high-minded drivel

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

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.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

We don't need no Human Resources

Nate and I are sitting here both using our laptops in the living room.  I was listening to O.A.R. radio on Pandora (yes, again) when sounds started coming from Nate's computer at a volume that drowned out my music.  Giving him an annoyed look, I said "Unless that's a trailer for The Hobbit, this is inexcusable."  Well, it wasn't a trailer for The Hobbit, but my anger faded as Nate informed that it was (quote) "a trailer for an adaptation of Moby Dick that looks so bad I'm not even sure it's real."  My first thought was that some new Moby Dick movie was being made in which Moby Dick wasn't even a whale, or something crazy like that.  Nate indicated that Moby Dick was indeed still a whale, keeping that element of the story is intact, but that (quote) "it looks like Moby Dick is being chased by the captain of a submarine with nukes."  Oh Ahab, you old swashbuckler!  Did you go and get yourself some nuclear fucking weapons?

I need these kind of light-hearted moments tonight, because tomorrow night I'll be knee-deep in some real, heavy, got-something-to-prove HR bullshit, and I will no doubt want to slit my wrists.  It will be the start of the second half of a class I have this quarter.  The first half was great, as we discussed extremely relevant employment law like the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.  I'm expecting the second half to be completely different.  To give you a taste, our assigned book for the quarter is titled The HR Value Proposition.  For our first class (of the second half of the quarter), we were told to read chapter 1.  By page 10 - page 10 - I had already been presented with 6 implications of the HR value premise, 5 elements of the HR value proposition, and 14 criteria for HR with a value focus!  Oh....my.....god.  The book is written by the foremost HR guru, David Ulrich, of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  Now, Ulrich is probably a really nice guy, and probably a really interesting guy, and obviously a really smart guy, and many other positive adjectives, but the man has made a name for himself by turning out these books that are stocked with these lists upon lists upon lists of do's and don't's (how do you make "don't" plural?) and the key strategies and the core elements and the fundamental principles and on and on.  I mean, c'mon!  And I'm a list guy!  I'm just not into those kinds lists.  Because you know what?  If you go around trying to remember the 6 ways to do this, and the 7 ways to do that, and the 12 things you should always remember, you will be incapable of real action.  You spend all your time looking at your list and never do anything right in the end.  The successful professionals and successful businesses aren't successful because they've constantly checked themselves against some list.  They're successful because they do the things on the list (which they don't have) naturally.

I feel like I should be in one of those Dr. Pepper "doctor" commercials, except my tag line here is "Trust me, I'm a list guy."


(Btw, if you clicked on the University of Michigan link above, you got a glimpse of the very type of classroom in Fisher I'll be sitting in tomorrow.  And no, the guy singing off-key is not me)

Perhaps I'm feeling a little extra passionate about this don't-try-to-fill-my-brain-with-your-corporate-approved-jargon perspective because last Friday Sayak and I went to see Roger Waters perform The Wall.  It's the 30th anniversary of the album, so Waters is doing a tour around North America, and one of his stops was in Columbus.  Here are just a few thoughts and impressions from the experience:

  • The best performance of the night, in my opinion, was Comfortably Numb.  The guitar solo was incredible, and among the whole set this was the one song that made me think "I wish all my friends were here to listen to this right now, it's so good."  The performance of Mother was also pretty cool, as Waters played live accompanied by a video of him as a younger man playing the song.
  • In addition to the two songs noted above, it was an interesting experience to hear many classic rock songs that I'd heard hundreds of times before, and to hear them played by the artist who wrote them.  It was like getting hearing the song for the first time after years of just the recordings.  This may sound like a "duh" statement, but I'm not sure how else to say it.  For example, most people are familiar with Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2), having sung along with it on the radio in any number of contexts.  But to all of a sudden be there hearing it live makes you stop and say "Wow!  This is the real thing!"
  • As the first half of the show progresses, a giant wall is constructed between the band and the audience, with the final "brick in the wall" being put into a place as the first half concludes.  Then, as the second half begins, the band starts with Hey You, which contains the line "Hey you, out there beyond the wall."  The effect is really cool here, as the band is literally singing to the audience beyond the wall.  It would be interesting to see the band on the other side of the wall, because even though they're performing for a live audience, nobody can see them at that point.  Is the band just standing there like they would in a recording studio?  Do they do anything different? Do they sit down to play, just because they can?
  • Roger was wearing extremely tight pants.
  • I actually didn't own a copy of The Wall album until a couple weeks before the show when I picked up a copy to listen to on the way home from a trip up to Lansing.  Since it was the 30th anniversary of the show, the CD came with a bonus t-shirt.  In very un-Pink Floyd-like fashion, I was mildly self-conscious about wearing the t-shirt to the concert, thinking that I would be too obvious as a pretender, especially to other pretenders wearing their Pink Floyd t-shirts they had gotten with their newly purchased CD's.  
  • Roger Waters is kind of an anti-government, anti-establishment, can't-trust-what-you-hear type of guy, to say the least.  In the past I scoffed at these stances for the most part, thinking that people like Waters were overly dramatic and overly paranoid (he actually introduced Run Like Hell by asking "Are there any paranoids in Columbus tonight?!")  However, my perspective on this has changed a bit since the concert.  The day after the concert, Sayak sent me this article, which reports on how the Anti-Defamation League is criticizing Waters for anti-Semitism in his show.  The article explains how scenes in the show depict the Star of David appearing in connection with dollar signs, suggesting that Jews are all about money, etc.  It is true that the video images presented in the performance show the classic Jewish symbol being dropped like a bomb from a plane flying overhead, followed by another plane dropping dollar signs like bombs.  But the article fails to mention that symbols of Christianity and Islam, the hammer and sickle, and the logos for both Shell and Mercedes-Benz are also depicted in the same way!  Anyone reading the article without having seen the show would naturally think "Hmm, Roger Waters may not be anti-Semetic as suggested, but he at least is making a statement here."  Well, maybe, but that's not the whole story.  The truth is that he didn't single out Jews.
What I'm saying is, Waters may be right!  You really can't trust the media, or the teachers, or the government.  You can't trust anybody!  Argh.

Except me, of course.  Thanks for reading :-)

One time I was hanging out with Jaws, and he was like "Yo Mobe, how did you get your name?"  And I was like "Well, at first I thought about going with Pink Floyd, but that was already taken, and it just happened that the next thing that popped into my head was Moby Dick.  Must have been a good choice, because Zeppelin wrote a song about me."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cut me Mick

I'm in perfect blogging position right now.  On the couch, laptop on lap, football game on TV muted, O.A.R. playing on Pandora, and arms involuntarily bent at an appropriate angle to put my hands on the keyboard.  My arms are involuntarily bent because this week I got a membership to the rec center down the street, and on my first day did some dumbbell curls for the first time in years.  Consequently, I now cannot fully extend my arms without groaning in pain.

I decided to start going to a gym again because completely neglecting exercise can only go on so long.  Without a pending marathon, and having grown tired of using The Wheel and my stability ball in my room, it seemed like time to try something new.  While I've had a love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with gyms since graduating from undergrad, I decided to give the gym setting another chance.  This time, however, I did not go back to the OSU gyms or some other corporate-style facility.  No, this time I joined the rec center that's only a block away from my house, and it was clearly the right decision.

As a teenage I remember going to the YMCA in downtown East Liverpool with Dad and Nate.  It was old, with worn-out equipment for the most part, floorboards that creaked, and regulars that you grew accustomed to seeing each time you went for a workout.  It had a sloped running track circling a basketball court below.  For a long time the court was the old-style "carpet" floor, and you couldn't shoot from the corners without getting stuffed by the aforementioned track above.  All in all, it was a great place.

Upon coming to Ohio State I obviously started going to the OSU gym (Jesse Owens North, specifically), and it was good.  Different atmosphere, no doubt, but perfect for when you're in college.  But after graduating, continuing to go to the OSU gyms became less appealing.  The crowds, the volume of the music, the price of admission, the TVs.  It became more exhausting than energizing.  Contrast that with the rec center I've now started going to: no crowds, just locals, no TVs, a boombox in the corner rather than crap playing over loudspeakers, and old, "comfortable" equipment rather than stuff that is being spit-shined every 5 minutes by staff members reminding you to use clips.  At a price of $20 for four months, it's a steal.  It's like being transported back to the East Liverpool Y.

This rec center is also old-school because it's got a boxing room where young kids and teenagers can learn to box and then compete, Rocky-style.  This is totally appropriate, not because I intend to take up boxing, but because Rocky is serving as my inspiration to get back into working out.  Since I've been off for a few months now, I know that starting again will be rather difficult.  There won't be quick, easy progress.  It will be slow and painful.  I have to keep this in mind, accept it, and push through it.  Did Rocky run up all the steps at the art museum his first time out?  No.  It didn't happen until the end of the training montage, after hard work over time had paid off.  To ensure that this mindset is firmly fixed for me, I actually purchased a poster of that Rocky scene, pictured below.  It's going to hang right above the door to my room so that on those mornings when I get up and don't want to run, or on those evenings when I feel worn out from work, I'll have that poster sitting before me, confronting me with the fact that Rocky didn't make excuses or complain about being tired.  If you think it's silly that I find my motivation from a completely fictional character, then well, I can't really argue.  But it works.

