Gaa!

Today I had a new sensory experience. The wind is blowing pretty hard, and it's swirling around the snow on the ground. It managed to blow some snow up my pantleg. I imaging that was a small taste of what it's like for women when they wear dresses and skirts. I'm now supportive of women who exclusively want to wear pants (not that I ever had a particular opinion about it before).

Prejudice of Palate

My friends, it’s time we confront a great injustice in our midst. We must strive to banish this evil, first in our own hearts and then in the world at large. The battle will be long and thankless, but we must persevere. We must stop… culinary racism.

That’s right. We all have the ethnic foods we like (“Let’s go out for Italian.”), but there are always others that we unnecessarily discriminate against (“Thai? You ask me that again and you’ll be the one who’s gonna Thai!”). The time is now to come together and realize that every culture has some good dishes. I’m not a fan of kimchi, but I love Korean soups. I hate feta cheese, but… well, there’s probably some Greek dish that is palatable to me.

Wait a minute. I can’t stand Mexican food. Okay, let’s forget the whole thing.

Are the Best Things in Life Free?

I admit that I like watching Deal or No Deal. I know it doesn’t exactly require any intelligence on the part of the contestant, but I find it entertaining. I often reflect on what I would do if I did win a million dollars. Of course, I wouldn’t do anything exciting with the money, so they wouldn’t choose me to be on the show. They like to pick people who have huge debts to pay off or a crippled relative who needs an operation. I would buy a house, give some money to my family, and save the rest. That doesn’t exactly make for exciting television.

What would you do with that kind of cash? It better be exciting…

Unfulfilled Dreams

Have you ever had a perfect opportunity to fulfill a dream, only to have it slip though your fingers? Maybe it was just the wrong timing, or maybe you just didn’t follow it through enough. Whatever the reason, you now spend your days wistfully remembering the time you almost had it made.

Well, I recently had one of those experiences. It was just last week, in fact. The conditions were absolutely perfect. There I was, driving home in the foot of snow we had received. And there it was, right in front of me: the cursed rooster that wakes me up at 4:30 every morning all summer. The explanation would have been so simple. I hit my brakes but slid into the poor bird (struggling to suppress laughter). But alas, at the last second my courage (read: rage) failed me, and I allowed the demon spawn to live to torment me another day.

How Kind Have the Years Been?

For those who enjoy celebrating meaningless milestones, I just made my 200th post. I sincerely apologize for taking from you whatever time you've spent reading them. There are, however, no refunds. I do listen to complaints, however, since we all need the occasional excuse to laugh maniacally.

Anyway, when I was in 6th grade I had this serious crush on a girl in my class. But she thought (correctly) that I was just a gross, immature 11-year-old. So far as I recall, the last day of school that year was the last time we spoke. That was... let's see, June of 1992. So more than 15 years.

Well, some months back I noticed that she works at a store I sometimes patronize. And today she ended up helping in the line I had entered. Our first conversation in 15 years involved a coupon for baby wipes.

I didn't say anything about recognizing her, and I have no idea if she recognized me. It was just one of those funny moments in life, and it would have spoiled it if I had said anything.


What are some weird little moments from your life?

Warm Water Does Not Freeze Faster, Except in Certain Conditions

Often people ask me why I am so brilliant. At least, I assume that's what they're doing when they say, "Nice going, Einstein." When I was in elementary school, I got this little set of books from a book fair we had. Actually, I'm pretty sure that my brother got it, but I tended to end up in possession of all the books in our home that I liked.

Anyway, this picture is a front view of the box that has four tiny books in it. The books are about 2x3 inches. Each page has four or 5 "facts" on it. Here are a couple of verbatim examples:

The Netherlands grows and sells more than 2,700,000 flowers every year.

It takes forty minutes to hard-boil an ostrich egg.

I still enjoy reading these books, but I must admit that I've been disappointed to find out that some of the facts were incorrect (see the title of this post). If you can't trust a book called Facts (the books are titled Facts, Amazing Facts, Incredibly Amazing Facts, and Stupendously Incredibly Amazing Facts, respectively), then what can you trust? Is it any wonder I'm so cynical?

Seymour! Do You Want Me to Tell You When It's 7:30?

