high-minded drivel

high-minded (adjective) - refined; cultured; particularly civilized. drivel (noun) - senseless talk; nonsense.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Powdered wigs are a sign of masculine superiority

Christmas is "over," and now we have one week of work before New Year's Day arrives.  On Friday, Jordan and I will be trekking south to Cincinnati to see the Xavier Musketeers face the Florida Gators in a game of basketball.  I've always appreciated the fact that Ohio State has a unique mascot in Brutus Buckeye, and so Xavier has long appealed to me given its cool mascot name of "Musketeers" combined with the fact that the name "Xavier" is cool in its own right.  It occurred to me tonight that the Xavier Musketeer (the one who dresses up for games) probably has a name, just as Brutus is the name of Ohio State's Buckeye-mascot.  The names Athos and Porthos quickly came to mind as suitable names, but I expected the Xavier athletic department (or whatever body makes these decisions) had gone with something less sophisticated (that is, less cool) like "Musky."  Thus, I was pleasantly surprised upon discovering that the Xavier Musketeer is named D'Artagnan!  Nice choice Xavier.  My approval almost reversed course when I went on to learn that Xavier has a second mascot called The Blue Blob, which appears to be Grover's neckless cousin, but my benevolence was retained as soon as I read the following anecdotal...

Perhaps one of the greatest memories of the Blob occurred when it was tackled by Theo Nelson following his made half-court shot to win one million dollars at the 2001 Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout. Nelson and the Blue Blob were even featured onSportsCenter that evening following the game.

...and saw this picture...

The Blue Blob is not three feet tall, so it's clear that in this picture he's crouching down, which makes it look like he's about to tackle D'Artagnan, which kind of makes it a great picture considering the tackling story above.  

Oh Blue Blob, you always did get the ladies.

But not like D'Artagnan does!

Is it great to be a mascot because all the girls love you, or does it suck because they really just love the mascot costume, not you?  I would have to guess it is more of the former, but at some point it must hurt your self-esteem to think "Hmm, I can't get any girls on my own....but as soon as I put on this costume of a blue blob...!"

Christmas with family in Austintown was great, not to mention quite relaxing.  Despite the pleasant weekend, there was one gift I was hoping for that Santa did not deliver.  That hoped-for-but-not-delivered gift was a new rotator cuff for my right shoulder.  I would have even been happy with a gift card for the local surgeon, but no luck.  My rotator cuff has not been right for years now, probably due to a bench press or shoulder press injury sustained in college that was never allowed to heal.  The reason my rotator cuff is at the forefront of my mind now is because it has started hurting again since I've gotten back into a little weight lifting.

Now, I don't care that much about bench pressing or shoulder pressing these days, and have no problem giving up those two exercises in my weight lifting plan.  But a fully functioning rotator cuff does have some practical value.  Case in point: Last summer I made a trip up to East Lansing to see Eric, and he had kindly arranged for us to go to a local shooting range with a friend to shoot bows.  This would have been all fine and dandy if it was like old-school, Lord of the Flies stick-with-string bows, but we were shooting real compound bows, which can be difficult to pull back.  Between the three of us we were using two bows - one small bow and one big bow.  The big bow was the harder of the two to pull back, and overall more powerful, so of course I wanted to shoot the big bow.  I pulled back on the string for the first time and immediately felt the ol' rotator cuff protesting.  Actually, the protesting was more of a blunt refusal, and so I immediately got the sinking feeling that I was defeated.  I got the string pulled back that first time, but the collateral result was that my second, third, and fourth attempts were all failures, and I was relegated to using the small bow the remainder of the afternoon.  Shame!

If it seems that shooting a compound bow does not have much practical value in my everyday life, then you're missing the point.  The practical value does not lie in the surface act of using the compound bow, but rather in the test of manliness that the compound bow represents.  The injured rotator cuff set up a catch-22 in this situation.  In any test of manliness, you either succeed or fail.  There is no in-between area.  It would have been unacceptable to say "Oh, hey guys, the reason I can't use the big bow is because of my injured rotator cuff."  If I had said that, then I would have been "making excuses."  So although the rotator cuff was the real reason, and there was a desire to share this important piece of information, actually sharing the information becomes a failure just as much as failing to pull back the bow.  You see the dilemma here?  If you don't successfully pull back the big bow, then you fail.  If you share the reason you can't pull back the big bow, then you're making excuses and you fail.  In short, thanks Santa.  This angers me so much that I would put an arrow right into Rudolph in mid-flight, if only I could pull back the string on the compound bow.

One thing that's nice about being at Mom and Dad's in Austintown over Christmas is that Mom always has Christmas music playing.  As a gift, Mom and Dad bought me a Bose Wave Music System, so now Nate and I can enjoy the same musical experience in the comfort of our own home in Columbus!  This is an especially timely gift, because WOSU in Columbus just recently started a new radio station.  Previously, they had one station that played classical music in the middle of the day and NPR in the morning and early evening.  Now they have one station dedicated to NPR and a separate station dedicated just to classical music.  This is a great setup in my opinion, and a positive move by WOSU.  Turns out that donation paid off!  

The classical radio station DJ is a rare breed.  Like all radio hosts, their voices do not match their real-life image, but more than with other radio DJ's you get the feeling that you could outline the life of a classical DJ outside the studio.  It would go something like this:
  • Wake up and drink a cup of coffee
  • Listen to a classical music CD on the way to work (obviously there is no radio until they get into the studio)
  • Pick up Panera for breakfast on the way in
    • (Working...Working...Working...)
  • Order Panera for lunch
    • (Working...Working...Working...)
  • Stop in at Panera for a cup of coffee for the drive home
  • Listen to classical radio on the way home (the evening host has now taken over)
  • Cook a dinner of soup and butternut squash (or perhaps butternut squash soup)
  • Settle down for the evening with a cup of tea and a classical music CD
This is of course an absurd and unfair description of the life of a classical music DJ.  On some evenings they may do something like go to an art gallery, and on weekends they would dine-in at Panera rather than getting it "to go."  Also, this description downplays the significance of the classical music DJ in society.  While a regular person like myself may enjoy the classical music queued up by the classical DJ, others listening to classical music on the radio are influenced in a more important way.  Namely, the classical music serves as a preventative measure against idiots committing car vengeance.  

Car vengeance is a pointless act, because nothing is accomplished.  Don't confuse car vengeance with road rage, because in road rage you actually accomplish something.  With road rage your accomplishment may consist of smashing a window, running into another car, getting in a fight, or any manner of other activities that could land you in jail, but at least you're getting something done.  In car vengeance, you just use your car to "make a point."  The most obvious example is blowing your horn.  Someone cuts you off, you get mad, and you blow your horn.  This accomplishes nothing, other than perhaps annoying the other drivers around you.  What are you expecting to happen when you blow your horn?  Do you want the other driver to stop and apologize?  Do you want everyone to go back to their positions and have a do-over?  No.  If you say "It's a satisfying feeling just to express my displeasure," then I respond by saying "Go stand over there with the people who think it's okay to make excuses when engaging in a test of manliness."

