Friday, March 27, 2009

It's All in the Phrasing

I started working in a new position with my company about nine months ago. My position is unique in that I have a set list of repeating tasks, but these tasks reoccur with differing regularity. These items occur as infrequently as once every five years to as frequently as weekly. Most everything is on a quarterly or monthly basis though, so once you get through it once or twice, you have a pretty good handle on it. There are, of course, other jobs that pop up randomly throughout the month, so it's not like I'm just sitting on my hands, but I tend to appreciate that I have a specific list of things to do with examples of what has been previously done so I can spread out my work over a long period of time.

As I mentioned above, I do have one weekly task. However, due to some changing laws, as of the end of this month, I will no longer have to do it. While this aspect of my job doesn't take a long time, I am looking forward to no longer having it as a responsibility in addition to the extra time that not doing it will provide me to work on other things.

Or, to put it another way, I'm looking forward to nothing.

I think I just woke up in a Kafka novel.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Victory for Germs

I went to the doctor yesterday to get my stitches out. Since he is a dermatologist, I decided to ask him about why my hands are as dry as they are (I try to hit my doctors with multiple things a visit, as I have insurance, but these $30 copays for seeing specialists adds up! What am I, made of solid silver, like my friend John Dyer?*) In any case, the conversation with the doctor went something like this:

Dr. S: So, your hands are dry huh?
Me: Yup.
Dr. S: Why are they so dry?
Me: (Confused, as I expected him to answer this question) Uh, I use lotion, but I also wash my hands pretty frequently.
Dr. S: (Pulling down his crazy, mad scientist, head-piece magnifier) Oh yeah, these are dry. Why do you wash your hands so much?
Me: (Briefly considering telling him about my mom and the kids dying from unwashed hands, but deciding against it because, really, how crazy do I want to look to this guy?) Uh, I dunno.
Dr. S: Don't wash them so much. There's nothing magic I can do. Is that all?

The only logical rationale that I can think of for him to tell me these things is that the germs have gotten to this guy, and he's giving bad counsel. That's all I'm saying. That's very pernicious of you, germs, but I will not be defeated!

* Right after I graduated from college, John and I (and various and other sundry fellows) were roommates, and, being fresh graduates or current college students, we didn't have a lot of money, so we mused how great it would be if only John were actually made of silver, mostly so we could sing "Wouldn't it be nice if John were silver?" to the tune of the Beach Boys's song "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" Maybe if we spent our time looking for jobs instead of changing two of the first eight words of a popular song, we wouldn't have had to resort to alchemy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You Stick Your Finger In, You Stick Your Finger Out

Aside: I wash my hands multiple times per day. I know this makes me a weirdo; however, I blame my mother (and my hometown) as apparently some kids were dying while I was growing up from germs that would have been easily killed had the kids washed their hands. In an attempt to encourage my brother and I to wash our hands, my mom told me this. Because of this, I consider myself just barely a functioning adult because of the number of times I feel compelled to wash my hands. In fact, my hands feel dirty right now, though the only thing I've touched since last washing my hands is my computer keyboard and mouse. The need to wash my hands must be restrained in order to write this post, if that gives you any idea of how I barely function. End of Aside.

As you know, I am dieting. And, while it may not be the best choice as far as dieting goes, I have found a couple of sandwiches at Quizno's that have a reasonable number of calories (particularly if you get a regular size without dressing, as opposed to the big-fatty-fat-fat size that I normally enjoy). In addition, there is a Quizno's very close to my place of employment, and so I tend to go over there when I'm looking for a reasonable sandwich in a reasonable amount of time. This is despite the fact that this particular store is a questionable one.

As far as some backstory on this particular location, my boss believes he got food poisoning the last time he went there, so he refuses to go back. He thought that those germs probably came from the banana peppers that sit at room temperature that any dirty-handed customer can peruse (See! My mom was right!), so I figured that I could continue to eat there so long as I avoided the afore-mentioned peppers. Additionally, my wife really hates eating at this particular location because it always seems scuzzy, in that, when she orders, the meat is always somehow soggy if not outright wet with what is (we hope) water.

