Monday, August 30, 2010

iPods + iTunes

At some point in early 2003 I returned to the United States from an extended absence. I moseyed my way over to my college campus, and found that every person I had ever known had:

a) Dated that cute girl down the hall
b) White cords coming out of their ears

This was, of course, the Great Leap Forward of the third millennium; that is, the time in which we, as a people, said enough is enough, I am never speaking to anybody ever again. Steve Jobs deserves a Nobel Prize for that advance in peacemaking alone.

iPods are wonderful devices, more proof that God loves His children. While I, as a twelve year old, was forced to go on Scout campouts and listen to kids tent me and pee in my shoes, my future son will listen to nothing but Rachmaninoff and Debussy while the kids tent him and pee in his shoes.

The best thing about iPods is, of course, the interaction you get to have with iTunes. Never mind the fact that pretty much every other device you own can use magic waves to beam data around, because with the iPod you get to remove it from your car whenever you need a new episode of "Wait Wait, Don't Tent My Unborn Child for Having Such a Nerdy Father", and go plug it into your computer like a sucker (while your beaming android phone laughs at you).

This interaction with iTunes only heightens the excitement of owning an iPod. It's exciting, for instance, to have your computer tell you that your iPod is corrupted every single lousy time you plug it in, and refuse to do anything with it until you unplug it, blow into the connectors like any good Nintendo-trained individual, and reconnect while chanting and prostrate before the image of Steven Jobs.

It's also exciting to use the same search capability my grandparents would find revolutionary. Back in 1920 I'm sure it would have been pretty cool to include a search box wherein exactly six characters are visible, tucked away in the top right hand corner of the interface. Because searching for music isn't, for instance, the main reason you're opening that clunky bit of craptacularness in the first place.

Luckily for the rest of humanity, displays actually designed to give humans emotional pain were mostly abandoned in the early 2000s along with the blink tag and internet sock puppets. Luckily for archeology students, it still exists in iTunes to show you what hell used to be like, or at least what it looked like before spamming your friends with Farmville invites was invented.

I can forgive ugliness if it's functional,1 but the efficiency of using search on iTunes lies somewhere between Outlook Search and using Lycos with your fingers eaten off by piranhas. You get every possible unrelated result in a tight list which occupies approximately .32% of the available screen inside iTunes. This you are allowed to scroll through, with no way of expanding the columns, so you get the default of no characters in each column, which looks something like this:

NameAlbumArtistTimePopularityPrice
I Shot...Burni...Bob M...4:30|||.99

And pray that no two songs in your list are similar enough to be indistinguishable from ye olde invisiview. Include a plea to understand how exactly they calculate that mysterious "Popularity Score".

And if you think searching is fun, just try navigating the web-ish interface of iTunes. Not only are there no bookmarks (good luck finding that page again), no browsing history, no tabs, and basically no way to do anything besides beat your face against the screen until your nose enters your spleen, but every page load takes somewhere around thirteen years.

In its defense, iTunes is conveniently consistent in that every track is always ninety-nine cents, unless it's a track I want to buy, in which case it's always $1.29. But I don't let that bother me, because I'm too worked up over the fact that every single time I try to spend that measly dollar twenty-nine I get slapped with a novel's worth of legalese because they changed the terms and conditions. Heaven forbid they give you a summary of what changed, or maybe not change the epistle of terms every hour. Nope, you get the entire Encyclopedia Stevannica every. single. time. For all I know they could be annexing my rubber ducky collection. And I don't know, because I can't even give it the courtesy scroll-through that every other terms page gets without involuntary twitching.

In short, my mother once designed a more enjoyable experience than iTunes. It's called "finish your broccoli while belted to a kitchen chair before the timer runs out". I highly recommend it to the architect behind iTunes.

And one more thing: iPods are awesome companions in public transit, when you desperately need to imagine yourself in an island in the sun, instead of in a cloud of smelly haze by an armpit. Brilliant.

1. To be clear: I am speaking only of software in this specific case.

Monday, August 23, 2010

an open explanation and apology to katy perry detailing why I cannot possibly accept her forthcoming offer of marriage

Dearest Katy-

Do you mind if I just call you Katy? I feel odd, us being on so familiar of terms and all, referring to you with the traditional epithets; e.g., the glamorous, the über-famous, the completely-out-of-my-leagueish, the cartoonish, etc.

