Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tennis & Oreos

I had a startling revelation today. Except replace the word startling with blueberry and the word revelation with monkey. Monkeys are funny. Now replace monkey with thought, and delete blueberry altogether. I had a thought today. That’s still not the right word, but it’ll do until I can find a better one.

Right now I’m sitting in an airport bar (a sports bar, but in my defense it is the only bar in the terminal. Plus they are showing women’s tennis on TV, and that’s just hot) reminiscing about my diet during the 5 or so days that I was working down in Florida. I was looking at the menu (after ordering a beer of course – I have priorities) and I realized nothing sounded good. I’ve eaten so much crap over the past few days that food is dead to me. This is common – it happens on just about every program. But why? I’ve never really stopped to analyze the cause of my gluttony. Experience has taught me that structured meal breaks are few and far between while I am on the road. While my clients have scheduled meals and breaks, for me those times are more likely to be slated for rehearsals and other production related tasks then they are sustenance. As such it is now ingrained within me that my very survival hinges upon the handful of cookies I am able to pilfer from a break station. Pastry for breakfast. Cookies for lunch. Cookies for dinner – followed by a “real” dinner around 11 because one can not live on cookies alone. And then we get to the real culprit – leftovers. On those (not so) rare occasions that there is leftover food after a client’s meal function has completed, that food will typically be delivered to the staff HQ for our consumption. This is the high point of the staff’s day - myself included. I don’t really have the words to describe how exciting this is to us. The merest hint of an impending meal sets off a phone tree that would do any PTA proud. “Cookies spotted in Salon A”. “Lunch being delivered to HQ in two minutes – tell your crew”.

Sorry I lost my train of thought – was watching women’s tennis again. Damn. I mean seriously, damn. Anyway I was thinking about this food phenomenon, and I may have figured out why I continue to engage in this destructive cycle of male pattern baldness. Sure part of it is that at heart I’m thrifty, and if I can eat free food instead of spending my per diem I will do so every time. There’s more though – it goes pretty deep. I think the reason that I (and my coworkers) engage in such poor dietary habits while on the road is that food is the only real outlet that we have. While on the road I’m usually working crazy insane hours – and even if I have an evening off it’s usually with the understanding that I’m on call and could be required to return at any moment. Most of my clients also have a non-fraternization policy, which basically means that hotel bars and what not are off limits even if we had time to patronize them. Food is really the only thing we have left to add excitement to our lives. This is why it’s okay when I eat an entire box of Oreos in 3 days or have 2 deserts with every meal. I feel fat.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wooden Fish Mallet

So today I’m packing up ten Dell 20” LCD monitors that my client used during a conference down in Florida. My computer vendor had shipped the monitors to me in the original OEM boxes, complete with three pieces of Styrofoam that had to be layered just so in order for the box to close. I’m working on the first monitor, but the Styrofoam pieces just don’t seem to want to fit properly around the monitor. No matter what I do one part ends up sticking up too high, and the box won’t close (but then again who hasn’t had that problem – am I right people? Who’s with me!). Now I have packed this style of monitor on many occasions, so I know how it’s done. In the back of my mind I recall that one box had been packed differently – an older style of packing perhaps before Dell changed to a newer easy to use system. Still it’s just Styrofoam right? I can get this. I try every single possible combination at least five times. Thirty minutes have passed since my first attempt. I can see potential in the Styrofoam pieces – each one is crafted in such a way that it is obvious where it should go in relation to the monitor. The thing is, it just doesn’t work with the box. Crap. I’m approaching the 45 minute mark now (in reality it was more like the 25 minute mark, but it seemed like 45) so I decide to step back and try something new. I’m sold on my theory that this box is just a slightly different/older style. I decide to pack the newer ones first and come back to this one last. Maybe I can sneak up on it, and if it doesn't see me coming it won't put up such a fight. Life is good, I have a plan. Move on to the next box… and it’s exactly the same. There goes my well crafted theory. Stare at this one for about 20 seconds, when the answer hits me: I’m a moron. Actually what occurred to me was the fact that the LCD screen has to be disconnected from the base before it can be packed in the box, and I had been trying to pack the unit as a whole. Still a rose by any other name. Anyway with this brilliant piece of insight firmly within my grasp I finished with all ten monitors in a scant 30 minutes – the same amount of time I spent trying to figure out the first monitor. One of my prouder moments.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Joseph Heller

Remember that scene in the movie Howard the Duck where Lea Thompson does that thing with the pizza? Well three days ago I ran out of coffee.

