high-minded drivel

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fievel should have taken his sunglasses

Tonight's post will be the only one for about two weeks, as this weekend I'll be departing for the West along with Divya to spend a week of vacation road tripping across the country, and then likely spending most of the following week trying madly to get caught up at work.  The silver lining is that there should be much to write about by the time there is a free moment to post again.  I suppose I could take Mac the Laptop along for the trip, but he's not much of a hiker.  No legs, you know.  He's also white as can be, so he'd probably get badly sunburned.

We plan to camp at one of the National Parks, so this evening I had my tent out in the backyard, attempting to waterproof the seams.  I'm not sure how effective my waterproofing job will turn out to be (hopefully we won't have reason to find out) because the product I was using was kind of difficult to apply.  It's called SeamSure, and all the popular kids are using it.  It comes in a little squeeze bottle with an applicator brush at the top.  Seems simple, but the liquid just kind of dripped out away from the brush bristles.  Maybe you have to go really, really slow to apply it correctly.  Thing is, I'm just not that patient, especially when I'm getting eaten alive by the apparent infestation of biting insects in our backyard.  I expect that you are supposed to apply it more slowly and carefully than I applied it, but I also expect that it isn't an exact science.  Given my description of the product, you may be thinking that SeamSure is some second-rate cheap-skate waterproofer, but I got it at The Outdoor Source, where all the popular kids shop, so I don't think so.  If there does end up being a downpour, and my SeamSure-sealed seams do fail, then at least we can just jump in the car and sleep there for the night.  We're not backpacking, just camping, so we'll have the luxury of Hotel Camry close at hand if the need arises.

The final destination for the trip is Irvine, California, where Divya will be starting post-doctoral research at UC-Irvine.  Having never been to California, I'm interested to see what it is like.  Irvine is in Orange County, made famous by the fact that the County is literally the color orange.  They say that the orange tinge to the land is the direct result of the tremendous quantities of orange creamsicles that have been consumed in the County.  It's quite warm there, so they melt and drip on the ground.  The warmth also is what causes such a large consumption of creamsicles.  Needless to say, I am totally psyched about getting an orange creamsicle upon reaching Orange County.

When you're going on a road trip, and especially when you're traveling out West, there are a few things you want to make sure that you've packed.  First, a pillow.  This is not for purposes of sleeping in the tent, but rather for purposes of sleeping in the car.  Some may play it extra cautious and only sleep while pulled over, or while occupying the passenger seat, but it's actually been proven in repeated tests that you can cross the entire state of Kansas by simply tying a brick to the gas pedal, reclining your seat, shutting your eyes, and letting the car go.  There are no turns, so you don't need to steer, and there are no stop lights, so you don't need to stop.  There is a slight possibility that you will slam into the back of another vehicle that either can't go as fast as you or has a lighter brick tied to their gas pedal, but this is considered an acceptable risk when considering the alternative of actually watching the state of Kansas go by.  Most people reason that you're going to fall asleep trying to drive through Kansas anyway, so you may as well recline your seat and be farther away from the steering wheel at the moment of impact, if it comes to that.

The second essential item to pack is a handy book of donkey names.  Out west you can do fun activities like riding donkeys down into canyons, and tour guides encourage visitors to name their donkey before setting out.  Women typically pick names like Bessy or Tulip, while men typically pick names like Charger or Meanstreak.  The tour guides make sure that the implied gender of the name matches the actual gender of the donkey, but it wouldn't really matter anyway because the donkey doesn't listen to you calling it by your chosen nickname.  It's too busy trying to navigate down a steep canyon wall without pitching you off so that you don't break your fool neck.  The concentration of the donkeys on their path is remarkable, but it results in them not paying attention to other things, like when and where they shit.  Fortunately, the rider doesn't notice any difference, because they've already shitted themselves many times over thinking that they're going to get pitched off Tulip and break their fool neck.

The third and final essential item to pack is a pair of sunglasses.  Sunglasses are immensely useful.  Whether driving or hiking, sunglasses can be used for the purpose of shielding the eyes from the sun.  However, their usefulness extends to a variety of other settings.  Feel like stopping for a night in Las Vegas?  Sure!  You're all set to keep your shifty eyes hidden at the poker tables.  Want to mingle with the stars and starlets in L.A.?  Go for it!  You'll fit right in wearing sunglasses!  Want to barter with the local Native American tribe in Arizona?  Well, everybody wants a pair of useful sunglasses!  What a great bargaining chip!  These are all great reasons to take a pair of sunglasses on your trip out West.  But the number one reason to keep your shades on you at all times is this: You'll be able to cover up the black eye you received from a friend punching you after you inform them that you half-assed the waterproofing job on the tent and it looks like you're going to have to sleep in the car, because that rain is just pouring in.

From my vast knowledge of how to plan for and execute a successful trip out West, you may be led to believe that I've done this before.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I've never been west of Arkansas, so this trip will mostly cover new territory for me.  As a result, we'll probably be relying on GPS a bit.  The standard voice on GPS devices is a calm woman's voice, for reasons that have been researched and tested I'm sure, but I've heard that you can also get your GPS to speak in a Darth Vader voice, which sounds like it would never be not funny.  This option got me thinking about other GPS products that could potentially be marketed...

