could, for instance, spend your summer in a sunny paradise, then, instead of remaining in said sunny paradise for the duration of "winter",2 you could decide to move to the functional equivalent of the north pole, where it has taken you somewhere near 96 hours to see the faintest hint of what could be called "blue" in the sky. Because this is the exact opposite of what sensible people do. Because this doesn't freeze your miserable tail every morning when you attempt to waddle into work, you could do this for two winters in a row. But, no worries, you'll at least see the sun every time you get on a plane.3

Secondly, moving often also allows you to choose the correct landlords. Let's say you're tired of landlords that open a secret door into your house and enter whenever they please. Let's say you're done with the whole "I'll just leave their mail out on my counter because they'll eventually snoop their way into it and take it, saving me the trip to their flat" routine. Let's say you're sick of landlords that attempt to kill you by piping carbon monoxide into your living arrangements. Moving often allows you to be violated in so many strange and different ways, beyond being turned into a porn star/harassment victim by a government agency. It would be a shame if you were to finally find a reasonable landlord in a beautiful house in said sunny paradise and live there for a reasonable amount of time.

Another great thing about moving is the chance you get to learn about new places. Specifically, what taxes you need to pay in new places. In England, to take another random example, they force you to pay what they call council tax. It's sort of like property tax, except it's fun! And by fun, I mean you have to pay it even if you're renting. Think of it as a tax on not being homeless. Now, we in the United States typically tax things we want to discourage, like cigarettes, booze, income, and starting companies, but the brits tax people for not living on the street, because this makes sense. Heaven forbid you get out of that wicked cold, because you're gonna be taxed ONE HUNDRED freaking pounds a month for it. Come on, people, isn't this the land of Robin Hood? What happened to the whole giving to the poor bit?

1. And by rewarding, I mean tear-jerkingly expensive. There's nothing quite like being asked to fork over four thousand dollars to move into an apartment that causes you to lose sleep and rant on a blog about it.
2. The old joke my buddy Greg tells is that, during the winter, Palo Alto can hit temperatures of negative ten degrees! This typically shocks people, until he informs them that his baseline is 60.
3. And I'm so not kidding. I finally saw a wisp of blue sky yesterday, and today I actually saw something that was being lit by the sun. Baby steps. This reminds me of my buddy down in Argentina, who, after a week of solid rain, swore he would be going home the next day if the sun didn't come out. We woke up to find not a cloud in the sky. This experience taught me the tender lesson that God loves other people, because every time I say that sort of thing it just rains harder.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Today is a day for giving thanks.

I am thankful this is not the year I forgot to take the giblets and neck out of the turkey prior to cooking. I suppose the turkey makers are too lazy to throw out the neck and giblets themselves, so they make us poor souls do it for them. Incidentally, this caused the turkey to cook to less than safe temperatures. Fortunately, no one got sick.

Speaking of sick, I am thankful this it not the year that half the family got food poisoning because the stuffing inside the turkey was not done properly. I am solidly in the "do not stuff anything intended to be eaten inside the cavity of a cold, dead fowl" camp.

I am also thankful that this is not the year we had eight people to our tiny one bedroom apartment. Said invitees included two missionaries, an LDS lad with his non-LDS girlfriend, and a tattoo artist. It was actually quite fun, but rather crowded.

I am thankful this is not the year that I have to drive to Plymouth crammed in the back seat of a friend of my brother, listening to make-you-feel-uncomfortable music, only to end up eating a turkey dinner at a restaurant that cost way more than it was worth and most likely could have been had in Boston without the drive. Alas, there is only one Plymouth rock (and it is tiny).

Finally, I am thankful my current employer does not give us the day after Thanksgiving off because it really character building to work on days when nearly the entire American population is at home asleep (or shopping on Black Friday).

Monday, November 22, 2010

moving

Well folks, today's post finds me somewhere in Finsbury, Greater London, listening to random people hack up lungs as they wake up. Somehow, I thought that moving across the world would get me away from listening to the morning coughing of my neighbors, but they obviously figured out where I was staying and followed me along.

I'm in London, of course, because I love moving.1 Moving is one of my favorite things in life. When else do you get the chance to try to sleep in a chair the size of a grapefruit next to a man roughly the size of a hungry hippopotamus?2 I'm pretty sure, given his stature, there was not a moment during that eight hour flight wherein we were not touching. This was, of course, utterly delightful. Though I don't really blame him for the fact that just by virtue of his sitting next to me, he occupied the entire arm rest without nary an effort on his part. The battle was lost before it began.

I also love moving because it's fun to try to walk in airports occupied solely by individuals moving at a rates somewhere south of lumbering rhinoceroses. If I weren't a lazy man, and hadn't woken up at two, three, three thirty, three forty, etc., trying to overcome jet lag, I would draw a little graph on how the average speed approaches zero as you increase the number of people walking down Chicago O'Hare's terminal C.