I feel obligated to write this post to explain to you why exactly we would not make a great couple. This may come as a bit of a shock to you, because you actually haven't yet suggested we become a couple, nor have you ever, to my knowledge, stepped foot in the Outer Mongolian Desert Corner of the Internet that this publication inhabits. But, in my infinite foresight, I believe you will, one day, in fact, be led here, and, naturally, fall desperately and head-over-heelsily in love with me, as so many hapless women before you have.1

First off, I must confess that I am only obliquely familiar with your work, beyond my intimate acquaintance (courtesy of every radio station known to man) of the Pox Upon Our Society that is California Gurls. But, having recently read about you in the New York Times, I feel I can say with some certainty that our fragile non-relationship just won't last.

True, we are both stunningly attractive.2 True, we both come from religious backgrounds. True, we are both decent singers (you more than me, of course).

I hesitate to call this off so soon after having visions of us on road trips in our Swagger Wagon with our progeny in the back, as we take turns providing them with renditions of "I Kissed a Girl", or...um...another one of your songs, whatever their titles may be. You would likely be thrilled to be married to a man of my performing ability and talent. Back in the day I was the member of a band that met for three entire rehearsals before dissolving due to lack of interest, social skills, and freedom from jail time.

It would also be tragic to deny you the opportunity to marry someone with the same last name. There would be no awkward conversations about switching names, hyphenating names, or any of that nonsense. We could be Mrs. and Mr. Perry from day one. Of course, I suppose you could hyphenate if you desire, though I, personally, would consider that strangely appropriate as a name for a cereal. Perry-Perry Crunch, for example. Hmmmm. I'll have our lawyers look into trademarking that.

Perhaps best of all, you would be absolutely assured that I would never cheat on you, like other high-profile husbands. As obtaining smoochies has up until now proved a Herculean task, I have no reason to believe that will change after our marriage.

Nevertheless, I foresee a few minor conflicts in our future.

For instance, I imagine the demands of a trophy husband would be tremendous.3 I would have a hard time giving up my current lifestyle, which consists of going to work every day with a group of people who are both more experienced and educated than myself, and pretending to be better than them (I imagine your job is quite similar). Your Scrooge McDuck-ian quantity of wealth would immediately cause me to quit, and possess me to a point where I would not be satisfied with life until I had swum in a vault of gold, or had discovered some sort of magic lamp on a crusade with my three nephews. These sorts of jaunts would be very unbecoming of your beloved, and horrendous fodder for the paparazzi.

The schedule would be made more complicated by my habitual Wednesday and Saturday shaving. You would, of course, wish your husband to maintain a clean-shaven appearance (I can only assume your professed enjoyment out of kissing one of your gender originated in the lack of facial hair), and, should you require my trophy services on a Saturday in, say, Kuala Lumpur, I would need assurances that my schedule would not be interrupted. Though, if helpful, I could possibly switch to a Thursday-Sunday schedule.

Another sticking point of our relationship may be that on Saturdays I walk over to the nearby farmer's market with my re-usable shopping bag. I imagine that any children I father will need a reasonable security detail to prevent them from being pummeled when they pop out their tote bags during lunchtime. You will likely object to this on the grounds that you want our children to lead as normal a life as possible, as your current employment appears to consist of riding gigantic ice cream sundaes while wearing a tutu.

Speaking of your wardrobe, I'm afraid it would be difficult to introduce you to my mother should you insist on your traditional non-attire. Our religious sentiments frown on exhibitionism. And drinkingism. And pretty much every other ism you likely encounter during your reveling raucous rock-star party-ism. We do, however, smile upon marshmallow-and-carrot-shavings-infused orange jello-ism, which, I'm told, has almost as much zing as a good Jägermeister.

For those reasons, I believe it is for the best that we do not marry. I'm sorry. I know how much I mean to you, but you can plainly see that it wouldn't work out. You'll have to console yourself in the arms of some other rich, ridiculously-attractive, washboarded-absian movie star.

Of which you have no shortage.

Much love,

Chris

1. One need only to view my calendar of dates to assure one's self of the lie perpetuated above.
2. Or, to put it how I once did when trying to convince another woman to date me by providing to her a list of (19) reasons why we should, in fact, date, I quote myself directly: "We are both hot".
3. I have to thank my friend Bob for allowing me to use his phrase "trophy husband", which describes him perfectly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

the fifty miler

There comes a time in every little boy's father's life when he realizes that his boy is a sissy. At this point, the father is free to either:

A) Take the boy canoeing down a spring run-off-swollen canyon creek which almost immediately ends in sinking and a desperate swim through tree-ridden rapids,1 or

B) Take the boy on a fifty mile hike through the mountains of Utah, in order to earn a scouting badge for the boy proving the boy went on a fifty mile hike through the mountains of Utah.

Most young fathers will choose B, though I know at least one who did both.