A prime example of car vengeance occurred recently when I was driving through an intersection in Grandview.  There was a stoplight, and it was changing from red to green for the main road.  A car from the secondary road was turning right onto the main road, and they just got through at the tail-end of their yellow light.  The first car in line on the main road saw this happening, so as soon as their light turned green they lurched forward, accelerating quickly to get right up behind the turning car while flipping on their high beams.  I'm not the most skilled lip-reader, but I think the driver may have been shouting "I'm expressing my displeasure!"  Please.  This accomplished nothing.  Nothing!  At best, the driver could have engaged in some legitimate road rage by speeding alongside the turning car and then ramming into the side of the car, trying to force it off the road.  Instead, the vengeful driver opened up the potential for a worst-case scenario in which he accidentally accelerates too quickly and slams into the back of the turning car, thus costing himself money and creating the need for an awkward explanation to the police about why he ran into the back of the car.

The reason car vengeance can be prevented by classical music is because classical music has a calming effect.  Rather than desiring to flash your high beams and speed up to get on the tail of the offending driver, you calmly think to yourself "Hmm, that fellow's in a bit of a hurry, now isn't he?  Mmm, yes, he better have a good Handel on his Viv-Aldi!  Mmm, yes, mmm.  Better take care that he doesn't accidentally Bach into someone!  Oh ho ho, mmm, yes.  Ah well, no sense Strauss-ing out now, is there?  Mmm, no.  Mmmm.  Oh look, Panera!"  

Are you kidding?  I would slash your tires in a heartbeat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas cheer! And rage!

Silver bells are ringing.  If I was rich, it would mean that my dinner was ready.  If I was a cat owned by a rich person, it would mean that my Fancy Feast dinner was ready.  I am neither of these things, so it means that Christmas is here.  Come n' get it.

Indeed, probably the best part about coming up to Mom and Dad's house for the holidays, where I now sit and type this, is the variety of Christmas foods that will be prepared, smelt, and consumed over the coming days.  Those two separate two-hour naps I took on the couch today are a close second, but you can't beat things like ham, taters, and the numerous Christmas breads that are sort of Mom's "thing."  I've always been intrigued by the concept of a Christmas goose, as seen in The Blue Carbuncle of Sherlock Holmes fame, and at some point I'd like to go to market, select a goose, and carry it home.  Something about the concept just makes it impossible to drive the goose home in the car.  It must be carried.  Given that we come to Mom and Dad's house for Christmas rather than staying in Columbus, the mental image becomes a bit different than the traditional scene of someone trundling through the snow on a brick street through town, bundled up against the cold in something that could accurately be referred to as a "muffler."  Mom and Dad's house is separated from the closest grocery store (which would have to substitute for the market) by a couple well-traveled, two-lane, 45mph thoroughfares without sidewalks, so the previously drawn picture is replaced by one of me leaning into the wind, goose slung over shoulder, as cars swerve to miss me moments after their headlights pick me up on the side of the road.  It would totally be worth it for the Christmas goose though.

Something infinitely less appealing is the oft sung about "figgy pudding."  I've never had figgy pudding, but I envision a sloppy mess of runny figs.  That's what the name suggests, right?  This becomes even more gruesome when the sloppy mess is surrounding by a group of rosy-cheeked Brits, delightedly digging in with exclamations of rapture.  What is wrong with people in England?!  Here's the description of figgy pudding, courtesy of Wikipedia:

The history of figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England.  Its possible ancestors include savory puddings such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets.

Crustades?  Sippets?  Potage?  You know that show Man vs. Food?  Well, I've never watched it because the concept kind of disgusts me, but I have to believe that figgy pudding is like food's champion, sitting back and watching while other foods are defeated one by one, then rising with a sneer at the appropriate time, removing its robe to reveal its disgusting figgy body, and summarily incapacitating the human challenger.

Before driving up to Austintown this morning, I performed the requisite check of the car fluids to make sure everything was in order.  I go through this exercise before any trip of greater than two hours duration, mostly out of a sense of obligation.  It's definitely an activity done grudgingly.  The reason I don't like checking the fluids on my car is not because I have a problem with checking the fluids on my car, but rather because the fluid check is sort of a package deal, and the other half of the package is checking the pressure in my tires.  There are few things I hate more in this world than checking my tire pressures, because I am simply incompetent at the task.  I finish checking the oil, the windshield washer fluid, the radiator fluid, etc, and then shut the hood, sigh, and get out the tire pressure gauge.  I go to the first tire, remove the little valve stem cap, position the gauge over the valve stem, and press down.  Immediately there is a hiss as air is released from my tire.  I quickly remove the gauge, reposition it, and press down.  Hisssss.  Frustration mounts, and I figure that I'll "just come back to that tire."  Next tire, same thing, more frustration.  I quickly reach the point of wanting to hurl the tire pressure gauge out into the street, but reason wins out and I conclude that this could only end poorly, most likely by smashing through the window of a fast-moving car, which would lead to an undesired confrontation right there in the Marathon station lot.

I don't know why it is that I'm unable to do this simple task of checking the pressure in my tires.  Something about the gauge and the valve stem (make that all gauges and all valve stems) seems particularly ill-suited to being able to perform their intended function.  The thing is, if there's one thing I hate more than checking the pressure in my tires, it's knowing that I quit on something, so I continue going from tire to tire trying to get an accurate reading.  Eventually I get it right, and there is no annoying hiss coming from the tire as I put the gauge down over the valve stem.  Unfortunately, the reason there is no hiss is because by this time all the air has been let out of the tire and the gauge is reading 0.

The main appeal of carrying home the Christmas goose is that I wouldn't have to drive, which means there would be no reason to check the pressure in my tires.  

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weak tot action

The snow has now arrived in Columbus, with anywhere from 0.5-2 inches being deposited on the ground today, just eyeballing it.  I have to admit that I'm not sure how they calculate the "inches of precipitation" that is reported on the news, and I'm not interested enough to look up the real answer, but my guess would be that they have a little cup to collect precipitation with measurement marks on it.  Seems logical, right?  Thinking of the precipitation-collecting cup takes me back to the days of high school (or perhaps middle school?), when we watched the movie Sarah, Plain and Tall, featuring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken.  I think it was a made-for-TV movie, Hallmark channel-style, based on a book of the same name.  I know for a fact that I saw Sarah, Plain and Tall several times throughout my school days.  In retrospect, it was a rather subdued role for Christopher Walken.  Glenn Close was a good choice to play Sarah, because she had the valuable ability to look either plain or stunning.  As we learned from the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, cameras have the valuable ability to make you look either tall or short, but I don't think they did those kind of camera tricks when Sarah, Plain and Tall was made, and certainly not for a Hallmark movie.  So Glenn must be legitimately tall.

Oh yea, the reason the precipitation cup reminded me of the movie is because Walken plays a farmer named Jacob in the movie, and there's a drought, and there's a traumatic scene where his barn burns to the ground, and Sarah goes back to Maine because of the drought (Jacob had ordered her up after his wife died), but Jacob stays behind, and after weeks of waiting it finally rains, and Jacob has a precipitation cup.  It was a great scene for Walken.  I think the only reason we watched the movie in school, several times, was because the teachers needed to fill some busy-time.

