high-minded drivel

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

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!"

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