Friday, March 27, 2009

This Week in Food (Blogs)

Hello, and welcome to the first (and potentially last) edition of the YIFY Food Blog Roundup. This could probably go in a couple of directions from here. Either it could become wildly popular and create it's own spin-off blog, or I could offend a bunch of people that I don't even know, feel guilty about it, and then go back to blogging about my dog or hard alcohol. Only time will tell. A few of the ground rules:

1. Blogs were selected at random. And by random I mean I'm commenting on the handful that I read regularly, or those that seem to be popular because they get frequent shout-outs in the blogs that I read.

2. If you have your own food blog that you want to be included, or, if there's one that you read and you want me to comment on it, just leave it as a comment. No promises here - remember that this might be the last edition.

3. I'm not trying to be an ass. Really. This is about as edited/filtered as I get. Sorry if it is still in some way offensive. This is the first post where Kate actually has editorial control. Mostly because she's the nicest person that I know.

4. If I write something about you and you don't like it, you can email me and I'll edit the post, print a retraction, or apologize profusely - your pick. But if you don't think it's too painful, I'd say just laugh it off. There may be some symbiosis here eventually. If we hit the big time, then maybe we can help drive traffic your way.

Alright, now that we've got that our of the way, here's your roundup

Blogger: Kath

Kath returned from Africa last week and got back to her normal blogging schedule. I'm not going to was a little more difficult when Kath was in Africa. Posts were inconsistent. Matt did his best to fill the Kath shaped hole that was left in blogworld, but it was hard on all of us. And when Kath did post, there were comment battles popping up everywhere. It was very difficult.

But now Kath is back and all is right in blogworld. She had a bunch of contests in the past week. I think it might be related to her trip to Africa. I have a feeling that next week she's going to announce that she's actually a Nigerian princess, and if you make a small deposit (of barney butter) into her account, then she can access all of the riches of her motherland and shower you with gold and ivory and probably some oatmeal. Be on the lookout for that, as I think it might be a scam.

Speaking of oatmeal, Kath and Oatmeal were fighting earlier this week. And by fighting, I mean that she chose other breakfast treats for a few days. It was difficult to watch. I felt like I was sitting in the back of the minivan and plugging my ears and saying la la la to myself to drown out the noise of Mom (Kath) and Dad (Oatmeal) fighting. I was worried that I would have to pick sides if they split up for good. I mean, we really like hanging out with Kath and Matt, but Oatmeal and I have such history together. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. Kath and her oats are reunited once again. 

Did I really just write an entire paragraph about someone else's relationship with oatmeal?

[Leaving the United States. Driving North. Going through Customs. Welcome to Canada] 

Blogger: Angela

OSG just launched a "Bikini Body Bootcamp" contest. Basically she's having her readers send in some 'before' pictures in bikinis (along with their measurements) and then they'll have a winner at the end of the thing. I'm trying to figure out how I can show my support. Which of these would be the least creepy?

1. I could take my picture wearing a women's bikini
2. I could go with imitation being the most sincere form of flattery, and also ask my blog readers to send in bikini pictures
3. I could send in my picture wearing a speedo and an "I Glo" baby tee

I think all of the above are pretty creepy, so maybe I'll just send in a celebrity bathing suit picture and say its me. I'd probably go with the famous Tyra Banks or Jennifer Love Hewitt pictures or something like that. 

But best of luck to OSG and the rest of the contestants. I know that bikini season is only about three days long in Canada, so hopefully they've got the scheduling figured out.

Blog: Zestycook
Blogger: Hmm, Zesty, I guess. Mind if I call you that? Perhaps Zest for short...

I have to admit that I don't really read this blog. I'm going to start, I just haven't gotten around to it. But it seems popular and fancy enough so I thought I'd write about it. Also, Zesty is successful in a female-dominated space, and I applaud that. I compare it to my success on the Taylor Swift Karaoke circuit, where it's usually just me and a bunch of women. But since I don't read his blog (yet) this is probably going to be a fairly superficial roundup.

I love Zesty's beautiful bald head - and I don't care who knows it. Have y'all seen his head? It can be seen in all its glory on the "About Zesty" page. It looks so damn smooth. It's probably good that we haven't met yet. I'm 97% sure that I'd start the conversation with "is it cool if I feel your head?" I used to think to myself that I'd much rather have gray hair than go bald, but a couple of things have changed my mind on that topic:

1. I started getting gray hair. And it seems to be coming in on the sides faster than the top. That was not part of the plan. I was hoping for George Clooney, but I'm worried it's going to be more like Grandpa Munster.

2. I saw Zesty's glorious bald head, and thought, yeah, that's definitely better than the Grandpa Munster look that I'm working on right now. 

I promise I'll stop talking about Zesty's head soon, but one more thing on that topic. When I was 14 and had to go to the dermatologist, there was a picture hanging on the wall. It was a side by side comparison of a 50-something plains Indian woman, and a 90-something Tibetan monk. The plains Indian woman spent all of her time in the sun so her face looked like an old catcher's mitt. The Tibetan monk spent all of his time protected from the sun and his bald head looked flawless. For the last 14 years I have been looking for a bald head as flawless as the monk head, and now we have found it...This concludes the somewhat-creepy section of this post where I describe another man's head.

I promise I'll actually read the blog next week so I can actually talk about it instead of Zesty's head. 

[Leaving Canada. Stopping briefly at Duty Free to buy some booze. Next stop = Florida]

Blogger: Meghann

It's been a very exciting week for Graduate Meghann readers. At long last, Meghann addressed her relationship status. For those of you who haven't been following along (shame on you), Meghann has been spotted out with this guy named Derek, since the Valentine's day time frame, but he has not yet received a title on the blog. So every time Derek and Meghann do something, there are usually a handful of comments saying something like "are you and Derek dating" or "is Derek your boyfriend." 