Scenic GPS: This is a pretty straightforward idea, but may be one of the harder ones to program.  The GPS doesn't take you on the shortest route to your destination, but rather on a route that is considered scenic.  Want to make the most of your trip but don't know where the best spots are for sight-seeing?  No problem.  Just plug in Scenic GPS and you have your own built-in tour guide.

Storytelling GPS: Perfect for the long drive.  It's like a book on CD, but you avoid any annoying overlap between the story you're trying to hear and the directions being delivered by your GPS.  The GPS voice tells a story, and only politely interjects a direction when necessary.  "As Mark and Velma walked along the busy city street, they came across a piece of pottery lying on the sidewalk.  Just turn left up here, thanks.  Stooping to pick up the object, Mark glanced sideways at Velma to see if she recognized it."  See how it works?  Doesn't miss a beat.

Sarcastic GPS: This one is for the person seeking to be amused on their drive.  Instead of simply saying "Turn right in 3 miles," this GPS would say something like "You know what you should do?  Turn left in 3 miles.  That would be awesome.  That would clearly be the right decision to make.  Great driving.  Oh sure sure, take your time, no rush, I've got all day."  Dennis Leary's voice would be well-suited for this.

Puzzle GPS: For the driver who wants a challenge.  Puzzle GPS exercises your brain by making you figure out clues to tell you where you should go.  You're driving along the highway, and you know you'll need to exit at some point, but all you know is that your exit is somehow connected with the 19th President of the United States.  Kind of like a crossword, GPS-style.

Kansas GPS: Kansas GPS gives no direction whatsoever, but it does play soothing sounds of water lapping on a beach to help you rest easy.

Football season has started, but that's not why I have this picture of Troy Polamalu here.  It just happened that this picture came up when I searched for "donkey wearing sunglasses eating creamsicle" on Google Images.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Various forms of aggression

Tonight's blog post is coming from the couch rather than the coffee shop.  Sunday Night Baseball with Joe Morgan is on, Twins vs. Angels.  Don't really know whether these two teams are doing well this season.  I do know that the Angels are sometimes called the Halos, which is funny.  The Twins, to my knowledge, do not have a cool nickname, but it would be awesome if they had a pair of real twins playing for them.  You see twins in the NBA, but not so much in baseball it seems.  This is likely connected to the old basketball adage "You can't teach height."  That is, height usually provides an immediate advantage in basketball, so it is more likely that you would find twins who are both tall and therefore effective on the basketball court than it would be to find twins who both happen to be great at baseball.  The same would hold true for the sport of thumb wrestling.

Today I played in my first ever soccer game, which was quite enjoyable.  I have no skill whatsoever, but I can run pretty well, and occasionally get in the way of the right people.  I found that I play soccer like I play basketball, which isn't a huge surprise given my basketball background.  You know, constantly going offense to defense rather than maintaining one position.  Running all over the field rather than staying in one area.  Dunking.

Despite my newfound enthusiasm for a "natural" approach to physical activity (namely, barefooting), I found that shin guards are a good piece of equipment to have, even if not necessary.  I didn't suffer some terrible shin injury to come to this conclusion.  Rather, it was by avoiding shin injury that I came to this conclusion.  You see, being without shin guards initially, I tended to shy away from all the kicking and battling for the ball.  Because I didn't want to get kicked in the shins.  That would hurt.  But after getting some shin guards, courtesy of Courtney, I had no hesitation going after the ball.  Shin guards are so useful that I may wear them to work tomorrow under my dress pants.  Someone forgot to close the bottom drawer on the filing cabinet?  No problem.  I've got my shin guards on.  I can walk around with abandon!  If someone did want to take the "natural" approach to soccer and not wear shin guards, I suppose the equivalent to walking around in your bare feet to get them toughened up for barefoot running would be something like this.

As a quick aside, this guy could take some lessons.  Doesn't he know that you kick the tree down?  At 0:50 I actually thought he was going to lose the fight.

I'm about halfway through the first phase of the transition to barefoot running.  Per some of the advice I read online, I'm taking it slow, so for the first three months I'm just walking barefoot as much as possible.  People don't give questioning looks as much as you would expect, although thus far my barefoot walks have pretty much been on campus or on side streets while wearing my backpack.  One lady I passed did have a questioning look when I passed her yesterday, and I think it was because I was carrying groceries rather than my backpack.  When you're walking along with a plastic bag of goods on one side and a case of Sapporo under the other arm, it starts to become more clear that you aren't just on a one-time jaunt to let your feet air out.  You've made a lifestyle choice.