I was watching the old ABC show Dinosaurs last night when I heard one of the greatest lines ever. Here it is, slightly paraphrased due to my imperfect memory: “One of my responsibilities as a parent is to wean you from the joys of life to prepare you for the marathon of heartbreak that is adulthood.” This occurred in a conversation after the teenage son legally became the “dominant male” in the family and discovered how tough it is to provide for a family and maintain a home.

The sad thing is that there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Everything parents do is geared toward helping their children achieve independence. As a result, parents occasionally have to sit by and watch their kids make stupid decisions. We all hate parents like Agnes Skinner from the Simpsons, who cling desperately to their children long after they should be leading independent lives. So where should parents draw the line between control freak and no-discipline beatniks?

Most Bizarre Post Ever

Today, dear reader, I would like to draw your attention to an age-old unanswerable question. It’s a quandary which has plagued even the most sagacious among us for centuries. I refer, of course, to the question of blondes vs. brunettes.

Before we begin, let me qualify things by mentioning that this only applies to women, as I’m not fit to judge the attractiveness of men beyond basic standards of hygiene. And we’re going to leave redheads out of this, because this theory doesn’t seem to apply to them.

My theory is that blondes have a narrower range of attractiveness that starts above the minimum attractiveness of brunettes but does not extend to the maximum attractiveness of brunettes. Stated another way, brunettes have the potential to be much better- or worse-looking than blondes. Here’s a graphic illustrating the point.

Those of you who have not yet skipped down to leave a comment questioning my sanity are probably wondering where in the world this came from. The answer is that I have no idea. It’s just one of those things my mind came up with when I was playing video games or doing something else that didn’t give my brain anything to do. So I suppose the real lesson here is that you should always be challenging your brain, or you never know what it will go off and do without you.

This does beg an actual question, though. What physical feature (let’s keep this G-rated, kids) attracts you to someone?

E-pork-any

Every once in a while mankind happens upon an idea that changes the course of history; an idea that has the potential to forever alter the face of the earth. I recently became aware of just such an idea, which many others have also stumbled upon and found it to be the true secret of happiness.

And that idea is… microwaving bacon.

Why didn’t I ever try this before? Why did I laugh at those infomercials with the little plastic rack you hang the bacon strips on like wet socks? I must shout it out to the world! Stop cooking your bacon in the skillet! We’ve all been so blind! Stop burning your breakfast and splattering yourself with hot grease! There’s a better way!

Snow Picnic

Often when it snows, I see a number of private snow plows on the street–the kind that's a pickup with the plow attached to the front. But they are never plowing anything. I suppose they've got one specific place they plow and that's it. Meanwhile, the big city plows are nowhere to be seen, leaving the streets untouched. So when you get to work your lot might be plowed, but good luck getting there.

This morning was no exception, but as I pulled into the parking lot I noted that it had been plowed recently enough that I could actually see the lines even though it was still snowing. So I pulled in to my usual spot. As I was getting out of the car, the snow plow drove up and the guy told me to move so he could keep piling snow on the pile by which I had parked. I didn't know he was still plowing, so of course I didn't mind moving my car. What I did mind, however, was that he addressed me as big guy. That has to be the most insulting epithet I can think of. I was about ready to pull him out of his stupid truck and smash his face into the freshly scraped pavement. Big guy is what a man calls another man over whom his physical superiority is assured. I would have preferred it if he swore at me. In retrospect, I'm surprised at the violence of my reaction.

So all this got me to wondering, what is the equivalent of big man for women? How would a woman address another woman she felt was physically inferior?

Morton's Parking Lot

Remember how much snow we had piled up in our parking lot? Well, now there is so much salt on the asphalt out there that I can feel my car disintegrating around me. I didn't bother to take a picture, but here's the general idea.

That's not snow.

The Opiate of the Masses

At first I thought this writers’ strike was going to have the unintentional effect of improving society (until we all switch over to Telemundo just because they still have writers). With nothing to watch on TV, families would spend more time with each other, and we would eventually bring peace to the planet.

Unfortunately, I was totally wrong.