Today marked my first trip to Sonic, the fast food restaurant.  Well, change that - it's actually a fast food establishment.  Jen and I had engaged in a conversation about Sonic for unknown reasons over the weekend, and the conversation concluded with a pact to go to Sonic for the first snowfall to see if the servers would still wear skates in the snow.  I was a bit puzzled by the appeal of Sonic, because it's like a drive-thru, except you stop.  You know, you can get food at any other restaurant and eat in your car.  If you want to eat in your car but not be driving at the same time, then a multitude of parking lots can be found.  But for some reason, eating in your car at Sonic is special.  A couple reasons why this might be the case:

Reason 1: Sonic has food that other places don't, like tater tots and cherry limeade.
Rebuttal: Granted, but they are also more expensive than other fast food, without being of significantly greater quality.

Reason 2: Sonic gives you a mint.
Rebuttal: I did appreciate the mint, but if people can truly be won over with a mint then I have been missing the boat for a long time now.

Reason 3: There is an added novelty because people skate out to your car to serve your food.

Given that Sonic does appeal to people in some way, it's easy to see why they're a successful business.  While all the other fast food places are putting their revenue back into restaurant maintenance, Sonic is putting that revenue into opening new Sonics!  Why spend money on restaurant maintenance when people are perfectly willing to pay for car maintenance made incrementally necessary by idling away for 15 minutes while tater tots are consumed?  Actually, having had the Sonic experience I'm pretty sure that the main attraction is for kids, who might think that having stuff brought to your car and then eating that stuff in the car is awesome.  My new business plan is to take this to the next level by just bringing various ingredients to people's cars and letting them make their own food.

The idea of learning to skate for a job takes me back to my elementary school days, when we watched a Hallmark made-for-TV movie starring Meryl Streep titled Jessica, the Spirit Rolls On.  Just kidding.  It actually reminds me of a school musical we did in 5th grade, for which I was given the part of some loser kid who likes some girl, and the loser kid is supposed to roller skate out onto the set and then fall down, resulting in some interaction with the girl, which leads into a song titled "I Like."  Ahh the days of innocence, when your mind wasn't prompted to think of all manner of ways to finish the phrase "I Like..."  Anyway, I had to learn to roller skate to play the part of some kid who couldn't roller skate, because before I could fall down I had to at least make it out onto the set.  I was specifically instructed to kick the stage when I fell because it would make a loud bang and make the fall seem more real.  I pulled this off to perfection, as evidenced by the exclamations from the audience upon seeing this poor elementary school kid fall down.  I count this among my real successes in life - learning to roller skate enough to make it 10 feet and then falling down on purpose.   

The arrival of bad weather in Columbus means that I'll be taking my car out of the garage even less than usual.  As nice as it is to be able to walk to mostly everything in summer, it's sometimes even nicer to be able to walk in winter, because you don't feel trapped at all when you don't need to drive to get to things.    However, our garage seems to have taken on a mind of its own, opening the door at random intervals without someone using the clicker.  Nate and I think that either the signal receiver connected to the door is malfunctioning in some way or someone else's clicker in the neighborhood has started to signal our door as well as their own.  Either way the problem needs to be fixed, as we've already had one bike stolen from our suddenly open-to-the-alley garage.  We've temporarily taken to unhooking the door from its track so that even if a signal goes to the receiver, it won't raise the door.  The long-term solution will obviously be a series of intricate booby traps to incapacitate any would-be thieves.  Trusting that you won't share the secrets and/or rob our garage, here is the short list of what we have planned: seemingly harmless garden rakes and spades, well-placed oil slicks, rabid wolves, fake blocks in the concrete wall that fall from above, blinding smoke, rabid ferrets, spinning saw blades, spiked logs, rabid deer, and of course, a door that automatically closes to shut in the intruder!  It won't just be a garage, it will be a car-nage.  Mwaha.

Although I trust those reading this blog without question, I have little doubt that word of our plans will get out sooner or later.  Everything is getting out these days.  Wikileaks is the news these days.  Not only is Wikileaks itself a big story, it also provides the big stories for the regular news outlets.  I think it's only a matter of time before Wikileaks blows up though. Either they'll pass bad information and lose credibility, or governments will find a way to shut them down.  The government route could be through some kind of legal means or some undercover means, with the two being equally likely.  You know what I'll bet is in high demand these days from the government?  A Wikiplumber.  I'm really not joking here.  If someone with the right skill set and the right mentality presented themselves to the government and said "I can fix your little problem," don't you think they'd have a good chance of some deposits being made to their bank account?  The Wikiplumber is like a Jason Bourne-type.  The funny thing is that Julian Assange already has a good amount of seediness about him, so he's a ready-made evil mastermind.  Seriously, wouldn't it be hard to have someone play Julian Assange in a movie and be the protagonist?

I was reading up on Julian Assange a bit, and apparently he moves around constantly.  He probably knows that Wikiplumber types are after him, so it's not wise to stay in the same place too long.  When you lead a life like that, you probably don't spend a lot of time out in public.  Sure, Assange makes public appearances, but it's not like he is out in the open all the time.  Showing up on the jumbotron at Lakers games, doing the talk-show circuit, even eating out at high-profile restaurants in public - these are probably somewhat off-limits for him.  You know what would be a good choice for Julian?  Eating at Sonic.  It's the ideal place for him, and perhaps one more reason why Sonic is popular.  You can stop and think like you were at a restaurant, but you can have your food served to you in your car!  This sounds great, but eventually the Wikiplumber would find him, put on a Sonic server's uniform and come skating up to Julian's window.  Unless it was snowing.

I Like fixing all your problems, and Cherry Limeade.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Maintaining an active mind in the off-season

Yesterday brought the conclusion of yet another quarter at Ohio State.  Classes for Fall 2010 are finished, and now only Winter 2011 remains before I shall be a "Master" of Labor & Human Resources, which means I'll get to wear a black belt with my dress pants.  This is a good thing, because the years of wearing a green belt and a purple belt really created a problem of "clashing" with my dress shoes.  This quarter both my Monday night class and Wednesday night class were at Fisher, so the pre-class routine was very consistent from week to week.  Leave work, walk across campus, get frustrated with the bad intersection at Neil and 12th, go to the KSA Cafe in the Knowlton School of Architecture for some chili and a coffee, and then make my way to the classroom.  The walking route never changed due to both time constraints and a psychological inability to take a less efficient route.  The pre-class dinner never changed because there was nowhere else to get coffee in the vicinity, and anything other than the chili was too outrageously overpriced.  I refuse to pay over five dollars for a sandwich!

So what to do now with my free time for the remainder of December?

1. Cooking: The cold weather is here, making this a natural choice to pass the time indoors.  The goal is to build up around 30 pounds of extra padding for insulation against the dropping temperatures.  30 pounds is excessive, you say?  Well tell me this - did your 5-10 extra winter pounds ever keep you that much warmer?  That's what I thought.  Now back off, or I'll sit on you.

Yesterday evening I made Jay's Famous Chili, which is famous house-wide.  If there's one thing that I feel like I make well in the kitchen, it's chili.  Maybe that just means I can't cook, because chili isn't an exact science.  But everyone who has tried it has liked it, so don't knock a good thing, right?  I make it with lean ground turkey rather than beef, so it should appeal to the health-conscious crowd, and I include chili powder, red pepper, and jalapenos, so it should appeal to the spice-craving crowd.  Throw it on top of some cornbread, and WHACK!  Gastrointestinal satisfaction.  The enthusiastic response is verbalized in comments like the one from Nate last night, when he said "Good chili Jay."  Since my chili will steadily grow in fame and popularity, I figured that I'd better get my own signature exclamation for when I have my own cooking show, so I settled on WHACK.  My cooking show will be called Chilling With Jay, and each week in the one-hour segment I'll make a batch of Jay's Famous Chili.  If my speaking tour schedule is tight we'll be able to just re-run the previous week's episode and never miss a beat.