Another lifestyle choice I've made is to carry my above-mentioned backpack to work in lieu of a briefcase or "shoulder bag," even though those are the more standard carrying devices for workers in dress shirts and ties.  Perhaps this gives the impression that I'm trying to be "alternative," or not professional, but it's just pure logic.  Carrying things in a backpack is a good way to carry things.  Isn't that what nature teaches us?  Where do many animals carry their young?  On their back!  Not hanging on one side, creating balance issues and slapping against their leg with every step.  There have been numerous mornings walking to work when I've rehearsed my arguments for wearing my backpack, just hoping for somebody to make a critical comment.  Before they knew it, they would be engaged in a heated debate, and they would lose.  This is probably the best way to go to work in the morning - looking for confrontation.  This rebellious-but-logical mindset has not yet extended to other idiotic elements of the professional office environment, like ties.  Ties are really, truly, nothing more than peacock feathers.  In fact, my annoyance over this issue prompted me to look for a tie that had a picture of a peacock, just so I could wear it and make a statement.

To clarify, the intended statement would not be "I have such poor fashion sense that I actually purchased this peacock tie thinking that it would help me attract a mate."

My barefoot walk home from the grocery store was following a trip to the store to pick up ingredients to make pizza.  The banana pepper plant that Nate and I put in the backyard is crazy, producing so many banana peppers that we're at the point of trying to come up with creative ideas to use them (hence the pizza).  The plant is on the verge of being out of control.  We actually had to add a support stake this week because the plant fell over from the weight of all the banana peppers on it.  We planted a tomato plant and a green pepper plant at the same time as the banana pepper plant, and for the first month or so it looked like the tomato plant would clearly be the dominant producer.  It had daily measurable growth, and before long was over seven feet tall.  It is one of those plants that is supposed to produce tomatoes after 60 days.  It has sort of lived up to that promise (I had the 60th day marked on my calendar) in that has a good number of tomatoes on it now, but they are all still green.  I guess the promise to "produce tomatoes in 60 days" becomes a matter of interpretation.  Should the tomatoes be edible in 60 days, or just visible on the plant?  Anyway, the point is that the tomato plant talked the talk, but the banana pepper plant walked the walk.  It was like one of those races between ketchup, mustard, and relish that they show on the jumbo-tron at baseball games.  The ketchup starts out real fast, and gets a big lead, but then the mustard comes back, jockeys for position, and finally passes the ketchup for the win.  In this illustration the green pepper plant would be the relish.

To be fair to the tomato plant, I should note the possibility that I sabotaged its growth by pruning it.  I said that the banana pepper plant is on the verge of being out of control, but the tomato plant truly was out of control.  It was growing all over the place and getting bigger and bigger, and one time I saw a bunny get too close, allowing the tomato plant to suck it in and consume it.  This was the last straw, and so I cut off a significant portion of the growth, removed the bunny carcass, and issued the tomato plant a yellow card.  It is my understanding that this is actually supposed to help the tomato plant in its intended purpose (producing tomatoes) by allowing nutrients to be focused on budding tomatoes rather than on extraneous growing tendrils.  But my gardening knowledge is limited, so maybe I didn't cut the right places, or maybe I cut too much.  Just as Fitzy admits in retrospect that he and the rest of Costello's gang were too harsh with Captain Queenan, I acknowledge that I may have been too harsh with the tomato plant.

I want someone to challenge me on this.  Just once.  I'll kick them right in the shins.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Using technology for good and evil

Sitting here once again at a local establishment where coffee is served, tapping away on McLaptop.  That's not intended to be some kind of cheap reference to McDonald's, like I'm adding "Mc" to the word "laptop" in the same way you add "Mc" to things like chicken nuggets to indicate that the nuggets are from McDonald's.  My laptop is actually Irish.  It usually goes by the common Irish nickname "Mac."

Before heading to the coffee shop this evening I set out my shirt and tie for tomorrow, because I like to have things ready in advance and such.  The selection for tomorrow was a brown shirt and primarily black tie.  I've been told that I shouldn't wear shades of brown because my skin is too pale.  I say the shirt is just too brown.  Here's something that puzzles me: Why is it considered more professional to wear a long-sleeve shirt and roll up your sleeves and less professional to just wear a short-sleeve shirt?  Not only that, but I think girls generally think the rolled-up sleeves look better, although that may just be due to the fact that it's associated with being more professional.  This doesn't really make sense.  Why are rolled up sleeves considered professional-looking?  Is it because the phrase "roll up your sleeves" is associated with getting down to business and putting in a good effort, and getting down to business and putting in a good effort is considered a professional approach?  If so, then look at the guy in the short-sleeve shirt!  He came to work with his forearms already exposed!!!  Talk about getting down to business!

On Tuesday I'm probably going to be wearing a dark blue shirt and yellowish tie.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "Folly!"  Or perhaps even "Heathen!"  Yes, I realize that dark blue and yellow is dangerously close to Michigan colors.  It's probably even worse when I wear a yellow shirt (a shade that has also been communicated to me as a no-no) and navy tie.  But just know this.  In the same way that people can be comfortable with their sexuality, I'm very comfortable with my Buckeyeness.  It's all Scarlet & Gray on the inside.  The critical looks and sideways glances don't bother me.