Well, Meghann finally cleared this up for us. Sort of. In a recent post, Meghann stated:

"Truth is Derek and I discussed it this weekend and we both honestly do not know what to label each other. We both know that we enjoy each other’s company and that we are just seeing how things move from here. There is no rush to produce labels, so one day at a time people! LOL"

Well, that might be good enough for you two, but those of us in blogworld need a label. It doesn't even have to be an accurate label, as long as it is used consistently. So if you don't want to go with 'Boyfriend' or 'Dating', that's fine, but give us something. You can call him the Easter Bunny or the Pope or whatever you want - just give the guy/relationship a title. It can be like a game of blog Mad Libs.

In other Graduate Meghann news, Meghann and her Easter Bunny, Derek went rollerblading this week. Wait, what? How did they do that? Did they get into a DeLorian with Michael J. Fox, get it up to 88 miles an hour and set the flux capacitor for 1996? I can't remember the last time I saw rollerblades, but I'm pretty sure Clinton was in office. I'm not really sure why Rollerblades disappeared. It wasn't like a better technology came along like with the Zach Morris cell phone or the Betamax or laser disc player. People just stopped using them. But maybe Meghann and her Easter Bunny are bringing them back, and I support that. BTW, spellcheck doesn't even recognize 'rollerblades' as a word anymore.

Blogger: Jenna

Alright, this will be a short one...mostly because this post is already too long. I don't know what happened here. I went out of town last week and Jenna was like the queen of yoga and every post had something to do with yoga. Then I came back and now every post talks about swimming. What the hell did I miss? It's like someone did a big 'search and replace' on the entire blog and took out Yoga and replaced it with Swimming. I'll get over it, but I feel like it was all really abrupt. It's a good thing that this isn't a 'Single White Female' scenario, otherwise I would've already invested in my own yoga mat and personal Yogi, only to have to switch it up and buy goggles now.

In other ELR news, Jenna and her BF were at the beach, and apparently Jenna's BF is friends with Albert Haynesworth and other professional football players. Now I don't doubt that it's true, but it would be an amazingly funny inside joke if it wasn't. Like he could just give her another random celebrity every week and she would have to weave that person into the blog. Almost like a Barbara Walters-style namedropping (I was horseback riding with the King of Jordan just last week...I was in a hot tub with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck). Also, I'd really like to see a photo of Jenna with Albert Haynesworth. And yes, he's the one stomping on the other dude's head. If I was decent with photoshop, I'd make that happen...instead you'll all just have to imagine it in your mind.

Blogging Trends or Stock up/Stock Down (not sure what to call it yet)

Stock Up
Barney Butter
Commenting with ALL CAPS and plenty of !!!!
Fake signatures at the end of posts
30 Day Shred Level II

Stock Down
Protein Powder
Labels for boyfriends
Black tar heroin
30 Day Shred Level I

Stay tuned for next week (or next time that I get around to this) when I'll review Brew and Bake, Healthy Tipping Point, Bites and Bowls, and whatever other blogs y'all tell me to write about.

That's all. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Real Housewives of Facebook

This should probably be titled "My Digital Friends, Volume IV," but the real housewives total came to me when I was running yesterday, and I just couldn't help myself. 

So of my 387 facebook friends, there are probably 20 or so that are stay at home moms (SAHMs). A couple of these are family members. I promise this post isn't about you. Hopefully that'll stop my sister from being mad at me. Most of my SAHM friends are from high school or college who have recently followed the traditional progression of: graduated from school, got married, had kid, stay at home and raise kid. The new last step in this progression is apparently "spend all of my time on facebook." Stay at home moms are great people, and they have the hardest job in the world (other than coal miners, probably) but I know this much is true:

Stay at home moms are the worst facebook friends. Ever.

Most of this revolves around the status update. Specifically:

They Update Their Status All the time: I expect status updates at specific times of the day: Early risers update their status in the morning. 8-5ers update their status after lunch (something like "back in the office and ready for a nap") and then there are the ready to leave work, and just got home from work status updates. Finally, there are the 'I have nothing better to do tonight so I'll update my facebook status' updates. With SAHMs, they just update their status all day. Now I only know this because I'm on Facebook all day, but it's damn annoying.

They Update Their Status with Stuff that Doesn't Interest Me: I go onto Facebook to be entertained. This does not happen with your SAHM friends. You get Facebook status updates like:

"Life is good when [insert rugrat name] sleeps through the night"
"Shopping for Minivans, and recommendations?"
"Taking [rugrat] to Target. He's still trying to get over his cold. Darn that daycare"
"What does it mean when [rugrat] has green spitup?"

Again, I'm looking for an enjoyable distraction with my facebook status updates. I'm looking for an obscure movie quote or song lyric, or some interesting detail of your life. Maybe even something unintentionally funny after being overserved on a Friday or Saturday night.  Not this mom stuff about minivans or gerber products.

Their Mom Friends have Full Conversations on Facebook: So I usually judge Facebook status updates based on two criteria: 1. Does it make me laugh, 2. Did lots of other people comment on it. Usually these two are pretty consistent. If I find something funny or entertaining, I'm probably not alone. With my SAHM friends, they post the lamest status updates (see examples above) yet still get a handful of responses that are just as lame. It's like there is this vast network of moms on facebook that go from watching noggin to hitting refresh on their computer to commenting on their status and then repeat. Oh, and I know I could call them a Momtourage, but I really don't want that term to takeoff, so I'm not going to use it. Damn, I guess I just did. So if some SAHM asks for input about a minivan, there will be five recommendations up there an hour later. Maybe I'm just jealous, who knows. 

I think it all comes back to my fear that one day all of the cool kids are going to wake up and realize that everyone is using facebook, and then they'll close out their accounts and start doing something else instead. Then it'll just be me and the SAHMs left on Facebook and my only entertainment will be status updates about the Honda Odessey and Go Diego Go. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Digital Friends, Volume III

How about this...three days in a row. This will be your third and final installment in the "My Digital Friends" series. This one is about how having blogging friends really changes your interaction and relationships with these people.

