Thursday, December 23, 2010


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


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:

How much is the platypus like the following animals?

Other (please specify)

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.