Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's 4AM, do you know where your luggage is?

Airports never sleep. We're off to Cancun and presently settled in at
the launch pad waiting area with hundreds of other people. That's not
such a big deal until you realize it is not yet 4:30 in the morning.
By the time we were packed and the Paw Posse told of our intentions to
leave them for a week and we got on the road to the Emerald City last
night, it was pretty late. We napped in a hotel across the way and
were in the airport at 3:30 AM. ... and it was crowded. The T claims
she may never again complain about waking up to catch the 6 AM Rural
Rocket after seeing all the airline employees so bright and chipper.
I'm going to forage for some coffee. If I don't have a chance to blog
again before I cross the border, let me just wish you a happy-possibly
snowy and cold-week. I'll hoist a beer to you all from the beach.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Workout Regimen

'Tis spring! Time of renewal and rebirth. Out with the old and in with the new. This sentiment exists more so now after we mess with the clocks than it does during the dark of winter when we flip the calendar to 01-01-YYYY. The sun has returned and I don't want ol' Sol to see me like I was; I'd prefer that a new improved me greet each day.

So it is with great verve that I dedicate myself to my new workout regimen. It is neither time consuming nor sweat inducing, yet it has me wide awake before the break of dawn and occasionally makes me dizzy. There are only two things I need to do in order to bring out the me that is within and maintain her ever-loving happiness: dry out and self-inflate. Perhaps some details would be in order, eh?

I'm off to Cancun in three days for a week of sun, more sun, and hanging with ye olde nuclear family and all my sib's sig-O's. Three generations of the clan, all on the Yucatan peninsula. For my part, I promise to abstain from instigating any international incidents but if any Mexican national inquires, I will offer that they can have Texas back. But back to my new workout. Getting to Cancun involves flying. This involves a pressurized cabin, the better to enjoy the complimentary peanuts. The presence of pressure, in turn, has been known to transform me into a whiny, sniveling, weepy snot of a human. The joy begins the moment the jet door is closed and I am encapsulated with my fellow travelers like so many peas in a pod (or perhaps the tiny bits in a Con-Tac capsule is a better analogy; peas have way more leg room than I've ever had). My ears refuse to pop. I've tried yawning, chewing gum, blowing air out through my own ears, and special ear plugs. I've worked my way up to numbness through alcohol if only to keep myself from sticking an ice pick into my ear canal. Often my ears stay in this state of disequilibrium for longer than the flight lasts. It is painful and because I am also deaf during this period, I am oblivious to the aural clues that I may BE SPEAKING TOO LOUDLY. Me flying is truly joyous for myself and those around me.

I visited an ear-nose-throat specialist in my latest effort to alleviate the flying-induced pain. After waiting for almost an hour for the medicine man to appear even though I had a 7:45 a.m. appointment, he suggested I try chewing gum, yawning, and self-inflating. It was this last that got my attention. Self-inflating? I had the restaurant scene from Monty Python's Meaning of Life where the fat guy is offered a "thin mint sir, very thin" flash through my mind. He ingests the thin mint and explodes. You want me to do what, Doc?

Blow air through my own eardrums by pinching my nose shut and ... and ... well, I don't know how to tell you to do this but I think you know what I mean (he didn't say that to me; that's what I'm saying to you). This technique is known in the med-biz as "self-inflating." I am to force air up through my eustachian tubes to push my eardrums out against the pressure which has pushed them in. Well, Doc, did you miss the part on that little form there that I filled out almost an hour ago that says I've tried that? He says I need to do this constantly during take-off and landing while the pressure is changing. OK, that's news. I didn't realize I should do it constantly. I've been practicing and this is the part of my workout regimen that makes me dizzy.

In order for this technique to work—and here's the rub—the eustachian tubes must be clear. And now we've arrived at the other piece of the workout: I have to dry out my sinuses to clear out my tubes. I've always had moist sinuses. Turns out I'm probably allergic to dust and other by-products of merely being alive. Over the years I've tried all kinds of meds to dry out my sinuses and stop the post-nasal drip. It's not the nasal drip, it's the post-nasal drip that bugs me—much like it's not the math but the aftermath that gets under my skin. The only drug that has ever made a difference is Claritin-D and it is the D that had me wide awake and starting this blog at 4:45 am. People complain that Claritin-D keeps them up. That's not me. I can fall sleep during anything. However, after about six hours of happy slumber when my sleep cycle circles around to a shallow point, the D in the Claritin teams up with the urine in my bladder and I am wide awake. To give you an idea of how early this happens, today I was awake before the NPR fund-raising campaign began. Roosters envy me. Anyway, I gave up Claritin-D in order to see if I could still wake up early on my own (no) and now I'm taking it again to see if I can fly without pain.