I'll start with our friend Kath, who is sort of our Charlotte Kevin Bacon. Every friend that we have in Charlotte can be traced back to Kath (and her husband, Matt) in some way. We've met some other people (not through Kath) but usually they just try to get us to go to church with them. Kate likes to remind me of the six degrees of Kath whenever I make fun of her for excessive blogstalking. Usually something along the lines of "we wouldn't even know Kath and Matt if I didn't do this" like she's some kind of martyr or something. Gotta love it. Anyway, we met Kath and Matt because of Kate's blogstalking and then setting up a double date. At the time of this double date, I wasn't really a follower of Kath's blog, but since we were going to meet them, I took a couple of hours to do research on her blog. The blog was like a full couples eHarmony profile or something, except most of it was about oatmeal and yoga. Matt's blog focuses more on my interests (bread and beer), but that wasn't launched until after our first date. So that's one plus of having blogging feel like you know them before you actually know them.

One thing to watch out for when you have blogging friends is to not freak out their blog's recurring characters the first time you meet them. So the first time I met Matt's mom, I think I led with "So how is Spanish class going?" Matt's mom is auditing a Spanish class at a local university, but I only know this because I read the blog. Think how creepy that must sound coming from some guy you haven't met before. I think I followed that one up with something like "Why do you always order white wine when the meal absolutely calls for a full-bodied red?" Another one that I only knew because of my freakish memory and creepy blogstalking habits. Should've probably kept those to myself and just gone with something like "Nice to meet you, do you live around here?"

You also have to watch out and make sure that someones blog persona doesn't trump what you actually know about them. My friends Al and Kate are both bloggers. They got married a few months ago and actually announced it on their respective blogs. I saw them for the first time since the wedding, and even though my Kate instructed me to "congratulate them on their wedding" I think I led with "Hey Kate, congrats on your 1000th post" which was a detail that I had picked up from reading her blog. I quickly recovered with "oh, and congrats on getting married, too."

Having blogger friends can also get you reading things that you normally wouldn't read. My friend Michelle blogs about fashion. Now I enjoyed Sex and the City (the show and movie) as much as the next guy (actually, probably more than the next guy), but I probably wouldn't read a blog about women's fashion if I wasn't friends with the author. Then again, I doubt all of my friends would really be interested in some gem that I write that amounts to 1000 words about the best mixers for Gin, but they muddle through because they know and/or like me. So I guess it all works out. And now when we hang out with Michelle and her husband I can say things like "oh, those are your 7 for all mankind jeans, aren't they? I loved those with the Express Cardi."

Commenting on friend blogs is also fun. I usually do one of two things. I either comment with some kind of off-topic inside joke, or come up with a fake name and defend my friend blogger, if someone is being mean via comments. I usually select a woman's name. And this fake woman persona of mine (usually named Marge, or Marci, or Doris) is pretty sassy. I think if I was a woman, I'd be a little feisty. Like the kind of woman who gets into fights - usually over her man. You know, the one with the really thin eyebrows that you see at the mall or at the fair. Yeah, so I'll comment as Marci and defend my friends. Could that be a bumper sticker? "My Blog Persona is a feisty middle-aged woman."

Commenting on my friend Kelsey's blog is fun too. Before I met Kelsey, I saw her blog and she had (either intentionally or unintentionally) posted a rather inappropriate looking picture of a couple of apples and a banana. If you don't know what I'm talking about, give a 12 year old boy two apples and a banana and see how he arranges them. So Kelsey was just taking a picture of her lunch or something, and I really really wanted to know if the fruit placement was intentionally in the twig and berries formation, or if it was random produce chance. Kate told me that I couldn't ask via comments, because I hadn't met Kelsey yet, and it's already creepy enough that a guy is reading food blogs. But now that Kelsey is one of my blogfriends, I'm entirely comfortable asking - and can do so without worrying about getting blocked from posting comments.  

So there it is, folks. The end of my three volume series on digital friends. Tomorrow we'll have something on The Real Housewives of Facebook. That should be fun and will probably offend plenty of readers.

Speaking of offending readers, I'm going to give the whole 'food blog critic' thing a shot on Saturday. We'll try it once and see how it goes. Depends on whether I can be funny without being a complete ass. Maybe I'll turn it into a weekly roundup or something. I was going to ask the food bloggers for permission first, but decided that I'll just ask for forgiveness later, instead. So stay tuned for that. Should be fun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Digital Friends, Volume II

Two days in a row. Yeah, I know. I'm awesome. So here's Volume II of our three (or more) part series on my digital friends. This one is about my facebook friends.

If this topic seems familiar to some of you, then you've been reading this blog for way too long. I did something on 'Social Networking Rules of Engagement' way back in the day. Like back when I had a blogmate. But this is a little bit different. This one is about evaluating your current friend list and making difficult cuts. Sort of like trying to cut the budget deficit (yeah, I'm watching the president's press conference right now). 

So Burger King ran some kind of contest a few weeks ago when they'd give you a free cheeseburger if you defriended 10 people. I didn't go for that for a couple of reasons: 1. I wasn't really hungry for a cheeseburger, and 2. I like to avoid conflict at all costs. But it got me thinking about my friend list, and who I would cut if I had to cut people off. Like if Burger King offered me one of those creepy oversized 'King' masks and suits for cutting friends, who would I choose?Here's the math:

Starting Number: 387. This is the total number of facebook 'friends' that I have. To someone new to facebook, this might seem like a lot. To someone who just graduated college, this is nothing. To someone who doesn't use facebook, I'm surprised you made it this far. Anyway, I don't think I have 387 actual friends. That seems like too many. I don't get 387 birthday cards and there certainly aren't 387 people who I could call to help me move or bail me out of jail. 200 sounds better, so that's our goal. In my make believe world, Burger King will give me the creepy King head if I get down under 200 friends. So let's start cutting...

Subtract People Who I don't Know (14). So I have to admit that I'm a huge nerd. I started this exercise by going through my entire friend list and typing every name into an excel file. This list of 14 people is basically the list of people that led me to say "who the hell is that" when I typed their name. So those people are gone. I'm not really sure how I became friends with these people. Maybe they were former coworkers who friended me during new employee orientation and then didn't make it to week two. Or maybe I went to college or high school with them and they got married and I don't recognize their married name. Whatever. They're gone now. We're down to 372.