Along those lines, let me provide some of O'Hare's terminal walkers some advice: walk into me. Please ignore my walking trajectory, thereby forcing me to meander through the terminal like a drunken butterfly.

When walking in a group, perhaps you could line up side by side and occupy all space in the universe to prevent my passage, or force me to squeeze by in the most uncomfortable game of red rover ever played. Maybe you could stare at me as I brush by, just to enhance the effect. And I'm sorry I have a backpack and a laptop bag. You just might pack heavy too if you were moving across the world.

Though these experiences may strike the uninitiated as uncomfortable, they pale in comparison to the hell that a walker3 is subjected to when followed by an individual pulling a rolly suitcase. I don't think I can adequately describe the fear that strikes my heart to hear the "brrrrrrrr-clickity clack! clickety clack! brrrrrrrr" as a rolly suitcase follows me.

Which brings me to my last neurosis: Iceland, next time I'm flying just south of you, please don't send turbulence my way. I'm a nice dude. There's no reason to go banging up the plane like that, so that every five minutes the seatbelt light comes on, the plane starts a-shakin', and the rolls of fat from el hippo next door start jiggling onto my personal space again.4

Anyways, I've got to run to work. I apologize for the delay on this post, and promise that I actually have material that is considered "funny" for upcoming posts. At least, material that I consider "funny".

1. Can I take this moment I describe my hatred for the motivational aphorism, "a long journey begins with a single step"? Like, seriously? That's not even accurate. How about, "a long journey begins with paying through the nose for a U-Haul trailer that's actually way too small for your belongings, and then you realizing that and asking the poor dude at U-Haul to hook up another trailer instead and getting him to be all nice about it and stuff, but yet silently hate you for your spatial incompetence".
2. To be clear: using food imagery to describe my personal space while using hungry hippo imagery to describe my neighbor was completely intentional.
3. I once insulted a co-worker for using the word walker to describe her child. I include this here solely to enhance my hypocrite credentials.
4. I'm starting to feel guilty for repeatedly bringing up the poor man's size, so let me just state that I have nothing against his size, and everything against the airline industry for making us bedfellows during transatlantic trips.

Monday, November 15, 2010

oil changes

Monitoring the oil level in your car is important. Neglecting to pay attention to something so mundane could lead to your being stranded on the median of a remote Utah canyon highway, gesticulating wildly to distant hikers to beg them to help you push your car to the side of the road.1

Though I know I've said this before, I would like to, once again, ensure all marriageable women are assured of the hypotheticalness of all of my examples. I would also like to take a moment to pause and sob in my room.

Okay.

It's important to get your oil changed, lest you end up emotionally scarred for life. You can do this activity yourself, which implies lying on oil-covered ground, grunting and pulling to remove a bolt, covering yourself and nearby small animals in oil, all for the low cost of a floor jack, a few wrenches, the oil, and an hour of your Saturday (approx. $223),2 or you can go to a nearby Jiffy Lube and have them change it for you, which implies being told you need to change fluid X because it is color Y (approx. $223).

I went through their hallowed halls just yesterday, and the conversation went a little something like this:

Dude: Oh man, it looks like you're at sixty one thousand miles, which is a huge service time for your car.
Me: (Having heard this every time I bring in any car to get the oil changed) oooookay...
Dude: Yeah (bringing up a large colorful screen with pretty boxes and arrows), it looks like you're due for [big long string of words] and [another big long string of words] and [something involving ducks and pentagrams].
Me: I like ducks...
Dude: Most importantly, your automated transmission transfer gearing mechanical fluid needs to be changed.
Me: But I just bought this car four months ago!
Dude: Yeah, the dealers never perform any service on these cars before selling them.

This, of course, puts me in the unenviable position of choosing to put my faith in a car dealership or an oil change shop, which I imagine is something akin to being forced to choose between death by elephants or death by monkeys.3

Dude: (Sensing my skepticism, but smelling money) Let me go check your car.

At this point he retreated into the bowels of the shop, to what I can only assume is the bring-your-child-to-work-today playroom, because when he returned, he had a piece of paper with splotches suspiciously similar to what my nephews produce when painting watercolor.

I'm not going to repeat the rest of the conversation, as it does not cast me in the finest of lights, but suffice it to say that he convinced me that one of the splotches was pink, and the other splotch was black, which splotches represented the ideal color for liquid X, and the actual color of liquid X as it existed in my car.

Now, I could, of course, see that those were different colors, so of course I was willing to pay one hundred and twenty dollars to make those colors look the same. I can't even imagine the horrors that could occur if I did't ensure the matching of the coloring.