2. Going clubbing: What is the obvious alternative to an evening in class?  An evening out drinking with friends!  Extensive research has shown that the latter of these two is far more useful and beneficial in the long run.  In truth, I won't be going clubbing, primarily because the places I go to can't accurately be described as "clubs."  In fact, I've always been somewhat intrigued by that name.  If I were to go to such an establishment and say to the nice man with the tight black t-shirt and the thick neck at the door "Hello sir, I'm interested in joining the club," would I immediately get punched in the face or would I get a courtesy pass on the suspicion of being legitimately naive?  My guess is the former, unless I could pull off a convincing British accent.  Even a bouncer could laugh off a Brit, right?

The places I frequent would be better described as "dives," so I suppose that means I go diving.  Last weekend at Dick's Den was the perfect example.  The Spikedrivers were in fine form, the drink of choice was relatively inexpensive beer, and nobody had "gotten ready" to "go out."  There was simply no need.  And it was glorious.  Interestingly, the place where I first saw The Spikedrivers was a place on Vine Street called Blues Station, which has since closed.  Blues Station was actually more club than dive, and other than my first time there to see The Spikedrivers, it was never very crowded.  I expect it just didn't achieve the right balance of atmosphere, location, demographics, and all those factors to get a consistently satisfactory product.  In the end, the right kind of club may be what I'm looking for, because Blues Station was along the lines of the sought-after jazz club referenced in my last post, just not the complete package.

3. Coffee shopping: While I haven't found a place that serves alcoholic beverages that feels quite right yet, I have grown more attached to the coffee shop down the street.  Awhile ago I embarked on something I called Operation Regular, where it basically was my intent to become a regular at this coffee shop. Common belief was that Operation Regular had been aborted, but unbeknownst to most (even me!) it had in fact just gone into covert mode and continued a steady course toward completion of its objectives.  While the coffee shop seemed to be searching for an identity for some time, it has now gained a more established feel.  Comfortable in its own skin, if you will.  I gladly give it my business now, and truly hope it lasts in the neighborhood.

However, I have to say that last night was not the best experience there.  There was some guy playing guitar and singing, and it was BY FAR the worst live music I've ever heard.  Sure, not everybody can be The Spikedrivers, but this guy was simply horrific.  What would you say is the key to improving your sound when delivering a vocal performance?  Singing on key/in tune?  Getting a signature sound even if it has a limited range?  Clever lyrics?  Well, this guy's solution was to sing louder, to the point of basically yelling in a coffee shop.  Now, there were people there who clearly liked him, and all of this is just my opinion.  I can say that you suck, but that's just my opinion.  I have to at least give you credit for doing your thing and getting up there to perform.  BUT, the proverbial nail in the proverbial coffin came when he tried to extend his time on stage at the expense of the next performer waiting, and he tried to engage in banter with people who clearly didn't want to listen to him, going so far as to playfully apologize for "getting loud in that last song."  No.  You can suck, just don't suck and then make an ass out of yourself.  There is nothing worse than someone who overestimates their talents and thinks that everyone wants to keep listening to them when they really just need to get off the stage.

Having said that, I've got about five more paragraphs for this post, but I'll try to make it six just to treat you.

4. Reading: A couple weeks ago I finished up the book Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.  The book seeks to answer the question of why certain areas of the world are more developed than others.  It's a basic question, but rather intriguing.  Why are we sending people into space in the United States while people in the South Pacific still hunt animals with spears?  Diamond makes it clear up front that one way shouldn't necessarily be viewed as superior to another, and that it really doesn't have anything to do with innate intellectual abilities of the local population.  But the fact remains that there are significant differences, so why is that?  His conclusion is that it comes down to the ability to mass-produce food, and that ability is the result of a variety of factors, such as the plants and animals indigenous to the area, geographic constraints on the dispersal of information, and other environmental conditions.  The detail of the book gets down to the minute differences in weight of various kinds of seeds.  More "stuff" per seed means more food per plant, which means the area covered by the plant can support more population, which allows greater population growth in the immediate area, which facilitates ideas being shared within one geographic area, which leads to innovations in technology.  Those are the kinds of logical arguments presented in the book.

Mr. Diamond, a professor at UCLA, is a shockingly learned man, and the exhaustive information (exhaustive to me at least) got to be a bit much at times, although it made sense to include all of it in the book.  So now that I'm done with GG & S, I've moved on to some lighter reading, namely A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson.  Who can resist funny stories about hiking the Appalachian Trail?

5. Exercisement: The end of classes for the quarter provides a great opportunity to pick up the intensity and the consistency of running and lifting.  Just last night I finished off the last of my prescription pain pills from three years ago, hoping to stave off the discomfort resulting from running on my toes for a few miles earlier in the evening.  Mmm...chili and pain pills.  I was running on my toes because, much like Operation Regular, Operation Barefoot never actually died off.  The thing is, there was one huge, gaping flaw in my barefooting plans, and that was the fact that it gets cold in Columbus.  Replacing knee pain with frost-bitten toes does not seem like a great trade-off, so the shoes are staying on for now, but I'm consciously avoiding a heel-to-toe motion with each step.  I've finally wised up and I'm taking it slow with the progress, so I'm not attempting to go more than a couple miles running on my toes at first.  My hope is to become accustomed to running on my toes over the winter, and then as it warms up I'll transition to minimalist shoes or true barefooting.

For the time being though, going un-shod is mostly out of the question.  That means no more walks to the coffee shop, to the library, or to the grocery store while getting the skin-on-pavement experience.  This was especially fortunate last night, as I made a late night trek down to Giant Eagle to pick up some drain opener and other sundries.  Every good grocery bagger knows that you don't put things like drain opener in a bag with food items, and the Giant Eagle bagger was no exception.  He asked if I wanted a bag just for the drain opener, and I declined, saying that I could just carry it separate.  I began my walk home, and for some reason I was carrying the drain opener by the cap rather than by the handle.  Now, it had one of those push-down-and-turn caps, so I don't think I was being that dumb, but apparently those caps can be removed without pushing down, because (of course) the bottle suddenly fell away from the cap, landing on the sidewalk and splashing out half of its contents.  A portion of this splashed on my foot, which was covered in a shoe and sock.

I was mostly perturbed about this because the drain opener was my main reason for going to the store, and I didn't want to have to go back.  The directions on the bottle said "Pour half the bottle slowly down the drain," so I figured I was still okay to de-clog my drain, but there was the possibility that my clog fell into the "bad clog" category, for which the bottle's recommendation was to "Pour the whole bottle down the drain."  I continued walking home after picking up the bottle, screwing the cap back on, using bad language, and taking firm grasp of the handle on the bottle.  My primary thought was "This better not be a 'bad clog,'" but then a secondary thought occurred to me as I felt the liquid soaking through my sock: "How corrosive is this stuff?"  It did cross my mind that it would be prudent to remove sock and shoe and proceed home with one bare foot, but it really was quite cold, so I took my chances.