Subtract People Who I haven't talked to in at least three years (212). Whoa. that's a lot. And to clarify, talking on facebook doesn't count. So this means phone, in person, or email communication. So we could be done (we'd be down to 160 friends), but that wouldn't be much fun, so let's add some people back in.

Add in People who I haven't talked to in three years, BUT I have had some facebook communication with them in the past year (45). Try fitting that column heading on an excel file. So these are your facebook success stories. They write funny status updates or post inappropriate pictures.  They are your no strings, facebook friends. So we have to add them back. Damn, now we're up to 205.   

Add back people who meet previous subtraction criteria but are somehow related to you (2). So if you're following, these are family members that I haven't talked to in over three years. I know, I'm a bad cousin. But of the 16 total family members among my friends, I have talked to 14 of them, which isn't bad. But we've got to add these two back to avoid family reunion drama. So now we're back to 207.

Add back people who meet previous subtraction criteria but have the ability to get you fired if they wanted to (1). Of my 387 current friends, I came up with 20 who could probably get me fired if they wanted to (without trying too hard). So these twenty represent current clients and people who have rectangles above my rectangle on the org chart. Note: there are lots of rectangles above my rectangle. But I talk to most of these people pretty often, so most did not meet the aforementioned exclusion criteria. Only one person to add back in. So now we're at 208

Subtract your potential liability list (10). So these are people that are on your list. Your list that you'd hand your PR person if you were ever running for office. Not people that you need to disappear, but people that could cause issues in the future, either because 1. you've done ridiculous things around them or 2. they tend to say ridiculous things. So these are people that would respond to your facebook status with some hilarious inside joke that is just blatantly offensive to people who don't know this person. Yeah, they shouldn't be your facebook friends, even though they are probably your best friends in real life. Keep in mind that you have people in the 'could get you fired' category above. They don't get along well with the personal liability group. So these actual friends are off the list. We're down to 198. Give me my creepy looking King head now. 

Editor's Note - There are a couple of other groups that I started counting, but left out of this post:

1. People who have seen me naked. This list was way too long. No, not because of that. Get your mind out of the gutter. You try playing high school sports or living in a fraternity. Would it really cost that much more to put in individual shower stalls? If I ever donate money to my high school or college, I'm going to have individual shower stalls put in with doors or curtains. Some freshman will thank me. 

2. Stay at home moms. I love you all, but your facebook status updates just aren't very exciting. I could go on here, but instead stay tuned for a full post on this. Something like "The Real Housewives of Facebook." Maybe Thursday-ish, if 'yall are free.

Alright, that's all for tonight. Volume III tomorrow night.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Digital Friends, Volume I

Hi Everyone. Sorry that it has been six days since my last post. That's really poor form on my part. So I decided that I should do something about it. I thought maybe if I start a multi-part post, then that'll keep me on the hook to post on consecutive days. So this is Volume I (of three) about my digital friends. So this one is about how Kate and I are registered blogstalkers. Volume II will provide tips on how to audit your Facebook friends to determine if they are really your friends. Volume III will have something to do with how human interaction is different with someone once you become a fan of their blog. After that I might go another six days without blogging, who knows. Anyway, here's Volume I...

Kate's affinity for blogs and bloggers has been well documented. Again, 'well documented' means that I wrote a post once about how she liked to use the little 'next blog' button at the top of the screen and randomly surf the interweb for blogs. She has sharpened her blogstalking focus recently: honing in on 50 or so blogs that she now has bookmarked and checks on a regular basis. 

Editor's Tangent: Yeah, she uses bookmarks for all of these. And there's no organization to them at all, so even the bookmark list requires scrolling. I've tried to get her to use delicious or google reader or pretty much anything other than a laundry list of bookmarks, but have not been successful. Oh, and she doesn't even bookmark the homepage - she'll bookmark the 'about me' page or something, so she'll still have to navigate to the homepage, even after finding her bookmark. I've concluded that spousal computer skills and navigation preferences are the 's/he never picks up her/his clothes' of our generation.

And were back. So she's got this list of fifty or so blogs that she checks all the time. I used to make fun of her for this. I didn't quite understand how she could pay attention to the details of a complete stranger's life. Especially since most of these are like food or healthy eating blogs. So they basically just take pictures of the food that they eat and then talk about it a little bit. There are some exceptions (if you're reading this, just assume you're one of the exceptions). And then for some reason I started reading these damn things too. I think my blogstalking picked up when Kate moved back to was basically something else that my pen pal and I could talk about, other than the uneventful 'how was your day' conversation...especially since neither of us were doing anything too exciting at the time. So instead of 'how was your day' the conversation would start with something like 'can you believe what [insert blogger name here] ate for dinner?'

A few things to keep in mind:
1. We don't know these people. We've never met them. Probably never will.
2. Most of these bloggers are pretty ordinary. Other than the fact that they take pictures of their food, they are pretty normal. They have ordinary jobs and ordinary lives. Except you, you're an exception, remember? And we don't talk about you. 
3. Not related to 1 and 2, but I should also add that I think I'm the only man who frequents these blogs.

So our digital friends are now a major topic of conversation at our house. Instead of awkward spousal silence or picking a stupid fight for the sport of it, we'll have exchanges like this:

Kate: So when do you think [insert blogger name] and [blogger's boyfriend] are going to get married?
Me: I'm not sure. I don't think he's ready yet, and she's still in school, right? And this isn't really the best market for [boyfriend] to sell his condo.
Kate: Yeah, I guess you're right. I bet they'll get married next Spring, she seems to really like the Spring. 

Again, we've never met these people - we've just created our own little soap opera. There are also times when Kate knows what blog I'm reading because of my behavior.

Me [singing] - I had some dreams/they were clouds in my coffee/clouds in my coffee
Kate: You're reading [insert blogger name here] again, aren't you?
Me: Yep, how'd you guess?
Kate: Because you always sing Carley Simon when you read that blog. Did she post another glamour shot of herself?
Me: Yup, a blatant ass picture for no apparent reason

I'm thinking about starting a new blog where I'm some sort of food blog critic. I'd channel this (unhealthy) obsession and do a daily roundup of what all of the food bloggers are writing about on a given day. Sort of like Perez Hilton but without the inappropriate doodles or actual celebrities. 

