Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rubber Bands: Man's Greatest Enemy

A couple of years ago, I was in my classroom, sitting at my desk, and chatting with a student for a minute or two while we waited for the dismissal bell to ring. As I was talking to her, I was playing around with a rubber band – stretching it with the fingers on one hand the whole time we chatted. At some point, I was stretching it from my thumb to my pinky finger. It slipped off and hit this poor, sweet girl on the cheek. She looked at me, shocked, as if to say, “What the hell was that for, you stupid idiot!?!” I obviously begged for her forgiveness and explained the accident. I doubt she every truly forgave me. She’s probably in college now somewhere plotting a complex, rubber band themed revenge. She’s just sitting in a dark dorm room practicing her aim with her homemade rubber band gun crafted from a rifle shaped block of wood and a wooden clip. Well, there is nothing I can do about that. If I sat around worrying about all of the students to whom I mildly annoying, I’d be a paranoid… er… I’d be even more paranoid.

What’s the deal with rubber bands anyways? If I got a rubber band and stretched it out to capacity and shot it at someone, it wouldn’t even slightly hurt them. The only way it hurts is if you directly apply it to someone’s skin, but that’s a different story. The next time you think about it, pick up a rubber band and play around with it around someone. Stretch it out and pretend like you’re going to shoot something not even close to that person. As you do this, keep your conversation about anything else. While you chat, watch that person’s eyes. I guarantee you that their eyes will be glued to that rubber band like a pug’s eyes to a Snausage. I think growing up and going to school has conditioned Americans to fear rubber bands. It’s a Pavlovian response: we see a rubber band being stretched and we wet ourselves. Maybe cops could use one as a means of intimidation (Cop walks into an interrogation room and lays a rubber band on the table in front of the suspected criminal – criminal begins to squirm but not allowing his eyes to break away from the rubber band. Cop says, “Do you want me to use this? I can, you know. I can point at your face! Where did you hide all of the cotton candy you stole?”).

The equivalent of this is popping a balloon. For some reason, people freak out when a balloon gets popped even when they know it’s going to happen. I get that a loud noise can be startling, but people get all weird if it happens at all. I popped 15 balloons or so yesterday, and my students flinched, screamed, and covered their ears every time (we’re talking about high school kids here). I, admittedly, felt uneasy and pre-flinched every time I popped one. Maybe it’s the symbolism of a balloon popping that is so off-putting: something that is supposed to represent happiness and celebration being destroyed in an instant moment of a slightly loud noise and rendered an impotent, piece of garbage. Regardless, I can’t think of two more harmless things that create so much anxiety and fear. Then again, I’m not one to sound tough; The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz both still give me nightmares.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weight Control Problem VIII

Since junior varsity swimming ended, I’ve been going to the gym regularly. I’ve lost a few pounds, gotten a little stronger and feel better about myself. I’ve gotten my weight down to my previous heaviest from last year, which is sadly an accomplishment. My big boy problems are still quite persistent: shirts are too tight and the ass-seams in my pants are still ripping – even my new pants. On a good note, I’ve been eating less fast food and following Life’s Highway’s suggestion of subtracting one fatty thing from what I normally eat (i.e. no sour cream on tacos, no French fries, etc.).

My new problem is that my thighs chafe when I run. While I don’t run far, I’m run-walking for 45 minutes. Between my stupid Shuffle ear buds falling out of my ears and my gut hitting the stop button on the treadmill, I don’t need an uncomfortable stinging between my legs to boot. (By the way, the second to newest iPod Shuffle is the biggest scam in the world. The only way it works is if you have THEIR headphones… er… earbuds. Also, what’s the difference between the old Shuffle and this one? The shape is the only difference. I hope Apple starts reading my blog, so they know how annoyed I am with them.) It’s like the cosmos are plotting against me by throwing every obstacle known to man at me. Next thing you know, I’ll have to run on a treadmill with no TV playing what I want to watch or, even worse, have to run next to that guy that always talks to me.

As I was having a beer and watching the football games two weekends ago, it crossed my mind: football players have big legs. How do they avoiding this annoyance? And then it hit me: eureka! Their pants are slippery! The next day I went to the gym eager to try out my new slippery plan. I applied a copious amount of lotion between my thighs to create the needed viscosity. It worked for a minute or two but quickly became slightly uncomfortable and then really uncomfortable. It felt like the lotion was creeping into off limit crevasses. So I went home and actually looked it up on the internet. Apparently, people wear things called compression shorts when they run. Compression shorts became my new obsession. I researched and researched and found the right pair. When I put them on, it felt like a whole new, funky world had just been opened up to me. My legs were touching but they slid right by each other as I ran – as if in perfect harmony. Some people call them bicycle shorts, but my wife is just immature. Now instead of the uncomfortable pain of chafing, my legs just make a smooth sound like a spandex grasshopper preparing to make love.

My compressor shorts are most prized possession now, and I treat them delicately. I refuse to wash and dry them with my inferior other clothes, so I wash them separately. My wife has graciously showed me how she washes her brassieres (wow, spelled that right on the first try – everything has been coming up Johnny lately!). Now, when I go to bed, I create nice, little hot bath for my compressor shorts in the sink and wash them with the tenderness of a mother using special bra soap.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Worst. Post. Ever.