In the end, no harm was done to foot or ankle.  This little piece of inadvertent research led me to the following conclusion: Once it does warm up, there really is no reason not to return to barefooting.  I can liberally splash drain opener on my foot and reasonably expect that there will be no ill results, and the only reason to wear socks and shoes would be to guard your feet against drain opener splashing on them.  Can I get a "Eureka!"?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, after pouring down my half bottle of drain opener I realized that the stopper switch was in the "up" position on the drain.

I think what Archimedes meant to say was "WHACK!"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bonding with family over the holidays

In a few short hours Nate and I will be heading back to Columbus after our annual visit to Austintown to give thanks for the Pilgrims landing safely and settling in Plymouth Colony, directly leading to our ability today to watch television on screens of epic proportions while wearing jeans with purposefully-placed holes in them.  Thank you Pilgrims!  We salute your efforts!  And you too, Squanto!

We probably would have stayed for an extra day up here in A-town, but as many people are aware, tomorrow is Ohio State's annual contest with the University of M*chigan (more popularly known in certain circles as scUM), and it seemed like the right thing to do to be in Columbus.  Needless to say, The Game directly leads to our ability to get totally wasted and use vulgar language of epic proportions, no doubt with Jim Tressel's smiling stamp of approval.  I consider it my personal opportunity to symbolically pummel scUM professor Dave Ulrich, as our boys in Scarlet & Gray (with an "a," always with an "a") run all over the Maize & Shit.  Thank you Jim Tressel!  Thank you college football!  And you too, Squanto!

It would be quite awesome if Jim Tressel actually had a stamp of approval.  Certainly many things come across his desk that need his authorization, so it only makes sense that he would get a stamp rather than signing everything.  A stamp is kind of like a status symbol, because when you get your own stamp you are publicly declaring that you are important, because only important people sign so many things that a stamp is warranted.  But it's a fine line, knowing when to get your own stamp rather than continuing to sign everything.  At times when you see a stamp, you think "Wow, this person is awesome!  They have their own stamp!"  But at other times when you see a stamp you think "Uh, this person has an over-inflated sense of their own importance.  They do not need their own stamp."  A Jim Tressel stamp would be in the "wow awesome" category, clearly.  And obviously his stamp should be the outline of a sweater vest.

Tonight a variety of festivities will take place.  I'm hopeful to go to both Haiku for the consumption of raw fish and Dick's Den for the consumption (via ear) of raw bluegrass.  The thought occurred to me a couple weeks ago that it would be nice to find a good jazz club in Columbus, both for this weekend and any other weekend, but thus far nothing has really stood out.  When you Google-search for jazz places in Columbus, both Haiku and Dick's Den actually make the list, with Dick's Den even being one of the most recommended choices.  However, although I do like both of these places, they aren't really what I have in mind.  I'm thinking of a place where the lights are dim, any conversation is hushed, smoke is in the air, and for the most part the focus is on the music, which includes a drum set, a stand-up bass, maybe a sax, and at least one trumpet.  You know, a jazz club, like the one Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx go to in Collateral.  A place where you don't talk too much, you just chill out and listen to the music.  Execution of the trumpet player because he ratted out Felix would be optional, and probably not recommended, because then you couldn't go back to the jazz club.

Working out at the rec center down the street has been going well.  I'm trying to focus primarily on strengthening my legs and lower back, and to a lesser extent my stomach.  Only one day is really dedicated to upper-body exercises, and I'm doing push-ups rather than bench press.  I find it interesting that whenever people want to hear about how strong you are, they'll ask how much you can bench.  And then when people want to see how strong you are, they'll say "show me your muscles," and you flex your biceps.  Logic check: Bench press does not give you big biceps.  Also, let it be noted that lower body is probably the most important section to focus on, as it gets the most practical use every day.  So what I'm saying is, if someone asks how strong you are, you should really flex your quadriceps for them.  Just warn them before you take off your pants.

While in Austintown for the holiday I obviously couldn't work out at the rec center, so I just used the weight set in Mom and Dad's basement.  They also have an elliptical machine, so I used that for a bit after using the weights.  To watch something while using the elliptical I flipped on the TV with the intent of finding a basketball game, but paused when I came across Goldeneye on another station.  Some movies have excellent repeat watchability, and Goldeneye is one of them.  It's always hard to pass up if you see it.  Goldeneye represented a "new" Bond era with Pierce Brosnan, and became one of the best Bond films ever, although it wasn't based on any of the original books.  Good plot, good balance of action with dialogue, and a good Bond girl in Izabella Scorupco (yow!).  In a typical pattern, the later films went downhill a bit, so it would be nice to see if the Daniel Craig era can actually produce a film that is better than his first, Casino Royale.  Although the dialogue and girl are vital, you've got to start with intriguing plot content.  Here are my suggestions for the next Bond film:

  • Have one good car chase, and maybe one section of the movie on a boat.  Don't overdo it by trying to include a car chase, a boat chase, a plane chase, and a train chase.  The car chase is best because you can have all kinds of twists and turns, while in a plane or boat you're just in wide open space.  However, having part of the movie on the water is good, because it creates interesting opportunities for get-aways while still making you feel like the characters are sort of confined to a limited space (the boat), which adds suspense.
  • Have hand-to-hand combat, and allow each character one "weapon of choice."  The idea here is to create a memorable, creative scene by having Bond and the band guy face off in a test of strength and agility, not just shooting accuracy, but still give them something to fight with rather than just punching each other.  Good weapon options would be some equivalent of a ball-and-chain for the bad guy, and a post-hole digger for Bond.
  • The bad guy should be trying to do something like start a war between two countries, or perhaps disgrace a head of state.  I realize that about five minutes into the film nobody remembers what the bad guy is actually trying to accomplish, just that there is a bad guy and that they're trying to do something bad.  But still, there is more suspense when something is at stake like honor and pride (think of how the Three Musketeers were always trying to protect Queen Anne's dignity from the machinations of the Cardinal).  Nobody really cares if the bad guy is trying to start a financial crisis.  I think people would actually like it if the financial industry collapsed in a movie.
  • Give M an "M" stamp, and have 2-3 scenes of her stamping papers.
  • Have a scene where people blend into the crowd at some event, like a masked ball.  This always works in movies, and makes things more visually interesting than just another warehouse shootout.  Think of The Fugitive, when Harrison Ford blends into the St. Patrick's Day parade.  Great scene, right?  Plus, in a masked ball you'd be adding in color, which helps make the movie better.  In Casino Royale, the poker-playing scenes were more intriguing because of the lavish color in the hotel, the chips and table, etc.  On a side note, it still bothers me that they played poker in the film rather than baccarat.
  • Bond should suffer a significant injury, thus making it necessary for the girl to save him once or rendering him unable to save the girl at some point.  The injury scene should be a memorable scene in the movie, like Bond gets some of his fingers cut off or something.  This should come into play again later in the movie in various ways, like if Bond is trying to pull something through a small opening and he's able to do it because he's missing two fingers.  Then again, maybe the injury needs to be more significant, because then Bond could have some rehabbing scenes.  Everybody likes an underdog/comeback story.  Although if he gets his fingers cut off then you could have the bad guy get his fingers cut off at the very end, too.
  • The bad guy should not be Russian, North Korean, Middle Eastern, or even South American.  He should be from somewhere like Malaysia, or maybe Canada.
  • Have two scenes where Bond needs to visit people to get information or make a deal or something.  These scenes provide opportunities to introduce other interesting characters, add plot elements, and feature other geographic locations.  One of these scenes should be in a jazz club. 
That's about all you could fit into one movie!  Spend time getting the dialogue right, add an appropriately hot and reasonably self-sufficient Bond girl (who is not a secret agent herself), and you're ready to slap a title on it.  My suggestion is something suitably vague yet arousing, like Midnight Revelation.  The title song would be performed by a slightly drunk and consequently scratchy-voiced Michael Buble.  