What is instead happening is the networks are dusting off all the television shows which were filmed but didn’t make that discriminating cut which such winners as “Caveman” passed. Meanwhile, Fox is rapidly becoming the all American Idol channel, except for the moments it decides to run “classic” episodes of its primetime shows. “See how it all began, with the first episode of ‘House’ this Wednesday” (actual commercial). (I actually do like “House,” but it was just funny the way they tried to make it sound like an ingenious programming selection instead of a desperate attempt to fill a time slot.)

Stay tuned for about a million “new” reality shows, since they don’t need writers. Soon we’ll probably see the likes of The Clock Channel (“Coming up on The Clock Channel—six o’clock!”) and “When Buildings Collapse.”

It’s times like this when I’m proud to be an American. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Mexican soap operas to watch.

I'm a Poet and You Didn't Know It

When I was in elementary school, the classes used to take turns serving lunch in the cafeteria. Even at the tender age of 11 I recognized that this work didn’t exactly require the full measure of my intelligence. So, as I was dishing up that mysterious taco meat I wrote a poem in my mind. Here it is for your reading enjoyment:

While standing in line to receive my toxic school lunch

I felt a little funny, and I had a hunch

That I’d gotten way too close to the unyielding, filthy stench

And I figured that in gym class I’d be sitting on the bench.

Strange enough, when gym class came I didn’t feel all queer

And I wondered if I’d feel that way on Valentine’s next year.

I don’t know where the idea came from, but I still think it’s a pretty good poem for an 11-year-old. Do you have any stories of creativity at a young age?

If I Were a Trash Man

Deep down I sort of wish I could drive a garbage truck. I’ve heard that the drivers get paid pretty well, and I think it would be fun to drive around all day. You get to use those cool mechanical arms, and if you scratch the paint, I doubt you’d get in too much trouble.

Do you have any secret aspirations?

In the Drink

I'm going ice fishing tomorrow. So if I don't post anything next week, you'll know it's because I'm lying frozen on the bottom of the lake. In the unlikely event of my passing, I expect a series of witty eulogies in the comments section of this entry, including bad poetry containing lines like this:

Behold the lake hath now become a tomb
And lured this moron to his final doom

Oh, and somebody should perform "Ice Ice Baby" at the funeral.

Patchwork Thoughts

Supposedly the vast majority of people believe they are good drivers. “But I really am a good driver,” you’re now saying to yourself. Apparently that’s because we tend to think that it’s the abilities we possess that make someone a good driver. For example, some people can drive fast and not die. They think that is what makes them a good driver, whereas someone else always obeys all traffic laws and thinks that is what a good driver does. Personally, I think you’re a good driver if the other cars on the road don’t have to make any adjustments because you’re there. They shouldn’t have to hit the brakes at all if you turn out in front of them, they shouldn’t have to go around you when you’re turning, and they shouldn’t have to speed up because you’re riding their tail.

What qualities do you think make a good driver?


Okay, that brings to mind another issue: the inability of most of us to comprehend that we might be wrong about something, especially deeply-held beliefs. Take a political issue such as immigration. Someone might believe that we should shut our borders completely and never accept any more immigrants. If that person is unwilling to accept that he or she might actually be wrong, you will never be able to convince them otherwise. You can show statistics on birth rates or any other indicator that shows their opinion to be incorrect, but it won’t work. That’s why we are urged to keep an open mind about things. If you can’t adapt, you quickly become obsolete and end up hosting a daytime talk show or something.

(Tangent alert: The U.S. birth rate is below the rate needed to sustain the population, as is now the case for most of the developed world. What keeps our population growing is immigration. It’s the working-age immigrants who keep our economy going. The population of Russia is decreasing by about a million people every year, and similar decline is happening in Japan, Spain, and other developed countries. It’s also why Japan is developing robotics so heavily. Eventually it will be up to the robots to care for the last generation of the Japanese. Contrast this with the high birthrate in predominantly Muslim nations, and you begin to see the shifting trend in demographics that will unfold over the coming century. Sorry, I just think it’s interesting.)

Boy, sometimes it’s surprising where my mind ends up when I let it wander. I just hope it comes back.

Don't Panic!

Have you ever been playing a sport and give up a couple points, driving you into this downward spiral of horrible play? That happens to me when I play ping pong. If I get a couple points behind, I lose my cool and get frantic, making me play even worse.
Sometimes I think that's how weather forecasters get. It seems like over the last couple of weeks they haven't gotten anything right, and it just keeps getting worse. You guys just need to sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that your only competition is yourself.

