Monday, May 31, 2010

choirs

Most people don't realize this when attending a choir performance, but each one of the members of a traditional choir has an amazing amount of background and experience in Statistics. While you were picking up "good looking" rocks to take home to your mom,1 they were deep in thought pondering the normal distribution.

The evidence of this exists in how choirs sing. To the untrained ear, the choir members of a particular section are all singing the same note. To the Statistician, however, she or he will note2 the fact that none of the members is actually singing the note indicated by the sheet music, but has chosen a pitch at random, from a distribution with a mean about the actual note.

True Statisticians will also realize that the probability of any choir member singing the same note is zero. This can be proven by attending any church function. QED.

Okay, I'm being a little too harsh. There are plenty of good choirs out there in the world. I just went to my good friend Reed's concert, where I was introduced to several dozen men who I have added to my list of Men Who I Pray Never Compete For The Same Woman I Do. They were wonderful men and excellent singers, which I found comforting because this means they also belong to the list of Men Who Would Never Go For Anybody Remotely In My League Anyways. It was easy to tell they were excellent singers because they had amazing diction, which was supremely helpful when they were singing Latin and Chinese. Just think how lost I would have been if they had bad diction while singing from the list of Languages I Have Never Learned.

I was pretty jealous of the dudes singing, mostly because I spent the better part of my high school career convinced that if I had joined the choir I would have been cool and thus would have made it into the high school musical, and thus would have been the lead, and thus would have caught the attention of my long-term crush Annie, and thus would have several beautiful children running and screaming while I composed this post. As it was, I spent my high school career playing the Bass in the pit during the musicals (in the small blocks of time that I was not getting tossed into lockers), while the choir boys danced above me with beautiful women, occasionally tossing a pitchfork at my head,3 and, less occasionally, looking the other way when I ducked out the back to puke the two liters of root beer I should not have tried to drink during the live performance.4

Later on in life I further miffed to learn that in choirs, the world is turned upside down. Instead of being lambasted as being effeminate little sissies, men with high voices are awarded positions of glory and honor.

My life would be so much different if I had stumbled onto that bit of information before middle school.

Still, I'm going to go work on lowering my voice again.5

1. This is completely factual. My yard still contains one that I brought home twenty years ago. This leads me to ask: was I exposed to pot at a younger age than I previously estimated?6
2. Ha ha, get it?! I said note! Ha! When talking about notes! I'm brilliant! Please, don't stop reading now. This is as bad as it gets. We can only go up from here.
3. This was not a figurative statement. The pitchfork was thrown at my head. It missed. Lesser men would have given into the temptation to break down and cry like a sissy, but not me (at least this time). The violin section was oh so proud of my bravery in action. The violin section consisted of my sister and her friends she paid off to be proud of me.
4. I was trying to be like my brother, who did those sorts of things without breaking a sweat. Not only did I break a sweat, I almost broke my bass with the ferocity of my flinging it down as I fled to the bathroom.
5. Not that I, um, did that in middle school.
6. No, I never smoked the stuff, but in ninth grade geography I sat next to a man whose smell left me feeling happy and munchy every day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

france

France is a country in Western Europe, a nuclear power, and permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is home to several millions of Frenchmen, several millions of Frenchwomen, and several trillions of Frenchtourists.

When entering France, you are typically greeted by distressed villagers waving white flags and surrendering. Only after you insist you are not capable of founding the Sixth Republic do they allow you to pass through and spend your hard earned money trying to buy train tickets to destinations which are inaccessible due to train strikes.

I'm totally kidding; we all know France never surrenders to anybody, unless not surrendering would involve working longer than 30 hours a week.1 The illusion of weak Frenchmen is really a myth perpetrated by Belgium, as they try and make some other country look sissier than them.

When the French aren't working,2 they are known to insult non-French-speaking tourists by giving them wedgies and/or spraying them down with bidets. While wearing berets, of course.

I'd like to take this moment to encourage you to keep that image in your minds, as I find it hilarious, but realize that image is false.

First, French people are pretty nice. I happen to have traveled all over that country, hopping from city to city, desperately trying to find running trains,3 and every single person I talked to, without fail, was amazingly kind. They spoke English to me as much as they could, they were accommodating, they didn't whisper and laugh at me, they were the kindest group of people I've ever dealt with. In honor of that kindness, I have decided to insult them throughout this post, but please know, I have absolutely no reason to do so. The French are awesome. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Second, I did not see a single beret in France. The only person I've ever seen wear a beret was, um, well, a stripper named Candy.4

The French got dealt a rough hand. They grew up in a rough neighborhood, with pretty gnarly foreign powers super close by. Not only did they have a superpower rival next door for most of their history, they also don't really have any natural plant life that would yield itself to good cuisine. Mexicans have burrito trees, Indians have curry, but the French are left with a countryside full of nothing but snails, duck livers, and nutella.