"So when is this Bond guy showing up?"
"I don't know.  I'm gonna go back to playing my trumpet.  I'm working on a new number called Midnight Revelation."
"Here's a revelation: I am Bond, and I'm here to kill you."
"I thought you were Ethan Hunt?"

Monday, November 15, 2010

The heat is coming around the corner, and it's walking a little white fluffy dog

This weekend marked a return journey to the Pacific Coast to see Divya, thus doubling the number of times I've gone to the West.  It was a good trip, and Orange County was, predictably, sunny and gay.  It's quite a contrast at this time of year, when the cold weather has arrived in Columbus.  Columbus is gay at this time of year too, just in a different sense of the word (it doesn't really change with the seasons).  Orange County has plenty of that kind of gay as well, but I think Columbus probably "wins the battle."  Ha!  Take that Orange County.  You just got out-gayed.

Indeed, Columbus is known as a fairly "gay" city.  We're also known for dining and food, being a sort of testing ground for new dining options.  People in Columbus apparently like eating (I sure do), and so not surprisingly it is easy to find fat people in Columbus.  If you wanted to play a game with a friend where you went out in public to see who could spot more fat people, it would be a high-scoring affair in Columbus.  In Orange County there are very few fat people, unless they're all hiding indoors eating.  Walking around outside, there seriously are no fat people.  And there are lots of people to see outside, because along the coast everyone spends time outside in the sun, going about their merry business.  One of the main reasons why there are no fat people in Orange County is probably the fact that there are no fast food joints at which to get cheap, unhealthy food.  No joke - you have to search hard to find a McDonald's.  They are simply nowhere to be found.  It goes without saying that there are no Burger Kings, Taco Bells, Wendy's, or Arby's either.  Why is this?  Well, while Columbus is known for food, Orange County is known for absurd wealth.  What would a world look like if money was no object?  It would look like a world without McDonald's.

In place of fast food restaurants, you have a lot of small eateries all over the place.  While there may not be a market for McDonald's in the area, I would say that people in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach definitely like to eat out, because the cafes are abundant and well-frequented.  I think that's part of the culture - getting out in the sun, walking around the beach and all the little shops, and eating out at various cafes.  This is like the ideal lifestyle, right?  In Laguna Beach there's a nice spot along the beach where they have some basketball courts and volleyball courts, and a playground and benches and stuff.  Well, on a regular workday you can go there and find a group of 50-something guys, just hanging out in their shorts and flip-flops, shirtless and tanned to the max, shooting hoops and joking around.  It's like being in college, but at a point in life where most people get enthused about having a commute that was 10 minutes less than the usual drive, after a day at work that didn't totally suck.  After shooting hoops the guys would head off to some sidewalk cafe to have a beer.  And at the sidewalk cafe you could likely spot a "housewife" with a lap dog in her lap, tanned to the max, having just come from a nail appointment at the salon, where both the woman and the dog would have gotten their nails done.

It's easy to see why California has energy consumption problems, because driving along the highway at night you see lights for miles and miles around.  When you consider the amount of energy being consumed it really is staggering.  Not to mention that along the highway there is a constant flow of traffic, day and night.  High-speed, high-density traffic.  In the movie Heat, Robert DeNiro takes the female character back to his apartment, and they're looking out at Los Angeles from his balcony, and he says something about how there are little glowing algae or something in Fiji that look the same as California at night, all lit up in the dark.  Now I know what he's talking about, because it really is like this vast landscape of glowing lights.  Flying back over Ohio on the return journey, you didn't get much in the way of lights until you were pretty close to the city.

Whenever I'm flying into a city (or driving past one) I'm always very interested to see the city's skyline.  This can be hard to do from a plane because the airport is often not that close to the downtown.  The reason I'm so intrigued by skylines is because they are cool to look at, for one thing, but more because I've got something like a Napoleon complex when it comes to Columbus.  It irks me greatly that Columbus is listed as "Columbus, OH" on the airport departures listing, and that Columbus, GA is just listed as "Columbus."  C'mon!  We're a big city!  Right?!  Columbus really hasn't "caught on" as a big city, but I think this could all change if we got some more skyline cred.  A skyline is like the signature of the city, and makes you notable.  Unfortunately, I just don't foresee a lot of new skyscrapers going up in Columbus anytime soon.  Columbus has a decent skyline, but it only has a "wow" factor from very select angles, and only at night.  Since we're not likely to get any new skyscrapers, my suggestion is to just gain instant credibility by constructing a pyramid.  And don't tell me Memphis already tried this, because there was no Egyptian slave labor involved.

Despite these insecurities, this trip once again affirmed for me that Columbus is an okay place.  People aren't in a rush here, and the university area has some personality rather than just being a collection of office and classroom buildings on a pristine, bland campus.  I think all the UC-Irvine students are at the beach, and that's cool, but I don't think they have it quite as good as they might believe, because my impression is that there's no concept of campus life in Irvine.  I wouldn't trade my time at Ohio State for time at the beach.  In a similar way, there isn't a single house - a single one - with an unkempt lawn in Corona Del Mar, but I'll gladly take Richard's hodgepodge clutter of holiday decorations down the street from us over a manicured front lawn any day.

Upon reaching the Pacific, I realized that I had left my sunglasses at home.  On the coast, sunglasses are legitimately an important thing to have, because it is sunny there.  Now, the sunglasses I owned were a sport-style, pseudo wrap-around style that were purchased at Lowe's with the intent of actually being work glasses, because they are shatter proof or something.  Anyway, they are fine sunglasses, but I viewed my forgetfulness as a great opportunity to get a "cool" pair of sunglasses, with light frames and a bit more style, perfect for California.  If you haven't guessed by now, everything in my life relates back to the movie Heat, and perhaps my favorite movie character of all time is Vincent Hanna, as played by Al Pacino.  I love everything about the character, from his intensity to his toughness to the way he says "Don't waste my mutha f*ckin' time!!!"  I actually go around saying this in my head constantly, because despite the fact that my background is in HR, I actually loathe people quite a bit.  That is a joke mostly.  ANYWAY, since Hanna/Pacino is my ideal self, I of course based my sunglass purchase on the sunglasses he wears in Heat.  There is one scene in particular, where Hanna is driving along, sees his step-daughter (played by Natalie Portman) sitting on a bench at the side of the road, and pulls the car around to talk to her.  Hanna loves his step-daughter very much, as she is like the only truly good thing in his life, and so she has his full attention when he pulls up.  She tells him that her dad never picked her up, and that she just wanted to be alone for awhile, and despite the fact that Hanna/Pacino is wearing sunglasses, the sunglasses are slightly transparent, so you can see the intensity in his eyes!  You can see it! That's what I was looking for when I made my sunglass purchase in a Chevron station in Irvine for $8.99 - something that would block UV rays but allow people to see the intensity in my eyes!