In related news, I am feeling extra suckerish today.

1. Just kidding! It wasn't that remote.
2. I started changing my oil years ago after getting infuriated at paying $35, which, as it turns out, is probably about six cents more than my average oil change cost, factoring in the purchase price of the jack and whatnot. Coincidentally, that experience was the inspiration behind one of the very first posts on the Complete Guide to Everything. I apologize to any and all who read the early posts; quality control was severely lacking.
3. This is an old expression I invented during a conversation with my roommates in college; as I recall, I was being asked with whom I would prefer to spend time. The characters in the analogy are in no way representative of the physical appearance of said individuals; they were just the first animals I could think of. This is exhibit A in my attempt to convince the world I am not, in fact, obsessed with ducks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

skiing

Like most of you, I am eagerly anticipating the ski season. And by "ski season" I mean "ski day". And by "ski day" I mean "those four hours I manage to ski before losing my appendages to frostbite".

Season becomes day for me because, in a fit of snowversion in my youth, I moved to the great state of Ski Resorts are Three Hundred Miles and Sixteen Hours of Traffic Away.1

But that's okay, because I make an annual pilgrimage to the home state to enjoy those precious things in life like food, sleep uninterrupted by yappy dogs, and nephews who are too young to refer to me as the creepy uncle.

This allows me to take a day to head up the canyon and hang out with the Utahns who stayed in the motherland and now own homes, have wives, are world-class skiers, etc. Since waking up before eight o'clock over the holidays would be heresy, on that blessed day, I normally stumble out of bed right around the time my die-hard skier family is packing their lunch.

For reasons I have yet to understand, the typical skier's lunch consists of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, which normally ends up as squished peanut butter and jam mush. Add to that an orange, which defies peeling when your fingers are at 0 Kelvin, and you have the dynamic midday duo.

After packing lunch, one must gather together one's ski gear. Said gear is typically acquired with the savings one earns from living in a state that does not have one of the highest income and sales taxes in the known universe. If one does not have access to said tax rates, one merely wears one's childhood gear, which brings immediate and assured teasing, as one's snow pants, though fitting when purchased, now approximate spandex in appearance.

Next, my siblings then decide which of their bazillions of skis they'll be taking for today's adventure, with different ski flavors based on temperature, snow depth, and color. I personally get to dig through a few moldy socks and find the same skis I've had for ten years stuck in a drawer somewhere in the toy room, next to my sister's old barbie collection.

After reaching the slopes, there is usually a period of ten minutes reserved wherein I get to huddle on the ground in the fetal position and whine about how my supple skin hasn't felt the sting of negative temperatures since my last Utah safari. Then, God willing, I put on my skis,2 and I get to watch as my siblings approximate the speed of sound down the hill, all while I'm trying to get my pole strap on through my sissy mitten.

I have a long history of skiing. Like most young Utahns, I attended ski lessons with my own mother.3 And by "most", I mean "one". And by "lessons" I mean "one of the more traumatic experiences of my young life wherein I was forced to do the snowplow down a mild slope in Sugarhouse Park with a group of middle-aged women".

Oh, and for the record, the kids at Junior High don't think much of a dude who learns to ski with his mom. Let's just get that out there.

With such a serendipitous start, who could predict naught but success for me in my skiing adventures?

In all honesty though, I'm contemplating retiring to the slopes of Utah in some future ski season, and, between ski runs, living in a van down by the river.

No, really.

1. One thing I have yet to understand is the number of people out here who claim to be hard core skiers. New rule: if you're not on the slopes every week, you are not hard core.
2. I still cannot speak about this experience without blushing, but let me counsel the younger generation, that, when they are returning from long stays outside the country, to ensure that their mother has not purchased identical skis, and, if she has, to not assume that the (short) skis you picked up are yours, and that you magically "grew". And should you make this mistake, young skier, please, please, please at least try on the skis before you make it to the top of the tram. I beg. Please. You will never, to your dying day, live this down among your family. And the fact that your brother and sister are capable of skiing three thousand two hundred and forty vertical feet on one ski to compensate for your stupidity will only add to the emasculation. Also, if you ever speak to me about this I will hurt you.
3. She had been left behind in ski adventures throughout her married life, and since that was coming to an end, she figured she wanted to see what everyone was enjoying all of those years. Very admirable.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Four-way stops

Four way stops have been around for a while, yet they still confuse even the most experienced driver. Since I am an expert four-way stopper, allow me to share with you the laws, rules, and general conventions that should be followed:

1. If you are the first person to arrive at the four-way stop, you get to go first. You are not allowed to arrive a full five seconds before me, then try to wave me through after I have come to a complete stop and waited expectantly for you. In addition, you should not expect a thank you for your "kindness".