The fifty miler is an important distinction in the life of a young scout, mainly because said badge does absolutely nothing to advance the young man towards the rank of "No Employer Ever Will Care About This So Why Do You Still Put It On Your Resume, Chris?"2 With this in mind, I'd like to publicly apologize to the woman I made fun of for using foursquare in an attempt to win a meaningless badge on one of our recent dates.

When starting a fifty miler, it's of the utmost importance that you purchase the newest hiking boots possible. When you read your scout manual instructing you to wear them to break them in, put them on and meander around the house for a few minutes the weekend before you leave for the trip. Momentarily walking around on soft carpet is roughly equivalent to what the scout book referred to as "two days" of walking. Using this tried-and-tested routine to weather your shoes, you too will have the joy of encountering blisters on mile two.3

Only forty eight to go on raw feet.

This is an enjoyable experience, one whose hilarity is only heightened by the complete uselessness of moleskin. Did someone seriously recommend that for blisters? Like, honestly? Has there ever been a substance more likely to not help with blisters? I would rather wrap my feet in sandpaper than put that sissy white fluff on my feet. Even worse, the stupid scout manual cruelly suggests you create a "donut" of moleskin, bringing into the scout's mind an image of the pleasures of home he is without, while he sits in the dirt and feral poop on the side of the trail, crying for a maple bar and trying to alleviate the pain.

Also, be sure that the boots you get look suspiciously identical to the women's hiking boots sold by the same company. That way, fifteen years later, when you're hiking with your buddy Jameson, he can laugh and laugh over the course of three days (and forty-ish miles) about how you are wearing girl shoes.

In a recklessly-optimistic attempt to provide food for yourself on your journey, be sure to bring along a fishing pole, this even though you hate fish, can't tie a knot of any variety, hate fishing, and couldn't catch a fish to save your life. Lugging this unused pole over miles of wasteland is sure to build that ethereal character you keep hearing about.

Though some of you will have the desire to break down and beg your brother to call in a helicopter to lifeflight you out of the backcountry, I'd urge you to reconsider that drastic of a measure, as it's not going to make you look any more manly to your ex-green-beret and vibrant outdoorsman father. Remember, he used to parachute into, and hike out of, Georgian swamps in the middle of the night with nothing but a compass and an eighty pound backpack. You sir, are carrying a toy backpack filled with oh-so-heavy items like socks and useless moleskin.

In a similar vein, in order to avoid any awkward situations in which you might appear gullible to the extreme, when you are walking over Rocky Sea Pass, and you see a large pile of stones (a "cairn" to the mountain peoples) engraved with the initials RSP, should your father suggest said pile of stones is marking the grave of one Robert Scott Pass, I would highly recommend you take a few moments to analyze the situation with a critical mind, before exclaiming how cool that is, and before going home and telling your mother how you saw a grave site.

For example, how likely is it that one would be buried on top of a ridiculously-painful pass? Also, why would said individual have the last name of Pass? And please, take a few moments to consider the initials engraved, and match them to the name of the location you are traversing. This is just a helpful suggestion.

In summary, fifty milers are delightful experiences, and I highly recommend you take some time to go on one.

1. This is completely autobiographical. I wrote a post on it recently and didn't think it funny enough to put up. Maybe someday more details will emerge. Until then, relish the image of me, my father, and two of my brothers slowly sinking into the river.
2. That is, Eagle.
3. I realize I exaggerate a lot here, but that is no lie.

Monday, August 9, 2010

towel etiquette

I like my roommate. Really. He's a nice guy. He turns down the music when I go to bed, he makes polite conversation at the appropriate times, and he once offered me a single piece of pizza from the two dozen he had crammed in the fridge. I mean, aside from his refusal to recycle, take out the trash, or unload the dishwasher, I'd say he's a pretty grade-A roommate.

Not that I can really fault him for not unloading the dishwasher, as I think every man I've ever known refuses to unload the dishwasher, and I know at least five men (former roommates, curse their souls) who refused to use one.

Granted, he's not the best roommate I've ever had. That honor probably goes to my buddies back in college, who jointly decided to applaud anybody who ever entered the apartment. I tell you, there's nothing like walking into a room full of applauding men. You could have just failed a final, just found out your girlfriend was cheating on the man with whom she was cheating on you, or been forced to backpack a gallon of milk across campus because you don't own a car,1 but walking into a room full of clapping dudes makes you feel like a rock star. A stupid, single, car-less rock star, but a rock star nonetheless.

I've tried re-implementing that policy at work, and it really hasn't caught on. I mostly get hateful stares.

But I digress.