I think it's a good idea, but since I'm currently lacking the motivation to keep one blog up and running, it's probably not the best idea to start another.

Stay tuned for Volume II tomorrow (or whenever I get around to it). It'll have something to do with auditing your Facebook friend list. Should be fun. Oh, and Volume III is about the bloggers that I know and how reading a friend's blog changes your interaction with that person. So if you're a blogger and you're reading this, you'll have to stay tuned for Volume III. In other news, don't the Roman Numerals make this multi-part post seem like a big deal? Yeah, I thought so too. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Holiday Utility Curves

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. I decided to mark the occasion with a Guinness and a post about holidays. 

I've decided that different holidays bring varying levels of joy or utility, depending on one's age. I don't think this is really rocket science...nobody would argue with the statement that most people are super excited about Christmas when they are a little kid, and less excited about it when they are in their 40s. What I've decided is that this utility curve is not the same for all holidays. 

So in by messed up brain, the level of enjoyment or utility is on the Y axis (the one that goes up and down) and your age is on the X axis (side to side). So holidays like Christmas sort of look like a Ski Jump. They are at their peak early in life, and then go sharply downhill for the rest of your life. That one is sort of obvious (and also sort of depressing). I promise they'll get better.

There are some holidays that follow a normal distribution. I would put most drinking holidays into this category (St. Patrick's Day, New Year's Eve, Valentines Day if you're single).  These holidays are of little to no importance during your early years, then become increasingly important in your late teens to mid 20s, and then fall back into obscurity. And by important, I mean they are a convenient excuse to drink too much. 

Editor's Note: This isn't entirely the case for everyone for St. Patrick's Day. If you're legitimately Irish (not Bennigan's Irish), then it is sort of important for your entire life. I know this because Kate is legit Irish. Like South Side of Chicago Irish. With a super Irish-sounding maiden name. Honestly, if I had a pet leprechaun, and the pet leprechaun happened to be female, I would probably give it Kate's maiden name. Damn this blog would be better if I could use last names. Oh well. Oh, and I pretty much swiped the Bennigan's Irish thing from Mike Birbiglia who has a whole bit about being Olive Garden Italian.

Editor's Note #2 - Kate says I can use her maiden name. So it's Katie Kerrigan...doesn't that sound like a good leprechaun name?

Some holidays are only important when you're in school, and then you forget about them when you grow up. I guess they sort of have the same ski jump distribution as Christmas. I'd put some obscure holidays that schools get off in this category. In Illinois we got Casimir Pulaski day off. Don't ask why. I wouldn't even know who that is if it wasn't for Wikipedia. We probably would've studied him in school, but we got the day off instead. I'd also put President's Day and Parent Teacher Conference Day in this category. And don't try to tell me that Parent Teacher Conference Day isn't a real holiday.

Some holidays seem to have two peaks that resemble, well, boobs, I guess. try coming up with something else that can be described as having two peaks. Not so easy, huh?Anyway, examples of this would be holidays like Halloween, where it's fun when you're a little kid, and then you don't care about it until you get to college and then it just becomes an excuse for people to dress inappropriately. Then it goes back to not being that important or fun. 

A couple of Nike Swoosh shaped holidays would be Labor Day and Memorial Day. Labor Day pretty much sucks when you're a kid because it means that the swimming pool is closed for the year (check local listings). But it's pretty fantastic when you get older and you get a three day weekend for no particular reason. Same pretty much goes for Memorial Day...utility seems to grow as you get older.

That leaves us with Birthdays. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I finally have it figured out. I  think that the birthday utility curve sort of looks like any level from Super Mario Brothers. It's pretty flat most of the time, then every five years it gets exciting and goes up and you get to hit your head against the flashing question mark and grab the coin. This would be on your 5th birthday, 15, 25, etc. Your utility goes up a little bit, but nothing too crazy. Then it gets really fun every 10 years - like when you're zero, 10, 20, 30. These would be those big tubes on Mario Brothers - you can jump up on top and be at the highest levels of utility on these birthdays, or you can jump into the tube and go beneath the surface. That seems to be what people do when they get super depressed on their 30th, 40th, 50th birthdays. Maybe I took the Mario analogy a little too far. 

Alright, that's all I've got. Enjoy your corned beef and soda bread. And if anyone has an old school Nintendo that they want to get rid of, let me know. For some reason I really want to play Mario right now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

True Colors

I think I've mentioned this at one point or another on here, but I'm not very good with colors. Another way to put it is unless something is super bright, I probably have no clue what color it is. Another was to say it is red/green colorblindness, but that's a pretty dumb name. First, it makes it seem like it's just red and green (it isn't) and the 'blindness' part makes it seem like a big deal, and it really isn't. So that's why I just like to say I'm not really good with colors. Like it's calculus or driving or something. 

Not being good with colors is a big deal when you're a kid. For some reason, there's a great deal of emphasis on the color spectrum in school from ages 5-10. I really don't understand this. Everyone says that we're falling behind the rest of the world in math and science. Nobody says we don't know our colors. I happened to go to one of the few elementary schools that had an art program. My art teacher thought I should be held back due to my inability to distinguish between primary colors. Well, that, and I think I was pretty bad at making clay pots too. 

Once the other kids found out that I can't distinguish between one color and another, the natural response was to point to pretty much everything and say "what color is this?" Now, if I was smart, I would've said something along the lines of 'dumbass, I clearly don't is this a fun game?" but since I was younger and less cynical, I'd just say red or blue or something like that. It was usually wrong.

After elementary school, colors are less important. People think that matching clothes would be the hard part, but that's not really that difficult. During high school I'd just buy what the manikin/catalog model was wearing. Then I just started asking the people in the stores. Most people who work in retail hate their job, but think that they know something about clothes. So I just say, what would you wear with this? That works pretty well. After watching a few years of what not to wear I've found that it really doesn't matter what colors you wear.  Here is my fashion proof, based on this research:

If you're attractive and you wear matching clothes = Classic Style. Elegant, Old Hollywood
If you're attractive and you wear clashing clothes = Fashion Forward or Bold fashion choices
If you're unattractive and you wear matching clothes = not a risk taker
If you're unattractive and wear clashing clothes = fashion disaster or hot mess

Based on this research of E!, Us Weekly, and What Not To Wear, it seems like being attractive can make up for bad color choices, so I'll just focus on that from now on. 