2. If we arrive at the four-way stop at the same time, the right-of-way goes automatically to the person who is less confused. If you are trying to figure out that "right hand" rule, you definitely cede the right-of-way.

3. If you are a pedestrian crossing at a four-way stop, you are only allowed a "reasonable" amount of time to cross. Exceptions for people with a cane or a stroller. If you saunter across and are still in the road after I have waited a "reasonable" amount of time, I am then allowed to run you over and not feel bad.

4. I, and only I, will determine how long "reasonable" is.

5. If a traffic light is out, which by law automatically turns the intersection into a four-way parking lot, it is okay for more than one car to go through at a time.

6. It is not okay for more than two cars to go through--everyone else will hate you.

7. If you are a pedestrian crossing in front of me while I am waiting to make a right or left turn, and if you then want to cross the road onto which I would like to turn, you owe me a dozen Krispy Kreme fresh-out-of-the-oven glazed donuts.

8. If you are a pedestrian crossing at a four-way-stop, under no circumstance are you to stop and talk to a friend. I once was stopped waiting for two pedestrians going opposite directions, when they recognized each other, hugged a big hug, did a 360 while embraced, then went their separate ways. This rule applies to them.

9. Sometimes our cars will end up doing the four-way tango. This is when you pretend you are going, then stop because you see I am going. Then I stop because I see you are going, ad infinitum. When this happens, our cars should kiss and ride off into the sunset together.

Friday, October 29, 2010

alarm clocks

The thing I like most about alarm clocks is probably their sound.

There's nothing quite like floating around on a sea of marshmallows as every woman who has ever rejected you comes up to apologize for not recognizing you for the ruggedly-attractive billionaire you were destined to be, cry and beg you to take them and their miserable self back, and be interrupted by what could best be described as the blast of a Soviet-era1 air raid alarm system.

This is tragic, because normally you have to concoct that sort of experience via a fake dream, aka, daydream, while you should be listening during church. Seeing it while asleep makes it appear so much more real. Especially the part where you get to turn them down because of your extremely good fortune in dating a famous singer/model/business executive/all of the above and take that suckas!

However, in reality, you are really just listening to the hellish electronic buzz some sadistic designer once designated was the noise to make people excited about the day, for reasons that are likely only understood whilst being paddled by an inebriated porcupine. I don't know what exactly prohibited the original alarm clock manufacturer from coming up with another sound, say, like, peaceful rubber duckies, or distant fog horns, or even Jennifer Aniston repeatedly proclaiming her undying fealty to you. Instead I'm stuck listening to the incessant bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

If you do have one of those alarm clocks designed by the very denizens of the dark kingdom, let me suggest you place it on the opposite side of the room from the bunk you share with your college roommate. And then you could maybe set it for 5:30 AM. And then you could maybe let it ring.

Every. Morning. For. Ten. Minutes.

And, instead of silencing it and getting up, hit the snooze.

Again.

And again.

Nope, your roommate doesn't hate you to this day and uncontrollably twitch at the memory of that pitiful existence back in the spring of 2003. No he does not.

Of course, my favorite alarm clock belonged to my old roommate Scott.2 It chirped up in an oddly mechanical Spanish voice to give us the time every morning.3 Pretty cool. Less cool when you hear its English equivalent six years later emanating from somewhere within your empty house; your roommate having left it on while out of town.

I think it took me three days of walking around with a baseball bat and permanently-wet pants looking for an autistic female robot intruder obsessed with randomly taunting me with the time before realizing what had happened.

Speaking of menacing people with baseball bats, I would like to here apologize for my participation in a near-lynching when, on the first evening of sharing a room with three other men for two months, one dude pulled out an old school double-bell alarm clock, and began winding it up. I can't really describe in full detail what happened next, as the room suddenly tinted red, but three large missionaries (hypocritically self-proclaimed charitable servants) converged on this poor man and made it plainly evident that his life would be forfeit if that clock made one solitary tick.4 He quickly put it away.

In summary, God bless the man who invented the cell phone alarm and its cacophony of soothing sounds.

1. Now, might I suggest, the next time you're about to refer to something as 'Soviet-era' in order to denigrate it, you contemplate who, exactly, you are speaking to. For example: if you are speaking to your Russian co-worker, you might consider the use of another pejorative descriptor, lest she find that deeply insulting, and then start making references to dumb fat Americans with their baseball caps and chewing gum. Just a tip.
2. Easily one of the best roommates of all time. Realizing I loved Adam Smith and Laisseiz-faire Economics, he posted a picture of Karl Marx on our wall for the entire two years we spent together, refusing to take it down. Hilarious to this day.
3. He foolishly gave it away to a woman as she departed on a church mission. I correctly predicted that, just like my favorite hat I believe I once bequeathed a former lover, it would never be returned.
4. I can plainly recall the look of fear we instilled in him. It is the same look my co-worker Sam had on her face when she came into the office around midnight during our work up to the elections of 2006. I excitedly began to tell her how I had recently just hallucinated hearing her and our other co-workers emerging from the fire escape. She made me go home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

buying a car

There are many considerations one must keep in mind when trying to determine which car to purchase. Cars are complicated pieces of machinery, and can easily determine many facets of your life: your expenses, your mobility, and your marital status.1

With that in mind, let me impart to you some wisdom as you attempt to purchase your next vehicle.