He's Like Some Kind of... Non-Giving-Up Guy!

My personal philosophy is that there is a quote from The Simpsons that fits every situation. But what do I know? My idea of wit is "nothing more than an incisive observation, humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing."

What's your philosophy? ("Joel is an idiot" doesn't count.)

Sinister Me

For those of you who don’t know (as opposed to those of you who don’t care, which list would include pretty much everybody), I’m left-handed. Being left-handed has its advantages, although I haven’t yet figured out what those are. I am glad, however, that I live in a time when we are not discriminated against and forced to write with the right hand, although the occasional anachronistic attitude still exists (LeeElle, I’m looking in your general direction). It would be funny if lefties sought for redress in the same manner as other groups of people whose ancestors were “repressed.” That would probably make an interesting movie, so long as it didn’t last more than 15 minutes.

My wife is also left-handed. We thought it would be fun if our children were left-handed too. Unfortunately, our first child is right-handed. Maybe we should force him to write with his left hand “to correct past injustices.”

When I was in Korea, I helped teach an English class to elderly people. One day I was writing something on the board, and someone asked me why I was writing with my left hand. They wanted to know if there was something wrong with my right hand. A couple of weeks later (these were older folks, remember) they asked me if I had broken my right hand. They just couldn’t fathom left-handedness. I only remember meeting one left-handed person the whole two years I was there.

According to the infallible Wikipedia, left-handed college graduates are 26% richer than their right-handed counterparts. There is apparently no explanation for this. Of course, I make less money than every other college graduate I know, so I guess I’m defective.

Does that make me “all left” or “all right”?

Su-su-summertime

There has been some sort of climate control malfunction in the office. Immediately upon entering the building, most of us started to sweat. With the aid of a thermometer, I determined that it’s 84 degrees at my desk. One room in the building was well over 100 this morning. So bring your swim trunks and kiddie pools. It’s time for a beach party!

Vote for Meeeeeeeee!

It's time for the once-in-a-blue-moon feature I call "Joel Actually Gets Political,” in honor of the Iowa caucuses. Usually I leave the politics to my friend Todd, who actually pays attention to things. I just like to make the occasional snide comment, and of course today is no exception. This morning I caught 5 minutes of news, including a few seconds of speeches by the major presidential candidates. Most of them included the word “change,” although not in any specific sense.

I’m amused by this trend that comes around pretty much every time there’s any kind of election. The candidates promise unspecified “change” in their term. Just imagine a president who, after being sworn in, declares himself king, kills off everyone who opposes him, and forces us all to wear wooden shoes and quack like ducks. That would be “change,” wouldn’t it?

This political moment has been brought to you by the letter I (as in ignorance and indifference).

Don't Touch That Dial!

I used to love listening to the radio. I knew when and where all the good music was. I had my favorite DJs and morning shows. Then I got a CD player in my car and an ipod. So for several years I haven’t listened to the radio at all.

For Christmas I got a shower radio, something I’ve actually wanted since my radio-listening days. I was surprised, however, at how much I now hate listening to the radio. The morning shows are vulgar and wholly un-funny, and it seems like there’s a commercial break after every sentence. So I pretty much listen to the news station in the morning for info on traffic and weather. *Sigh* I’m turning into my parents.

You Can Use Facts to Prove Things That Are Even Remotely True!

Sometimes I feel like the world wastes a lot of its scientific resources on unnecessary research. I know that research often yields unexpectedly positive results, such as the creation of silly putty or Dick Clarke, but every once in a while I read about research attempting to prove something like “men find good-looking women more attractive than mannequins with missing limbs.” Thanks for confirming that, guys.

I think scientists sometimes need PR help to relate advances to the public. For example, in explaining how time moves at different speeds according to the Theory of Relativity, scientists use the example of someone in a rocket ship going at the speed of light compared to someone on the ground on earth. All they need to do is point out how time moves so fast when you’re on vacation compared to when you’re at work. We don’t even need a big theory to explain it. That’s just the way the universe works.

Now, let’s put more of our collective efforts into developing strawberry jam that helps you lose weight.