Instead of giving up and deciding to commit culinary suicide by frying everything to an untimely death coughthebritishcough, they perfected the art of escargot.

Many people have asked what exactly is escargot, and I think the only appropriate response lies in one of my favorite jokes (courtesy of my good friend and brother Jeremiah):

A snail went to a car dealership, and decided to purchase a car. He told the dealer, however, that he would like the car slightly modified before delivery: he wanted a big S painted on the hood, the doors, and the roof of the car. The dealer said that was all well and good, and could be accommodated, but he asked why the snail wanted this. The snail replied, "so whenever I drive down the street, people will stop and say, 'look at that S car go!'"

For this joke, and this joke alone, I ate escargot, and it was delicious. I ate Foie Gras, and it was delicious. I ate nutella-covered crepes, and those were delicious. They say the French are good cooks, and they are absolutely correct. Bless them and their snails.5

1. I've always felt like France gets a bad rap for that whole WWII surrender thing. I'm pretty certain that if my home state of Utah were invaded by Blitzkrieging Germans, it would surrender within forty five seconds. Well, the state would surrender, but I have several friends whose houses (house is a forgiving term; compound would likely be more accurate) would be completely impregnable, given the amount of armaments present therein.
2. That is, pretty much any time.
3. See comment about French people not working. Well, in fairness, there are plenty of people working in France. They just are not train conductors.
4. This is an entirely true story, but, lest you think ill of me, I met this woman when I worked at a bank. And she came in for change. Lots of dollar bills. As in, a thousand. I felt oddly immoral, knowing what I was sending those bills off to do. She gave me cash in exchange. Yes, cash. Can one puke from touching dirty bills? I washed and seared my hands after touching those. In fact, I'm going to go soak them in rubbing alcohol again, just for good measure.
5. Let me also take this time to recognize the beautiful French woman who cooked curry for me once. Thank you. It was amazing.

ADD

Few people realize that the group most discriminated against in our society are those poor souls who have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and I wanted to take a few moments and help you understand their terrible plight in life.

Surveys indicate about one third of Americans suffer from ADD. These surveys have mostly been conducted by myself and consisted entirely of my roommates this week, but the difficult truths made plain by these number should not be ignored by society at large.

ADD is often misdiagnosed by many mothers as simply an inability to "sit and practice you damn kid". Given a variety of traumatic experiences in their youth, individuals with ADD may shy away from doctors or psychologists or orthodontists who, disobeying any sense of decency and knowledge of teeth, force a child to wear braces on two separate occasions during his life, and thus relegate him to nerd and singledom forever.1

If this is the case, it's important that the individual first toilet paper that orthodontist's house, and second, self-diagnose themselves with ADD by the tried-and-tested method of repeating the "fact" that they have ADD to their friends enough times that it becomes true, simply by personal fiat.2

People with ADD have a very rough life. You should pity them greatly. While the rest of you are calmly listening to the speakers in church, those unenviable creatures can focus for a grand total of five minutes, after which they find themselves hovering in a helicopter in the grand canyon. Suddenly, they notice a suicidal rock climber jumping from the canyon wall above! Turning to their beautiful wife operating the flying machine, they scowl and say, "don't worry, honey, nobody's dying on my watch!" They strap on an extra parachute, and catapult from the open chopper door, intercepting the fall of the jumper, and, with milliseconds to spare, latch on to the jumper with all limbs, barely containing the g-forces that would strip the body away and send it to its death in the choppy waters below as they pull the ripcord and float to safety.3

Instead of floating to safety, however, they are stuck listening to you talk. This is disconcerting for people afflicted with ADD, because, somewhere in the back of their mind, they still think their beautiful wife is waiting with a helicopter to transport them to the Daily Show where they will be interviewed as a hero. And you are still talking. This could be at work, at school, at church, on a date, at the opera, at a play, in a movie, or pretty much anywhere in our society. Please, Jon Stewart awaits. You are still talking. Please have pity on sufferers of ADD.

Gettysburg Address: one of the most profoundly meaningful and exquisitely beautiful addresses in the entirety of the English language, runs about five minutes. I'm just saying is all.