First, decide if you will purchase a new or used car. Buying a new car will cause every practical woman you meet to instantly judge you as being bad with money. Buying a used car will prevent you from getting dates with shallow, if not super attractive, women. Choose wisely.

Next, decide what type of car to go for. Many men, having aged poorly over the past twenty-eight years, are tempted to buy an automobile that women think is "cute". Something like a Mini Cooper. Or a Red VW New Beetle.

Furthermore, some men, and I would like to stress that I am speaking purely from intelligence I have gathered from other people, go to the trouble of acquiring a Red VW New Beetle, then driving around with the plastic flower placed in the faux vase on the dashboard, thinking that this sort of behavior will not peg them as homosexual by every single individual they meet at college, but, contrary to what reason and experience would suggest, will somehow convince the women to date them because they are "comfortable with their masculinity".

Might I say, with the strongest sentiment that I am capable of, which sentiment I would once again like to stress was gathered via external data collection, and not by any empirical evidence of my own, nor any humiliations suffered by the young Chris Perry in his less-than-intelligent days, that men who are comfortable with their masculinity do not drive New Beetles. They drive trucks.

Which is why I would like to recommend you purchase a truck, to help compensate for any hypothetical damage done to the perception of which team you batted for during your college days.2

Purchasing a truck is a great idea because then you are able to do manly things. Like tow things. What things, I cannot say, but you could still tow them. You can also haul things. Note the use of the extra-manly verb haul, instead of the feminine verb move, which verb might be used by the type of person who drove a New Beetle, whereas the verb haul is only used by the most masculine of men.

There are a number of things you could haul. Like coal, lumber, blocks of sharp ice, military-grade explosives, and any number of things that commercials show trucks hauling. Though, most of my experience lies in hauling other people's ratty couches and Ikea furniture, mainly because that way other people don't need to rent a U-haul; they can just use the free truck.

The other great thing about trucks is that you get to look like a heel much more frequently. You can look like a weenie when you ask for gas remuneration. You can look like a jerk for hating the environment. And you can look at the floor when your cousin's roommate comes home one afternoon, and bemoans the fact that she knows nobody who drives a truck, and complains and complains to you, wishing she somehow knew somebody who drove a truck, so they could help her move her bed. Your cousin may be laughing, and your keys may be burning a hole in your pocket, but you can keep your eyes glued on the floor as you slink into the couch like a dusty amoeba.3

Trucks are also good for emasculating you when you drive up to San Francisco and your date has to help you parallel park because you have absolutely no concept of spatial awareness, which is normally manifested by the number of times you hit your head on things, and the number (3) of concussions sustained in your lifetime, but is also shown when you are approximately thirty (30) feet from any known car, and you are sweating about your ability to "cram" your truck into the space.

In summary, buying a truck is the right choice. Even if it turns out you paid fifteen thousand dollars to drive your vehicle for a grand total of six months, and are moving back to London, the land of the tube and public transit.

Let us pray they store well, and your mother doesn't mind an extra garage space going to another one of her son's sleeping automobiles.

1. I do not know a single man, who, within a year of purchasing an exotic automobile, remains unmarried.
2. Technically, it was my stepmother's car, and I remain grateful to this day that she let me drive it, especially given the Unfortunate Incident. My experience seizing up the engine in Provo canyon after having cracked the oil pan shall remain unelaborated upon today.
3. In my defense, I was busy and on my way somewhere.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To the new neighbors upstairs

Welcome to our apartment building! It is nice to have you here.

Allow me to point out the very thin layer of wood that separates your clogs from our ears. We can hear every single step you take, allowing us to follow your precise location at any given time. Another excellent feature is the apartment layout. There are two bedrooms, so you can sleep in one and use the other as an office. That way, when one of you wants to stay up until midnight, and the other wants to get up early at 6:00 AM, you can both make plenty of noise for us. It is, after all, annoying for us to have to wait for the alarm clock to sound. And drop large heavy objects at non-random times, such as when I am just about to nod off for the night.

Please take a moment to view the lovely staircase that passes right next to our front door. That door has been sound proofed with a super thick half inch layer of balsa wood, so please come home at 1:00 AM after you have been drinking and pay no attention to how much noise you make in the hallway. We couldn't possibly hear it.