Sure we all make contingency plans for this sort of thing – battle plans are drawn up, scale models are pushed around in the war room sandbox, any number of hollow gestures designed to make us feel safe and secure. Why worry – there is a plan in place! So there I am, waking up to another pleasant valley Sunday here in status symbol land. Splash some water on my face and head downstairs for the first cup of the day. Who knows, maybe I’m even whistling – la La la freakin’ la. Because I don’t know. I just didn’t see it coming.

When I come to I’m lying on the kitchen floor clutching an empty bag of Peet’s Major Dickason Whole Bean – and that’s when the whole horrifying chain of events comes crashing down on my mind like a hippo with a 2pm tee time. There is no coffee. There was no coffee.

This past Friday I was shocked to discover that I only had enough beans for one cup of coffee – two if I drank it normal strength instead of my usual superdark. No worries, I’d pick some up at the store and be ready to roll by Saturday. Stuff happens. No coffee Saturday, but a friend takes pity on me and shares her stash. Sunday shows up – still no coffee. Remember driving home from a friend’s house at 2am that morning, thinking I should see if there is an all night grocery store so I can buy coffee. Didn’t do it. Crap. Coffee shop time. I had every intention of going to the grocery store on Sunday (after all I had run out off food at least 3 days before I ran out of coffee), but in the end the couch prevailed. Monday rolls around and now I’m desperate – I mean I’m tearing the cupboards apart looking for a single serving pack that I missed (I take single serving packs from hotels – one of the aforementioned contingency plans). Elated I come across a handful hotel coffee packets! Decaffeinated hotel coffee packets. Crap again.

There’s no way around it – I’ve got to go to the grocery store… but I’m so tired! Drink one cup of tea. Nothing. Drink another cup of tea. Nothing. Drink cup number three. Still nothing – the plan is abandoned. Eventually the lure of ice cream forces me to leave the house – but not until 8:45 pm that evening. The plague is over – I made it to the store and I now have a fresh supply of coffee. Still that doesn’t change the fact that for three days I wanted coffee, but a lack of caffeine induced motivation kept me from fulfilling my dreams. It’s like a viscous Lion King/Circle of Life thing where the hyenas are played by an empty bag of coffee beans and Nala is played by a real life Natalie Portman. Except that analogy really doesn’t apply well to this situation. It’s more of a Catch-22 then a Circle of Life, but Catch-22 doesn’t involve Natalie Portman and what good is an analogy that doesn’t involve Natalie Portman. Talk about a Catch-22! Wait that doesn’t make sense either. I’m going to go have another cup of coffee and think this over.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sweet delicious brains

You know, I’ve got a pretty good thing going right now with this whole freelance thing. I expect that I will be able to milk this for another few years at a bare minimum – more if I put the smallest amount of effort into finding new clients (doubtful but stranger things have happened). Still it’s never too early to be thinking about your future. As luck would have it, my recent work related trip to Orlando uncovered a unique skill-set that I had long forgotten. When under the effects of stress and a severe lack of sleep I have the uncanny ability to turn myself into a zombie. Okay so the transformation isn’t perfect – right now it’s just a dumber version of me – but it has potential. I mean I can carry on conversations using words that have absolutely no relevance to the topic at hand. I can walk for hours with a purposeful stride, and upon arriving at my destination have no idea why I wanted to be there. I make a suit look good (that has no relevance to my zombie story, I just wanted to throw it out there). As if those weren't reason enough, a friend once told me that my run could only be described as the shambling gate of a zombie. Talk about foreshadowing!

You know, when I think of it the possibilities are endless. One day I could be an extra in a slasher film, and the next day I could be the guest of honor at the groundbreaking ceremony for the latest McDonalds in Lymphoma, Idaho. Sure I’ve got a bit of work to do – the whole eating people thing will probably take some time to get used to – but like I said I’ve got a few years before this comes to pass. It feels kind of nice knowing that my future is secure.