If you're teaching a class, and you think you can go a minute or two over and nobody will mind, I want you to envision being beaten by drunk porcupines with a metal cactus, because that is approximately what it feels like to be stuck waiting for a teacher to finish up after the time allotment has finished. I can't tell you how many cacti scars I have from my time as a student.

There is, however, hope in all of this madness. One person has done more for suffers of ADD than anybody else on this planet. That man is the Honorable Steven Paul Jobs, BOATAGOAT.4 There isn't enough gold on this planet to make enough medals for this man.

When you see someone engaged with one of his devices, don't judge them. Don't call them wicked. They have real problems. They have a real inability to focus on anything and everything, but mostly an inability to listen to contentless dribble. They need their toy. Don't deprive them of that.

1. He had some sort of theory that putting braces on my baby teeth would cause my second set of teeth to grow in correctly. No, that's not what happened, Mr. Orthodontist. I just got two sets of crooked teeth, and two years of braces with little rubber bands. Thanks a lot you jerk. Also: though it would seem reasonable to expect skimpy rubber bands to alter my bone structure such that my jaw moved forward, it just made me move my jaw forward when biting in your office. How I tricked you into believing you fixed that, I'll never know. Good work there, monkey face.
2. Not to be confused with a personal Fiat, which would be even more unreliable. Zing!
3. I did, in fact, have this daydream today. It was a particularly long talk.
4. Bringer of all things amazing, grantor of all technology.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

emails

Emails are the absolute best invention in the world for those of us who are incapable of having non-awkward conversations.

Take, for instance, my conversation with a woman this morning, wherein she assumed I was accusing her of being pretentious. All of that heavy digging I engaged in after the fact could have been avoided had we only ever communicated via email. She would have known that I didn't actually mean to accuse her of name dropping, because I would have written, "I like how you HAD to mention you worked for a senator, lol, ha ha, tee hee, hardy har har"1, instead of saying "I like how you HAD to mention you worked for a senator", with a very deadpan delivery, which was met with a thoroughly indignant stare.

Emails are such glorious things. Let's say you don't want to talk to someone. Instead of using the super secret send-a-direct-voicemail like my buddy does to avoid talking to people, yet still give them the impression that he "tried" to call them, you can just write whatever it is you wanted to say, and kerchow! You're free! No speaking necessary! Human contact avoided! Success! Everyone wins!

Speaking of everyone, everyone wants to hear that joke you thought of when your buddy emailed six million people about his wedding. So reply to them all! Do it! You know you want to! Reply all to someone else's reply all! We all think you're funny and witty! Reply all to their reply alls, and complain about the usage of reply all! That's brilliant! We're not resisting the urge to punch ourselves in the face!2 Also, write lots of sentences with exclamation points!3

Emails are also great for waging psychological warfare on your coworkers. One great way to get me to hate you for now and forever and wish a thousand poxes upon you and your children and your children's children unto the third and fourth generation is to send me an email marked high priority. That's pretty much telling me that I'm incapable of prioritizing things on my own, and I need my mother at work nagging me to take care of the "important" work first. Well, let me tell you, I don't want to hear my mom chatting me up about my email workload, and I definitely don't even want to think about practicing the piano for her while I'm reading your email.

I can hear it now. Tap-eh-tay-tee, tap-eh-tay-tee, KEEP YOUR FINGERS UP, tap-eh-tay-tee, tap-eh-tay-tee!

You can do one better, and send me no fewer than ten (10) high priority emails over the course of a week, while sending me all of two (2) normal priority emails. This in no way causes me to wish to beat your head in with a dead iguana.

Look, I'll decide whose email is high priority. Stop pretending that clicking that little flag is going to change my mind. You're at the bottom of the queue. DELETED.

Of course, I can make passive-aggressive posts like this until the cows come home, but honestly, none of this really bothers me that much, because I don't even read email! At best, I skim! Why? Because it's boring! I don't read novels at home, and I'm certainly not going to do it at work, when I could get paid to hop on Twitter instead.4

Sadly, email isn't the solution to all of your problems. You, for instance, still have acne. Also, for reasons that I cannot fathom, women are furious at the mere prospect of getting asked out by email. These are the same women who complain about not getting asked out enough. You'd think that they'd want to lower the barriers to getting asked out, but no, they want to hitch up those walls. ONLY PHONE CALLS OR YOU WILL BE A PARIAH FOREVER. DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES I MADE. AND PLEASE, FORGIVE ME BLESSED PARADISIACAL VIXEN. MY CAPS LOCK JUST FLIPPED ON AND I FIGURED I'D KEEP IT THAT WAY SO I LOOKED LIKE YOUR AUNT FORWARDING YOU AN EMAIL CALLING BARACK OBAMA THE PIED PIPER OF PERNICIOUS PEOPLE-EATING PROGRESSIVISM.