Perhaps I should go all the way and purchase a tight gray jogging outfit.

There is one key piece still missing though, and that's a clear motivation.  In college there were several clear motivating factors: being strong was beneficial when playing basketball at JO North, being strong was beneficial when working on-site with Habitat, and being strong (or more accurately, looking strong) was (theoretically) beneficial when walking around campus in t-shirts with college girls around.  But now, there isn't the same element of competitive basketball, I don't need to be strong to sit in a cubicle day after day, and there's not much to show off when you wear a long-sleeved dress shirt every day.  So other than the motivation to be able to make it to the hills and survive  by virtue of my fitness and strength when the Russians invade, what is there?  What will be my Apollo Creed?  Or, to take a different, perhaps more legitimate perspective, does a worthwhile motivation exist?  Here are a few potentials:

1. Start picking fights, making it necessary to be strong so that I don't get beat up constantly.
Decision: Not a good option.  Winning fights has more to do with toughness than strength.

2. Enter a competition, like the Arnold Fitness Challenge.
Decision: This is an okay option, but....meh.  I think I'd be embarrassed to tell somebody that I entered the Arnie, and I'm just talking about the general fitness competitions, not the body-building.

3. Working out hard burns calories, which allows me to eat lots of food.
Decision: Too American, not to mention disgusting.

4. Exercising will make me healthy and prolong my life.
Decision: There's no guarantee of this, and I'm planning on being dead at 50 anyway.

5. You may not be in college now, but there are still females around.
Decision: Much like winning fights is more about toughness than strength, attracting girls is more about confidence than appearance.  Fail.

6. Get a new job, like as a bouncer at a bar.
Decision: Firearms.

7. Constantly trying to find a "motivation" is equivalent to being a whiner.
Decision: Obviously.  What's your point?

8. Going to the gym gives you something to write about on your blog.
Decision: Agreed.  Done.

I thought Balboa was a chump, but you....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writing you into a bloody pulp

Just finished up some stuff for work and now I'm sitting here watching the MLB playoffs and trying to get a post in before going to bed.  Seems like there just isn't enough time in the day to do the things you want to do.  Ideally I'd have time each day to read, write, exercise, watch some sports, cook a nutritious and tasty dinner using produce that I grew myself, work on some skill or hobby, hang out with friends, work on the house, and shower at some point.  In addition to all that I'd love to have a couple dogs, but that would require feeding the dogs, walking the dogs, training the dogs, etc.  You have to pick and choose where you'll invest your time each day, and try to find the best balance possible.  Multi-tasking has its limits.  Of course, I could just give up working and survive on my savings for a couple months.  Perhaps it would be so intriguing that a book could be written about it, and then the success of the book would prompt a reality show in which I would continue living the same way.  Yes, yes, this is an excellent plan.  The scenes of me blogging would be riveting.

Watching the playoffs, you see repeat commercials night-to-night while the games are on.  One in particular has me rather puzzled.  It's a commercial for a van or SUV.  It starts out with some kids saying to another kid "Hey Parker!  Wanna race home?  Bet I can beat'cha!"  Parker then takes off running, and the other kids are running after him.  At one point it looks like Parker is hiding behind a tree breathing heavily, so I assume the idea is that the kids are bullies chasing him, and the original comment about beating him home was a taunt, like "Start running kid, and if we catch you it'll go poorly for you."  Okay, so nothing too confusing thus far.  But when Parker reaches home, his mom is waiting in the SUV/van with the back hatch open, and Parker dives in!  Then, Parker proceeds to buckle up, and his mom turns and says something like "Hey sweetie!" or "There you are!" or something similar that indicates she is not surprised at all that her son just dove into the back of her vehicle!  Finally, the mom backs the vehicle out of the driveway, and Parker grins at the bullies sitting by the sidewalk as the vehicle drives away.  A few basic questions:

1. Why does Parker's mom wait for him in the driveway at their house, in her vehicle?
2. Why does Parker's mom leave the back hatch of her vehicle open while she is sitting in the driver's seat in the driveway?
3. Why is Parker's mom not surprised when Parker dives into the back of the vehicle?
4. Why does Parker's mom immediately drive away after Parker reaches home, as opposed to just picking him up at school, like a sane person would do?