One day last week I was walking home from work wearing the yellow shirt and navy tie combo when I heard an attention-getting whistle from a nearby porch.  Looking up, I saw a somewhat hostile-looking man sitting on the porch.  But rather than spouting some line like "What are you?  Some kind of Wol-ver-ine?" he queried "Are you a Mormom?"  A bit surprised, I responded "Uh...no, I'm not."  And so the guy said "Oh....okay then."  I think he was actually a bit surprised himself.  Having foregone a conversation with this gentleman about the legitimacy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I cannot speak to his knowledge of the Mormon faith.  However, I think I can at least comment on his Mormom-detection skills and say that they are suspect at best.  Last I checked Mormons aren't walking around in yellow shirts and navy patterned ties.  By themselves.

Now that I think of it, who has more of a reputation for hard work and effort than the Mormons?  And what do Mormons wear while going door-to-door?  SHORT-SLEEVE SHIRTS!  IN YO' FACE!

Last Thursday, Courtney, Jen, Sayak and I went to see Wicked downtown at the fabulous Ohio Theatre. I had seen Wicked once before, and was therefore acquainted with the music, which is quite excellent.  I like it.  However, for the past two days it was stuck in my head, and as much as I am inspired by the message of certain songs in the musical, after awhile I desired to be subject to gravity once again.  It's like too much of a good thing.  You're sort of tired of the music, but you can't stop yourself from listening to it again.  I tried to break the habit by switching it up with a different musical, like CATS, but to no avail.  Finally, while working out this evening I put Pandora on an OAR station and that did the trick.  But the thing is, Pandora considers Dave Matthews similar to OAR.  Now, I really do like Dave Matthews.  His stuff is great.  But on Pandora, they treat Dave Matthews, The Dave Matthews Band, and Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds as three distinct acts.  And as the listener you're thinking "Why are two out of every three songs Dave Matthews?"  Whenever I get frustrated with Pandora for reasons like this, I switch over to YouTube.  I'm not cool, so I don't have an iPod, which means that I do my music listening through either Pandora or YouTube.  This can be a good thing at times, because rather than just hearing one version of a favorite song, you see the links for other versions, particularly live versions, which can be truly kick-ass or classic if you get the right one.  However, this can also be dangerous, because you may find that a song you like hearing has a really, really weird video, and suddenly you just don't like the song quite as much anymore because of the association.  That's just how it goes when you're rolling the dice on YouTube.

Watching music and surfing the web have pretty much been my only activities thus far on this nice laptop I purchased from Nate, but that is all going to change now.  As of today, Mac is equipped with Microsoft Office 2008, so now it has various colorful stylized letters sitting there on the "dock," ready to be deployed.  WXPE.  Yes, you are now asking yourself the same question that came to my mind just a moment ago: Is there a radio station out there somewhere?  In case you aren't familiar with the standard Office "suite," the letters stand for the following:

W - Word
X - Excel
P - Powerpoint
E - Entourage

As far as I know, Entourage is the newcomer to the group.  I was always familiar with Access being included, but it seems that "A" has now been replaced by the new purple stylized letter on the block, "E."  Don't really know what Entourage is supposed to do.  It would be easy to make a guess if it had a truly descriptive name, like Word, or Excel......well, okay, not Excel.....but something like Powerpoint.....well, not Powerpoint either.....crap.  The point is, for all its gusto and "Hey look at me, I'm on your dock!" attitude, Entourage hasn't done anything for me yet.  Give me a call when you've produced some results, okay?

I purchased Office for Mac so that I could perform fabulous functions like opening and editing Word documents from home.  I wasted no time before utilizing this feature, updating (and saving!) my resume to Mac.  This was done in conjunction with completing my personal Career Marketing Plan, which was a pdf file, and therefore did not require the newly acquired Office technology.  The Career Marketing Plan is a tool offered by the business school that is actually quite useful, especially if you have the right personality type.  It prompts you to think about questions like "What is my personal brand?" and come up with a personal Positioning Statement, thus setting you on the path to riches beyond your wildest dreams, and a corner office to store your riches in.  My personal brand that I came up with looked something like this:

Jonathan Jay Parry: Indescribable.  Bold.  A decision-maker.  Wears three different colognes per day, four on weekends, when he comes into the office.  Smart, but not too smart, you know what I mean?  Pushes through immense physical pain to get the job done.  Hire him, he'll work your boss out of his job, but probably keep you around.

And here's the Positioning Statement:

I'm a 26-year old with lots of good experience and background, trust me.  A tragic knee injury cut short my bid for the Majors, but don't hire me out of pity.  Hire me for all the right reasons.  Like my do-or-die attitude.  I'm still alive, so I must have "done" thus far, right?  Looking for a high-paying VP-level position.  The geographic location doesn't matter, except not Florida.  The humidity messes with my designer suits.  Holler.

I'm gonna blast this out to the Fortune 50 here in a minute and then wait by the phone for the calls.

Yes, I can defy gravity.  But more importantly, I am proficient in the full range of Microsoft Office products.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fun with light

It's been a fairly enjoyable weekend thus far.  Today involved a quick trip down to Goodale Park to see The Spikedrivers perform as part of the music in the parks series, and last night was well spent going to Haiku for sushi with Sayak, Amanda, and George, followed by the Gallery Hop with others.  Good times in Columbus.  Amanda and George were visiting from Virginia Tech, and I found with them, as with other visitors, that I had this odd feeling of personal investment in making sure they came away with a good impression of Columbus.  It goes beyond trying to be a good host (especially since Sayak was their host, not me) and enters into this pseudo-tour guide mode of trying to demonstrate that their are worthwhile things to do in the city.  I want people to come away thinking "Columbus is great!"  Not entirely sure why.  I just have pride for my city.  So don't litter, okay?