Even so, my experiences have mostly been good ones. On those rare occasions that I do get soggy meat, I just order a different sandwich for a while. In this way I usually have a decent experience there.

Until today.

I walked into the restaurant already knowing what I wanted (based on calorie info carefully ascertained online), and I walked up to the sandwich maker and ordered it. She made the sandwich as I requested due to my dietary specifications. So far, so good.

However, as I got into line to pay, I noticed something that displeased me greatly, and I'm not sure of any euphemisms for this, so I'll just come out and say it: the cashier was picking his nose.

With a line of customers right in front of him.

After, apparently, not finding what he was looking for, he grabbed a napkin and went spelunking for nose goblins again (I guess I do know a euphemism after all). This time, he faced away from the customers and towards a sink. This lightened my mood a bit as, well, we are all faced with boogers on a day to day basis; how much can I judge this man for doing what we all do at some point during the day, especially if he will be able to so easily wash his hands afterwards?

In a perfect world, this man would have washed his hands.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for this blog post.

That's right, after wadding up his snot rag and throwing it away, he went back to taking the customer's money, giving him change, and BAGGING UP HIS FOOD!

Because I am an optimist, and as I was the third person in line, I hoped against all hope that he would wash his hands before my turn to pay came up.

As you may already suspect, my hopes were dashed against the rocks of snotty goodness.

While I should have spoken up, I guess I was kind of in too much of a shock to speak up for my immune system. I guess I'll let my lack of future business do the speaking for me.

Seriously folks, I'm really skeeved out over here.

If you are wondering, I did eat the sandwich (because I am not a proud man and I was very hungry), but I did so with hesitation, wondering if each bread crumb were really a bread crumb, if each speck of pepper were really a speck of pepper.

If I do die from unwashed hands, somebody please tell my mom. Though saddened by my untimely demise, I am sure she will smile a gentle smile, knowing that hand-washing got me at last.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't It Always Seem to Go That You Don't Know What You've Got Till Its Gone?

A friend, an acquaintance, and I are currently involved in an eating contest of sorts, except that this is the sort of eating contest where everybody tries to eat as little as possible without dying. That's right, we're in a weight-loss contest, the winner of which will be chauffeured to Las Vegas and will not have to pay for his room. In this way, we are looking to recoup the weight we have lost over the next couple months during the course of one delicious weekend (I have already told the wife that after Easter, we are going to go around and purchase all of the Cadbury Cream Eggs that are on sale, and then on May 15 [which is both my birthday and the end of the contest] we are going to eat them; I think she thought I was kidding [boy, is she in for a chocolatey, egg-like surprise!]).

Because my friend and I are/were involved in sports, we definitely have some trash-talking going on, via email or text message. This trash-talking normally involves mentioning something we think the other person would find delicious, in an effort to get them to trip up and eat it. Here is one of my favorite conversations so far:

Me: I am already down 50 lbs. I cut off my leg. Is self-mutilation outside the realm of this contest?
He: I on the other hand have taken to some oriental philosophies in that I will be losing all my weight by doing nothing. Mind over matter. I can destroy my fat with my mind.
Me: Mmmm...7 layer burrito and a baja chalupa from Taco Bell...Tell you what, friend, the Taco Bell's on me.
He: Haha. If only I liked such slop...I'm up to two shots of wheat grass and a cup of rice today. I feel like I splurged a little, but hey, it's almost Friday. I figured I could treat myself to a big meal.
Me: Two shots of wheat grass and a cup of rice! Luxury! I am surviving off of licking the dumpster behind whole foods!
He: Haha! Amateur!

There are plenty of other text messages that say things along the lines of "You guys had better just give up now." Some time in the next couple days, I am looking forward to sending out the old beauty "You'll lose a lot more calories crying in the corner when I have defeated you than you did over the whole contest."

When my wife looks over these messages, she is pretty horrified at how mean we can be (in the name of having a good [read: bad] time). What can I say? Boys are mean. That's how we do.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Email Tomfoolery

At my place of employment, we are pretty fortunate to have some really great amenities. From daily breakfast foods, to an open fridge stocked with sodas, to a soft-serve ice cream machine, we live pretty high on the hog. This is how they get us to work 18 hour days with only the occasional uprising.