PS – So I know what you’re thinking. “That sounds cool, I wish he would bite me so I could become a zombie”. First of all back off, I’m not a zombie yet. Plus even though it’s an established fact that the werewolf gene is passed along through biting, I’m not positive that zombies are created that way. Unless someone can come up with a definitive answer to this question I guess we’ll have to rely on trial and error (a valid scientific method).

PPS – I was just kidding about that back off thing. Um hey, how’s it going.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Red States

This is fairly interesting for the non-worldy traveler. Follow the link below to create a map of all of the States you have visited. Notice that I am not attempting this with a world map! Incidentally be warned - I'm fairly certain that since the program automatically colors visited states with a nice bright red you are agreeing to vote Republican in the next election if you reside in or visit one of your red states on election day.

create your own visited states map

Soup du Jour

As I was sitting down this morning having my coffee time (i.e. 9 to 11:30), I came across an interesting article on the web. This article is really meant to be an editorial piece on another story dealing with blogging and corporate PR departments that is currently running in the New York Times. Since blogging seems to be my soup du jour at the moment I dove right in without hesitation – after all what if they mentioned my blog? (Surprisingly enough they didn’t). The gist of the article(s) is that Wal*Mart is feeding PR releases to independent bloggers, who then post the information on their own sites – often unedited and under the guise of their own opinions.

What great stuff! If I post about this on my blog maybe I can share a real world relevant opinion about something – perhaps even raise the intellectual level of my writings up a notch (or dare I dream, two notches?). Plus who doesn’t love some good old fashioned Wal*Mart bashing!?!? The thing is, I don’t have a problem with this. Hell I don’t even consider it newsworthy. So a big corporation decided to look into creative marketing/PR techniques. It probably wasn’t even their idea, no doubt it was some smart & shinny PR firm doing what they do best, and getting paid handsomely to do so. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not fond of Wal*Mart in general - after all I’ve seen at least 60% of the PBS documentary exposing them as the Al Qaida of the big box retailers. But we are purported to be a capitalistic society and people vote with their dollars. Personally I do my best not to shop at Wal*Mart because I do not approve of their labor or supplier practices, but

Can we stop a second to acknowledge the fact that I just used the words purported AND capitalistic in the same sentence! Who cares if I didn’t necessarily use them in the “correct” context – them’s still some big words. I think I raised this blog up an intellectual level in that sentence alone – maybe even a level for each word.

And we’re back. Okay I’m bored with the direction the blog was headed – that’s not news and I don’t care. Luckily that was just the opening monologue, the real reason for me highlighting this article is the following sentence:

“What is the use of a blog if bloggers are just going to copy sentences and sentiments from the puppetmaster's email?"

WOW! I mean seriously, this opens whole new realms of possibility! I’m obviously talking about the role of Puppetmaster here. Sure everyone has the dream of riding at the head of a squirrel armada – with the furry little creatures under your control no one could stop you. No one that is besides a Puppetmaster with his own army of bloggeteers… Is it possible – has technology advanced to the point where I can give up nights in the laboratory attempting to perfect squirrel mind control? In one sense that would be nice, because so far the only mind control technique that I’ve had any (limited) success with thus far involves covering myself in acorn-butter, and as you well know that can get fairly sticky. So what do you think, is it time to refocus my energies? Could this article be the sign I have been waiting for that the world ready for a new Puppetmaster to emerge? Does anyone need 5 gallons of acorn-butter?

Monday, March 06, 2006

A body built for sin

So this past weekend one of the people that I was climbing with came out with a startling revelation: I’m an ectoplasm. Or an ectomorph. It’s ecto-something but to be honest I wasn’t listening too closely. The general thrust of her statement had something to do with the three general body types – pear shaped, muscular and ectoplasm. Apparently I’m the last, which further discussion defined as someone who has the ability to work out and become toned, rather then “built”.