There are some benefits to being bad with colors. Well, really only one that I can think of. Kate is currently painting a couple of rooms. Because I can't tell the difference in any of the color finalists, I get to sit out of the vote. I got to pick out a color once at our old house. I chose Spongebob Blue (from the Nickelodeon Collection) for the 1/2 bath. Based on this decision, I'm no longer included in paint color decisions. Kate does keep saying "what do you think" with each wall/coat of paint. I've just been saying that it looks great. I'm not sure what the hell color it is, but it looks great.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The People on the Trail

Our house backs up to a bike trail. Actually, people here call it 'the greenway' but I think that's a dumb name. So I'll continue to call it a bike trail. Whatever you call it, you get the picture, right? It's a trail, where people run, and bike and walk their dogs. I spend a good deal of time on the trail. On most days, I'm probably out there 4-5 times. Usually a couple walks with Gilbert, a bike ride with Kate, and then a run by myself. I usually spend between 2-3 hours/day on the trail, which might sound excessive, but I used to spend that much time commuting. Anyway, my trail time gives me ample people watching time. 

People watching on the trail is perfect, especially when Kate's around. You get a good glimpse of someone, but since you're most likely traveling at different speeds or in different directions, it's just a quick glimpse. This is a really good thing for Kate, who likes to people watch as much as I do, but with her it usually turns into people staring. Like it's some kind of sociological study, but she doesn't realize that there isn't any of that two-way mirror glass between her and her subject. So the general movement of people on the trail means that you get a good enough look, but can't get caught staring. All of this time out on the trail has led me to classify all of my fellow trail people into one of the following six categories:

Creepy Guys - So I don't want to start out by scaring y'all. There aren't a whole lot of these. It's rare to see more than one on a given day. There's the guy who is always wearing jeans and a rugby shirt and carrying a baseball. Then there's the guy with the beard who talks to himself. I'd also put the people who have their own one of a kind workout equipment here. You know, people who are working out on something that looks like some kind of concept vehicle. I'm not sure if they bought it off of an infomercial or built it in their garage. Oh, and I'd probably put myself in this category as well. Not that I'm a dirt ball, but I certainly look the part. As mentioned earlier, I'm out there 4-5 times per day. It's pretty much the only time I leave the house, so in the morning, I'm usually rocking the plaid pajama pants, hoodie, white man afro, and quasi-beard. It's a good look. 

The Moms - Usually in their 30s. Either pushing kids in a stroller or walking their dogs. They never travel alone. I've found that there are usually 3 of them in a group. They always manage to take up the ENTIRE width of the trail. They only do this between 10 AM - 2 PM. I think they consider this to be Mom time on the trail. If you're out exercising during these hours during the week, then you're on their turf. From what I can hear (I listen to their conversations while trying to get past their human wall) they spend most of their time talking about other women.  

The Spandex Crew - These are people who are actually using the trail for actual exercise. They don't all wear spandex, but many of them do. I guess I could fit into this group for 20-25% of my trail time. They rarely talk to other trail people, and get pretty annoyed at most of the other groups for doing things like the mom wall described above.

The Rockwells - These are the perfect families. You see more of them on the weekends. I actually don't mind having the Rockwells out there, with their awesome jogging strollers or little pull behind the bike buggy thing that sort of looks like a tent. My only knock on the Rockwells is that little kids are really bad at riding their bikes in a straight line. Their mom and dad are usually up ahead with the little baby in the pull behind thing, but the 4 year old is swaying from side to side, running into a creepy guy here and a group of moms there. Oh, and the Rockwell parents (Mom and Dad Rockwell) always make the same light deflecting accessory decisions. If Mom Rockwell is wearing a baseball hat, then Dad Rockwell is too. Same thing goes with sunglasses. 

Editor's Note - I think I'm going to start doing some charity work where I teach little kids how to bike in a straight line. They already know how to ride their bikes by the time they get to my clinic, but I want to get them to stop swaying back and forth like a drunk cyclist. 

First Timers - It's probably not their first time ever on a bike path/greenway, but it's also not something that they do four times a day (or even four times a year). You can usually spot them based on their attire (running in Khakis, a bike with visible dust on it, rollerblades because they didn't realize there are gravel parts of the trail). They are also the most likely to do a walk/run. Mostly just walking, but then running when someone that they know or think they know is approaching. These are usually the best for people watching, and most likely to be by the side of the trail nursing some injury after you make the turnaround. 

Old People - Old people on the trail are awesome. They usually aren't out there for any particular reason. They aren't trying to get from point A to point B. They just don't have anything else to do. Lots of them have binoculars and look at birds. They stop and talk to me and Gilbert when we approach. Sometimes they have dog treats in their pocket. Yes, you heard me correctly...they don't have a dog but carry dog treats in their awesome is that? I guess that's sort of a life goal for me. Once I can walk down the trail with dog treats (and no dog) but be viewed as a harmless old person instead of a creepy guy, then I know I've made it. Old people on the trail always travel in groups of two or groups of 10+. Actually, I guess that could be said about old people in general. It seems like it's always a couple, or a massive tour group. Except for when you pass a Buick on the interstate. There are always two big white perms in the backseat. Nevermind. That theory about either 2 or 10+ isn't very good.

So those are the people that I spend all of my time with these days. Next time you're on a bike trail, you can try to put people into each of my categories as they walk by. Or, if I missed some, please let me know. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Feeling My Oats

I've had an on again, off again relationship with Oatmeal. If Oatmeal and I had a relationship on Facebook, it would probably be classified as 'it's complicated'. That's saying something, because I really hate that relationship status. I actually de-friend people who list their status as such. Anyway, back to my complicated relationship with Oatmeal. 