Monday, November 8, 2010

What is your profession?

The anticipation for this weekend was that it would be split about 50-35-15 between house work, school work, and real work, in that order.  However, it ended up being more like a 95-5-0 breakdown, as Nate and I pretty much put in two 8-hour days of drywalling this weekend, and then I spent about 30 minutes doing school work tonight.  Well, I guess that makes it more like a 97-3-0 split, but you don't really care, and neither do I, and it even sounds better to say 95-5-0, so let's stay with that.  This different-than-expected apportionment of time was actually a good thing, because we made significant progress toward completing the upstairs, and the long-term value of the homework was/is minimal.

With the drywall, we were affixing 1/4-inch sheets to existing plaster and lath rather than to visible studs, so we used a combination of Liquid Nails (aka glue) and screws.  The screws were mostly for the purpose of bringing the drywall up tight against the existing wall, and not so much for "hanging" it.  At times using the screws was frustrating, as they would not always catch very well on the underlying materials, but overall it went well.  At one point Nate slipped with his screwdriver and rammed the bit right into his fingernail, which both splattered some blood on the drywall and elicited Nate's version of a string of expletives, which was "Grrr."  Not to get too graphic here, but the blood splatter was actually kind of artistic in the way it had a downward sloping droplet appearance.  Think of the movie 300, and the way that the title "300" has a blood splatter look on all the posters.  Actually, don't think, just look here:

It was like the splatter going up from the 3, only it was downward sloping, as I said.  ANYWAY, the point is that it was artsy, and it's a darn shame that it will get painted over eventually.  However, it did get me thinking about art.  You see, Nate and I have a couple works currently in development.  They are two leftover pieces of drywall that we've used as a surface to put paint cans and paint stirring sticks on, as well as to test some colors on.  The effect that these various shapes and colors has produced is rather pleasing to the eye, if you're sophisticated, and so we fully intend to use the pieces of drywall as art in the house when all is said and done.  Framing them is likely.  When you think about it, what makes someone appreciate and enjoy a particular piece of art in a gallery?  For most people, it's just the colors and patterns.  So it seems totally reasonable that these pieces of drywall can serve as artwork in our house.  People will say "Hmm, that's an interesting piece of art."  And we'll say "Yes, it is."  And they'll say "What is it?"  And we'll say "Latex on drywall."  Requests may follow, which will prompt appropriate pricing ($400 to start).  The connection to blood is simply that I've never seen a piece of art in a gallery that has a card next to it saying "Acrylic with human blood."  I find this surprising.  Surely some artist has consciously incorporated this medium into their work, right?

The homework tonight was a continuation of a previous assignment in which we had to create a value proposition for a particular organization.  The company I chose to use for this assignment was my favorite, Aldi.  I love pretty much everything about Aldi.  I interviewed with Aldi during my senior year in college, made it to the Final Four, but then got rejected (or to put it more gently, "Someone else was chosen").  I say the "Final Four" because they literally started with a large group at an informational meeting, invited some number to interviews, and eventually ended up bringing four candidates for on-site interviews and a tour around their operations.  Even though they didn't play the signature CBS Sports "Road to the Final Four" theme when we arrived for the on-site interview, I think that working for Aldi is still my dream job.  The operation is genius.  Ever wonder how they move customers through so quickly with such limited staff?  Well, there are a variety of reasons, but one reason (and probably it's one of the more important reasons) is that their products have bar codes all over them, so there's no need for the cashier to waste time trying to slide the item over the scanner at just the right angle for it to register.  Aldi has taken this so far that they even print the bar codes on their products in such a way that they're like designs on the packaging, so you don't even notice.

My favorite story about Aldi (not that I have that many) comes from my first round of interviewing after the informational session I mentioned above.  I know I've written about this before in one, if not two of my previous blogs, but a good story is worth repeating, or at least that's the perspective I'll take in lieu of saying that I'm like an old man who keeps repeating the same story to people who have already heard it and/or admitting that I don't have any new content for a blog post.  The interview process began in February, and during February in my college days I would participate in Facial Hair February.  During Facial Hair February, guys would (not surprisingly) grow some form of facial hair, preferably a beard.  The real heroes would not shave for the entire month.  So I had my beard going, and I go into this interview with Aldi.  Things go well with the questions and answers, but then at the end the guy interviewing me says "What if I told you that you had to shave your beard?"  I replied "Then I would shave it.  This is just for Facial Hair February."  And he said "Okay.  I was just wondering, because we have a policy that the only facial hair allowed is a neatly trimmed mustache."  At this point I could have very easily be eliminated in the Sweet 16 and never made it to the Final Four, because the obvious temptation at this juncture was to burst into hysterical laughter.  But I maintained my composure and just said "Oh, okay."  Again, I know I'm repeating this story, but I have yet to get over this.  The neatly trimmed mustache: Most frequently seen on the 1950's business man, wearing a fedora and a pin-stripe suit, going home to his wife, who is wearing an apron while bent over the oven, just getting dinner out for her bread-winning husband and two blond children, one boy and one girl.  The woman is happy, because her husband is a winner.  She knew as much when she first saw him, and saw that he had a neatly trimmed mustache.  "Now there's a man who will go far in the business world," she thought.  And so did the man's superiors at work, who smoke cigarettes in the board room and also have neatly trimmed mustaches.

I want to reiterate that I love Aldi and it is my dream to one day work for that fine company, and this policy is actually just one more reason why I want to work there.  In HR, we learn all about discrimination and reasonable accommodations and bona-fide occupational qualifications, and how to deal with these issues appropriately in the hiring process, and it totally kills me that Aldi considers it a qualification of the job to have no more than a neatly trimmed mustache.  They cannot - nay, will not accommodate a beard.

The only other news from the weekend is that we celebrated Daylight Savings Time by falling back one hour.  Festivities included balloons, streamers, a bonfire, slaughtering the fatted calf, and sleeping in for an extra hour.  I was extra glad for the extra hour this year, because I had taken some Flexeril earlier in the day, which made me drowsy.  I know, I know - some people pop Flexeril four at a time and have no problem working through the day, but I'm unable to do this.  As much as I'd like to be like some wild man requiring at least three tranquilizers to even slow me down while fleeing from the police, the fact of the matter is that I haven't built up my tolerance to such substances.  This is a good thing, right?  The reason for "indulging" in a Flexeril over the weekend was because my return to running has caused some serious muscle stiffness and pain, as well as further aggravating some back pain, which was caused by some dead lifts earlier in the week.  And the only reason the dead lifts caused back pain is because I can't use truly good form on dead lifts, because my stupid legs are so tight to begin with!  The most accurate way to describe my hamstrings and achilles tendons is to say that they are "ludicrously tight."  Seriously, when I went for some PT a few years ago (for back pain!), the therapists were trying to stretch out my hamstrings, and they were like "Oh my goodness!  This is ridiculous!"  My tight muscles = my bane.  You only have so much time to invest in various activities, and if I was really going to invest the time to get my hamstrings and other muscles stretched out each day, then I'd probably have to give up things like eating, sleeping, and most other daily activities.  There needs to be a society or something for people with tight hamstrings, where we can bitch and moan to each other, and do our pathetic stretches together, and pop Flexeril.  Either that or there needs to be advances in medical science so that hamstring replacement becomes an available operation, like knee replacements.  That would be awesome - to just "unhook" the original hamstring and replace it with a nice, stretchy one.  Raising funds (and awareness, of course) for hamstring replacement research will have to be one of the main goals for the Society.