Now, it's possible that this bizarre series of events in the latter portion of the commercial would make sense with a different interpretation of the first part of the commercial.  But what other interpretation is available that isn't bizarre in its own right?  I'm being serious when I say that this commercial perplexes me to the point of real anger.  Commercials for major corporations always go through some kind of approval process with marketing executives or senior managers or something, and I find it extremely hard to believe that nobody had similar questions when this commercial was being presented.  Wasn't there some scowling 60-year old man with a gruff voice sitting at a conference table wearing a pinstripe suit asking "Why the hell did the kid dive into the back of the van?!"

This past weekend we celebrated Nate's day of birth by going to Nida's for dinner.  I've determined that Nida's is my favorite restaurant on High Street (I would still say CBC is my favorite in Columbus).  Nida's is great for the following reasons:

1. The food is always good
2. The service is always good
3. The price is reasonable
4. The atmosphere is fun, relaxing, and pleasant, all at the same time
5. You can dress nice to go there if you want, but it's not necessary
6. Nida is typically there

Probably 1, and definitely 2, can be attributed in part to 6.  You can't underestimate the factor of the namesake of the restaurant being there, interacting with customers and the employees.  And Nida doesn't just go around chatting people up.  She greets people, seats people, takes reservations, and helps out with the overall service.  Over the weekend Nida's was especially awesome because it was warm outside and the front windows had been retracted, creating an "open" feel between the tables and the sidewalk.  Very nice.  Finally, as if all that isn't enough, the complete name of the restaurant is Nida's Thai on High, which is conveniently clever.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, WHY IS PARKER'S MOM WAITING IN THE DRIVEWAY??!!!!

I listed "exercise" in my list of daily desires at the beginning of this post, and I have to say that exercise has become the activity consistently pushed to the bottom of the list of late.  Soccer on Sundays has now ended, so I can't rely on that for physical activity each week, although even playing soccer provided only the minimal level of exercise (as evidenced by the fact that my muscles ached each Monday following our game, having been stagnant the entire week leading up to the game).  With classes in session I get some natural exercise walking the couple extra miles to and from the business school, but walking doesn't do much for overall fitness, which includes strength and flexibility.  With only about 15 total weeks of class remaining before I'm actually done with my degree, it won't be too long before I've got an extra two free nights each week to work out, run, or engage in some similarly beneficial activity.  But I know that I've got to get back into a regular exercise routine sooner rather than later, because each day of delay makes it that much harder to come back.

There's a gym right down the street from our house with really cheap fees and a decent variety of things to do (weights, swimming, etc).  One of the activities is boxing, and this has given me an idea.  No, I'm not considering taking up boxing.  Are you kidding?  I'm thinking more along the lines of training for boxing.  Rocky-style.  Training montage-style.  Running up stairs-style.  An old school sweatsuit, jumping rope, raw eggs in a glass-style.  Yes, yes, this is an excellent plan.  The "training episode," as it will no doubt come to be known, will be the highlight of season 1 of my reality series.  Now I just need to find a meat locker...

After I finish here, I'm gonna reward myself with a nice dinner at Nida's.  Then I'm gonna write on my blog about how I hit some thighs and then ate some Thai, y'know?  Hey!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Candy for your eyes

Last weekend I did end up seeing two movies after all, but rather than seeing Wall Street and The Town, I replaced The Town with The Social Network.  Between WS and TSN, I would rate TSN as the better movie.  Both took significant liberties with the real-life facts.  In fact, as I discovered on Monday morning, Wall Street really went all the way, because Gordon Gekko is a completely fictional character!  I'm rather red-faced about not knowing this previously, but I'm also pretty sure I'm not the only one who believed the WS story was based on a real person named Gordon Gekko.  You know, if Jay Leno had come up to me on the street and asked "What real-life historical figure said 'Greed is good?'" and I had said "Gordon Gekko," the people watching in the studio would have been nodding along thinking "Yes, that's actually correct."  Then again, maybe I really am in the minority here, and right now I'm just embarrassing myself...

If there is one word I would use to identify the theme of both movies, it is "ambition."  Certainly the ambition on display takes a different form between the two movies, but it is definitely there in both.  In Wall Street, it is the kind of ambition people are most familiar with: business executives making money.  Men (primarily) with expensive tastes, expensive hobbies, and a never-ending supply of cash to pay for these expensive things.  The core competency (to use an HR term) of these men is making money.  It is what they are good at doing.  Everything about these men projects an image: the suits, the cars, the quality of the whiskey they drink, their haircuts, their offices.  In contrast, the characters in The Social Network don't worry about any of these things.  They are also very good at making money, but it is because of some other core competency they possess, like computer programming.  Bill Gates is super-wealthy, but I doubt that he thinks too much about the way his handkerchief sits in his coat pocket.