This relationship began early in life. I think it had something to do with me really liking Wilford Brimley. So because of my affinity for Cocoon, warm breakfast, and all things Brimley,  I began spending time with Quaker Instant Oats in elementary school. Typically it was the Cinnamon and Spice flavor. I don't really know what 'spice' it was. They weren't really specific about that, but I didn't care.  Then I found  Cap'n Crunch, so Oatmeal and I were on a break. The Captain was fun and exciting, and I was young and stupid.  Sure, Oatmeal and I would still talk every once in a while, but it just wasn't the same. We weren't really exclusive, so we just sort of drifted apart. 

Oatmeal came back into my life in 2003. I discovered 'Oatmeal For Women' by Quaker and fell in love instantly. It was Vanilla Cinnamon, and it was beautiful. I loved everything about this Oatmeal makeover, and it was like we had never been apart. Now I'm not really sure what made it 'for women' to begin with. I convinced myself that it was just some marketing ploy, and eating it every morning wouldn't actually turn me into a woman. I actually started eating my lady oats right around the time that I met Kate, and it didn't scare her away, which was something. She didn't get jealous either.

And then something terrible happened. My blue boxes with the feminine font stopped showing up in the breakfast cereal aisle at my local grocery store. So then I thought it was just my grocery store. I traveled to other grocery stores, but it was nowhere to be found. Just like that, they were gone. No note.  No phone call. Nothing. I just looked online and some guy (or, more likely, some woman) is selling a box of lady oats for $24 on Amazon. I'm thinking about it.

So after getting abandoned like this by my lady oats, Oatmeal and I broke up again. This time I thought it was for good. Oatmeal had it's chance, and then left me. So I ran back to the Captain and found comfort in his delicious crunch berries

Then we moved to Charlotte and began hanging out with Matt and Kath. My friend Kath is sort of an Oatmeal evangelist. She is single handily bringing back this breakfast treat. Not the instant kind, but old school, cooked on the stove with water AND milk (and plenty of other stuff). Her blog even has a 'Tribute to Oatmeal' section. I wonder what the YIFY 'tribute' page could be. Probably something about television. 

Anyway, I was skeptical at first about this whole cooked Oatmeal thing, mostly because I don't really cook.  I do grill stuff, but I don't think I can grill Oatmeal. So that's strike one. Also, Oatmeal (done right) takes a little bit more prep time than my Cap'n Crunch. Two strikes. Throw in my complicated history with its instant cousin, and I thought that was that. But Kath was persistent. She's all, 'oh, you should really try it' which sounded a lot like 'you should meet my friend, and I'm not going to let it go until you go on at least one date.'  So I decided to give it a shot. 

My first date with this new Oatmeal was a double date. Matt and Kath came over to my house to help me through the awkward first encounter. Kath cooked and I paid attention. Sort of. Me and the new Oatmeal really hit it off. I stayed sort of full until noon and I could mix in enough ingredients to make it taste good. I'm trying to come up with a dating analogy for that last sentence, but all I can come up with is something about Oatmeal looking pretty hot after a few beers, and that just sounds inappropriate. So forget that I even said that. Next it was time for our first date together. I wasn't completely ready to be alone with Oatmeal, so I brought my laptop with me. Kath has an instructional video on her blog about how to cook Oatmeal, so I put that on one of the burners, while I made my oats on the other burner. Did I mention that I'm a huge nerd? Oatmeal didn't care. She doesn't judge me. 

So now Oatmeal and I have a date every morning. Oatmeal and I have gone on vacation in six states in the past couple of months. We'll even rendezvous in the hotel restaurant or the airport food court. I'm not ashamed of this relationship anymore. Kate is very accepting of this relationship. She's not quite as head over heals with Oatmeal as I am, but she rarely turns down a bowl as long as I'm doing the cooking.

Now it's only been a couple of months, and I don't want to get ahead of myself. I've had my heart broken by Oatmeal in the past, and I don't know if I can go through that again. But I feel like we're in a really good place right now and hopefully we'll be spending many more mornings together.  

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mo Technology, Mo Problems

I'm back in Charlotte now, and back in a blogging mood. Coming back from Indy (and actually not being in my house for about a week) gave me  tonight's topic. 

My family always traveled quite a bit when I was growing up. Both of my parents were teachers, so we'd have nice breaks for summers, holidays, and random fake holidays. These were usually hardcore road trips across the country in a minivan. I'll always remember the feeling of pulling back into the driveway after vacation. I was always bummed to be back home (because it usually meant going back to school the next day), but I'd always find the silver lining of "oh, at least we can check the mail and the answering machine." It was like catching up on a week's worth of life in about five minutes. 

I was reminded of this when I came back to Charlotte. I had been gone for six nights, spent the night in five different hotels, flew 6,000 miles, drove 600 more and there was really nothing to check. We don't have an answering machine. We actually haven't had a land line in five years. Aside from Netflix, there's never anything in the mailbox that needs our immediate attention. Bills are paid online automatically. News is on the internet. Email is on my phone. So now there's no really potential positive excitement feeling when we're coming back from a trip. Which means all we're left with is 'man, it would really suck if our house burned down.' I'd really like to balance that irrational fear out with something like 'maybe Ed McMahon left a message on my answering machine.'

So I guess that's my long-winded way of saying there seems to be both good and bad that comes from pretty much every technological advance. I'm by no means a ludite, but I can find a downside to pretty much every technological advance. Maybe that makes me a pessimist. Oh well. Here are a few others:

Social Networking
Pros - Great time waster. Good way to share pictures. Fantastic way to keep in touch without really talking to someone else.
Cons - Highly addictive, stalking potential, not good when you're looking for a job

Pros - Watch more TV in less time - what's not to love?
Cons - Makes watching 'regular speed' television pretty much impossible. Also miss some pretty fantastic commercials

Pros - Allows for mass quantities of music or books to be portable
Cons - You sort of forget about the tactile qualities of books and music. Both when you're buying something, and then after you buy and really like something. It just isn't the same.

Pro - You're never really lost, which is pretty fantastic
Con - I'm not only a worse driver since getting a GPS system, but my sense of direction has also regressed. I've lived in Charlotte for six months or so, and I still turn the damn thing on when I'm driving downtown. It's a complete crutch.