The only thing really problematic about my roommate is he seems to have skipped his Towel Etiquette general ed class at BYU. Now, I took it as an AP course, so my memory is a bit rusty, but I distinctly recall acing the test, mainly because it consists of but two questions:

Is it acceptable to place your towel on top of your roommate's towel?
  • Yes
  • No
  • Anybody answering Yes should be summarily waterboarded

Under what conditions is it appropriate to use your roommate's towel?
  • Any and all conditions; it doesn't matter! It's not like the towel touches and dries every square inch of your body, including those inches that should never been seen nor heard of! That's not gross at all!
  • If it prevents you from being forced to prance and skip around the bathroom to air dry, it's okay to use.
  • Nuclear war could be upon us, the British could be coming, the sum of all human knowledge and culture could be evaporating before us in a gigantic mind-melting supernova, and yet never would there exist a day in which it is appropriate to even brush against, let alone touch, let alone USE your roommate's towel.

Luckily, he got the last question right, but failed the first. But that's okay. I can keep removing my towel from underneath his every. single. day. Not a problem.

No, life has been pretty good around these parts. Why, just the other day I showered and used my towel, folding it up in the same way I always fold it, because, yes, I have serious psychological issues.

My roommate happened to have some friends in town that day. They did their business and left on their merry way. As I returned to the bathroom, there was something strange...something foreign...something wrong. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Until I saw it.

The folds were moved. The tag stuck out. My towel was newly-wetted.

I can't quite describe what happened next, but I found myself hyperventilating on the floor several minutes later.

I don't know in what world it's considered normal to use your host's roommate's towel, especially since, as my other roommate mentioned afterwards, "it's not like there aren't six clean towels under the sink". Alas. This must be something new the young kids have picked up these days.

In related news, I've found Egyptian Cotton burns quite well.

1. I'd like to go back to the former me and suggest I not use my internal frame pack to transport groceries. That really didn't do much for my self image.

high school reunions

This past weekend many of my former peers got together at our high school reunion. As there could be attractive women younger than me reading this, who I'd like to believe I'm somewhere in my early twenties, let's just say that if I used Cockney Rhyming slang, I'd refer to this as the Uncle Ben reunion.1

I make the reference to Cockney Rhyming slang, of course, because if I had gone to the reunion, I would have spent the entire evening telling people how cool I am because I just got back from London, and therefore they can ignore the absence of any other major life success, because I lived in London. So there. Now keep your money-laden husband away from me.

Uncle Ben is also the appropriate imagery for this reunion, as he is the main character on a BYU flick circa 1978. His main contribution to film is his insistence that "I will if you want me to", accompanied by various and sundry creepy metallic bell sounds. He spends most of the film single, disheveled, playing with his nieces and nephews, and leeching off of his married sister. I can think of no more accurate representation of myself.

Which is obviously why I couldn't go. I couldn't give the girl who once answered my request to go on a date with an abrupt, simple, and followed-by-silence, "NO", the satisfaction of seeing me take up my former post standing against the wall, counting down the seconds until I could go get another drink without incurring the risk of wetting myself later on.

I also couldn't go given the venue (an aviary), and its proximity to the headquarters of my sworn enemies (the pooping seagulls). That wouldn't have done much for the disheveled image.

On that note, if I were a lesser man, I'd discuss the choice of venue in more critical terms, but seeing as how I've had a crush on the woman who organized the event since pre-school,2 I'm going to have to let it slide today.

I'm sure those who attended had a magical time. Luckily, given the list of attendees, it appears that about 90% of my friends didn't go. The 10% who did likely left early. That means I could have spent my evening with a group of people who are either too cool or too beautiful to speak to me. If I wanted to go somewhere where I sat in the corner while my social superiors talked and laughed, I would go to High School.

Oh. Wait.

Lest this self-deprecating humor give you the actual impression that I'm hideous (please, I need to save my reputation for those younger chicas), I'll remind you that I was, in fact, technically, Homecoming Royalty, thanks to the ballot-box-stuffing efforts of my kind sister and friends. This meant I got to drive in a car I'll never afford, around a field I'm too skinny to step foot on, next to a girl of such exquisite beauty and poise that I could not utter a single syllable in her presence. That vote alone probably delayed one of my dozen breakups by a few days.

Which is, of course, the other reason I could not attend. I'm fairly certain the only things people remember about me are my attachment to the bass, the fact that I had convinced myself I wasn't pitifully skinny, and regularly wore a skin-tight t-shirt over my stick figure, and the fact that I got broken up with every other week. That in and of itself isn't too embarrassing, but factor in that all of these experiences occurred with one single woman, and it becomes awkward to explain away.3 Granted, one could not blame her, given my fashion choices. So scratch that reason off the list.