You are allowed to leave as much furniture, boxes, etc. in the front foyer as you can possibly fit, including your large dining room table and bowling bag with wheels. This will not bother us. You are also allowed to rearrange your furniture as often as you would like. Drag the bookshelves and other items along the floor as much as possible. When you buy new furniture, put it together after 10:00 PM so we can get the full effect of hammers hitting the hardwood. Then rearrange once again.

Note that on Sunday, I do not watch football, but I LOVE to hear it. So turn up your TV and cheer loudly! And invite your family and friends! Whenever there is a touch down, all of you run around the room, stomping and hooting!

One last thing: I adore animals! I am glad you brought your dog along. Let it run around outside and poop on that little area between the sidewalk and the street so I can step in it with my Sunday shoes on my way to church.

That's it! Our lease doesn't end for another nine months, so we have lots of time to spend together. Looking forward to it!

Your neighbor downstairs

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Interview


[Famous People Magazine] Tell us about yourself.

[Jeremiah] Well, I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. One thing lead to another, and now I have a wife and child.

[FPM] You are famous for your Theory of Dish Cloths. Could you describe it to us in layman terms?

[J] Sure. There are three types of cloths used in the kitchen. The first is a standard hand towel. This is used only for drying clean but wet hands. The second is a flour sack towel. This is used for drying clean but wet dishes. The third is a wash cloth. This is used for everything else. This arrangement reduces the amount of laundering needed, minimizes the unsettling feeling you get when you uses a hand towel that moments before was used to wipe up butter, and maximizes marital discord in the kitchen.

[FPM] Interesting. Tell me about butter on your hands.

[J] In our lab experiments, we found buttery layers on your hands have a half life of about five minutes under hot water, which means no matter how long you scrub, you can never remove it completely. As a rule, butter on your hands should be avoided at all costs.

[FPM] Cookies have butter, and it can get on your hands when eating. How do you reconcile this with your rule above?

[J] Cookies, and all other delicious baked goods, are official exceptions.

[FPM] How many cookies can you eat in one sitting?

[J] At least one more than are available. I can prove this by induction. Suppose I have one cookie. I can trivially eat more than one cookie, so the statement is true for n=1. Now suppose the statement is true for n cookies. That means I can eat at least n+1 cookies. Since there is always room for one more, I must be able to eat n+2 cookies. This shows the statement is true for n+1 cookies. Proof complete.

[FPM] We hear you enjoy numbers. What is your favorite number?

[J] I currently have several. One of them is 11, because it is prime and symmetric. Another is 1111, because it factors as 11 * 101, which are both prime and all symmetric. An added bonus is 11 * 101 = 1111 happens to be true in binary as well.

[FPM] Do you get out much?

[J] No.

[FPM] We also hear that you once had a Family Home Evening on the Pythagorean Theorem. Is this true?

[J] Absolutely. Megan, however, gave it mixed reviews. And by "mixed" I mean she calmly requested we never do that again. And by "requested" I mean she stated emphatically we would never do that again.

[FPM] Final question. We have always wished to be asked to contribute to The Complete Guide to Everything. How does that "happen"?

[J] You can either be blood related to the owner, or write a poem comparing Megan to numbers, or both.

helping people

As we approach the season of helpfulness, I think it's important to review some of the basics on how and when to help other people. That is, of course, not at all, and never.

Unfortunately for the Scrooges among us, it is considered "rude" to be so up front when declaring your unintention of helping. Societal norms place ridiculous demands on us as people to be "kind" to our "fellow" humans in helping them in their needs, and even more strenuous injunctions to help when our fellowman is actually doing things for our own benefit, like cooking us food.

However, in the interests of helping the invisible (helping) hand stay that way, let me provide you with the following advice:

Offer to help when it is no longer needed

This is the first and foremost way to appear to be good natured. Let's say your old roommate has invited you over to brunch. Also, let's say his pregnant wife is in the kitchen cooking so you can enfatten yourself on the fruits of her labor.1 Why don't you make jolly conversation while she slaves away, until, at the last moment, as brunch magically appears through her sweat and tears to the table, you can offer, "is there anything I can do to help you?"

The pregnant woman is placated, your old roommate thinks you have abandoned your selfish ways, and you get to eat delicious omelettes without nary an effort on your part.

In a related move, when you invite yourself over to said old roommate's house to watch a football game, the correct way to get out of paying for the pizza you made him order is to offer to pay as he is walking up to the door, credit card in hand.