Personally, I like the development of Facebook, at least considering the fact that we're no longer communicating via pen and paper now.  Why do I like Facebook?  Because it increases text-based communication.  People commonly talk about how everyone is texting these days, rapidly two-thumbing out their vital messages, not watching where they're going.  But this is okay.  In fact, it represents the next evolution.  People are finally wising up and realizing that talking on the phone sucks.

I understand the appeal of the cell phone - that you can call someone up at any time to chat.  But I've never been able to engage in this sort of spontaneous communication.  No, my phone calls are intricately choreographed.  The greeting, the opening topic of conversation, the questions to pose, the wind-down, and the salutation - all planned.  My planning usually consists of about 30 minutes of mental preparation, an initial rough draft of the conversation, edits, rewriting, laughter, anger, another draft, a moment of breakthrough insight, the final draft, and then 30 more minutes of mental preparation (basically a pep talk before hitting 'send').  If possible, I'll practice in front of a mirror.  Once I'm actually talking on the phone, there isn't so much a focus on what's being said, or how the other person sounds, or the information being shared.  The focus is on getting out alive.  It's like one of those situations in a movie where someone is running for their life, and they know they'll be okay if they can just get through that door ahead of them.  Much like the person in the movie, once I've finished the call I need to take a breather and wipe the sweat from my forehead.

Of course, the person on the other end never knows this.  All they hear is "Hey, what's up!  Yea, things are going great!  Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah."  Cool as can be.  I don't let my racing heart affect the tone of my voice at all.  The choreography is key in achieving this.

Probably a common question going back and forth among folks on their cell phones right now is "What are going to do for a Halloween costume?"  'Tis the season, you know.  Well, you should know from the preceding paragraph that you should not call me to talk about this, for the love of God.  Instead, I'll proactively share some thoughts with you right now...

It seems that the truly great costumes are actually "group costumes," where you go out with a group of friends and dress up according to some theme, like the cast of a show or as figures from some event.  A basic example would be a group of friends going out as various past presidents of the United States.  Sure, you could go solo as George Washington, but wouldn't it be far better to go as Washington in the company of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Kennedy?  Too bland for you?  Then go as something a bit more creative, like characters from Kellogg's cereal boxes.  You're sure to draw some attention and approving nods if you walk into the bar as a group dressed as the Tony the Tiger from Frosted Flakes, Dig 'Em Frog from Smacks, Toucan Sam from Fruit Loops, Cap'n Crunch, and Count Chocula!  And then order skim milk at the bar.  If you really want to make people stop and think about what they're seeing, go with the group theme that needs all elements to truly make sense.  Any archaeologists out there?  Get your buddies together and dress up (or down) as the Evolution Of Man (you know, the classic chart showing each evolutionary link?).  Hot chick: What are you supposed to be? You: Australopithecus, and I'll have another gin & tonic.  Bam.  It would suck to be the guy all bent over at the beginning of the chain though.

Of course, you can always fly solo if you've got a great idea for a single costume.  Although I'm sure it's been done many times before, it really cracked me up one year when I saw a guy dressed as Santa Claus.  I've heard that the #1 girl's costume this year will be Lady GaGa, although it seems that this could take any number of forms.

Why is it that guys never have an "in" costume?  Let me answer: Because of the great dance of mating.  Males in the animal kingdom must demonstrate intellectual superiority to get mates in many situations, and Halloween is no different.  At Halloween, intellect is demonstrated by the male's creativity in coming up with an original and humorous costume.  Girls, on the other hand, simply need to look physically attractive, with no real incentive for creativity.  At some point I'd like a girl to be totally honest about the goal, you know?  Here's how the conversations would be different: Instead of this...

You: Your costume is really slutty.
Girl: Yea, it's a good Cleopatra, isn't it?!

...you'd have this...

You: Your costume is really slutty.
Girl: Yea, I dressed up as a slut this year.
You: You nailed it.  Great costume.

Probably the most classic solo costume is the comic book figure.  Superman, Batman, Spiderman.  There are many good options.  But this year I'm thinking about doing one that probably hasn't been used too many times.  The costume will consist of the traditional cape, spandex pants, and colorful boots.  Those elements will be accompanied by a shirt unbuttoned half-way down, a gold chain, and my hair dyed black, with lots of gel.  Do you have the mental image formed yet?  That's right.  I'll be going as an Italian Hero.