So maybe I'll cross the desert and make the twenty year. I've forgotten pretty much everyone's names by now anyways, so it couldn't be that bad. I'll need to figure out some way to magically conjure up some large sum of money over the next decade so I can speak to people, personal insecurities aside. Or maybe just spend more time in London. Or find that old t-shirt. That could do it.4

1. And since there is no way those same women have any desire to date me, let me clearly state Uncle Ben = ten (though I technically just made that one up). You know Cockney Rhyming slang, right? Barney Rubble is trouble? Apples and Pears are stairs? Never mind.
2. Well, had a crush until her marriage, of course. And I'm so not kidding. We were in a carpool in pre-school, and ended up in the same High School. She holds a warm place in my heart as the longest-ever crush with whom I never once spoke. Carpool and all. That's right, two solid decades of crushing and non-speaking. Please don't tell her, as that might precipitate our speaking.
3. Realizing that you might read this someday, let me just state there are no hard feelings (at least on my part; I sure hope that's mutual), and I know, I know, I'm exaggerating. It was probably every other month.
4. I hesitate to be serious, but since this wasn't that funny anyways, I'll just insert that I couldn't help but think of Dan Holladay while reminiscing. He was a good friend.

Monday, August 2, 2010

creationism

One of my earliest memories as a child is attending a Sunday School class where the teacher declared that everything on earth was created by God. As I recall, I immediately objected to this statement, and provided the obvious counterexample of garbage cans.1

I can't quite recall the teacher's response beyond the retort that yes, God did create garbage cans, but I do recall my laughter after her insistence of said fact, and how I considered it absolutely ridiculous to think such things. In my later years, I've come to the realization that, independent of His hand in the creation of garbage cans, God was likely the only thing that saved me from an early death at her annoyed hands.

If I had some time to think about it, I can only assume I'd have been able to come up with a slightly better list of counterexamples; things that not only weren't divinely created, but were obviously spawns of Satan. Things like car horns. Or people who sweat on gym equipment before you and don't wipe it down. Or the entire state of Nevada. Or accordions.

Not that I have anything against accordions per se, solely any noise that they emit. Like the noises that my Hispanic neighbors blast into my open window during Sunday afternoon nap time. I suppose this is partially my fault, as just the other day I verbally declared my support of a more open immigration policy to my cousin, whereupon she accused me of being pro because I didn't have to deal with the consequences. I don't know of any consequences that really bother me beyond my sleep disruption, but I'm willing to reconsider my stance on national policy based on nap time alone.

Accordians aside, I'm afraid I'll have to continue to disagree with the creationists on the garbage can front, but regardless or irregardless of your position on creationism, Spaghettiism, evolution, or immigration, I think there is one eternal truth we can all get behind:

On the eighth day, God created earplugs.

Clearly such an item as the common ear plug could not have evolved from earlier organisms. Half-formed ear plugs, otherwise known as pen caps, are useless, unless they happen to be an ideal shape for removing excess ear wax from one's ears,2 in which case, maybe they did, in fact, evolve.

Earplugs allow you to go on campouts with the rest of humanity, where the rest of humanity is defined by: people who have no clue that nobody can sleep when they are talking and laughing loudly in the next tent. They allow you to sleep when the yappy dog next door wakes up. They allow you to sleep when the yappy dog fights the feral cat, even when said sleep was just interrupted by the initiation of their fight outside your window, leading to a few uncomfortable moments of near-panic and bed-wetting on your part.

With that in mind, I propose a compromise to the Senate: open the immigratory doors, and provide norteño-muting earplugs free to all. I think we'll all be able get along much better at that point. The Hispanics can come do the jobs we don't want, and everyone else can avoid the music that never should have been invented. Everybody wins.

And now, having solved yet another one of this nation's problems, sweet earplugged nap time, with a slight twinge of Los Norteños in the background.

1. Choosing garbage cans, of course, because they were obviously made at some sort of factory somewhere (probably New Jersey or some other filthy slum) by underpaid child laborers. This experience also provides some evidence on the nature side of the argument as to why I am endlessly annoying (as opposed to the nurture that I usually blame).
2. I feel obliged to warn you against using unapproved items to clean wax from your ears, lest you injure yourself, and end up asking your physician father to investigate your "earache", and have him declare, confused as to how exactly something so bizarre could have happened, that it appears "something has scratched your ear". I claimed ignorance at the time, not having the heart to disappoint him by informing him that my abject stupidity was the cause of said blood-letting.