Offer to help as you are walking out the door

Let us assume a hypothetical situation: suppose, for a moment, that your co-worker, who we shall call Delilah for the purposes of this example, is working non-stop, and is being slowly beaten to death by various clients wielding the functional equivalent of stick bats made from stiffened skunks. Let us assume that you are leading a jolly good old life, in which you have enough time to stay after work and write about how you shirk all adult responsibilities generally, whilst she is ten feet away fretting over delivering data to clients.

Now, fair reader, watch me as I stand up, pack up all of my worldly possessions, and walk to her desk, with my jacket on, and computer packed, and ask her if she needs any help. There is obviously no polite way on earth in which she can prevent me from going home to my wife and children,2 so she, in keeping with her generous nature, declares that she has it covered, and spends the rest of the evening in a caffeine-induced state of hypercoding.

Now, many people have a hard time mastering the first two of the shirker's rules, so let me grant you my last piece of advice:

Pretend to help

When you visit your home town, and invite yourself over to your sister's house, and she spends the better part of three hours fighting her five children in order to cook food for you: arrive late, of course, and when you do arrive, spend your time in a constant round of washing your hands, opening and shutting cupboards, moving Seth's drawings from one end of the counter to the other, washing your hands, offering to chop the tomatoes, and then making it clear you are incapable of chopping tomatoes, and thereby force her to chop them while you wash your hands, etc.3

This will, of course, cement in your sister's mind the fact that you lack even the most elementary of motor skills, which, to be honest, is not that far from the truth, but it will also absolve you of all helping responsibilities forever and ever.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm coming into town in November, and would, of course, love to get a delicious meal, Bekah. Have pity on your motor-skill-and-wife-less younger brother.

1. That is, the cooking type of labor, not the labor that produces a child you incessantly beg them to name after you.
2. As this is purely hypothetical, let us attempt to imagine a reality in which I am married, and not a bitter old man.
3. I want to be clear that the preponderance of washing one's hands is not, in this case, evidence of any psychological disorders. Constantly checking the door at night to make sure it is locked might be, but not repeatedly washing one's hands. I swear.

Monday, October 11, 2010

the complete guide gains an author

Over the past few millennia I've been brainstorming how to improve the quality of the complete guide to everything, as well as how to increase the readership. Why? I couldn't really tell you, but that's not the point of today's post.

I finally begged my brother Jeremiah to join in, and since he felt so bad for me and my self-deprecating ways, he was kind enough to say yes. So, going forward, you'll see posts from him as well.

Though more successful, intelligent, and married than me, he also has the gumption to be funnier than me as well, which bodes well for you, dear reader, and ill for my ego. The best news is that he plans on continuing the wonderful tradition of unnecessary footnotes.

Also, I've decided to start posting on Friday mornings, since Mondays are pretty much the worst day to post content ever. I'm not sure which precise part of my brain shut down when I made that original decision, but it must have been a large one. Jeremiah will be posting whenever he feels like it, and there will be occasional non-Friday posts from me as well (as long as I can keep drudging up these amazing dating stories, of course).

Feel free to suggest ways to turn this into a machine whereby Jeremiah and I can retire and do nothing but write and play Nintendo. And by "play Nintendo", I mean watch Jeremiah play Nintendo, because he actually has what people refer to as "hand-eye coordination". And by "hand-eye coordination", I mean his hand is good at coordinating to punch my eye, and thus keep me away from the controller.

Just kidding! He was too engrossed beating Bowser to do those sorts of things.

Read on, fair reader. Read on.

journals

For the majority of my life, people have instructed me to keep a journal. This is because, for the majority of my life, people have been misinformed as to the newsworthiness of my life. Judging by past entries, it appears that every time I set to write about myself, I devolve into:

a) Whining about women, or
b) Whining about my life, or
c) Drawing ducks

Which is pretty much how I envision all journals, with the exception of the ducks.1

Though probably entertaining for a page or two, one can only assume that reading sixty years of this sort of drivel would get on one's nerves. Especially since the quality of the duck drawings has yet to improve.

Of course, I distinctly remember my childhood journal being entertaining. If I actually read it, I could tell you for sure, but, seeing as how I have no idea where it is, in fact, located, I can't.

I can, however, tell you that my mom has read it at least once. During this episode of "how can Chris infuriate his parents even more?", she claimed to have "forgotten" to write down things from her journal, and asked me if she could read mine to remember. This was immediately suspect to my eight-year-old spider sense, because:

a) My mom never forgets anything, in general, and, in specific
b) My mom never forgets to write in her journal.

I can't even imagine the dirt she has accumulated on me over the years. I shutter at the thought. At some point after her death we are going to have to deal with the sixty-odd volumes of journals littering her house, of which 59 could easily be complaints about having to deal with me, because I didn't practice like Jeremiah, or study like John, or...