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and I'm pretty sure that that saying is why they also installed a small gym on our floor. If you're looking to work with weights, you should probably go cry in the corner somewhere, you baby, because that's not how we roll. However, if you want to do cardio work, then this gym is the hot place to be. Literally. It's so hot in fact, that it's going to be closed down over this weekend in order to set up some vents so that we may exercise with glorious air conditioning.

At least I think that's what's happening. This is the email that we received today:

"The gym will be closed on the following days due to HVAC ducts being installed in the ceiling over the gym:

Tomorrow, Thursday 3/19, 5:30pm thru Monday 3/23 including the weekend (24 hours)"

It's that last phrase that I don't understand: "including the weekend (24 hours)." Did we somehow lose a day from this weekend? Is this Ultra Daylight Savings Time, and I didn't get the memo? Or am I expected to come in on Sunday? Is the price we pay for a/c in the gym? An extra day at work? If so, I just want to say that I don't even really use that gym very much, and, if it's all the same to everyone, I'll just do my normal Sunday routine.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Listers at Amazon Are Weird

At first glance, this advertisement on seems reasonable. You would get a good price on an air mattress. However, take a good look at what type of deal it considers itself.

That's right, an air mattress is considered a kitchen and dining deal. You know, for those folks who say, "Ethel! It's dinner time! Better get that air mattress blowed up!"

Beneath the Wheel (and by Wheel I Mean Knife)

Rather than detailing the events again, I submit for your reading consideration an email that I wrote that chronicled my experience with the doctor the other day. I have a hard time believing the below would make somebody squeamish, but, in case you are that hard time, please note that the following is about surgery.

Hi All,

My surgery was nowhere near as intense as my brother-in-law's, but here are the basic details.

As you may know, up until a few days ago, I had what a couple of doctors referred to as a sebacious cyst in the center of my chest. It had been there for several years, but it recently began emitting a foul odor so I decided that we needed to get rid of it.

When I checked in, I asked the nurse if my wife could go in with me in case I started bawling. We were told yes, but when I was actually called back to the room, the other nurse wouldn't let her come. It was then that I knew that this was serious stuff, and I had better keep it together! :)

I went in and the first thing the doctor told me was that it was going to leave a big, obvious scar. I'm not sure if he was trying to scare me off, but, as I am not a swimsuit model, I figured that it probably wouldn't be a big deal.

He then injected me with a numbing agent around the site of the cyst (as well as around a couple of small skin tags that I wanted removed). One injection that went right into the cyst sent a spray of the foul smelling stuff across the room; I wasn't sure if I should apologize or not. After waiting a few minutes to let the numbing set in, he grabbed a scalpel and carved right into me. It was peculiar in that though I could feel movement around the site, I obviously didn't feel any pain. While I suppose I could have looked down and watched what he was doing, I kept my eyes pointed towards heaven (you know, so I'd be ready). He removed the cyst rather quickly, and it seemed to take longer for him to sew me up than the surgery itself had taken. Then he took the scalpel and sawed off the little skin tags, after which he cauterized the little wounds.

All in all, it was quick and painless. I asked to see what they had removed after the fact, and it was larger than I thought it would be. Based on what I could feel, I had assumed that it was about the size of a pea, but looking at it outside of me, it was actually the size of four or five peas. The nurse said they frequently see people in there who have similar growths the size of golf balls, and I was thankful that mine was not that big.

The nurse said that they would send it off for testing, and they'll let me know the results when I go back in to get my stitches removed (which will be a new experience for me in itself).

So, that's about it. Nothing too exciting. :)


Friday, March 06, 2009

Don't Quote Me on This

A couple of months ago, my wife and I noticed some signs in the little cafe in our office building. They each said some variant of this:

We now serve "Oatmeal" for "Breakfast."

We of course thought this was hilarious. What is it that these people are serving and calling "Oatmeal?" Was "Breakfast" some sort of euphemism? Why couldn't all the signs get their stories straight? With the signs saying different things, how would we know that, when we asked for oatmeal, we would actually be receiving oatmeal versus receiving "Oatmeal?"