BTW, I just tried self-inflating and only had success with my right ear. So far the only benefit of this new workout plan is that I've blogged before the sun has risen. The Doc was hesitant to put in tubes to solve the pressure problem because he scuba-dives and he thinks that is why I'm going to Cancun. I sensed a little transference on his part but he won't have the same out when I tell him I'm going to Italy. If the self-inflating does not work next week, I'm going for the tubes before I head off to Europe next fall. Gaia forbid I am seen in Heathrow yelling WHERE IS THE LUGGAGE RETURN?!? not because I am an obnoxious American but because I am simply deaf.

Started on my iPhone, posted after dawn from behind the coffee mug.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The iGods' Sense of Humor

Some things you are ashamed to admit. Having Celine Dion on your iPod is one of those things. However, the humor in this case is too much to ignore.

I have a music library of well over 6000 songs and sounds, book chapters and spoken word blurbs. I have a music list rigged to randomly select only music and sound bytes (such as "Bugs Bunny! Bugs Bunny! Rah! Rah! Rah!") that I have not heard in the last eight weeks. The image below shows what just played from this randomly—repeat: RANDOMLY—selected list a few moments ago. I would like to direct your attention to the top two songs in the list.

Because blogger is currently not playing nice and showing a clear image, let me translate.
Love Boat Theme——3/24/08 8:04 PM
My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme from Titanic)——3/24/08 8:02 PM

The bizarre nautical theme suddenly made it too hard to concentrate on work.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lost and Found

As you may recall, The T rides the Rural Rocket metro system about 65 miles thataway to get to work twice a week. She is out of the house before the rising of the sun, cats or myself. I love hearing about her adventures on the bus with other educator-type folks (who sleep during the ride, each under their own blankie) and the students who jump on closer to the destination. Just for clarification: the bus that she is on at 6 am is the late bus. Sheesh.

The Story of the Day, Take 1
A kid left his books on the bus. The T was asked if she could return them the next day. Sure, she says. ...and this is where the story ends? Not in my world.

The Story of the Day, Take 2, as told by The T
A woman from the front of the bus, after talking to the driver, approached me and asked if I was returning to End of the Line the next day. They weren't sure if the books belonged to the school or the library or whatever but maybe the kid could be tracked down, at least. I saw the student's name in the front of the middle school math textbook and said I would return the items. Then I saw what else was left behind. Tucked in the book were four pages of lined paper with his name written neatly at the top. There was also two pages of graph paper attached. The sharpened pencil with a new eraser was also in the pile. This kid hadn't just left books on the bus, he left behind an entire math kit. So I did his homework.

Apparently it was the sharpened pencil that sucked The T in and made doing the assignment irresistible. If the pencil were dull, so she claims, she could have let it alone. Once again, a geek is trapped by the allure of finely honed graphite. This kid is going to go from possibly freaking out a little because he misplaced his belongings (the neatness is what makes me think he cared about this homework) to a feeling a little joy about getting them back—with the included gift from the Math Fairy. I predict a rise in student ridership and forgotten textbooks once word gets out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Four Cart Pileup

One of the major pedestrian thoroughfares on the grounds of the Little College on the Hill has an electrical cord running across it from an expanse of lawn to a building. Actually, I've never traced the cord from end to end so I am making educated guesses as to the locations of the ends of this cord. How is it that this cord has been left out for weeks now? I say this based on the fact that I have never met anyone whose father did not freak out if someone touched his tools, the genus to which power cords belong. (Who else now hears the comic Louie Anderson in their head: I'm touching the tools.) Someone's father has got to be having a goat over his missing cord.

It does not lie there without repercussions. Many of the students now drag their books and school supplies and who-knows-what-all behind them in wheeled bags. Almost the entire student body runneth—er, rolleth amok. I've stopped asking students what they pack in their wheeled survival kits because they will tell me and diligently fish each item out as they run through the list. For instance, one instructor on campus requires his students to carry to class every day a hardcover collegiate level dictionary. It is required in the sense that if a student does not have the book when it is randomly requested bonus points are not awarded and harassment via verbal insults ensues. The dictionary is not such a bad thing (refer to my previous post regarding the words "sike" and "wa-la"). However, this same instructor "suggests" in the same points vs. abuse way that his students carry around a bungie cord of sufficient length so that they can strap themselves to their chairs when graphing ensues. What does a length of rubber strapping have to do with graphs you ask? If not sufficiently tied down, the excitement of graphing might have the students bouncing off the ceiling, you see. The need for wheeled bags is now apparent. Students who have not yet figured out that they deserve a shred of respect will carry around anything for a single point and to avoid being picked on in front of their peers. This is what people refer to when they say tenure is a bad thing, me thinks.