Anyway, upon seeing Sayak last night I returned his camera to him.  He had lent the camera to me so I could get some practice taking pictures and subsequently make a more informed decision when purchasing a camera, if it comes about that I do in fact purchase a camera for myself.  My reason for considering buying a camera is so that I can augment my blog by doing things like inserting pictures in the middle of posts, like this....

...rather than always waiting to the end and then plugging in some picture found via Google Images.  You know, more of a personal touch, being able to highlight the things I'm talking about (such as The Spikedrivers, or Haiku, or littering) with corresponding photos.

It was in this context that Sayak generously lent me his camera.  Not surprisingly, I still haven't quite made up my mind, but I did take some photos and thought it would be worthwhile to post the better ones.  Here are some of my favorites:

You see how nice it is to be able to do that, posting the fruits of your very own photographic efforts?  It adds so much richness to the post.  You can then take the post content to the "next level" by enhancing the photos with dramatic, thought-provoking captions:


This is, of course, a joke.  These photos are terrible.  The real "good stuff" is below.  I started out trying to do shots demonstrating interesting perspectives, like this...

...but immediately became disoriented to the point of vomiting violently for a steady hour.  This is, of course, a joke.  It's just that taking photos demonstrating an interesting perspective sometimes means you have to make an effort to get into the right position, contorting your body to achieve the desired angle, and let's face it, I'm just not up for that kind of work.  In lieu of perspective shots, the focus of my art became various series of photos, with each series playing on one theme.  Without further ado...

Series 1: Close-ups

In Close-ups I sought to play off of the interesting juxtaposition of three distinct objects: pins, a hat, and a banana.  The pins start the series with a delicate elegance of form, while at the same time highlighting the need for companionship.  There are two pins, not one, and the elegance of the picture is enhanced by the duality that is present.  This gives way to the rawer, darker image of the hat.  Not only this, but as the close-up focuses on the Ohio State logo and the Nike swoosh, the hat seems to serve only as a vehicle for blatant commercialism.  Not to be oppressed forever, the soul returns to basic sustenance, found in the pleasing yellow tones of the banana.  We are reminded of the earlier pins by the same red background, but also more subtly by the reflection of the object off that same red background, bringing to mind the reflective nature of many objects we encounter in day-to-day life.

Series 2: Fitness

Fitness was no less than a labor of love.  At times playful, at times serious, it crosses boundaries in a grand expression of freedom.  The beginning shot of the stability ball sets up the potential for movement while restraining from a full-blown anthem of locomotion.  The shoes in the background provide a gentle preview for this expected summit though, and walk the careful boundary between providing needed texture and overpowering the image of the ball.  The wheel in the second photo moves further down the path of the intent to move from a theoretical point A to point B, and can be seen to represent an evolution of character from the ball.  Finally, evolution blossoms into the form of the shoes, fully intent on ambulation.  The seasoned viewer will note the underlying meaning present in the shoes, as they are "wheels" for the feet, harkening back to the wheel in the prior photo while at the same time being so much more.

Series 3: The Room

The Room is the most peaceful of the four series.  Light is used in all three photos to varying degrees.  We begin close in on the bronze fireplace border, then move back to contemplate the bamboo shade on the window, and finally move even further back to look into the closet.  Looking into the closet should clearly prompt the viewer to ponder the last time they looked into their soul, and indeed the shadow of the artist present in the photo indicates the existence of such thoughts of the "I" in the subject matter.  Not only that, but the room itself becomes a metaphor for the person (in this case the artist), being where they live, and making up the solid substance of order and reality.

Series 4: Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf is the only series of photos that features the same object in each of the three photos of the series.  This causes a more in-depth look at the subject, and being thus familiarized with it allows the viewer to close their eyes, look inside, and let the sound take them away.  Magical?  Perhaps, but more importantly, well-woven.

I'd like to conclude by offering some thanks.  First to Sayak, for lending his camera to me.  Second, to Sayak's camera, for working.  Third, to my red desk, which served as the backdrop for so many of these photos.  Fourth, to classic rock bands, for inspiration.  Fifth, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for the skyhook.  Sixth, to the children of the world.  And finally, seventh, to whole wheat tortillas, for their versatility.