Back in my day, we called them "calisthenics."  Also, there were no blogs, so we didn't have every jackass with a gripe voicing their complaints to the world.  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Focusing on the real issues

This morning it's my lower latissimus dorsi that are aching a bit.  As I've continued getting back into the habit of working out, one muscle group at a time has taken its turn getting sore, which is actually a good thing (both that they are getting sore and that they're doing it one at a time).  First it was the biceps and quadriceps, then it was the semitendinosus and pectoralis, then the triceps, and now the latissimus dorsi.  If you've known them for a long time and have been accepted as part of their in-group, you would know them as bi's, quads, hams, pecs, tri's, and lats.  I'm most familiar with lats, having gone to high school with him.  Blogger is apparently not familiar with semitendinosus and pectoralis, because it doesn't recognize either.  Occasionally a friend named traps will show up, but the others tend to keep him at arm's length, not feeling as though he can be entirely trusted, as suggested by his name.

The exercise that prompted my lower lats to hurt is what I refer to as "side bends."  Basically, you hold a weight in one hand at your side, bend to that side, and then return to a full upright position.  Then repeat 9-11 times.  "Side bends" therefore seems like a very appropriate description of the exercise.  Probably if I said "side bends" to somebody, they could make a reasonable guess at which exercise I was referring to.  It would be less likely that someone would know what I was talking about if I referred to another one of my regular exercises by the name I have for it, which is "LL Cool J's."  I have searched in vain for a video of the Conan O'Brien episode that explains this.

Election day is Tuesday, so yesterday I made an attempt to educate myself on the candidates.  This attempt was rather unsuccessful.  If you go to each candidate's actual website, everything looks good.  Whether it be a candidate for the President of the United State or a candidate for the County Soil Monitoring Board (oddly, that was the first made-up thing to come to mind), it's clear that the candidate will in fact save the world from evil and usher in a new day of peace and prosperity for all.  Since you don't get much useful information from each candidate's personal website, where should you turn?  The media?  See my last post for the answer to that question.  To the blogosphere?  Maybe, if you can find a good site.  In lieu of all of these, I've found myself going to Wikipedia.  However, even Wikipedia isn't a whole lot of help.  Therefore, in a move that would make most real politicians throw up their hands in disgust, I resort to throwing up my hands in disgust and voting for the candidate with the least negative advertising, with some weight given to which party is currently in power.

My reasoning for the latter portion of this "decision-making rubric" is that neither party's philosophy is completely right or completely wrong.  That's why we even have a debate in the first place - because there are strong arguments for both sides.  The effects of policy decisions don't come to fruition during the tenure of the person in power, but only after years have passed and things have worked their way through the system. And to actually implement policy decisions to any extent, an office-holder needs to continue in office, probably for more than one term, and have the support of other office-holders around him or her.  When voting, giving weight to the party currently in power is essentially like trying to give the party some chance to implement their ideas rather than being cut short without any progress ever being made.  There is an obvious argument to be made that this voting approach would result in the same party always being in power, but that's not entirely true.  At some point you will have had a chance to see if the party's ideas are working out, and if they aren't then you can vote in the opposing party.

What I've outlined here is, in a word, failproof.

In addition to semitendinosus and pectoralis, Blogger does not recognize the word "failproof."

When it comes to voting, Nate prefers to take the route of the absentee ballot.  This really is the more proactive approach, as it guards against not getting a chance to make it to the polls on Election Day.  Nate would claim that his reason for voting absentee is laziness, but clearly if you're requesting that a ballot be sent to you, then you place some importance on the matter.  My preference is to go to the polls in person.  It feels good to wake up early, walk down the block, and be first in line to cast my vote, even if my vote is just driven by the previously outlined "failproof strategy."  It's like one of those things that feels better if you engage in the traditional activity with no short-cuts, like reading a hard-copy book rather than reading online.  Or (horror) calling someone on a good old land-line phone rather than instant-messaging them.  Or making cake from scratch rather than using a box mix.  Or using a bar of soap rather than shower gel.  Is anybody feeling me on this?  You can rock the vote however you want, but you can rock hardest if you actually go to the concert.

I am exceedingly proud of myself for coming up with that last line.

Of course, getting to the polls early requires some efficiencies in the morning routine.  This is fairly simple for me, as my morning routine is already six-sigma, TQM, Honda/Toyota-tested and certified.

Step 1: Arise.

Step 2: Shower.  Although I commented on the appeal of bar soap above, I do use shower gel, as it allows you to combine two steps (shampoo and soap) into one.  I used to get the combo shower gel that said "Hair and Body Wash" on the bottle (my emphasis added), but now I'll just use any shower gel, even if it isn't supposed to serve as shampoo.  This lack of insistence on a product specifically designated for hair is driven by a book from my childhood titled Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain.  Ida Early is this hill-jack lady who comes to nanny these kids who have lost their mom, and she's really cool and teaches them how to do all kinds of things, like lasso pigs.  Anyway, at some point in the book she's getting a shower and she asks the kids to toss her something to clean her hair with, and for some reason all they have is dish detergent.  Ida is like "That's fine, it's all the same stuff anyway." I believe Ida was correct, and have adopted her approach.

Step 3: Dress.  This is very simple, as the only real decision is about which tie to wear, and that decision has been made the night before.  Everything else is on a regular rotation.  Once a shirt is worn, it moves to the back of the line.  Same for underwear.  Every item gets its turn, every item is treated the same.  It's like clothing communism.

Step 4: Eat breakfast.  This is done standing up at the kitchen counter.  You eat faster, and it burns more calories than sitting.

Step 5: Tie tie.  This isn't included in step 3 above because, although not noted, I do brush my teeth after eating breakfast, and I don't want to have my tie in the way while leaning over the sink.  This last step of putting on my tie can be the difference between getting out the door at 7:00 and making the bus or getting out the door at 7:02 and missing the bus.  It wouldn't be an issue but for the fact that I still use the crutch of a mirror to tie my tie.  If I learned to tie my tie without the help of a mirror then I could always just do it while on the bus.  But to my shame, I've neglected to master the art of putting on a tie un-assisted by a mirror.  It's not that putting on the tie is that hard, it's just that all ties are slightly different in terms of length and thickness, making each tying experience unique.  The mirror alleviates this issue by letting you more accurately "size up" the tie.  Doing it on the bus while sitting down can easily result in the "short tie," which was popular in the 30's and 40's, but not so much now.

If a candidate ran on the platform of bringing back the short tie, they would undoubtedly have my support, regardless of who was in power.

To be first in line at the polls, simply lather, rinse, and don't repeat.