Me: “President Obama, you have, uh, a little something on your face.”

President Obama: “Don’t be afraid, my child, you can tell me what and where it is.”

Me: “It’s something on your nose, by your nostril.”

President Obama: “What is it?”

Me: “It’s on your nose.”

President Obama: “Tell me what it is!”

Me: “Something from your nose.”

President Obama: “Tell me what it is NOW! One word!”

Me: “Dried mucus…”

President Obama: “I said, “ONE word!”

Me: “Booger.”

*I know you’ve grown to expect a certain level of sophistication from me. My pant-ass splitting series was fairly witty, and my thoughts on my dogs trying to kill me are clever. So, try not to think of this as gross, but really think about what I mean.

Is there another name for a booger? I’m not trying to be gross here, but is there really another name for it? If there is another word then I haven’t heard it. Really though, we must think of the beauty of that word. Is there another word that encapsulates it better? Booger just sounds right. Is there a term for words that are seemingly nonsense but fit what the word means perfectly? Booger is a funny thing (well, to 10 year olds), and it’s a funny word.

The next example is worse than booger but works. Fart is a perfect word for what it is. The actual word has nothing to do with the action. Like, when one slips out, it doesn’t make an onomatopoeia-esque noise (Faaaaaaaart. “Oh, excuse me!”). The word came from somewhere and whoever made it up is a genius. It is just so appropriate for what it means.

Next, I explore why there is to and too, but not a so and soo – as in, “I’m soo tired.” Doesn’t that make sense?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homemade Taco Bell!

My wife and I make quasi-Tex-Mex food every once and a while; though I’d greatly prefer to go to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, my wife prefers for me to make it. These types of restaurants are on every street corner in Texas, and I’ve never eaten at a bad one. Some might have stronger margaritas, some might have fancier d├ęcor, and some might have better murals of mariachis. Really, the main difference between one Tex-Mex place and another is the quality of their chips and salsa. The food overall could be slightly better at one restaurant than another, but if they don’t have the right kind of salsa then sucks to them!

Back to my point, for some stupid reason, when I cook at home, my goal is to make my tacos and burritos taste as much like Taco Bell as possible. When I buy the ingredients at the store, I buy the Taco Bell taco sauce and Taco Bell seasoning packages. When I mix the ingredients, I’m extraordinarily careful as to how much I add to the mix. I taste the refried beans constantly to make sure they are the right consistency and flavor. “Hmmm… Taco Bell’s are creamier. It needs a dash more sauce.” It never occurred to me until today that this is probably the most pathetic/asinine/misguided/uncreative/lazy culinary effort in the world. I’m trying to make homemade food taste like freakin’ Taco Bell. Do I have a problem? I know my palette lacks refinery but is it really this bad? Why don’t I just eat things I find on the ground like my dogs? They’ll eat floor cheese to a dead cockroach. Am I the human equivalent to this?

 Maybe I need loftier home, Tex-Mex cooking goals, so I’m looking at you Taco Cabana. When are you going to put out some products I can buy at the grocery store? I’d like to imitate your slightly higher class Tex-Mex fast food taste. I think it will help my self-esteem.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Well, It's Kind of Like Herpes - Part II

Welcome back to the exciting conclusion of Well, It’s Kind of Like Herpes. If you’re reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about, read this first.

My friend was in a state of misery. He finally found the magical (or is competent the right word?) doctor who could diagnose the problem. The doctor gave him a quick once over and solved the curious case of the incredible Mr. Itchy. My friend had scabies. Scabies is probably best compared to body lice. Basically, little parasites had been burrowing into his skin for 3 or 4 months. They were making his skin their home and apparently, living quite nicely. Maybe having tiny dinner parties and taking their kids to soccer practice.

To be honest, I don’t know much about scabies other than the symptoms; therefore, I will go to the easiest (though possibly inaccurate) source. According to Wikipedia, scabies is a condition that is best associated with poor hygiene and overpopulated areas. I’m going to give my friend credit and assume he took regular showers in college though I never actually saw him in the shower; he might have just turned on the shower for effect. As far as overpopulated situations go, the University of Texas was 55,000 people strong when we went there. If you’re not from Texas, you might not know this but Austin is basically the largest hippie commune in the south. I took a class called Anarchy and Socialism in Brazil in college, and I was the only person who wore shoes to class and wasn’t accompanied by a stink cloud (a la Pig Pen from Peanuts). I imagine every one of them had every itchy bug in the medical textbook playing hacky sack on their grass. UT’s parking situation is a nightmare, so most people ride buses to and from campus. We lived off campus, so we all rode the bus at least twice a day – and so did the hippies. We all hypothesized that he got scabies from utilizing public transportation. Some hippie’s dirty bugs took a ride on the bus and hitch-hiked a ride on my buddy.