Forgot to thank one other very important person: Randall Cunningham Tackling Buddy, circa 1991.  Randall served as my "on-the-spot" critic to help guide my artistic endeavors.  Randall is actually an inanimate stuffed toy from my childhood, utterly incapable of speech.  It explains so much.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Closing the deal

This evening Sayak, Courtney and I went out in the Short North for dinner and settled on The Burgundy Room after checking at Marcellas and being informed that there would be a wait.  The Burgundy Room was pretty good (it was a first visit for all of us), and perhaps even better than Marcellas.  Interesting how there is such a difference in the popularity between two places that both serve tapas dishes and wine in the Short North.  I think it must be the dining room of Marcellas that gives it a great appeal, being open to the street in the warm months, with the sidewalk-front windows removed.  Interesting touch.  Anyway, none of this is important.  What is important is that there was a hit man sitting in the parking lot where we parked the car.  Well, I can't say with certainty that it was a hit man, because it could have been a disgruntled employee or husband waiting to mow down his boss/wife upon their departure from one of the local restaurants.  What is certain is that the man was there for the purpose of delivering the vengeance of the Lord.  The signs were obvious:

1. He was sitting in his SUV when we first parked, and he was sitting there when we came back for the car two hours later.
2. He was wearing a white shirt and tie.
3. He was pretending to read a newspaper.
4. He was mustachioed.
5. He was sitting in his SUV when we first parked, and he was sitting there when we came back for the car two hours later.
6. He was strangely alert.
7. He was cleverly disguising his purpose by displaying a "livery vehicle" license plate on his SUV.

That's no less than seven (7) rock-solid reasons to confidently, fairly, and justly, with all due process, label the man as a killer.  Now, if you're like me you're thinking "What's a livery vehicle?"  Good question, inquiring citizen.  Causes you pause, does it not?  Well, upon reaching home I consulted the WWW and found that livery, in the case of a vehicle, refers to some insignia on the vehicle indicating a relationship with a corporate body.  UPS is cited as a company with a well-known livery on their vehicles (the signature brown color).  Clever, clever hit/disgruntled man.  Well played sir.  Disguising your vehicle as a livery vehicle.  For those who are familiar with the term "livery," the thought is "Hmm, a livery vehicle.  I'm very educated, knowing the term livery.  I have too much on my mind to worry about this man."  For the rest of us, the thought is "Hmm, what does livery mean?  Better go consult the internet to check myself before confronting this man who seems to be on a first name basis with the Grim Reaper."  But by the time you get home to check, it's too late, and you can only identify this clear sign of the killer in a seven-item list retrospectively.

The Grim Reaper's business card:

Grim Reaper, PhD, JD, CPA
Death Consultant
P.O. Box 241
River Styx Township, Hades 00000
Email: grimreaper62@gmail.com
AIM: grimmy05

Over 2500 years going strong in the reapin' business
"I get the job done right guaranteed, or your life back

You can bet that grimreaper1@gmail.com through grimreaper61@gmail.com regretted their "imaginative" choices.

While I don't support the life decisions of the livery driver hit man, I can respect his tactics.  I respect the kind of psychological trickery games he is using mostly because I consistently fall prey to them.  Perfect example: Earlier in the week I got a call from WOSU.  Now, for each of the past few years I've made a small donation to WOSU.  I enjoyed listening to WOSU on the radio in my car, so I was happy to provide support.  But this year, as I've continued to drive less and less, I felt that I didn't really utilize WOSU's services anymore, so I decided not to make a donation.  WOSU clearly noticed this, and being smart people they know that there's no better target for a donation than someone who has given previously and already demonstrated some willingness.  So the call comes, they ask a few questions about what I like about WOSU, and then they "assume the close."  You learn in negotiations classes that this is one tactic used to get what you want.  Something like "Okay Mr. Parry, we thank you for your continued support of WOSU.  I've got you down here for a $25 donation, and I can get that processed for you right away if you want to just go ahead and give me your information."  The caller is acting like your donation is a done deal, so the pressure is now on you to make the uncomfortable statement that no, you don't want to donate and continue to support this great cause, you cheap-ass you.  To avoid this discomfort, you might seek an "out" by saying something like "I really would prefer not to do any transaction over the phone.  You can mail me something if you'd like," thinking "Whew, I'm off the hook.  That mail is getting thrown out, no doubt."  But you see, at that point they've made you express that you would be willing to donate as long as it's through the mail.  And if you don't follow through and donate via mail, then you're being inconsistent.  This creates "cognitive dissonance" if you're like me and have weird stances on things like integrity.  The key is to acknowledge the fact that they're playing tricks on you and to therefore A) not feel guilty about not sending a donation or B) just tell them straight up that you aren't going to donate and not care if they act hurt.  They called you, so they took the chance.  Tough luck.

The letter came in the mail today.  My donation should be going back out in the mail in the next couple days.  

I've noticed that Nate is really good about this kind of thing.  He holds firm and doesn't give in.  Not only that, but he's really nice about it, which I'm sure is maddening for the person asking.  If there's one thing Nate does not do, it's throw away his money.  This fact caused some amusement earlier in the week when Nate made the following statement: "A guy is going to show up between 6 and 7 with a helmet, and if it fits, I'm going to buy it."  Now, I understand the reason for informing me that some guy would be showing up, and the reason for informing me of the nature of the visit (to sell a helmet), but was it necessary to inform me that a purchase would only be made if the helmet fit?  Probably not.  That's naturally assumed.  But in my case it's not!  I probably would buy the helmet, just because I would feel bad about the guy driving to the house and not getting anything for it!  OH MY GOD I AM A TURD!