But back to the electrical cord. As I observe students progress slow to a speedbump pace because the wheels on their bag get stuck on the cord, I wonder why it is there. Why does one end seem to end at a building why the other end disappears into the ground in the middle of the lawn? My current theory is that someone in the buildings and grounds department has figured out a way to tap into the geothermic power source in the middle of the grassy knoll and is currently running the lights for the stage from said source. The option to this theory is that the juice is running the other way and the building is being used to power something underground—perhaps an Orcs weapons factory? This is obviously way less feasible.

But back to the electrical cord. Women in high heels stagger to a halt when the wheels jam. Folks in flat shoes similar stumble when their bag stops and they don't. Only we backpack-on-the-back crowd and folks in wheelchairs with rubberized wheels seem to be immune to the powers of this strand.

Who knew such a tiny thing could lead to so many questions?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thought for the Day

I do not mind playing a god. I mind playing a god badly. - Speaker to Animals, Ringworld

Friday, March 14, 2008

Translation Needed

LeBron James--a basketball player, for those of you who may recognize
the name but not the reason for his fame--will be gracing the cover of
Vogue in April. I read this in the sports section of the paper, by the
way, right next to the NBA standings and stats box. League leading
scorer and magazine cover model says of the event: "[I'm] a big guy
and a big supporter of fashion."

I'm sorry but what the heck does that mean? He is 6-foot-9 so I get
the big guy part but what does it mean to support fashion? Is it
endangered? I'm stumped.

Fashion strikes me as something that exists because gawkers exist.
Kind of along the lines of the field of dreams: if you build it they
will come. But a fashion show is cornier than any field in Iowa. I've
tried to understand. Honestly. I mean, I watched the Devil Wears
Prada. I heard Meryl explain to Anne that the only reason her sweater
was that particular shade of cerulean--not just blue, mind you, but
cerulean--was because an anorexic model was seen wearing it on a
runway six months earlier. Uh, right. I'm sorry but that sounds
remarkably like we're recalling millions of pounds of beef now because
we don't like the way that cow at the slaughterhouse looked six months

Hmmm, once again I'm not sure how we got here but I've enjoyed the ride.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Church of the Calorie

From the Department of Can't Make This Stuff Up

An organization on campus whose mission is to empower young women was the beneficiary of a fundraising event sponsored by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Since I myself am empowered by my iPhone and always having the internet in my pocket, I fired off a google search for info on the fundraiser. All I knew was that it involved chili and a small donation. I needed time and location.

Third on the list of google hits was the local Hamlet Picayune and the seemingly limitless community calendar. My finger cramped from all the scrolling I had to do in search of my singular event. I'm not sure how items were sorted but there was a separate category for Calendar and Meetings, with subsets of music, art tours, receptions, and openings, theater, dance, events, readings & lectures, classes, talks & demonstrations ... and then upcoming deadlines for more happenings if you haven't dropped over dead already. It is a massive listing and I really have to hand it to the paper for posting every little thing that comes their way. If you're bored around here it is your own damn fault.

Anyway, I found my event. It is happening in the same church hall as the following two events, listed in this order in the calendar (only the saint has been changed to protect the innocent):

  • Overeaters Anonymous. 10-11:30 a.m. St. Food's Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave. 555-8753.
  • Greet & Eat. 11:45 a.m. St. Food's Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave. Free meals for needy and hungry. 555-4862.
Below this was an announcement for a gluten awareness group, which—due to contextual miscues—I read as "glutton awareness group." Thankfully, they are meeting at a separate location.

Can you imagine the scene in the parking lot of the Church of the Calorie between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m.? Furthermore, I think it is very considerate to have these disparate groups assigned their own phone extensions for more information. Heaven forbid a hungry person be mistaken for an obese person over the phone.

By the way, the chili was excellent.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Overheard in Our Car

We were on our way home from another in our tiny efforts to fend off what isn't a recession yet but is really starting to look like one when I comment on the woman who was ahead of us in line.

Me: She had an L.L.Bean bag, Birkenstock sandals, Columbia pants, and a North Face coat. She was a walking ... a walking ... [trails off]

The T: She was a demographic. She was a catalog demographic. Makes you wonder how people like that ever buy underwear.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Scouting Math in the Wild

The 3rd grade Brownie had no idea what she started when she asked The
T and I if we wanted to buy some Girl Scout cookies. Since we both
work in math we couldn't let the opportunity for a mathematical
transaction to occur before we handed over our cold hard cash for
scout crack, aka thin mints. Actually I watched somewhat helplessly as
Scout was forced to do math on what she thought was her weekend.
It turns out that nowhere on the box does it say how many cookies are
in the box. Scout was asked by The T to figure out this little piece
of information. For $4, this girl had to do a lot of math. Based on
the serving size and the number of said serving sizes in the box,
Scout calculated 36 cookies. Nice job, my stomach growled, as I
interceded on Scout's behalf and forked over the money.
A teacher's work is never done and these cookies taste great.

Sent from my iPhone