I thought my wife and I were just weird, until I came across this site today. It refers to itself as the "Blog" of "Unnecessary Quotes," and it cracks me up. People take pictures of misused and abused quotation marks on signs, and they send them in to the webmaster of this site, who displays them.

If you have a few minutes, go and check it out. It pretty much made my day, which I acknowledge is both sad and pathetic.

I Liked This One, Though I Question Its Science

You Are Modest and Nurturing

When You Are Comfortable:

You are a shy, quiet person. Underneath your shell, you are compassionate and giving.

People find you to be friendly and welcoming. Your home is a place of comfort to them.

When You Are At Your Best:

You are a carefree, adventurous person. You love excitement, and you enjoy being in a changing, dynamic environment.

People find you to be funny, generous, and competent. You're well spoken, and you know how to wow people with your words.

When You Are in a Social Setting:

You are unique and interesting. You are fascinated by the world, and you're always experimenting with new ideas.

People see you as mysterious and enchanting. You don't realize how much people are drawn to you.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

An Open Letter to my Office Building

Dear Building,

Let's start out by looking at first things first: building, you are so big, and we are all pretty impressed down here, let me tell you (with an homage to Monty Python). And your reflecty windows whereby we may assess our own personal situations as we walk by are simply aces. ACES!

But (with an homage to Arlo Guthrie) what I really want to talk to you about today is the draft. Specifically, I do not understand how it can possibly be as cold as it is where I sit. If I had a lightsaber (with an homage to Star Wars), I would seriously consider slicing into one of the large, furry creatures (read: coworkers) that parades by my desk all day long and nesting all up in its entrails for warmth.*

It has been explained to me that to keep the floor I am on a consistant temperature, some vents need to blow warmer air and some need to blow cooler air. All I want to know is, how did I manage to draw the short straw?

In short, I would be forever grateful if the temperature could be turned up a few degrees. I realize that maintenance has looked at our floor in an effort to figure it out, but they have apparently failed. I therefore throw myself at your fictitious feet and beg for mercy from the climate of the frozen tundra I must work in every day.

Your chilly pal,

*Fortunately for them, lightsabers are fictional inventions, and thus, they will forever be safe. For now.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

One Entirely Inconsequential Thought

I've been reading a book of essays called Consider the Lobster, and I am eating it up. David Foster Wallace, the author, took his life last year, and as I started reading about him and his work, I knew that he deserved some more of my time and consideration (which are, honestly, some of the greatest compliments you can give a person; I am humbled by the time and consideration given by those reading this sentence).

The essay I am working on right now is about the politics of compiling dictionaries (if you're surprised to find out that the making of dictionaries is a contentious affair, so was I). On the conservative side of the camp are the Prescriptivists. These are the people that most of us probably had as English teachers in junior high; people who, with seeming glee, sent their red ink flowing onto our beautiful papers over which we had struggled and obsessed whenever they spotted a dangling preposition or a non-parallel series of items (two infinitives and a gerund anyone?). Prescriptivists believe that language has rules that ought to be followed, and that dictionaries and books on grammar ought to enforce these rules.

On the liberal side of the street are the freewheeling Descriptivists. These were the kids in class who would assert, with a hint of irony, that "Ain't ain't a word," as if to say, "Though I acknowledge that people think that ain't isn't a word, not only will I use it in a sentence, but also you will understand exactly my intention." If verbal or written communication is taking place, then that language ought to be studied and quantified. Descriptivists believe that language, as a fluid and dynamic force, is constantly changing, and, as such, dictionaries should do their best to include words and phrases that are on the fringes of being accepted.

Apparently people do argue about this.

I touched on it above, but the basic crux of the issue between these two linguist factions as I understand it is: ought we to enforce rules about language, or ought we to observe language?

Wallace then goes on to examine what he exemplifies as the stoner's dilemma, which goes something like this: say you have been using recreational drugs (a dilemma in itself), and you flip on the television. The first thing that pops up is an LPGA tournament. Though you are not a golf fan, you become entranced by the soothing baritone of the announcer. As you watch an amazing putt from the rough, it occurs to you that the grass is green. Immediately, you become paranoid that, though everyone who has ever talked to you about the color of grass has emphasized that it is green, how do you know you can trust them? In other words, how do you know that the idea in your mind of what green is is the same as the next person's idea of what green is?