This would never happen with Nate.  Upon hearing his announcement about the helmet-toting visitor, I developed this mental image of Nate responding to a knock at the door, opening the door, wordlessly taking a helmet offered by some guy, making three rapid-fire attempts to jam it onto his head without success, then handing the helmet back while saying "Sorry" and shutting the door without another word.  Transaction over.  That must be how these internet-facilitated meet-ups work, right?  Two people connect online, arrange a meeting place, one person brings the goods, one person brings the cash.  Maybe an exchange gets made.  Maybe not.  No wasted words.  No hurt feelings.  Pure, raw business.  Beaver pelts and beads style.  Your pelts don't fit, you ain't gettin' no beads.

I supported great programming like Car Talk and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me at the $75 level.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A walk in the woods

The weekend camping trip in Michigan turned out to be a smashing success, complete with a real campsite, real hiking, a real campfire, and real mosquitoes.  Essentially, all the essentials.  Of course, not being a group of people bound by the chains of tradition, or the handcuffs of standards, or the bungee cords of common practice, Sayak, Divya, Rakhi, Eric and I gave the weekend our own unique flavor.  Although we did make sure there were s'mores.

The flavor I refer to was mostly that of Brooklyn Bagels, a discovery we chanced upon during our few days' stay in Muskegon, Michigan.  Brooklyn Bagels is my new favorite bagel shop, and if that's really how they make bagels in Brooklyn, then Brooklyn is my new favorite place.  Let me be the first to say, "Holy crap."  You know how they have Cinnamon Crunch and Asiago Cheese and other "special" (boring) flavors in Panera?  Well, Brooklyn Bagels is like "Hey Panera, suck on this!"  Actually, that is far too crude and vulgar.  What Brooklyn Bagels actually says is something like "We'll see your four to five special (boring) flavors and raise you, oh, let's say 20 other flavors."  Flavors like Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Spinach Parmesan.  Brooklyn Bagels: It's breathtaking.  I suggest you try it.

I'm glad we chanced upon Brooklyn Bagels up in Muskegon, because we started out the weekend with a flavor extravaganza that was far too "ganza" and not nearly enough "extrava."  Since Divya, Sayak and I got up to Michigan fairly late on Friday night, we just camped out (ha!) at Rakhi's apartment, where we decided to play some cards and drink some wine.  Of the three bottles we chose, some idiot (...) picked out 3 Blind Moose Cabernet Sauvignon.  I defend this choice by stating that I tried another 3 Blind Moose wine before, and it was pretty good.  Anyway, the Cab-Sav was watery, to say the least.  Eric called the 3 Blind Moose feedback line noted on the back of the bottle, but was forced to leave a voicemail.  If he actually gets a call back from 3 Blind Moose, it will be both unexpected and the impetus for at least one post (perhaps a series?) in which I call multiple customer service feedback lines for consumer products to see what it's like to engage in casual chatting with the people who work in these types of jobs.  Please note that Eric's call was not some kind of cheap drunk-dial, because the 3 Blind Moose was the first bottle we opened, and the watery consistency was noticeable right from the start.  I can't say with confidence that my call to the Chewy Chips Ahoy hotline a bit later in the night was quite as clear-headed.

Rakhi has an extremely cute kitten named Pochi, which I believe is Hindi for something like "Little Shit."  That may be totally wrong, but I'm going to translate it that way.  Pochi enjoys playing with a paper grocery bag from Meijer, pouncing on feet that move, chasing laser pointers, and climbing screen doors Spiderman-style (0:22).  Oh, and setting off heinous allergic reactions in yours truly.  I've never had problems with pets before, or any bad allergies for that matter, but Pochi just about did me in.  I started sneezing a bit while engaging in the above-mentioned card game and didn't think anything of it, and when I woke up in the morning with a burning throat and chest I thought it might have been due to Rakhi's delicious spicy Indian food.  But when my eyes starting itching and watering and I started needing to blow my nose every five minutes, I figured that something else was at play.  Geez.  Future visits to Rakhi's apartment may involve goggles and a respirator.

Adorable, cuddly death.

Finding an open campsite at Muskegon was a clear sign that it was destined to be a great weekend.  All the campsites were supposedly reserved when we checked online earlier, so upon arriving and inquiring and finding that there was one left just for us, a distinct vibe of "luck is on our side and/or the Force is with us" ran through the group.  We wasted no time setting up the tent, obtaining some Grade A Emerald Ash Borer-Ridden firewood, and running to the grocery store to obtain various sundries fit for a night under the stars.  Hot dogs, marshmallows, chips, Absolut - all the goodies.  On a rather unimportant but still somewhat intriguing note, the three varieties of chips that were purchased included the following: Doritos (Nacho Cheese), Sun Chips (Original), and Lays (Wavy).  Now, your internal alarm system, if well calibrated to truly insignificant things, should be going off like crazy after reading that last sentence.  Clearly "wavy" is not a flavor.  Well, "original" isn't really a flavor either, at least in the descriptive sense, but bear with me.  When and why did "wavy" ever become a distinct chip option? Why do people prefer wavy chips to regular chips?  This is a complete mystery to me, and yet I readily admit that I much prefer wavy chips to regular chips.  They just taste so much better!  I would say that this is a cheap yet clever marketing scheme, like the Miller Lite Vortex bottle, but wavy chips have endured!  They have endured!  Why is this?!  Quick! Mother Internet!  Come to my aid!