That's all I have time for this evening. If you can think of some more technological advances and want to list some pros and cons, go for it. I think pretty much every new gadget or communication channel has some downside. Except Email. Oh, and blogs. No downside with either of those.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mad as Hell

No, I'm not mad. It seems like everyone around me was mad today, so I just thought I'd write about people getting upset and loud for stupid reasons.

See, it was a YIFY travel day. San Francisco to Indianapolis by way of Charlotte. That might not make much sense to anyone with a grasp of US Geography, but there is a method to my madness. The second half of Kate's Valentine's Day gift was that she wouldn't have to drive back from her winter home in Indianapolis with all of her worldly possessions (I'd do it for her). So we flew from San Francisco to Charlotte, then she got off the plane in Charlotte and I continued on to Indy to pack up her independent senior apartment and haul her stuff across the country. I think that Kate secretly likes this half of her gift better than Napa.

Editor's Note - I'm guessing the front desk at the Senior Center will be getting some calls later tonight when a large man starts packing up one of the senior apartments at about 11:00 PM. Oh, the ladies are going to have a field day with this one at bingo tomorrow night. Maybe they'll think that the nice lady in the apartment got evicted or something. I'm gonna miss this place.

So today had all the makings of a travel day that would make people freak out. A nice winter snowstorm all along the East Coast, including places like Charlotte where people don't know how to deal with bad weather. Tons of flight delays and cancellations. Here are a few of my favorite airport freakouts.

1. Guy who just bought a $5 coffee before going through the security line. I really enjoy watching people who stop at the Starbucks right outside of the terminal area and then proceed to the security line without even taking a sip. Apparently they haven't flown for the last eight years and don't realize that you can't bring any liquids through security. I intentionally get behind these people in line because it's a cheap form of entertainment that goes something like this:

TSA Agent: Sir, you're going to have to get rid of that before you come through security
Idiot [looking shocked]: What? What do you mean?
TSA Agent: Sir, you're not allowed to bring beverages through the security checkpoint
Idiot [looking disgusted]: But. I just bought it.
TSA Agent: I'm sorry sir
Idiot [under his breath]: Why do they put a Starbucks there if I can't take it with me?

2. Guy behind me [behind idiot] in security line. Since I always try to get behind this guy in the security line, I know that I'm in for an extra two minute wait before my x-ray/security striptease. Both because of the coffee discussion that I know is coming, as well as the fact that the guy who didn't get the memo about no liquids probably also doesn't know to take off his shoes, belt, and laptop before going through security. And if he does know this, then he probably left his boarding pass in one of the articles of clothing that he just removed, so he'll have to go through the metal detector twice. Now this doesn't really bother me. I mean, I basically got behind him just for the entertainment value, so I knew it was coming. But this does always piss someone off...usually the guy behind me. Guy behind me just can't believe that anyone wouldn't know the current rules and regulations. He sees me as a confidant, since I've got the security striptease down to a science, so he usually shares his frustrations with me:

Guy Behind Me [annoyed]: Ugh, can you believe this?
Me [playing along]: What's that?
Guy: This idiot in front of you...has he ever flown before
Me [still playing along]: Why is that?
Guy: Well he didn't know you had to [insert TSA requirement here] before going through security
Me [lying]: That's my uncle
Guy: Oh, well. Sorry. 

3. Family whose flight has been delayed. Now I'll admit that flight delays can be annoying. But I can guarantee that there is not a single person at the airport who can do anything about your flight delay, so it really doesn't do any good to get cranky at the lady at the desk. Missing connections does indeed suck, but it happens. Also, if your 5:00 PM flight from Charlotte to Indy gets delayed until 6:30, what do you have to get upset about? If you're flying to Indy, you clearly don't have a connection. Nobody is juy flying through Indy. So you're going to get there at 8:00 instead of 6:30. I'm sorry that you missed Jeopardy, but you'll still be home in time for The Bachelor. As long as you don't have to spend the night in an airport, just calm down. Or let me know if you're going to freak out, because I'd like to watch. After the misguided freakout to the lady at the gate, I usually like to go up and say something nice to her. Just because it must really suck to have people complain about something you have no control over and not be able to provide anything close to a satisfactory answer. Either that, or I tell the freaking out family some made up story that makes them embarrassed about their tirade. Usually something like:

"Yeah, I know what you mean, I was supposed to be on the flight at 6:00 AM, and I've been here for the last 12 hours."


"Well, now I've already missed my connecting flight. I was supposed to go to Moscow tonight, and now I'll be stuck in the states for an extra two days."

The latter only works if it's the type of person who doesn't realize that you can't fly from Indianapolis to Moscow, so it works about 75% of the time.

Honorable Mention Travel Freakouts:
A. Person who gets upset when the flight lands but has to wait on the tarmac for 5 minutes while the previous flight clears the gate.
B. Person who boards flight late (usually with McDonald's bag in tow) only to find that there isn't room for their massive carry-on right above their seat
C. Person who tries to use the bathroom during takeoff only to get sent back to their seat by the flight attendant

I really enjoy C. There are few things more demeaning than being told that you have to hold it. Makes you feel like you're back in Kindergarten. 

So there you have it. Most of you who know me probably know that I don't really freakout very often. I usually just turn into a bigger smartass than I already am. Or, if I feel that I have been slighted and need some form of retribution, I usually just tell the service person that because of reason X, I don't think I'm going to pay for Y. You'd be amazed how often that works. If you're at a hotel and you don't have hot water in your shower, when you check out, just say that you just don't think you're going to pay the 'resort fee' on account of there not being hot water. Or if a waitress screws up your order, just say that a beer on the house will help you forget the mix-up. Most hospitality type workers are just trying to avoid conflict, so giving them an easy out usually works. Sure, you could demand to speak to a manager or something like that, but then you're talking to someone who only hears people complain all day. So I just like to suggest that I won't pay for something to the front line employee and then go on my way. They get the feeling of successfully avoiding conflict and you get the feeling that you won the argument without having to argue.

Alright, time to pack up the senior apartment and go to bed. Cohabitation begins again tomorrow, which should provide plenty of BlogFodder.