Unlikely excuses aside, the time she asked to read my journal just happened to fall less than a week after the tirade I spewed out against my mother, accusing her of all manner of wickedness and abominations. As I was not the most intelligent child, this was all written down. In my journal. That she now asked to read.

And so we see how I, as a child, learned how to cover my tracks elegantly. I calmly, unsuspectingly, told her yes, she could read it, I just needed a few minutes to "go and get it". Fifteen minutes later, I delivered my journal to her, with a very unsuspicious half page of writing partially blacked out by a child's scribbling.

No, these were not my best days.

I spent the next few years writing very flattering things about my mother in my journal, and feeling guilty about not writing enough. This lasted until I came to a profound realization:

a) I have never read my journal
b) I have no desire to read my journal
c) I have never read anybody else's journal
d) I have no desire to read anybody else's journal

Why am I writing a journal?

Being lazy is its own excuse.

By granting you this justification, I free you from all journal-writing obligations.2

1. I wrote this a month ago, and it's just now hitting me that the description also applies to the complete guide to everything, minus the duck drawings, of course.
2. Before my mother gets mad at me for this, I'll just re-state that this is a joke. Of course. Joke. You see my eye? It's winking.

Friday, October 8, 2010

calling women

Though it can be especially nerve-racking to attempt to speak to an individual sixteen times more attractive than you in every way, when attempting to call a woman, it is important to remember that they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

If you actually found that consoling, then you are ready (read: dumb enough) to make your first attempt.

The first time you call a woman, there's really nothing to worry about. Since she doesn't have your number in her phone, she's not going to pick up. In fact, in my experience, even if she does have your number, she still won't, but that's an entirely different, and far more embarrassing story.

Therefore, your game plan on the first call is to be able to leave a message that does not:

  1. Include the sound of your voice cracking
  2. Make use of the phrases "desperate", or "out of my league", or "please, I beg of you, I'm so utterly lonely"
  3. Directly ask her out on a date

Many inexperienced men in the past have blundered into making mistake #3; this is the worst possible thing you could do. The woman knows you are calling to ask her out on a date. She can smell this. When she does not return your phone call, and had you referenced a date, you will be left in the unenviable position of meeting her outside of the Institute building the next evening for an unrelated activity, and have her approach you, while in a group, and say, "Hi Chris, I got your message!"

Though, to the casual observer, that might not appear to be the most awkward response ever ever ever, let me remind said casual observer that she intentionally avoided a response to the question of the date, brought up the subject in a moment when it was socially impossible to pursue the topic, and therefore, conveniently made known her non-desire of attending said never-held date.

Never underestimate the brilliance of women.

No, removing said reference gives you a cushion against their malevolence, and furthermore, plausible deniability. There are any number of things you could be calling to talk about. Pick anything else, like ducks. Or lawn fertilizer. I beg of you.

Should one of your phone calls ever reach the woman, and, unlike myself, you are able to have a conversation with her without writing out beforehand what you're going to say because the mere thought of having conversation scares the ever-loving monkeys out of you, let me pass down a few interpretations of common phrases I've had to learn the hard way in my life:

I'm really busy this week

If I had unlimited time, I would spend it running away from you.

Oh, I'm sorry, I'm no longer available on Saturday night, like we agreed on days ago. Maybe we could do Saturday afternoon?

I got a better offer for the evening, but there's always room on the back burner!

I just got through dating someone, and I need some time to recover

I'm giving you the classiest flat-out rejection you've ever had in your life. Also: I'll be dating someone else seriously in about thirty seconds. Maybe you should go work out more.

No

No. (Abort, get off the phone, and never speak of this again)

Ummmm, I think I have plans

Let us leave this uninterpreted to assist your ego in its recovery.

No, I didn't get any of your messages or texts while you waited outside for me for an hour! It's not that cold out there you sissy! Stop shivering.

Either a technological vortex just opened up and swallowed the city of San Francisco whole, or I'm just not that into you. Also, you smell bad.

Aside from those few tidbits, though, I can't really guide you very far, given a lack of empirical evidence precipitated by a lack of answered calls. Should I be so blessed as to collect more material, I'll post the interpretations thereof.1

For now, however, call on, and know that, in a pinch, I can recommend a few places in the city that will shelter you from the cold.2

1. I remember a week after returning from my church mission, calling woman upon woman, trying to get a date. It was impossible. Having, then and now, what some refer to as an inflated view of my own appeal, I distinctly recall thinking to myself: "Someday I'm going to look back at this experience and think how ironic it was that I (I!) could not get a date". Well, it's someday, and it's not as ironic as I would have hoped.
2. There isn't a whole lot of fiction in today's post, my friends. Tonight is a sit-on-the-futon-and-down-root-beer-and-pray-my-little-brothers-don't-marry-their-serious-girlfriends-soon night.