Lastly, the best way to encourage general hatred of yourself is to email very strange things to a list with a very wide circulation. I've been doing this for the past five years, and finally decided that I wasn't being prideful and self-promoting enough, so, in order to further myself down the path of complete self-centeredness, I have started posting these here. Read for ideas on how to alienate yourself from all female life.

Emails have the ability to change your life for the better, and everyone else's life for the worst. With great power comes great responsibility. Use it wisely.

And please send this marked high priority to everyone you know.

1. This is, obviously, entirely facetious, because I believe using the holy phrase lol in reference to one of your own sentences is breaking a very severe commandment. Please, stop. It's like laughing at your own joke except stranger to the tenth power. Not that I have anything against laughing at MY own jokes...
2. I'm normally only moderately hypocritical, but this is obscenely so. Anybody in my contacts lists knows I abuse reply-all with the passion of a writhing iguana. I'm sorry. At least I recognize my sins.
3. That makes you sound so much more enthusiastic than you really are! That's my secret to have completely changed my digital image! Usually I couldn't rustle up the enthusiasm of stoned iguana toenails, but putting in an exclamation points makes me sound like a veritable cheerleader! Yes!
4. Employers/future employers: I am obviously lying in order to make this post seem hilarious. Please. I am a very conscientious individual, and I take email communications very seriously, and if ever I am able to read a single paragraph without violently transmogrifying into a coma-bound iguana, I will read that paragraph. With gusto. And then I will eat a twinkie. With more gusto.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

spain


Spain is a country on the Iberian peninsula bordering France and Portugal. It has a total population of about 46 million people, and the official language is Broken English.

Some people will try to tell you it's Spanish, but they're deeply mistaken. I went up and down that country, and could not get a soul to speak Spanish to me. That normally wouldn't be a big deal, but since I was traveling with an individual to whom I claimed I spoke Spanish, it was a little deflating to start conversations in pretty decent Argentinian-style Spanish, only to end the conversation speaking English nouns and making rapid hand gestures.1

Actually, I lie. The official language of Spanish is Whatever Language Your Ancestors Spoke. This is frustrating to me on a few levels.

First, as an anal retentive person, I want worldwide efficiency. Speaking multiple languages is not efficient. My ancestors gave up their language and names and any sense of native culture when they homogenized themselves at Ellis Island. Do you see me trying to re-learn Danish or Swedish or French? No siree. I live in the suburbs, my idea of a museum are the different exhibits at Disneyland, and fine cuisine comes in two forms: Little Caesar's Hot and Ready $5 pizza, or a box of twinkies washed down with some kool-aid. Just stop trying to maintain your cultural identity already, and turn on the TV.

Second, here I thought Spain imparted its language to South America. This is simply not the case. There are twelve people in the whole of Spain whose main language is Spanish, not Catalan, not Basque, and not Broken English. These twelve must have subjected the New World themselves, because you don't see anybody trying to bust out Catalan over there.

Speaking of Catalan, Catalan is the official language of Barcelona. Actually, I'm not sure it's official, but I'm going to call it official, because when your bathroom signs are written purely in Catalan, you're serious about your language. As the foremost expert in Catalan within the five square meters of this bed on which I am writing,2 let me tell you all about Catalan. That it's a mixture of French and Spanish is easy to see. For example, in French, exit is translated as sortie. In Spanish, it's salida. In Catalan, it's sortida.

Thus, you see conclusively it is just the mixture of the two languages.

The other great thing about Barcelona is their attention to detail. Not a lot of cities in Europe took the trouble to read my posts expressing concern at the moments in which I am subjected to views of the male body, but Barcelona did a good job of collating that information beforehand, and was able to produce a fully naked man walking in the downtown area in broad daylight.3 This was more disconcerting than my usual interactions in the locker room.

However, the best thing about Barcelona is a dude named Gaudí. This is an architect who lived some years ago, and appears to have had my same capacity of drawing straight lines. Somehow, instead of being shunned into math class by his laughing kindergarten art teachers, he managed to turn this weakness into a strength, and you'll find buildings designed by him dotting the city. However, for the record, his buildings may be decent, but if they wanted Cathedrals without nary a straight line in sight, they would have done much better coming to me.

