Friday, November 30, 2007

3 wise men walk into a bar

in an ideal world, i would haunt independent book stores for all of my christmas shopping needs. the reality of the situation calls for a more conservative approach, so the other day i went on a safari through amazon. (and now friday's bad pun is out of the way). i decided to take my time and do a little comparison shopping. it turns out there are some good sales on amazon, and with the super saver free shipping, i spent $20 less than i would have if i'd driven to my local barnes & noble. touting the benefits of an online magnate makes me feel plastic, but i'm partially employed and fully broke. i'll give money to the mom & pops when i can afford dentist appointments (if they still exist by that point). in the meantime, i'm still beaming on the inside for having spent $63 on 6 books, 3 of which are new release hardbacks.

i should revise that first sentence -- in an ideal world, christmas wouldn't be deformed by materialism and i wouldn't "have" to do any of this bargain hunting. coffeeshopgirl seems confused by this thing we goy's call christmas. "but what do people buy??" granted, this is coming from someone whose family has never been a ticket holder on the gift giving train, (i could make a jewish joke. i really could. but i won't). still, i was confused by her confusion. when i tried to explain what people spend their money on, i didn't have a good answer. it felt like i was trying to justify why people wear the same pair of socks for an entire hockey season or spit over their shoulder when they see a black cat. you just do it. you go out and buy socks with rubber ducky prints and pocket sized books that demystify the letter X.

there's no logical end to my christmas diatribe. i haven't even gotten to the fact that it's a logistical nightmare for anyone with divorced parents.

instead, i'll leave you with a friday geek out resource.

Monday, November 26, 2007

KFC original

i present to you a glimpse into what it's like living with a PC student. i happened to look over at coffeeshopgirl's computer just now and saw the following image:

i'm going to drink a mug of hot chocolate (special dark to the rescue) and try to forget that this ever happened.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

shots at the genius bar

it's raining! i'm actually not that excited because i was hoping to get outside for some much needed exercise, but alas, the skies have been drooling since yesterday. 12 hour car rides (one way) and irresistible holiday fare have taken their toll, but the situation will be remedied soon enough (just in time for the season of goy gluttony known as christmas).

i spent my thanksgiving in chevy chase, md, playing with this little squashed-face bundle of energy and trying to remain calm in the midst of yelling cooks. coffeeshopgirl's parents really know how to plan (and execute) a menu, but their words are sometimes sharper than the knives they use to chop vegetables. luckily the ewok and season 1 of Dexter kept me out of the thick of things. we did NOT participate in any post turkey day shopping frenzies. i have never bothered to rub elbows with the harried shoppers of black friday and i hope to never find myself thrown into that commercial mosh pit. i prefer to read McSweeney's short stories and nosh on ghirardelli peppermint bark squares in the comfort of my dad's home.

sadly, the drive back to Atlanta resulted in a small taste of said mosh pit. coffeeshopgirl's power cord died in the 4th hour of our 10 hour drive. normally this would mean the end of homework and the beginning of rambling car conversations... talking about soup and not talking about soup. however, deadlines are deadlines, and sunday make-up classes mean no rest for the turkey weary. so i called 411 and found the closest apple store. 20 minutes later we found ourselves wading through "the streets at southpoint" in durham, nc. 30 minutes later we were back on the road, a little worse for the wear, but with power cord success. our shopping detour and traffic around richmond, va, stretched our drive into 12 hours. add to that the discovery of 3 different areas of cat barf upon our homecoming, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

i think we'll be flying next time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

drink the spice...

there's been a drought in georgia (and much of the southeast) for quite awhile now. after browsing a few news articles online, it looks like we may have a parched outlook for much of the winter and into the spring of 2008. my purpose for bringing this up is twofold. one: i'd like to do my small part to plug the idea of conservation and being more aware of everyday strains on the water supply. i'm just as guilty as the next person. i can list 10 wasteful things off the top of my head that i do on a regular basis. in turn, i'm also trying to develop habits that result in a longer list of things i do to conserve one of the few resources that we can't live without.

example: we've had a drip in the kitchen sink for at least 2 months now. ever considered how much water is wasted by one dripping faucet? don't look it up online. put a bowl or a pitcher in the sink and see for yourself. my dripping kitchen faucet will fill a medium sized Britta pitcher in one night. i finally called the maintenance man and the drip is mostly fixed (it's never simple with those guys), but in the interim period we started collecting the drip water throughout the day and had enough water to keep nalgenes and tea kettles filled without ever really turning on the tap. if you know anything about coffeeshopgirl's drinking habits, that's quite a feat.

another habit that's relatively painless to incorporate is to turn off the water while loading the dishwasher. there's no need to let the water run while you figure out how to rearrange the top shelf of the dishwasher to squeeze in one last piece of tupperware. you can also turn the faucet off while you scrub away at pots and pans and then rinse everything at once instead of leaving the water running while you chip away at the remnants of that peanut sauce you just devoured.

okay, enough proselytizing about dish washing. the second reason for bringing up the drought is to recommend the book Dune. I've avoided this book for a long time because i've always assumed it was a sci-fi geek's wet dream. my apologies to anyone who loves science fiction. i finally decided to read it because of a book pushing friend and because i didn't have any other book prospects at the time. it turned out to be extremely captivating and relevant (on the planet of arrakis, water is rationed to the drop and it's considered a form of wealth). i won't get into specifics about plot, but if you're in search of something different to read that has the staying power of harry potter (there are 6 books in the original series), with an equally complicated nomenclature, give it a chance.