Research findings: Wavy chips are sturdier, allowing for better dipping.

That is all.


And they taste so much better!!!

Before settling down to the late evening campfire, we did a little bit of relaxation and hiking along the shore of Lake Michigan, which is surprisingly nice at Muskegon.  Nice sand, lots of boats to watch, etc.  After enjoying the water and finding (and then quickly retreating from the smell of) a dead catfish that had washed up, we found a trail and headed into the woods.  Buying some bug spray at the store turned out to be a wise decision because the trail we chose led to The Lost Lake (aka standing water), where mosquitoes abounded.  The Lost Lake wasn't exactly spectacular (it's quite understandable that nobody would want to find it), but the hike through the woods was pleasant.

Just another quick tangent, if you will.  In the store, the bug spray was situated right next to other bug-related products, such as Raid.  Now, it probably makes sense for these products to be together, but isn't it easy to envision a scenario in which some person goes to the store to buy bug spray because they've heard that they'll need it for a hike, and upon seeing the 8 ounce bottle of Off and the 18 ounce bottle of Raid thinks "I better get the big size?"  (The person has, for whatever reason, not been exposed to bugs much in life).  Maybe this is totally crazy and would never happen, but I just have this mental image of a person spraying their legs and arms up and down, getting a fine sheen of Raid all over.

Raid: Now with SPF 40.  Guaranteed to keep the bugs off your burning flesh.

After the hiking we got a nice fire going and settled in for the usual deep, philosophical campfire questions.  You know, the big questions of life that everyone gets contemplative about while gazing into the glowing embers.  Questions like "If you could have one characteristic to describe you in life, what would it be?"  Or "What does our continued focus on physical attractiveness say about the true evolution of our society?"  Or "Is marshmallow on Doritos Nacho Cheese chips a good or bad combination?"

Answer: The flavor of toasted marshmallow overwhelms anything and you don't even taste the second flavor.

To bring the weekend to a close the next day we did a bit more hiking and then headed home.  The only other point to mention from the weekend excursion is that the elected position of Drain Commissioner is a HUGE deal in Muskegon.  Repeat: HUGE.  We saw signs for no less than four candidates vying for this enviable post.  The position of Drain Commissioner came to our attention because there were signs all over the place for the various candidates.  In raising the topic just a few sentences ago in this post, I thought I was merely making a fuss over something that really isn't significant, as is my habit.  But then I found this:

Muskegon Drain Commissioner

Where can you find a job that pays $74,000 per year, doesn't require any education or experience, includes health benefits and a car to top it all off? Right here in Muskegon County, as the Muskegon Drain Commissioner!
Every four years, the public gets to vote for who should be the next Drain Commissioner for Muskegon County. Anyone can submit their name as a candidate and when election time comes, your name will appear on the ballot. If you are lucky, your name may be the one voters choose to fill the drain commissioner job.
As a bonus, you're allowed to choose your deputy drain commissioner and pay them $33,000 yearly, anyone you like but ideally, someone that can help you get the job done.
Perhaps you feel that you don't have the qualifications? None required! If you take a look at the candidates for this years election, you'll see they are from all walks of life and some have no experience at all; for candidate info and job description see Muskegon County Drain Commissioner.
So what are you waiting for? Make sure to get your name on the ballot for the next election and you just may be the next Drain Commissioner!
Want to apply for the position, visit Muskegon County Clerk's Office. Because the previous Drain Commissioner was removed from office having served only two years, this election is for the remaining two years. If you didn't get your name on the ballot this time, you only have to wait 2 years to try again, at which time the term will be for 4 years totaling more than $300,000 in salary and benefits!

I copied the text rather than just providing a link in case the content of the website changed in the future. Turns out there is a reason we saw so many signs for Drain Commissioner, and we only saw the tip of the iceberg.  Seems the position is especially newsworthy this year because of the scandal surrounding the most recent Drain Commissioner.  You could say that his career is really going down the drain.  But I guess that's what you get when you drain the confidence of the public.  Right?  Don't you agree?  Oh c'mon, you know that any candidate who throws out some of those lines in a debate is going to get the crowd behind him and have a leg up on the competition.  You simply can't worry about humor potentially "watering down" your candidacy.  You just have to "take the plunge" and go for it.  If you win, you could even groom your successor for when your term is up and create a "pipeline" of talent for the office.  What?  For a moment I was even thinking about running for the office myself, but I was able to successfully chase down my friends before they left me behind back in Muskegon.

(roll credits)

This post starring, in no particular order:



Rakhi and Eric

The next Drain Commissioner of Muskegon.  It's all about the water.

Timothy the seagull

Carl the seagull

Roberto the seagull with no face (he runs into things a lot)

Le' Stench

Phillipe the mushroom

Log 1 and Log 2 (fire stunts performed by Log 3 and Log 4)

The Lost Lake.  Let us never speak of it again.

A suitably thought-provoking picture to end this utterly ridiculous post.