On the bright side, this doctor gave him a prescription for some scabies killing lotion. He literally went home, put the lotion all over his body, and within 24 hours, he was cured. Literally, 4 months of this problem and, POOF, it’s gone. This was just in time because some of us in the apartment felt like his scabies were gunning for us next. I guess it is human nature to see someone constantly scratching and just imagine these little bugs burrowing, crapping, and procreating in their skin. I could just feel them in my arm hair, my chest hair, my… well, you get the picture. Consequently, everyone took a little scabies lotion bath. The problem was finally solved. Scabies finally left our lives after creating so much misery and devastation. My friend could finally sit on the couch with the rest of us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Well, It’s Kind of Like Herpes

In my second year at the University of Texas, one of my roommates (he’s also one of my best friends, so I’ll try to be delicate) somehow contracted some sort of skin ailment. It started with a few itchy bumps and then it quickly spread across his body. As group of college-aged guys, we, of course, thought this was a God sent joke for our own amusement. Sometimes, I would just sit and face him as he watched TV, just to giggle every time he scratched himself. In hindsight, I feel for the guy; I can’t imagine itching day and night.

When we were in college, no one in our apartment (and there were four of us) had any idea how to go to the doctor alone. I mean, directions, finding the right office, using insurance, paying a deductable, we weren’t college educated yet! Just like the rest of us, he was a mommas’ boy, too, and this mommas’-boy-itis prevented him from going to the doctor on his own. He had to wait until he went back to Houston for the weekend, so he could go to the doctor with his mom.

The first diagnosis was that he must be allergic to the fabric on our furniture. The furniture especially made sense because it was also the furniture that came with the apartment. When I reflect on the things WE did to those couches, it’s a wonder how many other people did the same, if not worse. His solution to this was to always sit in a dark green, plastic lawn chair. While we all sat around eating our cheap Totinos pizzas watching Dawson’s Creek on our comfy sofa, he sat in his cold, plastic posture-pedic chair constantly scratching – always scratching.

After a few weeks of trying out the chair, he realized it must not be the fabric that was causing his sleepless nights. The next time he went back to Houston, he and his mother went to another doctor. The second doctor diagnosed the problem as an allergic reaction to our cat, Solo. Everyone always assumes that his name derives from Han Solo of Star Wars fame. This is untrue. We actually named him after a drug dealer in our apartment building that lived just below us but above the grimiest strippers in Austin. The guy was a 5’4”, black dude and our pet was a black kitten, so we didn’t have a choice. Sometimes fate reveals knowledge so clearly that we cannot ignore it. Regardless, he should have considered it an homage (if he knew, which we took painstaking efforts to make sure he didn’t).

The cat issue was a problem because everyone loved the cat and didn’t want to have to get rid of it. Luckily, Christmas break came around and we all went back to our respective parents’ homes in Houston. My brother and I took Solo to our house. My friend had a whole month to be away from the cat. His skin didn’t get any better. At this point, the problem had been going on for 3 months. The bumps had now completely covered his body besides, luckily for him, his face. It had gotten so bad that even between his fingers had been hit by the problem. He rubbed his fingers raw by interlocking his fingers, straightening them, and moving them like little itching saws. The problem had reached an irritating crescendo that needed to be solved immediately, for his sanity was at stake.

Part II – Next time!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's the deal with cashiers?

I bought some compressor shorts today, and no, this post isn’t about how free and easy chafe-less running feels. I paid for my shorts with cash and was served with the usual paper and metal money sandwich, with a useless side of receipt. Is this taught to cashiers – part of their training is to hand out the receipt, followed by cash, and topped with change? Why do all three of these things need to be given to me at once in one open hand? Maybe if I carried around a burlap sack, I could just shove all of this crap in it. Whatever someone puts in my hand, I could just crumble up and jam it in. Unfortunately, I only have Crown Royal sacks, and those are for keeping pennies – house pennies, not out-and-about pennies! I mean, come on, imagine me walking around with a Crown Royal sack tied to my belt in public? I’d look like a damn fool. 

Think about the logic of this situation: the paper cash, change, and receipt come from the cashier already sorted. Why the hell would the cashier create this mess? It’s like a jigsaw puzzle: here’s what it should look like. Here’s a mess of pieces. Put it back together. Cashier, give me the paper money to put in my wallet, and then the change to put in my pocket. I want the receipt, too, so I can throw it in the trash on the way out. Also, half of the time this process turns into an explosion of paper and pennies. If the cashier and I aren’t in complete unison, the transaction ends with me splitting my pants because I have to bend over to look for that quarter that when AWOL. You know like I do, when I eventually find that allusive piece of change, I’m on all fours, looking under some lady’s cart, and it ends up being a damn penny. 

I know this is different for women, but it’s similar. They don’t just shove it all in their purse, and if they do, they sort it out later. We need to all band together and specifically ask for the pieces of the transaction to be handed out separately. I, for one, will put my hand out, and when the cashier places whatever is first in my hand, I’ll quickly jerk my hand back and put it in its proper place. I’ll continue this until the transfer is complete. If this catches on, the cashiers will have something to talk about at their next cashier’s meeting. We have to act as a society, people. Do you want to be a spineless consumer? Let the Best Buys, HEBs, and KFCs of the world know: we will not be slightly inconvenienced!