Friday, November 16, 2007

a smashing good time

as i was driving away from octane this morning, a woman in a sedan decided not to stop as she exited an apartment complex driveway. it just so happens i was gunning my engine right before i approached this particular driveway because i was in a horrible mood and sometimes the feel of the engine revving through my clutch foot is cathartic. i happened to notice the sedan speed up as i approached the driveway, and it became apparent that the woman had no intention of even pausing to check the flow of traffic. i slammed on the brakes and layed on the horn so hard that my wrist hurt afterwards. the woman stopped in the middle of my lane, looking confused by the fact that other people drive cars too. there was angry gesticulating from my car and instead of pulling through the now-clear intersection, she reversed back into the driveway as quickly as she had previously tried to exit it. as i yelled and drove past, a quick replay of the scene flashed through my mind, except this time i barrelled into the woman's car instead of abandoning my own rapid acceleration. the farther away from the scene i got, the more i wished i had simply kept my foot on the gas. not because i wish harm upon myself or the woman driving the sedan, but because the sound of crashing metal would have been soothing. you see, lately, all i want to do is break things and make loud noises. i've considered taking a drinking glass out back and smashing it into the side of the metal dumpster, but then i think about squirrels and hobos, both of which frequent the area and i don't want to be responsible for hurting either population. so then i think, would it be so awful if i took a bat and smashed in the window of my car? or maybe taking a swipe at the bathroom window and waxing accidental when the maintenance man comes to check it out. so far i haven't come up with healthy solution for my shatter-lust.

whatever i end up smashing, it probably won't be as satisfying as i imagine it. conversely, the possibility of leaving this odd craving dormant wouldn't be as unsatisfying as it seems right now. at least, that's the rationalization i should be using according to a short story entitled "The Futile Pursuit of Happiness", written by Jon Gertner. It was originally published in the New York Times, but i came across it in the Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology (2004 edition). The gist of the story (?) is that we are all incapable of accurately employing affective forecasting (the ability to predict how we will feel in the future). We make decisions based on predicted emotional consequences. The problem is our predictions are almost always wrong or fall short of the actual outcome. So my desire to break something will inevitably leave me wanting more or less of whatever the real emotional outcome happens to be. Example: I smash a glass. The happiness i was looking for will mostly likely subside before the echo of the shatter has even left my ears. the sigh of relief will be inaudible and short lived and i'll go back to feeling like a caged animal.

one of the take home messages from the story is that we all adapt no matter what decision we end up making. worried about choosing between two jobs? why make your life hell for a month trying to decide when the reality of the situation is you'll adapt to whatever path you choose in a matter of time? or so the story goes. what isn't mentioned is that the adaption period between 2 choices could differ drastically depending on unique circumstances. say i pick job A. it's something i'm not sure i care about, but the salary is good and my coworkers are engaging people. adaption to this situation would be a snap. you find ways to make your life matter outside of work and you have the money to do it! say i pick job B. it's something i'm not terribly passionate about and the pay is good (similar to job A), but my coworkers are bitter and too busy pointing their finger at someone to realize i'm in the room. using the logic from my first example, i adapt quickly to job B and deal with the negative environment by surrounding myself with people to combat my 9-5 dynamic. but maybe job B is in a new city where there is no established social network. no matter! friends are easy to find! except you're too busy feeling negative and insular to face the vulnerability of opening up to new people. adaptation to this situation is considerably harder and more intense than job A.

yes, i stacked the deck to prove a point. and no, i'm not trying to decide between two jobs. this is not a real life example.

having said that, i'm in job B, and yes, i am in dire need of a niche but feeling too insular to do anything about it (or to call anyone from my geographically scattered niche). luckily this warm bath of pity i'm lounging in is pretty cleansing. if i was jewish i'd make a mikveh joke.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

penguin maneuvers

now that i can feel the tips of my fingers again, i think i'm ready to ramble. the apartment's held steady at 55 degrees for the last few days, but the disgruntled maintenance man came to the rescue today and now it's a balmy 72. time to break out the hula hoop.

i wish i had something exciting to report in light of my absence, but there's not much going on here in the drrty drrty [south]. i've continued to encourage my misery streak by spending chunks of spare time curled up on the bed feeling sorry for myself. you see, i can't seem to get the hang of things in atlanta. it's kind of like that scene in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray gets in the shower and the showerhead will only raise to about shoulder length. he manages to get under the spray after some manuevering, which gets the job done but isn't exactly a satisfying shower. maybe i'd like atlanta more if i were shorter.

what i'd really like is to spend the weekend biking and then recovering by watching the first season of Dexter. i got my first taste of the show last weekend while painting at my mom's new house in California, MD (promotion & relocation = second home for the parental unit). thanks to netflix, i can catch up without giving in to the temptation of getting showtime.

one of my 101 things is to watch a documentary every month. last month's choice was Air Guitar Nation. i highly recommend it. watching a bunch of hard core air guitarists go head to head will make you feel cooler than you've ever felt before. you might even be tempted to try it out in the shower. if you have recommendations for future months, i'm all ears.