I have long suspected something of this nature to be true as my athletic endeavors seem to have no correlation whatsoever with weight gain or muscle mass. In fact in the past 7 years the only time that I gained any significant weight (okay it was only 10lbs, but for me that’s significant as it landed me at my highest weight ever) was the winter of 2003 when my friends and I decided drinking was the perfect cross-training activity to get us in shape for the spring season. Didn’t work too well for riding, and to add insult to injury I was back to my old fighting weight within weeks of getting back on the bike. Cynics would say that it was my choice of activities that was the limiting factor here – after all biking is not really a sport renowned for turning out body builders. The thing is, my brief flirtation with indoor climbing during the winter of 2002 and the few short affairs that I had with gyms/weight lifting have yielded similar results. I get toned – fairly quickly actually – but that’s it.

It’s nice to finally have a definitive, science-based answer to this issue. Yes it means that I might finally be forced to give up my dream of playing quarterback on the high-school football team, but even so it’s as if a giant weight has been lifted of my shoulders (I mean in addition to the weight that would come with being forced to learn the rules of football or actually start caring about the game). I’m not skinny, I’m ectoplastic!

Friday, March 03, 2006

I love you - change

When my friends and I have gotten together recently, a recurring conversational thread has been humor styles and the possible adverse effect they can have on beginning a relationship. Specifically, one of my female friends put forth the idea that women perceive self-deprecating humor as reflecting a lack of confidence in one’s self. Personally I believe nothing could be further from the truth – jokes of this nature are all about confidence. In the right context and when used in moderation I feel that this style of humor can be very effective and amusing. The thing is though, how I feel about the subject really doesn’t matter. After all, the point my friend was making was not how I perceive self-deprecating humor; it was how women perceive self-deprecating humor, and in a larger sense humor in general.

The question of humor is one that I have recently been banging my head against in my own life. As I mentioned in an earlier post I am experimenting with online dating. I am a bit skeptical of the whole scene and figure that my chances of meeting someone “in real life” are better, but I have heard enough success stories that I no longer distrust it entirely. Still, even though there appear to be a large number of smart, cute & outdoorsy women (Thank you Colorado, I am so glad I am no longer in Saginaw, Michigan!!!) I am not blanketing the internet with pleas for attention & dates. Instead I might occasionally find someone whose profile really amused & impressed me – someone that I could tell had a sense of humor. I’ll be honest humor is pretty key to my life, and I’ve ended more then one potential relationship when I didn’t find the girl funny or she didn’t understand my style of humor. Because of this on the rare occasion that I find someone that I am interested in writing, I will attempt to interject humor into the letter. With my boyish good looks, capacity for witty, intelligent banter and general love of the outdoors (a prerequisite for dating Colorado women it seems – and one I approve of) you would think I would be getting responses left and right! Sadly however, this is not always the case. At first I went with the logical assumption – freak electrical storms shutting down the internet at the exact moment that I hit send, causing my messages to be lost in cyberspace forever. Unfortunately Comcast refused to authenticate my theory, which in turn pointed the fault squarely in my direction. Since I have already eliminated all other possible explanations, could it be that my attempts toward humor are deterring women? I admit people don’t always know what to make of my concept of humor, especially before they get to know me. In the interest of meeting new, pretty female types do I need to remove all aspects of my personality from the initial correspondence? “My name is Mike, I like baseball, Bud Light and lap dances?” My response rate would go through the roof, but at what cost! What if she liked that guy, and all of a sudden I was locked into a life of mind numbing baseball games, watery beer and constant lap dances! It’s almost too horrific to contemplate.

So what should I do? Do I let humor continue unchecked and hope for the best? Do I dial it back to get the girl and then let my personality seep out over time? Do I have to buy one of those giant foam fingers and start supporting the team? Is it time to start considering the whole mail order bride thing? So many unanswered questions.

PS – In retrospect this might not have been the best topic of conversation as I recently shared my blog address in one of those so called “humorous” emails. I’ll let it slide though, as it makes for an excellent example in the case of Women vs. Self-Deprecating Humor. Besides I haven’t written anything in a while and I don’t want to have to think of a new topic.

PPS – Incidentally do you think the lap dance line would work? Because, um I could put that in my profile if you think it would help.