Spain is a wonderful country populated by wonderful people. It's the only country in the world where I've asked for directions at a gas station, and had one of the customers offer to drive me to where I was going. I figure if I did that pretty much anywhere in the states I'd end up dead in a ditch, but these Spaniards will hook you up.

1. This does remind me of the time I lived in Argentina, and a buddy of mine (volunteering for the church as well), tried to talk to someone on the streets. The man walked an entire city block waving his hands, claiming he didn't speak English, until my friend was able to calm him down enough to convince him that a) he was speaking Spanish, and b) my friend was an Argentine himself.
2. Those five square meters are occupied solely by myself, and this really annoying dog next door that is yapping its head off.
3. And this reminds me of another buddy in Argentina, who, one evening, realized as he walked home that he had not seen, for the first time in weeks, the sight of a woman nursing her child. As he thought this, a nursing mother walked by him on the sidewalk. I'm not even sure that's possible, but he swore she managed it somehow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

traveling europe

When attempting to travel Europe, the enterprising young traveler would do well to keep the following facts in mind:

Europe does not want to be traveled

Europe is a jealous continent, and wants you to stay and enjoy her, not go flitting about visiting multiple cities. In that vein, she will engage in dirty tricks to keep you immobile. She may, for example, erupt in volcanic fury when you attempt to leave Ireland, or she may engage in two separate rail strikes spanning two countries and three rail companies.

People who backpack Europe aren't actually backpacking Europe

It's essential to understand this distinction so you don't go googly-eyed with a combination of unimpeded amazement, unobstructed attraction, and unabated desire to take to wife the woman who informs you she did this.1

No.

Backpacking Europe is not carrying your belongings in a pack and ascending the Alps under your own power, a la Von Trapp family.

Backpacking Europe is carrying enough clothes to dupe your travel companion into thinking you are not wearing the same unwashed shirt for the sixth day this trip2. This allows you to change at appropriate intervals, hopefully avoiding contracting the smell of a dead turtle, all while you comfortably travel by plane, or, if there are volcanoes, trains, or, if there are train strikes, bus, or if there aren't any bus seats because apparently the entire country is leaving Spain at the same time there are volcanoes and train strikes, by nineteen-hour, packed-with-cigar-smoking-and-screaming-Italian-teenagers ferry.

You can stay at hostels if a lack of stench isn't worth anything to you

On one particularly bad night in Belfast,3 a young man entered the room at some late hour to sleep in the bunk directly above me, at which point he woke me up. This isn't amazing in and of itself, but I should clarify that neither noise nor light nor movement was the cause of the disruption to my sleep. Luckily, I had brought ear plugs in preparation for these sorts of events. Regrettably, I did not anticipate the need for nose plugs, or an airtight chamber, or perhaps some sort of snorkel, or any other device that would have prevented me from breathing in those noxious fumes that emanated from that man's body.

Was he some sort of terror mechanism manufactured by a Sinn Fein separatist group? Gasping for air at 2:00 AM, these are the sorts of questions I ask myself.4

This seems like an appropriate moment to remind the faithful traveler, that, when evaluating hostels, and asking if a particular hostel's shared bathroom contains a shower, one might check if said shower can be accurately described by epithets such as "hot" or "heated" or "not sub zero". Not because I was subjected to torture via high projectile ice while knowing women giggled loudly next door to my sissified screams, but because I've heard that sort of thing could maybe happen.

All in all, traveling Europe is a glorious adventure, and I highly recommend it, minus that whole icy shower and noxious fumes and volcano and strikes and overnight bus bit.

1. This is still embarrassing to me, and I blame her marriage to another man on my not understanding the terminology.
2. At some point during those six days, showers became futile, as any improvement via soap and water on skin was instantly negated by deeply-rooted smells of sweat mixed with smoke and dirt in fabric.
3. This raises the valid question of whether or not there exist good nights in Belfast. It didn't appear to be an overly-exciting place, but I am open to correction.
4. I was a little more sympathetic a week later, after having traveled to Madrid via overnight bus and acquired my own turtle-killing smell, I took a train to Barcelona wherein I believe I caused permanent nerve damage to everyone within six meters of me. Luckily, they were hollering extremely loud German throughout the trip, so they deserved it. Of course, maybe those were screams of pain?