The answer he comes up with is kind of a mix between Prescriptivist and Descriptivist doctrines. As our language was being formed, somebody (perhaps arbitrarily) came up with the idea that the result of mixing blue and yellow should be called green. People began to accept this idea, and so, a rule (Prescriptivism) was made about how a word was being used (Descriptivism). Following this logic, since anyone who is not color blind would look at the grass and call it green in color, our friend the stoner can rest easy, knowing that everyone experiences green in basically the same way. If they didn't, green would either be called something else, or the language would have to adapt or falter (as the basic purpose of language is to communicate, and if everybody weren't on the same page about basic items, there would be no communication).

If you have followed me this far, I applaud you. I would have given up long ago. However, all of the above was stated just to give you a background to the next thought process.

Man, at some point, chose what all the words in our language would be. As there are, obviously, many different languages in the world, there are many different words to express the same idea. With that in mind, I can't help but wonder which languages are the best at expressing various issues.

If words were just chosen arbitrarily, are we to assume that they were without meaning prior to being named? If so, how confusing! If no, by what measure shall we mete them?

I find my own personal answer through my faith. I believe that God knows every word of every human language, but I can't help but wonder if humans have really hit the nail on the head with any of God's language, so to speak. I wonder if any word in any earthly language is the precise word that God uses. Sure, he might suffer everyone saying "Our Father Who art in heaven," but He would prefer us to call him Padre. He might accept us when we pray that we love Him, but He would very much prefer to say that we have agape for Him.

I'd further like to suggest that there is some heavenly language that we can only dream of hearing someday. How amazing must that language be! If that is the case, then I look forward to being deafened by its beauty, to being blind-sided by its perfect clarity.

And on that day, there will be no more red marks on my completed, obsessed-over, white paper.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lose Yourself in the Music, the Moment

I hope that this isn't too inappropriate to write, but last night, my wife and I were doing something that young married people tend to do: watching episodes of "American Idol" on our dvr.* The episodes we were watching involved the second group of twelve that was set to be wittled down to three people.

At the end of the show, I, caught up in the music and the emotion of the show, grabbed my phone and tried to vote for one of the contestants, only to receive a busy signal on my phone. Please bear in mind that, not only had the results show for this group already happened, but also that we had this results show on our dvr.

So I was trying to vote for something that not only had happened in the past, but also something that I had recorded on my tv. I'm just a dunce cap and a corner away from being a dunce with a cap sitting in the corner.

As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed when the contestant I wanted to vote for lost (I imagine by one vote). Alas!


Sunday, March 01, 2009

All I Can Think About Lately

1) Please watch this trailer for what I am hoping will be a super amazing movie. I read the graphic novel it was based on a few months ago, and it absolutely blew my mind.

Why is this on my mind? The only line in that trailer says something to the effect of, "The world will look up and shout 'save us,' and I'll whisper 'no'." However, the actor pronounces the word I'll like most people pronounce the word all. Saying it like that is very regional in its diction, and it drives me crazy every single time I hear it. I can't stand it. So, every time the commercial, for something about which I am very excited, comes on, I enjoy most of it, but I then have to grit my teeth. I am just really surprised that the movie folk allowed it to be recorded that way. LEARN HOW TO SPEAKY GOOD! THAT'S RIGHT, SPEAKY!

2) When my mind wanders lately, I have been imagining what it would be like to be in a bad car accident. Particularly, how it would make my bones rattle in my body. I am hopeful that this will not occur, don't get me wrong, and I am not looking for opportunities to get into a bad car accident (*knocks on wood*), but I keep having this recurring daydream about this. It's kind of freaking me out.

3) I am going to be in a production of "The Cradle Will Rock" with Stone Soup Theatre Company here in San Diego, and it is going to be amazing. We just had our first rehearsal tonight, and I already know how awesome it's going to be.*

*In college, I once claimed to a professor that I thought it would be awesome to get a velvet tuxedo for my senior recital, to which this person replied "Only God is awesome, not some velvet suit." I later got a "C" grade on that recital, so I've done my very best to disregard anything associated (comments included) with it.